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LONDON [Vol. II]
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NEW YEAR'S DAY.
was the 1st of January, 1841.
If there be any hour in the life of man when he ought to
commune with his own heart, that proper interval of serious reflection is to be
found on New Year's Day.
Then, to the rightly constituted mind, the regrets for
the past will serve as finger-posts and guides to the hopes of the future.
The heathen mythology depicted Janus with two faces,
looking different ways: — so let the human heart, when on the first
day of January, it stands between two years, retrospect carefully over the one
that has gone, and combine all its solemn warnings for use and example in the
new one which has just commenced.
This also is the day that recalls, with additional
impressiveness, the memory of those dear relatives and friends whose mortal
forms have been swept away by the viewless and voiceless stream of Time.
Nor less do fond parents think, amidst tears and
prayers, of their sons who are absent in the far-off places of the earth, — fighting
the battles of their country on the burning plains of India, or steering their
way across the pathless solitudes of the ocean.
But, alas! little reck the wealthy and great for those
whose arms defend them, or whose enterprise procures them all the bounties of
An oligarchy has cramped the privileges and monopolised
the rights of a mighty nation.
Behold the effects of its infamous Poor-Laws contemplate
the results of the more atrocious Game-Laws; — mark the consequences
of the Corn Laws.
THE POOR-LAWS! Not even did the ingenuity of the Spanish
or Italian Inquisitions conceive more effectual method of deliberate torture and
slow death, than the fearful system of mental-abasement and gradient starvation
invented by England's legislators. When the labourer can toil for the rich no
longer, away with him to the workhouse! When the old man, who has contributed
for half a century to the revenue of the country, is overtaken by sudden
adversity at an age which paralyses his energies, away with him to the
workhouse! When the poor widow, whose sons have fallen in the ranks of battle or
in defence of the wooden walls of England, is deprived of her natural
supporters, away with her to the workhouse! The workhouse is a social dung-heap
on which the wealthy and great fling those members of the community whose
services they can no longer render available to their selfish purposes.
THE GAME-LAWS! Never was a more atrocious monopoly than
that which reserves the use of certain birds of the air or animals of the earth
to a small and exclusive class. The Almighty gave man "dominion over the
fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that
moveth upon the earth;" and those who dare to monopolise any of these, to
the prejudice of their fellow creatures, fly in the face of the Lord of all! The
Game-Laws have fabricated an offence which fills our prisons — as if
there were not already crimes enough to separate men from their families and
plunge them into loathsome dungeons. That offence is one of human construction,
and exists only in certain countries: it is not a crime against God — nor
is it deemed such in many enlightened states. The selfish plea-[-156-]sures
of a miserably small minority demand the protection of a statute which is a
fertilising source of oppression, wretchedness, ruin, and demoralization The
Game-Laws are a rack whereon the aristocracy loves to behold its victims
writhing in tortures and where the sufferers are compelled to acknowledge as a
heinous crime a deed which has in reality no moral turpitude associated with it.
THE CORN-LAWS! Were the Russian to boast of his freedom,
Common Sense would point to Siberia and to the knout, and laugh in his face.
When the Englishman vaunts the glory of his country s institutions, that same
Common Sense comes forward and throws the Corn Laws in his teeth What! liberty
in connexion with the vilest monopoly that ever mortal policy conceived?
Impossible! England manufactures articles which all the civilised world
requires; and other states yield corn in an abundance that defies the
possibility of home consumption. And yet an inhuman selfishness has declared
that England shall not exchange her manufactures for that superfluous produce.
No — the manufactures may decay in the warehouses here, and the
grain abroad may be thrown to the swine, sooner than a miserable oligarchy will
consent to abandon one single principle of its shameless monopoly. The Corn-Laws
are a broom which sweeps all the grain on the threshing-floor into one corner
for the use of the rich, but which leaves the chaff scattered everywhere about
for the millions of poor to use as best they may.
The aristocracy of England regards the patience of the
masses as a bow whose powers of tension are unlimited: but the day must come,
sooner or later, when those who thus dare to trifle with this generous
elasticity will be struck down by the violence of the recoil.
Although our legislators — trembling at what
they affect to sneer at under the denomination of "the march of
intellect" — obstinately refuse to imitate enlightened France
by instituting a system of national education, — nevertheless, the
millions of this country are now instructing themselves!
Honour to the English mechanic — honour to
the English operative: each alike seeks to taste of the tree of learning,
"whose root is bitter, but whose fruits are sweet!"
Thank God, no despotism — no tyranny can
arrest the progress of that mighty intellectual movement which is now
perceptible amongst the industrious millions of these realms.
And how excellent are the principles of that self
instruction which now tends to elevate the moral condition of the country. It is
not confined within the narrow limits which churchmen would impose: it embraces
the sciences — the arts — all subjects of practical
utility. — its aim being to model the mind on the solid basis of
To the millions thus enlightened, Religion will appear
in all its purity, and the objects of Government in all their simplicity. The
holy Christian worship will cease to be regarded as an apology for endowing a
Church with enormous revenues, and political administration must no longer be
considered as a means of rendering a small portion of the community happy and
prosperous to the utter prejudice of the vast remainder.
There breathes not a finer specimen of the human race
than a really enlightened and liberal minded Englishman. But if he be
deserving of admiration and applause, who has received his knowledge from the
lips of a paid preceptor — how much more worthy of praise and
respect is the self-instructed mechanic!
But to resume our narrative.
It was the 1st of January, 1841.
The time-piece on the mantel in Mr. Greenwood's study
had just struck two in the afternoon.
That gentleman himself was pacing the apartment in an
His handsome dressing-gown of oriental pattern was not
arranged, with the usual contrived air of negligence, to display the beautiful
shirt-front, over which hung the gold chain of his Breguet-watch: — on
the contrary, it had evidently been hurried on without the least regard to
The writing-table was heaped with a confused pile of
letters and accounts — not thrown together for show, but lying in
the actual disorder in which they had been tossed aside after a minute
Though not absolutely slovenly in his present
appearance, Mr. Greenwood had certainly neglected his toilet on that day; and
the state of his room moreover proved that he was too much absorbed in serious
affairs to devote time to the minor considerations of neatness and the strict
propriety of order.
There was a cloud upon his brow; and his manner was
restless and unsettled.
"Curses — eternal curses upon that
Lafleur!" he exclaimed aloud, as he walked up and down with uneven steps.
"To think that I should have lost so much at one blow! Oh! it nearly drives
me mad — mad! If it had only been the twenty thousand pounds of
which the black-hearted French villain and his confederates plundered me, I
might have snapped my fingers at Fortune who thus vented her temporary spite
upon me! But the enormous amount I lost in addition, by failing to pour that sum
of English notes and gold into circulation in the French capital, — the
almost immediate fall in the rates of exchange, and the fluctuation of the
French funds, — Oh! there it was that I was so seriously
injured. Fifty thousand pounds snatched from me as it were in a moment, — fifty
thousand pounds of hard money — my own money! And the thirty
thousand pounds that I had first sent over to Paris were so judiciously laid
out! My combinations were admirable: I should have been a clear gainer of
five-and-twenty thousand, had not that accursed robbery taken place! May the
villain Lafleur die in a charnel-house — may he perish the most
miserable of deaths!"
Mr. Greenwood ground his teeth with rage as he uttered
these horrible maledictions.
He did not, however, recall to mind that Lafleur was an
honest man when he entered his service; — he did not pause to
reflect upon all the intrigues, machinations, plots, duplicities, and villanies,
in which he had employed his late valet, — thus gradually initiating
him in those paths which could scarcely have led to any other result than the
point in which they had actually terminated — the robbery of the
master by the servant whom he had thus tutored.
"The villain!" continued Greenwood. "And
I was so kind to him — constantly increasing his wages and making
him presents! Such confidence as I put in him, too! Filippo, whom I did not
trust to half the same extent — save in my intrigues with
women — is stanch and faithful to me!
[-157-] He paused and
glanced towards the time-piece.
"Half-past two; and Tomlinson does not come! What can
detain him! Surely that affair cannot have gone wrong also? if so — "
And Greenwood's countenance became as dark and lowering
as the sky ere the explosion of the storm.
In a few moments a double-knock at the door echoed
through the house.
"Here's Tomlinson!" ejaculated Greenwood; and
with sovereign command over himself, he composed his features and assumed his
wonted ease of manner.
The stock-broker now entered the room.
"You are an hour behind your time, Tomlinson,"
said Greenwood, shaking him by the hand.
"I could not come before," was the answer:
"I was detained on your business."
"What news?" asked Greenwood, scarcely able to
conceal his profound anxiety.
"Bad," replied Tomlinson. "You have sent
sixteen thousand pounds to look after the fifty you have already lost.
Fortunately you are a rich man, and can stand reverses of this kind. Besides,
one who speculates so enormously as you have done of late, must meet with
occasional losses. For my part, I should advise you to leave Spanish alone. It
seems that you are doomed to fail in your ventures in the foreign
securities: — first, your French scheme was totally ruined by the
villany of your servant; and now your Spanish one, so far from enabling you to
retrieve your losses, has increased them."
This long speech enabled Greenwood to recover from the
shock which the announcement of a new reverse had produced.
"My dear Tomlinson," he said, "I am
resolved to follow up my speculations in Spanish. The private information I
received from an intimate friend of the Spanish Ambassador is correct — I
am convinced it is; and I am sure that Queen Christina, by the advice of
Espartero, will appropriate a sum to pay the Interest on the passives. The
announcement must be made in a few days. Of this I am certain. But my resources
are locked up for the present: — in fact, I do not hesitate to tell you,
Tomlinson, that I have over-speculated of late. Still — remember — I
have plenty of means remaining; but they are not instantly
"What, then, do you propose to do?" inquired
"You have raised yourself during the past year to a
confidential position in the City, Tomlinson," continued Greenwood:
"and people no longer remember your bankruptcy."
"But I do," observed the stock-broker
"Oh I that Is nothing," exclaimed Greenwood.
"I was about to say that you could probably borrow
me fifteen or twenty thousand on my bond — say for three
"I doubt it," returned Tomlinson. "You
have no mercantile establishment — you are known as a great
speculator — "
"And as a great capitalist, I flatter myself,"
added Greenwood, playing with his watch-chain in the easy complacent manner
which had so characterised him until lately.
"That you were a capitalist, there can be no
doubt," said Tomlinson, in his usual quiet way; but ill news fly fast — and
your losses — "
"Are already known in the City, you mean?"
exclaimed Greenwood, with difficulty concealing his vexation. "I care not a
fig for that, Tomlinson I have ample resources left; but, as I ere now observed,
they are not immediately available."
"I understand you. It is well known that you
accommodate the members of the aristocracy and heirs-expectant with loans; I
presume that you have a mass of their bills, bonds, and acknowledgments! Now if
you were to deposit them as collateral security, I know where I could obtain you
an equivalent loan in twelve hours."
"Indeed!" ejaculated Greenwood: then, after a
moment's pause, he said, "And you think there can be no difficulty in
managing the business in that way?"
"None," answered the stock-broker.
Again Greenwood appeared to reflect.
"And yet," he observed, "all these
pecuniary accommodations of which you spoke, are strictly confidential; and I
dare not violate — "
"You know best, Greenwood," said Tomlinson
coolly. "At the same time, I can assure you that my friend will not betray
you. The whole thing lies in a nut-shell: you deposit, say twenty thousand
pounds' worth of securities, for a loan of that amount, to be repaid in three
months; you redeem the documents by the day appointed, and none of your
aristocratic debtors will be one whit the wiser. The transaction could only
become known to them if you failed to refund the money, in which case the holder
of the documents would send them into the market."
"I comprehend," said Greenwood.
"Well — I have no objection to the arrangement. When will you
ascertain whether your friend will advance the money?"
"This afternoon," returned Tomlinson;
"and should the reply be in the affirmative — of which I have
no doubt — I will make an appointment for four to-morrow."
"Be it so," cried Greenwood. " You will,
perhaps, send me word between five and six this evening."
I will not fail," said the stock-broker. "Any
thing new in the City?"
"And your late cashier — what has
become of him?" inquired Greenwood.
"He is still living in an obscure street in Bethnal
Green," was the answer. "The poor old man never stirs abroad; and his
health is failing fast."
"Ah! it. will be a good thing when he is gone
altogether," said Greenwood. "If he had had to do with me, I should
have shipped him to New Zealand or Van Diemen's Land long ago."
Tomlinson turned away in disgust, and took his leave.
Greenwood never moved from his seat until he heard the
front door close behind the stock-broker.
Then he started from his chair, and all his apparent
"Sixteen thousand pounds more gone!" he
exclaimed, in a hoarse, hollow tone, while he clenched his fists with rage.
"Loss upon loss! All this is enough to ruin any man! And I — who
have been even far more unfortunate of late than I chose to admit to Tomlinson!
Nothing short of one bold and successful hit can now retrieve my tottering
fortunes. Securities for twenty thousand pounds, in[-158-]deed!
Ha! ha! I have not bills nor bonds in my possession to the amount of three
thousand!" — and he laughed wildly. "But I will
have them, though — aye, and such ones as shall fully serve my
Then he paced the room in a singularly agitated manner.
"Yes — one more bold stroke, and I
shall retrieve myself," he continued. "My good star cannot have
altogether deserted me. No — no! These vicissitudes are only
temporary. Accursed Lafleur! To think that he should have served me thus!
Instead of proceeding to Paris — with the means of following up
those schemes which I had combined so well, and in which I had already risked so
much — but with such absolute certainties of immense gain, — instead
of pursuing my career of success, — to be plundered — robbed
at the last moment — and compelled to return to London to raise
fresh funds! Then, when in four days I was prepared with the necessary sum once
more — with another twenty thousand pounds — to receive
letters which convinced me that the delay was fatal, and that all was
lost! — Yes — Fortune did indeed persecute me then! But
I will be even with her yet. My information concerning the Spanish debt is
accurate; and on that ground I can build a fortune far more colossal than the
one I have lost. Shall I hesitate, then, in obtaining this money through
Tomlinson's agency No — no!"
Having thus buoyed himself up with those hopes which
invariably urge on the gambler — whether at the actual gaming-table
or in the public funds (for there is little difference in a moral light between
the two modes of speculation), — to put down fresh stakes on the
chance aimed at, Greenwood recovered his wonted calmness.
He busied himself in arranging his papers, and restoring
neatness to his writing-table.
Thus passed the time until six o'clock, when — Filippo
entered the room with a letter.
It was from Tomlinson.
Greenwood tore it open: the contents were favourable.
The stock-broker's friend had agreed to advance any sum up to twenty-five
thousand pounds on the terms proposed, and had premised to observe the strictest
secrecy in the transaction.
"The rest now depends upon myself!" ejaculated
Greenwood. "Fortune has not altogether deserted me."
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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