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RETURN we now to Bill Bolter, the murderer, who had taken refuge in the subterranean hiding-place of the Old House in Chick Lane.
    Heavily and wearily did the hours drag along. The inmate of that terrible dungeon was enabled to mark their lapse by the deep-mouthed bell of St. Sepulchre's Church, on Snow Hill, the sound of which boomed ominously at regular interrals upon his ear.
    That same bell tolls the death-note of the convict on the morning of his execution at the debtor's door of Newgate.
    The murderer remembered this, and shuddered.
    A faint - faint light glimmered through the little grating at the end of the dungeon; and the man kept his eyes fixed upon it so long, that at length his imagination began to conjure up phantoms to appal him. That small square aperture became a frame in which hideous countenances appeared; and then, one gradually changed into another - horrible dissolving views that they were!
    But chiefly be beheld before him the tall gaunt form of his murdered wife - with one eye smashed and bleeding in her head :- the other glared fearfully upon him.
    This phantasmagoria became at length so fearful and so real in appearance, that the murderer turned his back towards the little grating through which the light struggled into the dungeon in two long, narrow, and oblique columns.
    But then he imagined that there were goblins behind him; and this idea soon grew as insupportable is the first ;- so he rose, and groped his way up and down that narrow vault - a vault which might become his tomb!
    This horrible thought never left his memory. Even while he reflected upon other things, - amidst the perils which enveloped his career, and the reminiscences of the dread deeds of which he had been guilty, - amongst the reasons which he assembled together to convince himself that the hideous countenances at the grating did not exist in reality, - there was that one idea - unmixed - definite - standing boldly out from all the rest in his imagination, that he might be left to die of starvation!
    At one time the brain of this wretch was excited to such a pitch that he actually caught his head in his two hands, and pressed it with all his force -  to endeavour to crush the horrible visions which haunted his imagination.
    Then he endeavoured to hum a tune; but his voice seemed to choke him. He lighted a pipe, and sate and smoked; but as the thin blue vapour curled upwards, in the faint light of the grating, it assumed shapes and forms appalling to behold. Spectres, clad in long winding sheets - cold grisly corpses, dressed in shrouds, seemed to move noiselessly through the dungeon.
    He laid aside the pipe; and, in a state of mind bordering almost upon frenzy, tossed off the brandy that had remained in the flask.
    But so full of horrible ideas was his mind at that moment, that it appeared to him as if he had been drinking blood!
    He rose from his seat once more, and groped up and down the dungeon, careless of the almost stunning blows which he gave his head, and the violent contusions which his limbs received, against the uneven walls.
    Hark! suddenly voices fell upon his ears.
    He listened with mingled fear and joy, - fear of being discovered, and joy at the sound of human tones in the midst of that subterranean solitude.
    Those voices came from the lower window of the dwelling on the other side of the ditch.
    "How silent and quiet everything has been lately in the old house opposite," said a female.
    "Last night, - or rather early this morning, I heard singing there," replied another voice, which was evidently that of a young woman.
    Oh! never had the human tones sounded so sweet and musical upon the murderer's ears before!
    "It is very seldom that any one ever goes into that old house now," said the first speaker.
    'Strange rumours are abroad concerning it: I heard that there are subterranean places in which men can conceal themselves, and no power on earth could find them save those in the secret."
    "How absurd, I was speaking to the policeman [-72-] about that very thing a few days ago; and he laughed at the idea. He says it is impossible ; and of course he knows best."
    "I am not so sure of that. Who knows what fearful deeds have those old walls concealed from human eye? For my part, I can very well believe that there are secret cells and caverns. Who knows but that some poor wretch is hiding there this very moment?"
    "Perhaps the man that murdered his wife up in Union Court."
    "Well  -who knows ? But at this rate we shall never get on with our work."
    The noise of a window being shut down fell upon the murderer's ears: and he heard no more.
    But he had heard enough! Those girls had spoken of him :-they had mentioned him as the man who had murdered his wife.
    The assassination, then, was already known: the dread deed was bruited abroad :-thousands and thousands of tongues had no doubt repeated the tale here and there - conveying it hither and thither - far and wide!
    And throughout the vast metropolis was he already spoken of as the man who had murdered his wife!
    And in a few hours more, would millions in all parts hear of the man who had murdered his wife!
And already were the officers of justice actively in search of the man who had murdered his wife!
Heavily - heavily passed the hours.
    At length the dungeon became pitch dark; and then the murderer saw sights more appalling than when the faint gleam stole through the grating.
    In due time the sonorous voice of St. Sepulchre proclaimed the hour of nine.
    Scarcely had the last stroke of that iron tongue died upon the breeze, when a noise at the head of the spiral staircase fell upon the murderer's ears. The trap-door was raised, and the well-known voice of Dick Flairer was heard.
    " Well, Bill - alive or dead, eh - old fellow!" exclaimed the burglar.
    "Alive - and that's all, Dick," answered Bill Bolter, ascending the staircase.
    "My God! how pale you are, Bill," said Dick, the moment the light of the candle fell upon the countenance of the murderer, as he emerged from the trap-door.
    "Pale, Dick!" ejaculated the wretch, a shudder passing over his entire frame; "I do not believe I can stand a night in that infernal hole."
    "You must, Bill - you must,2 said Flairer: "all is discovered up in Union Court there, and the police are about in all directions."
    "When was it found out? Tell me the particulars - speak!" said the murderer, with frenzied impatience.
    "Why, it appears that the neighbours heard a devil of a noise in your room, but didn't think no-think about it, cos you and Polly used to spar a bit now and then. But at last the boy  - Harry, I  mean - went down stairs, and said that his mother wouldn't move, and that his father had gone away. So up the neighbours went - and then everything was blown. The children was sent to the workus, and the coroner held his inquest this afternoon at three. Harry was had up before him; and —"
    "And what ?" demanded Bolter, hastily.
    "And, in course," added Dick, " the Coroner got out of the boy all the particklars : so the jury returned a verdict —"
    "Of Wilful Murder, eh?" said Bill, sinking his voice almost to a whisper.
    "Wilful Murder against William Bolter," answered Dick, coolly.
    "That little vagabond Harry! "cried the criminal - his entire countenance distorted with rage ; "I'll he the death on him!"
    "There's no news at all about t'other affair up at Clapton, and no stir made in it at all," said Dick. after a moment's pause : " so that there business is all right. But here's a lot of grub and plenty of lush, Bill: that'll cheer ye, if nothink else will."
    "Dick!" exclaimed the murderer, " I cannot go back into that hole - I had rather get nabbed at once. The few hours I have already been there have nearly drove me mad; and I can't - I won't attempt the night in that infernal cold damp vault. I feel as if I was in my coffin."
    "Well, you know best," said Dick, coolly. "A hempen neckcloth at Tuck-up fair, and a leap from a tree with only one leaf, is what you'll get if you're perverse."
    "My God - my God!" ejaculated Bolter, wringing his hands, and throwing glances of extreme terror around the room; "what am I to do? what am I to do?"
    "Lie still down below for a few weeks, or go out and be scragged," said Dick Flairer. "Come, Bill, be a man; and don't take on in this here way. Besides, I'm in a hurry, and, must be off. I've brought you enough grub for three days, as I shan't come here too often till the business has blowed over a little."
    Bill Bolter took a long draught from a quart bottle of rum which his friend had brought with him ; and he then left his spirits revive. Horrible as the prospect of a long sojourn in the dungeon appeared, it was still preferable to the fearful doom which must inevitably follow his capture; and, accordingly, the criminal once more returned to his hiding-place.
    Dick Flairer promised to return on the third evening from that time; and the trap-door again closed over the head of the murderer.
    Bolter supped off a portion of the provisions which his friend had brought him, and then lay dawn upon the hard stone bench to sleep. A noisome stench entered the dungeon from the Ditch, and the rats ran over the person of the inmate of that subterranean hole. Repose was impossible: the miserable wretch therefore sat up, and began to smoke.
    By accident he kicked his leg a little way beneath the stone bench: the heel of his boot encountered something that yielded to the touch; and a strange noise followed.
    That noise was like the rattling of bones!
    The pipe fell from the man's grasp; and he him. self was stupified with sudden terror.
    At length, exercising immense violence over his feelings, he determined to ascertain whether the horrible suspicions which had entered his mind were well-founded or not.
    He thrust his hand beneath the bench, and encountered the mouldering bones of a human skeleton.
    With indescribable feelings of agony and horror he threw himself upon the bench - his hair on end, and his heart palpitating violently.
    Heaven only can tell how he passed that long weary night - alone, in the darkness of the dungeon, with his own thoughts, the skeleton of some murdered victim, and the vermin that infected the subterranean hole. 

    He slept not a wink throughout those live-long hours, the lapse of which was proclaimed by the voice of Saint Sepulchre's solemn mid deep-toned bell.
And none who heard the bell during that night experienced feelings of such intense anguish and horror as the murderer in his lurking-hole. Not even the neighbouring prison of Newgate, nor the hospital of Saint Bartholomew, nor the death-bed of a parent, knew mental suffering so terrible as that which wrung the heart of this guilty wretch.
    The morning dawned; and the light returned to the dungeon.
    The clock had just struck eight, and the murderer was endeavouring to force a mouthful of food down his throat, when the voice of a man in the street tell upon his ear. He drew close up to the grating, and clearly heard the following announcement:-
    "Here is a full and perfect account of the horrible assassination committed by the miscreant William Bolter, upon the person of his wife; with a portrait of the murderer, and a representation of the room as it appeared when the deed was first discovered by a neighbour. Only one Penny! The fullest and most perfect account - only one Penny!"
    A pause ensued, and then the voice, bawling more lustily than before, continued thus:-
    "A full and perfect account of the bloody and crud murder in Upper Union Court; shewing how the assassin first dashed out one of his victim's eyes, and [-74-] then fractured her skull upon the floor. Only one Penny, together with a true portrait of the murderer, for whose apprehension a reward of One Hundred Pounds is offered! Only one Penny!"
"A reward of one hundred pounds!" cried another voice "my eye! how I should like to find him!"
    "Wouldn't I precious soon give him up !" ejaculated a third.
    "I wonder whereabouts he is," said a fourth. "No doubt that he has run away - perhaps to America - perhaps to France."
    "That shews how much you know about such things," said a fifth speaker. "It is a very strange fact, that murderers always linger near the scene of their crime; they are attracted towards it, seemingly, as the moth is to the candle. Now, for my part, I shouldn't at all wonder if the miscreant was within a hundred yards of us at the present moment."
    " Only one Penny! The fullest and most perfect account of the horrible and bloody murder —  "
    The itinerant vender of pamphlets passed on, followed by the crowd which his vociferations had collected; and his voice soon ceased to break the silence of the morning.
    Bolter sank down upon the stone bench, a prey to maddening feelings and fearful emotions.
    A hundred pounds were offered for his capture! Such a sum might tempt even Dick Flairer or Tom the Cracksman to betray him.
    Instinctively he put his fingers to his neck, to feel if the rope were there yet, and he shook his bead violently to ascertain if he were hanging on a gibbet, or could still control his motions.
    The words "miscreant," "horrible and bloody murder," and "portrait of the assassin," still rang in his ears - loud - sonorous - deep - and with a prolonged echo like that of a bell!
    Already were men speculating upon his whereabouts, and anxious for his apprehension - some for the reward, others to gratify a morbid curiosity: already were the newspapers, the cheap press, and the pamphleteers busy with his name.
    None now mentioned him save as the miscreant William Bolter.
Oh! if he could but escape to some foreign land, - if he could but avoid the ignominious consequences of his crime in this,- he would dedicate the remainder of his days to penitence, - he would toil from the dawn of morning till sunset to obtain the bread of honesty, - he would use every effort, exert every nerve to atone for the outrage he had committed upon the laws of society!
    But - no! it was too late. The blood-hounds of the law were already upon his track.
    An hour passed away; and during that interval the murderer sought to compose himself by means of his pipe and the rum-bottle: but he could not banish the horrible ideas which haunted him.
    Suddenly a strange noise fell upon his ear. 
    The blood appeared to mm cold to his very heart in a refluent tide; for the steps of many feet, and the sounds of many voices, echoed through the old house.
    The truth instantly fleshed to his mind: the police had entered the premises.
    With hair standing on end, eye-balls glaring, and forehead bathed in perspiration, the murderer sate motionless upon the cold stone bench - afraid even to breathe. Every moment he expected to bear the trap-door at the head of the spiral staircase move: but several minutes elapsed, and his fears in this respect were not accomplished.
    At length he heard a sound as of a body falling heavily; and then a voice almost close to him fell upon his ear.
    The reader will remember that the vault in which he was concealed, joined the cellar from whence Walter Sydney had escaped. The officers had entered that cellar by means of the trap-door in the floor of the room immediately above it. Bolter could overhear their entire conversation.
    "Well, this is a strange crib, this is," said one. "Show the bull's-eye up in that farther corner: there may be a door in one of them dark nooks."
    "It will jist end as I said it would," exclaimed another: "the feller wouldn't be sich a fool as to come to a place that's knowed to the Force as one of bad repute."
    "I didn't think, myself, there was much good in coming to search this old crib: but the inspector said yes, and so we couldn't say no."
    "Let's be off: the cold of this infernal den strikes to my very bones. But I say - that there shelving board that we first lighted on in getting down, isn't made to help people to come here alive."
    "Turn the bull's-eye more on it."
    "Now can you see?"
    "Yes - plain enough. It leads to a hole that looks on the ditch. But the plank is quite old and rotten; so I dare say it was put there for some purpose or another a long time ago. Pr'aps the thieves used to convey their swag through that there hole into a boat In the ditch, and — "
    "No, no," interrupted the other policeman: it wasn't swag that they tumbled down the plank into the Fleet: it was stiff  'uns."
   "Very likely. But there can't be any of that kind of work ever going on now: so let's be off."
    The murderer In the adjoining vault could hear the policemen climb up the plank towards the trap-door: and in a few minutes profound silence again reigned throughout the old house.
    This time he had escaped detection; and yet the search was keen and penetrating.
    The apparent safety of his retreat restored him to something like good spirits; and he began to calculate the chances which he imagined to exist for and against the probability of his escape from the hands of justice.
    "There is but five men in the world as knows of this hiding-place," he said to himself; "and them is myself, Dick Flairer, Crankey Jem, the Resurrection Man, and Tom the Cracksman. As for me. I'm here - that's one what won't blab. Dick Flairer isn't likely to sell a pal: Tom the Cracksman I'd rely on even if he was on the rack. Crankey Jem is staunch to the backbone; besides, he's in the Jug: so is the Resurrection Man. They can't do much harm there. I think I'm tolerably safe; and as for frightening myself about ghosts and goblins — "
    He was suddenly interrupted by the rattling of the bones beneath the stone-bench. He started: and a profuse perspiration instantly broke out upon his forehead.
    A huge rat had disturbed those relics of mortality; but this little incident tended to hurl the murderer back again into all that appalling gloominess of thought from which he had for a moment seemed to be escaping.
    Time wore on: and heavily and wearily still passed [-75-] the hours. At length darkness again came down upon the earth: the light of the little grating disappeared; and the vault was once more enveloped in the deepest obscurity.
    The murderer ate a mouthful, and then endeavoured to compose himself to sleep, for he was worn out mentally and bodily.
    The clock of Saint Sepulchre's proclaimed the hour of seven, as he awoke from a short and feverish slumber.
    He thought he heard a voice calling him in his dreams; and when he started up he listened with affright.
    "Bill - are you asleep ?"
    It was not, then, a dream: a human voice addressed him in reality.
    "Bill - why don't you answer?" said the voice. " It's only me!''
    Bolter suddenly felt relieved of an immense load; It was his friend Dick who was calling him from the little trap-door. He instantly hurried up the staircase, and was surprised to find that there was no light in the room.
    "My dear feller," said Dick, in a hurried tone, "1 didn't mean to come back so soon again, but me and Tom is a-going to do a little business together down Southampton way - someot that he has been told of; and as we may be away a few days, I thought I'd better come this evenin' with a fresh supply. Here's plenty of grub, and rum, and bakker."
    "Well, this is a treat - to hear a friendly voice again so soon," said Bill;- "but why the devil don't you light the candle ?"
    "I'm a-going to do it now," returned Dick; and he struck a lucifer-match as bespoke. "I thought I wouldn't show a light here sooner than was necessary; and we must not keep it burning too long; cos there may be chinks in them shutters, and I des say the blue-bottles is on the scent."
    "They come and searched the whole place this mornin'," said Bill: "but they didn't smell me though."
    "Then you're all safe now, my boy," cried Dick. "Here, look alive - take this basket, and pitch it down the stairs: it's well tied up, and chock full of sold meat and bread. Put them two bottles into your pocket: there - that's right. Now - do you want anythink else?"
    "Yes-a knife. I was forced to gnaw my food like a dog for want of one."
    "Here you are," said Dick; and, taking a knife from the secret cupboard between the windows, he handed it to his friend. "Now are you all right ?"
    "Quite - that is, as right as a feller in my sitivation can be. You won't forget to come — "
    Bolter was standing within two or three steps from the top of the staircase; and the greater part of his body was consequently above the trap-door.
    He stopped suddenly short in the midst of his injunction to his companion, and staggered in such a way that be nearly lost his footing.
    His eye had caught sight of a human countenance peering from behind the half-open door of the room.
    "Damnation!" exclaimed the murderer: "I'm sold at last!" -and, rushing up the steps, he fell upon Dick Flairer with the fury of a tiger.
    At the same moment four or five officers darted into the room :- but they were too late to prevent another dreadful deed of blood.
    Bolter had plunged the knife which he held in his hand. into the heart of Dick Flairer. the burglar.
    The blow was given with fatal effect: the unfortunate wretch uttered a horrible cry, and fell at the feet of his assassin, stone dead.
    "Villain! what have you done!" ejaculated the serjeant who headed the little detachment of police.
    "I've drawn the claret of the rascal that nosed upon me," returned Bolter doggedly.
    "You were never more mistaken in your life," said the serjeant.
    "How - what do you mean? Wasn't it that scoundrel Dick that chirped against me?"
    "No - ten thousand times No!" cried the officer: "it was a prisoner in Newgate who split upon this hiding place. Somehow or another he heard of the reward offered to take you; and he told the governor the whole secret of the vault. Without knowing whether we should find you here or not, we came to search it."
    "Then it was the Resurrection Man who betrayed me after all!" exclaimed Bolter; and, dashing the palms of his two hands violently against his temples, he added, in a tone of intense agony, "1 have murdered my best friend - monster, miscreant that I am!"
    The policeman speedily fixed a pair of manacles about his wrists; and in the course of a quarter of an hour he was safely secured in one of the cells at the station-house in Smithfield.
    On the following day he was committed to Newgate.

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