Page images

province the matter seemed to be; for, though not invested with any official authority to report on the causes of deaths or results of accidents-he had a zeal in the cause which made him a very efficient member in any enquiry into affairs of that nature. His original destination also, to a lawyer's desk -a plan interfered with by his having succeeded to an independent property -sharpened his eye in the detection of malefactors; and, in fact, Mr Pike acted for the whole neighbourhood as an amateur procurator-fiscal, and let no evil deed escape his vigilant observation. The incident at the masquerade, accordingly, no sooner reached him than his functions began.

"Sad business this, Hobbs," he said, bustling into the White Lion, and addressing the landlord; "might be the ruin of your establishment. If such a chattering fellow as Mr Huggings get a hold of it, you would lose your license to a certainty.'


[ocr errors]

"I hope not, sir. I had nothing to do with it."

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

"And you have put cords on both the lady and the servant?”

"Lord! no, sir; the trunks-here they are, sir; you may see them, since you wish it.'

"I have no wish to see their luggage, Hobbs; it was themselves I wished to see; but since we are here, open the door and let us examine. A man of observation can make use of very unlikely materials to detect the truth by. Now, if that confounded prater Mr Huggings were here, he would make out such a story! You heard the atrocious reports he set afloat about me when I stood for the coronership. I traced them up to him beyond all doubt; and if I don't work him for it, some time or other, my name is not By-the-by, let me see the name on the address- Miss C. D'Orville, Monxom.' So, she is going no further than this. Hobbs, you have better eyes than mine--what is this on the inner side of the card?"

[ocr errors]

Hobbs took the card, while Mr Pike adjusted his spectacles. • It seems poetry, sir, by the big letters at the beginning of the lines," said Hobbs, "and I never could read poetry in my days." "Let me try," said the inquisitorial Pike.

"Then shall I gaze on all your glowing charms,

And cast myself enraptured in your arms, Your adoring Hug."

"A pretty sort of a hug indeed," continued Pike, musing. "The end of the name seems torn off-what can the rest of it have been? H-u-g-it only wants another syllable to make it into Huggings, and nothing is more likely than that this is some tramper the old fool has sent for; for I have suspected for a long time he is a rascal of the most depraved habits. But, enough; Hobbs, could you take me up-stairs and introduce me to the lady? If I


heard all the particulars from her own lips, I could better decide on what further steps are to be taken."

In a few minutes Mr Pike presented himself at the door of No. 16, and his knock was answered by a very sweet voice, that invited him to come in.


I come, young woman," said Mr Pike, to make enquiries about this business;" but before the gentleman had time to say more, something in the appearance of the person he addressed struck him, and he mumbled some sort of apology for the rudeness of his salutation.

"What want you here, old man?" enquired, in slow and solemn accents, the lady, who had been reclining on the sofa, and now supported herself on one elbow, while the other hand was held forth towards the awe-struck visitor— "Your language is uncourtly, and your appearance an intrusion. Begone!"

[ocr errors]

Why, really, ma'am, no offence, I hope; but hearing, ma'am, that you had met with an ugly accident, and feeling myself qualified to be of assist ance, perhaps I was once within twenty-five votes of coroner, ma'amin finding out the culprit, I took the liberty to come here, ma'am, and"

"To intrude on me in mine inn. It is well. What do you require?"

"Of course, ma'am," said Mr Pike, "you are anxious to discover who the villain was who made the attempt on your life?"

The lady shook her head, and sighed. "Have you any suspicion of who he is, ma'am?"


No suspicion, sir-but certainty; mark me, sir, certainty," replied the lady, with amazing emphasis.

Mr Pike almost shuddered at the thrilling whisper these words were uttered in.

"God bless me !-Indeed, I wasn't aware and his name, ma'am?"

Shall continue a secret." "But justice, ma'am the duty of prosecut"

"Pray, sir, did you ever see King Lear?"

"I can't say I ever had the pleasure, ma'am."

"You would make an excellent Kent. You are quite the proper age." "Indeed, ma'am," replied Mr Pike, who was now very much puzzled what to say; "and you won't tell me the name of the assassin ?"

"Oh, don't call him that; he is only

[merged small][ocr errors]

Oh!--but other crimes?" enquired Mr Pike.

"All of them," replied the lady; "swindling, lying, fawning, cheating, bullying, cringing, and deceiving; every thing of that kind he manages very well." He must be a most infernal scamp!" interposed Mr Pike.


"In the higher walks of villany he is no performer, though he has tried them often."

"Tried them often! Well," enquired Mr Pike, taking out his pencil and pocket-book, "what have you known of his attempting ?"

"It is not above a month since he attempted Hamlet's Father."

"The great jeweller-poor old man! Well ?"

"He mangled him dreadfully, and, after about an hour's hacking and hewing at him, he murdered him outright I never saw such a murder.”

"You saw it?" cried Mr Pike, dropping his note-book and pencil, and gazing on the unconscious narrator; and what, in Heaven's name, did do ?"


"Laughed at his awkwardness, of course. But it was still worse when he attempted, for it was only an attempt, to murder 'the gentle lady married to the Moor.'


[ocr errors]

"I beg your pardon," interposed Mr Pike, still shuddering with horror, but recovering his writing apparatus, a gentleman, you said, married to -to-to Moore-Gracious Heavens, you are not serious? He didn't attempt to murder Mrs Moore ?"

The lady smiled. "His efforts to choke her with the pillow were the most preposterous you can imagine."

"Why, how the devil has he escaped hanging so long? You must indeed tell me the ruffian's name. There must be many rewards out for taking him up. Come, my dear Miss D'Orville, tell me the murderer's name?"

"No, 'tis useless-I forgive himbut, oh that Fortune should have frowned so cruelly on the hapless Cecilia; that the attack should have been made upon me here, here, where I was so desirous of being unknownnot only for my own sake, but for that of one dearer to me than life!"

Now, then, thought Mr Pike, she seems more communicative." Why, yes, miss, it was rather unfortunate, as

you observe; it may be very unpleasant to other parties."

"It may indeed, sir; but why do I say so? The peril I've escaped will only render me dearer to the sensitive heart of my own, my loved Huggings, Ah! mercy! I've revealed my secret. I am lost for ever!"

"Thought so," muttered Mr Pike, his eyes brightening with malicious satisfaction. So 'tis for that gentleman's sake you've come here?" "Yes!-oh! for his sake whither would not I go?"

"The deuce!-and does he know of your being here, ma'am ?"

"The day was appointed between us; but alas! alas! he flew not on the wings of love to receive me; can he be unfaithful? but no-too well I know his noble, his generous heartthough sometimes mad with jealousy, causeless as Othello's."

"He's sometimes jealous, is he?the old beast!"

"Oh, furious! in fits of that kind he would scarcely scruple to slaughter me."

"Would he approve, do you think, of your going to the masquerade ?"

"That is my fear. I almost expected him to join me there. That was my motive for going; but, in

stead of his glowing speeches and glances of love and rapture, to be attacked with that sword!-to be insulted with these words!-to be left for dead upon the ground! Oh, Huggings, Huggings!-Was it right to treat me so?"

While the young lady wept bitterly at the conclusion of her declamations, a new light seemed to break in upon Mr Pike. ." By Heavens, old Huggings is the murderer, after all! Jealousy-slaughter-sword-may I be hanged if he didn't come to the masquerade and stick this poor crazy young woman in a fit of the jealous! I'll make him swing for it: I'll teach the rascal to spread reports when gentlemen are canvassing for the crownership. And the other murders-old Hamlet the jeweller, and that unhappy woman Mrs Moore-by dad there hasn't been such a scoundrel since Blue-beard!"

The further precognition of Mr Pike was interrupted by the entrance of Dr Wilkins. The amateur coroner gathered up his notes as fast as he could, and issued forth from the White Lion to take what steps might be necessary to bring our unfortunate friend Huggings to the gallows that his erimes had so richly deserved.


Dr Wilkins had hurried over his daily visits more rapidly than usual, that he might return to his interesting patient at the White Lion. The extraordinary nature of the incident, joined to the uncommon beauty and very peculiar manners of the fair sufferer, occupied the simple-minded Doctor so entirely that his advice on that day, we suspect, was not of much va lue. On his return to Monxom, as he rode up one of the narrow lanes near the river, an old woman, coming out of a miserable hostelry called the Spotted Dog, beckoned him to stop.

"Some confounded case of rheumatism," muttered the Doctor, as he pulled up his horse." Well, good woman, what do you want ?"

"There's a gentleman as wishes to see you up in the garret. He seems fearful bad but says he remembers you very well."

gacious horse a stroke with his whip, that set it trotting gaily off to its own stable.

"La! no, sir; he be sitting upbut so queer, sir, that we think he be mad."

"Mad-tipsy, perhaps; but let me see." So saying, the Doctor went into the dingy parlour of the Spotted Dog, and was led up a winding and creaking staircase into a room lighted from a small window in the roof. Seated on a truckle-bed, enveloped in a large black robe, was a figure which the darkness of the apartment did not allow the Doctor at first to distinguish very clearly. A hollow voice addressed him while groping his way to the object of his visit,-" Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?- Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, and cleanse the bosom of the perilous stuff that weighs upon the heart?"

"Is he in bed?" enquired the Doc- "Indigestion-a kind of weight at tor, dismounting and giving his sa- the stomach, eh?" said the Doctor, la

[ocr errors]


ing hold of the patient's pulse ; a little physic will soon set you to rights. You are a little feverish."

"Throw physic to the dogs! I'll none on't," waved the stranger, shaking off the Doctor's hold, and starting up to his full height. "Away, fond dreams! Richard's himself again!"

"But, my good sir," insinuated the Doctor, " my dear Mr Richard, sit down quietly. You are evidently suffering under strong excitement. Some rest is absolutely required. I think you ought to lose a little blood."

The man made three or four strides through the room, and then, coming up to where the Doctor was standing, gazing in no little surprise, and some degree of alarm, at the movements of his patient, he groaned, in a sepulchral tone, "I've done the deed. Did'st thou not hear a noise?"

"No!" replied the Doctor, beginning to tremble," what deed do you mean?"

"Oh, I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would harrow up your soul!"

"For God's sake," began Doctor Wilkins, now terribly afraid he was about to be made the depository of some dreadful secret,-" if you wish to make any confession, let me send for another witness. There's Mr Pike just round the corner-he can he here in a minute."

"No! 'tis with you my business is. How is she?" "Who?"

"Cecilia-the angel-Miss D'Or


"Oh!" said the Doctor, breathing more freely," you know her

then ?"

"Too well! Doubt that the stars are fire! Doubt that the sun doth move!"

"No doubt of it, as you observe," said the Doctor, soothingly; "but about Miss D'Orville ?".

"I'll cut her into pieces! She has fooled me to the top of my bent; and if she wrong me, shall I not revenge?" "Oh, then, it was you she met at the masquerade?"

"To be sure, sir," replied the patient, in a more subdued tone; " and I wished to know how she was after the fright I gave her."

"She is doing very well," said Wilkins; "you need be in no alarm about any serious consequences, espe

cially as she refuses to tell who the person was that attacked her."

"She never told his name!" exclaimed the patient, again relapsing into the heroics; "but, psha! somewhat too much of this. Henceforth, though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings, I'd tear her from my heart, and whistle her down the wind to prey at fortune.”

"I think so too," chimed in Dr Wilkins, who could make neither head nor tail of the speech of his companion; "and how long may you have known the lady, sir?"

"'Tis now a year, sir,” replied the patient, "since she came to Daintry. Oh, how my eyes ached at her beauty! -O, what an Ophelia !"

"Ophthalmia is the right name of it is it a common disease there, sir?" enquired the medical listener, whose heart was in his profession.

"At that time, sir," continued the enthusiast, without noticing the interruption, " I had no soul—a mere lump of half-animated matter, which stood behind a counter and distributed tea and sugar. I was a grocer, sir, in a topping way of trade. But Cecilia came, and my doom was fixed. For fifty years, sir, I had mistaken my vocation. I joined them."

"Joined who, sir?" enquired the Doctor.

"Cecilia and her mother, and that murderer of my joys, young Altamont. They received me-for I paid all expenses and Cecilia smiled. Oh, heavens, how she did smile!"

"And what did you do, sir?"

"Why, they would'nt let me do much. They condemned me to all the villanous work-poisonings, swindling, and things of that sort. Fool, fool, that I was, to go on in such a style so long!"

Surprise and horror kept Doctor Wilkins in silence.

"Unhappy man!" he commenced"And all this time, sir, Altamont and she were the lovers, while the old woman was nurse and chambermaid." "They had children, then?" enquired the Doctor.

"Who, sir?"

"The lovers, as you call them— Altamont and this young woman. You said the lady was nurse."

"Perish the thought of horror!— no, she is purer than the icicle that hangs on Dian's temple. At last, sir,

I grew tired, and asked her pointblank if she would accept my hand. She laughed at me; and the old lady frowned and pouted, and called me a gallant gay Lothario, for I had been very particular to her. Gods! could human patience stand it! I grew rusty, and refused any more supplies of the needful. And this soon brought things to a crisis. I found out that she and Altamont had resolved to leave their companions. By the address on her trunks I found that this was their destination. Alas! my heart relented. I followed them; at the masquerade I encountered her. I saw her darting pale lustre like the rainy moon through her deep veil of silvery sorrow. She told me that Altamont had not arrived, but that on the morrow he was to be reconciled to his father, who lived in the town, to make her his bride, and settle down in peace and happiness for ever, while I—oh, the times are out of joint!"

"Altamont's father lives in this town, did you say?" enquired the Doctor. "I know no person of that



Oh, but we all change our names, you know. In Daintry my name is Humphreys-but here I am FitzHarding Miss D'Orville is Cecilia Wiggings and Altamont is-Confound the villain, I have forgotten his name-but his father, they say, is a gentleman, and rich. Oh, Cecilia, you have broken my heart; the goodwill of my business is sold to my successor-and tea's every moment upon the rise!"

"And how do you mean to proceed to escape pursuit ?" "Pursuit! For what?"

"All those murders and swindlings you talk of."

"Pshaw! this is no time for joking. I retired to this obscure inn to hide myself till I should see the issue of this adventure."

"But you tried to stab her at the masquerade?"

"Nonsense. In the agitation of the moment I forgot I had Macbeth's dagger in my hand, and unfortunately touched her on the shoulder”

"The lower portion of the thorax," interposed Williams.

"But as to stabbing her! Good gracious! I would as soon think of flying."

"You can't think of flying too soon," replied the literal Doctor Wilkins, " for my neighbour Pike is very active in the business, and will get you into trouble, if he possibly can."

"Go to Cecilia," said the now somewhat rational Mr Humphreys," and tell her I forgive her that she shall hear of me no more-and that I am off by this night's coach to try to buy back the good-will of my own shop. There's some excellent gin here, Doctor-will you take a noggin?"

Doctor Wilkins declined the proffered hospitality, and walked on to the White Lion, still very much puzzled what to make of the wonderful tale he had heard. The last offer of Mr Humphreys, and the sight of an empty tumbler, partly explained the extraordinary manner of his patient; but what to conclude about the other things that had amazed him-the murders and other horrible confessions-he did not know. He determined, after once more seeing the fair sufferer in the White Lion, to go and consult his friend Mr Huggings.


But that worthy gentleman was in no condition to give advice to any one. His mind was so worried and agitated with fears of the prying propensities of his neighbour, Mr Pike, that he could get no rest. He took to studying a book, which contained the lives of persons hanged by mistake, and was immersed in his little back parlour in the study of the Newgate Calendar when Mr Pike was announced.

"Mr Pike to call on me! I am doomed to decimation to a certainty." "Good-day, Mr Huggings," said

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »