“The double forgery,” went on the dry voice, “I now know was executed by my employer’s hand; but instructions were given in the name of the firm to charge Mr. Adrien Leroy with the crime. The particular day was fixed on the twenty-second simply because my master had found out that Mr. Leroy had been somewhere else, and in the company of a lady whom he knew Mr. Leroy would never betray. But this part you already know from yesterday’s trial. False evidence was brought to bear, in the statement that your son had been in our office, and it was only owing to a plea of illness that I escaped being made a witness also. This was but one forgery, and I have here large numbers of bills all forged by the same hand, and which, if presented, will amount to more than the sale of three such estates as this could liquidate.”
Lord Barminster uttered an exclamation of horror.
“I will leave them here with you,” went on Mr. Harker, “and when the scoundrel has been unmasked, you need have no fear of any future danger. In my master’s chain of villainy there was a single flaw; but that flaw has broken the whole chain. The poor tool, whom he had had so long beneath his thumb, whom he had trodden under his foot remorselessly, suddenly regained his freedom—which he had bartered for the safety of his only child.”
He raised his head and looked steadily into the stern eyes of Lord Barminster.
“My child and I,” he continued, “are now freed from the chains that bound us, and are willing to bear any results that may follow from this exposure. Besides these bills, my lord, I have additional proof. A young girl whom I have brought with me was fortunate enough to see Mr. Vermont——”
Lord Barminster’s face shone with triumph, as the actual name of his master at last fell from Harker’s lips.
“—My master—drop a roll of papers. These she picked up, and later, when by a strange coincidence she was befriended by my daughter, showed them to me. They clearly prove, by the many attempts to imitate the writing, whose hand it was who eventually committed these forgeries.”
“I knew it!” cried Shelton, unable to keep silence any longer. “I knew we should catch the snake! But, pardon my interrupting you, Mr. Harker; you see, Mr. Leroy is my best friend.”
Mr. Harker inclined his head and proceeded steadily.
“These forged deeds I will now, my lord, hand over to your charge, if you prefer it. But if you will have sufficient confidence in my efforts to save you from further trouble, I will hold them at your command until after Vermont is dealt with, in order not to implicate you in any way; for, of course, these bills belong to Vermont, until either he gives them up voluntarily, or they are confiscated by law.”
“Keep them in your possession,” said Lord Barminster quietly. “It would not do for them to be in my hands just at present. I will have confidence in you, and you shall have no cause to regret this day’s work, I assure you.”