“You will think it over, James,” said Iris; “think it over, and tell us presently if you can remember anything.”
“Think it over, Mr. James,” Lala Roy repeated in his deepest tone, and with an emphatic gesture of his right forefinger. “Think it over carefully. Like a lamp that is never extinguished are the eyes of the faithful servant.”
They left him, and James fell back into his chair with hollow cheek and beating heart.
“He told me,” he murmured—“oh, the villain!—he swore to me that he had taken nothing from the safe. He said he only looked in it, and read the contents. The scoundrel! He has stolen the papers! He must have known they were there. And then, to save himself, he put me on to the job. For who would be suspected if not—oh, Lord!—if not me?”
He grasped his paste brush, and attacked his work with a feverish anxiety to find relief in exertion; but his heart was not in it, and presently a thought pierced his brain, as an arrow pierceth the heart, and under the pang and agony of it, his face turned ashy-pale, and the big drops stood upon his brow.
“For,” he thought, “suppose that the thing gets abroad; suppose they were to advertise a reward; suppose the man who made the key were to see the advertisement or to hear about it! And he knows my name, too, and my business; and he’ll let out for a reward—I know he will—who it was ordered that key of him.”
Already he saw himself examined before a magistrate; already he saw in imagination that locksmith’s man who made the key kissing the Testament, and giving his testimony in clear and distinct words, which could not be shaken.
“Oh, Lord! oh, Lord!” he groaned. “No one will believe me, even if I do confess the truth: and as for him, I know him well; if I go to him, he’ll only laugh at me. But I must go to him—I must!”
He was so goaded by his terror that he left the shop unprotected—a thing he had never thought to do—and ran as fast as he could to Joe’s lodgings. But he had left them; he was no longer there; he had not been there for six weeks; the landlady did not know his address, or would not give it. Then James felt sick and dizzy, and would have sat down on the doorstep and cried but for the look of the thing. Besides, he remembered the unprotected shop. So he turned away sadly and walked back, well understanding now that he had fallen like a tool into a trap, artfully set to fasten suspicion and guilt upon himself.
When he returned he found the place full of people. Mr. Emblem was sitting in his customary place, and he was smiling. He did not look in the least like a man who had been robbed. He was smiling pleasantly and cheerfully. Mr. Chalker was also present, a man with whom no one ever smiled, and Lala Roy, solemn and dignified, and a man—an unknown man—who sat in the outer shop, and seemed to take no interest at all in the proceedings. Were they come, he asked himself, to arrest him on the spot?