For aught I know, you may give me up to justice; but unless you do, here I stop, until I can venture to escape abroad.'
For two whole days, all three remained in the wretched room, without stirring out. On the third evening, however, the girl was worse than she had been yet, and the few scraps of food they had were gone. It was indispensably necessary that somebody should go out; and as the girl was too weak and ill, the father went, just at nightfall.
He got some medicine for the girl, and a trifle in the way of pecuniary assistance. On his way back, he earned sixpence by holding a horse; and he turned homewards with enough money to supply their most pressing wants for two or three days to come. He had to pass the public-house. He lingered for an instant, walked past it, turned back again, lingered once more, and finally slunk in. Two men whom he had not observed, were on the watch. They were on the point of giving up their search in despair, when his loitering attracted their attention; and when he entered the public-house, they followed him.
'You'll drink with me, master,' said one of them, proffering him a glass of liquor.
'And me too,' said the other, replenishing the glass as soon as it was drained of its contents.
The man thought of his hungry children, and his son's danger. But they were nothing to the drunkard. He DID drink; and his reason left him.
'A wet night, Warden,' whispered one of the men in his ear, as he at length turned to go away, after spending in liquor one-half of the money on which, perhaps, his daughter's life depended.
'The right sort of night for our friends in hiding, Master Warden,' whispered the other.
'Sit down here,' said the one who had spoken first, drawing him into a corner. 'We have been looking arter the young un. We came to tell him, it's all right now, but we couldn't find him 'cause we hadn't got the precise direction. But that ain't strange, for I don't think he know'd it himself, when he come to London, did he?'
'No, he didn't,' replied the father.
The two men exchanged glances.
'There's a vessel down at the docks, to sail at midnight, when it's high water,' resumed the first speaker, 'and we'll put him on board. His passage is taken in another name, and what's better than that, it's paid for. It's lucky we met you.'
'Very,' said the second.
'Capital luck,' said the first, with a wink to his companion.
'Great,' replied the second, with a slight nod of intelligence.
'Another glass here; quick'--said the first speaker. And in five minutes more, the father had unconsciously yielded up his own son into the hangman's hands.
Slowly and heavily the time dragged along, as the brother and sister, in their miserable hiding-place, listened in anxious suspense to the slightest sound. At length, a heavy footstep was heard upon the stair; it approached nearer; it reached the landing; and the father staggered into the room.
The girl saw that he was intoxicated, and advanced with the candle in her hand to meet him; she stopped short, gave a loud scream, and fell senseless on the ground. She had caught sight of the shadow of a man reflected on the floor. They both rushed in, and in another instant the young man was a prisoner, and handcuffed.
'Very quietly done,' said one of the men to his companion, 'thanks to the old man.