« AnteriorContinuar »
than the combustibles we placed in the mine beneath the Parliament House,' observed Percy.
'Heaven grant so, indeed!' rejoined Catesby, with a moody smile. • They would call it retribution, were we to perish by the same means which we designed for others.'
' Jest not on so serious a matter, Catesby,' observed Robert Winter. For my own part, I dread the sight of powder, and shall walk forth till you have dried this, and put it away
.' You are not going to leave us like Stephen Littleton ? rejoined Catesby, suspiciously.
I will go with him,' said Christopher Wright; so you need be under no apprehension.'
Accordingly, he quitted the hall with Robert Winter, and they proceeded to the court-yard, and were conversing together on the dismal prospects of the party, when a tremendous explosion took place. The roof of the building seemed rent in twain, and amidst a shower of tiles, plaster, bricks, and broken wood falling around, the bag of powder dropped untouched at their feet.
Mother of mercy!' exclaimed Christopher Wright, picking it up. · Here is a providential occurrence. Had this exploded, we must all have been destroyed.'
· Let us see what has happened,' cried Robert Winter.
And, followed by Christopher Wright, he rushed towards the hall, and bursting open the door, beheld Catesby enveloped in a cloud of smoke, and pressing his hand to his face, which was scorched and blackened by the explosion. Rookwood was stretched on the floor in a state of insensibility, and it at first appeared that life was extinct. Percy was extinguishing the flames, which had caught his dress, and John Grant was similarly occupied.
* Those are the very faces I beheld in my dream,' cried Robert Winter, gazing at them with affright. It was a true warning.'
Rushing up to Catesby, Christopher Wright clasped him in his arms, and extinguishing his flaming apparel, cried, · Wretch that I am! that I should live to see this day!'
'Be not alarmed!' gasped Catesby. 'It is nothing—it was a mere accident.'
. It is no accident, Catesby,' replied Robert Winter. Heaven is against us and our design.'
And he quitted the room, and left the house. Nor did he return to it.
• I will pray for forgiveness!' cried Percy, whose vision was so much injured by the explosion that he could as yet see nothing, And dragging hinself before an image of the Virgin, he prayed aloud, acknowledging that the act he had designed was so bloody that it called for the vengeance of Heaven, and expressing his sincere repentance.
No more of this,' cried Catesby, staggering up to him, and snatching the image from him. It was a mere accident, I tell you. We are all alive, and shall yet succeed.'
On inquiry, Christopher Wright learnt that a blazing coal had shot ont of the fire, and falling into the platter containing the powder, had occasioned the disastrous accident above described.
HOURS IN HINDOSTAN.
Back their own opinion by a wager. Every one bets in India : betting is the life and soul of society. Ladies smoke rose-water hookahs, and bet gold mohurs; gentlemen puff strong chillums, and stake lacs of rupees: everything that comes on the table, everything that passes the window, becomes the subject of a wager; the number of almonds served up on a desert plate, or the probable sex of the next passer-by, may cause the transfer of thousands,-nay, hundreds of thousands; for in a country where none wear purses, money becomes a mere nominal commodity, only to be spoken of, rarely to be seen; the consequence naturally results, that it being quite as easy to talk of thousands as hundreds, and far more imposing to do so, lacs of rupees are sported till the unfortunate sporter, if not exceedingly knowing, lacks everything, and the rich idler becomes the tool of the knowing sharper, who makes gambling his profession, and as such, studies it during those hours devoted by the less clever man to amassing riches to pay his debts.
Charles Macauley (this was not bonâ fide his name, but I will call him so) was one of the former,—that is to say, a good fellow, who would bet on certainties, drug your wine, or play with you for what you liked, whenever he was certain of having the best of it.
James Gordon had long been a flat. While up the country, he had lost large sums of money to Colonel Macauley, but finding it more convenient, had come down to Calcutta to fill a lucrative post; had been two years in the capital of Bengal, and was not quite so raw as he once had been. Charles was unaware of this little fact, or perhaps he would not have followed him down with the kind intent of fleecing him; however, these surmises have nothing to do with this sketch.
Colonel Charles Macanley had not arrived two hours in Tank Square, ere he heard that his old friend Gordon was making money fast, that he was to give a very grand dinner-party the next day, and that the said dinner was to be served on some splendid new diningtables, imported from Europe by the luxurious civilian : this information seemed strangely to interest Charley. At eleven o'clock next morning, the gallant Colonel jumped into his palanquin, and away he jogged to Chowringee, to see his old friend. • Sahib
in Ghurmi hi ?' The question replied to in the affirmative, Charley ascended the stairs amid the low salaams of the linen-wrapped kidmigars who lolled about the piazzas and passages. At last the great hall or banqueting-room was gained, and a very fine room it was.
Gordon Sahib-make shabe-come directly,' said the confidential sedar of the great man.
Bohut achar,' responded the visitor. • Walky in here?
Rather not. I'll wait here till your master has finished his toilette : you may go ;' and the Colonel began to hum an air with a degree of carelessness peculiar to well-bred people, very different from the vulgarity of Mrs. Trollope's Americans. The black servant va
nished; so did Charley's indifference as he quitted the room, for in the middle of the hall stood the identical tables that had just arrived from England. The Colonel was a man who soon made up his mind; he gave one glance around to ensure that he was unobserved, and in another instant had pulled out a yard measure, and ascertained the exact height of the said tables, which he as instantly set down in his pocket-book; then lolling out of the windows, began to watch the hackeries, tom-johns, palanquins, and other detestable vehicles, which rapidly flitted through Chowringee.
The most knowing men are sometimes mistaken in their calculations; for once even Macauley was deceived: he had thought him. self unobserved; but he was in error ; for as the sedar had truly said, his master was shaving in the next room; his back was towards the door, his eye on a little round looking-glass, which, unfortunately for Charley, reflected it. Now it so happened that the said door was slightly ajar when the measuring took place, so without turning round, or widening the aperture further, the owner of the tables saw the whole operation, and made up his mind to turn the tables on his friend; but to do this it required gumption, as we shall see by the sequel.
How are you, my dear fellow !—I am delighted to see you! cried the civilian, as he grasped the hand that had just been mea. suring. Where have you been these thousand years !
• Up the country-could not get away—the instant I could, came down to see you. We've had sharp work: three general actions, and a sharp campaign. Our regiment alone lost a havildar and three sepoys, besides poor Jackson ; who, you may remember, played whist so well: he got an ugly wound in the hand in the taking of a mud fort,—where we had a drummer wounded, -would drink brandy pawny, and died of mortification. I lost ten thousand rupees on him; I bet he would live three days ;-lost by two hours ;-devilish hard, wasn't it? besides a thousand I should have won from him, if he had survived till next day; he backed it not to rain, and it poured in torrents all the time we were burying him.'
Poor fellow !-he is a great loss ! Indeed he is. We cannot make up a rubber now; so I got leave, and ran down to see you.' "When did you arrive ?'
Only last night: put up at Taylor's-deuced good fellow-he won a lac of rupees by making six hundred dots in a minute.'
• You'll dine with me to-day?-seven o'clock; got some famous “loll shrob.”
'I am engaged to Taylor's : but never mind that ; I'll get off, and come to you.
I've some business in the fort; so, till seven, good bye!' and away trotted the sporting Colonel.
James Gordon ordered his servant to say he was out; he then busied himself about various affairs. Amongst others, one which he thought important : but more of that anon.
At seven o'clock the dinner was served up, and a more excellent one never was given in Calcutta ; but as every pleasure must come to an end, so this excellent dinner at last was finished; the desert was served up, and the hookahs began to emit their guttural notes.
Many were the subjects broached, and got rid of ; many the boasts which enlivened this fashionable feast.
At length by the most skilful maneuvring, and with infinite tact, Macauley brought the beauty of the new tables on the tapis ; every one admired them, and felt grateful to them for having so lately supported the rich dinner of their host.
They are of the finest mahogany I ever saw,' said Major Briscoe.
They are perfect. I never saw any so well proportioned in my life ; I must have some made like them,' said a dinner-giving old civilian with half a liver.
• They are rather too high,' chimed in Charles Macauley, with affected indifference ; just a leetle too high :-don't you think so, Gordon ?'
On the contrary,' replied the host ; 'if anything, I consider them a shade too low.'
• You are mistaken, my dear fellow ; I have an excellent eye, and I am sure I am right; no table should exceed two feet six, and these are at least one inch higher.'
'You are in error; they are not more than two feet and a half.'
• Don't bet, James, don't bet, for I am sure of the fact : I tell you I cannot be deceived, --my eye is always correct.'
(Not bet !-if were not that the tables are my own, and, consequently, I should bet on a certainty, I'd lay you a lac of rupees they are not more than thirty inches in height.
• Oh! if you are willing, I'll make the bet; but remember, gentlemen, I tell you beforehand, I am certain of the fact ; I say these tables are at least thirty-one inches from the ground.' 'Done! for a lac of rupees !' cried Gordon.
Done !' re-echoed Charley. Their betting-books were brought out, and the wager duly regis tered. A servant was ordered to bring in a yard measure, when Macauley turned round with an air of triumph,
'You may save yourselves the trouble of measuring,-ha! ha!' and he chuckled with delight. I warned you fairly I bet on a certainty, so you can't be off, James.'
I stand to my bet,' said Gordon. 'Well, then, pay me my money. I measured the tables this morning while you were shaving, and here is a memorandum of their height, thirty-one inches exactly!' and the Colonel burst into a roaring fit of laughter as he produced his pocket-book.
I know you did,' said James ; 'I saw you do so in my lookingglass. The Colonel started.
So as soon as you
had gone away, knowing well your intentions, I had an inch sawed off every leg; so for once, my knowing friend, the tables are turned !!
Charles Macauley left Calcutta next day 10,0001. poorer than the day he had arrived ; and, what is still worse, the very youngest ensigns quiz him about the story to this very day.
A FIFTH AT WHIST. We had been playing all the evening at whist. Our stake had been gold mohur points, and twenty on the rubber. Maxey, who is always lucky, had won five consecutive bumpers, which lent a selfsatisfied smile to his countenance, and made us, the losers, look anything but pleased, when he suddenly changed countenance, and hesitated to play: this the more surprised us, since he was one who sel
dom pondered, being so perfectly master of the game, that he deemed long consideration superfluous.
• Play away, Maxey; what are you about ?' impatiently demanded Churchill, one of the most impetuous youths that ever wore the uni. form of the body-guard.
• Hush ! responded Maxey, in a tone which thrilled through us, at the same time turning deadly pale.
• Are you unwell?' said another, about to start up, for he believed our friend had suddenly been taken ill.
· For the love of God sit quiet ! rejoined the other, in a tone denoting extreme fear or pain, and he laid down his cards. If you value my life, move not.'
• What can he mean ?-has he taken leave of his senses ?' demanded Churchill, appealing to myself.
* Don't start !—don't move, I tell you !' in a sort of whisper I never can forget, uttered Maxey. If you make any sudden motion I am a dead man !
We exchanged looks. He continued,
* Remain quiet, and all may yet be well. I have a Cobra Capella round my leg.'
Our first impulse was to draw back our chairs ; but an appealing look from the victim induced us to remain, although we were aware that should the reptile transfer but one fold, and attach himself to any other of the party, that individual might already be counted as a dead man, so fatal is the bite of that dreaded monster.
Poor Maxey was dressed as many old residents still dress in India, -namely, in breeches and silk stockings ; he therefore the more plainly felt every movement of the snake. His countenance assumed a livid hue; the words seemed to leave his mouth without that feature altering its position, so rigid was his look,—so fearful was he lest the slightest muscular movement should alarm the serpent, and hasten his fatal bite.
We were in agony little less than his own during the scene.
* He is coiling round !' murmured Maxey ; 'I feel him cold-cold to my limb; and now he tightens !—for the love of Heaven call for some milk !- I dare not speak loud : let it be placed on the ground near me ; let some be spilt on the floor.'
Churchill cautiously gave the order, and a servant slipped out of the room.
* Don't stir :-Northcote, you moved your head. By everything sacred I conjure you do not do so again! It cannot be long ere my fate is decided. I have a wife and two children in Europe ; tell them I died blessing them—that my last prayers were for them ;-the snake is winding itself round my calf;—I leave them all I possess I can almost fancy I feel his breath : Great God! to die in such a manner!'
The milk was brought, and carefully put down; a few drops were sprinkled on the floor, and the affrighted servants drew back.
Again Maxey spoke :
*No—no! it has no effect! on the contrary, he has clasped himself tighter-he has uncurled his upper fold i I dare not look down, but I am sure he is about to draw back and give the bite of death with more fatal precision. Receive me, O Lord ! and pardon me; my last hour is come!-Again he pauses. I die firm; but this is past endur