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invariably earned eventually a reputation sufficiently nefarious to frighten away their respectable neighbours, and soon there was a whole street to let for next to nothing to a respectable man. Here was an opportunity for the promising young speculator, Mr. Abraham Moss, Jun.
Instead of being deterred by the bad reputation of the locality, like a brave man, and a true genius of capital, and perhaps, for so whispered the approving world, not without an eye to his duty as a citizen of this degraded metropolis, he resolved to secure the leases of the whole lot of these desirable and inexpensive residences, with a view to the under-letting the same at a sufficient percentage to cover the risk.
One could not purge such a desperate place in a day. Of course, some of the houses fell again into disreputable hands, who could prevent that? But Mr. Moss, or rather his agent, for he was much too respectable a man to meddle with the details of house property, had a system with these, as with the old eyesores, who, by the way, still held their leases; instead of instituting expensive and uncertain proceedings of law in order to expel them, Mr. Moss's agent was instructed simply to double their rents, and by this means he hoped eventually to obtain his righteous ends.
It is a curious fact and one well worthy the observation of the clergy and moralists in general, what a tenacity vice has to certain localities. All the legislation of England, all the preaching and praying of the Church of England, unless
, perhaps, Her Majesty were to insert a special petition in the Church service, could not make the Haymarket or Ratcliff virtuous, any more than all the French novels, all the fleshy poems, that ever were published could make Belgravia immodest. Mr. Moss's experiences, as the Dean of Clapham, a pious clergyman and a great friend of the Aldair's and Moss's once observed, proved a most remarkable exemplification of this singular ethnological fact. Notwithstanding city missionaries and tract distributors had now free ingress to all these houses; and, moreover, had their interests
persons protected by special policmen; although Mr. Moss's agent raised their rents 20, 30, 50, 100 per cent.,
and distrained punctually at three weeks after quarter-day, in
spite of everything, vice holds its own against virtue, and Panderers-place, and Wildoats-street, were still known as the most infamous dens in the metropolis. More than this, Mr. Moss had extended his zeal further, and contrived to discover and buy scores of houses of a less notorious character in every conceivable and inconceivable part of the town, to all of which he applied his purgative panacea of rent-raising with a like satisfactory result. His agent found the proprietors of these latter even more tenacious, as they were better able to wring the additional rent money out of the higher grade of unfortunate beings who supported them. Thus Mr. Moss found, as many have done before him, that virtue brings its own reward and the path of duty led, if not to glory, at least to reputation and wealth, which are perhaps after all quite as good, and much more useful to society.
It was to one of these latter class of residences that the rising young capitalist now bent his steps. It was a large corner house of a crescent that had once been the abode of fashion and repute, and still contrived to make a tolerable show of respectability and declining dignity. It was a very dark house with very dark windows, and dark untraceable shadows that wrapped its sooty brickwork in perpetual gloom. It was a very lonely house; nobody seemed to live in it, nobody passed it, nobody was seen going to it, no body was coming from it, there was no light, no life, no sound, except the whining and moaning of the wind as it rushed round it, and over it, and past it, and against it, hooting, and hissing, at its dark, dark windows. Mr. Moss knocked lightly at the door, yet it startled the whole neighbourhood, so lonely and still was all. A dark, squat, greasy Irishwoman came out into the area in answer to his summons, shading a guttering candle by her hand, the better to see her visitor.
“What d’yer want? More doctors', I warrant,” she croaked, in a voice that suggested a raven with a cold in his head. “Are you Mrs. Ogle?"
Well, wot if I am ?” croaked grimy face, then catching sight of the jewels flashing on Mr. Moss's dainty hand, she suddenly vanished in the kitchen, and in a minute re-appeared at the street door with a smile and curtsey, quite wonderful to see in a woman of so grim a visage.
"I wish to see a young woman who lodges here-name of Pearl."
“ There's no sich name as I'm awares of.” " Then Turner” suggested Mr. Moss. "Oh yes," replied grimy face, " there is a Miss Turner, and
a she is at home, by token she is likely to be, seein' she came here bringin' wid her a poor kilt critur as she says is her brother, not that I'm green enough to take it in, but here he bides as unconscious as a idiot babe, and she workin' herself to the bone nussin' him, and can't be presuaded to send him to the hospital, though may be she is ruining the house if ony. body should suspec' it's a fever, which I assure you sir, it is nothing ketchin.' Och! but I would never have taken 'em in, but things is bad, and rents is high."
“Oho! what's in the wind now?” whistled Mr. Moss.
“If yer will give me yer card, sir, I will take it up to her, but you must know, sir, this is so respectable a house that I can't promise she will see yer, for the young ladies, dear heart, have to be very careful not to give the 'ouse a bad name.”
“Hold your d-d tongue, and show me the room,” growled Mr. Moss, grinding his teeth, and regarding this voluble portress with anything but an amiable expression.
“Wot! d'yer mean to insult a lady in her own 'ouse,” shrieked grimy face, “ If Ogle were alive he'd give it yer."
Mr. Moss put out his hand, as if to stop the torrent of vile execrations that his incivility had provoked, but, observing the dirty condition of Mrs. Ogle's face, he altered his mind and simply whispered,
“ I am Mr. Moss, your landlord.”
“I'm sure I beg yer pardon, sir," whimpered the terrified Mrs. Ogle.
“Hold your tongue, which is Miss Turner's room, I say?" “ Top back," gasped the lady of the house.
Without waiting for more, Mr. Moss sprang up the stairs. He knocked gently at the door; as no one answered, he noiselessly opened it and entered. A dim light was burning near the bed, on which lay a dark complexioned young man with a white bandage round his head. And by his side with one hand resting lightly on his breast, lay the beautiful girl whose face was the last that imaged itself on Philip's dizzy brain. She
was neatly dressed, but her garments wore the crumpled unfitting look of clothes that had not been removed for days. Her hair, such masses of dark, soft, wavy hair, fell in tangled confusion over her delicate features, and lay coiling on her gently heaving bosom. She had evidently thrown herself on the bed and fallen asleep from sheer weariness. Mr. Moss gazed long and gloatingly at the fair sleeper; then, with a sigh, he turned his attention to her patient. He lifted the counterpane to obtain a better view of the face, then his own became white as that of Emily Aldair's lost lover. His deep muttered oath disturbed the fair sleeper and she sprang to her feet wide awake in a moment." “How dare you come here!” she cried, with a fearless scorn
a that might have daunted a man less confident of his advan. tage.
“ I dare do anything for you, Pearl,” he whined.
“Do not nickname me sir, call me Bessie Turner, or, rather, do not call me anything, but go,”
And do you suppose, Miss Turner,” returned Mr. Moss collectedly, “though I am not so sure that it is not a nickname toocan you suppose that I shall be so soft as to lose you again after moving heaven and earth to find you ? No, my peerless beauty, my pearl of pearls. I have found you, and I mean to receive the same kindness at your hands as many more fortunate, but no better men have enjoyed. You are in my power at last. But submit with a good grace, my pearl, give me a kiss and let us be friends."
He moved a step nearer to her as he spoke—she sprang quickly back, and drew herself up so proudly that he seemed to shrink and cower before her. Weak woman as she was, few men would have dared to lay hands on her now-certainly not Abraham Moss.
“What would you do?” he asked between his clenched teeth. “Kill you!”
She spoke very low, but there was that in her voice and in the dark glaring eyes that sent a shiver through his frame. He instinctively recoiled. Her little white hand hung clenched at her side, and behind it he caught sight of a tiny piece of bright steel, glittering, half hid in the dark folds of her skirts. Again he receded a step, as he did so she advanced, pointing
with her finger to the door; the inexorable little weapon firmly grasped in the still white hand at her side—like the glittering eye of a serpent watching its prey. Had she faltered, even for a moment, he would have dis
a armed her. But the great dark eyes never flinched, they fascinated him, they seemed to pour a stream of fire into his brain, he reeled, and trembled before them, but dared not withdraw his gaze. Again she advanced a step and the murderous little dagger flashed and glittered more serpent like than ever as it slowly rose level with her swelling bosom ; another instant, and it might be plunged into his heart. Half mad with horror and thwarted passion, Abraham Moss leaped from the room, and his terrible adversary quickly locked the door in his face.
“Egad," muttered the baffled lover, "that was a narrow escape. Yet, if you only knew what a trump card I have turned up, you little vixen! Eh, bein, you will be civil enough the next time I see you."
“WHERE am I! Why is he here?” "
The words spoken in a faint, low voice were sufficient to dispel all Pearl's fury, and fill her beautiful eyes with tenderness and delight. Philip's consciousness had returned; he was sitting up in bed with a dreamy intelligence kindling in his face. She threw her arms about him in a transport of joy, and laid him gently back.
“Lie down, dear, and do not speak. Never mind him, he is gone now."
“ I know him, and I know you. Do I not; no I don't.”
“Hush, do not think, do not talk, sleep, and you will be well soon.”
Thus soothed, Philip turned on his pillow, and slept again.
When he next awoke it was morning, and a doctor was feeling his pulse. The danger was over.
From that time he grew better every day. He was soon