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The Broad Highway(Book2,Chapter44)

2006-08-28 23:01

  Book Two. The Woman Chapter XLIV. The Bow Street Runners

  It was toward evening of the next day that the door of my prison was opened, and two men entered. The first was a tall, cadaverous-looking individual of a melancholy cast of feature, who, despite the season, was wrapped in a long frieze coat reaching almost to his heels, from the pocket of which projected a short staff, or truncheon. He came forward with his hands in his pockets, and his bony chin on his breast, looking at me under the brim of a somewhat weather-beaten hat——that is to say, he looked at my feet and my hands and my throat and my chin, but never seemed to get any higher.

  His companion, on the contrary, bustled forward, and, tapping me familiarly on the shoulder, looked me over with a bright, appraising eye.

  "S'elp me, Jeremy!" said he, addressing his saturnine friend, "s'elp me, if I ever see a pore misfort'nate cove more to my mind an' fancy——nice an' tall an' straight-legged——twelve stone if a pound——a five-foot drop now——or say five foot six, an' 'e'll go off as sweet as a bird; ah! you'll never feel it, my covey——not a twinge; a leetle tightish round the windpipe, p'r'aps——but, Lord, it's soon over. You're lookin' a bit pale round the gills, young cove, but, Lord! that's only nat'ral too." Here he produced from the depths of a capacious pocket something that glittered beneath his agile fingers. "And 'ow might be your general 'ealth, young cove?" he went on affably, "bobbish, I 'ope——fair an' bobbish?" As he spoke, with a sudden, dexterous motion, he had snapped something upon my wrists, so quickly that, at the contact of the cold steel, I started, and as I did so, something jingled faintly.

  "There!" he exclaimed, clapping me on the shoulder again, but at the same time casting a sharp glance at my shackled wrists ——"there——now we're all 'appy an' comfortable! I see as you're a cove as takes things nice an' quiet, an'——so long as you do——I'm your friend——Bob's my name, an' bobbish is my natur'. Lord!——the way I've seen misfort'nate coves take on at sight o' them 'bracelets' is something out-rageous! But you——why, you're a different kidney——you're my kind, you are what do you say, Jeremy?"

  "Don't like 'is eye!" growled that individual.

  "Don't mind Jeremy," winked the other; "it's just 'is per-werseness. Lord! 'e is the per-wersest codger you ever see! Why, 'e finds fault wi' the Pope o' Rome, jest because 'e's in the 'abit o' lettin' coves kiss 'is toe——I've 'eard Jeremy work 'isself up over the Pope an' a pint o' porter, till you'd 'ave thought——"

  "Ain't we never a-goin' to start?" inquired Jeremy, staring out of the window, with his back to us.

  "And where," said I, "where might you be taking me?"

  "Why, since you ax, my covey, we 'm a-takin' you where you'll be took good care on, where you'll feed well, and 'ave justice done on you——trust us for that. Though, to be sure, I'm sorry to take you from such proper quarters as these 'ere——nice and airy——eh, Jeremy?"

  "Ah!——an' wi' a fine view o' the graves!" growled Jeremy, leading the way out.

  In the street stood a chaise and four, surrounded by a pushing, jostling throng of men, women, and children, who, catching sight of me between the Bow Street Runners, forgot to push and jostle, and stared at me with every eye and tooth they possessed, until I was hidden in the chaise.

  "Right away!" growled Jeremy, shutting the door with a bang.

  "Whoa!" roared a voice, and a great, shaggy golden head was thrust in at the window, and a hand reached down and grasped mine.

  "A pipe an' 'baccy, Peter——from me; a flask o' rum——Simon's best, from Simon; an' chicken sang-widges, from my Prue." This as he passed in each article through the window. "An' I were to say, Peter, as we are all wi' you——ever an' ever, an' I were likewise to tell 'ee as 'ow Prue'll pray for 'ee oftener than before, an' ——ecod!" he broke off, the tears running down his face, "there were a lot more, but I've forgot it all, only, Peter, me an' Simon be goin' to get a lawyer chap for 'ee, an'——oh, man, Peter, say the word, an' I'll have 'ee out o' this in a twinklin' an' we'll run for it——"

  But, even as I shook my head, the postboy's whip cracked, and the horses plunged forward.

  "Good-by, George!" I cried, "good-by, dear fellow!" and the last I saw of him was as he stood rubbing his tears away with one fist and shaking the other after the chaise.

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