Chapter XXIII. The Law Steps In.

When Peg left Mr. John Somerville's apartment, it was with a high degree of satisfaction at the result of her interview. She looked upon the thousand dollars as sure to be hers. The considerations which she had urged would, she was sure, induce him to make every effort to secure her silence. With a thousand dollars, what might not be done? She would withdraw from the coining-business, for one thing. It was too hazardous. Why might not Dick and she retire to the country, lease a country-inn, and live an honest life hereafter. There were times when she grew tired of the life she lived at present. It would be pleasant to go to some place where she was not known, and enrol herself among the respectable members of the community. She was growing old; she wanted rest and a quiet home. Her early years had been passed in the country. She remembered still the green fields in which she played as a child, and to this woman, old and sin-stained, there came a yearning to have that life return.

It occurred to her to look in upon Jack, whom she had left in captivity four days before. She had a curiosity to see how he bore his confinement.

She knocked at the door, and was admitted by the old man who kept the house. Mr. Foley was looking older and more wrinkled than ever. He had been disturbed of his rest the night previous, he said.

"Well," said Peg, "and how is our prisoner?"

"Bless my soul," said Mr. Foley, "I haven't been to give him his breakfast this morning. He must be hungry. But my head is in such a state. However, I think I've secured him."

"What do you mean?"

"I have asked him to become one of us,--he's a bold lad,--and he has promised to think of it."

"He is not to be trusted," said Peg, hastily,

"You think not?"

"I know it."

"Well," said the old man, "I suppose you know him better than I do. But he's a bold lad."

"I should like to go up and see him," said Peg.

"Wait a minute, and I will carry up his breakfast."

The old man soon reappeared from the basement with some cold meat and bread and butter.

"You may go up first," he said; "you are younger than I am."

They reached the landing.

"What's all this?" demanded Peg, her quick eyes detecting the aperture in the door.

"What's what?" asked Foley.

"Is this the care you take of your prisoners?" demanded Peg, sharply. "It looks as if he had escaped."

"Escaped! Impossible!"

"I hope so. Open the door quick."

The door was opened, and the two hastily entered.

"The bird is flown," said Peg.

"I--I don't understand it," said the old man, turning pale.

"I do. He has cut a hole in the door, slipped back the bolt, and escaped. When could this have happened?"

"I don't know. Yes, I do remember, now, being disturbed last night by a noise in the entry. I got out of bed, and looked out, but could see no one."

"Did you come up-stairs?"

"Part way."

"When was this?"

"Past midnight."

"No doubt that was the time he escaped."

"That accounts for the door being locked," said the old man, thoughtfully.

"What door?"

"The outer door. When I got up this morning, I found the key had disappeared, and the door was locked. Luckily we had an extra key, and so opened it."

"Probably he carried off the other in his pocket."

"Ah, he is a bold lad,--a bold lad," said Foley.

"You may find that out to your cost. He'll be likely to bring the police about your ears."

"Do you think so?" said the old man, in alarm.

"I think it more than probable."

"But he don't know the house," said Foley, in a tone of reassurance. "It was dark when he left here, and he will not be apt to find it again."

"Perhaps not, but lie will be likely to know you when he sees you again. I advise you to keep pretty close."

"I certainly shall," said the old man, evidently alarmed by this suggestion. "What a pity that such a bold lad shouldn't be in our business!"

"Perhaps you'll wish yourself out of it before long," muttered Peg.

As if in corroboration of her words, there was a sharp ring at the door-bell.

The old man, who was constitutionally timid, turned pale, and looked helplessly at his companion.

"What is it?" he asked, apprehensively.

"Go and see."

"I don't dare to."

"You're a coward," said Peg, contemptuously. "Then I'll go."

She went down stairs, followed by the old man. She threw open the street door, but even her courage was somewhat daunted by the sight of two police officers, accompanied by Jack.

"That's the man," said Jack, pointing out Foley, who tried to conceal himself behind Mrs. Hardwick's more ample proportions.

"I have a warrant for your arrest," said one of the officers, advancing to Foley.

"Gentlemen, spare me," he said, clasping his hands. "What have I done?"

"You are charged with uttering counterfeit coin.

"I am innocent."

"If you are, that will come out on your trial."

"Shall I have to be tried?" he asked, piteously.

"Of course. If you are innocent, no harm will come to you."

Peg had been standing still, irresolute what to do. Determined upon a bold step, she made a movement to pass the officers.

"Stop!" said Jack. "I call upon you to arrest that woman. She is the Mrs. Hardwick against whom you have a warrant."

"What is all this for?" demanded Peg, haughtily. "What right have you to interfere with me?"

"That will be made known to you in due time. You are suspected of being implicated with this man."

"I suppose I must yield," said Peg, sulkily. "But perhaps you, young sir," turning to Jack, "may not be the gainer by it."

"Where is Ida?" asked Jack, anxiously.

"She is safe," said Peg, sententiously.

"You won't tell me where she is?"

"No. Why should I? I am indebted to you, I suppose, for this arrest. She shall be kept out of your way as long as it is in my power to do so."

Jack's countenance fell.

"At least you will tell me whether she is well?"

"I shall answer no questions whatever," said Mrs. Hardwick.

"Then I will find her," he said, gaining courage. "She is somewhere in the city, and sooner or later I shall find her."

Peg was not one to betray her feelings, but this arrest was a great disappointment to her. Apart from the consequences which might result from it, it would prevent her meeting with John Somerville, and obtaining from him the thousand dollars of which she had regarded herself certain. Yet even from her prison-cell she might hold over him in terrorem the threat of making known to Ida's mother the secret of her child's existence. All was not lost. She walked quietly to the carriage in waiting, while her companions, in an ecstasy of terror, seemed to have lost the power of locomotion, and had to be supported on either side.