< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON [Vol. II]  |  > next chapter >


[-415-]

CHAPTER CCLVII.

THE REVENGE

    IT was about eleven o'clock in the night of the first Saturday of June, that the Resurrection Man  the terrible Anthony Tidkins  issued from the dwelling of Mr. Banks, the undertaker in Globe Lane, Globe Town.
    Mr. Banks followed him to the threshold, and, ere he bade him good night said, as he retained him by the sleeve, "And so you are determined to go back to the old crib?"
    "Yes  to be sure I am," returned Tidkins. "I've been looking after that scoundrel Crankey Jem for the last two years, without even being able so much as to hear of him. The Bully Grand has set all his Forty Thieves to work for me; and still not a trace  not a sign of the infernal villain!"
    "Well," observed Banks, "it does look as if the cussed weasel had made his-self scarce to some foreign part, where it's to be hoped he's dead, buried, and resurrectionised by this time."
    "Or else he's living like a fighting-cock on all the tin he robbed me of," exclaimed Tidkins, with a savage growl. "But I'm sure he's not in London; and so I don't see any reason to prevent me from going back to my old crib. I shall feel happy again there. It's now two years and better since left it-and I 'm sick of doing nothing but hunt after a chap that's perhaps thousands of miles off."
    "And all that time, you see," said Banks, "you've been doing no good for yourself or your friends; and if it wasn't for them blessed coffins on economic principles, which turn me in a decent penny, I 'm sure I don't know what would have become of me and my family."
    "You forget the swag we got from the old woman in Golden Lane," whispered Tidkins, impatiently "Didn't I give you a fair half, although you never entered the place. but only kept watch outside?"
    "Yes  yes," said Mr. Banks; "I know you treated us very well, Tony  as you've always done. But I'm sorry you used the wicked old creetur as you did."
    "Why did she resist, then, damn her!" growled the Resurrection Man.
    "Ah! well-a-day," moaned the hypocritical undertaker: "she's a blessed defunct now  a wenerable old carkiss  and all packed up nice and cozy in a hospital coffin too! But they can't get up them coffins as well as me: I can beat 'em all at that work  'cause its the economic principles as does it."
    "Hold your stupid tongue, you infernal old fool!" muttered Tidkins; "and get yourself to bed at once, so that you may be up early in the morning and come to me by eight o'clock."
    "You don't mean to do what you was telling me just now?" said Banks, earnestly. "Depend upon it, he'll prove too much for you."
    "Not he!" exclaimed Tidkins. "I've a long  long score to settle up with him; and if he has neither seen nor heard of me for the last two years, it was only because I wanted to punish Crankey Jem first."
    "And now that you can't find that cussed indiwidual," said Banks, "you mean to have a go in earnest against the Prince?"
    "I do," answered Tidkins, with an abruptness which was in itself expressive of demoniac ferocity. "You come to me to-morrow morning; and see if I won't invent some scheme that shall put Richard Markham in my power. I tell you what it is, Banks," added the Resurrection Man, in a hoarse  hollow whisper, "I hate that fellow to a degree I cannot explain and depend upon it, he shall gnash his teeth in one of the dark cells yonder before he's a week older."
    "And what good will that do you?" asked the undertaker.
    [-416-] "What good! " repeated Tidkins, scornfully: then, after a short pause, he turned towards Banks, and said in a low voice, "We'll make him pay an immense sum for his ransom  a sum that shall enrich us both, Ned: and then  "
    "And then?" murmured Banks, interrogatively.
    "And then  when I've got all I can from him," replied Tidkins, 'I'll murder him!"
    With these words-uttered in a tone of terrible ferocity  the Resurrection Man hastened away from the door of the undertaker's dwelling.
    The sky was overcast with dark clouds of stormy menace: the night was dark; and big drops of rain began to patter down, as Tidkins hurried along the streets leading towards his own abode  that abode which he was now on the point of revisiting after an absence of two years!
    At length he reached the house; and though he stopped for a few minutes to examine its outward appearance from the middle of the street, the night was so dark that he could not distinguish whether its aspect had undergone any change.
    Taking from his pocket the door-key, which he had carefully retained ever since he abandoned the place after the discovery of the loss of his treasure, he soon effected an entrance into the house.
    Having closed the door, he immediately lighted a lantern which he had brought with him; and then, holding it high above his head, he hastily scrutinized the walls, the stairs, and as much of the landing above the precipitate steps, as his range of vision could embrace.
    There was not the least indication of the presence of intruders: the dust had accumulated upon the stairs, undisturbed by the print of footsteps; and the damp had covered the walls with a white mildew.
    Tidkins was satisfied with this scrutiny, and ascended to the first-floor rooms, the doors of which were closed  as if they had never been opened during his absence of two years.
    The interior appearance of the two chambers was just the same as when he was last there  save in respect to the ravages of the damp, the accumulation of the dust, and the effects of the rain which had forced its way through the roof.
    "Well, nothing has been disturbed up here-that's certain enough," said Tidkins to himself. "Now for a survey of the vaults."
    Taking from a shelf the bunch of skeleton-keys, which had suffered grievously from the damp, the Resurrection Man descended the stairs, issued forth into the street, and turned up the alley running along the side of the house.
    His first attempt to open the door in that alley was unsuccessful, there being evidently some impediment in the lock but a moment's reflection reminded him that he himself had broken a key in the lock, ere he had quitted the premises at the end of May, 1841.
    Nearly ten minutes were occupied in picking the lock, which was sadly rusted; but at length this task was accomplished  and the Resurrection Man entered the ground-floor of his abode.
    The condition in which he had found the lock of the door in the alley would have been a sufficient proof, in the estimation of any less crafty individual, that no intrusive footstep had disturbed that department of the dwelling: but Tidkins was resolved to assure himself on all points relative to the propriety of again entrusting his safety to that abode.
    "I think it's all right," he muttered, holding up his lantern, and glancing around with keen looks. "Still the lock might have been picked since I was here last, and another key purposely broken in it to stave off suspicion. At any rate, it is better to examine every nook and corner of tine whole place-and so I will!"
    He entered the front room on the ground-floor; the resurrection tools and house-breaking implements, which were piled up in that chamber, had not been disturbed. Huge black cobwebs, dense as filthy rags, were suspended from mattock to spade, and from crow-bar to long flexible iron rod.
    Tidkins turned with an air of satisfaction into the back room, where the dust lay thick upon the in floor, and the walls were green with damp.
    "Yes  it is all right!" he exclaimed, joyfully; "no one has been here during my absence. I suppose that villain Jem Cuffin was content with all the gold and jewels he got, and took no farther steps to molest me. But, by Satan! if ever I clap my eyes on him again!"  and the Resurrection Man ground his teeth furiously together. "Well," he continued, speaking aloud to himself in a musing strain, "it's a blessing to be able to come back and settle in the old crib! There's no place In London like it: the house in Chick Lane is nothing to it. And now that I have returned," he added, his hideous countenance becoming ominously dark and appallingly threatening, as the glare of the lantern fell upon it,  "one of these deep, cold, cheerless dungeons shall soon become the abode of Richard Markham!"
    As he uttered these last words in a loud, measured, and savage voice, the Resurrection Man raised the stone-trap, and descended into the subterranean.
    The detestable monster gloated in anticipation upon the horrible revenge which he meditated; and as he now trod the damp pavement of the vaulted passage, he glanced first at the four doors on the right, then at the four doors on the left, as if he were undecided in which dungeon to immure his intended victim.
    At length he stopped before one of the doors, exclaiming, "Ah! this must be the cell! It's the one, as I have been told, where so many maniacs dashed their brains out against the wall, when this place was used as an asylum  long before my time."
    Thus musing, Tidkins entered the cell, holding the lantern high up so as to embrace at a glance all the gloomy horrors of its aspect.
    "Yes  yes!" he muttered to himself: " this is the one for Richard Markham! All that he has ever done to me shall soon be fearfully visited on his own head! Ah, ah! we shall see whether his high rank  his boasted virtues  his immense influence  and his glorious name can mitigate one pang of all the sufferings that he must here endure! Yes," repeated Tidkins, a fiendish smile relaxing his stern countenance,  "this is the dungeon for Richard Markham!"
    "No-it is thine!' thundered a voice; and at the same moment the door of the cell closed violently upon the Resurrection Man.
    Tidkins dropped tine lantern, and flung himself [-417-] 

with all his strength against tie massive door;  but the huge bolt on the outside was shot into its iron socket too rapidly to permit that desperate effort to prove of the least avail.
    Then a cry of mingled rage and despair burst from the breast of the Resurrection Man,  a cry resembling that of the wolf when struck by the bullet of the hunter's carbine!
    "The hour of vengeance is come at last!" exclaimed Crankey Jem, as he lighted the candle in a small lantern which he took from his pocket. "There shall you remain, Tidkins  to perish by starvation  to die by inches  to feel the approach of Death by means of such slow tortures that you will curse the day which saw your birth!"
    "Jem, do not say all that!" cried the Resurrection Man, from the interior of the dungeon You would not be so cruel! Let me out  and we will be friends."
    "Never!" ejaculated Cuffin. "What! have I hunted after you  dogged you  watched you  then lost sight of you for two years  now found you out again  at length got yet into my power  and all this for nothing?"
    "Well, Jem  I know that I used you badly," said the Resurrection Man, in an imploring tone "but forgive me-pray forgive me! Surely you were sufficiently avenged by plundering me of me treasure  my hoarded gold  my casket of jewels!"
    "Miserable wretch!" cried Crankey Jem, in a tone of deep disgust: "do not imagine that I took your gold and your jewels to enrich myself. No: had I been starving, I would not have purchased a morsel of bread by means of their aid! Two hours after I had become possessed of your treasure, I consigned it all  yes, all  gold and jewels  to the bed of the Thames!"
    "Then are you not sufficiently avenged!" demanded Tidkins, in a voice denoting how fiercely rage was struggling with despair in his breast.
    "Your death, amidst lingering tortures, will alone satisfy me!" returned Crankey Jem. "Monster that you are, you shall meet the fate which you had reserved for an excellent nobleman whose virtues are as numerous as your crimes!"
    "What good will my death do you, Jem?" cried Tidkins, his tone now characterised only by an expression of deep  intense  harrowing despair.
    "What good would the death of Richard Markham have done you?" demanded James Cuffin. 'Ah! you cannot answer that question! Of what advantage is your cunning now? But listen to me, while I tell you how I have succeeded in over-reaching you at last. One night  more than two years ago  I was watching for you in the street. I had found out your den  and I was waiting your return, to plunge my dagger into your breast. But when you did come home that night, you was not alone. Another man was with you; and a woman, blindfolded, was being dragged between you up the alley. I watched  you and the man soon afterwards reappeared; but the woman was not with you. Then I knew that she was a prisoner, or had been murdered; and I thought that if I could place you in the hands of justice, with the certainty of sending you to the scaffold, my revenge would be more complete. But my plan was spoilt by the silly affair of young Holford; for I was locked up in prison on account of that business. But I got my liberty at last; and that very same night I returned to this house. I knew that you had been arrested and was in Coldbath Fields; and so I resolved to examine the entire premises. By means of skeleton keys I obtained an easy entrance into the lower part of the house; and, after a little careful search, I discovered the secret of the trap-door. I visited the cells; but the woman was not in any of them. And now you know how I came to discover the mysteries of your den, Tidkins; and you can guess how at another visit I found the hiding-place of your treasure."
    "Jem, one word!" cried the Resurrection Man, an a hoarse  almost hollow tone. "You have got me in your power  do you mean to put your dreadful threat into execution!"
    "No persuasion on earth can change my mind!" returned the avenger, in a terrible voice. "Hark! this is a proof of my determination!"
    A dead silence prevailed in the subterranean for two or three minutes; and then that solemn stillness was broken by the sounds of a hammer, falling with heavy and measured cadence upon the head of a large nail.
    "Devil!" roared the Resurrection Man, from the interior of the cell.
    Crankey Jem was nailing up the door!
    It must be supposed that this appalling conviction worked the mind of the immured victim up to a pitch of madness; for he now threw himself against the door with a fury that made it crack upon its hinges  massive and studded with iron nails though it were!
    But Crankey Jem pursued his awful task; and as nail after nail was driven in, the more demoniac became the feelings of his triumph.
    Tidkins continued to rush against the door, marking the intervals of these powerful but desperate attempts to burst from his living tomb, with wild cries and savage howls such as Cuffin had never before heard come from the breast of a human being.
    At length the last nail was driven in; and then the struggles against the door ceased.
    "Now you can understand that I am determined!" cried the avenger. "And here shall I remain until all is over with you, Tidkins. No! I shall now and then steal out for short intervals at a time, to procure food  food to sustain me, while you are starving in your coffin!"
    'Infernal wretch! shouted Tidkins: "you are mistaken! I will not die by starvation, if die I must. I have matches with me  and in a moment I can blow the entire house  aye, and half the street along with it  into the air!"
    "You will not frighten me, Tidkins," said Crankey Jem, in a cool and taunting tone.
    "Damnation!" thundered the Resurrection Man, chafing against the door like a maddened hyena in its cage: "will neither prayers nor threats move you? Then must I do my worst!"
    Crankey Jim heard him stride across the dungeon; but still the avenger remained at his post,  leaning against the door, and greedily drinking in each groan  each curse  each execration  and each howl, that marked the intense anguish endured by the Resurrection Man.
    Presently James Cuffin heard the sharp sound of a match as it was drawn rapidly along the wall.
    He shuddered  but moved not.
    Solemn was the silence which now prevailed for a few moments: at length an explosion  low and subdued, as of a small quantity of gunpowder  took place in the cell.
    But it was immediately followed with a terrific cry of agony; and the Resurrection Man fell heavily against the door.
    "My eyes! my eyes!" he exclaimed, in a tone indicative of acute pain: "O God! I am blinded!"
    "Sight would be of no use in that dark dungeon," said Crankey Jem, with inhuman obduracy of heart towards his victim.
    "Are you not satisfied now, demon  devil  fiend!" almost shrieked the Resurrection Man. "The powder has blinded me, I say!"
    "It was damp, and only exploded partially," said the avenger. "Try again!"
    "Wretch!" exclaimed Tidkins; and James Cuffin heard him dash himself upon the paved floor of the cell, groaning horribly.
    ***
    Ten days afterwards, Crankey Jem set to work to open the door of the dungeon.
    This was no easy task; inasmuch as the nails which he had driven in were strong, and had caught a firm hold of the wood.
    But at length  after two hours' toil  the avenger succeeded in forcing an entrance into the cell.
    He knew that he incurred no danger by this step: for, during that interval of ten days, he had scarcely ever quitted his post outside the door of the dungeon; and there had he remained, regaling his ears with the delicious music formed by the groans  the prayers-the screams-the shrieks  the ravings-and the curses of his victim.
    At length those appalling indications of a lingering  slow  agonising death,  the death of famine,  grew fainter and fainter; and in the middle of the ninth night they ceased altogether.
    Therefore was it that on the morning of the tenth day, the avenger hesitated not to open the door of the dungeon.
    And what a spectacle met his view when he entered that cell!
    The yellow glare of his lantern fell upon the pale, emaciated, hideous countenance of the Resurrection Man, who lay on his back upon the cold, damp pavement-a stark and rigid corse!
    Crankey Jam stooped over the body, and examined the face with a satisfaction which he did not attempt to subdue.
    [-419-] The eyes had been literally burnt in their sockets; and it was true that the Resurrection Man was blinded, in the first hour of his terrible imprisonment, by the explosion of the gunpowder in an iron pipe running along the wall of the dungeon!
    The damp had, however, rendered that explosion only partial: had the train properly ignited, the entire dwelling would have been blown into the air!

 ***

    A few hours afterwards, the following letter was delivered at Markham Place by the postman;  
    
    "Your mortal enemy, my lord, is no more. My vengeance has overtaken him at last. Anthony Tidkins has died a horrible death:-had he lived, you would have become his victim.
    "JAMES CUFFIN."

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON [Vol. II]  |  > next chapter >