Kit stood as one entranced, with his eyes opened wide and fixed upon the ground, regardless alike of the tremulous hold which Mr Brass maintained on one side of his cravat, and of the firmer grasp of Miss Sally upon the other; although this latter detention was in itself no small inconvenience, as that fascinating woman, besides screwing her knuckles inconveniently into his throat from time to time, had fastened upon him in the first instance with so tight a grip that even in the disorder and distraction of his thoughts he could not divest himself of an uneasy sense of choking. Between the brother and sister he remained in this posture, quite unresisting and passive, until Mr Swiveller returned, with a police constable at his heels.
This functionary, being, of course, well used to such scenes; looking upon all kinds of robbery, from petty larceny up to housebreaking or ventures on the highway, as matters in the regular course of business; and regarding the perpetrators in the light of so many customers coming to be served at the wholesale and retail shop of criminal law where he stood behind the counter; received Mr Brass’s statement of facts with about as much interest and surprise, as an undertaker might evince if required to listen to a circumstantial account of the last illness of a person whom he was called in to wait upon professionally; and took Kit into custody with a decent indifference.
‘We had better,’ said this subordinate minister of justice, ‘get to the office while there’s a magistrate sitting. I shall want you to come along with us, Mr Brass, and the—’ he looked at Miss Sally as if in some doubt whether she might not be a griffin or other fabulous monster.
‘The lady, eh?’ said Sampson.
‘Ah!’ replied the constable. ‘Yes—the lady. Likewise the young man that found the property.’
‘Mr Richard, Sir,’ said Brass in a mournful voice. ‘A sad necessity. But the altar of our country sir—’
‘You’ll have a hackney-coach, I suppose?’ interrupted the constable, holding Kit (whom his other captors had released) carelessly by the arm, a little above the elbow. ‘Be so good as send for one, will you?’
‘But, hear me speak a word,’ cried Kit, raising his eyes and looking imploringly about him. ‘Hear me speak a word. I am no more guilty than any one of you. Upon my soul I am not. I a thief! Oh, Mr Brass, you know me better. I am sure you know me better. This is not right of you, indeed.’
‘I give you my word, constable—’ said Brass. But here the constable interposed with the constitutional principle ‘words be blowed;’ observing that words were but spoon-meat for babes and sucklings, and that oaths were the food for strong men.
‘Quite true, constable,’ assented Brass in the same mournful tone. ‘Strictly correct. I give you my oath, constable, that down to a few minutes ago, when this fatal discovery was made, I had such confidence in that lad, that I’d have trusted him with—a hackney-coach, Mr Richard, sir; you’re very slow, Sir.’
‘Who is there that knows me,’ cried Kit, ‘that would not trust me— that does not? ask anybody whether they have ever doubted me; whether I have ever wronged them of a farthing. Was I ever once dishonest when I was poor and hungry, and is it likely I would begin now! Oh consider what you do. How can I meet the kindest friends that ever human creature had, with this dreadful charge upon me!’
Mr Brass rejoined that it would have been well for the prisoner if he had thought of that before, and was about to make some other gloomy observations when the voice of the single gentleman was heard, demanding from above-stairs what was the matter, and what was the cause of all that noise and hurry. Kit made an involuntary start towards the door in his anxiety to answer for himself, but being speedily detained by the constable, had the agony of seeing Sampson Brass run out alone to tell the story in his own way.
‘And he can hardly believe it, either,’ said Sampson, when he returned, ‘nor nobody will. I wish I could doubt the evidence of my senses, but their depositions are unimpeachable. It’s of no use cross-examining my eyes,’ cried Sampson, winking and rubbing them, ‘they stick to their first account, and will. Now, Sarah, I hear the coach in the Marks; get on your bonnet, and we’ll be off. A sad errand! a moral funeral, quite!’