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12. More Birds Of Prey
Rogue Riderhood dwelt deep and dark in Limehouse Hole, among the riggers,
and the mast, oar and block makers, and the boat- builders, and the sail-lofts, as
in a kind of ship's hold stored full of waterside characters, some no better than
himself, some very much better, and none much worse. The Hole, albeit in a
general way not over nice in its choice of company, was rather shy in reference
to the honour of cultivating the Rogue's acquaintance; more frequently giving him
the cold shoulder than the warm hand, and seldom or never drinking with him
unless at his own expense. A part of the Hole, indeed, contained so much public
spirit and private virtue that not even this strong leverage could move it to good
fellowship with a tainted accuser. But, there may have been the drawback on this
magnanimous morality, that its exponents held a true witness before Justice to
be the next unneighbourly and accursed character to a false one.
Had it not been for the daughter whom he often mentioned, Mr Riderhood might
have found the Hole a mere grave as to any means it would yield him of getting a
living. But Miss Pleasant Riderhood had some little position and connection in
Limehouse Hole. Upon the smallest of small scales, she was an unlicensed
pawnbroker, keeping what was popularly called a Leaving Shop, by lending
insignificant sums on insignificant articles of property deposited with her as
security. In her four-and-twentieth year of life, Pleasant was already in her fifth
year of this way of trade. Her deceased mother had established the business,
and on that parent's demise she had appropriated a secret capital of fifteen
shillings to establishing herself in it; the existence of such capital in a pillow being
the last intelligible confidential communication made to her by the departed,
before succumbing to dropsical conditions of snuff and gin, incompatible equally
with coherence and existence.
Why christened Pleasant, the late Mrs Riderhood might possibly have been at
some time able to explain, and possibly not. Her daughter had no information on
that point. Pleasant she found herself, and she couldn't help it. She had not been
consulted on the question, any more than on the question of her coming into
these terrestrial parts, to want a name. Similarly, she found herself possessed of
what is colloquially termed a swivel eye (derived from her father), which she
might perhaps have declined if her sentiments on the subject had been taken.
She was not otherwise positively ill-looking, though anxious, meagre, of a muddy
complexion, and looking as old again as she really was.
As some dogs have it in the blood, or are trained, to worry certain creatures to a
certain point, so--not to make the comparison disrespectfially--Pleasant
Riderhood had it in the blood, or had been trained, to regard seamen, within
certain limits, as her prey. Show her a man in a blue jacket, and, figuratively
speaking, she pinned him instantly. Yet, all things considered, she was not of an