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[-35-]

CHAPTER XIV.

THE STATION-HOUSE.

    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.—  , in the 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?"
    "Richard Markham."
    "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 my appearance."
    "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 all."
    "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 Crisp.
    "He has indeed," replied the inspector. "But what could he have done with all the swag* ?" [*booty, plunder]
    "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 was nabbed."
    "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." [*Gin]
   
"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* [*Teeth] with."
    [-36-] Markham 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.
    "What's the charge?" demanded the inspector.
    "A rogue and vagabond," answered the constable.
    "Oh! very well: put that down, Crisp. How do you know?"
    "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 hungry ?" 
    "I have not tasted food —"  began the poor wretch  who stood shivering at the bar.
    "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 ?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "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 ?" enquired Markham.
    "Three months on the stepper - the treadmill, to be sure."
    "But what for ?"
    "Why, 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 his eye, "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 tongue.
    "Come, Crisp-have you got that down ?" said the inspector.
    "Yes, sir."
    "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.
    "Obstructed 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 magistrate so."
    "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 and careworn.
    "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 - miserable as I am!"
    A flood of tears drowned the voice of this wretched mother.
    "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 ?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "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?"
    "John Snoggles."
    "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."
    "Whittingham! he is my butler. Poor fellow! how anxious he 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."
    "A 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 o'clock ?"
    "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, and not a little pleased at having so pleasantly escaped a night in the station-house.
    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.

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