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    RETURN we once more to the villa at Upper Clapton.
    Eliza Sydney's household consisted only of Louisa and a peasant girl of about fifteen. She no longer kept horses and dogs, as she was compelled by Stephens to do during the time of her disguise, previously to her imprisonment. She therefore required 10 male retainers, save an old gardener who lived in one of the out-houses.
    A fictitious letter had caused the faithful Louisa to set out on a long journey; and thus the principal obstacle to the atrocious scheme of the conspirators against Eliza's peace and honour was removed.
    At ten o'clock on the evening fixed for the perpetration of the foul deed, the servant-girl carried the supper-tray to the dining-room where Eliza and Stephens were seated. The domestic spread the table with the materials for the most sociable of all meals, and, having placed two decanters upon the hospitable
 board, withdrew.
    The countenance of Stephens was particularly calm, considering the part he had undertaken to play towards a woman whose loveliness alone was sufficient to disarm the hand of enmity, and obtain the friendship of the most lawless. She had, moreover, already suffered so much through him, - she had extended towards him the hand of forgiveness and succour in his dire need, - and she possessed the most generous, the most noble, and the most confiding of dispositions. Oh! should not all these considerations have moved that man in her favour?
    He had received from Eliza the hundred pounds which she had promised him. With that sum he might have found his way to America, and still had a considerable balance in his pocket. But he had determined to add to it the two hundred pounds more which Greenwood had promised him.
    Although calm, he was very thoughtful.
    "You seem unhappy?" said Eliza, observing the pensive air of her guest. "Surely you cannot regret your approaching departure from a land where your safety is so fearfully compromised?"
    "And yet the land of which you speak is the one of my birth; and when once I have left it, I may reckon upon being destined to see it never again."
    "Yes - it is hard to bid an eternal adieu to one's native country. And yet," continued Eliza, "there is but little to wed the sensitive mind to England. Since my release I have passed nearly all my time in reading; and I am shocked to perceive, from the information I have gleaned, that England is the only civilized country in the world where death from starvation - literal starvation, is common. Indeed, it is an event of such frequent occurrence, that it actually ceases to create astonishment, and almost fails to excite dismay. There must be something radically wrong in that system of society where all the wealth is in the hands of a few, and all the misery is shared by millions."
    "You would then, quit England without much regret?" said Stephens.
    "For myself," answered Eliza, "I abhor a country in which poverty and destitution prevail to such an extent, while there is so much to spare in the hands of the favoured few. I sometimes look forth from the window, and survey that mighty city which stretches over plain, hill, and valley, and which is ever extending its mighty arms - as if in time it would embrace the entire island :- I gaze upon it at that hour in the morning when the eternal cloud is raised for a little space from its brow; and, as I mark the thousand spires which point up into the cool clear sky, I tremble - I feel oppressed as with a weight, when I reflect upon the hideous misery the agonising woe, the appalling sorrow that want entails upon the sons and daughters of toil in that vast Babylon."
    "And do you not suppose that the same destitution prevails in the other great cities of Europe?"
    "Certainly not. Were a person to die of actual starvation in Paris, the entire population would rise up in dismay. With all our immense and cumbersome machinery of Poor Laws, there is more real wretchedness in these islands than in any other country upon the face of the earth, not even excepting the myriads who dwell upon the rivers in China."
    "The topic is calculated to distress you, because you enter so deeply and feelingly into it," said Stephens. "Take a glass of wine - it will compose you."
    Stephens filled two glasses with Port wine; and almost at the same moment he exclaimed, "What a bad light the lamp gives this evening." Then, in a feigned attempt to raise the wick, he turned the screw the wrong way, and extinguished the light.
    "How awkward I am!" he cried; and, while Eliza hastened to re-light the lamp, he poured a few drops from a phial into one of the glasses of wine.
    The lamp was lighted once more; and Eliza had resumed her seat.
    Stephens handed her the fatal glass.
    "May all health and happiness attend you," he said "and may God reward you for your generosity towards me."
    The words did not stick in his throat as he gave them utterance.
    "And may you prosper in another clime," exclaimed Eliza in a tone which proved that the wish came from the bottom of her heart.
    She then drank a portion of the wine in her glass.
    The countenance of Stephens did not change as Eliza imbibed the soporific fluid. He contemplated her beauteous face with as much calmness as if he had just administered to her a potion calculated to embellish her charms, and add to her health and happiness.
    "Either my taste deceives me," said Eliza, placing the half-emptied glass upon the table; "or this wine has some defect which I cannot understand."
    "No - it is excellent," returned Stephens.
    "I drink so little that I scarcely know the proper taste," observed Eliza. " The pure spring water is my favourite beverage."
    " It is considered an unlucky omen to leave unfinished the glass in which you pledge the health of one who is about to traverse the ocean," said Stephens.
    "In that case," answered Eliza, with a smile, "I will relieve your superstitious fears;" and she drained her glass.
    Half an hour passed in conversation; and Eliza felt an irresistible drowsiness coming over her. She endeavoured to rally against it - but in vain; and at length she would have fallen from her chair fast asleep, had not Stephens rushed forward and caught her.
    He then rang the bell for the servant.
    [-152-] "Your mistress is unwell - she has been complaining all the evening; and she has now fallen into a profound sleep. I will assist you to convey her up stairs to her chamber."
    Stephens and the servant carried the entranced lady to the boudoir.
    Having placed her upon the bed, Stephens left the servant to undress her, and hastily descended to the hall. He opened the front door with caution, and whistled.
    Two men emerged from the total darkness without, and glided into the hall. Stephens conducted them into a back parlour, and gave them the key to lock themselves in.
    He himself then returned to the dining room, where he tranquilly awaited the arrival of Mr Greenwood.
    Midnight was proclaimed at length.
    A low knock at the front door fell upon Stephens's ear.
    He hastened to obey the summons, and admitted Greenwood into the house.
    They repaired to the dining-room together.
    "Your wishes have been obeyed in all respects," said Stephens. "Eliza is in your power the servant has retired to her own room. Give me my reward - for I am in a hurry to leave a dwelling to which my presence will have brought so much misery."
    And yet this man did not seem appalled nor horror-struck at the infernal nature of the crime for which he thus demanded the recompense.
    "You will await me here five minutes," said Greenwood; and he left the room.
    At the expiration of that interval he returned, the fire of triumph and lust flashing from his eyes.
    "It is all well - you have not deceived me," he observed in a tone of joy and exultation; "I have seen her, buried in a profound sleep - stretched like a beauteous statue in her voluptuous bed! The light of a lamp plays upon her naked bosom: the atmosphere of her chamber is soft, warm, and perfumed. Such charms are worth a kingdom's purchase!  She is mine - she is mine: here is your reward!"
    Greenwood handed a bank-note to his accomplice - or rather instrument in this atrocious proceeding and Stephens then took his departure.
    But an he passed through the hall, he thrust a letter, addressed to Eliza Sydney, beneath the carpet that covered the stairs.
    The moment Greenwood was alone, he paced the dining-room for a few minutes, to feast his imagination with the pleasures of love and triumph which he now beheld within his reach.
    "Yes - she is mine," he said "she is mine no power on earth can now save her! Oh! how will I triumph over the proud and haughty beauty, when to-morrow she awakes and finds herself in my arms. She will thrust her hand beneath the pillow for her long sharp dagger; it will not be there! She will extend her arm towards the bell-rope; it will be cut! And then she may rave - and weep - and reproach - and pray; I shall smile at her grief - her eyes will be more beautiful when seen through her tears! I shall compel her then to crave to be my mistress -  she who refused to be my wife! Oh! what a triumph is within my reach!"
    He paused; filled a tumbler half full of wine - and drank the contents at a draught.
    "Now for my victory - now for the fruits of my intrigue!" he resumed. "But let me wait one moment longer! let me ask myself whether, it be  really true that the lovely Eliza Sydney will shortly bless my arms - that she is at this moment in my power. It is - it is; and I shall now no longer delay the enjoyment of that terrestrial paradise!"
    With these words, he left the dining-room, and crossed the hall towards the staircase.
    He was now about to ascend to the boudoir.
    His foot was upon the first step, when he was rudely seized from behind, and instantly gagged with a pocket-handkerchief.
    Turning his head partially round, in a vain effort to escape from the powerful grasp in which he found himself, he encountered, by the light of the lamp that hung in the hall, the glance of the Cracksman.
    "The deuce! " exclaimed the burglar in a low and subdued tone: "this is a rum go! Working for you last night, and against you to-night! But, never mind: we must fulfil our agreement, let it be what it will. I can however tell you for your satisfaction that we don't mean to hurt you. So come along quiet; and all will be right."
    "What's the meaning of this, Tom?" said the Cracksman's companion, who was no other than the Resurrection Man: "you don't mean to say that you know this fellow?"
    "He's the one that we did the job for last night on the Richmond road," answered the Crackaman.
    "And he's got plenty of tin," added the Resurrection Man significantly. " We can perhaps make a better bargain with him than what Stephens has promised us for this night's business."
    "Yes - but we can't talk here,2 returned the Cracksman: "so come along. I've got my plan all cut and dry."
    Greenwood conveyed several intimations, by meant of signs, that he wished to speak; but the two ruffians hurried him out of the house.
    They conducted him across the fields to an empty barn at a distance of about a mile from the villa. During the journey thither they conversed together in a flash language altogether unintelligible to their captive, who was still gagged. A difference of opinion evidently seemed to subsist between the two men, relative to the plan which they should pursue with regard to Greenwood; but they at lengths appeared to agree upon the point.
    With regard to Greenwood himself, he was a prey to a variety of painful feelings,- disappointment in hi. designs upon Eliza at the moment when he appeared to stand upon the threshhold of success, - bitter malignity against Stephens who had thus duped him,- and alarm at the uncertainty of the fate which might await him at the hands of the villains in whose power he thus strangely found himself.
    The night was pitch-dark; but the moment the two ruffians with their captive entered the barn, a lantern in the hands of the Cracksman was suddenly made to throw a bright light forwards.
    That light fell upon the countenance of Stephens, who was standing in the middle of the shed.
    "All right," said the Cracksman. " We pinioned the bird without trouble; and he ain't a strange one, neither."
    "What! do you mean that you know him?" demanded Stephens.
    "That's neither here nor there," replied the Cracksman. "We don't tell secrets out of school, 'cos if we did, there'd be no reliance put in us; and we does a great many pretty little jobs now and then for the swell folks. But here is your bird - delivered at this werry spot, accordin' to agreement."

    "Well and good," said Stephens. "Tie him a hand and foot."
    The Cracksman and the Resurrection Man instantly obeyed this command: they threw Greenwood upon a truss of straw, and fastened his hands together, and then his feet, with strong cord. 
    "Here is your reward," said Stephens, as soon as this was accomplished. "I have now no more need of your services."
    He handed them some money as he thus spoke; and, having counted it, the two villains bade him good night and left the barn, which was now enveloped in total darkness.
    "Montague Greenwood," said Stephens, as soon as he was alone with his prisoner, "your design upon Eliza Sydney was too atrocious for even a man who has been knocked about in the world, as I have, to permit. You dazzled me with the promise of a reward which my necessities did not permit me to a refuse ;- and you moreover secured my co-operation by means of menaces. But I was determined to defeat your treacherous designs - to avenge myself for the threats which you uttered against me - and to obtain the recompense you had promised me, at  the same time. How well I have succeeded you now know. The whole of yesterday morning did I wander amongst the sinks of iniquity and haunts of crime in Clerkenwell, and the neighbourhood of Saffron Hill; and accident led me into a low public house where I encountered two men who agreed to do my bidding. I tell you all this to convince you that never for a moment was I villain enough - bad though I may be - to pander to infamy of so deep a dye as that which you meditated. I have taken measures to acquaint the noble-hearted woman whose ruin you aimed at, with the entire history of this transaction, so that she may be upon her guard in future. With reference to you, here I shall leave you: in a few hours the labourers of the farm will no doubt discover you, and you will be restored to liberty when Eliza has awakened from her torpor, and I shall be far beyond the danger of pursuit."
    Stephens ceased; and taking a long rope from the corner of the barn where he had concealed it, he fastened it to the cord which already confined the hands and feet of Greenwood. He then attached the ends firmly to one of the upright beams of the [-154-] barn, so as to prevent the captive from crawling away from the place.
    This precaution being adopted, Stephens took his departure.
    It would be impossible to describe the rage, vexation, and disappointment which filled the breast of Greenwood while Stephens addressed him in the manner described, and then bound him with the cord. Yet during this latter process he lay perfectly quiet, - well aware that any attempt at escape on his part would at that moment be totally unavailing.
    Five minutes elapsed after Stephens had left the barn, and Greenwood was marvelling within himself how long he should have to remain in that unpleasant position - bound with cords, and gagged in such a way that he could only breathe through his nostrils, - when the sounds of footsteps fell upon his ear, and the light of the Cracksman's lantern again flashed through the barn.
    "Well, sir," said the Cracksman, "your friend is gone now; and so we can have a word or two together. You see, we couldn't help you afore, 'cos we was obliged to fulfil our agreement with the man which hired us for the evening. Now it is just likely that you may have to remain here for some hours if so be we don't let you loose; so tell us what you'll give us for cutting them cords."
    The Cracksman removed the gag from Greenwood's mouth, as he uttered these words.
    "I will give you my purse," exclaimed the discomfited financier, "if you will release me this moment. It contains ten or a dozen guineas."
    "Thank'ee kindly," said the Cracksman, drily; "we've got that already. We helped ourselves to it as we came across the fields. Don't you see, we always make it a rule to have the plucking of all pigeons which we're hired to snare. You told us we might take all we found on the swell in the sky-blue cab; and that man with the sallow complexion that hired us to do this here business to-night, said, 'I will give you twenty pounds, and you can help yourselves to all you find about the gentleman you're to operate on.' "
    "Call upon me to-morrow, and I will give you another twenty pounds to free me from these bonds," said Greenwood.
    "That's only the price of a good corpse," said the Resurrection Man. "Make it thirty."
    "Yes - make it thirty," added the Cracksman.
    "Well - I will give you thirty guineas," cried Greenwood: "only delay not another instant. My limbs are stiffening with the cold and with the confinement of these accursed cords."
    "Let it be thirty, then," said the Cracksman. "Here, Tony," he added, turning towards his companion, "hold this here light while I cut the cords. And while I think of it, Mr. Greenwood, I shan't call upon you for the money; but you'll send it to the landlord of the Boozing-ken, where your servant came and found me. Mind it's there by to-morrow night, or else you'll repent it - that's all. Blowed if we haven't had two good nights' work on it, Tony. But, my eye! wasn't I surprised yesterday when the man with the sallow face which hired us for to-night, told me that we was to come to that there willa yonder, and I found out as how it was the same that I'd cracked three year ago along with Bill Bolter and, Dick Flairer. Arter all, there's been some curious, things about all these matters - partickler our having to tackle to-night the wery gentleman which we served last night."
    "Come - don't talk so much, Tom," said the Resurrection Man; "but let's make haste and be off."
    "There - it's done," exclaimed the Cracksman "the cords is all cut: you can get up, sir."
    Greenwood arose from the straw upon which he had been lying, and stretched his limbs with as much pleasure as if he had just recovered from a severe cramp.
    He then reiterated his promise to the two men relative to the reward to be paid for the service just rendered him; and, having inquired of them which was the nearest way to the West End, he set out upon his long and lonely walk home, depressed, disappointed, and hesitating between plans of vengeance against Stephens and fears of exposure in his own vile and defeated machinations with regard to the beautiful Eliza Sydney.

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