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'It has the word "Agnes" engraved on the inside,' said the woman.
'There is a blank left for the surname; and then follows the
date; which is within a year before the child was born. I found
'And this is all?' said Monks, after a close and eager scrutiny
of the contents of the little packet.
'All,' replied the woman.
Mr. Bumble drew a long breath, as if he were glad to find that
the story was over, and no mention made of taking the
five-and-twenty pounds back again; and now he took courage to
wipe the perspiration which had been trickling over his nose,
unchecked, during the whole of the previous dialogue.
'I know nothing of the story, beyond what I can guess at,' said
his wife addressing Monks, after a short silence; 'and I want to
know nothing; for it's safer not. But I may ask you two
questions, may I?'
'You may ask,' said Monks, with some show of surprise; 'but
whether I answer or not is another question.'
'--Which makes three,' observed Mr. Bumble, essaying a stroke of
'Is that what you expected to get from me?' demanded the matron.
'It is,' replied Monks. 'The other question?'
'What do you propose to do with it? Can it be used against me?'
'Never,' rejoined Monks; 'nor against me either. See here! But
don't move a step forward, or your life is not worth a bulrush.'
With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and
pulling an iron ring in the boarding, threw back a large
trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused
that gentleman to retire several paces backward, with great
'Look down,' said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf.
'Don't fear me. I could have let you down, quietly enough, when
you were seated over it, if that had been my game.'
Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr.
Bumble himself, impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same.
The turbid water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly
on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its
plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There
had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing
round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that yet
remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed
from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its
'If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be
to-morrow morning?' said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro
in the dark well.
'Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides,' replied
Bumble, recoiling at the thought.
Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had
hurriedly thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weight, which had
formed a part of some pulley, and was lying on the floor, dropped
it into the stream. It fell straight, and true as a die; clove
the water with a scarcely audible splash; and was gone.
The three looking into each other's faces, seemed to breathe more
'There!' said Monks, closing the trap-door, which fell heavily
back into its former position. 'If the sea ever gives up its
dead, as books say it will, it will keep its gold and silver to
itself, and that trash among it. We have nothing more to say,
and may break up our pleasant party.'
'By all means,' observed Mr. Bumble, with great alacrity.
'You'll keep a quiet tongue in your head, will you?' said Monks,
with a threatening look. 'I am not afraid of your wife.'
'You may depend upon me, young man,' answered Mr. Bumble, bowing
himself gradually towards the ladder, with excessive politeness.
'On everybody's account, young man; on my own, you know, Mr.
'I am glad, for your sake, to hear it,' remarked Monks. 'Light
your lantern! And get away from here as fast as you can.'
It was fortunate that the conversation terminated at this point,
or Mr. Bumble, who had bowed himself to within six inches of the
ladder, would infallibly have pitched headlong into the room
below. He lighted his lantern from that which Monks had detached
from the rope, and now carried in his hand; and making no effort
to prolong the discourse, descended in silence, followed by his
wife. Monks brought up the rear, after pausing on the steps to
satisfy himself that there were no other sounds to be heard than
the beating of the rain without, and the rushing of the water.
They traversed the lower room, slowly, and with caution; for
Monks started at every shadow; and Mr. Bumble, holding his
lantern a foot above the ground, walked not only with remarkable
care, but with a marvellously light step for a gentleman of his
figure: looking nervously about him for hidden trap-doors. The
gate at which they had entered, was softly unfastened and opened
by Monks; merely exchanging a nod with their mysterious
acquaintance, the married couple emerged into the wet and
They were no sooner gone, than Monks, who appeared to entertain
an invincible repugnance to being left alone, called to a boy who
had been hidden somewhere below. Bidding him go first, and bear
the light, he returned to the chamber he had just quitted.
INTRODUCES SOME RESPECTABLE CHARACTERS WITH WHOM THE READER IS
ALREADY ACQUAINTED, AND SHOWS HOW MONKS AND THE JEW LAID THEIR
WORTHY HEADS TOGETHER
On the evening following that upon which the three worthies
mentioned in the last chapter, disposed of their little matter of
business as therein narrated, Mr. William Sikes, awakening from a
nap, drowsily growled forth an inquiry what time of night it was.
The room in which Mr. Sikes propounded this question, was not one
of those he had tenanted, previous to the Chertsey expedition,
although it was in the same quarter of the town, and was situated
at no great distance from his former lodgings. It was not, in
appearance, so desirable a habitation as his old quarters: being
a mean and badly-furnished apartment, of very limited size;
lighted only by one small window in the shelving roof, and
abutting on a close and dirty lane. Nor were there wanting other
indications of the good gentleman's having gone down in the world
of late: for a great scarcity of furniture, and total absence of
comfort, together with the disappearance of all such small
moveables as spare clothes and linen, bespoke a state of extreme
poverty; while the meagre and attenuated condition of Mr. Sikes
himself would have fully confirmed these symptoms, if they had
stood in any need of corroboration.
The housebreaker was lying on the bed, wrapped in his white
great-coat, by way of dressing-gown, and displaying a set of
features in no degree improved by the cadaverous hue of illness,
and the addition of a soiled nightcap, and a stiff, black beard
of a week's growth. The dog sat at the bedside: now eyeing his
master with a wistful look, and now pricking his ears, and
uttering a low growl as some noise in the street, or in the lower
part of the house, attracted his attention. Seated by the
window, busily engaged in patching an old waistcoat which formed
a portion of the robber's ordinary dress, was a female: so pale
and reduced with watching and privation, that there would have
been considerable difficulty in recognising her as the same Nancy
who has already figured in this tale, but for the voice in which
she replied to Mr. Sikes's question.
'Not long gone seven,' said the girl. 'How do you feel to-night,
'As weak as water,' replied Mr. Sikes, with an imprecation on his
eyes and limbs. 'Here; lend us a hand, and let me get off this
thundering bed anyhow.'
Illness had not improved Mr. Sikes's temper; for, as the girl
raised him up and led him to a chair, he muttered various curses
on her awkwardnewss, and struck her.
'Whining are you?' said Sikes. 'Come! Don't stand snivelling
there. If you can't do anything better than that, cut off
altogether. D'ye hear me?'
'I hear you,' replied the girl, turning her face aside, and
forcing a laugh. 'What fancy have you got in your head now?'
'Oh! you've thought better of it, have you?' growled Sikes,
marking the tear which trembled in her eye. 'All the better for
you, you have.'
'Why, you don't mean to say, you'd be hard upon me to-night,
Bill,' said the girl, laying her hand upon his shoulder.
'No!' cried Mr. Sikes. 'Why not?'
'Such a number of nights,' said the girl, with a touch of woman's
tenderness, which communicated something like sweetness of tone,
even to her voice: 'such a number of nights as I've been patient
with you, nursing and caring for you, as if you had been a child:
and this the first that I've seen you like yourself; you wouldn't
have served me as you did just now, if you'd thought of that,
would you? Come, come; say you wouldn't.'
'Well, then,' rejoined Mr. Sikes, 'I wouldn't. Why, damme, now,
the girls's whining again!'
'It's nothing,' said the girl, throwing herself into a chair.
'Don't you seem to mind me. It'll soon be over.'