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At this part of the recital Monks held his breath, and listened
with a face of intense eagerness, though his eyes were not
directed towards the speaker. As Mr. Brownlow paused, he changed
his position with the air of one who has experienced a sudden
relief, and wiped his hot face and hands.
'Before he went abroad, and as he passed through London on his
way,' said Mr. Brownlow, slowly, and fixing his eyes upon the
other's face, 'he came to me.'
'I never heard of that,' interrupted MOnks in a tone intended to
appear incredulous, but savouring more of disagreeable surprise.
'He came to me, and left with me, among some other things, a
picture--a portrait painted by himself--a likeness of this poor
girl--which he did not wish to leave behind, and could not carry
forward on his hasty journey. He was worn by anxiety and remorse
almost to a shadow; talked in a wild, distracted way, of ruin and
dishonour worked by himself; confided to me his intention to
convert his whole property, at any loss, into money, and, having
settled on his wife and you a portion of his recent acquisition,
to fly the country--I guessed too well he would not fly
alone--and never see it more. Even from me, his old and early
friend, whose strong attachment had taken root in the earth that
covered one most dear to both--even from me he withheld any more
particular confession, promising to write and tell me all, and
after that to see me once again, for the last time on earth.
Alas! THAT was the last time. I had no letter, and I never saw
'I went,' said Mr. Brownlow, after a short pause, 'I went, when
all was over, to the scene of his--I will use the term the world
would freely use, for worldly harshness or favour are now alike
to him--of his guilty love, resolved that if my fears were
realised that erring child should find one heart and home to
shelter and compassionate her. The family had left that part a
week before; they had called in such trifling debts as were
outstanding, discharged them, and left the place by night. Why,
or whithter, none can tell.'
Monks drew his breath yet more freely, and looked round with a
smile of triumph.
'When your brother,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing nearer to the
other's chair, 'When your brother: a feeble, ragged, neglected
child: was cast in my way by a stronger hand than chance, and
rescued by me from a life of vice and infamy--'
'What?' cried Monks.
'By me,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'I told you I should interest you
before long. I say by me--I see that your cunning associate
suppressed my name, although for ought he knew, it would be quite
strange to your ears. When he was rescued by me, then, and lay
recovering from sickness in my house, his strong resemblance to
this picture I have spoken of, struck me with astonishment. Even
when I first saw him in all his dirt and misery, there was a
lingering expression in his face that came upon me like a glimpse
of some old friend flashing on one in a vivid dream. I need not
tell you he was snared away before I knew his history--'
'Why not?' asked Monks hastily.
'Because you know it well.'
'Denial to me is vain,' replied Mr. Brownlow. 'I shall show you
that I know more than that.'
'You--you--can't prove anything against me,' stammered Monks. 'I
defy you to do it!'
'We shall see,' returned the old gentleman with a searching
glance. 'I lost the boy, and no efforts of mine could recover
him. Your mother being dead, I knew that you alone could solve
the mystery if anybody could, and as when I had last heard of you
you were on your own estate in the West Indies--whither, as you
well know, you retired upon your mother's death to escape the
consequences of vicious courses here--I made the voyage. You had
left it, months before, and were supposed to be in London, but no
one could tell where. I returned. Your agents had no clue to
your residence. You came and went, they said, as strangely as
you had ever done: sometimes for days together and sometimes not
for months: keeping to all appearance the same low haunts and
mingling with the same infamous herd who had been your associates
when a fierce ungovernable boy. I wearied them with new
applications. I paced the streets by night and day, but until
two hours ago, all my efforts were fruitless, and I never saw you
for an instant.'
'And now you do see me,' said Monks, rising boldly, 'what then?
Fraud and robbery are high-sounding words--justified, you think,
by a fancied resemblance in some young imp to an idle daub of a
dead man's Brother! You don't even know that a child was born of
this maudlin pair; you don't even know that.'
'I DID NOT,' replied Mr. Brownlow, rising too; 'but within the
last fortnight I have learnt it all. You have a brother; you
know it, and him. There was a will, which your mother destroyed,
leaving the secret and the gain to you at her own death. It
contained a reference to some child likely to be the result of
this sad connection, which child was born, and accidentally
encountered by you, when your suspicions were first awakened by
his resemblance to your father. You repaired to the place of his
birth. There existed proofs--proofs long suppressed--of his birth
and parentage. Those proofs were destroyed by you, and now, in
your own words to your accomplice the Jew, "THE ONLY PROOFS OF
THE BOY'S IDENTITY LIE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RIVER, AND THE OLD
HAG THAT RECEIVED THEM FORM THE MOTHER IS ROTTING IN HER COFFIN."
Unworthy son, coward, liar,--you, who hold your councils with
thieves and murderers in dark rooms at night,--you, whose plots
and wiles have brought a violent death upon the head of one worth
millions such as you,--you, who from your cradle were gall and
bitterness to your own father's heart, and in whom all evil
passions, vice, and profligacy, festered, till they found a vent
in a hideous disease which had made your face an index even to
your mind--you, Edward Leeford, do you still brave me!'
'No, no, no!' returned the coward, overwhelmed by these
'Every word!' cried the gentleman, 'every word that has passed
between you and this detested villain, is known to me. Shadows
on the wall have caught your whispers, and brought them to my
ear; the sight of the persecuted child has turned vice itself,
and given it the courage and almost the attributes of virtue.
Murder has been done, to which you were morally if not really a
'No, no,' interposed Monks. 'I--I knew nothing of that; I was
going to inquire the truth of the story when you overtook me. I
didn't know the cause. I thought it was a common quarrel.'
'It was the partial disclosure of your secrets,' replied Mr.
Brownlow. 'Will you disclose the whole?'
'Yes, I will.'
'Set your hand to a statement of truth and facts, and repeat it
'That I promise too.'
'Remain quietly here, until such a document is drawn up, and
proceed with me to such a place as I may deem most advisable, for
the purpose of attesting it?'
'If you insist upon that, I'll do that also,' replied Monks.
'You must do more than that,' said Mr. Brownlow. 'Make
restitution to an innocent and unoffending child, for such he is,
although the offspring of a guilty and most miserable love. You
have not forgotten the provisions of the will. Carry them into
execution so far as your brother is concerned, and then go where
you please. In this world you need meet no more.'
While Monks was pacing up and down, meditating with dark and evil
looks on this proposal and the possibilities of evading it: torn
by his fears on the one hand and his hatred on the other: the
door was hurriedly unlocked, and a gentleman (Mr. Losberne)
entered the room in violent agitation.
'The man will be taken,' he cried. 'He will be taken to-night!'
'The murderer?' asked Mr. Brownlow.
'Yes, yes,' replied the other. 'His dog has been seen lurking
about some old haunt, and there seems little doubt hat his master
either is, or will be, there, under cover of the darkness. Spies
are hovering about in every direction. I have spoken to the men
who are charged with his capture, and they tell me he cannot
escape. A reward of a hundred pounds is proclaimed by Government
'I will give fifty more,' said Mr. Brownlow, 'and proclaim it
with my own lips upon the spot, if I can reach it. Where is Mr.
'Harry? As soon as he had seen your friend here, safe in a coach
with you, he hurried off to where he heard this,' replied the
doctor, 'and mounting his horse sallied forth to join the first
party at some place in the outskirts agreed upon between them.'
'Fagin,' said Mr. Brownlow; 'what of him?'
'When I last heard, he had not been taken, but he will be, or is,
by this time. They're sure of him.'
'Have you made up your mind?' asked Mr. Brownlow, in a low voice,
'Yes,' he replied. 'You--you--will be secret with me?'
'I will. Remain here till I return. It is your only hope of
They left the room, and the door was again locked.