chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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OLD HAG AND THE RESURRECTION MAN.
Old Hag, who has so frequently figured in former portions of our narrative, had
latterly become more prosperous, if not more respectable, than when we first
introduced her to our readers.
From having been the occupant of only one room in the
house in the court leading from Golden Lane, she had become the lessee of the
entire dwelling. The commencement of this success was owing to her connexion
with Lady Cecilia Harborough in the intrigue of the "living statue;"
and from that moment affairs seemed to have taken a new turn with her. At all
events her "business" increased; and the sphere of her infamy became
She would have taken another and better house, in some
fashionable quarter, and re-commenced the avocation of a first-rate
brothel-keeper — the pursuit of the middle period of her life; — but
she reasoned that she was known to a select few where she was — that
the obscurity of her dwelling was favourable to many of the nefarious projects
in which her aid was required — and that she was too old to dream of
forming a new connexion elsewhere.
It would be impossible to conceive a soul more
diabolically hardened, more inveterately depraved, than that of this old hag.
In order to increase her resources, and occupy, as she
said, "her leisure time," she had hired or bought some half-dozen
young girls, about ten or twelve years old; — hired or bought them,
whichever the reader pleases, of their parents, a "consideration"
having been given for each, and the said parents comforting themselves with the
idea that their children were well provided for!
These children of tender age were duly initiated by the
old hag in all the arts and pursuits of prostitution. They were sent in pairs to
parade Aldersgate Street, Fleet Street, and Cheapside; and their special
instructions were to practise their allurements upon elderly men, whose tastes
might be deemed more vitiated and eccentric than those of the younger loungers
of the great thoroughfares where prostitution most thrives.
A favourite scheme of the old woman's was this: — One
of her juvenile emissaries succeeded, we will suppose, in alluring to the den in
Golden Lane an elderly man whose outward respectability denoted a well-filled
purse, and ought to have been associated with better morals. When the wickedness
was consummated, and the elderly gentleman was about to depart, the old hag
would meet him and the young girl on the stairs, and, affecting to treat the
latter as a stranger who had merely used her home as a common place of such
resort, would seem stupefied at the idea "of so youthful a creature
having been brought to her abode for such a purpose." She would then
question the girl concerning her age; and the reply would be "under
twelve" of course. Thus the elderly voluptuary would suddenly find
himself liable to punishment for a misdemeanour, for intriguing with a girl
beneath the age of twelve, and the virtuous indignation of the old hag would be
vented in assertions that though she kept a house of accommodation for grown-up
persons, she abhorred the encouragement of juvenile profligacy. The result would
be that the hoary old sinner found himself compelled to pay a considerable sum
We might occupy many pages with the details of the
tricks and artifices which the old hag taught these young girls. And of a
surety, they were subjects sufficiently plastic to enable her to model them to
all her infamous purposes. Born of parents who never took the trouble to
inculcate a single moral lesson, even if they knew any, those poor creatures had
actually remained ignorant of the meaning of right and wrong until they were old
enough to take an interest in the events that were passing around them. Then,
when they missed some lad of their acquaintance, and, on inquiry, learnt that he
had been sent to prison for taking something which did not belong to him, they
began to understand that it was dangerous to do such an act — but
it did not strike them that it was wrong. Again, if by accident they
heard that another boy whom they knew, had got a good place, was very
industrious, and in a fair way to prosper, they would perceive some utility
in such conduct, but would still remain unable to appreciate its rectitude.
Most of the girls whom the old hag had enlisted in her
service, had been born and reared in that dirty warren which constitutes Golden
Lane, Upper Whitecross Street, Playhouse Yard, Swan Street, and all their
innumerable courts, alleys, and obscure nooks, swarming with a ragged and
degraded population. Sometimes in their infancy they creeped out from their
loathsome burrows, and even ven-[-204-]tured into Old Street, Barbican, or Beech Street But those excursions
were not frequent. During their childhood they rolled half-naked in the
gutters, — eating the turnip-parings and cabbage-stalks which were
tossed out into the Street with other offal, — poking about in the
kennels to find lost half-pence, — or even plundering the
cat's-meat-man and the tripe-shop for the means of satisfying their hunger! This
mode of life was but little varied; — unless, in- a deed, it were by
the more agreeable recreations of particular days in the year. Thus, for
instance, November was welcomed as the time for making a Guy-Fawkes, and
carrying it round in procession amidst the pestilential mazes of the warren;
August gave them "oyster day," to be signalised by the building of
shell-grottoes, which were an excuse for importuning passengers for alms; and
the December season had its "boxing-day," on which occasion the poor
ragged creatures would be seen thronging the doors of the oil-shops to beg for
These had been the only holidays which characterised the
childhood of those unfortunate, lost, degraded girls whose lot we are
describing. Sunday was not marked by cleanlier apparel, nor better food if it
were singled out at all from the other days of the week, the distinguishing sign
was merely a the extra drunkenness of the fathers of the families.
Good Friday brought the little victims no hot-cross
buns, nor Christmas Day its festivities, nor Shrove Tuesday its pancakes: — they
had no knowledge of holy periods nor sacred ceremonies; — no
seasonable luxury reminded them of the anniversaries of the birth, the death, or
the resurrection of a Redeemer.
No — in physical privations and moral
blindness had they passed their infancy — and thus, having gone
through a complete initiation into the miseries and sufferings of life, they
were prepared at the age of ten to commence an apprenticeship of crime. And the
old hag was an excellent mistress: were there an University devoted to graduates
in Wickedness, this horrible wretch would have taken first-class Degrees in its
schools, a Thus, be it understood, up to the age of ten or eleven, when those
poor girls were transferred by their unfeeling parents (who were glad to get rid
of them) to the care of the old woman, they had scarcely ever been out of the
warren where they were born. Now a new world, as it were, dawned upon them. They
laid aside their fetid rags, and put on garments which appeared queenly robes in
their eyes. They were sent into streets lined with splendid shops, and beheld
gay carriages and equipages of all kinds. Hitherto the principal gin-shop in
their rookery had appeared the most gorgeous palace in the world in their eyes,
with its revolving burners, its fine windows, and its meretriciously dressed
bar-girls: — now they could feast their gaze with the splendours of
the linen-drapers' and jewellers' establishments on Ludgate Hill. Their
existence seemed to be suddenly invested with charms a that they had never
before dreamt of; and they adored the old hag as the authoress of their good
fortune. Thus she established a sovereign dominion over her poor ignorant
victims through the medium -~ of their mistaken gratitude; and when she told
them to sin, they sinned — sinned, too, before they even knew the
meaning of virtue!
Such was the history — not of one only — but
of all the young girls whom this atrocious old hag had bought from their
To many — to most of our readers, the
details of this description may seem improbable, — nay, impossible.
The picture is, alas! too true.
Poor fallen children! the world scorns you — society
contemns you — the unthinking blame you. But, just heaven! are ye
more culpable than that a community which took no precaution to prevent your
degradation, and which now adopts no measures to reclaim you?
As for ourselves, we declare most solemnly that we
believe no age to have been more disgraced than the present one, and no country
more culpable than our own. In this age of Bibles and country of glorious
civilisation, — in this epoch of missions and land of
refinement, — in this period of grand political reform, and nation
of ten thousand philanthropic institutions, — in the middle of this
nineteenth century, and with all the advantages of profound peace, — -and,
what is worst of all, in that great city which vaunts itself the metropolis of
the civilised world there are thousands of young children whose neglected,
hopeless, and miserable condition can only be looked upon as an apprenticeship
calculated to fill our streets with prostitutes of finished depravity — to
people our gaols, hulks, and penal colonies with villains familiar with every
phase of crime — and to supply our scaffolds with victims for thin
diversion of a rude and ruthless mob!
It was nine o'clock in the evening; and the old hag was
seated in the same room where we have before frequently seen her.
She was, however, surrounded by several additional
comforts. She no longer burnt turf in her grate, but good Wall's End coals. She
no longer placed her feet on an old mat, but on a thick carpet, She no longer
bought her gin by the quartern or half pint, but by the bottle. She sweetened
her tea with lump sugar, instead of moist; and in the place of a stew of tripe
or cow-heel, she had a joint cooked at the bake-house, or a chicken boiled on
her own fire.
Her select patrons had contributed much towards this
improvement in her circumstances; but the luxuries in which she could now
indulge, were provided for her by the prostitution of her young victims.
She was now dozing in her arm-chair, with her great cat
upon her lap; but even in the midst of her semi-slumber, her ears were awake to
the least motion of the knocker of the house-door — that sound which
was the indication of business!
Thus, when, true to the time appointed in his note, the
Resurrection Man arrived at the house, not many moments elapsed ere he was
admitted into the hag's parlour.
"So you have discovered the address of Katherine
Wilmot," said the hag. "Where does she nestle?"
"No matter where," returned the Resurrection
Man; "it is sufficient that I can communicate with her, or bring her up to
London, when it suits me. I have come now to have a full understanding with you
on the subject; and if we play our cards well, we may obtain a round sum of
money from this girl — that is, supposing she is really the child of
the Harriet Wilmot whom you knew."
"There can be no doubt of it — there
can be no doubt of it," exclaimed the old hag, rocking herself to and fro.
"She is the daughter of that Harriet
[-205-] Wilmot whom I knew, and whose image sometimes haunts me in my
"But what proofs have you of the fact?"
demanded the Resurrection Man. "It will not suit me to take any more
trouble in the matter, unless I know for certain that I am not running a
"I shall not tell you how I came to know Harriet
Wilmot seventeen years ago, nor any thing more about her than I can help,"
said the old hag resolutely. "I was, however, well acquainted with
her — I knew all about her. With her own lips she told me her
history. She was for some time engaged to be married to a young man — young
at that period — at Southampton. His name was Smithers.
Circumstances separated them before the realisation of their hopes and wishes;
and she came to London with her father, who soon afterwards died of a broken
heart through misfortunes in business."
"Broken heart!" exclaimed the Resurrection Man
contemptuously: "who ever died of a broken heart? But never mind — go
"Harriet was alone in the world — an
orphan — unprotected — and without friends or
resources," continued the hag. "She was accordingly compelled to go
out to service. A wealthy gentleman saw her, and fell in love with her-but I
shall not tell you all about that! No — I shall not tell you
about that! Harriet's was a strange fate — a sad fate; and I
do not like to think of the part I acted in some respects towards her,"
added the old woman, shaking her head, as if it were in regret of the past.
"Go on," said the Resurrection Man. "If
you have got anything unpleasant in your memory, all the shakings of heads in
the world won't drive it out."
"Alack! you speak the truth — you speak
the truth," muttered the old woman. "It was the blackest deed I ever
committed — I wish it had never occurred: it troubles me very often;
and when I cannot sleep at night, I am constantly thinking of Harriet
"What is all this to lead to?" demanded
"I shall not trouble you with many more of my
reflections," said the hag. "Harriet became a mother: she had a
daughter, on whom she bestowed the name of Katherine. Three or four years
afterwards I lost sight of her, and never beheld her more. From that time all
traces of herself and her child were gone until last year, when the murder of
Reginald Tracy's housekeeper placed the name of Katherine Wilmot before the
public. That name immediately struck me: the newspapers said she was sixteen
years old — precisely the age that Harriet's daughter must have
been. Then the name of Smithers was mixed up in the proceedings which ensued: I
saw it all — Harriet must be dead, and Smithers had adopted her
child as his niece! But, to convince myself still further, I went to the Old
Bailey — I saw Katherine in the dock: you might have knocked me down
with a feather, so strong was the resemblance between the young girl and her
deceased mother! I came home — I was very ill:- methought I had seen the ghost of
one whom I had deeply, deeply injured!"
"And now you have so far forgotten your remorse
that you are desirous to turn your knowledge of Katherine's parentage to good
account?" said the Resurrection Man, with a sneering laugh. "But how
do you know that she is not well informed on that head already?"
"She cannot be — she cannot be,"
answered the old hag; "she would not bear the name of Wilmot if she was.
Besides, I have since ascertained that her mother died when she was only four
years old; and therefore Katherine was too young to receive any revelation from
her parent's lips. No — no: I have good reason to believe that
Katherine knows nothing of her paternal origin."
"I am now perfectly satisfied, from all you have
told me, that Katherine Wilmot is the daughter of the Harriet whom you
knew," said the Resurrection Man; "and as you seem so positive that
she is not aware of many important particulars concerning her birth, I will
proceed in the business you have proposed to me."
"Where is she living?" inquired the old woman.
"If I tell you that," said Tidkins, "what
guarantee have I got that you will not post off alone to her, extort the
purchase-money for your secrets, and chouse me out of my reglars? Look you — I
have been at the trouble and expense of finding her out — which you
never could have done — and I must go halves with you in the produce
of the affair."
"So you shall — so you may,"
returned the old woman. "But I will not. speak to her in your hearing. I
don't know how it is that I have a strange superstitious awe in connexion with
all that concerns Harriet Wilmot's memory and the existence of her child. I
cannot help the feeling — I cannot help it."
"By Satan," exclaimed the Resurrection Man,
darting a furious glance upon the hag, "you are either a drivelling fool,
or you are deceiving me. You entertain compunction about these Wilmots — and
yet you purpose to obtain money from the girl. Now is this consistent? Take care
how you play with me; for — if I catch you out in any of your
tricks — I will hang you up to your own bedpost as readily as I
would wring the neck of that damned old cat."
"You shall see whether I will deceive you — you
shall see," cried the old hag, with some degree of alarm. "Arrange the
business as you will, so long as I may have speech of Katherine without being
overheard; but you shall be present when she pays me for the secret which I have
"Let that be the understanding, and I am
agreeable," observed the Resurrection Man. "Will it suit you to go a
few miles out of town with me tomorrow?"
"Is it to see Katherine?" inquired the hag.
"What the devil else do you think I want your
company for?" cried Tidkins: "to take you to dine at Greenwich or
Blackwall — eh? Not quite such a fool as that! However, to-morrow
morning you may expect me at seven o'clock — "
"It is not light at that hour," observed the
"I prefer the dusk of either morning or
evening," answered the Resurrection Man. "It suits me better — because
I have a few enemies in London. But, as I was saying, I shall call for you at
seven tomorrow morning; a friend of mine — one Banks of
Globe-Town — has a covered spring-cart and a capital bit of
horseflesh. He will drive us to where we have to go, in no time. So don't keep
us waiting — as the vehicle will be at the bottom of the lane by a
quarter to seven."
The old hag promised to be punctual; and the
Resurrection Man took his departure from her den.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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