"I didn't do it," said I sullenly. "It has done itself. Everybody insists that I'm Wilton. If I'm to have my throat slit for him I might as well try to do his work. I wish to Heaven I knew what it was, though." Mother Borton leaned her head on her hand, and gazed on me thoughtfully for a full minute. "Young man," said she impressively, "take my advice.
There's wan man cut to pieces, and good riddance, for it's Black Dick. I'm thinking it's the morgue they'll be taking him to, though it was for the receiving hospital they started with him. It was a dandy row, and it was siventeen arrists we made." "Where is Mother Borton?" "The ould she-divil's done for this time, I'm a-thinking. Whist, I forgot she was a friend of yours, sor."
"You're the black-hearted spawn of the sewer rats, to take a respectable woman like a bag of meal," cried Mother Borton indignantly, with a fresh string of oaths. "It's fire and brimstone you'll be tasting yet, and you'd 'a' been there before now, you miserable gutter- picker, if it wasn't for me. And this is the thanks I git from ye!"
"Good evening." "Good evening," I returned gravely, swallowing my amazement as best I could. By the table before me sat Mother Borton, contemplating me as calmly as though this meeting were the most commonplace thing in the world. A candle furnished a dim, flickering light that gave to her hard wicked countenance a diabolic leer that struck a chill to my blood.
Mother Borton caught up the candle and moved it back and forth before my face. In her eyes there was a gleam of savage pleasure. "By God, he's in earnest!" she said to herself, with a strange laugh. "Tell me again of the man you saw in the alley." I described Doddridge Knapp. "And you are going to get even with him?" she said with a chuckle that had no mirth in it. "Yes," said I shortly.
"Nonsense," said I. "In broad daylight, at the Palace Hotel? I'm much more likely to be killed before I get home to-night." Her earnestness impressed me, but my resolution was not shaken. Mother Borton rested her head on the table in despair at my obstinacy. "Well, if you will, you will," she said at last; "and an old woman's warnings are nothing to you.
Or had Mother Borton played me false, and was I now a prisoner to my own party for my enforced imposture, as one who knew too much to be left at large and too little to be of use? On a second and calmer thought it was evidently folly to bring my jailers about my ears, if jailers there were. I abandoned my half-formed plan of breaking down the door, and turned to the window and the light-well.
At these well-meant words Mother Borton raised herself on her elbow, and directed a stream of profanity in the direction of the doctor that sent chills chasing each other down my spine, and seemed for a minute to dim the candle that gave its flickering gloom to the room. "I'll talk as I please," cried Mother Borton. "It's my last wish, and I'll have it.
"They're a-sayin' as how, if you're killed, the one as you knows on'll have to git some one else to look after the boy, and mebbe he won't be so smart about foolin' them." "That's an excellent idea," said I. "If they only knew that I was the other fellow they could see at once what a bright scheme they had hit upon." "Maybe they ain't a-goin' to do it," said Mother Borton.
A huge reward was offered in the hope that it might induce some discontented underling in the band to expose his comrades. "Are you goin' after 'em, Anderson?" asked old Mr. Borton, with unfailing faith in the town's chief officer. "Them fellers is in Asia by this time," vouchsafed Mr. Crow scornfully, forgetting that less than a week had elapsed since the robbery.