We gained the door, and plunged into the bright daylight. Up the alley we tore, out into the street, across it and down another, then through a perfect maze of by-lanes. Tom led and I followed behind, panting and clutching my bursting pockets lest the coin should tumble out. Still we tore on, although not a footstep followed us, nor had we seen a soul since Tom struck my assailant down. Spent and breathless at last we emerged upon the Strand, and here Tom pulled up.
“The streets are wonderfully quiet,” said he.
I thought for a moment and then said, “It is Sunday morning.”
Scarcely were the words out of my mouth when I heard something ring upon the pavement beside me. I stooped, and picked up—the Golden Clasp.
“Well,” said I, “this is strange.”
“Not at all,” said Tom. “Look at your breast-pocket.”
I looked and saw a short slit across my breast just above the heart. As I put my hand up, a sovereign, and then another, rolled clinking on to the pavement.
Tom picked them up, and handing them to me, remarked—
“Jasper, you may thank Heaven to-day, if you are in a mood for it. You have had a narrow escape.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why, that you would be a dead man now had you not carried that piece of metal in your breast-pocket. Let me see it for a moment.”
We looked at it together, and there surely enough, almost in the centre of the clasp, was a deep dent. We were silent for a minute or so, and then Tom said—
“Let us get home. It would not do for us to be seen with this money about us.”
We crossed the Strand, and turned off it to the door of our lodgings. There I stopped.
“Tom, I am not coming in. I shall take a long walk and a bathe to get this fearful night out of my head. You can take the money upstairs, and put it away somewhere in hiding. Stay, I will keep a coin or two. Take the rest with you.”
Tom looked up at the gleam of sunshine that touched the chimney-pots above, and decided.
“Well, for my part, I am going to bed; and so will you if you are wise.”
“No. I will be back this evening, so let the fatted calf be prepared. I must get out of this for a while.”
“Where are you going?”
“Oh, anywhere. I don’t care. Up the river, perhaps.”
“You don’t wish me to go with you?”
“No, I had rather be alone. Tom, I have been a fool. I led you into a hole whence nothing but a marvellous chance has delivered us, and I owe you an apology. And—Tom, I also owe you my life.”
“Not to me, Jasper; to the Clasp.”
“To you,” I insisted. “Tom, I have been a thoughtless fool, and— Tom, that was a splendid blow of yours.”
He laughed, and ran upstairs, while I turned and gloomily sauntered down the deserted street.