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LONDON [Vol. II]
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Jem was at dinner, in the afternoon of the day which followed the night of
Holford's sad historical studies, when the young man entered his room.
"Oh! so you've turned up at last," said Jem,
pointing to a seat, and pushing a plate across the table in the same direction.
"What have you been doing with yourself for the last two days? But sit down
first, and get something to eat; for you look as pale and haggard as if you'd
just been turned out of a workhouse."
"I am not well, Jem," replied Holford,
evasively; "and I cannot eat — thank you all the same. But I
will take a glass of beer: it may refresh me."
"Do. You really seem very ill, my poor lad,"
observed Crankey Jem, attentively surveying Holford's countenance, which was
sadly changed. "If you have got no money left, my little store is at your
service, as far as it goes; and you need not think of working in any way till
you are better. I can easily make another boat or two more during the week; and
so you shall not want for either medicine or good food."
"You are very kind to me, Jem," said Holford,
wiping away a tear. "If it hadn't been for you I don't know what I should
have done. You have supplied me with the means of getting a lodging and — "
"And you served me well by tracing the villain
Tidkins to his nest in Globe Town," interrupted the returned transport.
"I have watched about that neighbourhood every night since you followed him
there, and have seen something that has made me hesitate a little before I pay
him the debt of vengeance I owe him. Now that he is in my power, I don't care
about waiting a while. Besides, if I can find him out in something that would
send him to the gibbet, I would sooner let him die that way — as a
dog, with a halter round his neck — than kill him outright with my
"And you suspect — " began Holford.
Yes — yes: but no matter now," cried
Jem, hastily. "You are not in the right mood to-day to listen to me: but,
either I am very much mistaken, or murder has been committed within the
last few days at that house in Globe Town. At all events, I saw a person taken
by force into the place one night; and that person has never come out again
"How do you know!" said Holford. "You
only watch about the neighbourhood by night."
"And is it likely that a person who was conveyed
into that house by force during the night, would be allowed to walk quietly out
in the day-time?" demanded Crankey Jem. "No such thing! Tidkins is not
the chap to play such a game. The person I speak of was blindfolded — I
could see it all as plain as possible, for the moon was bright, though I kept in
the shade. Now, being blindfolded," continued Jem, "It was to prevent
her — "
"What! was the person a woman?" cried Holford,
his interest in Jem's conversation somewhat increasing, in spite of the
absorbing nature of his own reflections.
"Yes. And, as I was saying, the blindfolding was of
course to prevent her knowing whereabouts she was: so it isn't likely that
Tidkins would let her go away again in the broad day-light."
"Neither does it seem probable that he took her
there to make away with her," said Holford; "for, as the dead tell no
tales, there was not any use in binding her eyes."
"That also struck me," observed Crankey
Jem; "and it's all those doubts and uncertainties that make me watch him so
close to find out what it all means. And, mark, me, Harry — I will
find it all out too! I'm pretty near as cunning as he is! Why — what
a fool he must take me for, if he thinks I can't see that he has got a great
hulking chap to dog me about. But I always give him the slip somehow or another;
and every evening when I go out I take a different direction. So I'll be bound
that I've set Tidkins and his man at fault. The night afore last I saw the spy,
as I call him — [-249-]
I mean the chap
that is set to dog me-go to Tidkins's house; and about an hour afterwards a man
I once knew well-one Jack Wicks, who is called the Buffer — went
there also. And there's a precious nest of them!"
"I say, Jem," exclaimed Henry Holford,
abruptly "I wish you would lend me your pistols for a few hours."
"And what do you want with pistols, young
feller?" demanded the returned convict, laying down his knife, and looking
Holford full in the face.
"A friend of mine has made a wager with another man
about hitting a halfpenny at thirty paces," said Henry, returning the
glance in a manner so confident and unabashed, that Jem's suspicions were hushed
in a moment.
"Yes — you shall have the pistols till
this evening" said he: "but mind you bring 'em back before dusk."
With these words, he rose, went to a cupboard, and
produced the weapons.
"I'll be sure to bring them back by the time you go
out," said Holford. "Are they loaded!"
"No," answered Jem. "But here's powder
and ball, which you can take along with you."
"I wish you would load them all ready,"
observed Holford. "I — I don't think my friend knows how."
"Not know how to load a pistol — and
yet be able a to handle one skilfully!" ejaculated Jem, his vague
"Many persons learn to fire at a mark at Copenhagen
House, or a dozen other places about London," said the young man, still
completely unabashed; "and yet they can't load a pistol for the life of
"Well — that's true enough,"
Still he was not quite reassured; and yet he was
unwilling to tax Holford with requiring the pistols for any improper purpose.
The young lad's reasons might be true-they were at least feasible-and Jem was
loth to hurt his feelings by hinting at any suspicion which the demand for the
weapons had occasioned. Moreover, it would be churlish to refuse the loan of
them — and almost equally so to decline loading them; — and
the returned convict possessed an obliging disposition, although he had been so
much knocked about in the world. He was also attached to Henry Holford, and
would go far to serve him.
[-250-] Nevertheless, he
"Well — won't you do what I ask you,
Jem?" said Holford, observing that he wavered.
"Is it really for your friends?" demanded the
man, turning short round upon the lad.
"Don't you believe me?" cried Holford, now
blushing deeply. "Why, you cannot think that I'm going to commit a highway
robbery or a burglary in the day-time — even if I ever did at
"No — no," said Jem; "but you
seemed so strange — so excited — when you first came
in — "
"Ha! ha!" cried Holford, laughing: "you
thought I was going to make away with myself! No, Jem — the river
would be better than the pistol, if I meant that."
"Well — you must have your will,
then," said Crankey Jem; and, turning to the cupboard, he proceeded to load
But still he was not altogether satisfied! — Holford
rose from his seat with an assumed air of indifference, and approached the table
where the little models of the ships were standing.
A few minutes thus elapsed in profound silence.
"They're all ready now," said Jem, at length;
"and as your friends don't know how to load them, it's no use your taking
the powder and ball. I suppose they'll fire a shot each, and have done with
"I suppose so," returned Holford, as he
concealed the pistols about his person. "I shall see you again presently.
Good bye till then."
"Good bye," said Jem.
But scarcely had Holford left the room a minute, when
the returned convict followed him. — The fact was that there shot
forth a gleam of such inexpressible satisfaction from Holford's eyes, at the
moment when he grasped the pistols, that the vague suspicions which had already
been floating in the mind of Crankey Jem seamed suddenly to receive
confirmation — or at least to be materially strengthened; and he
feared lest his young friend meditated self-destruction.
"The pistols are of no use to him," muttered
Jem, as he hastened down the stairs, slouching his large hat over his eyes;
"but if he is bent on suicide, the river is not far off. I don't like his
manner at all!"
When he gained the street, he looked hastily up and
down, and caught a glimpse of Holford, who was just turning into Russell Street,
leading from Drury Lane towards Covent Garden.
"I will watch him at all events," thought
Crankey Jem. "If he means no harm, he will never find out that I did it;
and if he does, I may save him."
Meantime, Holford, little suspecting that his friend was
at no great distance behind him, pursued his way towards St. James's Park.
Now that his mind was bent upon a particular object, and
that all considerations had resolved themselves into that fixed determination,
his countenance, though very pale, was singularly calm and tranquil; and neither
by his face nor his manner did he attract any particular notice as he wandered
He gained the Park, and proceeded up the Mall towards
Crankey Jem followed him at a distance.
"Perhaps, after all, it is true that he has got
some friends to meet," he muttered to himself; "and it may be
somewhere hereabouts that he is to join them."
Holford stopped midway in the wide road intersecting
Constitution Hill, and lounged in an apparently indifferent manner against the
fence skirting the Green Park.
There were but few persons about, in that particular
direction, at the time, — although the afternoon was very fine, and
the sun was shining brightly through the fresh, frosty air.
It was now three o'clock; and some little bustle was
visible amongst those few loungers who were at the commencement of the road, and
who were enabled to command a view of the front of the palace.
They ranged themselves on one side: — there
was a trampling of horses; and in a few moments a open phaeton, drawn by four
bays, turned rapidly from the park into the road leading over Constitution Hill.
"They are coming!" murmured Holford to
himself, as he observed the equipage from the short distance where he was
Every hat was raised by the little group at the end of
the road, as the vehicle dashed by — for in it were seated the Queen
and her illustrious husband.
By a strange coincidence Her Majesty was sitting on the
left hand of Prince Albert, and not on the right as usual: she was consequently
nearest to the wall of the palace-gardens, while the Prince was nearest to the
railings of the Green Park.
And now the moment so anxiously desired by Holford, was
at hand: — the phaeton draw nigh.
He hesitated: — yes — he
hesitated; — but it was only for a single second.
"Now to avenge my expulsion from the palace! — now
to make my name a subject for history!" were the thoughts that, rapid as
lightning, flashed across his mind.
Not another moment did he waver; but, advancing from the
railings against which he had been lounging, he drew a pistol from his breast
and fired it point-blank at the royal couple as the phaeton dashed past.
The Queen screamed and rose from her seat; and the
postillions stopped their horses.
"Drive on!" cried the Prince, in a loud tone,
as he pulled Her Majesty back upon the seat; and his countenance was ashy pale.
Holford threw the first pistol hastily away from him,
and drew forth the second.
But at that moment a powerful grasp seized him from
behind, — his arm was knocked upwards, — the pistol went
off into the air, — and a well-known voice cried in his ears,
"My God! Harry, what madness is this?"
Several other persons had by this time collected on the
spot; and the most cordial shouts of "God save the Queen!" "God
save the Prince!" burst from their lips.
Her Majesty bowed in a most graceful and grateful
manner: the Prince raised his hat in acknowledgment of the sympathy and
attachment manifested towards his royal spouse and himself; — and
the phaeton rolled rapidly away towards Hyde Park, in obedience to the wishes of
the Queen and the orders of the Prince.
"What madness is this, I say, Harry?" repeated
Crankey Jem, without relaxing his hold upon the would-be regicide.
[-251-] But Holford hung
down his head, and maintained a moody silence.
"Do you know him?" "Who is he?" were
the questions that were now addressed to Crankey Jem from all sides.
But before he could answer his interrogators, two
policemen broke through the crowd, and took Holford into custody.
"We must take him to the Home Office," said
one of the officers, who was a serjeant, to his companion.
"Yes, Mr. Crisp," was the reply.
"And you, my good feller," continued the
serjeant, addressing himself to Crankey Jem, "had better come along with
us — since you was the first to seize on this here young
"I'd rather not," said Jem, now terribly
alarmed on his own account: "I — "
"Oh! nonsense," cried Mr. Crisp. "The
Home Secretary is a wery nice genelman, and will tell you how much obleeged he
is to you for having seized — But, I say," added Mr. Crisp,
changing his tone and assuming a severe look as he gazed on the countenance of
the returned convict, "what the deuce have we here?"
"What, Mr. Crisp?" said the policeman, who had
charge of Holford.
"Why! if my eyes doesn't deceive me," cried
the serjeant, "this here feller is one James Cuffin, generally known as
Crankey Jem — and he's a 'scaped felon."
With these words Mr. Crisp collared the poor fellow, who
offered no resistance.
But large tears rolled down his cheeks!
Policemen and prisoners then proceeded across the park
to the Home Office, followed by a crowd that rapidly increased in numbers as it
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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