Monks and Mr. Brownlow at length meet. Their conversation, and the intelligence that interrupts it.
The twilight was beginning to close in, when Mr. Brownlow alighted from a hackney-coach at his own door, and knocked softly. The door being opened, a sturdy man got out of the coach and stationed himself on one side of the steps, while another man, who had been seated on the box, dismounted too, and stood upon the other side. At a sign from Mr. Brownlow, they helped out a third man, and taking him between them, hurried him into the house. This man was Monks.
They walked in the same manner up the stairs without speaking, and Mr. Brownlow, preceding them, led the way into a back-room. At the door of this appartment, Monks, who had ascended with evident reluctance, stopped. The two men looked to the old gentleman as if for instructions.
He knows the alternative, said Mr. Brownlow. If he hesitates or moves a finger but as you bid him, drag him into the street, call for the aid of the police, and impeach him as a felon in my name.
How dare you say this of me? asked Monks.
How dare you urge me to it, young man? replied Mr. Brownlow, confronting him with a steady look. Are you mad enough to leave this house? Unhand him. There, sir. You are free to go, and we to follow. But I warn you, by all I hold most solemn and most sacred, that the instant you set foot in the street, that instant will I have you apprehended on a charge of fraud and robbery. I am resolute and immoveable. If you are determined to be the same, your blood be upon your own head!
By what authority am I kidnapped in the street, and brought here by these dogs? asked Monks, looking from one to the other of the men who stood beside him.
By mine, replied Mr. Brownlow. Those persons are indemnified by me. If you complain of being deprived of your liberty you had power and opportunity to retrieve it as you came along, but you deemed it advisable to remain quiet I say again, throw yourself for protection on the law. I will appeal to the law too; but when you have gone too far to recede, do not sue to me for leniency, when the power will have passed into other hands; and do not say I plunged you down the gulf into which you rushed, yourself.
Monks was plainly disconcerted, and alarmed besides. He hesitated.
You will decide quickly, said Mr. Brownlow, with perfect firmness and composure. If you wish me to prefer my charges publicly, and consign you to a punishment the extent of which, although I can, with a shudder, foresee, I cannot control, once more, I say, you know the way. If not, and you appeal to my forbearance, and the mercy of those you have deeply injured, seat yourself, without a word, in that chair. It has waited for you two whole days.
Monks muttered some unintelligible words, but wavered still.
You will be prompt, said Mr. Brownlow. A word from me, and the alternative has gone for ever.
Still the man hesitated.
I have not the inclination to parley, said Mr. Brownlow, and, as I advocate the dearest interests of others, I have not the right.
Is there demanded Monks with a faltering tongue, is there no middle course?
Monks looked at the old gentleman, with an anxious eye; but, reading in his countenance nothing but severity and determination, walked into the room, and, shrugging his shoulders, sat down.
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