Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sinews of his right hand)-this is his mark. I pawned my soul, I say, for revenge, and I must surrender myself to him, if you cannot find a way to save me."

"I!" said my father, who supposed he was raving. "What can I

do?"

""Give me a strong poison-one that will lay me in the grave. But where can such a one be found? I have sought it through the world in vain."

"Compose yourself," said my father, who still believed it to be a case of mental delusion, "and I doubt not I shall be able to give you some relief from these sufferings." "Kill me, and you may," said the old man, "else not. It is death I want-death, not life. I will give you wealth beyond your utmost need, if you can send me to my grave. One year, five months, eleven days, and six hours you have to do it in. What say you ? Are you so skilled in medicine, think you, that you can compound a poison potent enough to quench the spark of life that still flickers within? You know St. Nicholas' churchyard?"

"Certainly," said my father. "I live in St. Nicholas' parish."

"Well, then," replied the old man, with a deep sigh, "to sum up all in a few words, let there be (speedily, if possible, but at any rate before the expiration of one year, five months, eleven days, and six hours—I count the time by hours) a grave digged in St. Nicholas' churchyard. In that grave let me be laid, and for my epitaph nothing more than 'RICHARD WARBECK,' and I will make you master of all I have."

""Richard Warbeck!" exclaimed my father.

"I am he! You think me mad. Hear how calmly I can talk. Mark how rationally I will discourse, and tell you of things.-some of which you know, others you may have heard, that shall convince you I am the person I say."

'The old man, after resting a few moments to recover from his agitation, proceeded to relate such matters connected with himself, his own early life, the former inhabitants of the town, Grace Amos, the death of Sergeant Wilkinson, and various other things, as satisfied my father that he was really and truly no other than Richard Warbeck.

'When Richard had finished,-for Richard it was,' observed Major Grooby, and such I shall now call him,-he imposed one condition upon my father, and received from him the most solemn assurance that he would observe it, viz. to keep his secret.

""I would not," said he, "be known to the living generation. Let me therefore pass among ye, until I pass away, (and a shudder came over him as he spoke the words,) for Mr. Glencowe, the rich East India merchant, who has ruined his health in amassing riches abroad, and has come here by the advice of his physicians, to retrieve it."

'It was under that name I knew him when a boy; a tall, thin, palefaced, hollow-eyed, and grey-headed old man, limping about upon crutches. My father attended him regularly, and was congratulated (not envied, of course,) by his professional brethren, upon having such a rich old fellow for a patient: one, too, who seemed likely enough to last a reasonable time, provided he was physicked judiciously.

'In the course of his attendance, he learned from time to time most of the particulars I have related; but I do not think he ever gave up his 42

VOL. VII.

opinion that everything Richard told him respecting his compact with the devil was the effect of insanity. He, was forced, however, to pretend otherwise; for I have heard him say it was dreadful to behold the wretched man's sufferings whenever he found him incredulous upon that point. He had no particular bodily ailment that required medicine, but drugs of a harmless kind were daily administered, which he greedily swallowed, believing they were a slow poison, of certain efficacy, prepared by my father after much labour and research.

'The one year, five months, eleven days, and six hours, had dwindled down to the eleven days only, and Richard became an object ghastly and fearful to look upon. He had no suspicion of the deception my father was practising; he only feared his efforts would be unavailing within the prescribed time. He would roll and writhe about till the perspiration fell in large drops from his face, and scream at each contortion, as if every sinew were being wrenched from its place. To allay these sufferings, my father once or twice administered opium in very large quantities; but it did not seem to possess the slightest narcotic influence. Richard, who knew what it was from the taste, used to complain bitterly of giving him "that baby drug," which, he said, he had swallowed again and again, in doses sufficient to kill a hundred men, with the same impunity that he would have drunk a glass of water.

'At length came the morning of the eleventh day, and my father visited him early, resolving not to quit him for a single moment till six hours after midnight, that he might observe every changing symptom of his malady, and be at hand to employ promptly such remedies as he might consider necessary. When he arrived, he found Richard in a deep sleep, breathing gently, and a faint colour in his cheeks. The nurse said he had been in that state the whole night, almost without motion, and showing scarcely any other sign of life but that of a soft, quick respiration. My father felt his pulse. It beat firm and full under his finger.

"This is miraculous," said he,-" it confounds me! Nature is working mysteriously, for some end which I cannot explain; let us watch patiently for the result."

'They did so. All that day till sunset Richard continued in the same death-like slumber; for, except that he breathed, and that his pulse beat, and his cheek retained its nge of red, he might have passed for one who had already ceased to live.

'It was summer time. The sun had gone down. The clock struck nine-ten-eleven. My father was still sitting by his side, holding his hand, with his finger upon his pulse, and labouring under the most exciting feelings, when suddenly Richard awoke, raised himself up, and looking upon vacancy, said in a low, firm voice, I know it-I must be there --I come."

'As he uttered these words, to the amazement of my father and the nurse, he stood upon his feet, without requiring any assistance, or the support of his crutches, a thing he had not been able to do before for several months.

"I have had revealed to me in sleep," he continued, "why this strength is given. It is, that I may go alone whither I must go before the clock strikes twelve. The hour I have been running from for so many years has come at last."

"No," said my father, "this is only the eleventh day that is drawing to There will then be six hours."

a close.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

"You are right," interrupted Richard. Tarry here those six hours for my return."

[ocr errors]

"Where would you go ?"-"To the porch of St. Nicholas' church." "What to do ?"-"Keep my word."

"When was it given ?""Fifty years ago-exactly fifty years ago." "Must you go alone?"—"Yes."

"Say you will remain here another half hour, and I will not oppose your going."

"Will not ?-you cannot. An angel could not pluck me from perdition now. This you will see. You have already seen that you have no power over my life. I placed it in your hands; besought you to rid me of it; tempted you with wealth; entreated you with tears; implored you in agony; and all your efforts failed."

"Yes," said my father; "I do acknowledge that none of the means I tried succeeded; but I have not exhausted my art-I did not wish to do so; I clung to the hope that it might not be necessary, and I reserved for the last moment-if the necessity could no longer be doubted—a potion of such deadly quality, that a single drop is .sufficient to destroy life."

"“Man!" exclaimed Richard, clutching my father fiercely by the arm, and looking at him with a countenance violently agitated, "do not trifle with me now! I am past that. If you speak truth, I'll kneel and worship you. If false, may that hell which is gaping for me be your portion also. Have you this potion about you?"

"I have."

"Give it me!-give it me, I say!" and he grasped my father's throat with both his hands. "Minutes are precious with me now."

"It requires a little preparation," said my father, evincing no alarm at Richard's violent manner. "Sit down. Compose yourself. I will

get it ready."

'In less than half a minute my father returned with a small phial in his hand, containing a transparent yellow fluid.

"I tremble to think what I am about," said he. "Wait in this room until you hear St. Nicholas' clock strike twelve, and the evil spell that is upon you will be destroyed."

"Do you think I would not do so if I could?" he asked, in a tone of such utter misery and despair, that it went to my father's heart. "Have pity on me!" he continued, stretching out his hands for the phial, and bursting into tears.

"But twenty seconds more," said my father, "and I yield.'

'As he uttered these words, with his eyes still upon the timepiece, he slowly drew the cork from the phial, which Richard, by a sudden spring, snatched from his hands, and draining its contents, broke out into a wild screaming laugh, as he flung the empty bottle from him.

"Rash man!" exclaimed my father, "what is it you have done ?" ""Traitor!" cried Richard, "what is it you have done? Betrayed me to the fiend! There he stands! There! With that devilish mock upon his countenance which he wore fifty years ago, when he clasped my hand, and by this token made me his. There goes the hour, too! Hark! St. Nicholas's strikes! How the deep booming of that bell crushes my brain! One! two! three !-I am on fire!-four! five! six!

-my sinews, arteries, veins, are all shrivelling up within me !-seven! eight! nine!-a sea of blood is heaving and swelling at my feet!-ten ! eleven! TWELVE !-and now! now!-O God!-O God! my bones are being ground-ground-ground-ground to very dust!"

'He fell into strong convulsions, uttered one terrific shriek, and expired!'

A most extraordinary story, certainly,' said Mr. Carliel, and how to explain it I know not. I think you said,' he continued, addressing the Major, that the only knowledge your father possessed of Richard's supposed dealings with the Evil One he derived from himself?"

'Entirely,' replied the Major.

'Ay,' said Mr. Carliel, with a nod of self-satisfaction, there's the key to the whole mystery. The poor man was crazed-that's clear; and your father formed a right judgment of the case from the first.'

'Not quite so clear,' answered the Major, 'even to my father; for, though he would never confess in so many words that it was not a case of mental delusion, there were two or three circumstances which he was utterly unable to account for upon that hypothesis.'

What were they?' inquired Mr. Carliel.

Why, believing until the very last that Richard's mind was diseased, he thought if he could any way get him over his hour of imaginary danger, all might be well. So, what did he do? In the first place, the phial contained nothing but coloured water; in the second, he spoke to the sexton, and had the bell of St. Nicholas', which tolled the hour, muffled, so that it could not be heard even in the churchyard; and in the third, he put back the hand of the old timepiece a quarter of an hour. But what followed? Precisely at twelve o'clock, when the timepiece was pointing to a quarter to twelve, and when no human being could hear the church clock, he became violently agitated, began to count the hours, and raved-if raving it was-in the way you have heard. His whole frame was fearfully convulsed; his eyes seemed bursting from their sockets; his face grew livid; his writhings and contortions were those of a man suffering intense bodily pain; and when the last hour struck he fell back on the sofa so doubled up that it was impossible afterwards to straighten his limbs.'

'Lord! how shocking!' exclaimed Mary Falconer, and then, after a pause, turning to her aunt, she said, 'I suppose we must wait till evening now for your story of "THE BLACK RIBAND ?" '

'Yes, child,' replied Mrs. Dagleish, 'I think my cousin Grooby's two stories are quite enough for this morning.' Upon which, the little circle broke up, and each betook him or herself to whatever promised best for amusing the time till dinner.

635

THE LINKMAN.

BY ALBANY POYNTZ.

'The first Link in the scale of Creation.'-Occasional Sermon.

We are told that there is but a step from the sublime to the ridiculous. It may be observed, with equal truth, that between the mobs of the great world and the swell mob there is only a LINK! A Linkman is, bona fide, the beggar defined by Hamlet, as 'galling the courtier's kibe ;'-a moral parody on the lady's page of the days of chivalry ;-in spite of his rags, the only favoured mortal permitted to approach so near the Lady Dulcibella as she steps into her carriage after a ball, that his begrimed face and tattered garments are fanned by the fragrant breath and oriental perfumes of the court-beauty!

Like the heralds of old, the Linkman is a privileged person ;-nay, he enjoys higher privileges than even the herald, whose office consisted in bearing the words of others, while the Linkman is allowed to give utterance to sentiments wholly his own. A court-jester or my Lord Mayor's fool is scarcely more sanctioned in the freedom of speech which tramples on all distinctions of rank and station, than the professional Link.

The Linkman may, in fact, be considered the public orator of the kennel. His knowledge of the men and manners that be, amounts almost to omniscience; and, saving my Lord Brougham, there scarcely exists a man, either in private or official life, who excels him in the manly frankness of telling people personal truths to their faces.-Not a dandy of Crockford's, -not a dowager of Grosvenor Square,-whose name is not familiar in the mouth of the Linkman as household words;-so much so, that he uses them as cavalierly as his goods and chattels, by superadding cognomens more appropriate than acceptable to the owners. Posterity might obtain considerable insight into the characters of many whom the Herald's Office styles illustrious,' and history is preparing to call 'great,' were it to employ reporters to stenograph, during a single evening, the ex-official debates among the henchmen of the flambeau at the door of the House of Commons, the Opera, and Almacks.-The Linkmen of the day, or night, would throw considerable light upon the subject.

"

Unlike other popular representatives, the Linkman sees with unbiassed eyes, and declaims with unblushing enunciation. The Linkman is never inaudible in the gallery. He is not only initiated into the secrets of the prison-house, per privilege of place, as auditor of the few last words drawled between the Premier and the Home Secretary, as they separate at the door of their parliamentary den; or the few last whispers interchanged between the young Duchess and the idol of her soul, as he hands her into her chariot, after a third waltz at some fete in Berkeley Square; but he has not the slightest motive for rounding their periods or qualifying their expressions, after the fashion of the chartered fabricators of parliamentary eloquence or fashionable intelligence.

The Linkman nothing extenuates, and sets down naught in malice. 'The old chap told the Markis that, for all his palaver, the Irish question

« AnteriorContinuar »