When I was examining the stalls of the various street-sellers of manufactured articles in —- Market, I made a most curious discovery at one of said stalls. I had not expected that the proprietor would be allowed to run his stall by the authorities due to the – at least in my and certainly in the readers’ opinion, as well – deceptive and gruesome nature of his merchandise. I arrived just when the seller, also acting as a buyer in this particular case, was receiving what one would call the ‘raw materials’ of his trade. One of the so-called Bone-Grubbers, who will be treated in the following volume dealing with this group of Street-Finders, was in the act of passing the seller a dirty and most foul-smelling bag filled to the brim with all sorts of mortal remains. Among them were bones of all shapes and sizes, strings of sinew and dried pieces of what appeared to be meat – of which animal, assuming that these were indeed the remains of mere animals, I could not tell.
The stall of the vendor, which was constructed in such a way that it could be folded quickly and taken away on his back if the need for such a course of action were to arise, was full of grisly ‘trinkets’, some of them in the shape of necklaces, rings, bracelets and the like. The deeply disturbing thing about those trinkets was, as the reader certainly has already guessed, that they were fashioned entirely of the remains resembling those that the Grubber-Boy had sold the proprietor some moments ago. He explained to me, that all of those were supposed to be ‘charms’, either to ward off evil or bring it upon a person one bore a grudge against. I haven’t seen many of such sellers in London, as they are mostly to be found at various country fairs, especially when gypsies follow in the fair’s wake.
One of those trinkets consisted of three lumps of dried meat tied with bits of old string crammed inside what appeared to be a bird’s ribcage – complete with skull and beak on top – so devoid of liquid that it gave off clouds of dust when the salesman ran his hands around his wares in order to demonstrate their admittedly singular character. Another one came in the shape of a necklace made up of coils of sinews wound around each other in such chaotic knots that they made the eye dizzy from trying to ascertain where they began and where they ended. The vendor proudly told me that he was, in fact, carrying on a tradition, as the charms had been a family business for several generations, him being already the ninth in this line of business.
As I was rather taken aback by the fact that the authorities would allow such superstitious rubbish to be sold in the streets of London, I asked him whether the policemen had a habit of interfering with his business, to which he replied with a decided negative, and slyly explained to me mechanism which allowed him to fold up his stall. Business was good, he said, pointing out that the articles he offered covered a wide range of prices, the cheapest charms being sold for no more than a penny, while the expensive ones being made of more exotic materials could be acquired for half a sovereign. I could not believe that anybody in his right mind would spend such a substantial amount of money on things like these but the clean and respectable quality of the salesman’s clothes testified to his claim.
He then proceeded to show me another one of his creations, which he had taken to fashioning mostly in the wee hours at home with his wife when the smallest number of customers used to turn up. I was understandably shocked to behold that this one was a pendant made of mostly animal teeth which were complemented by several decidedly human-looking ones. The teeth had small holes drilled into them through which he had put a piece of string to hold them together, arranging them into the shape of a cone. I immediately inquired where the ‘ingredients’ for this abominable trinket came from, but he simply shrugged his shoulders and answered that he only bought the materials for his charms off the Grubbers and did not concern himself with the source they originated from. Upon hearing this outrageous statement, I turned round on my heel and made off into the opposite direction to look out for a policeman, whom I would send to this stall immediately. When we returned to the stall, however, the vendor was already gone, having packed his trinkets and folded up his portable stall.