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didn't fall where it was intended, but on the weakest and most miserable of the party.
“ Come there, don't yer be jist a gitting on that way, or else yer shall sing for a fire this precious night,” said a little, old, weazened creature, in face a man of thirty, in stature a boy of twelve, who, seated on the heaped and filthy hearth, was feeding the few sparks of fire in the grate with bits of wood and coal from a wet hempen bag that lay between his knees. · Yis, if yer 'd lit 'em come in my line, there 'be a sumfen ; for mud ain't like daylight-it don't tell nothink ; and so don't yer be a doing that, for it was Sammy's fourpence as sint yer to beil winking last night.” So saying, the little old fellow heaped more wood upon the fire, till it crackled and roared perilously up the wide and dusky chimney. As all had slunk from within her reach except the firemender-Duckling as he was called—and a girl crouched in the chimney corner with an apron cast over her head, Togg proceeded to count up the value of the before-mentioned articles on the table ; and as it presently appeared to exceed her expectations, and the fire now threw a glowing warmth around, she lighted her pipe with an air of leering complacency at the short thick candle that stood on the table in a blacking-bottle. Just then, as she was about to do her duty to society by some pretty little lesson for the morrow, to her four most diminutive pupils, already in a corner abstracted in the ethics of pitch-and-toss with shillings and sixpences that had never seen the inside of her blessed Majesty's İlint, the room-door was quickly thrust back, and a boy of perhaps fourteen, though a mere dwarf for that age, came in, followed by another much younger, and in a stride or two was beside the table, and had placed on it an uncut Stilton cheese. Ilis dilated eyes and uphearing chest told the whole peril and history of the theft.
“My cyc! Bella Bella! if Tummy ain't sparked up at last," roared Toge with vchement glee, as she gave her cap an ecstatic tweek, and turned round to the slipshod sleeper.
“Oh, ay !” exclaimed the thief's gaping little satellite, twisting his fists with vicious precocity, “it vos jolly-sich a precious prig ; la ! la ! Tummy can come out strong, that jist he can ; and Tom lookel round and gloried in his popularity, with such witful eyes and face of intellect, that Togg vision had already raised up in the place of the cheese a heap of precious gold. What she was about to say in the extremity of exultation was lost by the entrance of Slimps, who, from possessing a threadbare
coat and being tall, was usually considered the Apollo of the Togg establishment; and he, seeing the state of affairs at a glance (for the thief of men's good has liis pretty little points of ambition as much as has the thief of political rights), lost no time in producing a very fat turkey from underneath the before-mentioned coat ; but, as this did not make any immediate sensation, there followed a string of sausages, a bottle of preserved cherries, and so on-all the fruit of the same gentlemanly, and leisurely, and supper-contemplating marauder ; and, combined, Togg majesty was propitiated, for she immediately exclaimed, “ Well there, git yer pipes ; it shall be a roast and a quartern all round.” As the Duckling was considered the out-and-out cook of the establishment, turkey-roasting responsibility was his, and, as his damp and dreary life amidst the sewers made him peculiarly relish the warmth and light of a fire, it was soon re-fed with the choicest morsels from his bag, and costly morsels too, that had perhaps their own dark mystery of crime and theft, though blanched and rotted in the sewerage many a year ; the turkey set to twirl, the gin sent for, and such small juveniles as were not yet elected to nobler things in the Togg establishment were sent immediately to prowl for butter for the basting, and pepper for the peppering, and
any other little thing that might come conveniently to hand. Tom—he had no other name—though not glorious in a coat like Slimps (for his whole wardrobe was thus :—a wristbandless shirt, a bracer of twine, and an extraordinary pair of corduroy trowsers, that in their pristine day had clearly served an agriculturist- medal-worth Mr. John Bull), was, in spite of the turkey and appendages, the hero of the night, and high in Togg favour. Clearly the boy was drunk with crime, for, revelling in the story of his guilt, he told it with matchless wit and humour ; his very eyes dropped merriment; and smoking his pipe, and quaffing his gin, and leering on the girl at his side, made even Togg majesty cry “What a boy!” and the cook time his laughter with the continuous basting of the turkey.
By the time the bird was done, the sausages fried, and the great potful of potatoes piled in an earthen pan, other slipshod girls had crept in, and other urchins, prematurely old in festered crime and guilt ; but, as their miserable earnings did not raise them to flavours so aristocratic as turkey, some slunk away to the rear to eat their filched scraps unheeded and uncared for ; others toasted bread and meat before the fire ; others begged the mere
turkey-bones from the Togg table, and, as the gin went round, this room, eight feet by ten, beneath which in the stillness of the night the gurgling of the monstrous sewer was heard from its far depths below, where too crept loathsome vermin on their greedy track, yet not half so loathsome or so vile as the squalid guiltiness above, festering in the heart of the society and civilisation that disregarded it, held such a scene of debauch, and misery, and crime, that even I, who laugh outright at cant, whether be-wigged or be-ragged, lay down my Hogarth pencil, and leave a
Fortunately for human nature, sensuality has an exhaustive character ; and the revel died out as the midnight passed away. But true to nature again, not the exultation of the boy-thief ; who, amidst that huddled mass of humanity and rags, gloried in his new step to the gallows, and laughed in his very heart at the society that called him vile. Ile laughed rightly in the potency of that intellect that society chose to disregard, and yet call vile! Falsely and unjustly; for the society that quibbles on a dogma, and neglects to teach, breeds vice; the society that builds prisons instead of school-houses, fosters vice ; the society that erects the gallows for the throne and altar of that vice it has, through its neglect, bred and fostered, falsely calls it vice, and most unjustly; and let advance cry forth this truth !
It was some nights after. A keen cold winter's night, and the snow quite untrodden, in a dull and old, though reputable city street ; reputable because very rich men were known to live and deal in it, and other rich men come to and fro, and dive into its dark fastnesses of merchandise and gold. The gas-light from the lamps scintillated in broad patches, leaving little pathways of comparative darkness here and there, especially before one very old house, so far up and lofty, that many of its old windows were lost to sight amidst the heavy brickwork. It had a very oldfashioned shop frontage, with the window panes thick begrimed with a compound of soot and smoke, of so very permanent a character, that it was only rubbed off here and there, in zigzag slips and lines, like a snail's sign of travel on a garden wall, by huge soft packages on porters' shoulders, and umbrellas of family-covering capacity. Beneath these panes were thick rusty iron gratings, that might once have looked down into areas, wide and long, but were now so choked up with filth and rubbish, that sagacious and sharp-nosed dogs had been known on divers occasions to recover a dropped bone, a clerk his warehouse key, and one old gentleman
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on a very rainy day, the ferule of his umbrella. Into this shadow crept Tom the thief, before the shop was shuttered, or the hour was late, for a glimmering feeble light came through the beforementioned small pathways, showing that old and costly books were the merchandise within, piled up, the buried sepulchres of human thought and feeling. Great God that in the world these fountains of the truth should be so deep and exhaustless ; and yet so few, by reason of darkness, know how to taste and charm away the curse and leprosy of cant, by drinking deep and well. But we shall yet taste, and we shall yet drink, and in the fulness of masculine joy, for few have yet the untiring and the iron lip needed for the perpetual draught of the perfect knowledge of the perfect laws of nature, in their perfect and most harmonious divineness !
The rusty iron handle of the door was turned, the door pushed back, the boy in, and closed again ; the acutest ear could not have heard. The shop was extraordinarily large and high and gloomy ; books were crowded round in presses to the very ceiling, and piled up in great mounds from the floor. The light that was shed was from two old oil-lamps, the one above a desk in the rear of the shop, at which sat an old man, somewhat stout, and clothed in rusty black. He was reading a large vellum book, that lay before him like a ledger, and the thief-boy, as he stole a glance at his face, though he had peeped at it for many weeks through the before-mentioned little pathways in the window-panes, was awed by its unrelenting and severe expression. However, books were not the articles for thief-hero glory, but something tangible and weighty that should astonish the Togg establishment, and cast the Stilton cheese and Slimps quite into the shade. With these glories full in view, Tom turned the latch of a very dark old wainscot door, which had been the chief point of his hundred peepings, for it led into the interior of the house. Breathlessly, and with beating heart, he crept round, closed it, and, after some few steps, not feeling walls on either side, he found he stood at the top of a flight of wide stairs, that led downwards to the basement of the house. Lighting a slip of candle with the matches he had brought, he crept down, and found the large dreary kitchens to which this staircase led wholly unoccupied. They had been, seemingly, uninhabited and neglected for years, though full of furniture, now begrimed with dust and moulder. In one, and what was very extraordinary, seemed what had once been preparations for some festive dinner or supper, suddenly left, and never again touched. The saucepans on the fire
were dark with rust and soot ; cinders were heaped up in the huge grate ; fragments of meat and bones still clinging to the rusty spit, told they had been left there to moulder and decay ; dishes once filled with delicate pastry were heaped upon the dressers, though the rats had long since feasted and left them empty ; bottles still stood uncorked, flimsy spiders' webs weaving their tall dusty necks together ; greenery to deck the feast lay withered around;
and the very hand of the old Dutch clock seemed there to have stopped, and having made that hour, long past, its grave, had died and had no car for the thousand after hours tolled by the voice of time. But all these were nothing towards that shape of glory that was to astound the Togg establishment, and make the bravado of the gallows a precious certainty. So creeping once more into the gloomy hall, and up another flight of wide old dusty stairs, he opened doors into rooms, some furnished, and others piled up with countless multitudes of books, grey-coated with thick dust, that even with the thief's cautious step hung in a cloud around the feeble flickering candle-light, and made the dull atmosphere more marish with moulder and decay. One room was locked. Close opening beside it was another, in which burned a dull fire ; near this was drawn a little table, a high-backed chair, and in one corner a low uncovered truckle-bed. As this was probably the region for tangible-thief-hero-glory, the boy's quick eyes, absolutely lustrous with that intellectual exultation, that society is pleased to sneer at, to disregard, to call vile, aided by his feeble candle, was taking a pretty accurate survey, when footsteps came up the stairs. They were the old man's footsteps, for they were fecble and slow. lie had time, however, to finish his survey, and be assured that nothing of value lay within sight, blow out his piece of candle, and creep into a large closet at the foot of the truckle-bed, and before the footsteps came within the room. It was probable that the shop was now closed for the night, for the fire was roused up, a candle lighted, the old easy chair moved a pace or two till it ticked against the fender, and the old man (for Tom by the low short cough knew that it was he) settled for the night hour, to gather perhaps anew the garlanded flowers of some quaint story; though that they were sad and shadowed by earth's Vitterness, a listening car, that knew these things, would have told; for a sigh, sometimes, was the only symphony played forth by the hidden nature of that lone solitary heart. A faint streak like an amber thread was all the light that came within the closet, though,