« ForrigeFortsett »
THOMAS IS CAPTURED.
As soon as he had resolved upon this he set out. There was plenty of time. He would walk. Tired as he was beginning to be, motion was his only solace. He walked through Hampstead, and by Haverstock-hill, Tottenham-court-road, and Holborn to the City. By this time the moon was up. Going by Ludgatehill, he saw her shining over St. Paul's right through the spire of St. Martin's, where the little circle of pillars lays it open to the sky and the wind : she seemed to have melted the spire in two. Then he turned off to the left, now looking out for a messenger. In his mind he chose and rejected several, dallying with his own eagerness, and yielding to one doubt after another about each in succession. At last he reached the further end of Bagot-street. There stood Poppy with her “murphy-buster.” Had it been daylight, when her dress and growth would have had due effect upon her appearance, probably Thomas would not have known her ; but seeing her face only by the street-lamp, he just recollected that he had seen the girl about Guild Court. He had no suspicion that she would know him. But Poppie was as sharp as a needle: she did know him.
“Do you know Guild Court, my girl ?” he asked. “I believe you,” answered Poppie.
“Would you take this letter for me, and give it to Miss Burton, who lives there, and wait for an answer ? If she's not at home bring it back to me. I will take care of your potatoes, and give you a shilling when you come back.”
Whether Poppie would have accepted the office if she had not recognized Thomas, I do not know. She might, for she had so often forsaken her machine and found it all right when she returned, that I think the promise of the shilling would have enabled her to run the risk. As it was, she scudded. While she was gone he sold three or four of her potatoes. He knew how to deliver them ; but he didn't know the price, and just took what they gave him. He stood trembling with hope.
Suddenly he was seized by the arm from behind, and a gruff voice, he thought he knew, said, –
“Here he is! Come along, Mr. Worboise. You're wanted.”
Thomas had turned in great alarm. There were four men, he saw, but they were not policemen. That was a comfort. Two of them were little men. None of them spoke but the one who seized him. He twisted his arm from the man's grasp, and was just throwing his fist at his head, when he was pinioned by two arms cast round him from behind.
“Don't strike," said the first man, or it'll be the worse for you. I'll call the police. Come along, and I swear nothing but good will come of it-to you as well as to other people. I'm not the man to get you into trouble, I can tell you. Don't you know me ? —Kitely, the bookseller. Come along. I've been in a fix myself before now.”
Thomas yielded, and they led him away.
“But there's that child's potatoes !” he said. “ The whole affair will be stolen. Just wait till she comes back!”
“Oh! she's all right,” said Kitely. "There she is, buttering a ha’porth. Come along."
They led him through streets and lanes, every one of which Thomas knew better than his catechism a good deal. All at once they bustled him in at a church door. In the vestibule Thomas saw that there were but two with him—Mr. Kitely, whom he now recognized, and a little man with his hair standing erect over his pale face, like corn on the top of a chalk-cliff. Him, too, he recognized, for Mr. Spelt had done many repairs for him. The other two had disappeared. Neither Mr. Salter nor Mr. Dolman cared to tempt Providence by coming further. It was Jim who had secured his arms, and saved Kitely's head. Mr. Kitely made way for Thomas to enter first. Fearful of any commotion, he yielded still, and went into a pew near the door. The two men followed him. It is time I should account for the whole of this strange proceeding.
Jim Salter did not fail to revisit The Mermaid on the day of Tom's departure, but he was rather late, and Tom was gone. As to what had become of him, Mr. Potts thought it more prudent to profess ignorance. He likewise took another procedure upon him, which, although well-meant, was not honest. Regardless of Thomas's desire that Jim should have a half-sovereign for the trouble of the preceding day, Mr. Potts, weighing the value of Jim's time, and the obligation he was himself under to Tom, resolved to take Tom's interests in his own hands, and therefore very solemly handed a half-crown and a florin, as what Thomas had left for him, across the counter to Jim. Jim took the amount in severe dudgeon. The odd sixpence was especially obnoxious. It was grievous to his soul.
“Four and sixpence! Four bob and one tanner,” said Jim, in a tone of injury, in which there certainly was no pretence—“after a-riskin' of my life, not to mention a-wastin' of my precious time for the ungrateful young snob. Four and sixpence !”
Mr. Potts told him with equal solemnity, a righteous indignation looking over the top of his red nose, to hold his jaw, or go out of his tavern. Whereupon Jim gave a final sniff, and was silent, for where there was so much liquor on the premises it was prudent not to anger The Mermaid's master. Thereupon the said master, probably to ease his own conscience Jim-wards, handed him a glass of old Tom, which Jim, not without suspicion of false play, emptied and deposited. From that day, although he continued to call occasionally at The Mermaid, he lost all interest in his late client, never referred to him, and always talked of Bessie Poits as if he himself had taken her out of the water.
The acquaintance between Dolman and him began about this time to grow a little more intimate, and after the meeting which I have described above, they met pretty frequently, when Mr. Dolman communicated to him such little facts as transpired about them lawyers," namely Mr. Worboise's proceedings. Amongst the rest was the suspicious disappearance of the son, whom Mr. Dolman knew, not to speak to, but by sight, as well as his own lapstone. Mr. Salter, already suspicious of his man, requested a description of the missing youth, and concluded that it was the same in whom he had been so grievously disappointed, for the odd sixpence represented any conceivable amount of meanness, not to say wickedness. This increased intimacy with Jim did Dolman no good, and although he would not yet forsake his work during work-hours, he would occasionally permit Jim to fetch a jug of beer from a neighbouring tavern, and consume it with him in his shop. On these occasions they had to use great circumspection with regard to Dolly's landlord, who sat over his head. But in the winter nights, Mr. Spelt would put up the outside shutter over his window to keep the cold out, only occasionally opening his door to let a little air in. This made it possible to get the beer introduced below without discovery, when Dolman snail-like closed the mouth of his shell also, in which there was barely room for two, and stitched away while Jim did the chief part of the drinking and talking-in an undertone-for him-not so low, however, but that Spelt could hear not a little that set him thinking. It was pretty clear that young Worboise was afraid to show himself, and this and other points he communicated to his friend Kitely. This same evening They were together thus when they heard a hurried step come up and stop before the window, and the voice of Mr. Kitely, well known to Dolman, called to the tailor overhead.
“Spelt, I say. Spelt !"
“ Here's that young devil's limb, Worboise, been and sent a letter to Miss Burton by your Poppie, and he's a-waitin' an answer Come along, and we'll take him alive.”
“But what do you want to do with him ?” asked Spelt.
“We can threaten him with the police, as if we knew all about it. Come along. There's no time to be lost.”
“But what would you take him to Mr. Fuller for?” My reader may well be inclined to ask the same question. I will explain. Mr. Kitely was an original man in thinking, and a rarely practical man in following it up, for he had confidence in his own conclusions. Ever since he had made the acquaintance of Mr. Fuller through Mattie's illness, he had been feeling his influence more and more, and was gradually reforming his ways in many little things that no one knew of but himself. No one in London knew him as anything but an honest man, but I presume there are few men so honest that if they were to set about it seriously, they could not be honester still. I suspect that the most honest man of my acquaintance will be the readiest to acknowledge this; for honesty has wonderful offshoots from its great tap-root. Having this experience in himself, he had faith in the moral power of Mr. Fuller. Again, since Lucy had come to live in the house, he had grown to admire her yet more, and the attention and kindness she continued to show to his princess, caused an equal growth in his gratitude. Hence it became more and more monstrous in his eyes that she should be deprived of her rights in such a villainous man. ner by the wickedness of “them Worboises." For the elder he was afraid that he was beyond redemption ; but if he could get a hold of the younger, and put him under Mr. Fuller's pump, for that was how he represented the possible process of cleansing to himself, something might come of it. He did not know that Thomas was entirely ignorant of his father's relation to the property of the late Richard Boxall, and that no man in London would have less influence with Worboise, senior, than Worboise, junior. He had had several communications with Mr. Fuller on the subject, and had told him all he knew. Mr. Fuller likewise had made out that this must be the same young man of whom Lucy had spoken in such trouble. But as he had disappeared, nothing could be done-even if he had had the same hope of good results from the interview as Mr. Kitely, whose simplicity and eagerness amused as well as pleased him. When Mr. Kitely, therefore, received from Poppie Thomas's ietter to give to Lucy, who happened to be out, he sped at once, with his natural promptitude, to secure Mr. Spelt's assistance in carrying out his conspiracy against Thomas.
As soon as the two below heard Mr. Spelt scramble down and depart with Mr. Kitely, they issued from their station ; Mr. Dolman anxious to assist in the capture, Mr. Salter wishing to enjoy his disgrace, for the odd sixpence rankled. As soon as they saw him within the inner door of the church they turned and departed. They knew nothing about churches, and were unwilling to enter. They did not know what they might be in for, if they went in. Neither had they any idea for what object Thomas was taken there. Dolman went away with some vague notion about the Ecclesiastical Court; for he tried to read the papers sometimes. This notion he
imparted with equal vagueness to the brain of Jim Salter, already muddled with the beer he had drunk. Dolman went back to his work, hoping to hear about it when Spelt came home. Jim wandered eastward, to convey a somewhat incorrect idea of what had happened to the inhabitants of The Mermaid. Having his usual design on The Mermaid's resources, his story lost nothing in the telling, and, in great perplexity and greater uneasiness, Captain Smith and Mr. Potts started to find out the truth of the matter. Jim conducted them to the church-door, which was still open, and retired round the corner. Meantime the captors and the culprit waited till the service was
As soon as Mr. Fuller had retired to the vestry and the congregation had dispersed, Mr. Kitely intimated to Thomas that he must follow him, and led the way up the church. With the fear of the police still before his eyes, Thomas did follow, and the little tailor brought up the rear. Hardly waiting, in his impatience, to knock at the door, Mr. Kitely popped his head in as Mr. Fuller was standing in his shirt-sleeves, and said, with ill-suppressed triumph,
“Here he is, sir! I've got him!”
“Whom do you mean ?" said Mr. Fuller, arrested by surprise with one arm in his coat and the other hand searching for the other sleeve.
“Young Worboise. The lawyer-chap, you know, sir,” he added, seeing that the name conveyed no idea.
“Oh!” said Mr. Fuller, prolongedly. “Show him in, then.” And on went his coat.
Thomas entered, staring in bewilderment. Nor was Mr. Fuller quite at his ease at first, when the handsome brown sailor-lad stepped into the vestry. But he shook hands with him, and asked him to take a chair. Thomas obeyed. Seeing his conductors lingered, Mr. Fuller then said,
“ You must leave us alone now, Mr. Kitely. How do you do, Mr. Spelt?”
They retired, and after a short consultation together in the church, agreed that they had done their part and could do no more, and went home.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Mr. Fuller turned to Tom, saying, as he took a chair near him, “ I'm very glad to see you, Mr. Worboise. I have long wanted to have a little talk with you.”
“Will you tell me,” said Tom, with considerable uneasiness, not