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WHEN Mr. Banks had taken his leave of the widow in Smart Street, Globe Town,
the latter seated herself in her little parlour to reflect upon what had passed
during the interview.
[-315-] "Well," she
said to herself, "that certainly is a very singular man. To have knowed my
husband so well, and for me never to have knowed him! P'raps, after all,
my poor Mat was fond of the public-house, and didn't like to speak of the
acquaintances he met there. That accounts for his never mentioning Mr. Banks's
name. But for a man like Mr. Banks to come here whimpering and crying over a
corpse, which he never see living, shows a excellent heart. Mr. Banks must be a
wery amiable man. And yet I always heerd say that butchers and undertakers was
the most unfeelingest of men. They never let butchers set on juries; but I'm
sure if undertakers is so milk-hearted, they may set on juries, or up in
pulpits, or any where else, for my part. Mr. Banks is a wery respectable man -
and a wery pious one too. I'm sure I thought he was going to sing a hymn -
'specially after the dodger of gin he took. The minister that he said he'd send
to me must be a holy man: I shall put confidence in him - and foller his
A tap at the parlour door interrupted Mrs. Smith's reverie;
and the Buffer's wife entered the room.
"How do you do this morning, ma'am?" said Moll
Wicks. "I thought I heerd that you had company just now?"
"Only Mr. Banks, the undertaker, Mrs. Wicks."
"Oh! Mr. Banks. was it? ejaculated the Buffer's wife,
who now began to comprehend a part of the Resurrection Man's plan " and a
highly respectable individual he is too."
"Do you know any thing of him, Mrs. Wicks ?"
"Certainly I do, ma'am. He buried my grandfather and
grandmother, my great uncle and my lame aunt, and never took no more than
expenses out of pocket," answered Moll - although be it well remembered,
she had never seen nor heard of Mr. Banks before the preceding evening.
"Ah! well - I thought I couldn't be wrong,"
observed the widow, extremely satisfied with this information.
"And so I suppose, ma'am, you've made the arrangements
with him for the funeral ?"
"Just so," responded Mrs. Smith; "and in the
course of the day I expect a wery pious minister of Mr. Banks's
Scarcely were these words uttered, when a modest double knock
at the front door was heard - a summons which Mrs. Wicks volunteered to answer.
The moment she opened the door, an ejaculation of surprise
was about to issue from her tongue; but the individual whom she saw upon the
threshold put his finger to his lips to impose silence.
The Buffer's wife responded with a significant nod, and
introduced the visitor into the widow's parlour.
Moll Wicks then withdrew to her own room.
Meantime the visitor stood in the presence of Mrs. Smith, who
beheld before her a short man, with a pale face, dark piercing eyes, shaggy
brows, and long straggling black hair. He was dressed in a respectable suit of
mourning, and wore a clean white cravat.
"Pardon me, ma'am, if I intrude," said the visitor;
"but my friend Mr. Banks "
"Oh! sir, you are quite welcome," ejaculated the widow. "Pray sit
down, sir. I presume you arc the reverend minister "
"I am a humble vessel of the Lord," answered the visitor, casting down
his eyes with great meekness: "and I am come to see in what way I can be
useful to a respectable widow of whom my friend, the excellent Mr. Banks has
spoken so very highly."
"The truth is, reverend sir," said the widow, sinking her voice, and
drawing her chair closer up to her sanctified visitor, "I want some good
advice how to act in a wery partickler matter."
"It is my business to give good advice," was the reply.
"I thought so, reverend sir; and if Mat had been alive, I should
told him that I thought so. Howsomever, this is what I want to know about. An
old gentleman dies yesterday morning in my house; and he leaves a little money -
thirty or forty pounds, or so - behind him. He always paid his way with me;
and so I don't start no claim to a farthing of it. He has no name - no friends - no
relations - no nothing: now the question is, sir, what am I to do with this here
money that he's left behind him?"
"You are a very honest woman, Mrs. Smith," answered the reverend
gentleman; "and you conduct yourself in a most creditable way in this
respect. Many people would have put the money into their own pockets."
"And that a just what a female lodger of mine wanted me to do, reverend
sir," exclaimed the landlady. "But I know myself better. Dead man's money
never did no one no good unless it was properly left, as the saying is. Mrs.
Wicks would have had me keep it all quiet; and I must say that I was surprised
at the perposal. But, between you and me, sir, I don't think overmuch of my
lodgers, although they do pay their rent pretty reg'lar. The man doesn't seem to
have any work or employment; and yet they live on the best-biled beef one day,
steaks the next, bacon and greens the next - and so on. I know that I can't do it
on nothing. And then they have their ale at dinner, and their gin of an evening.
For my part I can't understand it. The man keeps late hours too; and the woman
swears like a trooper when she's got a drop too much. But then, as I said, they
pays their way; and a lone widder like me doesn't dare ask no questions."
"Of course not," said the reverend gentleman. "I think you stated
that the name of the lodgers you allude to is Wicks ?"
Yes, sir - Wicks."
"I know them - by reputation only. They have an annuity of eighty pounds
a-year, and are very respectable people. Their only fault is that they are
rather fond of company - and that, perhaps, makes them stay out late now and then."
"Well, sir, if a pious gentleman like you thinks well on them, it
isn't for a poor ignorant creatur' like me to say black's the white of their
eye. They pays their way; and that's all I ought to bother myself about. But, as I was a-saying, the
old gentleman which lodged
with me dies and leaves some money behind him. There ain't kith or kin to claim it. Now what had I
better do with it?"
"The ecclesiastical law "
"The law of Doctors' Commons, I mean, is very particular on this head,"
said the reverend visitor. "There are only two things to do "
"And which be they, sir?" asked the widow.
"Either to go and put the money into the Chancery Court, or to bury it
in the coffin along with the deceased."
"And suppose I put it into the Chancery Court, sir?"
"Then no one will ever get it out again - that's all."
"But if some relation comes for'ard?"
[-316-] "Then he'll just have to pay two pounds costs for every pound he draws
"Lack-a-daisy me!" ejaculated the widow. "I raly think it
would be best to bury the money in the poor old gentleman's coffin "
"I am sure it would be," said the reverend adviser; "and although you
would be giving up a treasure in this life, you would be laying up for yourself
a treasure in heaven."
"Ah! well-a-day, sir - we must all think of that. I shall foller your advice,
and bury the money with the poor man in his coffin."
"Without mentioning the business to a soul except Mr. Banks," said the
saintly man, in an impressive tone.
"Or else his rest might he disturbed - eh, sir?" demanded the widow,
sinking her voice to a whisper. "But do you think there a such people as
resurrection men now-a-days?"
"Resurrection men!" ejaculated the reverend visitor, bursting out
into a laugh; "no, my dear madam - society has got rid of those
"Then where do surgeons get corpses from, sir?
"From the hulks, the
prisons, and the workhouses," was the answer.
"What! poor creatures which goes to the workus! " cried Mrs.
Smith, revolting at the idea.
"Yes-ma'am; but the surgeons don't like them as subjects, because they're
nothing but skin and bone."
"Well, for my part," exclaimed the widow, wiping away a tear, " I
think it a wery hard if, after paying rates and taxes for a many - many year, I
should be obleeged to go to the workus, and then be cut up in a surgeon's
slaughter-house at last."
"Ah! my dear ma'am, these are sad times - very sad times," said the sanctified
gentleman. "But a woman who does her duty to her fellow creatures as you
do, need fear nothing ; heaven will protect you!"
With these words the holy man rose from his seat, and prepared to depart.
"I hope Mr. Banks has engaged you to perform the service over my poor
deceased lodger, sir ?" said the widow, as she conducted him to the door.
"He has, ma'am," was the reply: and the reverend minister took his
leave of Mrs. Smith, from whose mind a considerable load was removed by the
suggestion she had received relative to the disposal of the money of her defunct
lodger - a suggestion which she now determined to follow to the very letter.
In the mean time the Rattlesnake had been left alone at the mysterious
dwelling which she and her terrible paramour inhabited.
Before the Resurrection Man went out, after the call of Mr. Banks, he threw
aside his every-day garb, and put on a complete suit of black. He performed the
ceremony of his toilet somewhat hurriedly; and the Rattlesnake perceived with
the most unfeigned delight that he forgot to transfer the contents of the
pockets of his old garments to those of his new ones. At length he went out;
and the Rattlesnake instantly commenced a strict examination of the clothes
which he had just put off.
There were a few papers and dirty letters, but of those the woman took no
notice. Neither did her fingers clutch greedily the three or four sovereigns
which were contained in a greasy purse. A bunch of keys - the principal object of
her search - rivetted all her attention - engrossed all her interest.
Without a moment's delay, she descended the stairs, and issued from the house. She darted up the narrow alley, paused at
the side door, and tried the luck with the different keys. The last of all was
the one which opened the door.
The heart of the Rattlesnake beat with joy as she entered the passage, and
closed the door carefully behind her.
She first peeped into the front room, and by the faint light that was
admitted through the heart-shaped holes in the shutters, she beheld only the
implements peculiar to the avocation of a resurrection man; namely, flexible iron
rods to sound the depths of graves, and long poles with hooks at the ends to
drag up bodies, together with saws, spades, pickaxes, trowels, ropes,
skeleton-keys, &c. &c.
The Rattlesnake then entered the back room, which was small, damp, and in a
dilapidated condition. The plaster of the walls had given way in several places;
and the whole appearance of the chamber seemed to indicate that it had not been
inhabited for many years.
A table, a chair, and a cupboard were all the furniture which the room
contained. On the table lay the mask, and over the chair hung the cloak in which
the Resurrection Man had disguised himself on the preceding night. The basket,
which she had seen him use on the same occasion, and which was of the kind that
housewives take to market to hold their purchases, lay upon the floor.
The contents and appearance of the room were visible by means of the light
admitted through the shutters.
The door of the cupboard was locked, but one of the keys which the
Rattlesnake had with her speedily unlocked it. There, however, was nothing
either to excite or allay her curiosity - for it was empty.
She now proceeded to examine the chamber more carefully, expecting to
find some secret communication with a subterranean excavation; for she was
still impressed with the idea that she had heard the steps of the Resurrection
Man descend a flight of stairs on the preceding evening; and she was also
convinced that the scream she had then heard had proceeded from a greater
distance or lower depth than the small back chamber in which she now found
But all her attempts to penetrate this mystery were unavailing; and, fearful
that the Resurrection Man might return and detect her proceedings, she hastened
away from the ground floor of this strange house.
Carefully locking the doors after her, she succeeded in reaching the upper
story and replacing the keys where she had found them, some time ere she heard
the steps of the Resurrection Man ascending the staircase.
When he entered the bed-room to change his clothes once more, he found her
busily engaged in some domestic occupation; and, as she welcomed him in her
usual manner, not a suspicion of lies proceedings entered his mind.
"Well," he said, as he assumed his common garb, "I have managed this
business. I have played the parson to some purpose; and the old woman has
consented to bury the yellow boys along with the old fellow. I shall now sit
down and write a letter to a certain Mr. Chichester, which letter you must take
to the post yourself. That being done, I can remain quiet until the evening; and
then, he added, with a ferocious leer, "then for Richard Markham!"
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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