Lucretia — Volume 05
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Lucretia — Volume 05

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The Project Gutenberg EBook Lucretia, by Edward-Bulwer Lytton, Vol. 5 #117 in our series by Edward Bulwer-LyttonCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloadingor redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do notchange or edit the header without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of thisfile. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can alsofind out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****EBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These EBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers*****Title: Lucretia, Volume 5.Author: Edward Bulwer-LyttonRelease Date: March 2005 [EBook #7689] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was firstposted on April 15, 2003]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LUCRETIA, BY LYTTON, V5 ***This eBook was produced by Tapio Riikonen and David Widger, widger@cecomet.netCHAPTER VII.THE RAPE OF THE MATTRESS.That Mr. Grabman slept calmly that night is probable enough, for his gin- bottle was empty the ...

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The Project Gutenberg EBook Lucretia, byEdward-Bulwer Lytton, Vol. 5 #117 in our series byEdward Bulwer-LyttonCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Besure to check the copyright laws for your countrybefore downloading or redistributing this or anyother Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen whenviewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do notremove it. Do not change or edit the headerwithout written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and otherinformation about the eBook and ProjectGutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included isimportant information about your specific rights andrestrictions in how the file may be used. You canalso find out about how to make a donation toProject Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain VanillaElectronic Texts****EBooks Readable By Both Humans and ByComputers, Since 1971*******These EBooks Were Prepared By Thousandsof Volunteers*****Title: Lucretia, Volume 5.
Author: Edward Bulwer-LyttonRelease Date: March 2005 [EBook #7689] [Yes,we are more than one year ahead of schedule][This file was first posted on April 15, 2003]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERGEBOOK LUCRETIA, BY LYTTON, V5 ***This eBook was produced by Tapio Riikonen andDavid Widger, widger@cecomet.netCHAPTER VII.THE RAPE OF THE MATTRESS.That Mr. Grabman slept calmly that night isprobable enough, for his gin- bottle was empty the
next morning; and it was with eyes more thanusually heavy that he dozily followed themovements of Beck, who, according to custom,opened the shutters of the little den adjoining hissitting-room, brushed his clothes, made his fire, seton the kettle to boil, and laid his breakfast things,preparatory to his own departure to the duties ofthe day. Stretching himself, however, and shakingoff slumber, as the remembrance of the enterprisehe had undertaken glanced pleasantly across him,Grabman sat up in his bed and said, in a voicethat, if not maudlin, was affectionate, and if notaffectionate, was maudlin,—"Beck, you are a good fellow. You have faults, youare human,—humanism est errare; which meansthat you some times scorch my muffins. But, takeyou all in all, you are a kind creature. Beck, I amgoing into the country for some days. I shall leavemy key in the hole in the wall,— you know; takecare of it when you come in. You were out late lastnight, my poor fellow. Very wrong! Look well toyourself, or who knows? You may be clutched bythat blackguard resurrection-man, No. 7. Well, well,to think of that Jason's foolhardiness! But he's theworse devil of the two. Eh! what was I saying? Andalways give a look into my room every night beforeyou go to roost. The place swarms withcracksmen, and one can't be too cautious. Luckydog, you, to have nothing to be robbed of!"Beck winced at that last remark. Grabman did notseem to notice his confusion, and proceeded, ashe put on his stockings: "And, Beck, you are a
good fellow, and have served me faithfully; when Icome back, I will bring you something handsome,—a backey-box or—who knows?—a beautiful silverwatch. Meanwhile, I think—let me see—yes, I cangive you this elegant pair of small-clothes. Put out,my best—the black ones. And now, Beck, I'll notkeep you any longer."The poor sweep, with many pulls at his forelock,acknowledged the munificent donation; and havingfinished all his preparations, hastened first to hisroom, to examine at leisure, and with greatadmiration, the drab small-clothes. "Room,"indeed, we can scarcely style the wretchedenclosure which Beck called his own. It was at thetop of the house, under the roof, and hot—oh, sohot—in the summer! It had one small begrimedwindow, through which the light of heaven nevercame, for the parapet, beneath which ran thechoked gutter, prevented that; but the rain and thewind came in. So sometimes, through fourglassless frames, came a fugitive tom-cat. As forthe rats, they held the place as their own.Accustomed to Beck, they cared nothing for him.They were the Mayors of that Palace; he only le roifaineant. They ran over his bed at night; he oftenfelt them on his face, and was convinced theywould have eaten him, if there had been anythingworth eating upon his bones; still, perhaps out ofprecaution rather than charity, he generally leftthem a potato or two, or a crust of bread, to takeoff the edge of their appetites. But Beck was farbetter off than most who occupied the various
settlements in that Alsatia,—he had his room tohimself. That was necessary to his sole luxury,—the inspection of his treasury, the safety of hismattress; for it he paid, without grumbling, what hethought was a very high rent. To this hole in theroof there was no lock,—for a very good reason,there was no door to it. You went up a ladder, asyou would go into a loft. Now, it had often beenmatter of much intense cogitation to Beck whetheror not he should have a door to his chamber; andthe result of the cogitation was invariably the same,— he dared not! What should he want with a door,—a door with a lock to it? For one followed as aconsequence to the other. Such a novel piece ofgrandeur would be an ostentatious advertisementthat he had something to guard. He could have nopretence for it on the ground that he was intrudedon by neighbours; no step but his own was evercaught by him ascending that ladder; it led to noother room. All the offices required for thelodgment he performed himself. His supposedpoverty was a better safeguard than doors of iron.Besides this, a door, if dangerous, would besuperfluous; the moment it was suspected thatBeck had something worth guarding, that momentall the picklocks and skeleton keys in theneighbourhood would be in a jingle. And acracksman of high repute lodged already on theground-floor. So Beck's treasure, like the bird'snest, was deposited as much out of sight as hisinstinct could contrive; and the locks and bolts ofcivilized men were equally dispensed with by birdand Beck.
On a rusty nail the sweep suspended the drabsmall-clothes, stroked them down lovingly, andmurmured, "They be 's too good for I; I should liketo pop 'em! But vould n't that be a shame? Beck,be n't you be a hungrateful beast to go for to thinkof nothin but the tin, ven your 'art ought to varm'with hemotion? I vill vear 'em ven I vaits on him.Ven he sees his own smalls bringing in the muffins,he will say, 'Beck, you becomes 'em!'"Fraught with this noble resolution, the sweepcaught up his broom, crept down the ladder, andwith a furtive glance at the door of the room inwhich the cracksman lived, let himself out andshambled his way to his crossing. Grabman, in themean while, dressed himself with more care thanusual, shaved his beard from a four days' crop,and while seated at his breakfast, read attentivelyover the notes which Varney had left to him,pausing at times to make his own pencilmemoranda. He then packed up such few articlesas so moderate a worshipper of the Graces mightrequire, deposited them in an old blue brief-bag,and this done, he opened his door, and creeping tothe threshold, listened carefully. Below, a fewsounds might be heard,—here, the wail of a child;there, the shrill scold of a woman in that accentabove all others adapted to scold,—the Irish.Farther down still, the deep bass oath of thecholeric resurrection-man; but above, all was silent.Only one floor intervened between Grabman'sapartment and the ladder that led to Beck's loft.And the inmates of that room gave no sound oflife. Grabman took courage, and shuffling off his
shoes, ascended the stairs; he passed the closeddoor of the room above; he seized the ladder witha shaking hand; he mounted, step after step; hestood in Beck's room.Now, O Nicholas Grabman! some moralists maybe harsh enough to condemn thee for what thouart doing,—kneeling yonder in the dim light, by thatcurtainless pallet, with greedy fingers feeling hereand there, and a placid, self-hugging smile uponthy pale lips. That poor vagabond whom thou artabout to despoil has served thee well and faithfully,has borne with thine ill-humours, thy sarcasms, thyswearings, thy kicks, and buffets; often, when inthe bestial sleep of drunkenness he has found theestretched helpless on thy floor, with a kindly handhe has moved away the sharp fender, too nearthat knavish head, now bent on his ruin, or closedthe open window, lest the keen air, that thy breathtainted, should visit thee with rheum and fever.Small has been his guerdon for uncomplainingsacrifice of the few hours spared to this wearydrudge from his daily toil,—small, but gratefullyreceived. And if Beck had been taught to pray, hewould have prayed for thee as for a good man, Omiserable sinner! And thou art going now, NicholasGrabman, upon an enterprise which promises theelarge gains, and thy purse is filled; and thouwantest nothing for thy wants or thy swinishluxuries. Why should those shaking fingers itch forthe poor beggar-man's hoards?But hadst thou been bound on an errand thatwould have given thee a million, thou wouldst not
have left unrifled that secret store which thy pryingeye had discovered, and thy hungry heart hadcoveted. No; since one night,—fatal, alas! to theowner of loft and treasure, when, needing Beck forsome service, and fearing to call aloud (for theresurrection- man in the floor below thee, whoseoaths even now ascend to thine ear, sleeps ill, andhas threatened to make thee mute forever if thoudisturbest him in the few nights in which his dismalcalling suffers him to sleep at all), thou didst creepup the ladder, and didst see the unconscious miserat his nightly work, and after the sight didst stealdown again, smiling,—no; since that night, noschoolboy ever more rootedly and ruthlessly set hismind upon nest of linnet than thine was set uponthe stores in Beck's mattress.And yet why, O lawyer, should rigid moralistsblame thee more than such of thy tribe as live,honoured and respectable, upon the frail and thepoor? Who among them ever left loft or mattresswhile a rap could be wrung from either? Matters itto Astraea whether the spoliation be made thusnakedly and briefly, or by all the acknowledgedforms in which, item on item, six-and-eightpenceon six-and-eightpence, the inexorable hand closesat length on the last farthing of duped despair? Not—Heaven forbid!—that we make thee, foulNicholas Grabman, a type for all the class calledattorneys-at-law! Noble hearts, liberal minds, arethere amongst that brotherhood, we know andhave experienced; but a type art thou of thosewhom want and error and need have proved—alas!too well— the lawyers of the poor. And even while
we write, and even while ye read, many aGrabman steals from helpless toil the savings of alife.Ye poor hoards,—darling delights of your otherwisejoyless owner,—how easily has his very fondnessmade ye the prey of the spoiler! How gleefully,when the pence swelled into a shilling, have theybeen exchanged into the new bright piece of silver,the newest and brightest that could be got; thenthe shillings into crowns, then the crowns into gold,—got slyly and at a distance, and contemplatedwith what rapture; so that at last the total laymanageable and light in its radiant compass. Andwhat a total! what a surprise to Grabman! Had itbeen but a sixpence, he would have taken it; but tograsp sovereigns by the handful, it was too muchfor him; and as he rose, he positively laughed,from a sense of fun.But amongst his booty there was found one thingthat specially moved his mirth: it was a child'scoral, with its little bells. Who could have givenBeck such a bauble, or how Beck could haverefrained from turning it into money, would havebeen a fit matter for speculation. But it was not thatat which Grabman chuckled; he laughed, firstbecause it was an emblem of the utter childishnessand folly of the creature he was leaving penniless,and secondly, because it furnished his ready witwith a capital contrivance to shift Beck's indignationfrom his own shoulders to a party more liable tosuspicion. He left the coral on the floor near thebed, stole down the ladder, reached his own room,
took up his brief- bag, locked his door, slipped thekey in the rat-hole, where the trusty, plunderedBeck alone could find it, and went boldlydownstairs; passing successively the doors withinwhich still stormed the resurrection-man, still wailedthe child, still shrieked the Irish shrew, he pausedat the ground-floor occupied by Bill the cracksmanand his long-fingered, slender, quick-eyed imps,trained already to pass through broken window-panes, on their precocious progress to the hulks.The door was open, and gave a pleasant sight ofthe worthy family within. Bill himself, a stout-lookingfellow with a florid, jolly countenance, and a pipe inhis mouth, was sitting at his window, with hisbrawny legs lolling on a table covered with theremains of a very tolerable breakfast. Four smallBills were employed in certain sports which, nodoubt, according to the fashionable mode ofeducation, instilled useful lessons under the artfulguise of playful amusement. Against the wall, atone corner of the room, was affixed a row of bells,from which were suspended exceedingly temptingapples by slender wires. Two of the boys wereengaged in the innocent entertainment ofextricating the apples without occasioning anyalarm from the bells; a third was amusing himselfat a table, covered with mock rings and trinkets, ina way that seemed really surprising; with the endof a finger, dipped probably in some glutinousmatter, he just touched one of the gewgaws, andlo, it vanished!—vanished so magically that thequickest eye could scarcely trace whither;,sometimes up a cuff, sometimes into a shoe—