‘Is it really gone though?’ said Dick, looking at Brass with a face as pale as his own.

‘Upon my word, Mr Richard, Sir,’ replied the lawyer, feeling in all his pockets with looks of the greatest agitation, ‘I fear this is a black business. It’s certainly gone, Sir. What’s to be done?’

‘Don’t run after him,’ said Miss Sally, taking more snuff. ‘Don’t run after him on any account. Give him time to get rid of it, you know. It would be cruel to find him out!’

Mr Swiveller and Sampson Brass looked from Miss Sally to each other in a state of utter bewilderment, and then, as by one impulse, caught up their hats and rushed out into the street—darting along in the middle of the road, and dashing aside all obstructions as though they were running for their lives.

It happened that Kit had been running too, though not so fast, and having the start of them by some few minutes, was a good distance ahead. As they were pretty certain of the road he must have taken, however, and kept on at a great pace, they came up with him, at the very moment when he had taken breath, and was breaking into a run again.

‘Stop!’ cried Sampson, laying his hand on one shoulder, while Mr Swiveller pounced upon the other. ‘Not so fast, Sir. You’re in a hurry?’

‘Yes, I am,’ said Kit, looking from one to the other in great surprise.

‘I—I—can hardly believe it,’ panted Sampson, ‘but something of value is missing from the office. I hope you don’t know what.’

‘Know what! good Heaven, Mr Brass!’ cried Kit, trembling from head to foot; ‘you don’t suppose—’

‘No, no,’ rejoined Brass quickly, ‘I don’t suppose anything. Don’t say I said you did. You’ll come back quietly, I hope?’

‘Of course I will,’ returned Kit. ‘Why not?’

‘To be sure!’ said Brass. ‘Why not? I hope there may turn out to be no why not. If you knew the trouble I’ve been in this morning through taking your part, Christopher, you’d be sorry for it.’

‘And I’m sure you’ll be sorry for having suspected me, Sir,’ replied Kit. ‘Come. Let us make haste back.’

‘Certainly!’ cried Brass, ‘the quicker, the better. Mr Richard—have the goodness, Sir, to take that arm. I’ll take this one. It’s not easy walking three abreast, but under these circumstances it must be done, Sir, there’s no help for it.’

Kit did turn from white to red, and from red to white again, when they secured him thus, and for a moment seemed disposed to resist. But, quickly recollecting himself, and remembering that if he made any struggle, he would perhaps be dragged by the collar through the public streets, he only repeated, with great earnestness and with the tears standing in his eyes, that they would be sorry for this—and suffered them to lead him off. While they were on the way back, Mr Swiveller, upon whom his present functions sat very irksomely, took an opportunity of whispering in his ear that if he would confess his guilt, even by so much as a nod, and promise not to do so any more, he would connive at his kicking Sampson Brass on the shins and escaping up a court; but Kit indignantly rejecting this proposal, Mr Richard had nothing for it, but to hold him tight until they reached Bevis Marks, and ushered him into the presence of the charming Sarah, who immediately took the precaution of locking the door.

‘Now, you know,’ said Brass, ‘if this is a case of innocence, it is a case of that description, Christopher, where the fullest disclosure is the best satisfaction for everybody. Therefore if you’ll consent to an examination,’ he demonstrated what kind of examination he meant by turning back the cuffs of his coat, ‘it will be a comfortable and pleasant thing for all parties.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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