The servant-maid, Biddy, now entered and informed them that four men, evidently strangers, were approaching the house from the rear, and ere she could add anything further on the subject, two of them walked in, and, seizing Connor, informed him that he was their prisoner.
“Your prisoner!” exclaimed his mother, getting pale; “why, what could our poor boy do to make him your prisoner? He never did hurt or harm to the child unborn.”
Fardorougha’s keen gray eye rested sharply upon them for a moment; it then turned to Honor, afterwards to Connor, and again gleamed bitterly at the intruders—“What is this?” said he, starting up; “what is this? you don’t mane to rob us?”
“I think,” said the son, “you must be undher a mistake; you surely can have no business with me. It’s very likely you want some one else.”
“What is your name?” inquired he who appeared to be the principal of them.
“My name is Connor O’Donovan; an’ I know no reason why I should deny it.”
“Then you are the very man we come for,” said the querist, “so you had better prepare to accompany us; in the mean time you must excuse us if we search your room. This is unpleasant, I grant, but we have no discretion, and must perform our duty.”
“What do you want in this room?” said Fardorougha; “it’s robbery you’re on for—it’s robbery you’re on for—in open daylight, too; but you’re late; I lodged the last penny yesterday; that’s one comfort; you’re late—you’re late.”
“What did my boy do?” exclaimed the affrighted mother; “what did he do that you come to drag him away from us?”
This question she put to the other constable, the first having entered her son’s bedroom.
“I am afraid, ma’am, you’ll know it too soon,” replied the man; “it’s a heavy charge if it proves to be true.”
As he spoke his companion re-entered the apartment, with Connor’s Sunday coat in his hand, from the pocket of which he drew a steel and tinder-box.
“I’m sorry for this,” he observed; “it corroborates what has been sworn against you by your accomplice, and here, I fear, comes additional proof.”
At the same moment the other two made their appearance, one of them holding in his hand the shoes which Connor had lent to Flanagan, and which he wore on the night of the conflagration.
On seeing this, and comparing the two circumstances together, a fearful light broke on the unfortunate young man, who had already felt conscious of the snare into which he had fallen. With an air of sorrow and manly resignation he thus addressed his parents:—
“Don’t be alarmed; I see that there is an attempt made to swear away my life; but, whatever happens, you both know that I am innocent of doin’ an injury to any one. If I die, I would rather die innocent than live as guilty as he will that must have my blood to answer for.”
His mother, on hearing this, ran to him, and with her arms about his neck, exclaimed,