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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

' We were by this time close to Cheapside


The

other was now about to lay hands upon the fellow, who was still struggling. 'You had better take up your book,' said I; 'I can hold him.' He followed my advice; and, taking up his pocket-book, surveyed my prisoner with a ferocious look, occasionally glaring at me. Yes, I had seen him before--it was the stranger whom I had observed on London Bridge, by the stall of the old apple-woman, with the cap and cloak; but, instead of these, he now wore a hat and greatcoat. 'Well,' said I, at last, 'what am I to do with this gentleman of ours?' nodding to the prisoner, who had now left off struggling. 'Shall I let him go?'

'Go!' said the other; 'go! The knave--the rascal; let him go, indeed! Not so, he shall go before the Lord Mayor. Bring him along.'

'Oh, let me go,' said the other: 'let me go; this is the first offence, I assure ye--the first time I ever thought to do anything wrong.'

'Hold your tongue,' said I, 'or I shall be angry with you. If I am not very much mistaken, you once attempted to cheat me.'

'I never saw you before in all my life,' said the fellow, though his countenance seemed to belie his words.

'That is not true,' said I; 'you are the man who attempted to cheat me of one-and-ninepence in the coach-yard, on the first morning of my arrival in London.'

'I don't

doubt it,' said the other; 'a confirmed thief'; and here his tones became peculiarly sharp; 'I would fain see him hanged--crucified. Drag him along.'

'I am no constable,' said I; 'you have got your pocket-book,--I would rather you would bid me let him go.'

'Bid you let him go!' said the other almost furiously, 'I command--stay, what was I going to say? I was forgetting myself,' he observed more gently; 'but he stole my pocket-book;--if you did but know what it contained.'

'Well,' said I, 'if it contains anything valuable, be the more thankful that you have recovered it; as for the man, I will help you to take him where you please; but I wish you would let him go.'

The stranger hesitated, and there was an extraordinary play of emotion in his features: he looked ferociously at the pickpocket, and, more than once, somewhat suspiciously at myself; at last his countenance cleared, and, with a good grace, he said, 'Well, you have done me a great service, and you have my consent to let him go; but the rascal shall not escape with impunity,' he exclaimed suddenly, as I let the man go, and starting forward, before the fellow could escape, he struck him a violent blow on the face. The man staggered, and had nearly fallen; recovering himself, however, he said, 'I tell you what, my fellow; if I ever meet you in this street in a dark night, and I have a knife about me, it shall be the worse for you; as for you, young man,' said he to me; but, observing that the other was making towards him, he left whatever he was about to say unfinished, and, taking to his heels, was out of sight in a moment.

The stranger and myself walked in the direction of Cheapside, the way in which he had been originally proceeding; he was silent for a few moments, at length he said, 'You have really done me a great service, and I should be ungrateful not to acknowledge it. I am a merchant; and a merchant's pocket-book, as you perhaps know, contains many things of importance; but, young man,' he exclaimed, 'I think I have seen you before; I thought so at first, but where I cannot exactly say: where was it?' I mentioned London Bridge and the old apple-woman. 'Oh,' said he, and smiled, and there was something peculiar in his smile, 'I remember now. Do you frequently sit on London Bridge?' 'Occasionally,' said I: 'that old woman is an old friend of mine.' 'Friend?' said the stranger, 'I am glad of it, for I shall know where to find you. At present I am going to 'Change; time, you know, is precious to a merchant.' We were by this time close to Cheapside. 'Farewell,' said he, 'I shall not forget this service. I trust we shall soon meet again.' He then shook me by the hand and went his way.


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