“An undoubted Rembrandt!”
“Yes, the finest Rembrandt in existence. No others can compare with it. Look at the brilliancy of the pigments. Observe the masterful drawing. See how well it is preserved. It is a prize, indeed, my boy, and worth double what I paid for it. It will make a sensation, and the National Gallery will want to buy it. But I wouldn’t accept five thousand pounds for it. I shall give it the place of honor in my collection.”
Sir Lucius paused to get his breath.
“You don’t seem to appreciate it,” he added. “Remember, it is absolutely unknown. Victor, what is the matter with you? Your actions are very strange, and the expression of your face is almost insulting. Do you dare to insinuate—”
“My dear uncle, will you listen to me for a moment?” said Nevill. “Prepare yourself for a shock. I fear that the picture is far better known than you think. Indeed, it is notorious.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that this Rembrandt, which you purchased in Munich, is the identical one that was stolen some months ago from Lamb and Drummond, the Pall Mall dealers. The affair made a big stir.”
“It is only too true. Did you read the papers while you were away?”
“No; I scarcely glanced at them. But I can’t believe—”
“Wait,” said Nevill. From a pocket-book he produced a newspaper clipping, which he handed silently to his uncle. It contained an account of the robbery.
Sir Lucius read to the end. Then his cheeks swelled out, and turned from red to purple; his eyes blazed with a hot anger.
“Good God!” he exclaimed, “was ever a man so cruelly imposed upon? It is a d—nable shame! You are right, Victor. This is the stolen Rembrandt!”
“Undoubtedly. I can’t tell you how sorry I feel for you.” Nevill’s expression was most peculiar as he spoke, and the semblance of a smile hovered about his lips.
“What is to be done?” gasped his uncle, who had flung the canvas on a chair, and was stamping savagely about the room. “It is clear as daylight. The thieves disposed of the painting in Munich, to my lying rascal of a Jew. Damn him, I wish I had him here!”
“Under the peculiar circumstances, my dear uncle, I should venture to suggest—”
“There is only one course open. This very night—no, the first thing to-morrow morning—I will take the picture to Lamb and Drummond’s and tell them the whole story. I can’t honorably do less.”
“Certainly not,” assented Nevill; it was not exactly what he had been on the point of proposing, but he was glad that he had not spoken.
“I won’t feel easy until it is out of my hands,” cried Sir Lucius. “Good heavens, suppose I should be suspected of the theft! Ah, that infamous scoundrel of a Jew! The law shall punish him as he deserves!”
Rage overpowered him, and he seemed in danger of apoplexy. There was brandy on the table, and he poured out a glass with a shaking hand. Nevill watched him anxiously.