Peal after peal came from the merry girl, who could not restrain herself, although Nellie looked so reproachfully, and Fred really angrily at her; the former saying:
“Indeed, Fannie, I’m too much frightened to laugh.”
Fred was too mortified to say another word for some time. At length, turning to Fannie, who had grown a little quiet, he snappishly said:
“Pray, don’t stop! I’m very happy to afford you so much amusement.”
Of course Fannie began anew; and Nellie trying to stop her by looks and motions, asked:
“What shall you do, Fred?”
“It is not a matter of such vital importance that you need look so worried, Nellie. I’ll go to the police head-quarters, explain the matter, and leave the watch. That will be the end of it,” said Fred, trying to assume a light, careless tone.
Nellie hoped it might be the end of it; but still fearful of something unpleasant, asked:
“Is it too late to-night to go, Fred?”
“Certainly it is,” Fred answered.
Seeing Nellie’s face still retain its anxious and frightened expression, Fred broke out laughing himself, saying:
“You look as much frightened, Nell, as I imagine that man looked when I went for his watch.”
Next morning Fred was longer than usual getting off from home, and all Nellie’s urging haste seemed to have the tendency to retard instead of accelerating his motions. But at last, to her great relief, he was off. After getting a few rods from home, he drew forth the stolen watch, and found of course it had run down. Having no key to fit it, he approached a jewelry store, intending to have it wound up. He had failed to notice the very particular attention with which a policeman was regarding him. Just as he was about to enter the store, he was tapped on the shoulder. Turning, he beheld the officer, a total stranger to Fred, so he knew it was not a bit of use to explain the case to him. So to attract as little notice as possible, he walked quietly along with his not very agreeable companion until they reached the police head-quarters.
There he began his explanation. All were strange faces around him, on which he saw unmistakable signs of merriment when he said it was “a mistake.” And to his immense surprise, after he had handed over the dreadful watch, and was turning to leave, he was made to understand he was a prisoner—the accusation, “Robbery and assault, with intent to kill!”
He sank on the bench for a moment, so overwhelmed with surprise and mortification that he could with difficulty collect his senses enough to know what to do. Just then a gentleman entered, and said to an officer near:
“I was surprised to hear you had caught the rascal so speedily. Where is the scoundrel? What does he say?”
“That it was all a mistake!” answered the officer, with a very significant smile. “There he is,” pointing to Fred.