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CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT PASSED BETWEEN MR. AND MRS. BUMBLE AND
MONKS AT THEIR NOCTURNAL INTERVIEW.
It was a dull, close, overcast summer evening, when clouds, which had been threatening all day, spread out in a dense and sluggish mass of vapour, already yielded large drops of rain, and seemed to presage a violent thunder-storm, as Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, turning out of the main street of the town, directed their course towards a scattered little colony of ruinous houses, distant from it some mile and a half, or there. abouts, and erected on a low unwholesome swamp, bordering upon the river.
They were both wrapped in old and shabby outer garments, which might perhaps serve the double purpose of protecting their persons from the rain, and sheltering them from observation; the husband carried a lantern, from which, however, no light yet shone, and trudged on a few paces in front, as though—the way being dirty—to give his wife the benefit of treading in his heavy foot-prints. They went on in profound silence; every now and then Mr. Bumble relaxed his
pace, and turned his head round, as if to make sure that his helpmate was following, and discovering that she was close at his heels, mended his rate of walking, and proceeded at a considerable increase of speed towards their place of destination.
This was far from being a place of doubtful character, for it had long been known as the residence of none but low and desperate ruffians, who, under various pretences of living by their labour, subsisted chiefly on plunder and crime. It was a collection of mere hovels, some hastily built with loose bricks, and others of old worm-eaten ship timber, jumbled together without any attempt at order, or arrangement, and planted, for the most part, within a few feet of the river's bank. A few leaky boats drawn up on the mud, and made fast to the dwarf wall which skirted it, and here and there an oar or coil of rope, appeared at first to indicate that the inhabitants of these miserable cottages pur. sued some avocation on the river; but a glance at the shattered and useless condition of the articles thus displayed would have led a VOL. II.
passer-by without much difficulty to the conjecture that they were disposed there, rather for the preservation of appearances than with any view to their being actually employed.
In the heart of this clustre of huts, and skirting the river, which its upper stories overhung, stood a large building formerly used as a man. ufactory of some kind, and which had in its day probably furnished employment to the inhabitants of the surrounding tenements. But it had long since gone to ruin. The rat, the worm, and the action of the damp, had weakened and rotted the piles on which it stood, and a considerable portion of the building had already sunk down into the water beneath, while the remainder, tottering and bending over the dark stream, seemed but to wait a favourable opportunity of following its old companion, and involving itself in the same fate.
It was before this ruinous building that the worthy couple paused as the first peal of distant thunder reverberated in the air, and the rain commenced pouring violently down.
“ The place should be somewhere here,” said Bumble, consulting a scrap of paper he held in his hand.
“ Halloa there!” cried a voice from above.
Following the sound, Bumble raised his head, and descried a man looking out of a door, breast high, on the second story.
“ Stand still a minute,” cried the voice ; “ I'll be with you directly.” With which the head disappeared, and the door closed.
“ Is that the man ?" asked Mr. Bumble’s good lady. Mr. Bumble nodded in the affirmative.
“Then mind what I told you,” said the matron, “and be careful to say as little as you can, or you 'll betray us at once.”
Mr. Bumble, who had eyed the building with very rueful looks, was apparently about to express some doubts relative to the advisability of proceeding any farther with the enterprise just then, when he was prevented by the appearance of Monks, who opened a small door, near which they stood, and beckoned them inwards.
“Come!” he cried impatiently, stamping his foot upon the ground. “Don't keep me here ?"
The woman, who had hesitated at first, walked boldly in without any further invitation, and Mr. Bumble, who was ashamed, or afraid to hang behind, followed, obviously very ill at his ease, and with scarcely any of that remarkable dignity which was usually his chief character. istic.
“What the devil made you stand lingering there in the wet ?" said Monks, turning round, and addressing Bumble, after he had bolted the door behind him.
“W—we were only cooling ourselves,” stammered Bumble, looking apprehensively about him.
“Cooling yourselves !” retorted Monks. 66 Not all the rain that ever fell, or ever will fall, will put as much of hell's fire out as a
man can carry about him. You won't cool yourself so easily, don't think it !"
With this agreeable speech Monks turned short upon the matron, and bent his fierce gaze upon her, till even she who was not easily cowed, was fain to withdraw her eyes, and turn them towards the ground.
* This is the woman, is it ?" demanded Monks.
“Hem! That is the woman,” replied Mr. Bumble, mindful of his wife's caution.
“ You think women never can keep secrets, I suppose ?” said the matron, interposing, and returning, as she spoke, the searching look of Monks.
"I know they will always keep one till it's found out," said Monks contemptuously.
“And what may that be?" asked the matron in the same tone.
“ The loss of their own good name,” replied Monks : "so, by the same rule, if a woman's a party to a secret that might hang or trans. port her, I'm not afraid of her telling it to anybody, not I. Do you understand me ?"
"No," rejoined the matron, slightly coloring as he spoke. “Of course you don't!" said Monks ironically. "How should you ?"
Bestowing something half-way between a sneer and a scowl upon his two companions, and again beckoning them to follow him, the man hastened across the apartment, which was of considerable extent, but low in the roof, and was preparing to ascend a steep staircase, or rather ladder, leading to another floor of warehouses above, when a flash of lightning streamed down the aperture, and a peal of thunder followed, which shook the crazy building to its centre.
“ Hear it!” he cried, shrinking back. “ Hear it rolling and crash. ing away as if it echoed through a thousand caverns, where the devils are hiding from it. Fire the sound! I hate it.”
He remained silent for a few moments, and then removing his hands suddenly from his face, showed, to the unspeakable discomposure of Mr. Bumble, that it was much distorted, and nearly blank.
“ These fits come over me now and then,” said Monks, observing his. alarm, " and thunder sometimes brings them on. Don't mind me now; it's all over for this once.
Thus speaking, he led the way up the ladder, and hastily closing the window.shutter of the room into which it led, lowered a lantern which hung at the end of a rope and pulley passed through one of the heavy beams in the ceiling, and which cast a dim light upon an old table and chairs that were placed beneath it.
“Now," said Monks, when they had all three seated themselves,