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[-328-]

CHAPTER CVIII.

THE EXHUMATION.

THE night was fine - frosty - and bright with the lustre of a lovely moon.
    Even the chimneys and gables of the squalid [-329-] 

houses of Globe Town appeared to bathe their heads in that flood of silver light.
    The Resurrection Man and the Buffer pursued their way towards the cemetery.
    For some minutes they preserved a profound silence: at length the Buffer exclaimed, "I only hope, Tony, that this business won't turn out as bad as the job with young Markham three nights ago."
    "Why should it?" demanded the Resurrection Man, in a gruff tone.
    "Well, I don't know why," answered the Buffer. "P'rhaps, after all, it was just as well that feller escaped as he did. We might have swung for it."
    "Escape!" muttered the Resurrection Man, grinding his teeth savagely. "Yes - he did escape them; but I haven't done with him yet. He shall not get off so easy another time."
    "I wonder who those chaps was that come up so sudden?" observed the Buffer, after a pause. 
    "Friends of his, no doubt," answered Tidkins. "Most likely he suspected a trap, or thought he would be on the right side. But the night was to plaguy dark, anti the whole thing was to sudden, it  was impossible to form an idea of who the two strangers might be."
    "One on 'em was precious strong, I know," said the Buffer. " But, for my part, I think you d better leave the young feller alone in future. It's no good standing the chance of getting scragged for mere wengeance. I can't, understand that sort of thing. If you like to crack his crib for him and hive the swag, I'm your man; but I'll have no more of a business that's all danger and no profit."
    "Well, well, as you like," said the Resurrection Man, impatiently. "Here we are; so look alive."
    They were now under the wall of the cemetery.
    The Buffer clambered to the top of the wall, which was not very high; and the Resurrection Man handed him the implements and tools, which he dropped cautiously upon the ground inside the enclosure.
    He then helped hit companion upon the wall; and in another moment they stood together within the cemetery.
    "Are you sure you can find the way to the right grave?" demanded the Buffer in a whisper.
    "Don't be afraid," was the reply: "I could go straight up to it blindfold."
    [-330-] They then shouldered their implements, and the Resurrection Man led the way to the spot where Mrs. Smith's anonymous lodger had been buried.
    "I'm afeard the ground's precious hard," observed the Buffer, when he and his companion had satisfied themselves by a cautious glance around that no one was watching their movements.
    The eyes of these men had become so habituated to the obscurity of night, in consequence of the frequency with which they pursued their avocations during the darkness which cradled others to rest, that they were possessed of the visual acuteness generally ascribed to the cat.
    "We'll soon turn it up, let it be as hard as it will," said the Resurrection Man, in answer to his comrade's remark. 
    Then, suiting the action to the word, he began his operations hi the following manner. 
    He measured a distance of five paces from the head of the grave. At the point thus marked he took a long iron rod and drove it in an oblique direction through the ground towards one end of the coffin. So accurate were his calculations relative to the precise spot in which the coffin was embedded in the earth, that the iron rod struck against it the very first time he thus sounded the soil.
    "All right," he whispered to the Buffer.
    He than took a spade and began to break up the earth just at that spot where the end of the iron rod peeped out of the ground.
    "Not so hard as you thought," he observed. "The fact is, the whole burial-place is so mixed up with human remains, that the day is too greasy to freeze very easy."
    "I s'pose that's it," said the Buffer.
    The Resurrection Man worked for about ten minutes with a skill and an effect that would have astonished even Jones the grave-digger himself, had he been thereto see. He then resigned the spade to the Buffer, who took his turn with equal ardour and ability.
    When his ten minutes elapsed, the resurrectionists regaled themselves each with a dram from Tidkins' flask; and this individual then applied himself once more to the work in hand. When he was wearied, the Buffer relieved him; and thus did they fairly divide the toil until the excavation of the ground was completed. 
    This portion of the task was finished in about forty minutes. An oblique channel, about ten feet long, and three feet square at the mouth, and decreasing only in length, as it verged towards the head of the coffin at the bottom, was not formed.
    The Resurrection Man provided himself with a stout chisel the handle of which was covered with leather, and with a mallet, the ends of which were also protected with pieces of the same material. Thus the former instrument when struck by the latter emitted but little noise.
    He then descended into the channel which terminated at the very head of the coffin.
    Breaking away the soil that lay upon that end of the coffin, he inserted the chisel into the joints of the wood, and in a very few moments knocked off the board that closed the coffin at that extremity.
    The wood-work of the head of the shell was also removed with ease - for Banks had purposely nailed those parts of the two cases very slightly together.
    The Resurrection Man next handed up the tools to his companies, who threw him down a strong cord.
    The end of this rope was then fastened under the armpits of the corpse as it lay in its coffin.
    This being done, the Buffer helped the Resurrection Man out of the hole.
    "So far, so good," said Tidkins: "it must be close upon one o'clock. We have got a quarter of an hour left - and that's plenty of time to do all that's yet to be done."
    The two men then took the rope between them, and drew the corpse gently out of its coffin - up the slope of the channel - and landed it safely on the ground at a little distance from the mouth of the excavation.
    The moon fell upon the pale features of the dead - those features which were still as unchanged, save in colour, as if they had never come in contact with a shroud - nor belonged to a body that lead been swathed in a winding-sheet!
    The contrast formed by the white figure and the black soil on which it was stretched, would have struck terror to the heart of any one save a resurrectionist.
    Indeed, the moment the corpse was this, dragged forth from its grave, the Resurrection Man thrust his hand into its breast, and felt for the gold.
    It was there - wrapped up as the undertaker has described..
    "The blunt is all safe, Jack," said the Resurrection Man; and he secured the coin about his person.
    They then applied themselves vigorously to shovel back the earth; but, when they had filled up the excavation, a considerable quantity of the soil still remained to dispose of, it being impossible, in spite of stamping down, to condense the earth into the same space from which it was originally taken.
    They therefore filled two sacks with the surplus soil, and proceeded to empty them in different parts of the ground.
    Their task we so far accomplished, when they heard the low rumble of wheels in the lane outside the cemetery.
    To bundle the corpse neck and heels into a sack, and gather to their implements, was the work of only a few moments. They then conveyed their burdens between them to the wall overlooking the lane, where the well-known voice of Mr. Banks greeted their ears, as he stood upright in his cart peering over the barrier into the cemetery.
    "Got the blessed defunct?" said the undertaker interrogatively.
    "Right and tight," answered the Buffer; "and the tin too. Now, then, look sharp - here's the tools."
    "I've got 'em," returned Banks.
    "Look out for the stiff 'un, then," added the Buffer; and, aided by the Resurrection Man, he shoved the body up to the undertaker, who deposited it in the bottom of his cart.
    The Resurrection Man and the Buffer then mounted the wall, and got into the vehicle, in which they laid themselves down, so that any person whom they might meet in the streets through which they were to pass would only see one individual in the cart - namely, the driver. Otherwise, the appearance of three men at that time of night, or rather at that hour in the morning, might have excited suspicion.
    Banks lashed the sides of his horse; and the animal started offset a round pace.
    Not a word was spoken during the short drive to the surgeon's residence in the Cambridge Road.
    When they reached his house the road was quiet [-331-] and deserted. A light glimmered through the fanlight over the door; and the door itself was opened the moment the cart stopped.
    The Resurrection Man and the Buffer sprang and, seeing that the coast was clear, bundled the corpse out of the vehicle in an instant; then in less than half a minute the "blessed defunct," as the undertaker called it, was safely lodged in the passage of the surgeon's house.
    Mr. Banks, as soon as the body was removed from his vehicle, drove rapidly away. His portion of the night's work was done; and he knew that his accomplices would give him his "reg'lars" when they should meet again.
    The Resurrection Man and the Buffer conveyed the body into a species of out-house, which the surgeon, who was passionately attached to anatomical studies, devoted to purposes of dissection and physiological experiment.
    In the middle of this room, which was shout ten feet long and six broad, stood a strong deal table, forming a slightly inclined plane. The stone pavement of the out-house was perforated with holes in the immediate vicinity of the table, so that the fluid which poured from subjects for dissection might escape into a drain communicating with the common sewer. To the ceiling, immediately above the head of the table, was attached a pulley with a strong cord, by means of which a body might be supported in any position that was most convenient to the anatomist.
    The Resurrection Man and his companion carried the corpse into this dissecting-room, and placed it upon the table, the surgeon holding a candle to light their movements.
    "Now, Jack," said Tidkins to the Buffer, "do you take the stiff 'un out of the sack, and lay him along decently on the table ready for business, while I retire a moment to this gentleman's study and settle accounts with him."
    "Well and good," returned the Buffer. "I'll stay here till you come back."
    The surgeon lighted another candle, which he placed on the window-sill, and then withdrew, accompanied by the Resurrection Man.
    The Buffer shut the door of the dissecting-room, because the draught caused the candle to flicker, and menaced the light with extinction. He then proceeded to obey the directions which he had received from his accomplice.
    The Buffer removed the sack from the body, which he then stretched out at length upon the inclined table, taking care to place its head on the higher extremity and immediately beneath the pulley.
    "There, old feller," he said, "you're comfortable, at any rate. What a blessin' it would be to your friends, if they was ever to find out that you'd been had up again, to know into what skilful hands you'd happened to fall!"
    Thus musing, the Buffer turned his back listlessly towards the corpse, and leant against the table on which it was lying.
    "Let me see," he said to himself, "there s thirty-one pounds that was buried along with him, and then there's ten pounds that the sawbones is a paying now to Tony for the match; that makes forty-one pounds, and there's three to go shares. What does that make? Threes into four goes once - threes into eleven goes three and two over - that's thirteen pounds a-piece, and two pound to split —"
    The Buffer started abruptly round, and became deadly pale. He thought he heard a slight movement of the corpse, and his whole frame trembled.
    Almost at the same moment some object was hurled violently against the window; the glass was shivered to atoms; the candle was thrown down and extinguished; and total darkness reigned in the dissecting-room.
    "Holloa!" cried the Buffer, turning sick at heart; "what's that?"
    Scarcely had these words escaped his lips when he felt his hand suddenly grasped by the cold fingers of the corpse.
    "O God!" cried the miscreant; and he fell insensible across the body on the table.

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