“Very well, Mr. Charcoal, you may bring in the boy. But not a word to him of Lady Trafford’s absence—mind that. A robbery has been committed, and your master suspects this lad as an accessory to the offence. He, therefore, desires to interrogate him. It will be necessary to secure his companion; and as you say he is not in the house, some caution must be used in approaching him, or he may chance to take to his heels, for he’s a slippery little rascal. When you’ve seized him, cough thrice thus,—and two rough-looking gentlemen will make their appearance. Don’t be alarmed by their manners, Mr. Charcoal. They’re apt to be surly to strangers, but it soon wears off. The gentleman with the red beard will relieve you of your prisoner. The other must call a coach as quickly as he can.”
“For whom, Sir?” inquired Charcam. “For me—his master, Mr. Jonathan Wild.”
“Are you Mr. Jonathan Wild?” asked the attendant, in great trepidation.
“I am, Charcoal. But don’t let my name frighten you. Though,” said the thief-taker, with a complacent smile, “all the world seems to tremble at it. Obey my orders, and you’ve nothing to fear. About them quickly. Lead the lad to suppose that he’ll be introduced to Lady Trafford. You understand me, Charcoal.”
The attendant did not understand him. He was confounded by the presence in which he found himself. But, not daring to confess his want of comprehension, he made a profound reverence, and retired.
Consequences of the Theft.
“How do you mean to act, Sir?” inquired Trenchard, as soon as they were left alone.
“As circumstances shall dictate, Sir Rowland,” returned Jonathan. “Something is sure to arise in the course of the investigation, of which I can take advantage. If not, I’ll convey him to St. Giles’s round-house on my own responsibility.”
“Is this your notable scheme!” asked the knight, scornfully.
“Once there,” proceeded Wild, without noticing the interruption, “he’s as good as in his grave. The constable, Sharples, is in my pay. I can remove the prisoner at any hour of the night I think fit: and I will remove him. You must, know, Sir Rowland—for I’ve no secrets from you—that, in the course of my business I’ve found it convenient to become the owner of a small Dutch sloop; by means of which I can transmit any light ware,—such as gold watches, rings, and plate, as well as occasionally a bank or goldsmith’s note, which has been spoken with by way of the mail,—you understand me?—to Holland or Flanders, and obtain a secure and ready market for them. This vessel is now in the river, off Wapping. Her cargo is nearly shipped. She will sail, at early dawn to-morrow, for Rotterdam. Her commander, Rykhart Van Galgebrok, is devoted to my interests. As soon as he gets into blue water, he’ll think no more of pitching the boy overboard than of lighting his pipe. This will be safer than cutting his throat on shore. I’ve tried the plan, and found it answer. The Northern Ocean keeps a secret better than the Thames, Sir Rowland. Before midnight, your nephew shall be safe beneath the hatches of the Zeeslang.”