It Is Never Too Late to Mend by Charles Reade
In a low public outside the town--in a back room--with their arms on the table and their low foreheads nearly touching, sat whispering two men--types. One had the deep-sunk, colorless eyes, the protruding cheek-bones, the shapeless mouth, and the broad chin good in itself but bad in the above connection; the other had the vulpine chin, and the fiendish eyebrows descending on the very nose in two sharp arches. Both had the restless eye, both the short-cropped hair, society's comment, congruous and auxiliary, though in itself faint by the side of habit's seal and Nature's.
A small north window dimly lighted the gloomy, uncouth cabin, and revealed the sole furniture--four chairs, too heavy to lift, too thick to break, and a table discolored with the stains of a thousand filthy debauches and dotted here and there with the fresh ashes of pipes and cigars.
In this appropriate frame behold two felons putting their heads together. By each felon's side smoked in a glass hot with heat and hotter with alcohol, the enemy of man. It would be difficult to give their dialogue, for they spoke in thieves' Latin. The substance was this: They had scent of a booty in a house that stood by itself three miles out of the town. But the servants were incorruptible, and they could not get access to inspect the premises, which were intricate. Now your professional burglar will no more venture upon unexplored premises than a good seaman will run into an unknown channel without pilot, soundings or chart. It appeared from the dialogue that the two men were acquainted with a party who knew these premises, having been more than once inside them with his master.
The more rugged one objected to this party. "He is no use, he has turned soft. I have heard him refuse a dozen good plants the last month. Besides, I don't want a canting son of a gun for my pal--ten to one if he don't turn tail and perhaps split."
N. B.--All this not in English, but in thieve's cant, with an oath or a nasty expression at every third word. The sentences measled with them.
"You don't know how to take him," replied he of the Mephistopheles eye-brow. "He won't refuse me."
"He is an old pal of mine, and I never found the thing I could not persuade him to. He does not know how to say me nay--you may bully him and queer him till all is blue, and he won't budge, and that is the lay you have been upon with him. Now I shall pull a long face--make up a story--take him by his soft bit--tell him I can't get on without him, and patter old lang syne to him. Then we'll get a fiddle and lots of whisky; and when we have had a reel and he has shaken his foot on the floor and drank a gill or two, you will see him thaw, and then you leave him to me and don't put in your jaw to spoil it. If we get him it will be all right--he is No. 1; his little finger has seen more than both our carcasses put together."