AT A NIGHT CLUB.
Victor Nevill called for his uncle at nine o’clock the next morning—it was not often he rose so early—and after breakfasting together the two went on to Lamb and Drummond’s. Sir Lucius carried the unlucky picture under his arm, and he thumped the Pall Mall flagstones viciously with his stick; he walked like a reluctant martyr going to the stake.
Mr. Lamb had just arrived, and he led his visitors to his private office. He listened with amazement and rapt interest to the story they had come to tell him, which he did not once interrupt. When the canvas was unrolled and spread on the table he bent over it eagerly, then drew back and shook his head slightly.
“I was not aware of the robbery until my nephew informed me last night,” explained Sir Lucius. “I have lost no time in restoring what I believe to be your property. It is an unfortunate affair, and a most disagreeable one to me, apart from any money considerations. But it affords me much gratification, sir, to be the means of—”
“I am by no means certain, Sir Lucius,” Mr. Lamb interrupted, “that this is my picture.”
“There could not be two of them!” gasped Sir Lucius.
“As a matter of fact, there are two,” was the reply. “It is a curious affair, Sir Lucius, but I can speedily make it clear to you.”
Very concisely and briefly Mr. Lamb told all that he knew about the duplicate Rembrandt, giving the gist of his interview months before with Jack Vernon.
“Then you mean to say that this is the duplicate?” asked Nevill.
“No; I can’t say that.”
Sir Lucius brightened suddenly. The loss of his prize was a heavy blow, but it would be far worse, he told himself, if he had been tricked into buying a false copy. He hated to think of such a thing—it was a wound to his pride, an insult to his judgment.
“I have reason to believe that the duplicate was a splendid replica of the original, otherwise it would not have been worth the trouble of stealing,” Mr. Lamb went on. “Mr. Vernon assured me of that. So, under the circumstances, I cannot be positive which picture lies here before us. My eyesight is a little bad, and I prefer not to trust to it. Mr. Drummond might recognize the canvas, but he is out of town. I am disposed to doubt, however, that this is the original Rembrandt.”
“You think it is more likely to be the duplicate?” inquired Sir Lucius.
Sir Lucius swelled out with indignation, and his cheerfulness vanished.
“I am sorry to hear that” he said. “I can scarcely believe that I have been imposed upon. I am somewhat of an authority on old masters, Mr. Lamb.”
The dealer smiled faintly; he had known Sir Lucius in a business way for a number of years.
“The price you paid—eleven hundred pounds—favors my theory,” he replied. “Your Munich Jew, whom I happen to know by repute, is a very clever scoundrel. It is most unlikely that he would have parted with a real Rembrandt for such a sum. But I will gladly refund you the amount if this proves to be the original.”