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[-205-]       

CHAPTER LXVI.

THE RESULT OF MARKHAM'S ENTERPRISE.

THE reader at all acquainted with German literature may probably remember some of those old tales of demonology and witchcraft, in which assemblies of jovial revellers are frequently dismayed and overawed by the sudden entrance of some mysterious stranger - perhaps a knight in black armour, with his visor closed, or a monk with his cowl drawn over his countenance. If the recollection of such an episode in the sphere of romance recur to the reader's mind, he will have no difficulty in comprehending as when we state that the presence of the short, thick-set, middle-aged stranger caused an immediate damp to fall upon the spirits of the company in the Dark-House parlour.
    The stranger seemed to take no notice of any one present, but drank his grog, lighted his cigar, and settled himself in his seat, apparently with the view of making himself very comfortable.
    Still there was something sinister and mysterious about this man, which did not exactly please the other inmates of the room; and as we cannot suppose that the consciences of these persons were over pure, the least appearance of ambiguity to them was an instantaneous omen of danger. Like the dog that scents the corpse of the murdered victim, even when buried deep in the earth, those wretches possessed an instinct marvellously sensitive and acute in perceiving the approach or presence of peril.
    And yet, to a common beholder, there was nothing very remarkable about that stranger. He was a plain-looking, quiet, shabbily dressed person, and one who seemed anxious to smoke his cigar in peace, and neither speak nor be spoken to.
    Good reader - it was the reserve of this man, - his staid and serious demeanour - his tranquil countenance - and his exclusive manner altogether, that created the unpleasant impression we have described. Had he entered the room with a swagger, banged the door behind him, sworn at the waiter, or nodded to one single individual present, he would have produced no embarrassing sensation whatever. But he was unknown :- what, then, could he do there, where all were well known to each other?
    However, be continued to smoke, with his eyes intently fixed upon the blueish wreaths that ascended slowly and fantastically from the end of his cigar; and for five minutes after his entrance not a word was spoken.
    At length the coal-whipper broke silence.
    "Well, my dear," he said, addressing himself to the unfortunate girl who had already narrated a portion of her adventures, "you haven't done your story yet."
    "Oh! I do not feel in the humour to go on with it to-night," she exclaimed, glancing uneasily towards the stranger. " Indeed, I recollect - I have an appointment - close by —"
    She hesitated; then, apparently mustering up her courage, cried "Good-night, all," and left the room.
    "Who the deuce is that feller, Tony?" demanded the Cracksman, in a whisper, of his companion. "I can't say I like his appearance at all."
    "Oh! nonsense," answered the Resurrection Man "he is some quiet chap that doesn't like to smoke and talk at the same time."
    "But don't it seem as how he'd throwed a damp on the whole party?" continued the Cracksman, in the same subdued tone.
    "Do you take me for a child that s frightened at a shadow?" said the Resurrection Man savagely. "I suppose you're afraid that this young Holford will play us false. Why - what could he do to us? Any thing he revealed would only implicate himself. He knows nothing about our games up by the Bird-cage Walk there."
    "I forgot that - no more he doesn't," cried the Cracksman. "There a nobody can do us any harm, that I know on."
    " One - and one only," answered the Resurrection Man, sinking his already subdued tone to the lowest possible whisper,- "one only, I say, can injure us; and he will not dare to do it!"
    "Who the devil do you mean?" demanded the Cracksman.
    "I mean the only man that ever escaped out of the crib up by the walk after he had received a blow from my stick," answered the Resurrection Msn.
    "You don't mean to say, Tony," whispered the Cracksman, his countenance giving the most unequivocal signs of alarm, " that there's a breathing soul which ever went in the door of that crib an intended wictim, and come out alive agin!"
    " Never do you mind now. We shall make all the people stare at us if we go on whispering in this way. Supposing any one did mean to nose upon its haven't we got our barkers in our pocket?"
    [-206-] "Ah! Tony," said the Cracksman, in whose mind these words of his companion seemed to arouse a sudden and most disagreeable idea,- "talking about nosing makes use remember someot that I was told a few days ago up in Rat's Castle in the Rookery."
    "And what was that?" asked the Resurrection Man surveying his friend with his serpent-like eyes in a manner that made him actually quail beneath the glance.
    "What was it?" repeated the Crackaman, who appeared to hesitate whether he should proceed, or not: "why - I heard a magsman say that you nosed upon poor Crankey Jem, and that was the reason he got lagged and you was acquitted three year ago at the Old Bailey."
    "And what did you say to that?" demanded the Resurrection Man, looking from beneath his bushy brows at the Cracksman, as the ghole in eastern mythology may be supposed to gaze on the countenance of him whom he marks for his victim.
    "What did I say?" answered the Cracksman in s hoarse whisper: "why - I knocked the fellow down to be sure."
    "And you did what you ought to do, and what I should have done if any one had told me that of you," said the Resurrection Man in a lone of the moat perfect composure.
    While this conversation took place, hurriedly and in whispers, the mysterious stranger continued to smoke his cigar without once glancing around him; and the other inmates of the Dark-House parlour, recovering a little from their panic at the entrance of that individual, made a faint attempt to renew the discourse.
    But although the eyes of the stranger were apparently occupied in watching the wreaths of smoke, as they curled upwards to the ceiling, they were in reality intent upon the parlour window, the lower part of which alone was darkened by the sliding shutter that lifted up and down. There was a bright lamp over the front door of the public-house; and thus the heads of all the passengers in the street might be descried, as they passed the window, by the inmates of the parlour.
    "I say, Ben," exclaimed one reveller to another, "have you heerd that they're a goin' to lay out a park up by Bonner's Road and Hackney Wick?"
    Yes - the Wictora Park," was the reply. "On'y fancy giving them poor devils of Spitalfields weavers a park to walk in instead o' filling their bellies. But I spose they'll make a preshus deep pond in it."
    "What for?" demanded the first speaker.
    "Why - for the poor creturs to drown their selves in, to be sure."
    At this moment the countenance of a man in the street peered for a single instant over the shutter, and was then immediately withdrawn; but not before a significant glance had been exchanged with the stranger sitting in the neighbourhood of the door.
    All this, however, remained entirely unnoticed by the male and female revellers in the parlour.
    "Well, it's gone nine," whispered the Cracksman to his companion, " and this fellow Holford don't come. It's my opinion he ain't a-going to."
    "We'll give him half an hour's grace," returned he Resurrection Man. "The young fool is hard up, and won't let the hope of five couters slip through his brain quite so easy."
    " Half an hour's grace, as you say, Tony," whispered the Cracksman; "and then if he don't come we'll be off - eh?"
    "Oh! just as you like," growled the Resurrection Man. "You seem quite chicken-hearted tonight, Tom."
    "I don't know how it is," answered the Cracksman; "but I've got a persentiment - as they calls it - of evil. The sight of that there feller there —" and he nodded towards the stranger.
    "Humbug!" interrupted the Resurrection Man. "you haven't had grog enough - that's it."
    He accordingly ordered the waiter to supply fresh tumblers of hot liquor; and the next half hour slipped away rapidly enough; but no Henry Hqlford made his appearance.
    At a quarter to ten the two villains rose, and, having settled their score, departed.
    Scarcely had the parlour door closed behind them, when the short thick-set stranger also retreated precipitately from the room.
    Disappointed and in an ill-humour, the Resurrection Man and the Cracksman hurried away from the Dark-House towards the den situate in the immediate vicinity of the Bird-cage Walk.
    The streets were ankle-deep in mud: a thin mizzling rain was falling; and neither moon nor stars appeared upon the dark and murky field of heaven.
    The two men walked one a little in advance of the other, until they reached the top of Brick Lane, where they separated for the purpose of proceeding by different routes towards the same point - a precaution they invariably adopted after quitting any public place in each other's company.
    But so well were the arrangements of the police concocted, that while the Resurrection Man, continued his way along Tyssen Street, and the Cracksman turned to the right in Church Street until he reached Samuel Street, up which he proceeded, an active officer followed each: while in the neighbourhood of Virginia Street and the Bird-cage Walk numerous policemen were concealed in dark alleys, lone courts, and obscure nooks, ready to hasten to any point whence the spring of rattles might presently emanate."
    Also concealed in a convenient hiding-place, and anxiously awaiting the result of the various combinations effected to discover the den of the murderers, Richard Markham was prepared to aid in the operations of the night.
    Meantime, the Resurrection Man pursued one route, and the Cracksman another, both converging towards the same point; but neither individual suspected that danger was on every side! They advanced as confidently as the flies that work their way amidst the tangled web of the spider.
    At length the Resurrection Man reached his house; and almost at the same moment the other ruffian arrived at the door.
    "All right, Tom."
    "All right, Tony."
    And the Resurrection Man opened the door, he simply pressing his foot forcibly against it in a peculiar manner.
    He entered the passage, followed by the Cracks man, which latter individual turned to close the door, when it was burst wide open and half a dozen policemen rushed into the house.
    "Damnation!" cried the Resurrection Man; "we are sold!"- and, darting down the passage, he rushed into the little back room, the door of which he succeeded in closing and fastening against the officers.
    But the Cracksman had fallen into the hands of the police, and was immediately secured. Rattles were sprung; and the sudden and unexpected din, breaking upon the solemn silence of the place and hour, startled the poor and the guilty in their wretched abodes.
    [-207-] " Break open the door there!" cried the serjeant who commanded the police, and who was no other than the mysterious stranger of the Dark-House parlour: "break open that door - and two of you run up stairs this moment!"
    As he spoke, a strong light shone from the top of the staircase. The officers cast their eyes in that direction, and beheld a hideous old woman scowling down upon them. In her hand she carried a candle, the light of which was thrown forward in a vivid flood by the reflection of a large bright tin shade.
    This horrible old woman was the Mummy.
    Already were two of the officers half-way up the staircase, - already was the door of the back room on the ground floor yielding to the strength of a constable, - already were Richard  Markham and several officers hurrying down the street towards the spot, obedient to the signal conveyed by the springing of the rattles, - when a terrific explosion took place.
    "Good God!" ejaculated Markham: "what can that mean?"
    "There - there!" cried a policeman near him: "it is all over with the serjeant and my poor comrades!"
    Immediately after the explosion, and while Markham and the officer were yet speaking, a bright column of fire shot up into the air :- millions and millions of sparks, glistening vividly, showered down upon the scene of havoc ; - for a moment - a single moment - the very heavens seemed on fire ;-then all was black - and silent - and doubly sombre.
    The den of the assassins had ceased to exist: it had been destroyed by gunpowder.
    The blackened remains and dismembered relics of mortality were discovered on the following morning amongst the ruins, or in the immediate neighbourhood ;- but it was impossible to ascertain how many persons had perished on this dread occasion.

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