chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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THE more civilization progresses, and the more refined
becomes the human intellect, so does human iniquity increase.
It is true that heinous and appalling crimes are less
frequent ; -but every kind of social, domestic, political, and commercial
intrigue grows more into vogue: human ingenuity is more continually on the rack
to discover the means of defrauding a neighbour or cheating the world ;- the
sacred name of religion is called in to aid and further the nefarious devices of
the schemer ;- hypocrisy is the cloak which conceals modern acts of turpitude,
as dark nights were trusted to for the concealment of the bloody deeds of old ;
mere brute force is now less frequently resorted to; but the refinements of
education or the exercise of duplicity are the engines chiefly used for purposes
of plunder. The steel engraver's art, and the skill of the caligrapher, are
mighty implements of modern misdeed :- years and years are expended in
calculating the chances of cards and dice ;- education, manners, and goal looks
are essential to the formation of the adventurers of the present day ;- the
Bankruptcy Court itself is a frequent avenue to the temple of fortune; - and, in
order to suit this new and refined system of things, the degrees of vices
themselves are qualified by different names, so that he who gambles at a
gaming-table is a scamp, and he who propagates a lie upon the Exchange and
gambles accordingly, and with success, is a respectable financier. Chicanery,
upon a small scale, and in a miserable dark office, is a degradation ;- but the
delicate and elaborate chicanery of politics, by which a statesman is enabled to
outwit parties, or deceive whole nations, is a masterpiece, of human talent! To
utter a falsehood in private life, to suit a private end, is to cut one's-self
off from all honourable society :- but to lie day and night in a public journal
- to lie habitually and boldly in print - to lie in a manner the most shameless
and barefaced in the editorial columns of a newspaper, is not only admissible,
but conventional, and a proof of skill, tact, and talent.
Thus is modern society constituted :- let him deny the truth
of the picture who can!
London is filled with Mr. Greenwoods they are to be found in
numbers at the West End. Do not for one moment believe, reader, that our
portrait of this character is exaggerated.
In pursuing the thread of a narrative like this, there will
naturally be found much to alarm, to astonish, and to shock: but however
appalling the picture, it teaches lessons which none can regret to learn. The
chart that would describe the course to virtue must point out and lay bare the
shoals, the quicksands, and the rocks of vice which render the passage perilous
and full of terrors.
With these few remarks, we pursue our history.
At seven o'clock in the evening of the day following the one
on which we have seen Mr. Greenwood conducting his multifarious schemes and
transactions with the precision of a minister of state, Count Alteroni arrived
at that gentleman's house in Spring Gardens. He was shown into the elegantly
furnished drawing-room, where Mr. Greenwood received him. The count was,
however, the only one of all the financier's visitors who did not seem dazzled
by the proofs of wealth and luxury that prevailed around. The Italian nobleman
remarked these indications of great riches, and considered them the guarantees
of Mr. Greenwood's prosperous position in the world: but, apart from this view
of the splendour and sumptuousness of the mansion, he neither appeared
astonished nor struck with admiration. The truth was, that Mr. Greenwood's
abode, with all its magnificent decorations and ornaments, its costly furniture,
and its brilliant display of plate, was a mere hovel compared to the count's own
palace at Montoni, the capital city of Castelcicala.
Mr. Greenwood and the count had not exchanged many words, ere
dinner was announced. The banquet, although only provided for the founder of the
feast and his one guest, was of a most magnificent description, every luxury
which London could produce appearing upon the table.
At half-past eight o'clock, the clerk of Mr. Greenwood's
solicitor arrived, and was introduced into the dining-room. He had brought with
him a deed by which Greenwood bound himself to be answerable to Count Alteroni
for the sum of fifteen thousand pounds, which the latter had placed in the hands
of the former for the purpose of speculation in a certain Steam-packet Company,
Greenwood recognising his responsibility towards the count to the above extent
whether the Company should succeed or not, it having been originally agreed that
he (Greenwood) should incur all risks, he had undertaken the sole
direction of the enterprise. This deed was signed by George M. Greenwood,
witnessed by the attorney's clerk, and handed to Count Alteroni.
The clerk then withdrew.
Mr. Greenwood ordered a bottle of the very best Burgundy to
be opened, and drank a bumper to the health of the Signora Isabella.
Scarcely was this toast disposed of, when Lafleur entered the
room, and said, "A courier with despatches from your correspondents in
Paris, sir, has just arrived, and requests to see you Instantly. I have shown
him into the study."
"Very good," exclaimed Mr. Greenwood, suddenly
assuming a business air. "Will you excuse me, count, for a few
"I shall take my leave, since you are likely to be much
occupied," said the nobleman.
"On the contrary - pray remain - I insist upon it! I
shall not be long with this messenger," cried Mr. Greenwood: "and we
must empty another bottle before I allow you to take your departure."
The count suffered himself to be over-ruled; and Mr.
Greenwood repaired to his study, well-knowing [-149-] that,
instead of a courier from Paris, he should there find Tom the Cracksman.
Nor was he mistaken. That individual was sitting very
comfortably in an arm-chair near the fire, gazing around him, and wondering,
amongst other things, where the master of the house kept his strong-box.
"You are known, I believe," said Greenwood,
carefully closing the door, "as the Cracksman?"
"That's my title, sir - for want of a better,"
answered the villain.
"You are, perhaps, astonished that I have sent for you
here," continued Greenwood: "but I wish a certain service performed
this very night, and for which I will pay you liberally."
"What's the natur' of the service?" demanded the
Cracksman, darting a keen and penetrating glance at Greenwood.
"A highway robbery," coolly answered this
"Well, that a plain enow," said the Cracksman.
"But first tell me how you come to know of me, and where I was to be seen:
because how can I tell but what this is all a plant of yours to get mr into
"I will answer you candidly and fairly. A few years ago,
when I first entered on a London life. I determined to make myself acquainted
with all the ways of the metropolis, high or low, virtuous or vicious. I
disguised myself on several occasions, in very mean clothes, and visited all the
flash houses and patter-cribs - amongst others, the boozing-ken in Great
Saffron-hill. There you were pointed out to me; and your skill, your audacity,
and your extraordinary luck in eluding the police, were vaunted by the landlord
of that place in no measured terms."
"Well - this is singular - blow me if it ain't!"
cried the Cracksman. "Another person found me out jist in the same way this
wery morning, only, and he wants a little private job done for him. But
that's for to-morrow night. Howsomever, I never blab to one, of what I have done
or am going to do for another. You to-night - him to-morrow night! Arter all,
the landlord's a fool to talk so free: how did he know you wasn't a trap in
"Because I told him that my object was merely to see
life in all its shapes: and I was then so very young I could scarcely have been
considered dangerous. However, I have occasionally indulged in such rambles,
even very lately; and only a few weeks ago I looked in at the boozing-ken
dressed as a poor countryman. There I saw you again; and I overheard you say to
a friend of yours whom you called the Buffer, that you were generally there
every evening to see what was going on."
"All right! cried the Cracksman.. "Now what's the
robbery, and what's the reward?"
"Are you man enough to do it alone?"
"I'm man enow to try it on; but if so be the chap is
stronger than me "
"He is a tall, powerful person, and by no means likely to
surrender without a desperate resistance."
"Well, all that can be arranged," said the Cracksman, coolly. "Not
knowing what you wanted with me, I, brought two of my pals along with me, and they re out
in the street, or in the alley leading into the park. If there'd been anythink
wrong on your part, they would either have rescued me, or marked you and your house for future
"I am glad that you have your companions so near. Of course
they will assist you?"
"In anythink. The Resurrection Man and the Buffer will
stick to me like bricks."
"Very good. I will now explain to you what I want done.
Between eleven and twelve o'clock a gentleman will leave London for Richmond. He
will be in his own cabriolet, with a tiger, only twelve years old, behind. The
cab is light blue - the wheels streaked with white. This is peculiar, and cannot
be mistaken. The horse is a tall bay, with silver- mounted harness. This
gentleman must be stopped; and every thing his pockets contain - every thing,
mind - must be brought to me. Whatever money there may be about him shall be
yours; and I will add fifty guineas to the amount :- but all that you find about
his person, save the money, must be handed over to me."
"I understand," said the Cracksman. "Does he
"I should imagine not."
"Never mind: the Resurrection Man has got a couple of
barkers. But supposing he shouldn't come at all - what then?"
"You shall have twenty guineas for your loss of time.
Here are ten as an earnest."
"That's business," said the Cracksman. "Any
"No. I need scarcely say that no unnecessary violence is
to be used?"
"Leave all that to me. You will sit up and wait for me?
"Yes. Give a low single knock at the door, and the same
servant who sought you out last night, and let you in just now, will admit you
The Cracksman gave a significant nod and took his departure.
Mr. Greenwood returned to the dining-room, where he had left
"My news from Paris is of the most satisfactory nature,"
he observed. "My correspondents in that city, moreover, promise me their
best support in our new enterprise."
"I am delighted to hear that your letters have pleased you,"
said the count.
The two gentlemen then broached another bottle of Burgundy;
and Mr. Greenwood conversed with even more sprightliness than usual. Indeed, the
count fancied that he had never found his host so agreeable and entertaining.
At eleven o'clock precisely, the count's cabriolet was
announced; and the nobleman took his departure, with the conviction, that, under
his present circumstances, Mr. Greenwood was the most eligible suitor for the
hand of Isabella that was likely to present himself.
As soon as the count had taken his departure, Mr. Greenwood rang
for his slippers and dressing-gown, drew close to the cheerful fire that burnt
in the grate, and ordered Lafleur to make him a tumbler of the best pine-apple
rum-punch. This exhilarating beverage and a fragrant Havannah cigar enabled Mr.
Greenwood to pass the time away in a most comfortable and soul-soothing manner.
And it was thus that he mused as he watched the pale blee
transparent smoke of his cigar wreathing upwards to the ceiling:-
"I began the world without a shilling, and at an age
when I had no experience in the devious ways of society ;- and what am I now?
The possessor of sixty thousand pounds! A few years ago I slept in
coffee-houses, paying eight-pence a night for my bed: I breakfasted for
three-pence halfpenny; dined for ten-pence; and supped for two-pence. Now the
luxuries of the four quarters of the world tempt my palate at every meal. At the
outset of my career, my transactions were petty rogueries: now I play my [-150-]
false cards to produce me thousands at a stake. I once
purchased my coat for twelve shillings in Holywell-street; there is not now a
tailor at the west-end who will not give credit to George Greenwood. My wealth
purchases me every kind of pleasure. I can afford to bestow a thousand guineas
upon the woman, who, daughter of a peer, and wife of a baronet, throws herself
into my arms. One single scheme produces me ten times that amount. And
Isabella - beauteous Isabella shall be my wife. I shall receive no dowry with her, it
is true - because I have obtained all her father's fortune in advance ;- but I
shall be proud to introduce a lovely wife - the daughter of a Count, and descended
from a long line of ancestry, in that fashionable sphere to which I must
henceforth belong. I shall be a member of parliament: Lord Tremordyn can
easily obtain for use a baronetcy in due time; - and then, the peerage is not a
height too difficult to aspire to! Oh! if with a coronet upon my brow, and
Isabella by my side, I can drive in my chariot to "
Lafleur entered the room at this moment, and handed a letter to his master.
Greenwood opened it, and read as follows:-
"I have done your bid ding in every particular up to the present moment.
Louisa set off this afternoon for Birmingham, having received a letter
stating that her only sister is at the point of death in that town. You will of course understand by whom that letter was written. I have, moreover, invented
an excuse, relative to the date of the departure of the New York packets from
Liverpool, by which means I am enabled to remain In London without exciting
the suspicions of Eliza. I shall pass to-morrow evening with her. You may rely
upon being admitted at midnight."
Greenwood full well understood the meaning of this note without a signature;
and its contents tended to augment that happiness which the success of his
schemes infused into his breast.
Hour after hour passed away ;- at length, midnight sounded; and all the
servants, save Lafleur, were dismissed to their sleeping apartments.
The cigars, the rum-punch, and the pleasurable reflections into which the
financier plunged, made the time elapse rapidly. One o'clock struck; and a he
had not found a single moment tedious. He was not anxious, nor a prey to
suspense, as other men a would have been; he felt certain that his wishes would
be accomplished, and he was therefore as composed as if he had already been
assured of their success.
The clock struck two; and a low knock was heard at the front door. Lafleur
answered the summons; and in a few moments introduced the Cracksman to the room
where his master was sitting.
"All right, sir," said that worthy, the moment Lafleur had withdrawn.
no violence, I hope?" cried Greenwood.
"Not a bit," returned the Cracksman.
"We was as gentle as lambs. We on'y pitched the small boy into a dry ditch that
was by the side of the road; and as for the gentleman, I just tapped him over
the head with the butt of a pistol to keep him quiet; but I did it myself to
make sure that it wasn't done too hard."
"You surely have not murdered him?" said Greenwood, his whole countenance
suddenly couvulsed with horror.
"Don't be afeared; he was only stunned - you may take my word for
that " returned the Cracksman, coolly. "But here's all the paper we
found in his pocket; and as for his purse - it had but a few pounds in it."
Mr. Greenwood received the papers from the hands of the Cracksman, and
observed with a glance that amongst them was the document which he had given a few
hours previously to guarantee the safety of the fifteen thousand pounds placed
in his hands by Count Alteroni.
"You are sure," he said, with some uneasiness depicted
upon his countenance, "that there is no danger to be apprehended from the
"Danger be dd!"cried the Cracksman; "I
know from experience exactly what kind o' blow will stun, or break a limb, or
kill outright. I'll forfeit my reputation, if there's any harm in that there
whack which I gave to-night."
"We must hope that you are right in your conjecture,"
said Greenwood ;- then, taking his purse from his pocket, he counted down
forty-two sovereigns upon the table, adding, "That will make up the fifty
The Cracksman consigned the money to his fob, and then took
leave of his employer, hoping "that he should have his custom in future."
The moment he was gone, Greenwood thrust the document, which
he had thus got back by a crime of an infamous nature, into the fire. When it
was completely consumed, he proceeded to examine the other papers. These
consisted chiefly of letters written in cypher, addressed to Count Alteroni, and
bearing the post-mark of Montoni, Castelcicala: the rest were notes and
memoranda of no consequence whatever.
Mr. Greenwood, being unable to unriddle the letters written
in cypher, and considering that they were upon political subjects with which he
had little or no interest, consigned the entire packet of papers to the flames.
He then retired to rest, and slept as soundly as if his
entire day had been passed in virtuous deeds.
At about ten o'clock in the morning he received the following
letter from Richmond:-
"MY DEAR MR. GREENWOOD,
"As I was on my way home last evening. I was suddenly
attacked by three villains in a dark and lonely past of the road. One of the
miscreants stunned me with the blow of a pistol, and threw the little jockey
into a ditch. Fortunately we are neither of us seriously injured. The robbers
plundered me of every thing I had about my person - my purse containing
thirty-four sovereigns, and all my papers, amongst which was the security I had received from
your hands a few hours before. You will perhaps have another drawn.
"I do not think it is worth while to make any
disturbance relative to the matter, as, in consequence of the darkness of the night, I
should be totally unable to recognise the miscreants.
"Thank heavens, there is no danger in that
exclaimed Mr. Greenwood, when he had perused this letter. "He is not hurt -
and he will not adopt any means to detect the culprits. As for having
another document drawn up - I can take my time about that, and he will not dare
press me for it as he did for the first. Besides, he will consider my honourable
intentions in the matter fully proved by having given the one which he has lost! Thus have I obtained fifteen thousand pounds without much
trouble - thus have I
thrown dust into the eyes of this count, and still do I retain his confidence.
And his lovely daughter - the beautiful Isabella, with her large black eyes, her
raven hair, her sweet red lips, and her sylph-like form, - she shall be mine! I
shall lead her to the altar - that charming Italian virgin, whose very looks are
heavens. Everything progresses well: success attends all my plans; and to-night
- to-night," he added, "to-night will ensure me the gratification [-151-]
desires and my vengeance with regard to that haughty one of the villa!"
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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