“I ain’t done nothin’,” panted Hawker, who was breathing like a winded beast.
“I didn’t say you had,” was the reply, “but you’ve been missing for a few months. Last spring you stopped reporting yourself and went abroad. We want you for that—nothing else at present.”
The two final words were spoken with an emphasis and significance that did not escape the prisoner, and brought a desperate look to his face. He seemed about to show fight, but the next instant a pair of irons were clapped on his wrists, and he was helpless.
A brief time was required to search the room, but nothing was found, for all that Hawker owned was on his person. The bedding was pulled apart, and the strip of ragged carpet was lifted up. Then the detectives went downstairs with their prisoner, followed by the indignant and scandalized Mrs. Miggs. She angrily upbraided Mr. Hawker, who received her reproaches in sullen silence. Her breath was spent when she slammed the door shut.
The affair had been managed quietly, without attracting public attention, and the street was as lonely and dark as usual. One of the detectives whistled for a cab, which he had in waiting around the corner, and just then a man walked quickly by the house, glancing keenly at the little group as he passed. He slouched carelessly on into the gloom, but not until he had been recognized by Noah Hawker.
The cab came up, and the prisoner was bundled into it. He was apparently very submissive and unconcerned as he sat with manacled hands between his captors, but when the vehicle rolled into a more populous neighborhood, the street lamps revealed the expression of burning, implacable hatred that distorted his face.
“It was that swell who betrayed me to the police,” he thought bitterly. “I was a fool to trust him. I know his little game, but he’ll be badly mistaken if he expects to find the papers. They’ll be safe enough till I want them again. I’ll get square in a way he don’t dream of, curse him! Yes, I’ll do it! I’d rather have revenge than money. A few days yet, and then—”
“What’s that?” asked one of the detectives.
“Nothing,” Mr. Hawker replied, in a tone of sarcasm. “I was thinkin’ of a friend of mine, what’ll be sorry I was took.”
THE VICAR OF DUNWOLD.
At a safe distance Victor Nevill stopped and turned around. When the cab rolled away, he walked slowly back, looking keenly at the house as he passed it. His demeanor was calm, but it was only skin deep. He felt like swearing loudly at everybody and everything. His brain was in a whirl of rage and fear, sharp anxiety and keen disappointment. He had recognized Noah Hawker and seen the gleam of steel at his wrists, which explained the situation as clearly as words could have done.