'I'll get my uncle to sign another. The fact is,' he went on, with a bold stroke, 'my uncle is so far from well at present that he was unable to sign this cheque without assistance, and I fear that my holding the pen for him may have made the difference in the signature.'
Mr Judkin shot a keen glance into Morris's face; and then turned and looked at Mr Bell.
'Well,' he said, 'it seems as if we had been victimized by a swindler. Pray tell Mr Finsbury we shall put detectives on at once. As for this cheque of yours, I regret that, owing to the way it was signed, the bank can hardly consider it--what shall I say?--businesslike,' and he returned the cheque across the counter.
Morris took it up mechanically; he was thinking of something very different.
'In a--case of this kind,' he began, 'I believe the loss falls on us; I mean upon my uncle and myself.'
'It does not, sir,' replied Mr Bell; 'the bank is responsible, and the bank will either recover the money or refund it, you may depend on that.'
Morris's face fell; then it was visited by another gleam of hope.
'I'll tell you what,' he said, 'you leave this entirely in my hands. I'll sift the matter. I've an idea, at any rate; and detectives,' he added appealingly, 'are so expensive.'
'The bank would not hear of it,' returned Mr Judkin. 'The bank stands to lose between three and four thousand pounds; it will spend as much more if necessary. An undiscovered forger is a permanent danger. We shall clear it up to the bottom, Mr Finsbury; set your mind at rest on that.'
'Then I'll stand the loss,' said Morris boldly. 'I order you to abandon the search.' He was determined that no enquiry should be made.
'I beg your pardon,' returned Mr Judkin, 'but we have nothing to do with you in this matter, which is one between your uncle and ourselves. If he should take this opinion, and will either come here himself or let me see him in his sick-room--'
'Quite impossible,' cried Morris.
'Well, then, you see,' said Mr Judkin, 'how my hands are tied. The whole affair must go at once into the hands of the police.'
Morris mechanically folded the cheque and restored it to his pocket--book.
'Good--morning,' said he, and scrambled somehow out of the bank.
'I don't know what they suspect,' he reflected; 'I can't make them out, their whole behaviour is thoroughly unbusinesslike. But it doesn't matter; all's up with everything. The money has been paid; the police are on the scent; in two hours that idiot Pitman will be nabbed--and the whole story of the dead body in the evening papers.'
If he could have heard what passed in the bank after his departure he would have been less alarmed, perhaps more mortified.
'That was a curious affair, Mr Bell,' said Mr Judkin.
'Yes, sir,' said Mr Bell, 'but I think we have given him a fright.'
'O, we shall hear no more of Mr Morris Finsbury,' returned the other; 'it was a first attempt, and the house have dealt with us so long that I was anxious to deal gently. But I suppose, Mr Bell, there can be no mistake about yesterday? It was old Mr Finsbury himself?'
'There could be no possible doubt of that,' said Mr Bell with a chuckle. 'He explained to me the principles of banking.'
'Well, well,' said Mr Judkin. 'The next time he calls ask him to step into my room. It is only proper he should be warned.'
CHAPTER VII. In Which William Dent Pitman takes Legal Advice
Norfolk Street, King's Road--jocularly known among Mr Pitman's lodgers as 'Norfolk Island'--is neither a long, a handsome, nor a pleasing thoroughfare. Dirty, undersized maids-of-all-work issue from it in pursuit of beer, or linger on its sidewalk listening to the voice of love. The cat's-meat man passes twice a day. An occasional organ-grinder wanders in and wanders out again, disgusted. In holiday-time the street is the arena of the young bloods of the neighbourhood, and the householders have an opportunity of studying the manly art of self-defence. And yet Norfolk Street has one claim to be respectable, for it contains not a single shop--unless you count the public-house at the corner, which is really in the King's Road.