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[-142-]

CHAPTER CLXXXI.

THE RESURRECTION MAN AGAIN.

ANTHONY TIDKINS was dressed in a most miserable manner; and his whole appearance denoted poverty and privation. He was thin and emaciated; his eyes were sunken; his cheeks hollow; and his entire countenance more cadaverous and ghastly than ever.
    "My dear fellow," cried the Buffer, springing forward to meet him; "how glad I am to see you again. I really thought as how you was completely done for."
    "And no thanks to you that I wasn't," returned the Resurrection Man gruffly. "Didn't you leave me to die like a dog in the plague-ship?"
    "I've been as sorry about that there business, Tony, ever since it happened, as one can well be," said the Buffer: "but if you remember the hurry and bustle of the sudden panic that came over us, I 'in sure you won't harbour no ill-feeling."
    "Well, well — the least said, the soonest's mended," growled the Resurrection Man, taking his friend's hand. "Holloa, Lafleur! What are you doing here?"
    "Business — business, Mr. Tidkins," answered the valet; "and you're the very man we are in want of."
    "The very man," echoed the Buffer. "I give up the command of the expedition to him: he's my old captain."
    "In the first place, order me up some grub and a pint of brandy," said the Resurrection Man; "for I've been precious short of every thing at all decent in the eating or drinking way of late; — and while I refresh myself with some supper, you can tell me what new scheme there is in the wind. Of course I'm your man, if there's any good to be done."
    The waiter was summoned: Lafleur ordered him to bring up the entire contents of the larder, together with a bottle of brandy; and when these commands were obeyed, the Resurrection Man fell to work with extraordinary voracity, while the French valet briefly explained to him the nature of the business already propounded to the Buffer.
    The hopes of obtaining a considerable sum of money animated the eyes of Tidkins with fire and his cadaverous countenance with a glow of fiendish satisfaction. He highly approved of the idea of engaging the Lully Prig and Long Bob in the enterprise; for he entertained a good opinion of their courage, in spite of the affair of the plague-ship. Indeed, he could well understand the invincible nature of the panic-terror which had seized upon them on that occasion; and, as he foresaw that their co-operation would be valuable in other matters, he was disposed to forget the past.
    In fine, all the preliminary arrangements were made with Lafleur, who presented the two villains each with a ten pound-note as an earnest of his sincerity, and then took his departure.
    When the Resurrection Man and the Buffer were alone together, they brewed themselves strong glasses of brandy and water, lighted their pipes, and naturally began to discourse on what had passed since they last saw each other.
    The Buffer related all that had occurred to him after his return to Mossop's wharf, — how he had been pursued by the three men belonging to the Blossom, — how one turned out to be Richard Markham, another a policeman in disguise, and the third Morcar, — how they had vainly searched the Fairy to discover Anthony Tidkins, — and how he himself eventually sold the lighter.
    "Since then," added the Buffer, "I have not been doing much, and was deuced glad when Greenwood's valet came to me last evening and made an appointment with me for to-night to talk upon some business of importance. You know what that business is; and I hope it will turn up a trump — that's all."
    "Then the whole affair of the Blossom was a damnation plant?" cried the Resurrection Man, gnashing his teeth with rage. "And that hated Markham was at the bottom of it all! By the thunders of heaven, I'll have the most deadly vengeance! But how came you to learn that Morcar was one of the three?"
    "Because I heard Markham call him by that name when they all boarded the Fairy; and I instantly remembered the gipsy that you had often spoken about. But what do you think? He was the Black — the counterfeit Brummagem scoundrel that could neither speak nor hear. The Captain was the blue-bottle; and Markham, I s'pose, had kept down below during the time the Blossom was at Mossop's. It was a deuced good scheme of theirs; — and if you hadn't been left in the plague-ship, it might have gone precious hard with you."
    "Well said, Jack," observed the Resurrection Man. "Out of evil sometimes comes good, as the parsons say. But that shan't prevent me from doing Master Richard Markham a turn yet."
    "You must go to Italy then," said the Buffer laconically.
    "What gammon's that!" demanded Tidkins.
    "Why, I happened yesterday morning to look at a newspaper in the parlour down stairs, and there I read of a battle which took plate in some country with a cursed hard name in Italy, about three weeks ago; and what should I see but a long rigmarole about the bravery of 'our gallant fellow-countryman, Mr. Richard Markham,' and 'the great delight it would be to all the true friends of freedom to learn that he was not retained amongst the prisoners."
    "But perhaps he was killed in the battle, the scoundrel?" said the Resurrection Man.
    "No, he wasn't," answered the Buffer; "for the moment I saw that all this nonsense was about him, I read the whole article through; and I found that he had been taken prisoner, but had either been let go or had made his escape. No one, however, seems to know what's become of him; — so p'r'aps he's on his way back to this country."
    "I'd much sooner he'd get hanged or shot in Italy," said the Resurrection Man. "But if he ever does come home again, I'll be square with him — and no mistake."
    "Now you know all that has happened to me, [-143-] Tony," exclaimed the Buffer. "have the kindness to tell us how you got out of that cursed scrape in the Lady-Anne."
    "I will," said the Resurrection Man, refilling his glass. "After you all ran away in that cowardly fashion, I tried to climb after you; but I fell back insensible. When I awoke, the broad daylight was shining overhead; and a boy was looking down at me from the deck. He asked me what I was doing there. I rose with great difficulty; but I was much refreshed with the long sleep I had enjoyed. The boy disappeared; and in a few minutes the surgeon came and hailed me down the hatchway. I begged him to help me up out of the hold, and I would tell him every thing. He ordered me to throw aside my pistols and cutlass, and he would assist me to gain the deck. I did as he commanded me. He and the boy then lowered a rope, with a noose; I put my foot in the noose, grasped the rope tight, and was hauled up. The surgeon instantly presented a pistol, and said, 'If you attempt any violence, I'll shoot you through the head.' I declared that nothing was farther from my intention, and begged him to give me some refreshment. This request was complied with; and I then felt so much better, that I was able to walk with comparative ease. It, however, seemed as if I had just recovered from a long illness: for I was weak, and my head was giddy. I told the surgeon that I was an honest hardworking man; that I had come down to Gravesend the day before to see a friend; and had fallen in with some persons who offered me a job for which I should be well paid; that I assented, and accompanied them to their boat; that when I understood the nature of their business, I declared I would have nothing more to do with it; that they swore they would blow my brains out if I made any noise; that I was compelled to board the ship with them; that when some sudden sound alarmed them as they were examining the goods in the hold, they knocked me down with the butt-end of a pistol; and that I remembered nothing more until the boy awoke me by calling out to me from the deck. The surgeon believed my story, and said, 'A serious offence has been perpetrated, and you must declare all you know of the matter before a magistrate.' I of course signified my willingness to do so, because I saw that the only chance of obtaining my liberty was by gaining the good opinion of the surgeon — for he had a loaded pistol in his hand — I was unarmed — and the police-boat was within hail. 'But, according to the quarantine laws,' continued the surgeon, 'you cannot be permitted to leave the vessel for the present; and what guarantee have I for your good behaviour while you are on board?'"
    "That was a poser," observed the Buffer.
    "No such thing," said the Resurrection Man. "I spoke with so much apparent sincerity, and with such humility, that I quite gained the surgeon's good opinion. I said, 'You can lock me in your cabin during the day, sir; or you can bind my hand, with cords; and, at night, I can sleep in the hold from which you released me, with the hatches battened down.' — 'I really do believe you to be an honest man,' exclaimed the surgeon 'but I must adopt some precaution. You shall be at large during the day; and I think it right to give you due notice that I shall carry loaded pistols constantly with me. At night you shall sleep in the hold, with the hatches battened down, as you say.' I affected to thank him very sincerely, for his kindness in leaving me at liberty during the day; and he then repaired to the fore-cabin to attend to his patients."
    "Hadn't he got the plague himself?" inquired the Buffer.
    "No: but the fœtid atmosphere of the fore-cabin, to which he was compelled so frequently to expose himself, had made him as emaciated and as pale as if he had only just recovered from the malady. I got into conversation with the boy, and found that he had contrived, shortly after you and the others decamped, to free his arms from the cords with which we had bound him; and that his first care was to release the surgeon. They neither of them entertained the remotest suspicion that any of the pirates were left in the ship, until the boy discovered me in the hold shortly after day-break."
    "Well — and how did you escape after all?"
    "I remained three or four days on board, before I put any scheme into force, although I planned a great many. At night I could do nothing, because I was a prisoner in the hold; and during the day the police-boat was constantly about, besides the sentinels on land. The surgeon always made me go down into the hold while it was still day-light; and never let me out again until after sun-rise; so that I was always in confinement during the very time that I might contrive something to effect my escape from that infernal pest-ship. But the surgeon seemed afraid to trust me when it was dark. I never passed such a miserable time in my life. The slight touch that I had experienced of the plague — for it could have been nothing else — kept me in a constant fear lest it should return with increased force. How often did I mutter the most bitter curses against you and the other pals for abandoning me; — but now, in consequence of what you told me of the plant that Markham had set a-going against me, I am not sorry to think that I was left behind in the plague-ship. One evening — I think it was the fifth after my first entrance into the vessel — I observed that it was growing darker and darker; and yet the surgeon did not appear on deck with his loaded pistol to send me below. The boy was walking about eyeing me suspiciously; and at length he went down into the after-cabin. It struck me that the surgeon was probably indulging in a nap, and that the lad would awake him. It was not quite dark; but still I fancied that it was dusk enough to leap from the bow of the ship, which part of the vessel was high and dry, without alarming the sentinels on shore. At all events the chance was worth the trial. Seizing a handspike, I hurried forward, and sprang from the ship. Then, without losing a moment, I ran along the bank towards Gravesend, as rapidly as I could. In a short time I knew that I was safe. I hurled the handspike into the Thames, and walked on to the Lobster Tavern. There I obtained a bed — for I had plenty of ready money in my pocket. My only regret was that I had not been able to bring away any of the gold-dust with me."
    "Why didn't you knock the surgeon and the boy on the head, and help yourself?" demanded the Buffer.
    "So I should if I had seen a chance," replied the Resurrection Man; "but I was so weak and feeble all the time I was on board, that I was no match even for the young lad; and the surgeon always kept at such a distance, with a loaded pistol ready cocked in his hand, when I was ordered into the hold [-144-] of an evening, or called up of a morning, that there wasn't a shadow of a chance. Well, I slept at the Lobster Tavern, and departed very early in the morning — long before it was day-light. I thought that London would be too hot for me, after every thing that had lately occurred; and I resolved to pay a visit to Walmer — my own native place. I was still too weak to walk many miles without resting; and so I took nearly four days to reach Walmer. Besides, I kept to the fields, and avoided the high road as much as possible. I took up my quarters at a small inn on the top of Walmer hill, and then made inquiries concerning all the people I had once known in or about the village. I have often related the former incidents of my life to you; and you will therefore recollect the baronet who was exchequered for smuggling, and was welcomed with open arms by his friends, when he paid the fine. You also remember all that occurred between him and me. I found that he had married his cook-maid, who ruled him with a rod of iron; and that the 'very select society' of Walmer and Deal had all cut him on account of that connexion, which was much worse in their eyes than all the smuggling in which he had been engaged. In fact, he was a hero when prosecuted for smuggling; but now no decent persons could associate with him, since he had married his scullion. In a word, I learnt that he was as miserable as I could have wished him to be."
    "And didn't you inquire after your friend the parson?" demanded the Buffer.
    "You may be sure I did," returned the Resurrection Man. "He had made himself very conspicuous for refusing the sacrament to a young woman who was seduced by her lover, and had an illegitimate child; and the 'select society' of Walmer greatly applauded him for his conduct. At length, about a year ago, it appears, this most particular of all clergymen was discovered by a neighbouring farmer in too close a conversation with the said farmer's wife; and his reverence was compelled to decamp, no one knows where. He, however, left his wife and children to the public charity. That charity was so great, that the poor woman and family are now inmates of the very workhouse where his reverence's slightest wish was once a law. I stayed at Walmer for nearly a week; and then departed suddenly for Ramsgate, with the contents of the landlord's till in my pocket. At Ramsgate I put up at a small public-house where I was taken dreadfully ill. For four months I was confined to my bed; and both landlord and landlady were very kind to me. At length I slowly began to recover; and, when I was well enough to walk abroad, I used to go upon the beach to inhale the sea-air. It was then summer time; and bathing was all the rage. I never was more amused in my life than to see the ladies, old as well as young, sitting on the beach, to all appearance deeply buried in the novels which they held in their hands, but in reality watching, with greedy eyes, the men bathing scarcely fifty yards off'."
    "You don't mean to say that?" cried the Buffer.
    "I do indeed, though," returned Tidkins. "It was the commonest thing in the world for elderly dames and young misses to go out walking along the beach, or to sit down on it, close by the very spot where the men bathed, although there were plenty of other places to choose either for rambling or reading. Well, I stayed two more months at Ramsgate; and as the landlord and landlady of the public-house had behaved so kind to me, I took nothing from them when I went away. I merely left my little account unsettled. I walked over to Margate, with the intention of taking the steamer to London Bridge; but just as I was stepping on the jetty, some one tapped me on the shoulder, and, turning round, I beheld my landlord of the little inn on the top of Walmer hill. All my excuses, promises, and entreaties were of no avail: the man collared me — a crowd collected — a constable was sent for, and I was taken before a magistrate. Of course I was committed for trial, and sent across in a cart to Canterbury gaol. There I lay till the day before yesterday, when the sessions came on. By some extraordinary circumstance or another, no prosecutor appeared before the Grand Jury; and I was discharged. I resolved to come back to London for, after all, London is the place for business in our way. With all its police, it's the best scene for our labours. So here I am; and the moment I set foot in this ken, I find employment waiting for me."
    "Well, I'm sorry to hear you've been lumbered old feller," cried the respectable Mr. John Wicks; "but it's a blessin' the prosecutor never come for'ard. Let's, however, think of the present; and botheration to the past. I'm heartily glad you've turned up again. I was precious nigh going into mourning for you, Tony. Joking apart, though — this business of the Frenchman's looks well; and we must be about early to look after the Lully Prig and Long Bob. I know their haunts down by Execution Dock, just opposite to Mossop's."
    "Where are you hanging out now, Jack?" inquired the Resurrection Man.
    "Me and Moll has got a room in Greenhill's Rents — at the bottom of Saint John's Street, you know," was the answer.
    "Well, I shall sleep here to-night," said the Resurrection Man; "and by six o'clock to-morrow morning I shall expect you."    

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