chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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OF all the persons who were in the
gambling house at the moment when the police, alarmed by the report of the
pistol, broke in, Richard Markham was alone captured. The others, aware of the
means of agrees in emergencies of this kind, had rushed up stairs, entered upon
the leads, and thus obtained admittance into the adjacent dwelling, from whose
friendly doors they subsequently issued one by one when all was once more quiet
in the street.
The police-officer conducted Markham to the nearest
station-house. They entered a low dark gloomy apartment, which was divided into
two parts by means of a thick wooden bar running across the room, about two feet
and a half from the ground. There was a small dull fire in the grate; and in a
comfortable arm-chair near it, was seated the inspector - a short, stout,
red-faced, consequential-looking man, with a pen stuck behind his left ear.
A policeman in uniform was standing at a high desk, turning
over the leaves of a large book; and another officer in plain clothes (and very
plain and shabby they were too) was lounging before the fire, switching the dust
out of his trousers with a thin cane.
"Well, what now?" said the inspector, gruffly, as
Markham was conducted into the office, and led behind the bar, towards the fire.
"Me, and Jones, and Jenkins, broke into No. ,
Quadrant, as we heard a pistol - or else we should ha' known ourselves better; and
this young feller is all we caught. Jones and Jenkins is staying in the house
along with the dead body of the man as killed his self."
The inspector indulged in a good long stare at Markham; and,
when his curiosity was completely gratified, he said, "Now, Crisp, we'll
enter that charge, if you please."
The policeman standing at the desk turned, to the proper
leaf in the large book before him, and then took down the deposition of the
officer who had apprehended Markham.
When this was done, the inspector proceeded, in a very pompous
and magisterial manner, to question the prisoner.
"What is your name, young man?"
"Oh! Richard Markham. Put that down, Crisp. Where do you live?"
"At Markham Piece, near Holloway."
"Put that down, Crisp. Now, do you want to let any of your
friends know that you are in trouble?
"First tell me of what I am accused, and why I am detained."
"You are accused of being in an unlawful house for an
unlawful purpose - namely, gambling; and a suicide has been committed there, they
say. You will be wanted afore the coroner as well as the magistrate."
"Can I be released until to-morrow by giving security for
"No - I can't part with you. It is said that it is
suicide - and I believe it still it might be murder. But you seem a respectable
young gentleman, and so you sha'nt be locked up in a cell all night. You may sit
here by the time, if you'll be quiet."
"I am at least obliged to you for this courtesy. But can you give me any idea of the extent of the penalty to
which I am liable? I did not gamble myself - I merely accompanied
"You need'nt criminate anybody, you know," interrupted
the Inspector. "The Magistrate will fine you a few pounds, and that will be
"Then I should prefer not to acquaint my friends with my
position," said Markham, "since I can release myself from my present
difficulty without their assistance."
Reassured by this conviction, though still strangely excited
by the appalling scene which he had witnessed, Richard seated himself by the
fire, and soon fell into conversation with the policemen. These men could talk
of nothing but themselves or their pursuits: they appeared to live in a world of policeism; all their
ideas were circumscribed to station-houses, magistrates' offices, prisons, and
criminal courts of justice. Their discourse was moreover garnished with the
slang terms of thieves; they could not utter a sentence without
interpolating a swell-mob phrase or a Newgate jest. They seemed to be so
familiar with crime (though not criminal themselves) that they could not devote
a moment to the contemplation of virtue - they only conversed about persons who
were "in trouble," but never condescended to lavish a thought to those who
were out of it.
"Crankey Jem has done it brown at last,
has'nt he?" said
"He has indeed," replied the inspector. "But what
could he have done with all the swag* ?" [*booty,
"Oh! he's fadded* [*secured]
that safe enough," observed the officer
in plain clothes. "My eye! What a slap-up lily benjamin* [*White
Upper Coat: synonymous with "White Poodle"] he had on when he
"Yes-and sich a swell bandanna fogle* [*Handkerchief]
in the gropus."* [*Pocket]
"He had'nt any ready tin though; for he wanted to
peel,* [*Strip] and put the white-poodle up the
spout* [*Pawn the coat] for a drop of max."
"And because you would'nt let him he doubled you up with
a wallop in your dumpling-depot* [*Stomach]; did'nt he?"
"Yes - but I bruised his canister* [*Head]
for him though."
"This'll be the third time he's been up afore the beaks*
[*Judges] at the Old Bailey."
"Consequently he's sartain sure to be lagged."* [*Transported]
"Ah! it must be a clever nob in the fur trade* [*Barrister]
who'll get him off. "
"Well - talking
makes me thirsty," said Crisp "I wish I'd someot to sluice my ivories*
entertained a faint idea that Mr. Crisp was athirst; he accordingly offered to pay for anything which he and his
brother policemen chose to drink.
The officer in plain clothes was commissioned to procure some
"heavy-wet" - alias porter; and even the pompous. and magisterial
inspector condescended to take what he called "a drain," but which in reality
appeared to be something more than a pint.
The harmony was disturbed by the
entrance of a constable dragging in a poor ragged, half-starved, and emaciated lad, without
shoes or stockings.
the charge?" demanded the inspector.
rogue and vagabond," answered the constable.
"Oh! very well: put that down, Crisp. How do you
"Because he's wandering about and hasn't nowhere to go to, and no
friends to refer to; and I saw him begging."
"Very good; put that down, Crisp. And I suppose he's without food and
"I have not tasted food " began the poor wretch
who stood shivering at
"Come, no lies," ejaculated the inspector. "No lies !" echoed
the constable, giving the poor wretch a tremendous shake.
"Have you put it all down, Crisp ?"
"Well, let him have a bit of bread, and lock him up. He'll get three
months of it on the stepper to-morrow."
The poor creature was supplied with a cubic inch of stale bread, and then
thrust into a filthy cell.
"What do you think that unfortunate creature will be done to ?"
"Three months on the stepper - the treadmill, to be sure."
"But what for ?"
for a rogue and vagabond."
"A vagabond he may be," said Markham, "because he has no home to
go to; but how do you know he is a rogue ?"
"Why - he was found begging, wasn't he ?"
"And does that make a man a rogue ?"
"Certainly it do - in the eye of the law."
"Ah! and that eye can see without spectacles too," added Mr. Crisp with a laugh.
Markham was reflecting profoundly upon the law's definitions of rogue and
vagabond, when another constable entered, leading in an elderly man,
belonging to the humbler class, but very cleanly in appearance.
"Well, what's the charge ?" demanded the inspector.
"This fellow will come upon my beat with his apple-cart, and I can't
keep him off. So I've sent his cart to the Green Yard, and brought him here."
"Please, sir," said the poor fellow, wiping away a tear from
"I endeavour to earn an honest living by selling a little fruit in the
streets. I have a wife and seven children to support, and I only stayed out so
long to-night because I had had a bad day of it, and the money is so much wanted
at home - it is indeed, sir! I do hope you'll let me go, sir: my poor wife will be
ready to break her heart when she finds that I don't come home; and my eldest
boy always sits up for me. Poor little fellow! he will cry so if he don't kiss Father
before he goes to bed."
There was something profoundly touching in this poor man's manner and
language; and Markham felt inclined to interfere in his behalf. He, however,
remembered that he was only allowed to sit in that room by suffrance, and, that he was at the mercy of the
caprice of ignorant, tyrannical, and hard-hearted men: he accordingly held his
"Come, Crisp-have you got that down ?" said the
"Well, let the man be locked up: the magistrate must
decide in the morning."
And the poor fellow, in spite of his remonstrances, was
removed to a cell.
"I could not exactly understand what this new prisoner
has done," said Markham.
the way and created a nuisance," replied the inspector pompously.
"But he is endeavouring to earn his bread honestly, I
think; and the road is open to every one."
"Oh! no such thing. Those little carts frighten the
horses in the great folks' carriages, and can't be allowed. He must have a month
of it - he's been warned several times, and is incorrigible. I'll tell the
"And what will become of his family?"
"Family! why, go to the workhouse, to be sure!"
Presently a third constable made his appearance, accompanied
by a poor miserable-looking woman and three small children - all wretchedly clad
"What's the charge now?"
"Charge from the workus. This here o'oman was admitted
to-night to the Union with them three children; and 'cos the master ordered her
to be separated from her children, she kicked up hell's delight. So the master
turned em all out together, called me up, and give 'em in charge."
"Put that down, Crisp."
"Yes - and it is true too," sobbed the poor woman. "I
am not ashamed to own that I love my children; and up to this blessed hour they
have never been separated from me. It would break their poor little hearts to be
torn away from me - that it would, God bless them! I love them all, poor -
as I am!"
A flood of tears drowned the voice of this wretched
"Inspector," said Markham, touched to the quick by this
affecting scene, "you will allow me "
"Silence, young man. It's a charge from the workus, and
the workus is paramount."
"So it appears, indeed!" cried Richard bitterly.
"Silence, I say. Don't interfere, there's a good lad. Crisp,
have you got it all down ?"
"Lock em up, then."
"At least we shall be together!" exclaimed the
unfortunate mother, to whom the three little children clung with all the
tenacity of sincere affection.
An hour elapsed, when another policeman entered, bringing in
a man dressed as an ostler, and whose face was all covered with blood.
"Well - what now?"
"Fighting in the Blue Dragon: the landlord turned
him out, and so I took him up."
"Put that down, Crisp. What's yore name, my fine fellow?"
"Put that down, Crisp. He's a nice bird, isn't he, Mr.
Markham ?" added the inspector.
"Markham !" ejaculated the new prisoner.
"Yes - that is my name," said Richard: "do you know me?"
"Not that I am aweer of sir. Only the name reminded me
that I have been this evening in the com-[-37-]pany
of a gentleman as is in the service of a Mr. Markham. I left the Servants' Arms at twelve
precisely, and walked
straight down to this here wicinity - -I ain't been more than half an hour
coming - when I gets into a row
"Well, well," said Richard, somewhat impatiently
"and what is the name of
the person with whom you have passed the evening?"
"With several gentlemen - but the one I named was
"Whittingham! he is my butler. Poor fellow! how anxious
will be about me."
"He's too drunk to be anxious," said Snoggles a
drily: "I was the
on'y one as come away sober."
"I tell you what he could do, if you like," observed
the inspector, who now began to entertain an idea of Markham's standing in
society by the mention of the word butler : "there is no one here
to make any charge against the fellow - the constable will withdraw it, and he can
take a note home for you."
thousand thanks!" ejaculated Markham. "But
you intimated that he was tipsy ?"
"He is certainly elevated," answered Snoggles.
"Well, can you be at my house to-morrow morning by six or seven
"Of course I can, sir."
"I need not write: you can say that you have seen me, and that I shall
be home in the course of the day. Do not mention where I am: I would not have
him coming here to seek me."
Markham slipped half a sovereign into the hands of Snoggles, who took his
departure with a faithful promise to execute the commission entrusted to him,
not a little pleased at having so pleasantly escaped a night in the
It was now past one o'clock; and Markham, feeling rather drowsy, lay down to
slumber for a few hours upon a bench, wrapped up in Mr. Crisp's police-coat.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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