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142 CHAPTER XXI. Setting forth the conduct of Mr. Covert when he found himself in a tight place. the foiled lawyer—the fox caught in a trap while he thought he had so nicely fixed traps for others! It was not an agreeable picture to look upon, but I will portray it, as, I afterward learnt to my satisfaction, the reality transpired. Covert did not know of Martha’s departure, till early in the morning; but then his suspicious soul immediately felt that something was wrong—and something serious too. It was never the custom for Martha to leave the house in that way; and where had she to go without informing him? Sick before, and now doubly sick with alarm, he instinctively hobbled to what he supposed the safe repository of his valuable plunder—supposed, and yet had an indefinite sort of fear. Miserable, pale, wretch! there was something in the electric shock of despair and baffled selfishness, condensed in that first minute of confusion, to revenge upon you the 143 scores of villainies you had perpetrated, commencing with the swindle of the poor carpenter. That long life of lies and cheats for gain, came like a flash before him! And now, after all, to be foiled! With trembling hands, his forehead running a chill sweat, the lawyer commenced turning out everything. Perhaps he had misplaced the precious documents, and they were there yet. He ransacked high and low. He went over the search again; and, dropping his cane, for he felt an unnatural strength suddenly come into his weakened veins, he began a systematic search through the room, in its every part. He was desperate, indeed. What chance was there? No matter, he finished that room, and then went over the next in the same manner. And then the next. At last he ascended to Martha’s apartment. Her furniture , and many of her things were there, as formerly; but it was evident that she had made a careful selection of what she most needed; and those articles were taken away. He called up the servant from the kitchen. She was a stupid , half-witted girl, the only help he kept in the place. She could give him no information, for she had been soundly sleeping when Martha departed. Obtaining a messenger, he sent down at once to the office , for me to come up to his house. Far from being at the office, I had, when I put my hat on my head the evening 144 before, taken an oath never voluntarily to enter its doors again. My days of studying law, I felt, might as well come to an end; and, since these revelations, Ephraim Foster did not seem to entertain the old obstinacy that way. “After all, Jack,” he had said that morning, “I don’t know but I was too fast in pushing you to this sort of life. The Lord forgive me if you should lose your honesty by it!” I seriously assured him that I could not answer for myself ; and that I already felt a sort of nibbling disposition in the points of my fingers. Covert’s messenger was instructed, in default of me, to bring up Wigglesworth, if he could be brought, or, as a last resort, the boy Nathaniel. Wigglesworth was on his death-bed; and thus it fell that my spirited young friend of the night before, whistling to his dog, coolly clapt his hat on his head and bade the messenger —whom he styled “my son,” although that personage was old enough to be his grandfather—go on before, and convey to Mr. Covert an assurance of his love, and that he would be with the good man forthwith. Nathaniel, who locked the door, and carried the key in his hand, had much to attract his attention on his journey. In the first place, he came round to me, according to a previous arrangement, and told me that he had been sent for, and was going. “And it’s my opinion,” said Nat, “that I shall take the opportunity to let the old boy into a piece of my mind.” 145 I cautioned him against mentioning the whereabouts of Martha, just at present. With respect to any further information he might say as much as he liked. He took his walk very leisurely, except where there was a provoking chance to have a race with Jack. There were the theatre bills to read; these he perused with...


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