< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >




THE moment the trial of Richard Markham was concluded, Sir Rupert Harborough and Mr. Chichester bade a cold and hasty adieu to Mr. Talbot, and left the court together.
    They wended their way up the Old Bailey, turned into Newgate Street, and thence proceeded down Butcher-hall Lane towards Bartholomew Close;  for in that large dreary Square did Mr. Chichester now occupy a cheap lodging.
    This lodging consisted of a couple of small and ill-furnished rooms on the second hour. When the two gentlemen arrived there. it way past five o'clock - for the trial had lasted the entire day - and a dirty cloth was laid for dinner in the from apartment. Black-handled knives and forks, a japanned pepper-box, pewter saltcellar and mustard pot, and common white plates with a blue edge, constituted the "service." The dinner itself was equally humble -consisting of mutton-chops. and potatoes, flanked by a pot of porter.
    The baronet and the fashionable gentleman took their seats in silence, and partook of the meal without much appetite. There was a damp upon their spirits: they were not so utterly depraved as to be altogether unmindful of the detestable part they had played towards Markham; and their own affairs were moreover in a desperate condition.
    A slip-shod, dirty, familiar girl cleared away the dinner things; and the gentlemen then took to gin and-water and cigars. For some minutes they smoked in silence ; till at length the baronet, stamping his foot impatiently upon the floor exclaimed, " My God! Chichester, is nothing to be done ?"
    "I really don't know," answered that individual.
    "You heard how deucedly I got exposed to-day in the witness-box; and after that I should not dare show up at the west-end for weeks and months to come - even if the sheriff's  officers weren't looking out for me."
    "Well, something must be done," observed the baronet. "Here am I, playing at hide-and-seek as well as you - all my horses sold - my furniture seized - my carriages made away with - my plate pawned - and not a guinea  -not a guinea left!"
    " What should you say to a trip into the country?" demanded Chichester, after a pause. "London is too hot for both of us - at least for the present; indeed my surprise is that we were not arrested on those infernal bills, coming out of the court. But, as I was saying - a trip into the country might do more good. To be sure this is no time for the watering places: we might however, pay a visit to Hastings, Bath, and Cheltenham on a venture."
    "And what could we do for ourselves there?"
    "Why - pick up flats, to be sure !"
    "You know, Chichester, that I am not able to  work the cards and dice as you can."
    "Then you must learn, as I did."
    "And who will teach me ?"
    "Why - myself, to be sure! Could you have a better master than Arthur Chichester?"
    "But it would take so long to understand all these manoeuvres - I should never have the patience."
    "Oh! nonsense, Harborough. Come what do you say? Three days' practice, and we will be off ?"
    " But the money - the funds to move with?" cried the baronet, impatiently. "I am literally reduced to my last guinea."
    "Oh! as for that," returned Chichester, "I will engage to get a twenty pound note from my father to-morrow; and with that supply we can safely start off on our expedition."
    "Well - if you can rely upon doing this," observed the baronet, "we will put your plan into execution. So let us lose no time; but please to give me my first lesson."
    "That's what I call business," cried Chichester, rising from his seat and drawing the curtains, while the baronet lighted the two tallow candles that adorned the wooden mantel-piece.
    Chichester locked the door of the room, and then produced from his writing-desk the necessary im-[-94-]plements of a gambler - packs of cards, dice-boxes, and dice.
    Having reseated himself, he took up a pair of dice and a box, and said, "Now, my dear fellow, be a good boy, and learn your lesson well. You will soon meet with your reward."
    "I am all attention," observed the baronet.
    "In the first place I shall show you how to secure," continued Chichester; "and as you know the game of Hazard well enough, I need say but, little more on that head. There are two ways of securing. The first is to hold one of the dice between the fore and middle fingers, or the middle and third fingers, against the side of the box, so that one finger must cover the top of the dice - in this way, you see."

    "I understand, said me baronet, attentively watching the proceedings of his companion, who by certain clever and adroit manipulations with the dice-box, illustrated his oral descriptions.
    "This system is not so easy as the second, which I shall presently show you," continued Chichester; "because the die must be kept cleverly inside the box, so as not to be seen. The second way of securing is by taking hold of one of the dice by the little finger, and keeping it firm against the palm of the hand while you shake the box, so as to be able to drop it skilfully upon the table at the proper moment, when it will seem as if it came from the box along with the other. This is the way."

    "I shall soon understand," said the baronet "Of course by being able to secure one die, you may make it turn up any number you choose."
    "When you mean to practise this dodge," continued Chichester, "call five for a main; because you can secure the four, and there is only the six on the loose die that can come up against you. If you have a good stake to get, secure a five every time because when the main is six to five, or seven to five, or eight to five, or nine to five, or ten to five, you must win every time, because you can't possibly throw out while time five is secured."
    "But will not the ear tell the pigeon that there is only one die rattling in the box?" demanded the baronet.
    "Look at this box," exclaimed Chichester. "It has two rims cut inside, near the bottom: the one die shaking against them produces the sound of two dice."
    "Are there not some peculiarities about these dice ?" asked Sir Rupert, pointing to a pair which Chichester had placed apart from the rest.
    "Yes  -those are unequal dice, and are so well made that no one, except a regular sharper, could detect them. They are bigger at one end than the other, and the sixes are placed on the smaller squares, because you must play with these dice to win upon high numbers, which are on those smaller squares. The dice will in nine cases out of ten fall upon the larger squares,and thus show the high numbers uppermost."

    "And these dice?"I enquired the baronet taking up two others.
    "Loaded ones," replied Chichester. "These are to throw low; and so the two sides which have got four and five on them are loaded.

    "How are they loaded ?" asked Sir Rupert.
    "The corner pip of the four side, next to the five side, is bored very neatly to a certain depth; the same is done to the corner pip of the five side adjoining the four side. Thus the two holes, so bored, meet each other at right angles. One of the holes is covered over with some strong cement; quicksilver is then poured in; and the other hole is covered over with the cement. The spots are blackened ; and your dice are ready for use. These being intended to throw low, you must call a main and take the odds accordingly."
    "Well," said the baronet, "I think I can now safely say that I know enough of the elements of your grammar to enable me to practise myself.  Let us devote half an hour to the working of cards."
    "The ways of managing the cards," said Chichester, taking up a pack, and shuffling them "are numerous. These, for instance, are Longs and Shorts. All the cards above the eight, are the least thing longer than those below it. I have a machine which was invented on purpose to cut them accurately. Nothing under an eight can be cut, you see, with these cards, lengthways."
    "And that pack so carefully wrapped up in the paper?"
    "Oh! these are my Concaves and Convexes. All from the two to the seven are cut concave; and all from the eight to the king are cut convex. By cutt-[-95-]ing the pack breadthways a convex card is cut; by cutting it lengthways, a concave one is secured."

    " I have often beard of the bridge," said Sir Rupert; "what does that mean?"
    "Oh! the bridge is simply and easily done," replied Chichester, shuffling the pack which he had n his hand. " You see it is nothing but slightly curving a card, and introducing it carelessly into the pack. Shuffle the cards as your opponent will, you are sure to be able to cut the bridged one."

    "I could do that without study", observed Sir Rupert Harborough. "Is my initiation now complete?"
    "There are several other schemes with the cards," answered Chichester, "but I think that I have taught you enough for this evening. One famous device, however, must not be forgotten. You have heard of the way in which Lord de Roos lately attempted to cheat his noble companions at the club? The plan practiced by him is called sauter la coupe, and enables the dealer to do what he chooses with one particular card, which of course be has selected for his purpose. Now look how it is done; for I can better show practically than explain verbally."

    Scarcely was this portion of the lesson accomplished, when steps were heard ascending the stairs; and immediately afterwards a heavy fist knocked with more violence than courtesy at the parlour door.
    The baronet and Chichester both turned pale.
    "They can't have found us out here?" murmured the one to the other in a hoarse and tremulous tone.
    "What shall we do?"
    " We must open - happen what will."
    Chichester unlocked the door: two ill-looking men entered the room.
    "Mr. Arthur Chichester?" said one.
    "He isn't here - we don't know him. My name is Davis - ask the landlady if it is not," cried Chichester hurriedly, and in a manner which only served to convince the officer that he was right.
    "Come - come, none of that there gammon," said the bailiff. "I knows you well enough: my name's Garnell; and I'll stand the risk of your being Chichester. Here's execution out against you for four hundred and forty-seven pounds. I don't suppose that you can pay - so you'd better come off at once."
    " Where to ?" demanded Chichester, seeing that it was no use disputing his own identity any longer.
    " Where to !" cried the officer; "why - to Whitecross, to be sure! Where the devil would you go to ?"
    "Can I not be allowed to sleep in a sponging-house ?"
    "No - this is an execution, and a large sum, mind. I don't dare do it."
    "Well, then - here goes for Whitecross Street!" said Chichester; and after exchanging a few words in a whisper with the baronet, he left the house with the sheriff's officers.

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >