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IN WHICH ARE NARRATED A FEW PARTICULARS OF
MY BIRTHPLACE AND PARENTAGE.
shuttera coffin-lid, almost-would serve as a
As a boy, I was not particularly jovial or light-
hearted, and the subject of coffins and funerals
going on in our alley, especially in the summer
and against all such it is the costermon- lost his temper while in pursuit of his property,
it was really not to be wondered at. It was not
MY LAST APPEARANCE AT COVENT GARDEN. I BECOME A PUBLIC SINGER, AND MY PIPES ARE
IN WHICH I START ON THE WISHED-FOR JOURNEY. I OVERHEAR A CURIOUS CONVERSATION CON-
I AM MADE WISE AS TO THE IMPORT OF THE
IN WHICH THERE OCCURS A SCENE THAT BEATS HOLLOW EVERYTHING I EVER WITNESSED AT
IN WHICH ONE JAIL-BIRD ESCAPES AND THE OTHER ONE IS SECURELY CAGEN. I FLEE FROM
GAFF" IN SHOREDITCH,
INVOLVES THE STORY OF MY TREACHERY TOWARDS LONG GEORGE HOPKINS. THE FALL OF
THE TRUE HISTORY
IN WHICH ARE NARRATED A FEW PARTICULARS OF
MY BIRTHPLACE AND PARENTAGE.
shuttera coffin-lid, almost-would serve as a gate for it.
As a boy, I was not particularly jovial or light
hearted, and the subject of coffins and funerals I was born at Number Nineteen, Fryingpan used to occupy a considerable share of my atAlley, Turnmill Street, in the Parish of Clerken- tention. There were always plenty of funerals well.
going on in our alley, especially in the summer It is scarcely probable that the reader is ac- time; indeed, if it were not so, it would be no quainted with the locality in question, and even great wonder that Fryingpan Alley and coffins less probable, if he undertook a journey of ex- should be intimately associated in my mind, ploration in search of it, that any great amount since it was a funeral of a very woeful sort that of success would attend his labours. This es- roused me from babyhood to boyhood, as it were, pecially, if he addressed himself to the individu- and set me seriously reflecting on the world and al best qualified to give him the required inform- its ways. However, it will be time enough to ation. This would be the Clerkenwell coster- give the particulars of that melancholy business monger. He may have resided within ear-shot when I have fulfilled the promise made at the of Clerkenwell Church bells all his life; nay, he beginning of this chapter. may be a lodger in Turk's Head Alley, which is The breadth of coffins and the narrowness of not more than twenty paces from my alley, and our alley used to occupy my thoughts a great still he will shake his head ignorantly in reply deal, and there were very few of our neighbours to your question. Fryingpan Alley, Turnmill whose height and breadth I had not considered, Street! He never heard tell of it. He knows and settled within my mind how hard or how all the courts and alleys thereabout. There's easy it would be to carry his body out. Rose Alley, and Lamb and Flag Court, and Two persons in particular caused me tremenCrozier's Alley, and Fringpun Alley. The last- dous anxiety on this account the one being the mentioned comes closest to what you are inquir- landlord of the “Dog and Stile,” out in Turning after; but that can't be the one, because it mill Street; and the other an elderly lady, who is in Tummel Street. Even though he had a lived near the mouth of the alley. The publisuspicion that your“Fryingpan ”and his “Fring- can, although he did not reside in the alley, was, pun,” and his “Tummel” and your “ Turnmill” nevertheless, there a great deal, chiefly in consewere identical, it is very doubtful if you would quence of the many difficulties that stood in the gain advantage, your use of the full and proper way of his recovery of the pots and cans he lent terms being regarded by him as priggish affecta- to his customers; and if Mr. Piggot sometimes tion; and against all such it is the costermon- lost his temper while in pursuit of his property, ger's creed to set his countenance.
it was really not to be wondered at. It was not Nevertheless, Fryingpan Alley is a fact; a at all an uncommon thing for him to discover the disgraceful one, probably, but one that is unde- bright pewter borrowed of him overnight resting niable. Passing Clerkenwell Sessions House on the hob of a fire-place, half filled with the from Coppice Row, it is the second alley on the dregs of the coffee that had been boiled in it at left-hand side of the way; and coming at it breakfast, and so burnt and blackened as to redown Turnmill Street from the Smithfield end, quire a vigorous application of Mr. iggot's it is on the right, past the coppersmith's and the broad, fat thumb, wetted and roughened with great distillery, and next to Turk's Head Alley. cinder-ash, before he could convince himself that Except that the stone step at the mouth of the the vessel bore his name and sign. He had been alley is worn quite through to the bricks beneath, known to enter a room (he had a way of never and the name-board above has been renewed, its knocking at a door) to take an Irish stew or a outward appearance is exactly the same as when, dinner of cabbage and bacon off the fire, and, nearly twenty years ago, I used to live there : tilting it all into the fender, walk off triumphthe same dingy, low-arched entry-so low that antly with the gallon can it was cooking in. He the scavenger, with his basket on his shoulder, used to work himelf into the most dreadful pasis obliged to slacken at his knees to enable him sions on these and similar occasions, and to stamp to pass under it, and so narrow that a shop. I and swear till his eyes rolled and the pimples on
his nose stood out in a way that was terrible to the ways of eating and drinking. In wet weawitness. “You shall never have a pot or can ther she sat in the passage ; but while it remained out of my house again-may I drop dead if you fine overhead, neither breakfast, dinner, nor tea do !" was the threat he was constantly using, would drive her from the nosebag. She had no rolling his glaring eyes up towards the ceiling as other lodger but a niece-a lanky, pock-marked he spoke. But he never kept his oath. The young woman, who wore her hair much strained very worst defaulter was never refused after a in a backward direction, and there secured in a second, or, at the outside, a third application ; great bunch. The frightful disease that had so and it would only have been what he was always seared her face had also robbed her of an eye, asking for if, one fine morning, Death had taken so that altogether she could not be called handhim by the heels and laid him flat along the cob- some; but, like her aunt, she was a good-hearted ble-stones of our alley.
creature, and helped me to a meal many and I often thought about it. What if such a hor- many a time. She kept the key of the barrowrible thing should happen ! How ever would shed in Dog and Stile Yard, and undertook the they lift him up and carry him round to his pub- house-cleaning for her aunt, and prepared her lic-house ? Even now, when he passed out load- meals. ed, though he went shoulder first and sidling, his They were meals! Since that memorable time cans rasped and clanked against the wall. True, it has been my good fortune to partake of many he did not appear to be a very solidly-built man, dinners that might fairly be called excellent; but and there were fellows in our alley who, as push- not one of them ever came up to those Mrs. ers of loads, would give in to no man; still, if Winkship used to partake of. At breakfast or once Mr. Piggot's shoulders got blocked in the at tea she was nothing very great; but at dinner doorway, it was very certain that the harder they she was splendid. The coke-measure, being of pushed the rounder he would become, and that the half-bushel size, was of a convenient height they certainly would have a great deal of trouble for sitting on before a bottom-up apple-sieve. with him.
The apple-sieve was the dining-table; and cerBut if I felt concern on poor Mr. Piggot's be- tain as stroke of one o'clock, you might see half, what were my sensations as I pondered on Mrs. Winkship shift her coke-measure from the the chances of Mrs. Winkship's demise, and its doorway to under the parlour-window, and hear inevitable consequences ? Mrs. Winkship was her call out, “Ready, Martha, when you are !" an elderly lady living at the entrance of the and then Martha would raise the parlour-window, alley. If a single pound, she was full five stone and arrange on the window-sill the salt and the heavier than Mr. Piggot, to say nothing of her vinegar, and the pepper and the mustard; then being considerably shorter and thicker. But it she would bring out the apple-sieve, already was not entirely on account of her superior size spread with a cloth as white as bran-new calico; that I felt more interest in Mrs. Winkship's case and then she would bustle back into the parlour than in the publican's. As for Mr. Piggot, so again, and hand the dinner out at the window to long as they succeeded in removing his body, Mrs. Winkship. how would not have troubled me in the least; It was always something with plenty of gravy indeed, so far from being affected by the fact of in it-rich to look at, luscious, and smoking hot; his dying, I have no doubt that, had I been in- but the most wonderful feature of Mrs. Winkformed that that event had taken place on his ship's dinners was their smell. There are meats own premises, I should have greatly rejoiced by nature delicious-smelling-roast pork, for inthat now all chances of the occurrence of the stance; but—and how Martha managed it I could calamity that haunted me were at an end; but never, from that day to this, imagine-she seemed in Mrs. Winkship’s case, respect -- not to say to possess the power of conferring an odour of downright love and gratitude-entered very con- baked crackling on the tamest meats; to conjure siderably into the question. She was a woman out of them a fragrance that seemed to cry aloud of business. I don't know exactly what she with a voice that could be heard from one end of called herself, but she followed the business left the alley to the other. Certainly, fancy may have by her husband, which was that of lending bar- had a great deal to do with it; or that smelling rows and money to the many fruit-hawkers that being our share, we made the most of it; or it lived in our alley. It was Mrs. Winkship's boast may possibly have happened that Mrs. Winkship's that since Mr. W.'s death, which had happened dinner and its odour being altogether without thirteen years ago, she had never journeyed out competition, its virtues appeared more forcibly. of Turnmill Street, except on the one occasion Whether either of the above conjectures explains of her venturing as far as the Royal Coburg the fact, I can't say; I only know that exactly as Theatre, at Lambeth, in the pantomime season, I have never seen such dinners, so have I never when she had slipped down the gallery stairs and smelt any such. It was a common remark amongst sprained her ancle. Her constant station was us boys and girls, that it seemed to be always the threshold of her own house, where, seated Sunday with Mrs. Winkship. After dinner she on an upturned coke-measure, with a nosebag drank rum and water-hot, invariably. In the full of chaff for a cushion, she kept watch the depth of 'winter, when the snow was on the livelong day. The peculiar nature of her busi- ground, and she sat on the coke-measure wearing ness, or, more properly speaking, of her custom- a hairy cap with ear-lappets, and wrapped in a ers, compelled it. Unless she caught the fellows coachman's box-coat, she would drink it; in the when they returned home after disposing of their summer time, when the cobble-stones of the alley stock, and insisted on their “squaring up" be- were hot to naked feet, and the gutters too warm fore they went indoors, she was sure to be a for a refreshing dabble in them, she drank it hot loser.
and strong as ever. The difficulties of her business, however, offered Did we respect Mrs. Winkship the less on acno material hindrance to her enjoying herself in Icount of this weakness ? Did we despise her,
and taunt her, and make fun of her? We did | ways a bit of a favourite with her; and the good not. How could we, when we saw how jolly it afternoon I speak of was once when I was quite made her, and considered what a profitable weak- free, in consequence of my stepmother going out ness it was to us? We used to fetch it for her, to a tea-meeting and taking little Polly with her. three pen'orth at the time. We used to lurk in Still I can declare, and with a clear conscience, the shadow of doorways, and peep from window- that it was not on any such mercenary grounds blinds, keeping a sharp eye on her till the arrival as how much I should be out of pocket that Mrs. of the moment for action—the moment when she Winkship's 'probable death troubled me. My waddled back from the parlour window to the concern was what would they do with her, supdoorway with her seat, and sat herself down posing she should die? Next to burying her at thereon, with her fat arms contentedly folded on the water-butt end of the alley, where the renther lap. We used to take it in turns. The way collector lived, and which was consequently much was to stroll from your lurking-place and saunter the quietest and best-behaved end, the only way towards her in the most undesigning manner pos- out of the difficulty, as it appeared to me, was to sible, and when you approached close enough to fix a tall crane and sling her over the house-tops address her innocently, and as though the thought into Turnmill Street-a notion no doubt put into had that moment popped into your head, asking my head by what I had observed of the crane if she happened to want anything fetched. Her and its action amongst the wharves and baconway, then, was to look up in an astonished man- warehouses in Thames Street, and elsewhere in ner, and as though she thought you had made a the neighbourhood of Billingsgate. mistake,--taken her for somebody else, possibly. I am glad to be able to state, however, that I “Did you speak to me, boy?"
was spared the spectacle of Mrs. Winkship's re“Yes 'm. I'm going into Tummel Street to moval out of Fryingpan Alley, whatever was its fetch some treacle, in a minute, for my mother; nature. On the memorable morning of my flight I thought perhaps you might want some tea, or from my birthplace, as I ran out of the alley in something'm.”
such a tremendous fright, I passed her enthroned "No thanky, boy; my tea I've got, and my on the coke-measure, humming as was her wont, milk will be here presently. I don't think I stand and looking as hale and hearty as her best friend in need of anything.”
could wish. As I darted out of the archway, I When it came to this, the way of the boy was nearly ran foul of a boy bearing in his hand to thank her very civilly, and to look perfectly threepen'orth of hot rum. But she has gone satisfied, and as though he well knew that since somehow. When, but a few months since, filled Mrs. Winkship was all right in the matters of tea with the hope of meeting at least one or two of and milk, she could not by any earthly possibility my very limited number of friends of past times, require anything else. If, on the contrary, the boy I went to have a peep at the old place, my first acted differently; if he winked, or looked knowing glance up the alley was for the familiar cokemerely, and grinned as much as to say, "Why, measure; but it was not. My inquiries were what's the use of carrying on with all this jolly vain. Nobody could tell me what had become nonsense ? You know what you always have and of the kind old barrow-woman; indeed, as well what you want, and I know what you always have as I could make out, no one living there at the and what you want; give me the halfpence, and present day had ever seen or heard of such a say no more about it.” I say if he said, or even person. She was before their time. Nor was looked, anything of this sort, he would have this very surprising, after all. Death was never been sent about his business in a twinkling, and for long a stranger in our alley. His seeds were scratched out of the lady's good books for no sown broadcast on that fruitful bit of ground, end of time; but if he managed the business and the grim reaper often came a-mowing there. neatly, and turned away promptly and respect- Nineteen years is a long time. fully when he had got Mrs. Winkship's answer, In every harvest-field, however, there is always it was next to a certainty that she would exclaim an odd nook or corner, be it never so small a one, presently
that the scythe passes by, leaving a few stalks “Oh, ah! now you are here, boy, you may as standing. In one such corner in the neighbourwell run round to Mr. Piggot's for me. You know hood of Fryingpan Alley still stood and flourished Piggot's ?”
the shop of the bird-fancying barber who has "Piggot's ! Piggots! Oh, yes, I know now. shaved my father hundreds of times. I, too, had Sign of the 'Dog and Stile,' I think it is, mum. ." had some dealings with him, though not of a
* That's it. Ğo you there and ask for three character to invoke the use of the tools of his pen'orth of best rum, hot, with a bit of lemon; proper trade. The transactions that had taken and there's a brown for yourself.”
place between us were of a purely commercial After the ice was thus broken, the business to sort. Once I bought a guinea-pig of him for be transacted during the remainder of the after- fivepence; and on another occasion a pigeon, his noon was comparatively easy, and consisted in property, flew in at our window, and was capkeeping a watchful eye on her liquor, and, almost tured by me and returned to the barber on pay: 1 before she had recovered her breath from the ment of fourpence--the pigeon ransom as fixed finishing gulp, which was invariably a large one, by Act of Parliament. to be seen hovering in her vicinity. I have Mr. Slaney, however, had no recollection of earned as much as twopence-halfpenny in this me. My brown face, more than half-covered by way in a single afternoon.
an Australian-grown beard, passed with him as a This certainly was more than the average daily perfectly strange face. When I asked him what earnings of Mrs. Winkship's messengers-more, had become of Mrs. Winkship, he replied that no indeed, than I sometimes took of her in the such a name was known in that locality. I purcourse of an entire week, because I nearly al- sued the subject, however, and urged him to rouse ways had the baby in my arms. But I was al- / his memory, telling him that I was actuated by