The game was up. The race was at an end; the rope was woven for his neck. If, by a miracle, he could escape from this strait, he had but to turn his face another way, no matter where, and there would rise some new avenger front to front with him; some infant in an hour grown old, or old man in an hour grown young, or blind man with his sight restored, or deaf man with his hearing given him. There was no chance. He sank down in a heap against the wall, and never hoped again from that moment.
'I am not his friend, although I have the honour to be his relative,' said Mr Chuzzlewit. 'You may speak to me. Where have you watched, and what have you seen?'
'I have watched in many places,' returned Nadgett, 'night and day. I have watched him lately, almost without rest or relief;' his anxious face and bloodshot eyes confirmed it. 'I little thought to what my watching was to lead. As little as he did when he slipped out in the night, dressed in those clothes which he afterwards sunk in a bundle at London Bridge!'
Jonas moved upon the ground like a man in bodily torture. He uttered a suppressed groan, as if he had been wounded by some cruel weapon; and plucked at the iron band upon his wrists, as though (his hands being free) he would have torn himself.
'Steady, kinsman!' said the chief officer of the party. 'Don't be violent.'
'Whom do you call kinsman?' asked old Martin sternly.
'You,' said the man, 'among others.'
Martin turned his scrutinizing gaze upon him. He was sitting lazily across a chair with his arms resting on the back; eating nuts, and throwing the shells out of window as he cracked them, which he still continued to do while speaking.
'Aye,' he said, with a sulky nod. 'You may deny your nephews till you die; but Chevy Slyme is Chevy Slyme still, all the world over. Perhaps even you may feel it some disgrace to your own blood to be employed in this way. I'm to be bought off.'
'At every turn!' cried Martin. 'Self, self, self. Every one among them for himself!'
'You had better save one or two among them the trouble then and be for them as well as YOURself,' replied his nephew. 'Look here at me! Can you see the man of your family who has more talent in his little finger than all the rest in their united brains, dressed as a police officer without being ashamed? I took up with this trade on purpose to shame you. I didn't think I should have to make a capture in the family, though.'
'If your debauchery, and that of your chosen friends, has really brought you to this level,' returned the old man, 'keep it. You are living honestly, I hope, and that's something.'
'Don't be hard upon my chosen friends,' returned Slyme, 'for they were sometimes your chosen friends too. Don't say you never employed my friend Tigg, for I know better. We quarrelled upon it.'
'I hired the fellow,' retorted Mr Chuzzlewit, 'and I paid him.'
'It's well you paid him,' said his nephew, 'for it would be too late to do so now. He has given his receipt in full; or had it forced from him rather.'
The old man looked at him as if he were curious to know what he meant, but scorned to prolong the conversation.
'I have always expected that he and I would be brought together again in the course of business,' said Slyme, taking a fresh handful of nuts from his pocket; 'but I thought he would be wanted for some swindling job; it never entered my head that I should hold a warrant for the apprehension of his murderer.'
'HIS murderer!' cried Mr Chuzzlewit, looking from one to another.
'His or Mr Montague's,' said Nadgett. 'They are the same, I am told. I accuse him yonder of the murder of Mr Montague, who was found last night, killed, in a wood. You will ask me why I accuse him as you have already asked me how I know so much. I'll tell you. It can't remain a secret long.'
The ruling passion of the man expressed itself even then, in the tone of regret in which he deplored the approaching publicity of what he knew.
'I told you I had wa