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STRING OF PEARLS
[the original 1846/47 penny dreadful featuring SWEENEY TODD
THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, ed.]
CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT
SWEENEY TODD SHAVES A GOOD CUSTOMER. THE ARREST.
Johanna is still alone in the barber's shop. Her head is resting upon her hands, and she is thinking of times gone past, when she had hoped for happiness with Mark Ingestrie. When we say alone, we must not be presumed to have forgotten the two officers who were so snugly packed in the cupboard. But Johanna, as her mind wandered back to her last interview with him whom she had loved so well, and clung to so fondly, and so constantly, almost for a time forgot where she was and that there was such a person as Sweeney Todd in existence.
'Alas, alas!' she said, 'it seems likely enough that by the adoption of this disguise, so unsuited to me, I may achieve vengeance, but nothing more. Where are you, Mark Ingestrie? Oh, horror! something seems to tell me that no mortal voice can answer me.'
Tears came trickling to her relief; and as she felt them trickling through her fingers, she started as she thought that the hour which Todd had said would expire before he returned must have nearly gone.
'I must control these thoughts,' she said, 'and this emotion. I must seem that which I am not.'
She rose, and ceased weeping; she trimmed the little miserable lamp, and then she was about to go to the door to look for the return of Todd, when that individual, with a slow and sneaking footstep, made his appearance, as if he had been hiding just within the doorway.
Todd hung his hat upon a peg, and then turning his eyes enquiringly upon Johanna, he said, 'Well, has anyone been?'
'Who? Speak, speak out. Confound you, you mumble so, I can hardly hear you.'
'A gentleman to be shaved, and he went away again. I don't know what puts you in such a passion, Mr Todd; I'm sure nothing -'
'What is it to you? Get out of my way, will you, and you may begin to think of shutting up, I think, for we shall have no more customers tonight. I am tired and weary. You are to sleep under the counter, you know.'
'Yes, sir, you told me so. I dare say I shall be very comfortable there.'
'And you have not been peeping and prying about, have you?'
'Not at all.'
'Not looking even into that cupboard, I suppose, eh? It's not locked, but that's no reason why you should look into it - not that there is any secret in it, but I object to peeping and prying upon principle.'
Todd, as he spoke, advanced towards the cupboard, and Johanna thought that in another moment a discovery would undoubtedly take place of the two officers who were there concealed; and probably that would have been the case had not the handle of the shop-door been turned at that moment and a man presented himself, at which Todd turned quickly, and saw that he was a substantial-looking farmer with dirty top boots, as if he had just come off a journey.
'Well, master,' said the visitor, 'I want a clean shave.'
'Oh,' said Todd, not in the best of humours, 'it's rather late. I suppose you would not like to wait till morning, for I don't know if I have any hot water?'
'Oh, cold will do.'
'Cold, oh dear, no; we never shave in cold water; but if you must, you must; so sit down, sir, and we will soon settle the business.'
'Thank you, thank you, I can't go to bed comfortable without a clean shave, do you see? I have come up from Braintree with beasts on commission, and I'm staying at the Bull's Head, you see.'
'Oh, indeed,' said Todd, as he adjusted the shaving cloth, 'the Bull's Head.'
'Yes, master; why I brought up a matter o'220 beasts, I did, do you see, and was on my pooney, as good a stepper as you'd wish to see; and I sold 'em all, do you see, for 550 pun. Ho, ho! good work, that, do you see, and only forty-two on 'em was my beasts, do you see; I've got a missus at home, and a daughter; my girl's called Johanna - ahem!'
Up to this point, Johanna had not suspected that the game had begun, and that this was the magistrate who had come to put an end to the malpractices of Sweeney Todd; but his marked pronunciation of her name at once opened her eyes to the fact, and she knew that something interesting must soon happen.
'And so you sold them all,' said Todd.
'Yes, master, I did, and I've got the money in my pocket now, in bank-notes; I never leaves my money about at inns, do you see, master; safe bind, safe find, you see; I carries it about with me.'
'A good plan, too,' said Todd; 'Charley, some hot water; that's a good lad - and - and, Charley.'
'While I am just finishing off this gentleman, you may as well just run to the Temple to Mr Serjeant Toldrunis and ask for his wig; we shall have to do it in the morning, and may as well have it the first thing in the day to begin upon, and you need not hurry, Charley, as we shall shut up when you come back.'
Johanna walked out, but went no further than the shop window, close to which she placed her eyes so that, between a pomatum jar and a lot of hair brushes, she could clearly see what was going on.
'A nice-looking little lad, that,' said Todd's customer.
'Very, sir; an orphan boy; I took him out of charity, poor little fellow; but there, we ought to try to do all the good we can.'
'Just so; I'm glad I have come to be shaved here. Mine's a rather strong beard, I think, do you see.'
'Why, sir, in a manner of speaking,' replied Todd, it is a strong beard. I suppose you didn't come to London alone, sir?'
'Oh, yes, quite alone; except the drovers, I had no company with me; why do you ask?'
'Why, sir, I thought if you had any gentleman with you who might be waiting at the Bull's Head, you would recommend him to me if anything was wanting in my way, you know, sir; you might have just left him, saying you were going to Todd, the barber's, to have a clean shave, sir.'
'No, not at all; the fact is, I did not come out to have a shave, but a walk, and it wasn't till I gave my chin a stroke, and found what a beard I had, that I thought of it, and then passing your shop, in I popped, do you see.'
'Exactly, sir, I comprehend; you are quite alone in London.'
'Oh, quite, but when I come again, I'll come to you to be shaved, you may depend, and I'll recommend you too.'
'I'm very much obliged to you,' said Todd, as he passed his hand over the chin of his customer. I'm very much obliged; I find I must give you another lather, sir, and I'll get another razor with a keener edge, now that I have taken off all the rough as one may say in a manner of speaking.'
'Oh, I shall do.'
'No, no, don't move, sir, I shall not detain you a moment; I have my other razors in the next room, and will polish you off now, sir, before you will know where you are; you know, sir, you have promised to recommend me, so I must do the best I can with you.'
'Well, well, a clean shave is a comfort, but don't be long, for I want to get back, do you see.'
'Not a moment, not a moment.'
Sweeney Todd walked into his back-parlour, conveying with him the only light that was in the shop, so that the dim glimpse that, up to this time, Johanna from the outside had contrived to get of what was going on, was denied to her; and all that met her eyes was impenetrable darkness.
Oh, what a world of anxious agonising sensations crossed the mind of the young and beautiful girl at that moment. She felt as if some great crisis in her history had arrived, and that she was condemned to look in vain into the darkness to see of what it consisted.
We must not, however, allow the reader to remain in the same state of mystification, which came over the perceptive faculties of Johanna Oakley; but we shall proceed to state clearly and distinctly what did happen in the barber's shop, while he went to get an uncommonly keen razor in his back-parlour.
The moment his back was turned, the seeming farmer who had made such a good thing of his beasts, sprang from the shaving-chair, as if he had been electrified; and yet he did not do it with any appearance of fright, nor did he make any noise. It was only astonishingly quick, and then he placed himself close to the window, and waited patiently with his eyes fixed upon the chair, to see what would happen next.
In the space of about a quarter of a minute, there came from the next room a sound like the rapid drawing of a heavy bolt, and then in an instant the shaving-chair disappeared beneath the floor; and the circumstances by which Sweeney Todd's customers disappeared was evident.
There was a piece of the flooring turning upon a centre, and the weight of the chair when a bolt was withdrawn, by means of a simple leverage from the inner room, weighed down upon one end of the top, which, by a little apparatus, was to swing completely round, there being another chair on the under surface, which thus became the upper, exactly resembling the one in which the unhappy customer was supposed to be 'polished off'.
Hence was it that in one moment, as if by magic, Sweeney Todd's visitors disappeared, and there was the empty chair. No doubt, he trusted to a fall of about twenty feet below, on to a stone floor, to be the death of them, or, at all events, to stun them until he could go down to finish the murder, and - to cut them up for Mrs Lovett's pies! after robbing them of all money and valuables they might have about them.
In another moment, the sound as of a bolt was again heard, and Sir Richard Blunt, who had played the part of the wealthy farmer, feeling that the trap was closed again, seated himself in the new chair that had made its appearance with all the nonchalance in life, as if nothing had happened.
It was a full minute before Todd ventured to look from the parlour into the darkened shop, and then he shook so that he had to hold by the door to steady himself.
'That's done,' he said. 'That's the last, I hope. It is time I finished; I never felt so nervous since the first time. Then I did quake a little. How quiet he went; I have sometimes had a shriek ringing in my ears for a whole week.'
It was a large high-backed piece of furniture, that shaving-chair, so that, when Todd crept into the shop with the light in his hand, he had not the remotest idea it was tenanted; but when he got round it, and saw his customer calmly waiting with the lather upon his face, the cry of horror that came gargling and gushing from his throat was horrible to hear.
'Why, what's the matter?' said Sir Richard.
'O God, the dead! the dead! O God!' cried Todd, 'this is the beginning of my punishment. Have mercy, Heaven! oh, do not look upon me with those dead eyes!'
'Murderer!' shouted Sir Richard, in a voice that rang like the blast of a trumpet through the house.
In an instant he sprang upon Sweeney Todd, and grappled him by the throat. There was a short struggle, and they were down upon the floor together, but Todd's wrists were suddenly laid hold of, and a pair of handcuffs were scientifically put upon him by the officers, who, at the word 'murderer', that being a preconcerted signal, came from the cupboard where they had been concealed.
'Secure him well, my men,' said the magistrate, and don't let him lay violent hands upon himself. Ah! Miss Oakley, you are in time. This man is a murderer. I found out all the secret about the chair last night, after twelve, by exploring the vaults under the old church. Thank God, we have stopped his career.'
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