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LONDON [Vol. II]
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ARISTOCRATIC VILLAIN AND THE LOW MISCREANT.
ON the northern side of the Thames there is no continuously direct way along the
bank for any great distance: to walk, for instance, from London Bridge to
Vauxhall Bridge, one would be compelled to take many turnings, and deviate
materially from the course shaped by the sinuosity of the stream. But on the
southern side of the Thames, one may walk from the foot of London Bridge to that
of Vauxhall, without scarcely losing sight of the river.
In this latter instance, the way would lie along Clink
Street, Bankside, and Holland Street, to reach Blackfriars Bridge; the
Commercial Road to Waterloo Bridge; the Belvidere Road, and Pedlar's Acre, to
Westminster Bridge; and Stangate, the Bishop's Walk, and Fore Street, to reach
This journey would not occupy nearly so much time as
might be supposed ere a second thought was devoted to the subject; and yet how
large a section of the diameter of London would have been traversed!
A portion of the path just detailed is denominated
Pedlar's Acre; and it lies between Westminster and Hungerford Bridges. Adjoining
the thoroughfare itself is an acre of ground, which is the property of the
parish, and is let as a timber yard. Tradition declares that it was given by a
pedlar to the parish, on condition that the picture of himself and his dog be
preserved, in stained glass, in one of the windows of Lambeth church; and in
support of this legend, such a representation may indeed be seen in the
south-east window of the middle aisle of the church just mentioned.
Nevertheless, one of those antiquaries whose sesquipedelian researches are
undertaken with a view to elucidate matters of this kind, — a
valueless labour, — has declared that the land was bequeathed to the
parish, in the year 1504, by some person totally unknown. Be the origin, of the
grant and the name of the donor as they may, there is such a place at Pedlar's
Acre; and it is to a public-house in this thoroughfare that we must now request
our readers to accompany us.
Seated in a private room on the first floor was a
gentlemanly-looking man, of about six-and-thirty years of age. His face was
decidedly handsome, but it had a downcast and sinister expression little
calculated to prepossess a stranger in this person's favour. There was also a
peculiar curl — more wicked than haughty — about his
lip, that seemed to speak of strongly concentrated passions: the deep tones of
his voice, the peculiar glance of his large grey eyes, and the occasional
contraction of his brow denoted a mind resolute in carrying out any purpose it
might have formed.
He was dressed with some degree of slovenliness; as if
he had not leisure to waste upon the frivolity of self-adornment, or as if his
means were not sufficient to permit that elegance of wardrobe which could alone
stimulate his pride in the embellishment of his person.
A glass of steaming punch stood untouched near him.
It was six o'clock in the evening; and he was evidently
waiting for some one.
His patience was not, however, put to a very severe
test; for scarcely had five minutes elapsed after his arrival, when the door
opened, and the Resurrection Man entered the room.
"Good evening, Mr. Vernon," he said, as he
carefully closed the door behind him: then, taking a seat, he observed, "I
hope I have not kept you waiting."
"Oh! never mind that," exclaimed Vernon,
impatiently. "Have you any good news to communicate?"
"I am sorry to say that I have not. I called this
morning upon the clerk of the parish church where your brother was married, and
tried him in all ways."
"And he refused?" said Vernon, with an angry
"He refused," answered Tidkins. "He is
timid and old; and, after having first entertained the subject, at length backed
out of it altogether."
"Because you did not offer him enough," cried
Vernon, savagely: "because you did not show him gold! You are only lukewarm
in this affair: you are afraid to risk a few miserable pounds in the business.
This is not the way to conduct a grand project of such a nature. It is true that
I am fearfully embarrassed for funds at this moment; but if you had acted with
liberality — if we eventually succeeded — you must be
well aware that my generosity would know no bounds."
Vernon," said the Resurrection Man, coolly, "If you have nothing
better than reproaches to offer as a reward of my exertions in your behalf, we
should do well to separate at once. I was not niggard in my offers to the
clerk: I spread fifty golden sovereigns before him — told him to
take them, and promised as much more when he had done the job. But he
hesitated — reflected — and at length positively refused
"And you really believe there is no hope in that
quarter?" said Vernon, anxiously.
"None. If the old clerk would ever agree to serve
us, he would have consented this morning. I know the man now: he is too timid to
suit our purposes. But let us look calmly at the whole business, and devise
another mode of proceeding," added the Resurrection Man. "You are
still determined, by some means or other, to get possession of the estates of
your elder brother?"
"My resolution is even increased by every fresh
obstacle," replied Vernon. "I have two powerful objects to
accomplish — revenge and ambition. Lord Ravensworth has treated me
with a cruelty and a contempt that would goad the most meek and patient to study
the means of vengeance. Our late father always intended the ready money, of
which he could dispose, to come to me, because the estates were entailed
upon my brother. But my father died suddenly, and intestate; and my brother,
although he well knew our parent's intentions, grasped all — gave me
nothing! No — I am wrong," added Vernon, with exceeding
bitterness of tone and manner; "he agreed to allow me five hundred pounds
a-year, as a recompense for the loss of as many thousands!"
"And you accepted the offer?" said the
"I accepted it as a beggar receives alms sooner
than starve," continued Vernon: "I accepted it because I had nothing:
I had not the means of existence. But I accepted it also as an instalment of my
just due — and not as a concession on the part of his bounty. My
habits are naturally extravagant: my expenses are great — I cannot
check myself in that respect. Thus am I perpetually obtaining advances from my
brother's agent; and now I have not another shilling to receive until next
[-202-] "Nearly a
year!" exclaimed the Resurrection Man. "But if you was to call on the
agent — "
"Absurd!" ejaculated Vernon. "Have I not
told you that my brother believes me still to be in the East — still
travelling In Turkey? So long as he supposes me far away, I can carry on my
projects in London with far greater security. In a word, it is much safer that
my presence In this country should remain a profound secret. He will die
shortly — he must die — he is daily, steadily
parting with vitality. He is passing out of existence by a sure, a speedy, and
yet an inexplicable progression of decay. Of his death, then, I am sure;
and when it shall occur, how can suspicion attach itself to me — since
I am supposed to be abroad — far away?"
"You are certain that your brother is hastening
towards the grave?" said the Resurrection Man. "The great
obstacle — the greatest, I mean — will be hereby
removed. Suppose that Lady Ravensworth should be delivered of a boy, would it
not be equally easy — "
"Yes — it would be easy to put it out
of the way by violence," was the rapid reply; "but, then, I
would risk my neck at the same time that I gained a fortune. No-that will not
do! I could not incur a danger of so awful a nature. The infant heir to vast
estates would be jealously protected — attentively watched — surrounded
by all wise precautions: — no-it were madness to think of practising
aught against its life."
"Could not the same means by which — even
though at a distance — you are undermining the life of your
brother — "
"No — no," replied Vernon,
impatiently. "It is not necessary that I should explain to you the precise
nature of the means by which I succeed in effecting Lord Ravensworth's physical
decay; suffice it to state that those means could not be applied to a
"Nevertheless," continued the Resurrection
Man, "you must have an agent at Ravensworth Park; for if — as I
suppose — your brother is dying by means of slow poison, there is
some confidential creature of your own about his person to administer the
"I have no agent at Ravensworth; — I
have no confidential creature about my brother's person; — and I
have so combined my measures that Lord Ravensworth is actually committing
suicide — dying by his own hand! Another time I will expound all
this to you; for to you alone have I communicated my projects."
"Have you not explained yourself to
Greenwood?" demanded the Resurrection Man. "I thought you told me, the
last time we met, that he knew you well — and knew also that you are
"I was acquainted with him some four or five years
ago, when he was not so prosperous as he is — or as he appears to
be-at present," replied Vernon; "but having been abroad since that
time until my return last week, I had lost sight of him — and had
even forgotten him. It was not a little provoking to run against him the very
first day of my arrival in London; and, though I endeavoured to avoid him, he
persisted in speaking to me."
"You are not afraid that he will gossip about your
presence in London?" said the Resurrection Man.
"He promised me most faithfully to keep the fact a
profound secret," returned Vernon.
"And will he not advance you a small sum for your
present purposes?" demanded Tidkins.
"I called on him lest evening, in consequence of
the suggestion contained in your note; — I requested a loan for a
particular purpose; — but he refused to oblige me," added
Vernon, his brow contracting. "I wish that I had not so far humbled myself
by asking him."
"No matter for that," said Tidkins: "we
are wandering from our subject. Here is the substance of the whole affair: — Lord
Ravensworth will soon be gathered to his fathers, as they say: but in the
meantime Lady Ravensworth may have a child. If it is a daughter, you are all
safe; If it is a son you are all wrong. I do n't know how it is — I'm
not superstitious — but in these matters, where a good fellow like
yourself is within reach of a fortune, and whether you are to get it or not
depends on the sex of an expected infant, — in such cases, I say,
the card generally does turn up wrong. Now if the child should be a boy, what
will you do?"
"I cannot consent to abandon the plan of bribing
the clerk to destroy the leaf in the register," answered Vernon.
"Pshaw! the project is bad — I told you
so all along. See how the matter would stand," continued Tidkins: — "Lord
Ravensworth dies and leaves, we will suppose, an infant heir — a
son. Then you suddenly make your appearance, and demand proofs of your brother's
marriage. The register is searched — a leaf is missing — it
is the one which contains the record of the union celebrated between Lord
Ravensworth and Miss Adeline Enfield! Would not this seem very extraordinary?
would it not create suspicions that Lord Ravensworth may not have died fairly?
No-your project, Mr. Vernon, will never do: it is baseless — shallow-childish.
It is unworthy of you. If you persist in it, I shall wash my hands of the
business: — if you will follow my advice, you shall be Lord
Ravensworth before you are a year older."
Vernon could not conceal a sentiment of admiration for
that man who thus dexterously reasoned on his plans, and thus boldly promised
that consummation to which he so fondly aspired.
"Speak, Mr. Tidkins," he said; "we have
met to consult on the necessary course to be adopted."
"Let us come, then, boldly to the point,"
continued the Resurrection Man, sinking his voice to a whisper: "rest
patiently for the confinement of Lady Ravensworth, which, you have learnt, is
expected to take place in six weeks; — if the issue is a girl, you
need trouble yourself no more in the business, but calmly wait till death does
its work with Lord Ravensworth."
"And if the issue be a boy?" said Vernon,
gazing fixedly on his companion's countenance.
"It must be put out of the way," answered the
Resurrection Man, in a low, but stern tone; "and you may trust to me that
the business shall be done in such a manner as to endanger no one's neck."
"You think — you imagine that it can be
done — " said Vernon, hesitatingly — but still with
that kind of hesitation which is prepared to yield and to consent.
"I do not speak upon thoughts and imaginings,"
replied Tidkins: "I argue on conviction. Leave the whole affair to me. I
have my plan already settled — and, when the time comes, we will
talk more about it. For the present," continued the Resurrection Man,
drawing a bill-stamp from his pocket, and handing it to his companion,
"have the [-203-] goodness to write the name
of Ravensworth at the bottom of this blank. I shall not use it until you
are really Lord Ravensworth, when the signature will be your proper one."
Vernon cast a hasty glance over the bill, and observed,
"It is a five-and-twenty shilling stamp."
"Yes — to cover three thousand
pounds," returned the Resurrection Man. "That will not be too much for
making you a peer and a rich man. Besides, I intend to advance you a matter of
fifty pounds at once, for your immediate necessities."
"And if I should happen to fail in obtaining the
title and estates of Ravensworth," said Vernon, "this document would
enable you to immure me in a debtor's prison."
"Ridiculous!" ejaculated Tidkins, impatiently.
"In that case your name would not be Ravensworth; and it is the name
of Ravensworth which I require to this bill. As for throwing your person
into a prison, what good could that do me? A dead carcass is of more value than
a living one," he added, in a muttering tone.
Vernon did not overhear this remark — or, if
he did, he comprehended not the allusion; but he signed the bill without farther
The Resurrection Man consigned it to his pocket-book,
and then drew forth a purse filled with gold, which he handed to his companion.
Vernon received it with a stiff and haughty inclination
of the head: — his necessities compelled him to accept the succour;
but his naturally proud feelings made him shrink from its source.
Having so far arranged the matters which they had met to
discuss, the aristocratic villain and the low miscreant separated.
Vernon returned to his lodging in Stamford Street; and
the Resurrection Man proceeded into the Westminster Road, where he took a cab,
saying to the driver, "Golden Lane, Saint
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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