“That, alone, ought to have prevented you from acting as you did, Jack,” returned Thames, gravely.
“I should never have acted as I did,” rejoined Sheppard, bitterly; “if Mrs. Wood hadn’t struck me. That blow made me a thief. And, if ever I’m brought to the gallows, I shall lay my death at her door.”
“Well, think no more about it,” returned Thames. “Do better in future.”
“I will, when I’ve had my revenge,” muttered Jack. “But, take my advice, and keep out of Sir Rowland’s way, or you’ll get the poor lady into trouble as well as me.”
“Never fear,” replied Thames, taking up his hat. “Come, let’s be off.”
The two boys, then, emerged upon the landing, and were about to descend the stairs, when the voices of Mr. and Mrs. Wood resounded from below. The storm appeared to have blown over, for they were conversing in a very amicable manner with Mr. Kneebone, who was on the point of departing.
“Quite sorry, my good friend, there should have been any misunderstanding between us,” observed the woollen-draper.
“Don’t mention it,” returned Wood, in the conciliatory tone of one who admits he has been in the wrong; “your explanation is perfectly satisfactory.”
“We shall expect you to-morrow,” insinuated Mrs. Wood; “and pray, don’t bring anybody with you,—especially Jonathan Wild.”
“No fear of that,” laughed Kneebone.—“Oh! about that boy, Thames Darrell. His safety must be looked to. Jonathan’s threats are not to be sneezed at. The rascal will be at work before the morning. Keep your eye upon the lad. And mind he doesn’t stir out of your sight, on any pretence whatever, till I call.”
“You hear that,” whispered Jack.
“I do,” replied Thames, in the same tone; “we haven’t a moment to lose.”
“Take care of yourself,” said Mr. Wood, “and I’ll take care of Thames. It’s never a bad day that has a good ending. Good night! God bless you!”
Upon this, there was a great shaking of hands, with renewed apologies and protestations of friendship on both sides; after which Mr. Kneebone took his leave.
“And so, you really suspected me?” murmured Mrs. Wood, reproachfully, as they returned to the parlour. “Oh! you men! you men! Once get a thing into your head, and nothing will beat it out.”
“Why, my love,” rejoined her husband, “appearances, you must allow, were a little against you. But since you assure me you didn’t write the letters, and Mr. Kneebone assures me he didn’t receive them, I can’t do otherwise than believe you. And I’ve made up my mind that a husband ought to believe only half that he hears, and nothing that he sees.”
“An excellent maxim!” replied his wife, approvingly; “the best I ever heard you utter.”
“I must now go and look after Thames,” observed the carpenter.
“Oh! never mind him: he’ll take no harm! Come with me into the parlour. I can’t spare you at present. Heigho!”