Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street--The Victorian Classic Based on a True Story
Click on image to enlarge.
by Anonymous, Thomas Preskett Prest
Description: Inspiration for the Johnny Depp and Ben Kingsley versions of the classic tale of the man who gave his customers a close shave--every time! Here by the author of Varney the Vampire is the thrilling Victorian shocker about Sweeney Todd, the fearsome barber of Fleet Street, a tale reputed to be "Founded on Facts." His weapon of choice is a straight razor, with which he cuts his victims' throats. The woman who is his lover, friend, and partner in crime helps hide the crimes--and turns a decent profit--by butchering the corpses of Todd's victims, baking their flesh into meat pies, and selling them to unknowing customers. He is also assisted by an unwitting apprentice lad, who he hold in thrall with fear, but who longs to aids in unmasking his crimes. Meanwhile Sweeney has to decide whether to kill or let live his innocent niece and the young man who has fallen in love with her. And his knife hangs like a guillotine over both their heads.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: February 2008
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [114 KB]
Reading time: 75-105 min.
HARK! twelve o'clock is proclaimed by old St. Dunstan's church, and scarcely have the sounds done echoing throughout the neighbourhood, and scarce has the clock of Lincoln's Inn done chiming in its announcement of the same hour when Bell-yard, Temple Bar, becomes a scene of commotion.
What a scampering of feet is there, what a laughing and talking, what a jostling to be first; and what an immense number of manoeuvres are resorted to by some of the strong to distance others!
And mostly from Lincoln's Inn come these persons, young and old, but most certainly a majority of the former, although from neighbouring legal establishments likewise there came not a few; the Temple contributes its numbers, and from the more distant Gray's Inn came a goodly lot.
Is it a fire? is it a fight? or anything else sufficiently alarming or extraordinary, to excite the junior members of the legal profession to such a species of madness? No, it is none of these, nor is there a fat cause to be run for, which in the hands of some clever practitioner might become a vested interest. No, the enjoyment is purely one of a physical character, and all the pacing and racing-all this turmoil and trouble-all this pushing, jostling, laughing, and shouting, is to see who will get first at Mrs. Lovett's pie shop.
Yes, on the left hand side of Bell-yard, going down from Carey-street was, at the time we write of, one of the most celebrated shops for the sale of veal and pork pies that ever London produced. High and low, rich and poor, resorted to it; its fame had spread far and wide; it was because the first batch of these pies came up at twelve o'clock that there was such a rush of the legal profession to obtain them.
Their fame had spread to great distances. Oh-those delicious pies! there was about them a flavour never surpassed, and rarely equalled; the paste was of the most delicate construction, and impregnated with the aroma of a delicious gravy that defies description; the fat and the lean so artistically mixed up.
The counter in Lovett's shop was in the shape of a horse shoe, and it was the custom of the young bloods from the Temple and Lincoln's Inn to sit in a row at its edge, while, they partook of the pies, and chatted gaily about one thing and another.
There was a Mistress Lovett; but possibly our reader guessed as much, for what but a female hand, and that female buxom, young, and good-looking, could have ventured upon the production of those pies. Yes, Mrs. Lovett was all that; and every enamoured young scion of the law, as he devoured his pie, pleased himself with the idea that the charming Miss Lovett had made that pie especially for him, and that fate or predestination had placed it in his hands.
And it was astonishing to see with what impartiality and with what tact the fair pastrycook bestowed her smiles upon her admirers, so that none could say he was neglected, while it was extremely difficult for any one to say he was preferred.
This was pleasant, but at the same time it was provoking to all except Mrs. Lovett, in whose favour it got up a kind of excitement that paid extraordinarily well, because some of the young fellows thought that he who consumed the most pies, would be in the most likely, way to receive the greatest number of smiles from the lady.
Acting upon this supposition, some of her more enthusiastic admirers, went on consuming the pies until they were almost ready to burst. But there were others again, of a more philosophic turn of mind, who went for the pies only, and did not care one jot for Mrs. Lovett.
These declare that her smile was cold and uncomfortable-that it was upon her lips, but had no place in her heart-that it was the set smile of a ballet-dancer, which is about one of the most unmirthful things in existence.
Then there were some who went even beyond this, and while they admitted the excellence of the pies, and went every day to partake of them, swore that Mrs. Lovett had quite a sinister aspect, and that they could see what a merely superficial affair her blandishments were, and that there was "A lurking devil in her eye," that, if once roused, would be capable of achieving some serious things, and might not be so easily quelled again.
By five minutes past twelve Mrs. Lovett's counter was full, and the savoury steam of the hot pies went out in fragrant clouds into Bellyard, being sniffed up by many a poor wretch passing by.
"Why, Tobias Ragg," said a young man, with his mouth full of pie, "where have you been since you left Mr. Show's in Paper-buildings? I haven't seen you for some days."
"No,"-said Tobias, "I have gone into another line; instead of being a lawyer and helping to shave the clients I am going to shave the lawyers. A penny pork, if you please, Mrs. Lovett. Ah! who would go without who could get pies like these?-eh, Master Clift?"
"Well, they are good; of course we know that, Tobias. So you are going to be a barber?"
"Yes, I am with Sweeney Todd, the barber of Fleet-street, opposite St. Dunstan's."
"The deuce you are! Well, I am going to a party tonight. I must be dressed and shaved. I'll patronise your master." Tobias put his mouth close to the ear of the young lawyer and whispered the one word-"Don't." Tobias placed his fingers to his lips and left, and was about to enter his master's shop when he thought he heard from within a strange, shrieking sort of sound. On the impulse of the moment he recoiled a step or two and then, from some other impulse, he dashed forward at once, and entered the shop.
The first object that presented itself to his attention, lying upon a side table, was a hat with a handsome gold-headed walking-cane lying across it.
The arm-chair in which customers usually sat to be shaved was vacant, and Sweeney Todd's face was just projected into the shop from the back Parlour, and wearing a most singular and hideous expression.
"Well, Tobias," he said as he advanced, rubbing his great hands together, "well, Tobias! so you could not resist the pie-shop?"
"How does he know?" thought Tobias. "Yes, sir, I have been to the pie-shop, but I didn't stay a minute."
"Hark ye, Tobias! theonly thing I can excuse in the way of delay upon an errand is for you to get one of Mrs. Lovett's pies; that I look over, so think no more about it. Are they not delicious, Tobias?"
"Yes, sir, they are; but some gentleman seems to have left his hat and stick."
"Yes," said Sweeney Todd, "he has;" and lifting the stick he struck Tobias a blow with it that felled him to the ground. "Lesson the second to Tobias Ragg, which teaches him to make no remarks about what does not concern him. You may think what you like, Tobias Ragg, but you shall say only what I like."
"I won't endure it," cried the boy; "I won't be knocked about in this way, I tell you, Sweeney Todd, I won't."
"You won't? Have you forgotten your mother?"
"You say you have power over my mother; but I don't know what it is, and I cannot and will not believe it; I'll leave you, and come of it what may, I'll go to sea or anywhere rather than stay in such a place as this."
"Oh, you will, will you? Then, Tobias, you and I must come to some explanation. I'll tell you what power I have over your mother, and then perhaps you will be satisfied. Last winter, when the frost had continued 18 weeks, and you and your mother were starving, she was employed to clean out the chambers of a Mr. King, in the Temple, a cold-hearted, severe man who never forgave anything in all his life, and never will."
"I remember," said Tobias; "We were starving, and owed a whole guinea for rent; but mother borrowed it and paid it, and after that got a situation where she now is."
"Ah, you think so. The rent was paid; but, Tobias, my boy, a word in your ear-she took a silver candlestick from Mr. King's chambers to pay it. I know it. I can prove it. Think of that, Tobias, and be discreet."
"Have mercy upon us," said the boy; "they would take her life!"
"Her life!" screamed Sweeney Todd; "aye, to be sure they would; they would hang her-hang her, I say; and now mind, if you force me by any conduct of your own to mention this thing, you are your mother's executioner. I had better go and be deputy hangman at once, and turn her off."
"Oh, you don't like that? Indeed, that don't suit, you. Be discreet then, and you have nothing to fear. Do not force me to do that which will be as complete as it is terrific."
"I will say nothing-I will think nothing."
"'Tis well! Now go and put that hat and stick in yonder cupboard. I shall be absent for a short time; and if any one comes, tell them I am out and shall not return for an hour or perhaps longer, and mind you take care of the shop."