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[-267-] 

CHAPTER CCXVII.

THE PRISONER IN THE SUBTERRANEAN.

    IT was on the same morning when Adeline came to London in the manner just described, that Anthony Tidkins merged [-sic-] from his dwelling, hastened up the dark alley, and entered the ground-floor of the building.
    He was not, however, alone:  Mr. Banks, who had been breakfasting with him, followed close behind.
    "Light the darkey, old fellow," said the Resurrection Man, when they were both in the back room; "while I raise the trap. We must bring matters to an end somehow or another this morning."
    "I hope so," returned Banks. "It isn't wary probable that the poor old wessel will have pluck enow to hold out much longer. Why  it must be near upon ten days that she's been here."
    "I dare say it is," observed the Resurrection Man, coolly: "but she'll never stir out till she gives us the information we want. It would be worth a pretty penny to us. The young girl was evidently dying to know about her parents, that night she met the old woman; and she can get money from her friends  she said so."
    "Well," returned Banks, "let us hope that the old woman has thought better on it by this time and will make a clean buzzim of it. It would be a great pity and a wery useless crime if we was obleeged to knock the sinful old wessel on the head arter all: her corpse would fetch nothing at the surgeon's."
    "Don't be afraid," said Tidkins: "it won't come to that. She was half inclined to tell every thing last night when I visited her as usual. But come along, and let's see how she is disposed this morning."
    The Resurrection Man descended the stone staircase, followed by Banks, who carried the light.
    In a few moments they entered the vault where their prisoner was confined.
    And that prisoner was the vile hag of Golden Lane!
    A lamp burned feebly upon the table in the subterranean; and the old woman was already up and dressed when the two men made their appearance.
    She was sitting in a chair, dolefully rocking herself to and fro and uttering low moans as she pondered upon her condition and the terms on which she might obtain her release.
    When the Resurrection Man and Banks entered the subterranean, she turned a hasty glance towards them, and then continued to rock and moan as before.
    The two men seated themselves on the side of the bed.
    "Well," said the Resurrection Man, "have you made up your mind, old woman? Because me and my friend Banks are pretty tired of this delay; and if the solitary system won't do  why, we must try what good can be effected by starvation."
    "Alack! I have always thought myself bad enough," said the old hag; "but you are a very devil."
    "Ah! and you shall find this place hell too, if you go on humbugging me much longer," returned the Resurrection Man, savagely. "You have only got yourself to thank for all this trouble that you're in. If you had behaved in a straightforward manner, all would have gone on right enough. My friend Banks here can tell you the same. But you tried to get the upper hand of me throughout the business."
    "No  no," murmured the hag, still rocking herself.
    "But I say yes  yes," answered the Resurrection Man. "In the first place you would tell me nothing about Catherine Wilmot's parentage: you kept it all close to yourself. I suspected you  I even told you so. I declared that 'if I caught you out in any of your tricks, I would hang you up to your own bed-post, as readily as I would ring the neck of your old cat.' And I will keep my word yet, if you refuse to give me the information I require."
    "What will become of me? what will become of me?" moaned the old hag. "Alack! alack!"
    "You'll very soon find out," answered Tidkins. "But I just want to prove to you that I am right in all I am doing with regard to you. In the first place you would speak to Katherine alone: that didn't look well. You said I might be a witness at a distance  or when the money was paid; but I knew that to be all humbug. However, I let you have your way at the beginning  if it was only to see how the young girl would receive you. Well, friend Banks drives us to Hounslow: we set off to the farm  we meet Katherine and another young lady  and this Miss Monroe throws cold water on the whole business. Still you won't speak before witnesses. We go back to the inn at Hounslow: we concoct the note to Kate; and friend Banks undertakes to deliver it, as it seemed he knew something of her. He managed to give it to her; and you, old woman, go off to meet her at seven. Now did you think I was so precious green as not to take advantage of the opportunity? Not I! I went after you  I crept round behind the fences near where you and Katherine met each other  and I heard every word that passed between you."
    "Alack! alack!" moaned the old woman.
    "Yes  I heard every thing," continued the Resurrection Man;  "enough to prove to me that the young girl would give half her fortune to learn the truth concerning her father and mother. I also understood pretty well that there is the name of Markham in the case; and I was struck by the manner in which you urged her to purchase your secret, when she informed you that Richard Mark-[-268-]ham  the Markham whom I know and hate  had been made a great lord. All you said in respect to the conditions on which your secret was to be sold didn't astonish me at all. It only confirmed me in the conviction that you had intended throughout to gammon me. You meant to make use of me as a tool to find out Katherine's address, and then to reserve for your own particular plucking the pigeon whose hiding-place I had detected. 'The man who was with me this morning, is a bad one,' said you: 'he is avaricious, and desires to turn my knowledge of this secret to a good account.'  And so I did, you old harridan; and so I mean to do now  He is a desperate man, and I dare not offend him,' you went on to say.  Egad! you've found out that you spoke pretty truly.  'He wants money; and money he must have.'  True again: and money I will have too. The girl tells you she is rich and anxious to purchase the secret; and when she asks you how much will satisfy me, you coolly tell her, 'A hundred pounds,'  A hundred devils! And then, in your gammoning, snivelling way, you demand of her the 'wherewith to make your few remaining days happy!"'
    "Alas! I am a poor old soul  a poor old soul!" murmured the horrible crone, shaking her head. "Do with me what you will  kill me at once!"
    "And what the devil good would your carcass be to us?" exclaimed the Resurrection Man.
    "A workus coffin would be thrown away on it," added Mr. Banks.
    "So it would, Ned," returned Tidkins. "But I'll just finish what I have to say to the old woman; and we'll then go to the point. I was so disgusted, and in such an infernal rage, when I heard you going on in such a rascally manner,  selling me, and taking care of yourself,  that I determined at one time to come down from behind the palings, and force you to tell Katherine Wilmot on the spot all you knew about her parents, and then trust to her generosity. And as the night had turned dark, I had moved away from the spot, and was coming towards you along the path, when you heard the rustling of my cloak. At that instant another idea struck me: I resolved to bring you here, and get the secret out of you. I therefore crept softly back behind the fence. Then you went on with a deal more nonsense  all of which I heard as well as the rest. I was now determined to punish you: so I got back to the inn before you  arranged it all with Banks  and we had you up to London, and safely lodged here in this pleasant little place, that very night. Now, tell me the truth, old woman  don't you deserve it all!"
    "Lack-a-day!" crooned the harridan.
    "She does indeed deserve it, Tony," said Banks, shaking his head with that solemnity which he had affected so long as at length to use it mechanically: "she's as gammoning an old weasel as ever stood a chance of making a ugly carkiss to be burnt in the bone-house by my friend Jones the grave-digger."
    "Now, by Satan!" suddenly ejaculated the Resurrection Man, starting up, and laying his iron hand on the hag's shoulder so as to prevent her from rocking to and fro any longer; "if you don't give up this infernal croaking and moaning, I'll invent some damnable torture to make you tractable. Speak, old wretch!" he shouted in her ears, as he shook her violently: "will you tell us the secret about Katherine Wilmot  or will you not?"
    "Not now  not now!" cried the hag: "another time!"
    "I will not wait another hour!" ejaculated the Resurrection Man; "but, by God! I'll put you to some torture. What shall we do to her, Banks?"
    "Screw her cussed carkiss down in one of my coffins for an hour or so," answered the undertaker.
    "No  that won't do," said the Resurrection Man.
    "I always punishes my children in that way," observed Banks; "and I find it a wery sallitary example."
    "I know what we'll do," exclaimed Tidkins "they say that Dick Turpin used to put old women on the fire to make them tell where their money was. Suppose we serve this wretched hag out in the same way?"
    "I'm quite agreeable," returned Banks, with as much complacency as if a party of pleasure had been proposed to him. "I b'lieve you've got a brazier."
    "Yes  up in the front room, ground-floor, where all the resurrection-tools are kept," answered Tidkins. "You go and fetch it  bring plenty of coal and wood, and the bellows  and we'll precious soon make the old woman speak out."
    The undertaker departed to execute this commission; and Tidkins again reasoned with the hag.
    But all he could get out of her was a moaning exclamation; and as soon as he withdrew his hand from her shoulder, she began rocking backwards and forwards as before.
    It suddenly struck the Resurrection Man that she was actually losing her senses through the rigours of confinement; and he became alarmed  not on her account, but for the secret which he wished to extort from her.
    As this idea flashed to his mind, he cast a rapid glance towards the old woman; and surprised her as she herself was scrutinising his countenance with the most intense interest, while she was all the time pretending to be listlessly rocking herself.
    "Another gag  by hell!" ejaculated Tidkins "What do you take me for? You think that I am such a miserable fool as to be deluded by your tricks? Not I, Indeed! Ah! you would affect madness  idiotcy  would you? Why, if you really went mad through captivity in this place, I would knock you on the head at once  for fear that if you were let loose you might peach in your ravings about my designs concerning Kate Wilmot. But if you tell me, in your sober senses, all I want to know, I'll give you your freedom in twelve hours; because I am very well aware that you would not, when in possession of your reason, attract attention to your own ways of life by betraying mine."
    "And if I tell you all I know," said the hag, seeing that her new design was detected and that it was useless to persist in it,  "if I tell you all I know, why will you not allow me to go home at once?"
    "Because you came here in the night  and you shall go away in the night: because you arrived blindfolded  and you shall depart blindfolded," replied the Resurrection Man, sternly. "Do you think that I would let an old treacherous hag like you discover the whereabouts of this house? Why  you have no more idea at present whether you're in Saint Giles's or the Mint  Clerkenwell or Shoreditch  Bond Street or Rosemary Lane;  and I [-269-] don't intend you ever to be any wiser. But here comes Banks, with the brazier."
    The undertaker made his appearance, laden with the articles for which he had been sent.
    The Resurrection Man laid the wood and coals in the brazier, and applied a match. In a few moments there was a bright blaze, which he fanned by means of the bellows.
    "It'll be a good fire in a minute or two," said Tidkins, coolly.
    "Almost as good as Jones makes in the bone-house where he burns the blessed carkisses of wenerable defuncts," returned Mr. Banks.
    "Don't blow any more, Mr. Tidkins  save yourself the trouble," said the hag, now really alarmed. "I will make terms with you."
    "Terms, indeed!" growled the Resurrection Man. "Well  what have you to say!"
    "If I tell you every thing, you can get what money you choose out of Katherine," continued the old woman; "and I shall not receive a penny."
    "Serve you right for having tried to gammon me."
    "That will be very hard  very hard indeed," added the hag. "And after all, when you go to Katherine Wilmot and reveal to her the secrets I communicate to you, she will ask you for proofs  proofs," repeated the old woman, with a cunning leer; "and you will have no proofs to give her."
    "Then you shall write out the whole history, and sign it," said Tidkins; "and my friend Banks will witness it."
    "Yes," observed the undertaker, smoothing his limp cravat-ends: "Edward Banks, of Globe Lane, Globe Town  Furnisher of Funerals on New and Economic Principles  Good Deal Coffin, Eight Shillings and  "
    "Hold your nonsense, Ned," cried Tidkins: then addressing himself again to the old woman, he said, "Well  don't you think that scheme would answer to the purpose?"
    "Very likely  very likely," exclaimed the hag. "But proofs  written proofs  would not be bad companions to the statement that you wish me to draw up."
    "And have you such written proofs?" demanded Tidkins. eagerly.
    "I have  I have," was the reply.
    "Where are they?"
    "Where you cannot discover them  concealed at my own abode. No one could find them even if they pulled the house down, except myself."
    And again the hag leered cunningly.
    "This only makes the matter more important," mused the Resurrection Man, now hesitating between his avarice and his desire to possess such important testimony. "Well," he continued after a pause,  "to use your own words, we will make terms. I tell you what I'll do:  write out your history of the whole business in full  in full mind; and I will give you ten guineas down. At night me and Banks will take you home  to your own place; where you shall give me up the written proofs you talk of  and I will give you another ten guineas. Now is that a bargain!"
    "Alack! It must be  it must be!" said the hag. "But why not let me go home to write out the history!"
    "I am not quite such a fool," returned Tidkins. "And mind you do not attempt to decieve [-sic-] me with any inventions for I shall deuced soon be able to tell whether your history tallies with all I overheard you and Katherine say together on the subject. Besides, the written proofs must be forthcoming  and they, too, must fully corroborate all you state. Fail in any one of these conditions  and, by Satan I'll cut your throat from ear to ear. Do you agree?"
    "I do," answered the hag. "Give me paper and pens."
    Tidkins departed to fetch writing materials, food, some strong liquor, and oil for the old woman's lamp.
    In five minutes he returned; and, placing those articles upon the table, said, "When will your task be completed?"
    "It will take me some hours," returned the hag: "for I have much to think of  much to write!" And she heaved a deep sigh.
    "This evening I will visit you again," said the Resurrection Man.
    He and Banks then fastened the huge door upon the old woman, and left the subterranean.
    When they reached the street, the undertaker departed in the direction of his own house; and the Resurrection Man ascended to his apartment on the first floor.

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