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[-197-]  

CHAPTER LXIII.

THE PLOT. 

"WELL, young blade," cried the Cracksman, "you haven't kept us waiting at all, I suppose?"
    "And do you fancy that I could wake myself up again in a minute when I had once laid down?" demanded the lad, sulkily.
    "Oh! bother to the laying down, Harry," said the Cracksman. "Don't you think me and Tony wants sleep as well as a strong hearty young feller like you? and we haven't put buff in downy* [*"We've not gone to bed"] since the night afore last."
    "Well, never mind chaffing about that," cried the Resurrection Man impatiently: then, having dismissed the waiter, he continued, "Now, about this business at the palace? We must have no delay; and when we make appointments in future, they must be better kept. But I won't speak of this one now, because there a some allowance to be made for you, as you were up the best part of the night, and you ain't accustomed to it as we are. But to the point. How is this affair to be managed? "
    "I don't see how it is to be managed at all," answered Holford, firmly.
    "The devil you don't," cried the Cracksman. "Then what was you doing all that time in the palace?"
    "Running a thousand risks of being found out every minute —"
    "So we all do at times."
    "And sneaking about at night-time to find food."
    "I think you managed to discover the right place for the grist," said the Resurrection Man, his cadaverous countenance wearing an ironical smile; "for you must recollect that I found you in the pantry."
    "And the pantry's a good neighbourhood: it can't be far from where the plate's kept," observed the Cracksman.
    "The plate is kept where no one can get at it," said Holford.
    "How do you know that, youngster?"
    "I overheard the servants count it, lock it up in a chest, and take it up to the apartments of - of - the Lord Steward, I think they call him."
    "The deuce!" ejaculated the Cracksman, in a tone of deep disappointment.
    "Now I tell you what it is, young fellow," said the Resurrection Man; "I think that for some reason or another you're deceiving us."
    "You think so?" cried the lad. "And why should you fancy that I am deceiving you?"
    "Because your manners tell me so."
    "In that case," said Holford, rising from his seat, "it is not of any use for us to talk more upon the subject."
    "By G—d, it is of use, though!" exclaimed the Cracksman. "You shall tell us the truth by fair means or foul;" and he produced from his pocket a clasp-knife, the murderous blade of which flew open by means of a spring which was pressed at the back.
    Holford turned pale, and resumed his seat.
    "Now, you see that it is no use to humbug us," said the Resurrection Man. "Tell us the whole truth, and you will of course get your reg'lars out of the swag. You told me that the Queen was going to Windsor in a day or two; and that was as much as to say that the affair would come off then."
    "I told you the Queen was going to Windsor - and I tell you so again," replied Holford. "But I can't help it if they lock up the plate: and I don't know what else there is for you to carry off."
    The Resurrection Man and the Cracksman exchanged glances of mingled rage and disappointment. They did not precisely believe what the lad told them, and yet they could not see any motive which he was likely to have for misleading them - unless it were to retain all the profits of his discoveries in the palace for his own sole behoof.
    "Now, Holford, my good fellow," said the .Cracksman, shutting up his clasp-knife, and returning it to his pocket, "if you fancy that you are able to go through this business alone, and without any help, you are deucedly mistaken."
    "I imagine no such thing," returned Holford; "and to prove to you that I am convinced there is nothing to be got by the affair, in any shape or way, do you and Tidkins attempt it alone together. He found his way to the pantry as well as I did, and can tell you what he saw there."
    "That a true," said the Resurrection Man, apparently struck by this observation. "So I suppose we must give the thing up as a bad job?"
    "I suppose we must," added the Cracksman, grinding his teeth. "But, by G—d, if I thought this younker was humbugging us, I'd plant three inches of cold steel in him, come what would."
    "Thank you for your kindness," said Holford, not without a shudder. "Another time, get some person to act for you whose word you will believe. And now," he continued, turning to the Resurrection Man, "please to recollect the terms we agreed upon - a third of all we could get if successful, or five pounds for me in case of failure."
    "Well, I shall keep my word," returned the Resurrection Man.
    "Blow me if I would, though," exclaimed the Cracksman, fiercely.
    "Yes - fair play's a jewel," said the Resurrection Man, darting a significant glance at his companion; then, feeling in his pocket, he added, "Holford is entitled to his five pounds, and he shall have them; but, curse me! if I have enough in my pocket to pay him. I tell you what it is, my lad," he continued, turning towards the young man, "you must meet me somewhere this evening, and I'll give you the money."
    "That will do," cried Holford. "Where shall I meet you?"
    "Where?" repeated the Resurrection Man, affecting to muse upon the question: "Oh! I will tell you. You know the Dark-House in Brick Lane, Spitalfields?"
    "I have heard of it, but was never there."
    "Well - meet me there to-night at nine o'clock, Harry," said the Resurrection Man, in as kind a tone as he could assume, "and I'll tip you the five. counters."
    "At nine punctually," returned Holford. "I would not press you, but I have lost my place in consequence of being absent all this time without being able to give any account of myself; and so I am regularly hard up. I'm going to look after a situation up somewhere beyond Camden Town this afternoon, that I heard of by accident: but I am afraid I shall not get it, as I can give no reference for character ;- and even if I could, it would be to the public-house where I was pot-boy, and the place I'm going to try for is to clean boots and knives, [-198-] and make myself generally useful in a gentleman's house. So I am afraid that I am not likely to get the situation."
    "I hope you may, my lad, for your sake," cried the Resurrection Man. "At all events the five quids will keep you from starving for the next two months to come; so mind and be punctual this evening at nine."
    "I shall not fail," answered Holford; and with these words he departed.
    "Well, blow me, if I can make out now what you re up to," exclaimed Ěthe Cracksman, as soon as he and his companion in infamy were alone together.
    "You never thought that I should be fool enough to give him five couters for doing nothing but humour us?" said the Resurrection Man. "No - no : catch a weasel asleep - but not Tony Tidkins! Don't you see that he has been making fools of us? I remember what a devil of a hurry he was in to get me away from the palace, when I lighted upon him in the pantry, and, altogether, I am convinced he has been doing his best to stall us off from the business."
    "So I think," said the Cracksman.
    "Well," resumed the Resurrection Man, "we'll just try what a few days of the pit under the staircase in my crib will do for him. I have mended up the hole that opens into the saw-pit next door; and there is no chance of his escaping. We must make him drink a glass at the Dark House, and drug the grog well, and we needn't fear about being able to get him up into my street."
    "Ah! now I understand you," observed the Cracksman: "only see what it is to have a head like your'n. The pit will soon make him tell us the real truth."
    "And if not - if he remains obstinate —" mused the Resurrection Man, aloud ;- "why - in that case —"
    "We shall know what to do with him," added the Cracksman.
    And the two miscreants exchanged glances of horrible significancy.

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