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other's, having a deep olive cast, such as imbues the skin in the tropics and the Indies. Like his elder companion he was dressed in a coarse overcoat, cap and top boots. Neither of them seemed to carry any weapons, though they were in such a dangerous section, yet they might have had arms concealed beneath their ample coats.
The drinking room referred to within the dilapidated building, was on the first floor, and was one of those filthy gin shops that abound in the metropolis. There were six or eight cut-throat looking objects seated here and there in the room, and three of them were smoking together at a rough old table opposite the door whence the two persons referred to had entered. These three were evidently concocting some villanous rascality, as they talked in a hurried undertone, and often with much vehemency. The others seemed to be of less im
They paused now for a moment, before one of the noisy houses that lined the street, and listened in silence to the sounds of revelry within. "This is the house, I have marked it well,', portance, and evinced the several stages of said the elder of the two. drunkenness, from the high excitement of the
"It is a dram shop," said the other, peering stimulus, to the silliness of real inebriation, in at a crack.
"Yes, and of the vilest kind; a sort of rendezvous for burglars and thieves," said the eldest, taking his stand where he could gain a view of the interior.
"Half of them are drunk," continued the younger, still looking in at a crack of the crazy old building occupied for a tap room, so many of which abound in this locality.
"Do you see the woman who keeps the shop, just behind that bar?"
"Yes, fat as a porpoise," replied the other. "Do you know her name?"
'They call her Mother Giles," replied the elder of the two.
"Is this where you are going in?" asked the younger.
"Yes," said his companion. "We will enter quietly as possible and call for something to drink, and after that I will take the first opportunity to draw the old woman into conversation. If I can accomplish my object by gentle means and without force, why all the better, but if we must, why we must, at all hazards," he continued, with a meaning look at the other.
"Hark! what is that?"
singing, laughing and dozing by turns, quite forgetful of the miseries that each seemed heir to.
Across one end of the apartment was erected a rough counter, greasy with filth; behind which were displayed a few bottles, decanters and tumblers, the latter articles reversed, with here and there a lemon upon them, and from this place the liquid poison was dealt out, a dram at a time. Sitting behind this rude bar, was a woman half hidden in the cloud of bad tobacco smoke that she was most assiduously puffing from a pipe. She was a person of some fifty odd years of age, large and bloated with stimulus, while her face showed many a rough and ugly scar. One might easily read the reckless character that actuated her, in a single glance of her small gray eyes. Though she sat there, to all outward appearance in perfect quiet, and intent solely upon. the occupation of smoking, and watching the ascending wreaths, yet a keen observer would have noticed that her small twinkling eyes were all around the room, watching for a chance to further her interests by selling a dram, or else to set some villany afloat upon her customers.
It was into such a scene as this that the two persons whom we have described now entered, and as they did so, there was no little stir evinced by the inmates of the room. The
Yes, lead on," said his companion, as they drunken ones paused in their revelry to ogle approached the low entrance.
"Have your eyes about you and your arms ready, for these are desperate people."
With these words of caution the two entered the tap room.
them, the three conspirators looked at them with an eye to business, and the old woman, knocking the ashes out of her pipe and looking about her small quarters, called through a side door for some one to come and wipe down a table for the gentlemen.
"Whew! what an odious smell of onions," said the younger of the two.
"Keep your olfactories as well as your lips closed for the present," whispered the other. "Sit down, gentlemen, sit down," said the woman, blandly.
"Here at this table nearest the door," whispered the elder of the two.
The woman's summons brought into the room a young girl of some thirteen or fourteen years of age, but of most singular and striking beauty. Perhaps it was the contrast that the child afforded to the surrounding company and the place itself, that startled the younger of the two new comers, who gazed upon the girl with undisguised admiration. She was very coarsely dressed, but her sweet face would have shown its wealth of beauty through the most squalid covering of rags, while her form, though yet so young and unmatured, was delicate and lovely in the extreme. Her half plaintive, half dejected expression, though it was evidence but too plain of her unhappy lot, yet added interest to the childlike beauty and innocence of her face.
"A pure transparent, pale, and radiant face, Like to a lighted alabaster vase."
The elder of the new comers, though he regarded the girl with no, tokens of surprise, yet evinced no less interest and attention than his younger companion, and spoke to her most kindly as she wiped the rough table before them, and in a gentle voice solicited their orders.
"That is the child of whom I spoke," said the elder of the two to the other, after he had given his order for a bottle of the best wine the house afforded.
"You only said she was interesting, but this child is absolutely beautiful," said his companion, fixing his eyes once more upon the girl, as she entered with the wine.
"Have you been long in this place?" continued her interrogator.
"O, yes," said the child, with a sad and listless air.
"How would you like to live with me in a nice house and be sent to school?"
The child gazed for a moment at both the new comers, as if she were saying in her own mind, does he ask such a strange question as that in earnest? He who had asked her, marked the expression of her face and studied it well. In a moment more she asked: "To school?"
"Yes, and be taught to read and write like a lady, Edith."
"O, I should like above all things to go to school," exclaimed the artless girl, as a beam of joy lighted up her pale face for a moment.
"Perhaps we can get her permission to let you go," said the eldest of the two, nodding towards the woman at the bar, "and then I will take you from here."
The child shook her head incredulously, and faintly smiled.
"Would you not like to go with me?" asked the gentleman.
"I would like to go away from here anywhere," she said, sighing.
"Never fear-you shall do so, my good girl," said her interrogator.
"Ah! but she will not consent, I know," replied the child, looking towards the woman. "Do you think she would refuse if I offered her a handsome sum in gold?"
"Hush!" said the child, timidly, "if you have any gold do not mention it here!"
"Don't worry for me, my good girl. I will try presently and see what bargain I can make with the woman. Don't go far away, but be where you can follow us if I bid you."
The child looked thankful, but shook her head, as much as to say that any effort to accomplish the object referred to would be useless, and at the same moment they were interrupted by a shrill call from the woman, who upbraided the girl in no moderate terms for her laziness as she termed it, and with a rude volley of oaths sent her into the back room again, to engage in some menial service.
After sipping his wine, or rather pretending to do so for a few moments, the eldest of the two gentlemen-for their bearing seemed to entitle them to this appellation, though the
coarseness of their dress was no evidence of their belonging to the better class-stepping up to the bar, commenced a familiar and apparently pleasant talk with the woman of the house, evidently relating to the young girl already referred to. The woman seemed much interested, but did not appear to concede the point, which the customer urged with much
In the mean time the party at the opposite table were eyeing first the person who was talking at the bar, and then his companion who was still seated before the wine. Neither of them were persons whom even a desperado would wish to attack unprepared, yet they seemed to be deciding in their minds whether the present was the best moment for such a purpose, or whether they should wait still longer. Their manner and conduct showed them to be burglars, highwaymen, or both, and they were soon whispering together in a way that showed conclusively that they had already formed some plan or design upon the new comers. He who stood at the bar did not turn his back towards them even for a moment, but while he addressed the woman, though he seemed desirous that he should not be overheard, yet was careful at the same time to face the suspicious looking party.
"I am not deaf, you need not speak so loud," said the gentleman, a little ruffled.
"But I tell you I will not let the girl go," repeated the woman, in reply to some remark of her customer. "I have good reason for it, and she will bring me twice the sum you offer, within a couple of years from now, and besides I get her labore the bargain until then."
"Very well, double the amount, then," said the gentleman "call it a hundred pounds, and I'll pay you that and take her away to-night."
"It wont do, it wont do, a hundred pounds is not enough," said the woman, at the same time stealing an intelligent glance and nodding to the three opposite.
The mention of the hundred pounds was not lost upon the burglars, and the woman as we have seen took occasion to repeat the sum after him, so they might understand that doubtless the man had that amount of money about his person at that very time. The truth was, she would without doubt have part
ed with the girl at the price named and even for a much smaller sum, had she not expected to get the money or a part of it from the man, without giving any equivalent at all, before he left the house. She was of course in league with the villains opposite, and was confident in her own mind of sharing in the expected spoils. Thus influenced, the old woman still demurred, and indeed seemed disinclined to part with the girl at all, or at any price.
In the mean time Edith was passing in and out of the room constantly waiting upon the new comers, for three others had now joined the party of burglars, and were listening to some hurried and whispered remarks in relation to the two gentlemen. At last he who was talking to the woman seemed to give up his object in despair, and returning to his young companion at the table, he conversed with him in a low tone for some minutes. They were resolving in what way it would be best for them to proceed in order to gain their object, when they were interrupted by the approach of a stout six foot individual,, much taller and larger than the rest of his party, and evidently their bully. This fellow abruptly approached their seats, and declared in a blunt, insulting tone that he must have some of their wine. The youngest of the two gentlemen was on his feet in an instant, and prepared for an assault, but at a significant look from his companion, he stepped back quietly to his seat again, though his flushed cheek showed that it cost him an effort not to resist the insult at once.
"I say that I will have a glass of your wine," reiterated the bully.
"You had better return to your friends peaceably," said the eldest of the gentlemen. "I seek no quarrel with you, but you cannot taste that wine."
"That was my word, sir."
"We will see about that," said the bully, blustering towards the table.
He was really a very powerful man physically, but the development of his figure, though evincing great strength, was rather bungling, showing large limbs and a bloated figure, with a preponderance of abdomen, while he who thus opposed them all presented exactly the opposite style of power. Small at the waist, with limbs neatly tapering in their formation,
but with that breadth of chest and develop-insensible if not dead upon the floor, caused ment of shoulders that showed how powerful the others to hesitate and count the cost. It were the muscles and sinews of the man. looked like a miracle to them to see three These tokens had not escaped the practised stout men, renowned fighters, accustomed to eyes of the rogues, but then they were mingle daily and nightly in brawls of every three to one, and counted on an easy and character, thus overcome in an instant by a bloodless victory, in case of absolute opposition, single arm. The insult that the first had which they scarcely anticipated,under the exist- offered was not of course for the sake of the ing circumstances, notwithstanding the bold wine itself, but as an excuse whereby to start front that was presented to their first advance. a quarrel with the strangers, and then in the melee to rob them. All this time the woman looked on in profound astonishment, but ventured not a word, while the drunken party, with a sort of natural instinct, withdrew to
"You are determined to insult us, I see," continued the gentleman, perfectly calm.
"Just as you please," said the bully, "it's all the same to me."
"It will not be if you annoy me any far- the farthest corner. ther," said the gentleman.
"Give me the wine," said the man, stretching forth his hand to take it from the table.
But as the villain extended his arm, the gentleman raised himself to his full height, and with a blow given almost as quick as thought itself upon the head of the intruder, laid him lifeless at his feet! Two of the gang now rushed to their fallen comrade's assistance, but neither of them could strike a blow, both lay prostrate upon the floor beside the other, apparently dead, with the blood streaming from out their skulls. The gentleman recovered himself instantly, and was no more discomposed than as though he had merely been at play. His cheek was unblanched, his hand was steady, and he breathed deeply and freely, with full self-possession.
A volley of oaths escaped from the party opposite who were maddened into rage, but yet did not advance from the position they held.
'Perhaps there are more of ye that would like to be there," said the gentleman at last, with a bitter and scornful smile upon his lip; "if so, come on!"
After whispering together once more, the three desperadoes that were still left unharmed, seemed about to make a simultaneous attack, but as they turned once more towards the two gentlemen they found them prepared, and met the stern, unyielding eye of the extraordinary man bent keenly upon them as he said again calmly:
"If the girl comes in again," said the elder gentleman to his companion in an under tone, "seize upon her gently, but be sure to retain her; tell her that we are her friends, and that she must go with us. I will open a way if it be necessary. Loosen your pistols now, though they must not be used except as the very last resort."
"I understand," said his companion, putting his hands into his coat pockets for a moment, where a quick ear might have heard the half cock of a pistol's lock.
"Who are you?" asked one of the gang, now approaching the two, yet taking good care to keep out of reach of the arm that had felled his companions.
"That concerns you not," said the elder of the two; "we are here on our own business, and be assured we shall perform it. Unless you wish to share the fate of those fools upon the floor, you had best keep well out of my way, or you will follow suit."
The man had not the courage to tempt his fate, and so retired to his party.
Thus completely intimidated by the stern and resolute front of the stranger, the party once more retired to a corner of the apartment to consult. Had they dared to use their fire arms, they would have done so at once, but this they rarely ventured upon, for they knew full well that the first discharge and report would bring the police down upon them in force.
In the mean time, startled by the noise she had overheard, caused by the conflict, Edith's
A howl of mingled rage and oaths was the curiosity had brought her into the room, when only response they uttered. the younger of the gentlemen seized her by The sight of three of their comrades lying the arm and drew her to his side. He told
her that they were her friends, and that if she | would go with them they would protect and cherish her. Edith believed him at once, for there was truth written on every line of his frank, open countenance, and so far from attempting to release herself, she only clung more closely to his side, while the old woman fiercely ordered her away to the other room. "Edith," screamed the woman, in a towering passion.
The child hesitated, but her companion held her firmly.
"Edith, come away, or I will flay you alive," continued the hag.
Long custom had rendered the child so obedient to the woman's authority, that she almost struggled with him who now held her, in order to obey the rude summons that was made upon her. But a few quieting and encouraging words from her new friend pacified her, and she remained quiet by his side notwithstanding the almost frenzied rage and threats of the woman behind the bar.
"Now is the time," said the eldest of the two, "get into the street as soon as possible, and hurry away. Don't mind me. I'll bring up the rear, but don't loose your hold of the child-if anything happens to me, take her to the house and take care of her. Remember."
This was said in a hurried whisper between a lull of the noise and confusion; and having secured possession of the child, the two began gradually to make their way towards the door, near which fortunately they had been sitting. But a new phase was now put upon the matter by the woman, who appealed to her friends to know if they were going to look tamely on and see her servant kidnapped before their very eyes, nor lift a hand to prevent it. Thus aroused, the burglars seemed to resolve
upon one more assault upon the strangers. But he who had already proved so fatal to their companions, receded slowly backwards, never taking his eye from them. He knew very well the game they would now play.
They had learned by experience, and now his enemies came on more cautiously and all together; it was the only way that promised them success. He saw that it would be fatal to permit them to attack him in this way, and with a wonderful display of strength and agility he sprang among them, felling another to the floor, and with one blow breaking the arm
of a fifth person so that it hung useless by his side. The other desperado had been dealt with by the younger of the two, who seemed scarcely less at home than the other. This bold repulse was decisive, and amid the frowns and curses that saluted their ears, the gentlemen and their charge made their way into the
The curses and oaths of the woman followed them to the last, to the no small consternation of the girl, who seemed to dread her more than all else.
"Rest on me, Edith," said the younger of the two men, drawing the trembling arm of the child within his own, and half supporting her as they hurried along.
"Thank you, sir," she replied, striving to keep up with her companion, who was hurrying with no little speed from the vile neighborhood.
"We will soon be clear of this place, and you will have nothing to fear," he continued, striving to cheer the child as they went.
"Are they following us?" she asked, startled by a sound behind them.
'Ay," said the other, "but I do not care to be questioned even by them, so cross over and pass along quietly. I will join you a few squares further up the street."
It was not until the three had turned out of this second street into a large thoroughfare, that the person who had borne the brunt of the contest unwound from his wrist a small Indian netting, into the end of which was woven a leaden shot of three or four pounds weight, so arranged as to be hidden in the palm of the hand. A weapon at that time almost unknown in England, but in very common use in India. The secret of his effective and fatal blows was at once explained-they were performed with the slung shot.