‘And he can hardly believe it either,’ said Sampson, when he returned, ‘nor nobody will. I wish I could doubt the evidence of my senses, but their depositions are unimpeachable. It’s of no use cross-examining my eyes,’ cried Sampson, winking and rubbing them, ‘they stick to their first account, and will. Now, Sarah, I hear the coach in the Marks; get on your bonnet, and we’ll be off. A sad errand! a moral funeral, quite!’

‘Mr Brass,’ said Kit, ‘do me one favour. Take me to Mr Witherden’s first.’

Sampson shook his head irresolutely.

‘Do,’ said Kit. ‘My master’s there. For Heaven’s sake take me there first.’

‘Well, I don’t know,’ stammered Brass, who perhaps had his reasons for wishing to show as fair as possible in the eyes of the Notary. ‘How do we stand in point of time, constable, eh?’

The constable, who had been chewing a straw all this while with great philosophy, replied that if they went away at once they would have time enough, but that if they stood shilly-shallying there any longer they must go straight to the Mansion House; and finally expressed his opinion that that was where it was, and that was all about it.

Mr Richard Swiveller having arrived inside the coach, and still remaining immoveable in the most commodious corner with his face to the horses, Mr Brass instructed the officer to remove his prisoner, and declared himself quite ready. Therefore the constable, still holding Kit in the same manner, and pushing him on a little before him, so as to keep him at about three-quarters of an arm’s length in advance (which is the professional mode), thrust him into the vehicle and followed himself. Miss Sally entered next; and there being now four inside, Sampson Brass got upon the box, and made the coachman drive on.

Still completely stunned by the sudden and terrible change which had taken place in his affairs, Kit sat gazing out of the coach window, almost hoping to see some monstrous phenomenon in the streets which might give him reason to believe he was in a dream. Alas! Everything was too real and familiar; the same succession of turnings, the same houses, the same streams of people running side by side in different directions upon the pavement, the same bustle of carts and carriages in the road, the same well-remembered objects in the shop windows: a regularity in the very noise and hurry which no dream ever mirrored. Dreamlike as the story was, it was true. He stood charged with robbery; the note had been found upon him, though he was innocent in thought and deed; and they were carrying him back, a prisoner.

Absorbed in these painful ruminations, thinking with a drooping heart of his mother and little Jacob, feeling as though even the consciousness of innocence would be insufficient to support him in the presence of his friends if they believed him guilty, and sinking in hope and courage more and more as they drew nearer to the Notary’s, poor Kit was looking earnestly out of the window, observant of nothing — when all at once, as though it had been conjured up by magic, he became aware of the face of Quilp.

And what a leer there was upon the face! It was from the open window of a tavern that it looked out; and the dwarf had so spread himself over it, with his elbows on the window-sill and his head resting on both his hands, that what between this attitude and his being swoln with suppressed laughter, he looked puffed and bloated into twice his usual breadth. Mr Brass on recognising him immediately stopped the coach. As it came to a halt directly opposite to where he stood, the dwarf pulled off his hat, and saluted the party with a hideous and grotesque politeness.

‘Aha!’ he cried. ‘Where now, Brass? where now? Sally with you too? Sweet Sally! And Dick? Pleasant Dick! And Kit? Honest Kit!’

‘He’s extremely cheerful!’ said Brass to the coachman. ‘Very much so! Ah, Sir — a sad business! Never believe in honesty any more, Sir.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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