“In that case I arrest you, and your confederate, Joseph Blake, alias Blueskin, on a charge of felony,” returned Wood, brandishing his staff; “resist my authority, if you dare.”
“A clever device,” replied Jonathan; “but it won’t serve your turn. Let us pass, Sir. Strike the gag, Blueskin.”
“You shall not stir a footstep. Open the window, Thames, and call for assistance.”
“Stop!” cried Jonathan, who did not care to push matters too far, “let me have a word with you, Mr. Wood.”
“I’ll have no explanations whatever,” replied the carpenter, disdainfully, “except before a magistrate.”
“At least state your charge. It is a serious accusation.”
“It is,” answered Wood. “Do you recollect this key? Do you recollect to whom you gave it, and for what purpose? or shall I refresh your memory?”
Wild appeared confounded.
“Release your prisoner,” continued Wood, “or the window is opened.”
“Mr. Wood,” said Jonathan, advancing towards him, and speaking in a low tone, “the secret of your adopted son’s birth is known to me. The name of his father’s murderer is also known to me. I can help you to both,—nay, I will help you to both, if you do not interfere with my plans. The arrest of this person is of consequence to me. Do not oppose it, and I will serve you. Thwart me, and I become your mortal enemy. I have but to give a hint of that boy’s existence in the proper quarter, and his life will not be worth a day’s purchase.”
“Don’t listen to him, father,” cried Thames, unconscious of what was passing; “there are plenty of people outside.”
“Make your choice,” said Jonathan.
“If you don’t decide quickly, I’ll scream,” cried Mrs. Wood, popping her head through the window.
“Set your prisoner free!” returned Wood.
“Take off the ruffles, Blueskin,” rejoined Wild. “You know my fixed determination,” he added in a low tone, as he passed the carpenter. “Before to-morrow night that boy shall join his father.”
So saying, he unlocked the door and strode out of the room.
“Here are some letters, which will let you see what a snake you’ve cherished in your bosom, you uxorious old dotard,” said Blueskin, tossing a packet of papers to Wood, as he followed his leader.
“’Odd’s-my-life! what’s this?” exclaimed the carpenter, looking at the superscription of one of them. “Why, this is your writing Dolly, and addressed to Mr. Kneebone.”
“My writing! no such thing!” ejaculated the lady, casting a look of alarm at the woollen-draper.
“Confusion! the rascal must have picked my pocket of your letters,” whispered Kneebone, “What’s to be done?”
“What’s to be done! Why, I’m undone! How imprudent in you not to burn them. But men are so careless, there’s no trusting anything to them! However, I must try to brazen it out.—Give me the letters, my love,” she added aloud, and in her most winning accents; “they’re some wicked forgeries.”