chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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wanted half-an-hour to day-break, when the splash of oars alongside met their
ears; and in a few moments Swot, the foreman, made his appearance.
"I've got all ready for you, my boys," said
that individual; "a good boat, and two stout chaps to help."
"Have they got their barkers?" demanded the
Resurrection Man, thereby meaning pistols.
"A brace each," replied the foreman. "But
they must only be used in case of desperation. There's a false bottom to the
boat; and there I've stowed away five cutlasses."
"All right!" cried the Buffer. "Now,
Moll, you make yourself comfortable till we get back again."
"You're a fool, Jack, not to let me go along with
you," observed the woman.
"Nonsense," answered her husband. "Some
one must stay on board to take care of the lighter."
"Well, do n't say that I'm a coward — that's
all," exclaimed Moll.
"We won't accuse you of that," said the
Resurrection Man. "But now let's be off. Where shall we meet you at
"You know the windmill about a mile below the
town," returned Swot, to whom this question was addressed. "Well,
close by is the Lobster Tavern and there's a little jetty where the boat can be
fastened. Meet me at that tavern at ten o'clock this evening."
"Agreed," answered Tidkins.
The three men then ascended to the deck.
The dawn was at that moment breaking in the east; and
every moment, mast after mast on the stream, and roof after roof on the shore,
appeared more palpably in the increasing light of the young day.
On board of the Blossom, the Black was busily
employed in washing time deck, and seemed to take no notice of any thing that
was passing elsewhere.
"The tide will be with us for nearly three
hours," said Tidkins. "Come — we won't lose a
The foreman retraced his steps across the barges to the
wharf; while the Resurrection Man and the Buffer, each armed with a pair of
pistols, leapt into the boat, that lay alongside the lighter.
Two stout fellows, dressed like watermen, and who were
already seated in the boat, instantly plied their sculls.
The skiff shot rapidly away from the vicinity of the
barges, and was soon running down the middle of the river with a strong tide.
The morning was beautiful and bright: a gentle breeze
swept the bosom of the stream: — and when the sun burst forth in all
Its effulgent glory, a few fleecy clouds alone appeared on the mighty arch of
Here and there the mariners on board time outward-bound
vessels were busy in heaving up their anchors — a task which they
performed with the usual cheering and simultaneous cry, — or in
loosening the canvass that immediately became swollen with the breeze.
At distant intervals some steamer, bound to a native or
foreign port, walked, as it were, with gigantic strides along the water, raising
with its mighty Briarean arms, a swell on either side, which made the smaller
craft toss and pitch as if in a miniature whirlpool.
Alas! how many souls have found a resting-place in the
depths of those waters; and the spray of the billow seems the tears which old
Father Thames sheds as a tribute to their graves! Then, at dark midnight, when
the wind moans over the bosom of the river, the plaintive murmurs sound as a
lament for those that are gone.
Vain are thy tears, O River! But if they must be shed,
let them flow for the living, whose crimes or whose miseries may, with Orphic
spell, awaken the sympathy of even inanimate things.
The boat shot rapidly along, the sun gilding its broad
What evidence of commercial prosperity appears on either
side! The clang of mighty hammers de[-87-]note the
progress of new vessels in the various building-yards; and in the numerous docks
the shipwright is busy in repairing the effects of past voyages, and rendering
the gallant barks fit to dare the perils of the ocean once more!
The river-pirates, whose course we are following,
pursued their way: the old Dreadnought, stripped of the cannon that once
bristled on its lofty sides, and now resembling the worn-out lion that has lost
its fangs, was passed; — the domes of Greenwich greeted the
eye; — and now the boat merged upon the wide expanse which seems to
terminate with Blackwall.
But, no! the stream sweeps to the right' and onward
floats the skiff — skirting the Kentish shore.
At length the gloomy and sombre-looking hulks off
Woolwich are reached: the boat shoots in between the shipping; and there the
At Woolwich they repaired to a low public-house with
which they were acquainted; and, as the fresh air of the river had sharpened
their appetites, they called into request every article of food which was to be
found in the larder. Liquors in due proportion were ordered; the Resurrection
Man paid the score for all; and in this manner the four pirates contrived to
while away the time until the tide turned once more in their favour in the
At three o'clock they retraced their steps to the boat;
and in a few minutes were again gliding rapidly along on the bosom of the river.
"Now," said the Resurrection Man, "as we
have drunk a glass and smoked a pipe together, we are better acquainted with
These words were especially addressed to the two men
whom the foreman at Mossop's wharf had provided.
"Of course," continued the Resurrection Man,
"I needn't ask you if you know the exact nature of the business which we
have in hand. I did n't think it prudent to talk about it when we were at the
crib in Woolwich just now, because walls have ears; but I took it for granted,
from certain words which you two chaps said, that it's all right."
"Yes, yes, master," returned one, who was
called Long Bob, in consequence of his height: Swot put us up to the whole
"We know the risk, and we know what's to be got by
it," added the other, who delighted in the name of the Lully Prig,* [*A
thief who steals damp linen off the hedges in the country.] from the
circumstance of his having formerly exercised the calling with which in flash
language, the name is associated, before he became a river-pirate.
"Then we understand each other," said the
Resurrection Man, "without any farther wagging of the tollibon."*[*Talking — palaver.
"Tollibon" is the tongue.]
"We cut the same lock that you do,*[*get
our living in the same way], old feller," answered the Lully Prig;
"and as long as we snack the bit*[*share the money]
in a reg'lar manner, we're stanch to the back-bone."
"So far, so good," said the Resurrection Man
"But you're also aware that the swag must be taken up the river and put on
board the Fairy where it must stay some time till Swot can find a safe
customer for it, because it's sure to be chanted on the leer."*[*advertised
in the newspapers.]
"We 're fly to all that," said Long Bob.
"But Swot promised us ten neds*[*sovereigns]
each, if the thing succeeds to-night; so that we shan't object to waiting for
the rest of our reg'lars till the swag is dinged."*[*sent
to the receiver.]
"Who knows that we shan't find come gobsticks,*[*silver
spoons] clinks,*[*silver milk jugs or sugar basins]
or other things of the same kind?" exclaimed the Lully Prig; "and, if
so, they can soon be walked off to the melting-pot fence,*[*persons
who receive and melt down stolen metal.] and the glanthem will be
dropped*[*money will be obtained] in no time."
"That's understood, my boys," exclaimed the
Resurrection Man. "Now, give way with a will and do n't let's delay."
On went the boat with increased rapidity, the Lully Prig
and Long Bob plying the oars with strength and skill. Then, when they were
wearied the Resurrection Man and the Buffer took their turns. Occasionally
Tidkins handed round his flask, which he had taken good care to have replenished
with rum at Woolwich; and at intervals the Buffer or the Lully Prig cheered
their labours with a song.
In this manner Erith was reached and passed: — Greenhithe
and Ingress Abbey, the front of which splendid mansion is built with the stones
of old London Bridge, were in due course left behind; — and soon the
antique windmill and the tall tower of Gravesend greeted the eyes of the
At the two piers of the town were numerous
steam-packets; — there were large merchant-vessels riding at anchor
in the middle of the river; — and, on the opposite side, Tilbury
Fort commanded the expanse of water with its cannon.
"Since we're to meet Swot at the Lobster
Tavern," said the Resurrection Man, "we may as well run down to
that place at once."
" So we will," returned the Buffer.
The boat continued its course; and in a short time it
was made fast to the little jetty which affords a convenient means of landing at
the point mentioned.
The Lobster Tavern is a small isolated place of
entertainment, upon the bank of the Thames, and is chiefly frequented by those
good folks who, in fine weather, indulge in a trip on Sundays from London to
There are sheds, with seats, built in front of the
tavern; and on a calm summer's evening, the site and view are pleasant enough.
The four pirates entered the establishment, and called
They thus passed away the time until ten o'clock, when
Mossop's foreman joined them.
In another half-hour they were all five seated in the
boat; and, in the darkness of the night, they bent their way towards the
They kept close along the Kentish shore; and when Swot
imagined that they must be within half-a-mile of the place where the Lady
Anne was stranded, the oars were muffled.
The sky was covered with dense black clouds: no moon and
not a star appeared.
The water seemed as dark as ink.
But the foreman knew every inlet and every jutting [-88-]
point which marked the course of the Thames, and, with the tiller in his hand,
he navigated the boat with consummate skill.
Not a word was spoken; and the faint murmurs of the oars
were drowned in the whistling of the breeze which now swept over the river.
At length the foreman said in a low whisper, "There
is the light of the police-boat."
At a distance of about a quarter of a mile that light
appeared, like a solitary star upon the waters.
Sometimes it moved — then stopped, as the
quarantine officers rowed, or rested on their oars.
"We must now be within a few yards of the Lady
Anne," whispered Swot, after another long pause: "take to your
The Buffer cautiously raised a plank at the bottom of
the boat, and drew forth, one after another, five cutlasses.
These the pirates silently fastened to their waists. The
boat moved slowly along; and in another minute it was by the side of the plague
The Resurrection Man stretched out his arm, and his hand
swept its slimy hull.
There was not a soul upon the deck of the Lady Anne;
and, as if to serve the purposes of the river-pirates, the wind blew in strong
gusts, and the waves splashed against the bank and the vessel itself, with a
sound sufficient to drown the noise of their movements.
The bow of the Lady Anne lay high upon the bank:
the stern was consequently low in the water.
As cautiously as possible the boat was made fast to a
rope which hung over the schooner's quarter; and then the five pirates, one
after the other, sprang on board.
"Holloa!" cried a boy, suddenly thrusting his
bead above the hatchway of the after cabin.
Long Bob's right hand instantly grasped the boy's
collar, while his left was pressed forcibly upon his mouth and in another moment
the lad was dragged on the deck, where he was immediately gagged and bound hand
But this process had not been effected without some
struggling on the part of the boy, and trampling of feet on that of the pirates.
Some one below was evidently alarmed, for a voice called
the boy from the cabin.
Long Bob led the way; and the pirates rushed down into
the cabin, with their drawn cutlasses in their hands.
There was a light below; and a man, pale and fearfully
emaciated, started from his bed, and advanced to meet the intruders.
"Not a word — or you're a dead
man," cried Long Bob, drawing forth a pistol.
"Rascal! what do you mean?" ejaculated the
other; "I am the surgeon, and in command of this vessel. Who are you? what
do you require? Do you know that the pestilence is here?"
"We know all about it, sir," answered Long
Bob. Then, dropping his weapons, he sprang upon the surgeon, whom he threw upon
the floor, and whose mouth he instantly closed with his iron hand.
The pirates then secured the surgeon in the same way as
they had the boy above.
"Let's go forward now," cried Swat. "So
far, all's well. One of you must stay down here to mind this chap."
The Lully Prig volunteered this service; and the other
pirates repaired to the cabin forward.
They well knew that the plague-stricken invalids must be
there; and when they reached the hatch-way, there was a sudden
hesitation — a simultaneous pause.
The idea of the pestilence was horrible.
"Well," said the foreman, "are we
"No — not I, by God!" ejaculated
the Resurrection Man; and he sprang down the ladder.
The others immediately followed him.
But there was no need of cutlass, pistol, or violence
there. By the light of the lamp suspended to a beam, the pirates perceived two
wretched creatures, each in his hammock, — their cadaverous
countenances covered with large sores, their hair matted, their eyes open but
glazed and dim, and their wasted hands lying like those of the dead out-side the
coverlids, as if all the nervous energy were defunct.
Still they were alive; but they were too weak and
wretched to experience any emotion at the appearance of armed men in their
The atmosphere which they breathed was heated and
nauseous with the pestilential vapours of their breath and their perspiration.
"These poor devils can do no harm," said the
Resurrection Man, with a visible shudder.
The pirates were only too glad to emerge from that
narrow abode of the plague; and never did air seem more pure than that which
they breathed when they had gained the deck.
"Now then to work," cried Swat. "Wait
till we raise this hatch," he continued, stopping at that which covered the
compartment of the ship where the freight was stowed away; "and we'll light
the darkey when we get down below. You see, that as they had n't a light hung
out before, it would be dangerous to have one above: we might alarm the
police-boat or the guard ashore."
The hatch was raised without much difficulty: a rope was
then made fast to a spar and lowered into the waist of the schooner; and Long
Bob slid down.
In a few moments he lighted his dark lantern; and the
other three descended one after the other, the Lully Prig, be it remembered,
having remained in the after cabin.
And now to work they went. The goods, with which the
schooner was laden, were removed, unpacked, and ransacked.
There were gums, and hides, and various other articles
which the western coast of Africa produces; but the object of the pirates'
enterprise and avarice was the gold-dust, which was contained in two heavy
cases. These were, however, at the bottom of all the other goods; and nearly an
hour passed before they were reached.
"Here is the treasure — at last!"
cried Swot, when every thing was cleared away from above the cases of precious
metal. "Come, Tony do n't waste time with the brandy flask now."
"I've such a precious nasty taste in my
mouth," answered the Resurrection Man, as he took a long sup of the spirit.
"I suppose it was the horrid air in the fore-cabin."
"Most likely," said the foreman:
"come — bear a hand, and let's get these cases ready to raise.
Then Long Bob and me will go above and reeve a rope and a pulley to haul 'em
The four men bent forward to the task; and as they
worked by the dim light of the lantern, in the [-89-]
of the vessel, they seemed to be four demons in the profundities of their own
Suddenly the Resurrection Man staggered, and, supporting
himself against the side of the vessel, said in a thick tone, "My God! what
a sudden head-ache I've got come on!"
"Oh! it's nothing, my dear feller," cried Swot.
"And now I'm all cold and shivering," said
Tidkins, seating himself on a bale of goods; "and my legs seem as if they'd
break under me."
The Buffer, the foreman, and Long Bob were suddenly and
simultaneously inspired with the same idea; and they cast on their companion
looks of mingled apprehension and horror.
"No — it can't be!" ejaculated
"And yet — how odd that he should turn
so," said Bob, with a shudder.
"The plague!" returned the Buffer, in a tone
of indescribable terror.
"You're a fool, Jack!" exclaimed the
Resurrection Man, glaring wildly upon his comrades, and endeavouring to rise
from his seat.
But he fell back, exhausted and powerless.
"Damnation"' he muttered in a low but
ferocious tone; and he gnashed his teeth with rage.
"The plague!" repeated the Buffer, now unable
to contain his fears.
Then he hastily clambered from the hold of the schooner.
"The coward!" cried Swot: "such a prize
as this is worth any risk."
But as he yet spoke, Long Bob, influenced by panic fear,
sprang after the Buffer, as if Death itself were at his heels, clad in all the
horrors of the plague.
"My God! don't leave me here," cried the
Resurrection Man, his voice losing its thickness and assuming the piercing tone
"Every man for himself, it seems," returned
Swot, whom the panic had now robbed of all his courage; and in another moment he
also had disappeared.
"The cowards — the villains!" said
Tidkins, clenching his fists with rage.
Then, by an extraordinary and almost superhuman effort,
he raked himself upon his legs: but they seemed to bend under him.
He, however managed to climb upon the packages [-90-]
of goods; and, aided by the rope, lifted himself up to the hatchway. But the
effort was too great for his falling strength: his hands could not retain a firm
grasp of the cord; and he fell violently to the bottom of the hold, rolling over
the bales of merchandize in his descent.
"It's all over!" he muttered to himself: and
then he became rapidly insensible.
Meantime the Lully Prig, who was mounting sentry upon
the surgeon in the after cabin, was suddenly alarmed by hearing the trampling of
hasty steps over head. He rushed on deck, and demanded the cause of this abrupt
"The plague!" cried the Buffer, as he leapt
over the ship's quarter into the boat.
The Lully Prig precipitated himself after his comrade;
and the other two pirates immediately followed.
"But we are only four!" said the Lully Prig,
as the boat was pulled away from the vessel.
"Tidkins has got the plague," answered the
Buffer, his teeth chattering with horror and affright.
Fortunately the police-boat was at a distance; and the
pirates succeeded in getting safely away from that dangerous vicinity.
But the Resurrection Man remained behind in the
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >