THE CHARLES THE SECOND SPANIEL
IT was about two o'clock, on a charming spring day, that a stout middle-aged man, accompanied by a young person of extraordinary beauty, took up his station in front of Langham Church. Just as the clock struck the hour, a young man issued at a quick pace from a cross-street, and came upon the couple before he was aware of it. He was evidently greatly embarrassed, and would have beaten a retreat, but that was impossible. His embarrassment was in some degree shared by the young lady; she blushed deeply, but could not conceal her satisfaction at the encounter. The elder individual, who did not appear to notice the confusion of either party, immediately extended his hand to the young man, and exclaimed:
"What! Mr. Darcy, is it you? Why, we thought we had lost you, sir! What took you off so suddenly? We have been expecting you these four days, and were now walking about to try and find you. My daughter has been, terrible uneasy. Haven't you, Ebba?"
The young lady made no answer to this appeal, but east down her eyes.
"It was my intention to call, and give you an explanation of my strange conduct, today," replied Auriol. "I hope you received my letter, stating that my sudden departure was unavoidable."
"To be sure; and I also received the valuable snuff-box you were so good as to send me," replied Mr. Thorneycroft. "But you neglected to tell me how to acknowledge the gift."
"I could not give an address at the moment," said Auriol.
"Well, I am glad to find you have got the use of your arm again," observed the iron-merchant; "but I can't say you look so well as when you left us. You seem paler -- eh? what do you think, Ebba?"
"Mr. Darcy looks as if he were suffering from mental anxiety rather than from bodily ailment," she replied, timidly..
"I am so," replied Auriol, regarding her fixedly. "A very disastrous circumstance has happened to me. But answer me one question: has the mysterious person in the black cloak troubled you again?"
"What mysterious person?" demanded Mr. Thorneycroft, opening his eyes.
"Never mind, father," replied Ebba. "I saw him last night," she added to Auriol. "I was sitting in the back room alone, wondering what had become of you, when I heard a tap against the window, which was partly open, and, looking up, I beheld the tall stranger. It was nearly dark, but the light of the fire revealed his malignant countenance. I don't exaggerate, when I say his eyes gleamed like those of a tiger. I was terribly frightened, but something prevented me from crying out. After gazing at me for a few moments, with a look that seemed to fascinate while it frightened me, he said -- 'You desire to see Auriol Darcy. I have just quitted him. Go to Langham-place tomorrow, and, as the clock strikes two, you will behold him.' Without waiting for any reply on my part, he disappeared."
"Ah, you never told me this, you little rogue!" cried Mr. Thorneycroft. "You persuaded me to come out with you, in the hope of meeting Mr. Darcy; but you did not say you were sure to find him. So you sent this mysterious gentleman to her, eh?" he added to Auriol.
"No, I did not," replied the other, gloomily.
"Indeed!" exclaimed the iron-merchant with a puzzled look.
"Oh, then I suppose he thought it might relieve her anxiety. However, since we have met, I hope you'll walk home and dine with us."
Auriol was about to decline the invitation, but Ebba glanced at him entreatingly.
"I have an engagement, but I will forgo it," he said, offering his arm to her.
And they walked along towards Oxford-street, while Mr. Thorneycroft followed a few paces behind them.
"This is very kind of you, Mr. Darcy," said Ebba. Oh, I have been so wretched."
"I grieve to hear it," he rejoined. "I hoped you had forgotten me."
"I am sure you did not think so," she cried.
As she spoke, she felt a shudder pass through Auriol's frame.
"What ails you?" she anxiously inquired.
"I would have shunned you, if I could, Ebba," he replied; "but a fate, against which it is vain to contend, has brought us together again."
"I am glad of it," she replied; "because ever since our last interview, I have been reflecting on what you then said to me, and am persuaded you are labouring under some strange delusion, occasioned by your recent accident."
"Be not deceived, Ebba," cried Auriol. "I am under a terrible influence. I need not remind you of the mysterious individual who tapped at your window last night."
"What of him ?" demanded Ebba, with a thrill of apprehension. "He it is who controls my destiny," replied Auriol.
"But what has he to do with me?" asked Ebba.
"Much, much," he replied, with a perceptible shudder.
"You terrify me, Auriol," she rejoined. "Tell me what you mean -- in pity, tell me?"
Before Auriol could reply Mr. Thorneycroft stepped forward, and turned the conversation into another channel.
Soon after this, they reached the Quadrant, and were passing beneath the eastern colonnade, when Ebba's attention was attracted towards a man who was leading a couple of dogs by a string, while he had others under his arm, others again in his pocket, and another in his breast. It was Mr. Ginger.
"What a pretty little dog!" cried Ebba, remarking the Charles the Second spaniel.
"Allow me to present you with it?" said Auriol.
"You know I should value it, as coming from you," she replied, blushing deeply; "but I cannot accept it; so I will not look at it again, for fear I should be tempted."
The dog-fancier, however, noticing Ebba's admiration, held forward the spaniel, and said, "Do jist look at the pretty little creater, miss. It han't its equil for beauty. Don't be afeerd on it, miss. It's as gentle as a lamb."
"Oh! you little darling!" Ebba said, patting its sleek head and long silken ears, while it fixed its large black eyes upon her, as if entreating her to become its purchaser.
"Fairy seems to have taken quite a fancy to you miss," observed Ginger; "and she aint i' the habit o' fallin' i' love at first sight. I don't wonder at it, though for my part. I should do jist the same, if I wos in her place. Veil, now, miss, as she seems to like you, and you seem to like her, I won't copy the manners o' them 'ere fathers as has stony 'arts, and part two true lovvers. You shall have her a bargin."
"What do you call a bargain, my good man?" inquired Ebba, smiling.
"I wish I could afford to give her to you, miss," replied Ginger; "you should have her, and welcome. But I must airn a livelihood, and Fairy is the most wallerable part o' my stock. I'll tell you wot I give for her myself, and you shall have her at a trifle beyond it. I'd scorn to take adwantage o' the likes o' you."
"I hope you didn't give too much, then, friend," replied Ebba.
"I didn't give hayf her wally -- not hayf," said Ginger; "and if so be you don't like her in a month's time, I'll buy her back again from you. You'll alvays find me here -- alvays. Everybody knows Mr. Ginger -- that's my name, miss. I'm the only honest man in the dog-fancyin' line. Ask Mr. Bishop, the great gunmaker o' Bond-street, about me -- him as the nobs call the Bishop o' Bond-street -- an: he'll tell you."
"But you haven't answered the lady's question," said Auriol. "What do you ask for the dog?"
"Do you want it for yourself, sir, or for her?" inquired Ginger.
"What does it matter?" cried Auriol, angrily.
"A great deal, sir," replied Ginger; "it'll make a mater'al difference in the price. To you, she'll be five-an'-twenty guineas. To the young lady, twenty."
"But suppose I buy her for the young lady?" said Auriol.
"Oh, then, in coorse, you'll get her at the lower figure!" replied Ginger.
"I hope you don't mean to buy the dog?" interposed Mr. Thorneycroft. "The price is monstrous -- preposterous."
"It may appear so to you, sir," said Ginger, "because you're ignorant o' the wally of sich a hanimal; but I can tell you it's cheap -- dirt cheap. Vy, his excellency the Prooshian ambassador bought a Charley from me, t'other week, to present to a certain duchess of his acquaintance, and wot d'ye think he give for it?"
"I don't know, and I don't want to know," replied Mr. Thorneycroft, gruffly.
"Eighty guineas," said Ginger. "Eighty guineas, as I'm a livin' man, and made n~ bones about it neither. The dog I sold him warn't to be compared wi' Fairy."
"Stuff -- stuff!" cried Mr. Thorneycroft; "I aint' to be gammoned in that way."
"It's no gammon," said Ginger. "Look at them ears, miss. -- vy, they're as long as your own ringlets -- and them pads -- an' I'm sure you von't~ay she's dear at twenty pound."
"She's a lovely little creature, indeed," returned Ebba, again patting the animal's head.
While this was passing, two men of very suspicious mien, ensconced behind a pillar adjoining the group, were reconnoitring Auriol.
"It's him!" whispered the taller and darker of the two to his companion -- "it's the young man ve've been lookin' for -- Auriol Darcy."
"It seems like him," said the other, edging round the pillar as far as he could without exposure. "I vish he'd turn his face a leetle more this vay."
"It's him I tell you, Sandman," said the Tinker. "Ve must give the signal to our comrade."
"Vell, I'll tell you wot it is, miss," said Ginger, coaxingly, "your sveet'art -- I'm sure he's your sveet'art -- I can tell these things in a minnit -- your sveet'art, I say, shall give me fifteen pound, and the dog's yourn. I shall lose five pound by the transaction; but I don't mind it for sich a customer as you. Fairy desarves a kind missus."
Auriol, who had fallen into a fit of abstraction, here remarked:
"What's that you are saying, fellow?"
"I vos a-sayin', sir, the young lady shall have the dog for fifteen pound, and a precious bargin it is," replied Ginger.
"Well, then, I close with you. Here's the money," said Auriol, taking out his purse.
"On no account, Auriol," cried Ebba, quickly. "It's too much."
"A great deal too much, Mr. Darcy," said Thorneycroft.
"Auriol and Darcy!" muttered Ginger. "Can this be the gemman ve're a-lookin' for. Vere's my two pals, I vonder? Oh, it's all right!" he added, receiving a signal from behind the pillar. "They're on the look-out, I see."
"Give the lady the dog, and take the money, man," said Auriol, sharply.
"Beg pardon, sir," said Ginger, "but hadn't I better carry the dog home for the young lady? It might meet vith some accident in the vay."
"Accident! -- stuff and nonsense!" cried Mr. Thorneycroft. "The rascal only wants to follow you home, that he may know where you live, and steal the dog back again. Take my advice, Mr. Darcy, and don't buy it."
"The bargain's concluded," said Ginger, delivering the dog to Ebba, and taking the money from Auriol, which, having counted, he thrust into his capacious breeches-pocket.
"How shall I thank you for this treasure, Auriol?" exclaimed Ebba, in an ecstasy of delight.
"By transferring to it all regard you may entertain for me," he replied, in a low tone.
"That is impossible," she answered.
"Well, I vote we drive away at once," said Mr. Thorneycroft. "Halloa! jarvey!" he cried, hailing a coach that was passing; adding, as the vehicle stopped, "Now get in, Ebba. By this means we shall avoid being followed by the rascal." So saying, he got into the coach. As Auriol was about to follow him, he felt a slight touch on his arm, and, turning, beheld a tall and very forbidding man by his side.
"Beg pardin, sir," said the fellow, touching his hat, "but ain't your name Mr. Auriol Darcy?"
"It is," replied Auriol, regarding him fixedly. "Why do you ask?"
"I vants a vord or two vith you in private -- that's all, sir," replied the Tinker.
"Say what you have to say at once," rejoined Auriol. "I know nothing of you."
"You'll know me better by-and-by sir," said the Tinker, in a significant tone. "I must speak to you, and alone."
"If you don't go about your business, fellow, instantly, I'll give you in charge of the police," cried Auriol.
"No you von't sir -- no you von't," replied the Tinker, shaking his head. And then, lowering his voice, he added, "You'll be glad to purchase my silence ven you larns wot secrets o' yourn has come to my knowledge."
"Won't you get in, Mr. Darcy?" cried Thorneycroft, whose back was towards the Tinker. "I must speak to this man," replied Auriol, "I'll come to you in the evening. Till then, farewell, Ebba." And, as the coach drove away, he added to the Tinker, "Now, rascal, what have you to say?"
"Step this vay, sir," replied the Tinker. "There's two friends o' mine as vishes to be present at our conference. Ve'd better valk into a back street.
THE HAND, AGAIN!
Followed by Auriol, who, in his turn, was followed by Ginger and the Sandman, the Tinker directed his steps to Great Windmill-street; where he entered a public-house, called the Black Lion. Leaving his four-footed attendants with the landlord, with whom he was acquainted, Ginger caused the party to be shown into a private room, and, on entering it, Auriol flung himself into a chair, while the dog- fancier stationed himself near the door.
"Now what do you want with me?" demanded Auriol.
"You shall learn presently," replied the Tinker; "but first, it may be as veIl to state, that a certain pocket-book has been found."
"Ah!" exclaimed Auriol. "You are the villains who beset me in the ruined house in the Vauxhall-road."
"Your pocket-book has been found, I tell you," replied the Tinker, "and from it ve have made the most awful diskiveries. Our werry 'air stood on end ven ve first read the shockin' particulars. What a bloodthirsty ruffian you must be! Vy, ve finds you've been i' the habit o' makin' avay with a young ooman vonce every ten years. Your last wictim wos in 1820 -- the last but one, in 1810 -- and the one before her, in 1800."
"Hangin's too good for you!" cried the Sandman; "but if ve peaches you're sartin to sving."
"I hope that pretty creater I jist see ain't to be the next victim?" said Ginger.
"Peace!" thundered Auriol. "What do you require?"
"A hundred pound each'll buy our silence," replied the Tinker. "Ve ought to have double that," said the Sandman, "for screenin' sich atterocious crimes as he has parpetrated. Ve're not werry partic'lar ourselves, but ve don't commit murder wholesale."
"Ve don't commit murder at all," said Ginger.
"You may fancy," pursued the Tinker, "that ve aint' perfectly acvainted with your history, but to prove that ve are, I'll just rub up your memory. Did you ever hear tell of a gemman as murdered Doctor Lamb, the famous halchemist o' Queen Bess's time, and, havin' drank the 'lixir vich the doctor had made for hisself, has lived ever since? Did you ever hear tell of such a person, I say?"
Auriol gazed at him in astonishment.
"What idle tale are you inventing?" he said, at length.
"It is no idle tale," replied the Tinker, boldly. "Ve can bring a vitness as'll prove the fact -- a livin' vitness."
"What witness?" cried Auriol.
"Don't you rekilect the dwarf as used to serve Doctor Lamb?" rejoined the Tinker. "He's alive still; and ve calls him Old Parr, on account of his great age."
"Where is he? -- what has become of him?" demanded Auriol.
"Oh, ve'll preduce him in doo time," replied the Tinker, cunningly.
"But tell me where the poor fellow is?" cried Auriol. "Have you seen him since last night? I sent him to a public-house at Kensington, but he has disappeared from it, and I can discover no traces of him."
"He'll turn up somewhere -- never fear," rejoined the Tinker "But now, sir, that ve fairly understands each other, are you agreeable to our terms? You shall give us an order for the money, and ve'll undertake on our parts, not to mislest you more."
"The pocket-book must be delivered up to me if I assent," said Auriol, "and the poor dwarf must be found."
"Vy, as to that, I can scarcely promise," replied the Tinker; "there's a difficulty in the case, you see. But the pocket-book'll never be brought aginst you -- you may rest assured o' that."
"I must have it, or you get nothing from me," cried Auriol.
"Here's a bit o' paper as come from the pocket-book," said Ginger. "Would you like to hear wot's written upon it? Here are the words: -- 'How many crimes have I to reproach myself with! How many innocents have I destroyed! And all owing to my fatal compact with --"
"Give me that paper," cried Auriol, rising and attempting to snatch it from the dog-fancier.
Just at this moment, and while Ginger retreated from Auriol, the door behind him was noiselessly opened -- a hand was thrust through the chink -- and the paper was snatched from his grasp. Before Ginger could turn round, the door was closed again.
"Halloa! What's that?" he cried. "The paper's gone!"
"The hand again!" cried the Sandman, in alarm. "See who's in the passage -- open the door -- quick!"
Ginger cautiously complied and, peeping forth, said:
"There's no one there. It must be the devil. I'll have nuffin' more to do wi' the matter."
"Poh! poh! don't be so chicken-'arted!" cried the Tinker. "But come what may, the gemman sha'n't stir till he undertakes to pay us three hundred pounds."
"You seek to frighten me in vain, villain," cried Auriol, upon whom the recent occurrence had not been lost. "I have but to stamp my foot, and I can instantly bring assistance that shall overpower you."
"Don't provoke him," whispered Ginger, plucking the Tinker's sleeve. "For my part, I shan't stay any longer. I wouldn't take his money." And he quitted the room.
"I'll go and see wot's the matter wi' Ginger," said the Sandman slinking after him.
The Tinker looked nervously round. He was not proof against his superstitious fears.
"Here, take this purse, and trouble me no more!" cried Auriol. The Tinker's hands clutched the purse mechanically, but he instantly laid it down again.
"I'm bad enough -- but I won't sell myseff to the devil," he said.
And he followed his companions.
Left alone, Auriol groaned aloud, and covered his face with his hands. When he looked up, he found the tall man in the black cloak standing beside him. A demoniacal smile played upon his features.
"You here?" cried Auriol.
"Of course," replied the stranger. "I came to watch over your safety. You were in danger from those men. But you need not concern yourself more about them. I have your pocket-book, and the slip of paper that dropped from it. Here are both. Now let us talk on other matters. You have just parted from Ebba, and will see her again this evening."
"Perchance," replied Auriol.
"You will," rejoined the stranger, peremptorily. "Remember, your ten years' limit draws to a close. In a few days it will be at an end; and if you renew it not, you will incur the penalty, and you know it to be terrible. With the means of renewal in your hands, why hesitate?"
"Because I will not sacrifice the girl," replied Auriol.
"You cannot help yourself," cried the stranger, scornfully. "I command you to bring her to me."
"I persist in my refusal," replied Auriol.
"It is useless to brave my power," said the stranger. "A moon is just born. When it has attained its first quarter, Ebba shall be mine. Till then, farewell."
And as the words were uttered, he passed through the door.
THE BARBER OF LONDON
Who has not heard of the Barber of London? His dwelling is in the neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn. It is needless to particularize the street, for everybody knows the shop; that is to say, every member of the legal profession, high or low. All, to the very judges themselves, have their hair cut, or their wigs dressed by him. A pleasant fellow is Mr. Tuffnell Trigge -- Figaro himself not pleasanter -- and if you do not shave yourself -- if you want a becoming flow imparted to your stubborn locks, or if you require a wig, I recommend you to the care of Mr. Tuffnell Trigge. Not only will he treat you well, but he will regale you with all the gossip of the court; he will give you the last funny thing of Mr. Serjeant Larkins; he will tell you how many briefs the great Mr. Skinner Fyne receives -- what the Vice-Chancellor is doing; and you will own, on rising that have never spent a five minutes more agreeably. Besides, you are likely to see some noticeable characters, for Mr. Trigge's shop is quite a lounge. Perhaps you may find a young barrister who has just been "called", ordering his "first wig", and you may hear the prognostications of Mr. Trigge to his future distinction. "Ah, sir," he will say, glancing at the stolid features of the young man, "you have quite the face of the Chief Justice -- quite the face of the chief -- I don't recollect him ordering his first wig -- that was a little before my time; but I hope to live to see you chief, sir. Quite within your reach, if you choose to apply. Sure of it, sir -- quite sure." Or you may see him attending to some grave master in Chancery, and listening with profound attention to his remarks; or screaming with laughter at the jokes of some smart special pleader; or talking of the theatres, the actors and actresses, to some young attorneys, or pupils in conveyancers' chambers; for those are the sort of customers in whom Mr. Trigge chiefly delights; with them, indeed, he is great, for it is by them he has been dubbed the Barber of London. His shop is also frequented by managing clerks, barristers' clerks, engrossing clerks and others; but these are, for the most part, his private friends.
Mr. Trigge's shop is none of your spruce West end hair-cutting establishments, with magnificent mirrors on every side, in which you may see the back of your head, the front, and the side, all at once, with walls bedizened with glazed French paper, and with an ante-room full of bears'-grease, oils, creams, tooth-powders, and cut glass. No, it is a real barber's and hairdresser's shop, of the good old stamp, where you may get cut and curled for a shilling, and shaved for half the price.
True, the floor is not covered with a carpet. But what of that? It bears the imprint of innumerable customers, and is scattered over with their hair. In the window, there is an assortment of busts moulded in wax, exhibiting the triumphs of Mr. Trigge's art; and, above these, are several specimens of legal wigs. On the little counter behind the window, amid large pots of pommade, and bears'-grease, and the irons and brushes in constant use by the barber, are other bustos, done to the life, and for ever glancing amiably into the room. On the block is a judge's wig, which Mr. Trigge has just been dressing, and a little farther, on a higher block, is that of a counsel. On either side of the fireplace are portraits of Lord Eldon and Lord Lyndhurst. Some other portraits of pretty actresses are likewise to be seen. Against the counter rests a board, displaying the playbill of the evening; and near it is a large piece of emblematical crockery, indicating that bears'-grease may be had on the premises. Amongst Mr. Trigge's live-stock may be enumerated his favourite magpie, placed in a wicker cage in the window, which chatters incessantly, and knows everything its master avouches, "as well as a Christian".
And now as to Mr. Tuffnell Trigge himself. He is very tall and very thin, and holds himself so upright that he loses not an inch of his stature. His head is large and his face long, with marked, if not very striking features, charged, it must be admitted with a very self-satisfied expression. One cannot earn the appellation of the Barber of London without talent; and it is the consciousness of this talent that lends to Mr. Trigge's features their apparently conceited expression. A fringe of black whisker adorns his cheek and chin, and his black bristly hair is brushed back, so as to exhibit the prodigious expanse of his forehead. His eyebrows are elevated, as if in constant scorn.
The attire in which Mr. Trigge is ordinarily seen, consists of a black velvet waistcoat, and tight black continuations. These are protected by a white apron tied round his waist, with pockets to hold his scissors and combs; over all, he wears a short nankeen jacket, into the pockets of which his hands are constantly thrust when not otherwise employed. A black satin stock with a large bow encircles his throat, and his shirt is fastened by black enamel studs. Such is Mr. Tuffnell Trigge, yclept the Barber of London.
At the time of his introduction to the reader, Mr. Trigge had just advertised for an assistant, his present young man, Rutherford Watts, being about to leave him, and set up for himself in Canterbury. It was about two o'clock, and Mr. Trigge had just withdrawn into an inner room to take some refection, when, on returning, he found Watts occupied in cutting the hair of a middle-aged, sour-looking gentleman, who was seated before the fire. Mr. Trigge bowed to the sour-looking gentleman, and appeared ready to enter into conversation with him, but no notice being taken of his advances, he went and talked to his magpie.
While he was chattering to it, the sagacious bird screamed forth: "Pretty dear! -- pretty dear!" "Ah! what's that? Who is it?" cried Trigge.
"Pretty dear! -- pretty dear!" reiterated the magpie.
Upon this, Trigge looked around, and saw a very singular little man enter the shop. He had somewhat the appearance of a groom being clothed in a long grey coat, drab knees, and small top-boots. He had a large and remarkable projecting mouth, like that of a baboon, and a great shock head of black hair.
"Pretty dear! -- pretty dear!" screamed the magpie.
"I see nothing pretty about him," thought Mr. Trigge. "What a strange fellow. It would puzzle the Lord Chancellor himself to say what his age might be."
The little man took off his hat, and making a profound bow to the barber, unfolded the Times newspaper, which he carried under his arm, and held it up to Trigge.
"What do you want, my little friend, eh?" said the barber.
"High wages! -- high wages!" screamed the magpie.
"Is this yours, sir?" replied the little man, pointing to an advertisement in the newspaper.
"Yes, yes, that's my advertisement, friend," replied Mr. Trigge. "But what of it?"
Before the little man could answer a slight interruption occurred. While eyeing the newcomer, Watts neglected to draw forth the hot curling-irons, in consequence of which he burnt the sour-looking gentleman's forehead and singed his hair.
"Take care, sir!" cried the gentleman, furiously. "What the devil are you about?"
"Yes! take care, sir, as Judge Learmouth observes to a saucy witness," cried Trigge -- "'take care, or I'll commit you!'"
"D--n Judge Learmouth!" cried the gentleman, angrily. "If I were a judge, I'd hang such a careless fellow."
"Sarve him right!" screamed Mag -- "sarve him right!"
"Beg pardon, sir," cried Watts. "I'll rectify you in a minute."
"Well, my little friend," observed Trigge, "and what may be your object in coming to me, as the great conveyancer, Mr. Plodwell, observes to his clients -- what may be your object?"
"You want an assistant, don't you, sir?" rejoined the little man, humbly.
"Do you apply on your own account, or on behalf of a friend?" asked Trigge.
"On my own," replied the little man.
"What are your qualifications?" demanded Trigge -- "what are your qualifications?"
"I fancy I understand something of the business," replied the little man. "I was a perruquier myself, when wigs were more in fashion than they are now."
"Ha! indeed!" said Trigge, laughing. "That must have been in the last century -- in Queen Anne's time -- eh?"
"You have hit it exactly, sir," replied the little man. "It was in Queen Anne's time."
"Perhaps you recollect when wigs were first worn, my little Nestor," cried Mr. Trigge.
"Perfectly," replied the little man. "French periwigs were first worn in Charles the Second's time."
"You saw 'em, of course?" cried the barber, with a sneer.
"I did," replied the little man, quietly.
"Oh, he must be out of his mind," cried Trigge. "We shall have a commission de lunatico to issue here, as the Master of the Rolls would observe."
"I hope I may suit you, sir," said the little man.
"I don't think you will, my friend," replied Mr. Trigge; "I don't think you will. You don't seem to have a hand for hair-dressing. Are you aware of the talent the art requires? Are you aware what it has cost me to earn the enviable title of the Barber of London? I'm as proud of that title as if I were --"
"Lord Chancellor! -- Lord Chancellor!" screamed Mag.
"Precisely, Mag," said Mr. Trigge; "as if I were Lord Chancellor."
"Well, I'm sorry for it," said the little man, disconsolately.
"Pretty dear!" screamed Mag; "pretty dear!"
"What a wonderful bird you have got!" said the sour-looking gentleman, rising and paying Mr. Trigge. "I declare its answers are quite appropriate."
"Ah! Mag is a clever creature, sir -- that she is," replied the barber. "I gave a good deal for her."
"Little or nothing!" screamed Mag -- "little or nothing!"
"What is your name, friend?" said the gentleman, addressing the little man, who still lingered in the shop.
"Why, sir, I've had many names in my time," he replied. "At one time I was called Flapdragon -- at another, Old Parr -- but my real name, I believe, is Morse -- Gregory Morse."
"An Old Bailey answer," cried Mr. Trigge, shaking his head.
"Flapdragon, alias Old Parr -- alias Gregory Morse -- alias --"
"Pretty dear!" screamed Mag.
"And you want a place?" demanded the sour-looking gentleman, eyeing him narrowly.
"Sadly," replied Morse.
"Well, then, follow me," said the gentleman, "and I'll see what can be done for you."
And they left the shop together.
THE MOON IN THE FIRST QUARTER
IN spite of his resolution to the contrary, Auriol found it impossible to resist the fascination of Ebba's society, and became a daily visitor at her father's house. Mr. Thorneycroft noticed the growing attachment between them with satisfaction. His great wish was to see his daughter united to the husband of her choice, and in the hope of smoothing the way, he let Auriol understand that he should give her a considerable marriage-portion.
For the last few days a wonderful alteration had taken place in Auriol's manner, and he seemed to have shaken off altogether the cloud that had hitherto sat upon his spirits. Enchanted by the change, Ebba indulged in the most blissful anticipations of the future.
One evening they walked forth together, and almost unconsciously directed their steps towards the river. Lingering on its banks, they gazed on the full tide, admired the glorious sunset, and breathed over and over again those tender nothings so eloquent in lovers' ears.
"Oh! how different you are from what you were a week ago," said Ebba, playfully. "Promise me not to indulge in any more of those gloomy fancies."
"I will not indulge in them if I can help it, rest assured, sweet Ebba," he replied. "But my spirits are not always under my control. I am surprised at my own cheerfulness this evening."
"I never felt so happy," she replied; "and the whole scene is in unison with my feelings. How soothing is the calm river flowing at our feet! -- how tender is the warm sky, still flushed with red, though the sun has set! And see, yonder hangs the crescent moon. She is in her first quarter."
"The moon in her first quarter!" cried Auriol, in a tone of anguish. "All then is over."
"What means this sudden change?" cried Ebba, frightened by his looks.
"Oh, Ebba," he replied, "I must leave you. I have allowed myself to dream of happiness too long. I am an accursed being, doomed only to bring misery upon those who love me. I warned you on the onset, but you would not believe me. Let me go, and perhaps it may not yet be too late to save you."
"Oh no, do not leave me!" cried Ebba. "I have no fear while you are with me."
"But you do not know the terrible fate I am linked to," he said. "This is the night when it will be accomplished."
"Your moody fancies do not alarm me as they used to do, dear Auriol," she rejoined, "because I know them to be the fruit of a diseased imagination. Come, let us continue our walk," she added, taking his arm kindly.
"Ebba," he cried, "I implore you to let me go! I have not the power to tear myself away unless you aid me."
"I'm glad to hear it," she rejoined, "for then I shall hold you fast."
"You know not what you do!" cried Auriol. "Release me! oh, release me!"
"In a few moments the fit will be passed," she rejoined. "Let us walk towards the abbey."
"It is in vain to struggle against fate," ejaculated Auriol, despairingly.
And he suffered himself to be led in the direction proposed.
Ebba continued to talk, but her discourse fell upon a deaf ear, and at last she became silent too. In this way they proceeded along Millbank-street and Abingdon-street, until, turning off on the right, they found themselves before an old and partly demolished building. By this time it had become quite dark, for the moon was hidden behind a rack of clouds, but a light was seen in the upper storey of the structure, occasioned, no doubt, by a fire within it, which gave a very picturesque effect to the broken outline of the walls.
Pausing for a moment to contemplate the ruin, Ebba expressed a wish to enter it. Auriol offered no opposition, and passing through an arched doorway, and ascending a short, spiral, stone staircase, they presently arrived at a roofless chamber, which it was evident, from the implements and rubbish lying about, was about to be razed to the ground. On one side there was a large arch, partly bricked up, through which opened a narrow doorway, though at some height from the ground; With this a plank communicated, while beneath it lay a great heap of stones, amongst which were some grotesque carved heads. In the centre of the chamber was a large square opening, like the mouth of a trapdoor, from which the top of a ladder projected, and near it stood a flaming brazier, which had cast forth the glare seen from below. Over the ruinous walls on the right hung the crescent moon, now emerged from the cloud, and shedding a ghostly glimmer on the scene.
"What a strange place!" cried Ebba, gazing around with some apprehension. "It looks like a spot one reads of in romance. I wonder where that trap leads to?"
"Into the vault beneath, no doubt," replied Auriol. "But why did we come hither?"
As he spoke, there was a sound like mocking laughter, but whence arising it was difficult to say.
"Did you hear that sound?" cried Auriol.
"It was nothing but the echo of laughter from the street," she replied. "You alarm yourself without reason, Auriol."
"No, not without reason," he cried. "I am in the power of a terrible being, who seeks to destroy you, and I know that he is at hand. Listen to me, Ebba, and however strange my recital may appear, do not suppose it the ravings of a madman, but be assured it is the truth."
"Beware!" cried a deep voice, issuing apparently from the depths of the vault.
"Some one spoke," cried Ebba. "I begin to share your apprehensions; Let us quit this place." "Come, then," said Auriol.
"Not so fast," cried a deep voice.
And they beheld the mysterious owner of the black cloak barring their passage out.
"Ebba, you are mine," cried the stranger. "Auriol has brought you to me."
"It is false!" cried Auriol. "I never will yield her to you."
"Remember your compact," rejoined the stranger, with a mocking laugh.
"Oh, Auriol!" cried Ebba, "I fear for your soul. You have not made a compact with this fiend?"
"He has," replied the stranger; "and by that compact you are surrendered to me."
And, as he spoke, he advanced towards her, and enveloping her in his cloak, her cries were instantly stifled.
"You shall not go!" cried Auriol, seizing him. "Release her, or I renounce you wholly."
"Fool!" cried the stranger, "since you provoke my wrath, take your doom."
And he stamped on the ground. At this signal an arm was thrust from the trap-door, and Auriol's hand was seized with an iron grasp.
While this took place, the stranger bore his lovely burden swiftly up the plank leading to the narrow doorway in the wall, and just as he was passing through it he pointed towards the sky, and shouted with a mocking smile to Auriol --
"Behold! the moon is in her first quarter. My words are fulfilled!"
And he disappeared.
Auriol tried to disengage himself from the grasp imposed upon him in vain. Uttering ejaculations of
rage and despair, he was dragged forcibly backwards into the vault.
THE STATUE AT CHARING-CROSS
ONE morning, two persons took their way along Parliament-street and Whitehall, and, chatting as they walked, turning into the entrance of Spring-gardens, for the purpose of looking at the statue at Charing-cross. One of them was remarkable for his dwarfish stature and strange withered features. The other was a man of middle size, thin, rather elderly, and with a sharp countenance, the sourness of which was redeemed by a strong expression of benevolence He was clad in a black coat, rather rusty, but well brushed, buttoned up to the chin, black tights, short drab gaiters, and wore a white neckcloth and spectacles.
Mr. Loftus (for so he was called) was a retired merchant of moderate fortune, and lived in Abingdon-street. He was a bachelor, and therefore pleased himself; and being a bit of an antiquary, rambled about all day long in search of some object of interest. His walk, on the present occasion, was taken with that view.
"By Jove! what a noble statue that is, Morse!" cried Loftus, gazing at it. "The horse is magnificent -- positively magnificent."
"I recollect when the spot was occupied by a gibbet, and when, in lieu of a statue, an effigy of the martyred monarch was placed there," replied Morse. "That was in the time of the Protectorate."
"You cannot get those dreams out of your head, Morse," said Loftus, smiling. "I wish I could persuade myself I had lived for two centuries and a half."
"Would you could have seen the ancient cross, which once stood there, erected by Edward the First to his beloved wife, Eleanor of Castile," said Morse, heedless of the other's remark. "It was much mutilated when I remember it; some of the pinnacles were broken, and the foliage defaced, but statues of the queen were still standing in the recesses; and altogether the effect was beautiful."
"It must have been charming," observed Loftus, rubbing his hands; "and, though I like the statue, I would much rather have had the old Gothic cross. But how fortunate the former escaped destruction in Oliver Cromwell's time."
"I can tell you how that came to pass, sir," replied Morse, "for I was assistant to John Rivers, the brazier, to whom the statue was sold."
"Ah! indeed!" exclaimed Loftus. "I have heard something of the story, but should like to have full particulars."
"You shall hear them, then," replied Morse. "Yon statue, which, as you know, was cast by Hubert le Sueur, in 1633, was ordered by parliament to be sold and broken to pieces. Well, my master, John Rivers, being a staunch royalist, though he did not dare to avow his principles, determined to preserve it from destruction. Accordingly, he offered a good round sum for it, and was declared the purchaser. But how to dispose of it was the difficulty. He could trust none of his men, but me whom he knew to be as hearty a hater of the Roundheads, and as loyal to the memory of our slaughtered sovereign, as himself. Well, we digged a great pit, secretly, in the cellar, whither the statue had been conveyed, and buried it. The job occupied us nearly a month; and during that time, my master collected together all the pieces of old brass he could procure. These he afterwards produced, and declared they were the fragments of the statue. But the cream of the jest was to come. He began to cast handles of knives and forks in brass, giving it out that they were made from the metal of the statue. And plenty of 'em he sold too, for the Cavaliers bought 'em as memorials of their martyred monarch, and the Roundheads as evidences of his fall. In this way he soon got back his outlay."
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Loftus.
"Well, in due season came the Restoration," pursued Morse; "and my master made known to King Charles the Second the treasure he had kept concealed for him. It was digged forth, placed in its old position -- but I forget whether the brazier was rewarded. I rather think not."
"No matter," cried Loftus; "he was sufficiently rewarded by the consciousness of having done a noble action. But let us go and examine the sculpture on the pedestal more closely."
With this, he crossed over the road; and, taking off his hat, thrust his head through the iron railing surrounding the pedestal, while Morse, in order to point out the beauties of the sculpture with greater convenience, mounted upon a stump beside him.
"You are aware that this is the work of Grinling Gibbons, sir?" cried the dwarf.
"To be sure I am," replied Loftus -- "to be sure. What fancy and gusto is displayed in the treatment of these trophies!"
"The execution of the royal arms is equally admirable," cried Morse.
"Never saw anything finer," rejoined Loftus -- "never, upon my life"
Every one knows how easily a crowd is collected in London, and it cannot be supposed that our two antiquaries would be allowed to pursue their investigations unmolested. Several ragged urchins got round them, and tried to discover what they were looking at, at the same time cutting their jokes upon them. These were speedily joined by a street-sweeper, rather young in the profession, a ticket-porter, a butcher's apprentice, an old Israelitish clothes-man, a coalheaver, and a couple of charity-boys.
"My eyes!" cried the street-sweeper, "only twig these coves. If they ain't green 'uns, I'm done."
"Old Spectacles thinks he has found it all out," remarked the porter; "ve shall hear wot it all means, by-and-by."
"Pleash ma 'art," cried the Jew, "vat two funny old genelmen. I vonder vat they thinks they sees?"
"I'll tell 'ee; master," rejoined the butcher's apprentice; "they're a tryin' vich on 'em can see farthest into a millstone."
"Only think of living all my life in London, and never examining this admirable work of art before!" cried Loftus, quite unconscious that he had become the object of general curiosity.
"Look closer at it, old gem'man," cried the porter. "The nearer you get, the more you'll admire it."
"Quite true," replied Loftus, fancying Morse had spoken; "it'll bear the closest inspection."
"I say, Ned," observed one of the charity-boys to the other, "do you get over the railin'; they must ha' dropped summat inside. See what it is."
"I'm afraid o' spikin' myself, Joe," replied the other; "but just give us a lift, and I'll try." "Wot are you arter there, you young rascals?" cried the coal-heaver; "come down, or I'll send the perlice to you."
"Wot two precious guys these is!" cried a ragamuffin lad, accompanied by a bull-dog. "I've a good mind to chuck the little un' off the post, and set Tartar at him. Here, boy, here!"
"That 'ud be famous fun, indeed, Spicer!" cried another rapscallion behind him.
"Arrah! let 'em alone, will you there, you young divils!" cried an Irish bricklayer; "don't you see they're only two paiceable antiquaries."
"Oh, they're antiquaries, are they!" screamed the little street-sweeper. "Vell, I never see the likes on 'em afore; did you, Sam?"
"Never," replied the porter.
"Och, murther in Irish! ye're upsettin' me, an' all the fruits of my industry," cried an applewoman, against whom the bricklayer had run his barrow. "Divil seize you for a careless wagabone! Why don't you look where ye're going', and not dhrive into people in that way?"
"Axes pardon, Molly," said the bricklayer; "but I was so interested in them antiquaries, that I didn't obsarve ye."
"Antiquaries be hanged! what's such warmint to me?" cried the applewoman, furious. "You've destroyed my day's market, and bad luck to ye!"
"Well, never heed, Molly," cried the good-natured bricklayer; "I'll make it up t'ye. Pick up your apples, and you shall have a dhrop of the craiter if you'll come along wid me."
While this was passing, a stout gentleman came from the farthest side of the statue, and perceiving Loftus, cried -- "Why, brother-in-law, is that you?"
But Loftus was too much engrossed to notice him, and continued to expiate upon the beauty of the trophies.
"What are you talking about, brother?" cried the stout gentleman.
"Grinling Gibbons," replied Loftus, without turning round. "Horace Walpole said that no one before him could give to wood the airy lightness of a flower, and here he has given it to a stone."
"This may be all very fine, my good fellow," said the stout gentleman, seizing him by the shoulder, "but don't you see the crowd you're collecting round you? You'll be mobbed presently."
"Why, how the devil did you come here, brother Thorneycroft?" cried Loftus, at last recognizing him.
"Come along, and I'll tell you," replied the iron-merchant, dragging him away, while Morse followed closely behind them. "I'm so glad to have met you," pursued Thorneycroft, as soon as they were clear of the mob; "you'll be shocked to hear what has happened to your niece, Ebba."
"Why, what has happened to her?" demanded Loftus. "You alarm me. Out with it at once. I hate to be kept in suspense."
"She has left me," replied Thorneycroft -- "left her old indulgent father -- run away."
"Run away!" exclaimed Loftus. "Impossible! I'll not believe it -- even from your lips."
"Would it were not so! -- but it is, alas! too true," replied Thorneycroft, mournfully. "And the thing was so unnecessary, for I would gladly have given her to the young man. My sole hope is that she has not utterly disgrace'd herself."
"No, she is too high principled for that," cried Loftus. "Rest easy on that score. But with whom has she run away?"
"With a young man named Auriol Darcy," replied Thorneycroft. "He was brought to my house under peculiar circumstances."
"I never heard of him," said Loftus.
"But I have," interposed Morse. "I've known him these two hundred years."
"Eh day! who's this?" cried Thorneycroft.
"A crack-brained little fellow, whom I've engaged as valet," replied Loftus. "He fancies he was born in Queen Elizabeth's time."
"It's no fancy," cried Morse. "I am perfectly acquainted with Auriol Darcy's history. He drank of the same elixir as myself."
"If you know him, can you give us a clue to find him?" asked Thorneycroft.
"I am sorry I cannot," replied Morse. "I only saw him for a few minutes the other night, after I had been thrown into the Serpentine by the tall man in the black cloak."
"What's that you say?" cried Thorneycroft, quickly. "I have heard Ebba speak of a tall man in a black cloak having some mysterious connection with Auriol. I hope that person has nothing to do with her disappearance. "
"I shouldn't wonder if he had," replied Morse. "I believe that black gentleman to be --"
"What! -- who?" demanded Thorneycroft.
"Neither more nor less than the devil," replied Morse, mysteriously.
"Pshaw! poh!" cried Loftus. "I told you the poor fellow was half cracked."
At this moment, a roguish-looking fellow, with red whiskers and hair, and clad in a velveteen jacket with ivory buttons, who had been watching the iron-merchant at some distance, came up, and touching his hat, said, "Mr. Thorneycroft, I believe?"
"My name is Thorneycroft, fellow!" cried the iron-merchant, eyeing him askance. "And your name, I fancy, is Ginger?"
"Exactly, sir," replied the dog-fancier, again touching his hat, "ex-actly. I didn't think you would rekilect me, sir. I bring you some news of your darter."
"Of Ebba!" exclaimed Thorneycroft, in a tone of deep emotion. "I hope your news is good." "I wish it wos better, for her sake as well as yours, sir," replied the dog-fancier, gravely; "but I'm afeerd she's in werry bad hands."
"That she is, if she's in the hands o' the black gentleman," observed Morse.
"Vy, Old Parr, that ain't you?" cried Ginger, gazing at him in astonishment. "Vy, 'ow you are transmogrified, to be sure!"
"But what of my daughter?" cried Thorneycroft; "where is she? Take me to her, and you shall be well rewarded."
"I'll do my best to take you to her, and without any reward, sir," replied Ginger, "for my heart bleeds for the poor young creater. As I said afore, she's in dreadful bad hands."
"Do you allude to Mr. Auriol Darcy?" cried Thorneycroft.
"No, he's as much a wictim of this infernal plot as your darter," replied Ginger; "I thought him quite different at first -- but I've altered my mind entirely since some matters has come to my knowledge."
"You alarm me greatly by these dark hints," cried Thorneycroft. "What is to be done?"
"I shall know in a few hours," replied Ginger. "I ain't got the exact clue yet. But come to me at eleven o'clock tonight, at the Turk's Head, at the back o' Shoreditch Church, and I'll put you on the right scent. You must come alone."
"I should wish this gentleman, my brother-in-law, to accompany me," said Thorneycroft.
"He couldn't help you," replied Ginger. "I'll take care to have plenty of assistance. It's a dangerous bus'ness, and can only be managed in a sartin way, and by a sartin person, and he'd object to any von but you. Tonight, at eleven! Good by, Old Parr. We shall meet again ere long."
And without a word more, he hurried away.
On that same night, at the appointed hour, Mr. Thorneycroft repaired to Shoreditch, and entering a narrow street behind the church, speedily discovered the Turk's Head, at the door of which a hackney-coach was standing. He was shown by the landlord into a small back room, in which three men were seated at a small table, smoking, and drinking gin and water, while a fourth was standing near the fire, with his back towards the door. The latter was a tall powerfully-built man, wrapped in a rough great-coat, and did not turn round on the iron-merchant's entrance.
"You are punctual, Mr. Thorneycroft," said Ginger, who was one of the trio at the table; "and I'm happy to say, I've arranged everythin' for you, sir. My friends are ready to undertake the job. Only they von't do it on quite sich easy terms as mine."
The Tinker and the Sandman coughed slightly, to intimate their entire concurrence in Mr. Ginger's remark.
"As I said to you this mornin', Mr. Thorneycroft," pursued Ginger, "this is a difficult and a dangerous bus'ness; and there's no knowin' wot may come on it. But it's your only chance o' recoverin' your darter."
"Yes, it's your only chance," echoed the Tinker.
"Ve're about to risk our precious lives for you, sir," said the Sandman; "so, in coorse, ve expects a perportionate revard."
"If you enable me to regain my daughter, you shall not find me ungrateful," rejoined the iron-merchant.
"I must have a hundred pounds," said the Tinker -- "that's my lowest."
"And mine, too," said the Sandman.
"I shall take nuffin' but the glory, as I said afore," remarked Ginger. "I'm sworn champion o' poor distressed young damsils; but my friends must make their own bargins."
"Well, I assent," returned Mr. Thorneycroft; "and the sooner we set out the better."
"Are you armed?" asked Ginger.
"I have a brace of pistols in my pocket," replied Thorneycroft.
"All right, then -- ve've all got pops and cutlashes," said Ginger. "So let's be off."
As he spoke, the Tinker and Sandman arose; and the man in the rough great-coat, who had hitherto remained with his back to them, turned round. To the iron-merchant's surprise, he perceived that the face of this individual was covered with a piece of black crepe.
Who is this!" he demanded with some misgiving.
A friend," replied Ginger. "Vithout him ve could do nuffin'. His name is Reeks, and he is the chiefman in our enterprise."
"He claims a reward too, I suppose?" said Thorneycroft.
"I will tell you what reward I claim, Mr. Thorneycroft," rejoined Reeks, in a deep stern tone, "when all is over. Meantime, give me your solemn pledge, that whatever you may behold tonight, you will not divulge it."
"I give it," replied the iron-merchant, "provided always --"
"No provision, sir," interrupted the other, quickly. "You must swear to keep silence unconditionally, or I will not move a foot-step with you; and I alone can guide you where your daughter is detained."
"Svear, sir; it is your only chance," whispered Ginger.
"Well, if it must be, I do swear to keep silence," rejoined Mr. Thorneycroft; "but your proceedings appear very mysterious."
"The whole affair is mysterious," replied Reeks. "You must also consent to have a bandage passed over your eyes when you get into the coach."
"Anything more?" asked the iron-merchant.
"You must engage to obey my orders, without questioning, when we arrive at our destination," rejoined Reeks. "Otherwise, there is no chance of success."
"Be it as you will," returned Thorneycroft, "I must perforce agree."
"All then is clearly understood," said Reeks, "and we can now set out."
Upon this, Ginger conducted Mr. Thorneycroft to the coach, and as soon as the latter got into it, tied a handkerchief tightly over his eyes. In this state Mr. Thorneycroft heard the Tinker and the Sandman take their places near him, but not remarking the voice of Reeks, concluded that he must have got outside.
The next moment, the coach was put in motion, and rattled over the stones at a rapid pace. It made many turns; but at length proceeded steadily onwards, while from the profound silence around, and the greater freshness of the air, Mr. Thorneycroft began to fancy they had gained the country. Not a word was spoken by anyone during the ride.
After a while, the coach stopped, the door was opened, and Mr. Thorneycroft was helped out. The iron-merchant expected his bandage would now be removed, but he was mistaken, for Reeks, taking his arm, drew him along at a quick pace. As they advanced, the iron-merchant's conductor whispered him to be cautious, and, at the same time, made him keep close to a wall. A door was presently opened, and as soon as the party had passed through it, closed.
The bandage was then removed from Thorneycroft's eyes, and he found himself in a large and apparently neglected garden. Though the sky was cloudy, there was light enough to enable him to distinguish that they were near an old dilapidated mansion.
"We are now arrived," said Reeks, to the iron-merchant, "and you will have need of all your resolution."
"I will deliver her, or perish in the attempt," said Thorneycroft, taking out his pistols. The others drew their cutlasses.
"Now then, follow me," said Reeks, "and act as I direct."
With this he struck into an alley formed by thick hedges of privet, which brought them to the back
part of the house. Passing through a door, he entered the yard, and creeping cautiously along the
wall, reached a low window, which he contrived to open without noise. He then passed through it,
and was followed by the others.
THE CHAMBER OF MYSTERY
We shall now return to the night of Ebba's seizure by the mysterious stranger. Though almost deprived of consciousness by terror, the poor girl could distinguish, from the movements of her captor, that she was borne down a flight of steps, or some steep descent, and then for a considerable distance along level ground. She was next placed in a carriage, which was driven with great swiftness, and though it was impossible to conjecture in what direction she was conveyed, it seemed to her terrified imagination as if she were hurried down a precipice, and she expected every moment to be dashed in pieces. At length, the vehicle stopped, and she was lifted out of it, and carried along a winding passage; after which, the creaking of hinges announced that a door was opened. Having passed through it, she was deposited on a bench, when, fright over-mastering her, her senses completely forsook her.
On recovering, she found herself seated on a fauteuil covered with black velvet, in the midst of a gloomy chamber of vast extent, while beside her, and supporting her from falling, stood the mysterious and terrible stranger. He held a large goblet filled with some potent liquid to her lips, and compelled her to swallow a portion of it. The powerful stimulant revived her, but, at the same time, produced a strange excitement, against which she struggled with all her power. Her persecutor again held the goblet towards her, while a sardonic smile played upon his features.
"Drink!" he cried; "it will restore you, and you have much to go through."
Ebba mechanically took the cup, and raised it to her lips, but noticing the stranger's glance of exaltation, dashed it to the ground.
"You have acted foolishly," he said, sternly; "the potion would have done you good."
Withdrawing her eyes from his gaze, which she felt exercise and irresistible influence over her, Ebba gazed fearfully round the chamber.
It was vast and gloomy, and seemed like the interior of a sepulchre -- the walls and ceiling being formed of black marble, while the floor was paved with the same material. Not far from where she sat, on an estrade, approached by a couple of steps, stood a table covered with black velvet, on which was placed an immense lamp, fashioned like an imp supporting a cauldron on his outstretched wings. In this lamp were several burners, which cast a lurid light throughout the chamber. Over it hung a cap equally fantastically fashioned. A dagger, with a richly wrought hilt, was stuck into the table; and beside it lay a strangely shaped mask, an open book, an antique inkstand, and a piece of parchment, on which some characters were inscribed. Opposite these stood a curiously carved ebony chair.
At the lower end of the room, which was slightly elevated above the rest, hung a large black curtain; and on the step, in front of it, were placed two vases of jet.
"What is behind that curtain?" shudderingly demanded Ebba of her companion.
"You will see anon," he replied. "Meanwhile, seat yourself on that chair, and glance at the writing on the scroll."
Ebba did not move, but the stranger took her hand, and drew her to the seat.
"Read what is written on that paper," he cried, imperiously.
Ebba glanced at the document, and a shudder passed over her frame.
"By this," she cried, "I surrender myself, soul and body, to you?"
"You do," replied the stranger.
"I have committed no crime that can place me within the power of the Fiend," cried Ebba, falling upon her knees. "I call upon Heaven for protection! Avaunt!"
As the words were uttered, the cap suddenly fell upon the lamp, and the chamber was buried in profound darkness. Mocking laughter rang in her ears, succeeded by wailing cries inexpressibly dreadful to hear.
Ebba continued to pray fervently for her own deliverance, and for that of Auriol. In the midst of her supplications she was aroused by strains of music in the most exquisite sweetness, proceeding apparently from behind the curtain, and while listening to these sounds she was startled by a deafening crash as if a large gong had been stricken. The cover of the lamp was then slowly raised, and the burners blazed forth as before, while from the two vases in front of the curtain arose clouds of incense, filling the chamber with stupifying fragrance.
Again the gong was stricken, and Ebba looked round towards the curtain. Above each vase towered a gigantic figure, wrapped in a long black cloak, the lower part of which was concealed by the thick vapour. Hoods, like the cowls of monks, were drawn over the heads of these grim and motionless figures; mufflers enveloped their chins, and they wore masks, from the holes of which gleamed eyes of unearthly brightness. Their hands were crossed upon their breasts. Between them squatted two other spectral forms, similarly cloaked, hooded, and masked, with their gleaming eyes fixed upon her, and their skinny fingers pointing derisively at her.
Behind the curtain was placed a strong light, which showed a wide staircase of black marble, leading to some upper chamber, and at the same time threw the reflection of a gigantic figure upon the drapery, while a hand, the finger of which pointed towards her, was thrust from an opening between its folds.
Forcibly averting her gaze, Ebba covered her eyes with her hands, but looking up again after a brief space, beheld an ebon door at the side revolve upon its hinges, and give entrance to three female figures, robed in black, hooded and veiled, and having their hands folded, in a melancholy manner, across their breasts. Slowly and noiselessly advancing, they halted within a few paces of her.
"Who, and what are ye?" she cried, wild with terror.
"The victims of Auriol!" replied the figure on the right. "As we are, such will you be ere long."
"What crime have you committed?" demanded Ebba.
"We have loved him," replied the second figure.
"Is that a crime?" cried Ebba. "If so, I am equally culpable with you."
"You will share our doom," replied the third figure.
Heaven have mercy upon me!" exclaimed the agonized girl, dropping upon her knees.
At this moment a terrible voice from behind the curtain exclaimed --
"Sign, or Auriol is lost for ever."
"I cannot yield my soul, even to save him," cried Ebba distractedly.
"Witness his chastisement, then," cried the voice.
And as the words were uttered, a side door was opened on the opposite side, and Auriol was dragged forth from it by two masked personages, who looked like familiars of the Inquisition.
"Do not yield to the demands of this fiend, Ebba!" cried Auriol, gazing at her distractedly.
"Will you save him before he is cast, living, into the tomb?" cried the voice.
And at the words, a heavy slab or marble rose slowly from the floor near where Ebba sat, and disclosed a dark pit beneath.
Ebba gazed into the abyss with indescribable terror.
"There he will be immured, unless you sign," cried the voice; "and, as he is immortal, he will endure an eternity of torture."
"I cannot save him so, but I may precede him," cried Ebba. And throwing her hands aloft, she flung herself into the pit.
A fearful cry resounded through the chamber. It broke from Auriol, who vainly strove to burst from those who held him, and precipitate himself after Ebba.
Soon after this, and while Auriol was gazing into the abyss, a tongue of blue flame arose from it, danced for a moment in the air, and then vanished. No sooner was it gone than a figure, shrouded in black habiliments, and hooded and muffled up like the three other female forms, slowly ascended from the vault, apparently without support, and remained motionless at its brink.
"Ebba!" exclaimed Auriol, in a voice of despair. "Is it you?"
The figure bowed its head, but spoke not.
"Sign!" thundered the voice. "Your attempt at self-destruction has placed you wholly in my power. Sign!"
At this injunction, the figure moved slowly towards the table, and, to his unspeakable horror, Auriol beheld it take up the pen and write upon the parchment. He bent forward, and saw that the name inscribed thereon was EBBA THORNEYCROFT.
The groan to which he gave utterance was echoed by a roar of diabolical laughter.
The figure then moved slowly away, and ranged itself with the other veiled forms.
"All is accomplished," cried the voice. "Away with him!"
On this, a terrible clangour was heard; the lights were extinguished; and Auriol was dragged through
the doorway from which he had been brought forth.