Chapter 46

The pickpocket - Strange rencounter - Drag him along - A great service - Things of importance - Philological matters - Mother of languages - Zhats!

A FEW days after the occurrence of what is recorded in the last chapter, as I was wandering in the City, chance directed my footsteps to an alley leading from one narrow street to another in the neighbourhood of Cheapside. Just before I reached the mouth of the alley, a man in a greatcoat, closely followed by another, passed it; and, at the moment in which they were passing, I observed the man behind snatch something from the pocket of the other; whereupon, darting into the street, I seized the hindermost man by the collar, crying at the same time to the other, ‘My good friend, this person has just picked your pocket.’

The individual whom I addressed, turning round with a start, glanced at me, and then at the person whom I held. London is the place for strange rencounters. It appeared to me that I recognised both individuals - the man whose pocket had been picked and the other; the latter now began to struggle violently; ‘I have picked no one’s pocket,’ said he. ‘Rascal,’ said the other, ‘you have got my pocket-book in your bosom.’ ‘No, I have not,’ said the other; and, struggling more violently than before, the pocket- book dropped from his bosom upon the ground.

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,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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