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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 -- it, held such a scene of debauch, and misery, and crime, that even I, who laugh outright at eant, 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. He 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 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 rustyiron 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 had been known on divers occasions to recover a dropped bone, a clerk his warehouse key, and one old gentleman
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. d. 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 rustyiron 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 No. XXIV.-WOL. IV. N. N.
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 ear 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 fliekering candle-light, and made the dull atmosphere more marish with moulder and deeay. 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 feeble and slow. He 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 candlelighted, 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 bitterness, a listening ear, 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, as it flickered on the opposite wall, it at last settled on a little knob of brass, and made the thousand scintillations that in a moment attracted the thief's keen gaze. Before he had scarcely dared to breathe, but now, the peril forgotten in the intenser curiosity, his eager hand was stretched upwards to a broad old shelf; and there, much to the renewing of Togg-anticipated-glory, he found it was a small square oaken box, strongly clasped and riveted with brass. To know that this was within his grasp, to feel it, to touch it, to find that it was heavy, to be assured that it held enough of gold to pave the way for the very proudest triumph to the gallows, renewed all his patience and temerity, and crouching down within the darkest corner to wait till the old man should go to bed, that huddled mass of humanity in rags gave neither sign of life nor breath, excepting when the lambent eyes turning upwards to the tangibility of Togg-glory glowed with the matchless intelleet that society vilified and cursed. By and by, however, and luckily for the thief no candle was brought, the old man fetched forth this very box; and now was Tom assured more than ever that it was a money-box, and that it was to be still further enriched with that day's gains. Its lock ticked well and loud, though no sound of the jinking gold followed; yet, nevertheless this only made it more a mystery-box, full, for this reason, to the very brim with tangibility for Togg-glory. In the course of some long time, the lock ticked once more, the flickering thread of light faded quite away, and the old man went to rest, not without some words in blessing on that perished bitterness, that had perhaps played falsely on the divine chords of human love. So at last, when sleep was sure, the thief crept forth. A few cinders were still alight in the grate, and by these he could just see the old man's sleeping face, and the box that stood on a low chair beside his pillow. His watch was on it, but this thief-ambition scorned. With some ado (for the door-latch was old and rusty) he got safely from the room, and into the dreary shop below. Here, however, to his dismay, he found all so stoutly barred and locked, that after a full hour's vain attempt, and the burning out of his bit of candle, he was obliged to take refuge behind the nearest mound of books, and wait till in the re-opening of the shop he might creep forth undetected. Other doors there were into a gloomy yard in the rear, but these, his night's perambulations had shown him, had been fastened up so long, that the locks and bolts were covered thick with rust, and would require a giant's power to lift or move them
backward. He next thought to open the box, and conceal the contents about him,-he had not dared to risk discovery by searching for the key, but it was too stout and strong to be opened without some instrument. Thus left again to his own thoughts, and the box safe beside him, it was not strange perhaps that the fostered intellect of crime should stray into a new and strange channel, and the causation was a natural one, . The gas-light from the street, struggling through the topmost chinks of the shutters, fell in broad patches down the mounds of books, only fading into nothingness upon the dusky trodden floor. As his restless hand opened some old volumes that lay strewn around, this light settled on the paper, and, broadening out, flickered gracefully round the type and signs of beautiful and imperishable thought, garnered for the service and exaltation of the human mind. The divine spark of a divine and better nature was touched; the bending down of evil before the loftiness of good made its first sign; and even he, the felon, the outcast, the vagabond, wondered what this spiritual power could be, that lived in these old books to be so reverenced and adored 1 But my tale waits. At seven o'clock or thereabouts, in that dull street only yet gray dawn, the old man came down, unlocked the shop-door, and admitted another old red-nosed man, who, proceeding to work, brought in the shutters one by one. It was evident the box had not yet been missed. Watching the second shutter to its place in the rear of the shop, the thief safe with his prize got clear into the street, and dived down the first court-way. There he picked up the fragment of a door-mat, that, wound about the box, concealed it from observation; then making his way by obscure streets, to some disused mews in the vicinity of the Togg establishment, he brought forth from behind the rafters an old file, rived the lock, and cleared the mystery. But nothing for thief-hero-glory; nothing but what would make the whole Togg establishment roar with laughter, and Slimps once more the presiding Apollo | A strange old book, and a few fragments of womanly apparel, were all it held. And for these he had borne cold and hunger through so many winter nights! Depressed by hunger and vexation, for he had not tasted food for many hours, he crouched down amidst some mouldy straw; and for the first time, perhaps since his miserable childhood, fairly cried himself to sleep. It was dark drear night again, when he awoke benumbed and almost lifeless with the cold. As the comforts of the Togg