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[-45-]

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BOOZING-KEN.

    "COME in," exclaimed Bill "I des say it's Dick Flairer."
    "Well, Bill Bolter, old fellow - here you are at last," cried the new comer. "I s'pose you knowed I should come here this evenin'. If you hadn't sent me that message t'other day by the young area-sneak* [*A thief who sneaks down areas to see what he can steal in kitchens]  what got his discharge out o' Coldbath Jug,* [*Prison] I should ha' come all the same. I remembered very well that you was sentenced to six months on it; and I'd calkilated days and weeks right enough."
    "Sit down, Dick, and blow a cloud. Wot news since I see you last ?"
    "None. You know that Crankey Jem is nabbed. He and the Resurrection Man did a pannie* [*Burglary] together somewhere up Soho way. They got off safe with the swag; and the Resurrection Man went on to the Mint. Jem took to the Old House in Chick Lane,* [*West-street, Smithfield]  and let me in for my reglars* [*Gave him a share] But after a weak or ten days the Resurrection Man nosed* [*Informer] upon him, and will turn King's Evidence afore the beaks. So Jem was handed over to the dubsman;* [*Turnkey] and this time he'll get lagged for life."
    [-46-] "In course he will. He has been twice to the floating academy.* [*The Hulks]  There ain't no chance this time."
    "But as for business," said Dick Flairer, after a pause, during which he lighted his pipe and paid his respects to the beer, "my gropus is as empty as a barrister's bag the day after sessions. I have but one bob left in my cly* [* Waistcoat-pocket] and that we'll spend in brandy presently. My mawleys* [*Hands] is reg'larly itching for a job.
    "Someot must be done - and that soon too, returned Bill Bolter. "By-the-by, s'pose we try that crib which we meant to crack four year or so ago, when you got nabbed the very next mornin' for faking a blowen's flag from her nutty arm."* [*Stealing a lady's reticule from her pretty arm.]
   
"What-you mean Markham's up between Kentish Town and Lower Holloway ?" said Dick.
    "The same. Don't you recollect - we settled it all the wery night as we threw that young fellow down the trap in Chick Lane? But, by goles - Dick - what the deuce is the matter with you ?"
    Dick Flairer had turned deadly pale et the mention of this circumstance: his knees shook; and he cast an uneasy and rapid glance around him.
    "Come, Dick - don't be a fool," said the woman: you don't think there is any ghosts here, do you ?" 
    "Ghosts!" he exclaimed, with a convulsive start; then, after a moment's silence, during which his two companions surveyed him with curiosity and fear, he added in a low and subdued tone, "Bill, you know there wasn't a man in all the neighbourhood bolder than me up to the time when you got into trouble: you know that I didn't care for ghosts or churchyards, or dark rooms, or anything of that kind. Now it's quite altered. If even a man seed speret of a person, that man was me about two months ago!"
    "What the devil does this mean ?" cried Bolter, looking uneasily around him in his turn.
    "Two months ago," continued Dick Flairer, "I was up Hackney way, expecting to do a little business with Tom the Cracksman,* [*The Burglar] which didn't come off; for Tom had been at the boozing-ken* [*Public-house] all the night before, and had blowed his hand up in a lark with some davy's.dust.* [*Gunpowder] Well, I was coming home again, infernal sulky at the affair's breaking down, when just as I got to Cambridge-Heath-gate I heerd the gallopin' of horses. I looks round, nat'rally enough ;-but who should I see upon a lovely chestnut mare —"
    "Who ?" said Bill anxiously.
    "The speret of that wery same young feller as you and I threw down the trap at the old house in Chick Lane four year and some months ago !"
    "Might n't it have been a mistake, Dick ?" demanded Bill.
    "Why, of course it was," exclaimed the woman.
    "No, it warn't," said Dick very seriously. "I sever tell a lie to a pal* [*A companion] Bill - and that you knows well enough. I seed that young man as plain as I can now see you, Bill - as plain as I see you, Polly Bolter. I thought I should have dropped: I fell right against a post in the footpath; but I took another good long look. There he was - the same face - the same hair - the same dress - everything the same! I couldn't be mistaken: I'd swear to it."
    "And would you tell this story to the parish-prig* [*Chaplain] so be as you was going to Tuck-up Fair* [*The Gallows] tomorrow morning ?" demanded Bill.
    "I would, by G—d!" cried Dick solemnly, striking his hand upon the table at the same time.
    There was a long pause. Even the woman, who was perhaps more hardened in vice and more inaccessible to anything in the shape of sentiment than her male companions, seemed impressed by the positive manner in which the man told his story.
    "Well - come, this won't do!" ejaculated Dick, after the lapse of some minutes. "Ghost or no ghost, we can't afford to be honest."
    "No - we must be up to someot," returned Bill: - "if we went and offered ourselves to the parish prig he wouldn't take us as his clerk and sexton; so if he won't give us a lift, who the devil will? But about that Markham's place?"
    "The old fellow died a few months ago, I heard," said Dick; "the eldest son run away; and that brought about the father's death. As for the young 'un, he was grabbed this arternoon for smashing queer screens."* [*Passing forged notes.]
   
"The devil he was! Well, there ain't no good to be done in that quarter, then? Do you know any cither spekilation?"
    "Tom the Cracksman and me was going to do a pannie in a neat little crib up by Clapton, that time when he blowed his hand nearly off, larking with his ben-culls.* [*Friends] I don't see why it shouldn't be done now. Tom told me about it. A young swell, fond of horses and dogs - lives exceeding quiet - never no company scarcely - but plenty of tin."
    "Servants ?" said Bill, interrogatively.
    "One man - an old groom; and two women - three in all," replied Dick.
    "That'll do," observed the woman, approvingly.
    "Must we speak to the Cracksman first ?" demanded Bill.
    Yes - fair play's a jewel. I don't believe the Resurrection Man would ever have chirped* [*Informed]  if he had been treated properly. But if this thing is to be done, let it be done to-morrow night; and now let us go to the boozing-ken and speak to the Cracksman."
    "I'm your man," said Bill; and the two thieves left the room together.
    At the top of Union Court is Bleeding Hart Yard, leading to Kirby Street, at right angles to which is a narrow alley terminating on Great Saffron Hill. This was the road the burglars took.
    It was now eleven o'clock, and a thick fog - so dense that it seemed as if it could be cut with a knife - prevailed. The men kept close together, for they could not see a yard before them. Here and there lights glimmered in the miserable casements; and the fog, thus faintly illuminated at intervals, appeared of a dingy copper colour.
    The burglars proceeded along Saffron Hill.
    The streets were nearly empty; but now and then the pale, squalid, and nameless forms of vice were heard at the door-ways of a few houses, endeavouring to lure the passers-by into their noisome abodes. A great portion of the unwholesome life of that district had sought relief from the pangs of misery and the remorse of crime, in sleep. Alas! the slumbers of the poor and of the guilty are haunted by the lean, lank, and gaunt visages of penury, and all the fearful escort of turpitude!
    Through the broken shutters of several windows came the sounds of horrible revelry - ribald and revolting; and from others issued cries, shrieks, oaths and the sounds of heavy blows - a sad evidence of [-47-] brutality of drunken quarrels. Numerous Irish families are crowded together in the small back rooms of the houses on Saffron Hill; and the husbands and fathers gorge themselves, at the expense of broken-hearted wives and famishing children, with the horrible compound of spirit and vitriol, sold at the low gin-shops in the neighbourhood. Hosts of Italian masters also congregate in that locality; and the screams of the unfortunate boys, who writhe beneath the lash of their furious employers on their return some after an unsuccessful day with their organs, monkies, white mice, or chalk images, mingle with the other appalling or disgusting sounds, which make night in that district truly hideous.
    Even at the late hour at which the two burglars were wending their way over Saffron Hill, boys of ages ranging from seven to fifteen, were lurking in the courts and alleys, watching for any decently dressed persons, who might happen to pass that way. Those boys had for the most part been seduced from the control of their parents by the receivers of stolen goods in Field Lane, or else had been sent into the streets to thieve by those vile parents themselves.
    Thus, as the hulks, the convict-ships, the penitentiaries, and the gallows, relieve society of one generation of villains, another is springing up to occupy the vacancy. 
    And this will always be the case so long as laws tend only to punish - and aim not to reform.
    Dick Flairer and Bill Bolter proceeded, without exchanging many words together, through the dense fog, until they reached a low public-house, which they entered. 
    Nothing could be more filthy nor revolting than the interior of this "boozing-ken." Sweeps, costermongers, Jews, Irish bricklayers, and woman of the town were crowding round the bar, drinking various malt and spirituous liquors fearfully adulterated. The beer, having been originally deluged with water to increase the quantity, had been strengthened by drugs of most deleterious qualities - such as tobacco-juice and cocculus-indicus. The former is a poison as subtle as that of a viper: the latter is a berry of such venomous properties, that if thrown into a pond, it will speedily send the fish up to the surface to gasp and die. The gin was mixed with vitriol, as hinted above; and the whiskey, called "Paddy's Eye-Water," with spirits of turpentine. The pots and glasses in which the various beverages were served up, were all stood upon double trays, with a cavity between, and numerous holes in the upper surface. The overflowings and drainings were thus caught and saved; and the landlord dispensed the precious compound, which bore the name of "all sorts," at a halfpenny a glass.
    The two burglars nodded familiarly to the landlord and his wife, as they passed the bar, and entered a little, low, smoky room, denominated "the parlour." A tremendous fire burnt in the grate, at which a short, thin, dark man, with a most forbidding countenance, was sitting, agreeably occupied in toasting a sausage. The right hand of this man had lost the two middle fingers, the stumps of which were still covered with plaster, as if the injury had been recent. He was dressed in a complete suit of corduroy: the sleeves of his jacket, the lower part of his waistcoat, and the front of his trousers, were covered with grease. On the table near him stood a huge piece of bread and a pot of beer.
    This individual was Tom the Cracksman - the most adroit and noted burglar in the metropolis. He kept a complete list of all the gentlemen's houses in the environs of London, with the numbers of servants and male inhabitants in each. He never attempted any dwelling within a circuit of three miles of the General Post Office; his avocation was invariably exercised in the suburbs of London, where the interference of the police was less probable.
    At the moment when we introduce him to our readers, he was somewhat "down in his luck," as he himself expressed it, the accident which had happened to his hand, through playing with gunpowder, having completely disabled him for the preceding two months, and the landlord of the "boozing-ken" having made it an invariable rule never to give credit. Thus, though the Cracksman had spent hundreds of pounds in that house, he could not obtain so much as a glass of "all sorts without the money.
    The Cracksman was alone in the parlour when Dick Flairer and Bill Bolter entered. Having toasted his sausage, the renowned burglar placed it upon tin bread, and began eating his supper by means of, formidable clasp-knife, without deigning to cast a glance around.
    At length Bill Bolter burst out into a loud laugh, and exclaimed, "Why, Tom, you're getting proud all on a sudden: you won't speak to your friends."
    "Halloo, Bill, is that you ?" ejaculated the burglar. "When did they turn you out of the jug ?"
    "This mornin' at twelve; and with never a brown in my pocket. Luckily the old woman had turned the children to some use during the time I was at the stepper, or else I don't know what would have become on us."
    "And I'm as completely stitched up as a man could be if he'd just come out o' the workus," said Tom. "I just now spent my last tanner* [*Sixpence] for this here grub. Ah! it's a d—d hard thing for a man like me to be brought down to cag-mag,* [*Bad meat]" - he added, glancing sulkily at the sausage, which he was eating half raw.
    "We all sees ups and downs," observed Dick Flairer. "My opinion is that we are too free when we have the blunt."
    "And there's them as is too close when we haven't it," returned the Cracksman bitterly. "There's the landlord of this crib, won't give a gen'leman like me tick not for one blessed farden. But things can't go on so: I'm blowed If I won't do a crack that shall be worth while; and then I'll open a ken in opposition to this. You'd see whether I'd refuse a pal tick in the hour of need."
    "Well, you don't suppose that we are here just to amuse ourselves," said Dick: "we come to see you."
    "Is anythink to be done ?" demanded the Cracksman.
    "First answer me this," cried Dick: "has that crib at Upper Clapton been cracked yet?"
    "What, where there's a young swell —"
    "I don't know nothing more about it than wot you told me," interrupted Dick. "Me and you was to have done it; and then you went larking with the davy's-dust —"
    "I know the crib you mean," said the Cracksmam hastily: "that job is yet to be done. Are you the chaps to have a hand in it."
    "That's the very business that we're come for," answered Bill.
    "Well," resumed the Cracksman, "it seems we're [-48-]  all stumped up, and can't hold out no longer. We won't put this thing off - it shall be done to-morrow night. Eleven's the hour. I will go Dalston way - you two can arrange about the roads you'll take, so long as you don't go together; and we'll all three meet at the gate of Ben Price's field at eleven o'clock."
    "So far, so good," said Dick Flairer. "I've got a darkey* [*Dark lantern]  but we want the kifers* [*Implements used by burglars] and tools."
    "And a sack," added Bill.
    "We must get all these things of old Moses Hart, the fence;* [*Receiver of stolen goods] and give him a share of the swag," exclaimed the Cracksman. "Don't bother yourselves about that; I'll make it all right."
    "Well, now that's settled," said Dick. "I've got a bob in my pocket, and we'll have a rinse of the bingo."
    The burglar went out to the bar, and returned with some brandy, which he and his companions drank pure.
    "So Crankey Jem's in quad?" observed the Cracksman, after a pause.
    "Yes - and the Resurrection Man too: but he has chirped, and will be let out after sessions."
    "You have heard of his freak over in the Borough I s'pose," said the Cracksman.
    "No I haven't," answered Bill. "What was it?"
    "Oh! a capital joke. The story's rather long; but it will bear telling. There's a young fellow of the name of Sam Chisney; and his father died about two year ago leaving two thousand pounds in the funds. The widder was to enjoy the interest during her life; and then it was to come, principal and interest both, to Sam. Well, the old woman gets into debt, and is arrested. She goes over to the Bench, takes the Rules, and hires a nice lodging on the ground floor in Belvidere Place. The young feller wants his money very bad, and ,doesn't seem at all disposed to wait for the old lady's death, particklar  as she might live another ten years. Well, he comes across the Resurrection Man, and tells him just how he's sitivated. The Resurrection Man thinks over the matter; and, being a bit of a scholar, understands the business. Off they goes and consults a lawyer named Mac Chizzle, who lives up in the New Road, somewhere near the Servants' Arms there."
    "I know that crib well," observed Bill. "It's a were tidy and respectable one."
    "So Mac Chizzle, Sam Chisney, and the Resurrection Man lay their heads together, and settle the whole business. The young chap then goes over to the old woman, and tells her what is to be done. She consents: and all's right. Well, that very day the old lady is taken so bad - so very bad, she thinks she's a goin' to die. She won't have no doctor; but she sends for a nurse as she knows - an old creatur' up'ards of seventy and nearly in her dotage. Then Sam comes; and he's so sorry to see his poor dear mother so ill; and she begins to talk very pious, and to bless him, and tell him as how she feels that she can't live four-and-twenty hours. Sam cries dreadful, and swears he won't leave his poor dear mother - no, not for all the world. He sits up with her all night, and is so exceedin' kind; and he goes out and gets a bottle of medicine - which arter all worn't nothink but gin and peppermint. The old nurse is quite pleased to think that the old woman has got such a attentive son; and he sends out to get a little rum; and the old nurse goes to bed blind drunk.
    "What the devil was all that for ?" demanded Dick.
    "You'll see in a moment," resumed the Cracksman. "Next night at about ten o'clock the young fellow says to the nurse- 'Nurse, my poor dear mother is wasting away: she can't last out the night. I do feel so miserable; and I fancy a drop of the rum that they sell at a partickler public, close up by Westminster Bridge.' 'Well, my dear,' says the nurse, 'I'll go and get a bottle there; for I feel that we shall both want someot to cheer us through this blessed night.' So the old nurse toddles off to get the rum at the place Sam told her. He had sent her away to a good long distance on purpose. The moment she was gone, Mrs. Chisney gets up, dresses herself as quick as she can, and is all ready just as a hackney-coach drives up to the door. Sam runs down: all was as right as the mail. There was the Resurrection Man in the coach, with the dead body of a old woman that had only been buried the day before, and that he'd had up again during the night. So Sam and the Resurrection Man they gets the stiff 'un up stairs, and Mrs. Chisney she jumps into the coach and drives away to a comfortable lodging which Mac Chizzle had got for her up in Somers Town.
    "Now I begin to twig," exclaimed Dick Flairer.
    "Presently the old nurse comes back; and Sam meets her on the stairs, whimpering as hard as he could; and says, 'Oh! nurse-your poor dear missus is gone: your poor dear missus is gone!' So she was; no mistake about that. Well, the nurse begins to cry; but Sam gets her up stairs, and plies her so heartily with the rum that she got blind drunk once more, without ever thinking of laying the body out; so she didn't find out it was quite cold. Next day she washed it, and laid it out properly; and an she was nearly blind, she didn't notice that the features wasn't altogether the same. The body, too, was a remarkable fresh 'un; and so everything went on as well as could be wished. Sam then stepped over to the Marshal of the Bench, and give him notice of his mother's death; and as she died in the Rules, there must be an inquest. So a jury of prisoners was called: and the old nurse was examined; and she said how exceedin' attentive the young man had been, and all that; and then Sam himself was called. Of course he told a good tale; and then the Coroner says, 'Well, gentlemen, I s'pose you'll like to look at the body.'  So over they all goes to Belvidere Place, and the foreman of the Jury just pokes his nose in at the door of the room where the corpse was lying; and no one else even went more than half up the staircase. After this, the jury is quite satisfied, and return a verdict of 'Died from Natural Causes, accelerated by confinement in the Rules of the King's Bench Prison;' and to this - as they were prisoners themselves - they added some very severe remarks upon 'the deceased's unfeeling and remorseless creditors.' Then comes the funeral, which was very respectable; and Sam Chisney was chief mourner; and he cried a good deal. All the people who saw it said they never saw a young man so dreadful cut up. In this way they killed the old woman: the son proved her death, got the money, and sold it out every farden; and he and his mother is keeping a public-house together somewhere up Spitalfields way. The Resurrection Man and Man Chizzle each got a hundred for their share in the business; and the thing passed off as comfortable as possible."
    [-49-] 

    "Well, I'm blowed if that isn't the best lark I ever heard," ejaculated Dick, when the Cracksman had brought his tale to an end.
    "So it is," added Bill.
    The parlour of the "boozing-ken" now received some additional guests - all belonging to the profession of roguery, though not all following precisely the same line. Thus there were Cracksmen, Magsmen* [*Swell-mobites] Area-sneaks, Public Patterers* [*Swell-mobites who affect to be dissenting ministers, and preach in the open air in order to collect crowds, upon whose pockets their confederates work.] Buzgloaks* [*Common thieves], Dummy-Hunters* [*Thieves who steal pocket-handkerchiefs], Compter-Prigs* [*Swell-mobites who steal from the compters in shops, while their confederates make some trifling purchase. These thieves often contrive to empty the till.], Smashers* [*Persons who pass false money], Flimsy-Kiddies* [*Persons who pass forged bank-notes at races, fairs], Macers* [*Common cheats], Coiners, Begging-Letter Impostors, &c. &c.
   
The orgies of that motley crew soon became uproarious and revolting. Those who had money lavished it with the most reckless profusion; and thus those who had none were far from being in want of liquor.
    The Cracksman was evidently a great man amongst this horrible fraternity: his stories and songs invariably commanded attention.
    It is not our purpose to detain the reader much longer in the parlour of the "boozing-ken," we have doubtless narrated enough in this and the preceding chapter to give him a faint idea of some or the horrors of London. We cannot, however, allow the morning scene to pass unnoticed.

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