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NEW YEAR'S DAY
IT was the 1st of January, 1840.
The tide of Time rolls on with the same unvarying steadiness
of motion, wearing off the asperities of barbarism, as the great flood of ocean
smooths the sharp edges of rugged rocks.
But as the seasons glide away, vainly may we endeavour to
throw a veil upon the past ;- vainly do we lament, when Winter comes, that our
Spring dreams should be faded and gone, too beautiful to endure ;- vainly,
vainly do we pray that the waves of a Lethean sea may overwhelm the memories of
those years when Time cast flowers from his brow and diamonds from his wing!
Time looks down upon the world from the heights of the
Pyramids of Egypt ; and, as he surveys the myriad cities of the universe
swarming with life, - marks the mighty armies of all states, ready to
exterminate and and kill, - views the navies of great powers riding over every
sea, - as he beholds all these, Time chuckles, for he knows that they are his
For the day must come when the Pyramids themselves, the all
but immortal children of antiquity, shall totter and fall; and Time shall
triumph over even these.
The strongest edifices crumble into dust, and the power of
the mightiest nations fritters into shreds, beneath the hand of Time.
The glories of Sesostris are now a vague dream - the
domination of Greece and Rome has become an uncertain vision: the heroes of the
Crusades have long since mouldered in the earth ;- the crescent of the Ottomans
menaces Christendom no more: the armadas of Spain are extinct ; - the thrones
that Napoleon raised are cast down: of the millions that he led to conquest,
during his meteor-like career what numbers have left this busy scene for ever
and how varied are the climes in which they have found their graves!
Oh, Time! what is there that can strive with thee - thou that
art the expression of the infinite existence of God himself!
Alas! if Time were a spirit endowed with intellect to
comprehend, and feelings to sympathise, how would he sorrow over the woes of
that human existence, which has now occupied nearly sixty centuries!
Year after year rolls away; and yet how slowly does
civilization accomplish its task of improving the condition of the sons and
daughters of toil.
For in the present day, as it was in the olden time, the
millions labour to support the few, and the few continue to monopolize the
choicest fruits of the earth.
The rights of labour are denied; and the privileges of birth
and wealth are dominant.
And ever, when the millions, bowed down by care., and crushed
with incessant hardships, raise the voice of anguish to their taskmasters, the
cry is, "'Toil! Toil!"
And when the poor labourer, with the sweat standing in harp
drops upon his brow, points to his half-starved wife and little ones, and
demands that increase of his wages which will enable him to feed them
adequately, and clothe them comfortably, the only response that meets his ears
is still, "'Toil! Toil!"
And when the mechanic, pale and emaciated droops over his
loom, and in a faint tone beseeches that his miserable pittance may be turned
into a fair remuneration for that hard and unceasing work which builds up the
fortunes of his employer, the answer to his pathetic prayer is, "'Toil!
And when the miner, who spends his best days in the bowels of
the earth, hewing the hard mineral in dark subterranean caves at the peril of
his life, and in positions which cramp his limbs, contract his chest, and early
prostrate his energies beyond relief - when he exalts his voice from those
hideous depths, and demands the settlement of labour's rights upon a just basis,
the only echo to his petition is, "'Toil! Toil!"
Yes - it is ever "'Toil! Toil!" for the
millions. while the few repose on downy couches, feed upon the luxuries of the
land and water, and move from place to place in sumptuous equipages!
It was the 1st of January, 1840.
[-298-] Another New Year's Day -
commemorated with feasting by those who had no reason to repine, but marked as
the opening of another weary epoch of care and sorrow by those who had nothing
for which to be grateful, either to heaven or to man!
The first day of January, 1840, was inclement and severe. The
air was piercing cold, and the rain fell in torrents. The streets of the great
metropolis were swept by a wintery wind that chased the poor houseless wanderers
beneath the coverings of arches and doorways, and sent the shivering mendicants
to implore an asylum at the workhouse.
It was evening; and the lamps diffused but an uncertain light
in the great thoroughfares. The courts and alleys of the poor neighbourhoods
were enveloped in almost total darkness; for every shutter was dosed, and where
there were no shutters, blinds were drawn down, or rags were stretched across
the windows, to expel the bitter cold.
We must now request our readers to accompany us to a district
of London, which is most probably altogether unknown to the aristocrat, even by
name, and with which many of that class whose occupations lead them into an
intimate acquaintance with the metropolis, are by no means familiar.
Situate to the east of Bethnal Green, - bounded on the north
by Bonner's Fields, on the south by the Mile End Road, and on the east by the
Regent's Canal, - and intersected by the line of the Eastern Counties Railway,
is an assemblage of narrow streets and filthy lanes, bearing the denomination of
When compared with even the worst districts at the
metropolis, - when placed in contrast with Saint Giles's or Saffron Hill , -
Globe Town still appears a sink of human misery which civilization, in its
progress, has forgotten to visit.
The majority of the streets are unpaved, rugged, and broken.
The individual who traverses them in the summer is blinded by the dust, or
disgusted by heaps of putrescent offal, the rotting remains of vegetables and
filth of every description, which meet the eye at short intervals; and, in
winter, he wallows, knee-deep, in black mud and stagnant water, But even in the
summer itself, and in the very midst of the dog-days, there are swamps of mire
in many of the streets of Globe Town, which exhale a nauseating and sickly
odour, like that of decomposing dead bodies.
In the winter time Globe Town is a complete marsh. Lying low,
in the vicinity of the canal, and on a naturally swampy soil, the district is
unhealthy in the extreme. Nor do its inhabitants endeavour, by any efforts of
their own, to mitigate the consequences of these local disadvantages. They seem,
for the most part, to cling with a sort of natural tenacity, to their rags and
filth. Perhaps it is the bitterness of their poverty which makes them thus
neglectful of the first duties of cleanliness: perhaps their pinching indigence
reduces them to a state of despair that allows them no spirit and no heart to do
any thing that may conduce to their comfort. Whatever be the cause, it is
nevertheless a fact that, with the exception of one or two streets, Globe Town
is a district which necessity alone could compel a person of cleanly habits and
domestic propriety to reside in.
And yet Globe Town contains streets delighting in
aristocratic names. There is Grosvenor Place, in which a carriage and pair would
have some trouble to turn; there is Parade Street, where a corporal's guard
could not find space to manoeuvre; there is Park Street, whose most gorgeous
establishment is the sign of a mangle; there is Chester Place, formed by two
rows of miserable shops; and, there are Essex Street and Digbv Street, where
single men may obtain lodgings at the rate of three-pence a night.
How strange is this affection for fine names to distinguish
horrible neighbourhoods! In the lowest parts of Whitechapel we final Pleasant
Row, Queen Street, Flower Street, Duke Street, and Rose Lane. In Bethnal Green,
a place inhabited by the poorest of the poor is denominated Silver Street; and,
in the same district, a filthy thoroughfare is christened Pleasant Street.
Globe Town and its immediate vicinity abound in cemeteries,
to the north there is the Eastern London Cemetery; and to the south there are
two Jews' burial grounds, and two other places of sepulture. With the
exception of the first-mentioned one, which has only been recently opened, and
is a large airy space neatly planted with shrubs, those cemeteries are so
crowded with the remains of mortality, that it is impossible to drive a spade
into the ground without striking against human bones.
When you once merge from the Cambridge Road, pass the new
church in Bethnal Green, and plunge into Globe Town, it seems as if you had left
London altogether, - as if you were no longer within the limits of the
metropolis, but had suddenly dropped from the clouds into a strange village
strangely peopled. You encounter but few persons in the streets ; and those whom
you do meet are, for the most part, squalid, emaciated, pale, and drooping. The
only sounds of mirth which meet your ear, emanate from the casements of the
public-houses, or from the urchins that play half-naked in the mud. With these
exceptions, Globe Town is silent, gloomy, and sombre.
The shop-windows are indicative of the poverty of the
inhabitants. The butchers shed displays a few slices of liver stretched upon a
board, sheep's heads of no very inviting appearance, and hearts, lungs and
lights, all hanging together, like a Dutch clock with its weights against a
wall. The poor ·make stews of this offal. The fish-stalls present "for
public competition," as George Robins would say, nothing but the most
coarse and the cheapest articles - such as huge Dutch plaice, haddocks, &c.
In the season the itinerant venders of fresh- herrings and sprats drive a good
trade in Globe Town. In a word, every thing in that district denotes poverty -
poverty - nothing but pinching poverty.
The inhabitants of Globe Town are of two kinds; being
weavers, and persons who earn their livelihood by working at the docks or, on
the canal, on the one hand; and thieves, prostitutes, and vagrants, on the
other. When a burglar or a pick-pocket finds St. Giles's, Clerkenwell, the Mint,
or Bethnal Green too hot to hold him, he betakes himself to Globe Town, where he
buries himself in some obscure garret until the storms that menaced him be blown
over. Globe Town has thus acquired amongst the fraternity of rogues of all
classes, the expressive denomination of the "Happy Valley."
In one of the narrowest, dirtiest, and most lonely streets at
the eastern extremity of Globe Town, there was a house of an appearance more
dilapidated than the rest. It was only two storeys high, and was built in a very
singular manner. From the very threshold of the front door a precipitate
staircase, more nearly resembling a ladder, led to the apartments; so that when
any one entered that house from the street. he had to thread no passage nor corr-[-299-]idor,
but immediately began to ascend those steep steps. The staircase led to a
landing, from which two doors opened into small, dirty, and dark chambers. These
rooms had a door of communication pierced in the wall that separated them; but
there were no stairs leading down into the lower apartments of the house. The
only way of obtaining access to the rooms on the ground-floor, was by means of a
door up an alley leading from the street, and running along one side of the
house into a court formed by other dwellings. Thus the upper and lower parts of
this strange building might be said to constitute two distinct tenements. The
windows of the ground-floor rooms were darkened with shutters, at the upper part
of which holes in the shape of hearts had been cut to admit a few straggling
rays of light.
The rooms on the upper floor were furnished in a tolerably
comfortable manner; but every article was wretchedly begrimed with dirt. The
front apartment served as a sitting-room for the inmates of this strangely-built
house; and the back chamber was fitted up as a bed-room.
It was evening, as we before said; and thick curtains were
drawn over the two windows of the front-room to which we have alluded. A candle
with a s long flaring wick, stood upon the table. On a good fire a kettle was
just beginning to boil. The table was set out with glasses, bottles, sugar,
lemons, pipes, and tobacco. The inmates of that room were evidently preparing
for a carouse, while the rain beat in torrents, against the windows, and the
wind swept down the street like a hurricane.
But who were the inmates of that room?
We will proceed to inform our readers.
Lolling in an arm-chair, the covering of which was torn in
many places, and spotted all over with grease, was a female, who in reality had
scarcely numbered five-and-twenty years, but to whom the ravages of dissipation
and evil passions gave the appearance of five-and-thirty. She had once been
good-looking; and her features still retained the traces of beauty: but there
was a deep blue tint, beneath the eyes, which joined the dark thick brows, and
thus seemed to inclose the orbs themselves in a dingy circle. The faded cheeks
were coloured with rouge; but the dye had been so clumsily plastered on, that
the effect could not deceive the most ignorant in such matters. This woman wore
a faded light silk gown, cut very low in front, and disclosing a considerable
portion of a thin and shrivelled neck. In a word, she had the air of being what
she really was - a faded courtezan of a low order. Her proper name was Margaret
Flathers; but her acquaintance, for brevity's sake, called her Meg; and, in
addition to these appellations, the name of The Rattlesnake had been
conferred upon her, from the circumstance that she was fond of dressing in
silks' or satins, which she had a habit of rustling as much as possible when she
On the other side of the fire-place was seated a man of
cadaverous countenance, which was over-shadowed by a quantity of tangled black
hair, and whose expression was vile and sinister to a degree.
"Half-past eight," said the woman, glancing towards
a huge silver-watch which hung by a. faded blue riband to a nail over the
"Yes - they can't be long now," returned her
companion. who was no other than the Resurrection Man. "But because they re
late, Meg, it's no reason why we shouldn't have a drop of blue rum. The night a
precious cold; and the kettle's just on; the boil. Pour out the daffy,
The woman drew two tumblers towards her, and half filled each
with gin. She then added sugar and lemon; and in a few moments the Resurretion
Man poured the boiling element upon the liquor.
"Good, isn't it, Tony? " said the Rattlesnake.
"Capital, Meg. You're an excellent girl to judge of the proportions in a
glass of lush."
"And I think, Tony," said the woman coaxingly,
"that you have had no reason to complain of me in other respects. Twelve
months all but a few day that we've been together, and I have done all I could
to make you comfortable."
"And so you ought," answered the Resurrection Man.
"Didn't I take you out of the street and make an independent lady of you?
Ain't you the; mistress of this crib of mine? and don't you live upon the fat of
"Very true, Tony," said the Rattlesnake. "But
what would you have done without me? When that business took place down by the
Bird-cage Walk, and you was obliged to come and hide yourself in the Happy
Valley, you wanted some one you could rely upon to go out and buy your things,
take care of the place, and get information whether the blue-bottles had fallen
on any scent."
"All right, my girl," cried the Resurrection Man.
"I did want such a person, and the moment after I escaped that night
when I blew the old crib up, I went to you and told you just what I required.
You agreed to come and live with me and I agreed to treat you well. We have both
kept our bargain; and I am satisfied if you are."
"Oh! you know I am, Tony dear," exclaimed the
Rattlesnake. "But sometimes you have been so cross and quarrelsome, that I
didn't know what to make of it."
"And was there no excuse, Meg?" cried the
Resurrection Man. "Did I not see my old mother and the Cracksman perish
before my very eyes - and by my own hand too? But I do not accuse myself of
having wilfully caused their death. There was no help for it. We should have all
three been taken to Newgate, and never have come out of the jug again but twice
- once to be tried, and the second time to be hung."
"Could they have proved any thing against you?"
demanded the Rattlesnake.
"Yes, Meg," answered the Resurrection Man~
"there was a stiff 'un in the front room at the very moment when the police
broke into the house. We had burked him on the preceding evening; and he was
still hanging head downwards to the ceiling."
"It was much better, then, to blow the place up, as you
did," observed the Rattlesnake.
"Of course it was, Meg. Don't you see," continued
the Resurrection Man, after a pause, during which he imbibed a considerable
quantity of the exhilarating fluid in his glass, - "don't you see that I
was too old a bird not to be always prepared for such an event as that which
happened at last? I had got together a great quantity of gunpowder in the
back-room of the crib, and had stowed it away in brown paper parcels in a
cupboard. This cupboard stood between the fire-place and the back wall of the
house. So I had made a hole through the wail, and had introduced a long iron
pipe into the cupboard. This pipe was ten or twelve feet in length, and ran all
along the wall that divided my yard from the next. The pipe, so placed, was
protected by a wooden cover or case; and any one who saw it, must have thought
it was only a water-pipe. It was, however, filled with excellent gunpowder, and [-300-]
there was nothing to do but to put a match to the farthest end of the pipe to
blowup the whole place."
"Capital contrivance!" exclaimed the Rattlesnake.
" Had you put up that pipe long before the police broke into the
"Oh! yes - some months," answered the Resurrection
Man; "and very lucky it was, too, that the pipe was water-tight, so that
the rain had never moistened the powder in the least. Well, when the
blue-bottles broke in, I rushed into the back-room, locked the door, leapt
through the window, flew to the end of the pipe, tore out the plug, applied the
match, and in a moment all was over."
"And for a long time even your old pals at the
Boozing-ken on Saffron Hill, fancied you had been blown up with the rest,"
said the Rattlesnake.
"Of course they did, because the newspapers, which you
always used to go and fetch me to read, said there was no doubt that every one
of the gang in the house at the time had perished."
"And they also spoke of the way in which the police had
followed you and the Cracksman to the house," said the Rattlesnake.
"Yes - and that was how I came to learn that the man who
had hunted me almost to death, was Richard Markham," exclaimed the
Resurrection Man, his countenance suddenly wearing an expression of such
concentrated - vile - malignant rage, as to render him perfectly hideous.
"Now don't begin to brood over that," cried the
Rattlesnake hastily ; "for I am almost afraid of you when you get into one
of those humours, dear Tony."
"No - I shan't give way now," said the villain:
"I have prepared the means for revenge; and then I shall be happy. Ah! Meg,
you cannot conceive how I gloated over the wretch the other night when I
denounced him in the theatre! That man has been the means of making me stay in
this infernal prison - for it has been nothing better - for weeks and months; he
was the cause of the loss of my best friend, the Cracksman, and of my old
mother, who was very useful in her way: and he prevented me from getting that
young fellow into my power, who went and explored the Palace. When I think of
all that I have suffered through this infernal Richard Markham, I am ready to go
mad ;- and I should have gone mad, too, if it hadn't been that I always thought
the day of vengeance would come!"
"And my little attentions helped to console you,
Tony," said the Rattlesnake, in a wheedling manner that seemed peculiar to
"Oh! as for that, Meg, a man like me can be consoled by
nothing short of revenge in such a case. I have told you the history of my life
over and over again; and I think you must have learnt from it, that I am not a
person to put up with an injury. I have often thought of doing to Markham as I
did to the justice of the peace and the baronet - setting his house on fire; but
then he might not learn who was the incendiary, or he might even think that it
was an accident. My object is for him to know who strikes him, that he may
writhe the more."
"And do you think that the Buffer and Moll are to be
depended upon?2 asked Margaret Flathers.
"To the back-bone," replied the Resurrection Man.
"How could the Buffer possibly betray me, when he was one of
the gang, as the newspapers called it? Besides, wasn't he laid by the heels in
Clerkenwell Gaol for making away with the bantling to cheat the Burying Society?
and didn't he escape? How could he go and place himself in contact with this
police by giving information against me? And what good would it be to him to
deceive me? He knows that I have got plenty, of tin, and can pay him well.
Indeed, how has he lived in the Happy Valley for the last eleven months and
more, since he escaped out of Clerkenwell? Haven't I been as good as a brother
to him, and lent him money over and over again?"
"Very true," said the Rattlesnake. "I only
spoke on your account.
"I shall be able to let the Buffer in for several good
things, now that I am determined to commence an active life again,"
continued the Resurrection Man. "I have been idle quite long enough; and I
am not going to remain so any more. Why, Greenwood alone ought to be as good as
an annuity to me. He can always find employment for a skilful and daring fellow
"And he pays like a prince, doesn't he?" demanded
"Like a prince," repeated the Resurrection Man.
"Five guineas the other night for just attending the carrying off of the
young actress. That is the way to make money, Meg."
"And you have got plenty. Tony, I know?" said the
woman, in a tone more than half interrogatively, and only partially expressing a
"What's that to you?" cried the Resurrection Man,
brutally; at the same time eyeing his mistress in a somewhat suspicious manner.
"Oh! only because you needn't have any secrets from me,
Tony," returned the Rattlesnake, affecting a tone of indifference.
"You have been out every night lately - and only for a short time "
"Now I tell you what it is, Meg," exclaimed Tidkins, striking his fist
upon the table, "you have asked me about my money a great many times
lately; and I tell you very candidly, I don't like it. It looks suspicious; but,
by heavens! if you attempt to play me false "
"Why should you say that, Tony? Have I not given you every proof of
"Yes - you have; or else I should have known what to do in a very few
moments. But why do you bother yourself about the money that I have got.? It
is very little, I can tell you; but where it is, it's safe enough; and if I ever
catch you attempting to follow me or spy upon me when I go into the rooms down
stairs, I'll make you repent it."
"Now, Tony dear, don't put yourself into a
passion," said the
Rattlesnake, turning pale, and assuming her usual wheedling tone: "I
didn't mean to annoy you. All that I wanted to know was whether there was a
chance of running short or not."
"Don't frighten yourself, Meg," returned the Resurrection Man.
"Whenever I run low, I know how to get more. And now, that we mayn't have
to talk upon this subject again, recollect once for all that I won't have you
prying into any thing that I choose to keep to myself. You know that I am not a
man to be trifled with; and if any one was to betray me - I don't mean to say
that you ever had such an idea - I only mean you to understand that if anybody did
"Well - what?" said the Rattlesnake in a tone of alarm.
"I would not be taken alive," added the Resurrection Man; "and those
who came to take me at all, would probably travel the same road that the police,
the Cracksman, and the Mummy have gone already."
"Tony," exclaimed the woman, a deadly pallor overspreading her
countenance, "you don't mean [-301-] to
say that this house is provided with a pipe like the one "
"I don't mean to say any thing at all about it, - one
way or another," interrupted the Resurrection Man coolly. "All I want you to
do is to remain quiet - attend to my wishes - keep a close tongue in your head
have no eyes for any thing that I don't tell you to look at, - and then we shall
go on as pleasant as before. Otherwise "
At this moment a knock at the street door was heard.
The Rattlesnake hastened to answer the summons, and returned
accompanied by the Buffer and his wife.
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