But to resume. Slowly did Sophia pursue her walk to the end of the mall, and as slowly did she retrace her steps; then, crossing a narrow path, she approached the venerable old elm, whose antique trunk is a monument of time. She had scarcely made two circuits around this ancient tree, when a gentleman who had espied her from a distance, advanced and greeted her with a familiar air. On seeing him, she became much agitated, and would have walked rapidly away, had he not caught her by the arm and forcibly detained her.
This gentleman was a person of distinguished appearance, tall, graceful figure, and fashionably dressed.—His countenance though eminently handsome, was darkly tinged with Southern blood, and deeply marked with the lines of dissipation and care. He wore a jet-black mustache and imperial and his air was at once noble and commanding. 'My pretty Sophia,' said the stranger, in a passionate tone—'why do you fly from me thus? By heavens, I love you to distraction, and have sworn a solemn oath that you shall be mine, though a legion of fiends oppose me!'
'Pray let me go, Mr. Radcliff,' said the young girl entreatingly—'you wish me to do wrong, and I cannot consent to it, indeed I cannot. As you are a gentleman, do not persecute me any more.'
'Persecute you—never!' exclaimed the libertine; 'become mine, and you shall have the devotion of my life-time to repay you for the sacrifice. Consent, sweet girl.'
'Never!' said Sophia, firmly; 'had you honorably solicited me to become your wife, I might have loved you; but you seek my ruin, and I despise, detest you. Let me go, sir, I implore—I command you!'
'Command me!' exclaimed the libertine, his eyes sparkling with rage—'silly child, it is George Radcliff who stands before you; a man whom none dare presume to command, but whom all are accustomed to obey! I am a monarch among women, and they bow submissive to my wishes. Listen, Sophia; I have for years plucked the fairest flowers in the gardens of female beauty, but I am sated with their intoxicating perfume, and sick of their gaudy hues. Your luxurious mother and fiery sister were acceptable to me for a time, and I enjoyed their voluptuous caresses with delight; but the devil! the conquest was too easily achieved. I soon grew tired of them and was about to withdraw my patronage, when to retain it, they mentioned you, describing you to be a creature of angelic loveliness; my passions were fired by the description, and I longed to add so fair and sweet a lily to the brilliant bouquet of my conquests. They sent for you to New Jersey; you came, and surpassed my highest anticipations. I paid your mother and sister a large sum for you, promising to double the amount as soon as you should become mine. I have so far failed in my efforts; unwilling to use violence, I have tried to accomplish my object by entreaty.—Now, since you will not listen to my entreaties, I shall resort to force.—This very night I have arranged to visit you, and then—and then, sweet one—'
He drew the shrinking girl towards him, and in spite of her resistance, profaned her pure lips with unholy kisses. During the conversation just related, day had softly melted into dim twilight, and the loungers on the Common had mostly taken their departure; very few were in the vicinity of Radcliff and Sophia—and there was but one person who saw the scene of kissing and struggling that we have described. That person was a young and handsome man, well-dressed, and possessing an open, generous and manly countenance. Observing what was going on between the pair, and seeing that the young lady was suffering violence from her companion, he silently approached, nobly resolved to protect the weaker party, at all hazards.
Sophia had partially escaped from the grasp of Radcliff, and he was about to seize her again, when the young man just mentioned stepped forward, and said, calmly—
'Come, sir, you have abused that young lady enough; molest her no further.'
'And who the devil may you be, who presumes thus to interfere with a gentleman's private amusements?' demanded the libertine, with savage irony: but the bold eyes of the other quailed not before his fierce glance.
'It matters not particularly who I am,' replied the young man, sternly—'suffice it for you to know that I am one who is bound to protect a lady against the assaults of a ruffian, even if that ruffian is clad in the garb of a gentleman.'
'Oh, sir,' said Sophia, bursting into tears—'God will reward you for rescuing me from the power of that bad man.'
Radcliff's eyes literally blazed with fury as he strode towards the young lady's protector.
'You called me a ruffian,' said he, 'take that for your impudence,' and he attempted to strike the young man—but the blow was skillfully warded off, and he found himself extended on the grass in a twinkling.
Two policeman now ran up and demanded the cause of the fracas. The young man related everything that had occurred, whereupon the officers took Radcliff into custody.
'Fellow,' said the individual, haughtily addressing his antagonist,—'you are, I presume, nothing more than a shopman or common mechanic, beneath my notice; you therefore may hope to escape the just punishment of your insolence to-night.'
'You are a liar,' calmly responded the other—'I am neither a shopman nor a mechanic, and if I were, I should be far superior to such a scoundrel as you. I am a gentleman; your equal in birth and fortune—your superior in manhood and in honor. If you desire satisfaction for my conduct to-night, you will find me at the Tremont House, at any time. My name is Francis Sydney. I shall see this lady in safety to her residence.'
Radcliff was led away by the two officers. They had proceeded but a short distance, when he thus addressed them—
'My good fellow, it is scarcely worth while to trouble yourselves to detain me on account of this trifling affair. Here's five dollars a piece for you—will that do?'
'Why, sir,' said one of the fellows, pocketing his V, and giving the other to his companion—'we can't exactly let you go, but if you tip us over and run for it, perhaps we shan't be able to overtake you.'
'I understand you,' said Radcliff, and he gave each of those faithful officers a slight push, scarce sufficient to disturb the equilibrium of a feather, whereupon one of them reeled out into the street to a distance of twenty feet, while the other fell down flat on the sidewalk in an apparently helpless condition, and the prisoner walked away at a leisurely pace, without the slightest molestation.
Meanwhile, Frank Sydney escorted Sophia to the door of her residence in Washington street. The young lady warmly thanked her deliverer, as she termed him.
'No thanks are due me, miss,' said Frank—'I have but done my duty, in protecting you from the insults of a villain. I now leave you in safety with your friends.'
'Friends!' said the fair girl, with a deep sigh—'alas, I have no friends on earth.'
The tone and manner of these words went to the heart of our hero; he turned for a moment to conceal a tear—then raised her hand respectfully to his lips, bade her farewell, and departed.
Sophia entered the house, and found her mother and sister in the parlor. They greeted her with smiles.
'My darling Soph,' said Mrs. Franklin—'that charming fellow was much disappointed to find that you had gone out. We told him that you had probably gone to walk on the Common, and he went in search of you.'
Sophia related all that had occurred to her during her absence. She complained of the libertine's treatment of her with mingled indignation and grief.
'Pooh! sis,' exclaimed Josephine,—'you mustn't think so hard of Mr. Radcliff's attentions. You must encourage him, for he is very rich, and we need money.'
'Must you have money at the expense of my honor?' demanded Sophia, with unwonted spirit.
'And why not?' asked her mother in a severe tone. 'Must we starve on account of your silly notions about virtue, and such humbug? Your sister and I have long since learned to dispose of our persons for pecuniary benefit, as well as for our sensual gratification—for it is as pleasurable as profitable; and you must do the same, now that you are old enough.'
'Never—never!' solemnly exclaimed Sophia—'my poor, dead father—'
'What of him?' eagerly demanded both mother and daughter, in the same breath.
'He seems to look down on me from Heaven, and tell me to commit no sin,' replied the young girl.
'Nonsense,' cried the mother—'but go now to your chamber, and retire to bed; to-night at least, you shall rest undisturbed.'
Sophia bade them a mournful good night, and left the room. When the door closed upon her, Josephine glanced at her mother with a look of satisfaction.
'Radcliff will be here to-night at twelve,' said she—'according to his appointment, for he will find no difficulty in procuring his discharge from custody. Once introduced into Sophia's chamber, he will gain his object with little trouble; then he will pay us the remaining thousand, as agreed upon.'
'And which we need most desperately,' rejoined her mother—'how unfortunate about the burning of our house! It has reduced us almost to our last penny.'
'The loss is irreparable,' sighed Josephine—'what divine raptures we used to enjoy in the 'Sanctuary of the Graces!' And there, too, was my elegant wardrobe and that heavenly French bed!'
These two abandoned women then retired to their respective chambers, to await the coming of Radcliff. At midnight he came. He was admitted into the house by Mrs. Franklin, and conducted to the chamber of Sophia, which he entered by means of a duplicate key furnished him by the perfidious mother.
The libertine had not observed, on entering the house, that he was followed by a man at a short distance. He was too intent upon the accomplishment of his vile desire, to notice the close proximity of one who was determined to oppose him in its execution. Sydney had expected that Radcliff would be liberated, and felt assured that he would seek his victim again that night. He comprehended that the poor girl resided with those who would not protect her, and he nobly resolved to constitute himself her friend. He had lingered around the house for hours, and when he saw the libertine approaching, followed him to the very door, at which he stationed himself, and listened.
Soon a piercing shriek proceeding from an upper chamber, told him that the moment for his aid had arrived. The street door was fortunately not locked, and was only secured by a night latch; this he broke by one vigorous push, and rushing through the hall, mounted the stairs, and entered the chamber from which he judged the cry of distress had issued.
Then what a sight presented itself! Sophia, in her night dress, her hair in wild disorder, struggling in the arms of the villain Radcliff, whose fine countenance was rendered hideous by rage and passion.
'What!' he exclaimed—'you here? By G——, you shall rue your interference with my schemes. How is it that you start up before me just at the very moment when my wishes are about to be crowned with success?'
'I will not parley with you,' replied Frank—'the chamber of this young lady is no fitting place for a dispute between us. As you claim to be a gentleman, follow me hence.'
'Lead on, then,' cried the libertine, foaming with rage. 'I desire nothing better than an opportunity to punish your presumption.'
As they descended the stairs, Josephine and her mother, alarmed by the noise of the dispute, issued from their rooms, and when Frank had given them a hasty explanation, the latter angrily demanded how he dared intrude into that house, and interfere in a matter with which he had no business.
'Madam,' replied our hero—'you are, I presume, the mother of that much abused young lady up stairs. I see that you countenance the ruin of your daughter. I tell you to beware—for I shall take proper measures to expose your vileness, and have her placed beyond the reach of your infernal schemes.'
He then left the house followed by Radcliff. After proceeding a short distance, the latter paused, and said—
'We can do nothing to-night, for we have no weapons, and to fight otherwise would scarce comport with the dignity of gentlemen. Meet me to-morrow morning, at the hour of six, upon this spot; bring with you a friend, and pistols; we will then repair to some secluded place, and settle our difficulty in honorable combat.'
'But what assurance have I that you will keep the appointment?' demanded Sydney; 'how do I know that this is not a mere subterfuge to escape me?'
'Young man, you do not know me,' rejoined Radcliff, and his breast swelled proudly. 'Do you think I'd resort to a base lie? Do you think that I fear you? I confess I am a libertine, but I am a man of honor—and that honor I now pledge you that I will keep the appointment; for, let me tell you, that I desire this meeting as much as you do.'
Strange inconsistency of terms!—'A libertine—but a man of honor!' This creed is preached by thousands of honorable adulterers. A seducer is of necessity a liar and a scoundrel—yet, forsooth, he is a man of honor!
'Very well, sir,' said Sydney—'I have no doubt you will come.' And with a cool 'good night,' they separated.
The next morning early, at a secluded spot in Roxbury neck, four men might have been seen, whose operations were peculiar. Two of them were evidently preparing to settle a dispute by the 'code of honor.' The other two (the seconds) were engaged in measuring off the distance—ten paces.
The morning was dark and cloudy, and a drizzling rain was falling. It was a most unpleasant season to be abroad, especially to execute such business as those four men had in hand.
Sydney had chosen for his second 'the Doctor'; while Radcliff had brought with him a tall individual, whose countenance was mostly concealed by an enormous coat collar and muffler, and a slouched hat. Two cases of pistols had been brought, and as 'the Doctor' was an accomplished surgeon, it was deemed unnecessary to have the attendance of another.
At length all was ready, and the antagonists took their places, with their deadly weapons in their hands. Both men were cool and collected; Radcliff was a most accomplished duelist, having been engaged in many similar encounters; and his countenance was expressive of confidence and unconcern. Sydney had never before fought a duel, yet, feeling assured of the justice of his cause, he had no apprehension as to the result. It may be asked why he so interested himself in a young lady he had never before seen, as to engage in a bloody encounter for her sake. We answer, he was prompted so to do by the chivalry of his disposition, and by a desire to vindicate the purity of his motives, and the sincerity of his conduct. He wished to let that unprincipled libertine see that he was no coward, and that he was prepared to defend the rights of a helpless woman with his life.
The word was given to fire, and both pistols were discharged at once. Sydney was wounded slightly in the arm; but Radcliff fell, mortally wounded—his antagonist's ball had pierced his breast.
Sydney bent over the dying man with deep concern; his intention had been merely to wound him—he had no desire to kill him; and when he saw that his shot had taken a fatal effect, he was sincerely grieved. He could not deny to himself that he felt a deep interest in the splendid libertine, whose princely wealth, prodigal generosity, magnificent person, and many amours, and rendered him the hero of romance, and the most celebrated man of the day. He knew that Radcliff's many vices were in a slight degree palliated by not a few excellent qualities which he possessed; and he sighed as he thought that such a brilliant intellect and such a happy combination of rare personal advantages should cease to exist, ere the possessor could repent of the sins of his past life.
Radcliff's second, the tall man with the shrouded countenance, walked to a short distance from the melancholy group, with a gloomy and abstracted air. While the Doctor made vain efforts to alleviate the sufferings of Radcliff, that unhappy man raised his dying eyes to Sydney's face, and said, faintly:—
'Young man, my doom is just.—Continue to be kind to Sophia Franklin, whom I would have wronged but for your timely interference; but beware of her mother and sister—they are devils in the shape of women. They would have sold her to me for gold—wretches that they were, and villain that I was!'
'Can I do anything for you?' asked Frank, gently.
'Nothing—but listen to me; the pains of death are upon me, and my time is short. You see my second—that tall, mysterious-looking person? I have known him, for many years—he is a villain of the deepest dye—one whom I formerly employed to kidnap young girls for my base uses. Last night I met him for the first time for a long period; I told him that I was to fight a person named Sydney this morning; he started at the mention of your name, and eagerly desired to act as my second. I consented. He is your most inveterate enemy, and thirsts for your blood. He seeks but an opportunity to kill you. He fears your second, and that prevents him from attacking you at once. Beware of him, for he is—is—is—the—'
Radcliff could not finish the sentence, for the agonies of death were upon him. His eyes glazed, his breath grew fainter and fainter; and in a few moments he expired.
Thus perished George Radcliff—the elegant roue—the heartless libertine—the man of pleasure—brilliant in intellect, beautiful in person, generous in heart—but how debased in soul!
They laid the corpse down upon the smooth, green sward, and spread a handkerchief over the pale, ghastly features. Then they turned to look for the mysterious second; he was seated, at some distance, upon a large rock, and they beckoned him to approach. He complied, with some hesitation; and the Doctor said to him—
'Sir, you seem to manifest very little interest in the fate of your friend; you see he is dead.'
'I care not,' was the reply—'his death causes me no grief, nor pleasure; he was no enemy of mine, and as for friends, I have none. Grief and friendship are sentiments which have long since died in my breast.'
'By heavens!' exclaimed the Doctor—'I know that voice! The right hand jealously thrust into your breast—your face so carefully concealed—the dying words of Radcliff—tell me that you are—'
'The Dead Man!' cried the stranger, uncovering his face—'you are right—I am he! Doctor, I did not expect to find you with Sydney, or I should not have ventured. I came to execute vengeance—but your presence restrains me; crippled as I am, I fear you. No matter; other chances will offer, when you are absent. That escape of yours through the sewers was done in masterly style. Doctor, you are a brave fellow, and your courage inspires me with admiration; you are worthy to follow my reckless fortunes. Let the past be forgotten; abandon this whining, preaching Sydney, and join me in my desperate career. Give me your hand, and let us be friends.'
The Doctor hesitated a moment, and, to Sydney's unutterable amazement, grasped the Dead Man's hand, and said—
'Oh, Captain, I will re-enlist under your banner; I am tired of a life of inactivity, and long for the excitement and dangers of an outlaw's career! We are friends, henceforth and forever.'
The Dead Man grinned with delight; but poor Sydney was thunderstruck.
'Good God!' he exclaimed—'is it possible that you, Doctor, will desert me, after swearing to me an eternal friendship? You, whom I once benefitted—you, who have since benefitted me—you, whom I thought to be one of the best, bravest, and most faithful men under the sun—notwithstanding your former faults—to prove traitor to me now, and league yourself with my worst enemy? Oh, is there such a thing as honesty or truth on earth?'
The Doctor was silent; the Dead Man whispered to him—
'Let us kill Sydney—he is no friend to either of us, and why should he live?'
'No,' said the Doctor, decidedly—'we will harm him not, at least for the present. At some future time you may do with him as you will. Let us go.'
And they went, leaving our hero in a frame of mind almost distracted with remorse and sorrow—remorse, that he had killed a fellow creature—sorrow, that a man whom he had regarded as a friend, should prove so perfidious.
He retraced his way to the city, and returned to his hotel. The body of poor Radcliff was shortly afterwards found by several laborers, who conveyed it to the city, where an inquest was held over it. A verdict of suicide was rendered by the jury, who, short-sighted souls, comprehended not the mysteries of duelling; and the 'rash act' was attributed by the erudite city newspapers to 'temporary insanity'!
For three or four days after these events, Sydney was confined to his bed by illness. His wounded arm pained him much, and he had caught a severe cold upon the wet, drizzly morning of the duel. Clinton, the dumb boy, attended him with the most assiduous care. This poor youth had learned the 'dumb alphabet,' or language of signs, to perfection; and as his master had also learned it, they could converse together with considerable facility. Sydney was beginning to recover from his indisposition, when one evening Clinton came into his room, and communicated to him a piece of information that astounded him. It was, that Julia, his wife, was then stopping at that very same hotel, as the wife of an old gentleman named Mr. Hedge—that she was dressed superbly, glittering with diamonds, appeared to be in the most buoyant spirits, and looked as beautiful as ever.
The Ruined Rector—Misery and Destitution—the All Night House—A Painful Scene—Inhospitality—the Denouement.
We now return to Dr. Sinclair, whom we left on the downward path to ruin. The unfortunate man was now no longer the rector of St. Paul's; a committee of the congregation had paid him an official visit, at which he had been dismissed from all connection with the church. His place was supplied by a clergyman of far less talent, but much greater integrity.
Mr. Sinclair (for such we shall hereafter call him,) was not possessed of wealth—for though he had lived in luxury, he had depended entirely upon his salary for subsistence; and now that he was turned from his sacred occupation, dishonored and disgraced, he found himself almost penniless. He had no friends to whom he could apply for assistance, for his conduct had been noised abroad, and those who formerly had loved and reverenced him, now turned their backs upon him with cold contempt.
Instead of endeavouring to retrieve his fallen reputation by repentance and good conduct, he no sooner found himself shorn of his clerical honors, than he abandoned himself to every species of degraded dissipation. In two weeks after his removal from the church he was without a home; then he became the associate of the most vile. Occasionally he would venture to the house of some one of his former congregation, and in abject tones implore the gift of some trifling sum; moved by his miserable appearance, though disgusted by his follies, the gentleman would perhaps hand him a dollar or two, and sternly bid him come there no more. Sinclair would then hasten to the low pot house in Water Street which he made his resort, and amid his vagabond companions expend the money in the lowest debauchery.
Perhaps the reader may say the thing is impossible—no man could fall so rapidly from a high and honorable position, as to become in a few short weeks the degraded creature Sinclair is now represented to be. But we maintain that there is nothing exaggerated in the picture we have drawn. Here is a church congregation eminently aristocratic, wealthy, and rigidly particular in the nicest points of propriety. The pastor proves himself unworthy of his sacred trust; he disgraces himself and them by indulgence in vice, which is betrayed by his looks and actions. Too haughty and too impatient to take the erring brother by the hand, and endeavor to reclaim him, they at once cast him off with disgust, and fill his place with a more faithful pastor. Humbled and degraded, rendered desperate by his unhappy situation, the miserable man abandons himself yet more recklessly to the vice; his self-respect is gone, the finger of scorn is pointed at him, and to drown all consciousness of his downfall, he becomes a constant tipple and an irreclaimable sot.
The low groggery in Water street where poor Sinclair made his temporary home, was extensively known as the 'All Night House,' from the fact of its being kept open night and day. As this establishment was quite a feature in itself, we shall devote a brief space to a description of it.
It was situated on the corner of Catherine street, opposite the Catherine Market—a region remarkable for a very 'ancient and fish-like smell.' This Market was a large, rotten old shanty, devoted to the sale of stale fish, bad beef, dubious sausages, suspicious oysters, and dog's meat. Beneath its stalls at night, many a 'lodger' often slumbered; and every Sunday morning it was the theatre of a lively and amusing scene, wherein was performed the renowned pastime of 'niggers dancing for eels.' All the unsavory fish that had been accumulated during the week, was thus disposed of, being given to such darkies as won the most applause in the science of the 'heel and toe.' The sport used to attract hundreds of spectators, and the rum shops in the vicinity did a good business.
Suppose it to be midnight; let us enter the All Night House, and take a view. We find the place crowded with about forty men and boys, of all ages, conditions and complexions. Here is the veteran loafer, who had not slept in a bed for years—his clothes smelling of the grease and filth of the market stalls; here is the runaway apprentice, and here the dissipated young man who has been 'locked out,' and has come here to take lodgings. The company are all seated upon low stools; some are bending forward in painful attitudes of slumber; others are vainly trying to sit upright, but, overcome by sleep, they pitch forward, and recover themselves just in time to avoid falling on the floor.
Notice in particular this young man who is seated like the rest, and is nodding in an uneasy slumber. His clothes are of broadcloth, and were once fashionable and good, but now they are torn to rags, and soiled with filth. His hands are small and white; his hair, luxurious and curling naturally, is uncombed; his features are handsome, but bruised and unwashed. This is Sinclair!
The bar-keeper of this place is quite a character in his way. He rejoices in the title of 'Liverpool Jack,' and is the bully of Water street—that is, he is considered able to thrash any man that travels in that region. He is a blustering, ruffianly fellow, full of 'strange oaths.' He wears a red flannel shirt and tarpaulin hat; and possesses a bull-dog countenance expressive of the utmost ferocity.
'Hello, you fellers,' cries Liverpool Jack, savagely surveying the slumbering crowd—'yer goin' to set there all night and not paternize de bar—say? Vake up, or by de big Jerusalem cricket I'm bound to dump yer all off de stools!'
Some of the poor devils arouse themselves, and rub their eyes; but the majority slumbered on. Liverpool Jack becomes exasperated, and rushing among them, seizes the legs of the stools, and dumps every sleeper upon the floor. Having accomplished this feat, he resumes his place behind the bar.
The door opens, and a party of young bloods enter, who are evidently 'bound on a time.'—They are all fashionably dressed; and one of them, drawing a well-filled purse from his pocket, invites all hands up to drink—which invitation, it is needless to say, was eagerly accepted. Sinclair crowded up to the bar, with the others and one of the new comers, observing him, cries out—
'By jingo, here's parson Sinclair! Give us a sermon, parson, and you shall have a pint of red-eye!'
'A sermon—a sermon!' exclaimed the others. Sinclair is placed upon a stool, and begins a wild, incoherent harangue, made up of eloquence, blasphemy and obscenity. His hearers respond in loud 'amens,' and one of the young bloods, being facetiously inclined, procures a rotten egg, and throws it at the unhappy man, deviling his face with the nauseous missile. This piece of ruffianism is immediately followed by another; the stool on which he stands is suddenly jerked from beneath him, and he falls violently to the floor, bruising his face and head shockingly.
Roars of laughter follow this deed of cruelty; poor Sinclair is raised from the floor by Liverpool Jack, who thrusts him forth into the street with a curse, telling him to come there no more.
It is raining—a cold, drizzly rain, which penetrates through the garments and strikes chill to the bones. On such a night as this, Sinclair was wont to be seated in his comfortable study, before a blazing fire, enveloped in a luxurious dressing gown, as he perused some interesting volume, or prepared his Sabbath sermon; then, he had but to ring a silver bell, and a well-dressed servant brought in a tray containing his late supper—the smoking tea urn, the hot rolls, the fresh eggs, the delicious bacon, the delicate custard, and the exquisite preserves. Then, he had but to pass through a warm and well—lighted passage, to reach his own chamber; the comfortable bed, with its snowy drapery and warm, thick coverlid, invited to repose; and his dreams were disturbed by no visions of horror or remorse. All was purity, and happiness, and peace.
Now, how different! Houseless, homeless, shelterless—ragged, dirty, starving—diseased, degraded, desperate! Unhappy Sinclair, that was a fatal moment when thou did'st yield to the fascinations of that beautiful Josephine Franklin!
It was near one o'clock, and the storm had increased to a perfect hurricane. The miserable man had eaten nothing that day; he tottered off with weakness, and was numbed with the cold. By an irresistible impulse he wandered in the direction of his former home in Broadway. He found the house brilliantly illuminated—strains of heavenly music issued from it—lovely forms flitted past the windows, and peals of silvery laughter mingled with the howling of the tempest. A grand party was given there that night; the occupant of the house was a man of fashion and pleasure, and he was celebrating the eighteenth birth-day of his beautiful daughter.
Sinclair lingered long around the house—it seemed as if some invisible power attracted him there. From the basement there arose the grateful, savory odor of extensive cooking.
'I am starving,' said he to himself—'and they have plenty here. I will go to the door, like a beggar, and implore a morsel of food.'
With feeble steps he descended to the basement, and with a trembling hand he knocked at the door. It was opened by a fat, well-fed servant, in livery, who demanded, in a surly tone, what he wanted?
'In heaven's name, give me food, for I am starving.'
'Ugh—a beggar!' said the servant, with disgust—'get you gone, we've nothing for you; master never encourages vagrants.'
The door was shut in Sinclair's face; with an aching heart he crawled up the steps, and then, as if suddenly nerved with a desperate resolve, he approached the front door, and rang the bell. The door was opened by a footman, who stared at the intruder with surprise and suspicion.
'Tell your master,' said Sinclair, faintly, 'that a person is here who must speak with him. It is a matter of life and death.'
The servant did as requested; in a few minutes he returned and said:
'Master says that if your business is particular you must come into the drawing room; he's not coming out here in the cold.'
He followed the servant thro' the hall; and in a moment more found himself standing in the brilliantly lighted drawing-room, in the presence of a numerous party of ladies and gentlemen. His miserable appearance created quite a sensation in that fashionable circle.
'Aw, 'pon my honor,' lisped a dandy, raising his eye-glass and taking a deliberate survey of the intruder, 'what have we heah? quite a natural curiosity, dem me!'
'Oh, what an odious creature;' exclaimed a young lady with bare arms, naked shoulders, and the reddest possible hair.
'Quite shocking!' responded her admirer, a bottle-nosed specimen of monkeyism.
'I shall positively faint,' cried an old tabby, in a large turban; but as nobody noticed her, she didn't faint.
The host himself now advanced, and said, sternly,
'Well, fellow, what d'ye want?—Speak quickly and begone, for this is no place for you. You d——d stupid scoundrel,' (to the servant,) 'how dare you bring such a scare-crow here?'
'I wish to speak with you alone, sir,' said Sinclair, humbly.
The host motioned him to step out into the hall, followed him there, and commanded him to be as brief as possible.
Sinclair told him who he was, and the circumstances of misery and destitution in which he was placed. His listener shook his head incredulously, saying,
'It is a good game, my fine fellow, that you are trying to play off; you are an excellent talker, but you will find it hard to make people believe that you are Dr. Sinclair. In one word, you're an imposter. What, you a clergyman! Pooh, nonsense!—There, not another word, but clear out instantly. John, show this fellow the door, and never admit him again!'
As poor Sinclair passed out of the door, he heard the company laugh long and loud at the supposed imposition he had attempted to practise upon Mr. Grump, the 'worthy host.' Now be it known that this Mr. Grump was one of the most arrant scoundrels that ever went unhung. Low-bred and vulgar, he had made a fortune by petty knavery and small rascalities. He was a master printer; one of those miserable whelps who fatten on the unpaid labor of those in their employ. An indignant 'jour' once told him, with as much truth as sarcasm, that 'every hair on his head was a fifty-six pound weight of sin and iniquity!' He well knew that the poor wretch who had applied to him for relief, was no impostor; for he had heard Dr. Sinclair preach a hundred times, and he had recognized him instantly, notwithstanding his altered aspect. But he had pretended to believe him an impostor, in order that he might have a good excuse for withholding assistance from the unfortunate man.
Rudely did the servant thrust forth poor Sinclair into the inhospitable street and the fearful storm. The rain now fell in torrents; and the darkness was so intense, that the hapless wanderer cou'd only grope his way along, slowly and painfully.—Upon one corner of the street the foundation for a house had recently been dug, forming a deep and dangerous pit, lying directly in Sinclair's path: no friendly lantern warned him of the peril—no enclosure was there to protect him from falling. Unconscious of the danger, he slowly approached the brink of the pit; now he stood upon the extreme edge, and the next instant he fell! There was a dull, dead sound—then a stifled groan—and all was still!
Morning dawned, bright and clear, the storm had subsided during the night, and the glorious sun arose in a cloudless sky. A crowd was collected on the corner of Broadway and one of the narrow streets which cross its lower section. They were gazing at a terrible spectacle: the body of a man lay in a deep pit below them, shockingly mangled; he had fallen upon a heap of stones—his brains were dashed out, and his blood scattered all around. Among the spectators was a portly, well-dressed man, who looked at the body steadfastly for some time, and then muttered to himself—
'By G——, it is Dr. Sinclair, and no mistake! Too bad—too bad!—When he came to my house last night, I little thought to see him dead this morning! Plague on it, I ought to have given the poor devil sixpence or a shilling. No matter—he's better off now. He was a talented fellow—great pity, but can't be helped.'
Yes, it could have been helped, Mr. Grump; had you kindly taken that poor unfortunate by the hand, and afforded him food and shelter for a brief season, he never would have met that tragical end, but might have lived to reform, and lead a life of usefulness and honor; yes, he might have lived to bless you for that timely aid.
Reader, 'speak gently to the erring.' Do not too hastily or too harshly condemn the follies or faults of others. A gentle word, spoken in kindness to an erring brother, may do much towards winning him back to the path of rectitude and right. Harsh words and stern reproofs may drive him on to ruin.
But let us return to the crowd collected around the mangled body of Sinclair.
'It's a sin and a shame,' said a stout man, in working clothes, 'that there wasn't some kind of a fence put around this infernal trap. Where was the Alderman of this ward, that he didn't attend to it?'
'Be careful what you say, fellow,' said Mr. Grump, turning very red in the face, 'I'd have you to know that I am the Alderman of this ward!'
'Are you?—then let me tell you,' said the man, contemptuously, 'that you bear the name of being a mean, dirty old scamp; and if it was not for fear of the law, I'd give you a d——d good thrashing!'
Alderman Grump beat a hasty retreat while the crowd set up a loud shout of derision—for he was universally hated and despised.
The Coroner arrived—the inquest was held; and a 'verdict rendered in accordance with the facts.' The body was taken to the 'Dead House;' and as no friend or relative appeared to claim it, it was the next day conveyed to Potter's Field, and there interred among city paupers, felons and nameless vagrants.
The Disguised Husband—the False Wife—the Murder—the Disclosure, and Suicide.
Reader, let thy fancy again wing its flight from New York to our own city of Boston.
It was a strange coincidence that Frank Sydney and his wife Julia should tarry again beneath the same roof; yet they were not destined to meet under that roof—for the next day after Frank made the discovery, Mr. Hedge and the young lady removed from the Hotel to a splendid house which had been fitted up for them in the most aristocratic quarter of the city.
'I must see Julia once again,' said Frank to himself, when informed of her departure;—'I must see and converse with her again, for I am anxious to see if she has really reformed, since her marriage with this Mr. Hedge, whom I have heard spoken of as a very respectable old man. Of course, he can know nothing of her former character; and if I find her disposed to be faithful to her present husband, Heaven forbid that I should ruin her by exposure! But I must so disguise myself that she shall not recognise me; this I can easily do, for I am well acquainted with the art of disguise. I shall have no difficulty in meeting her on some of the fashionable promenades of the city, then my ingenuity will aid me in forming her acquaintance. My plan shall be put into immediate execution.'
Our hero felt considerable uneasiness in the knowledge that the Dead Man was then in the city; and when he reflected that the Doctor had joined that arch miscreant, he knew not what infernal plot might be concocted against his liberty or life. He puzzled his brain in vain to account for the Doctor's singular conduct in deserting him for the friendship of a villain; and he was forced to arrive at the unwelcome conclusion, that the Doctor was a man whose natural depravity led him to prefer the companionship of crime to the society of honesty and honor.
Sydney never ventured abroad without being thoroughly armed; and he was determined, if attacked by his enemies, to sell his life as dearly as possible.
He had called once upon Miss Sophia Franklin, since the night he had rescued her from the designs of the libertine Radcliff; Josephine and her mother plainly evinced by their looks that they did not relish his visit; but the fair Sophia received him with every demonstration of gratitude and pleasure. She could not deny to herself that she felt a deep and growing interest in the handsome young stranger, who had so gallantly defended her honor: while on his part, he sympathized with her unfortunate situation, on account of her unprincipled relatives, and admired her for her beauty and goodness. He sighed as he thought that his abandoned wife was a barrier to any hopes which he might entertain in reference to Sophia; for he felt that he could joyfully make the young lady his bride, and thus preserve her from her mother and sister, were there no obstacle in the way. When he contrasted her purity and virtue with the vices of Julia, he cursed his destiny that had placed so great a prize beyond his grasp.
Sophia, as yet, knew nothing of Frank's history, and was of course ignorant that he had a wife. Sweet hopes swelled the maiden's bosom, when the thought arose in her pure heart that she might be beloved by one whom she knew was worthy of her tenderest regard.
It was with a high degree of satisfaction that Julia now found herself, by the liberality of Mr. Hedge, mistress of a splendid establishment.—Her dresses, her jewelry, her furniture were of the most magnificent kind; her husband placed no restraint upon her whatever, he slept in a separate chamber, and never annoyed her with his impotent embraces; each morning he was accustomed to meet her in the breakfast parlor, and partake with her the only meal they took together during the day; after the repast, he would usually present her with money sufficient to do her fashionable 'shopping;' then he would kiss her rosy cheek, bid her adieu, and leave her to pass the day as her fancy or caprice might dictate.
Enjoying such a life of luxurious ease, Julia was almost perfectly happy. Yet her cup was not quite full; there was one thing wanting to complete the list of her pleasures—and this deficiency occupied her thoughts by day, and her dreams by night. Not to keep the reader in suspense, she longed for a handsome and agreeable lover—yet none could she find suited to her taste or wishes. True, she might have selected one from among the many gentlemen of leisure 'about town,' who are always ready to dangle at the heels of any woman who will clothe and feed them for their 'services.'—But she preferred a lover of a more exalted grade; one whose personal beauty was set off by mental graces, and superior manners. And he must be poor; for then he would be more dependent upon her, and consequently, more devoted and more constant.
Time passed, and still Julia had no lover.—Mr. Hedge mentally gave her credit for the most virtuous fidelity; yet the amorous fair one was constantly on the qui vive to catch in her silken meshes some desirable man with whom she might in secret pass the hours of her voluptuous leisure.
One day, while promenading Tremont street, her eyes rested upon a gentleman whose appearance sent a thrill of admiration and desire through every fibre of her frame. His figure, of medium height, was erect and well-built; his gait was dignified and graceful; his dress, in exact accordance with the mode, was singularly elegant and rich—but a superb waistcoat, a gorgeous cravat in which glittered a diamond pin, and salmon-colored gloves, were the least attractive points in his appearance; for his countenance was eminently handsome and striking. His hair fell in rich masses over a fine, thoughtful brow; his eyes were dark, piercing, and full of expression and fire; and the lower part of his face was almost completely hidden by a luxuriant growth of whiskers, imperial and moustache. Whatever of foppishness there might be in his dress, was qualified by the dignified grace of his manner.
'He is a charming creature, and I must catch him,' thought Julia. So, on the next day when she met him again, and at the moment when his eyes were fixed admiringly upon her countenance, she smiled, then blushed in the most engaging manner, and passed on in sweet confusion. The gallant gentleman, encouraged by the smile and blush, turned and followed her. She walked on as far as the Common, entered, and regardless of her satin dress, seated herself upon one of the sheet-iron covered benches. The gentleman (bold fellow!) seated himself upon the same bench, though at a respectful distance. Julia blushed again, and cast down her beautiful eyes.
You know very well, reader, how two persons, who are not acquainted, always begin a conversation. The weather is the topic first touched upon;—and that hackneyed subject merges easily and naturally into more agreeable discourse. So it was with Julia and her gallant; in less than half an hour after seating themselves on that bench, they were sociably and unrestrainedly conversing on the theatres, the opera, the last novel, and other matters and things pertaining to the world of fashion and amusement. The lady judged her companion, by a slight peculiarity in his accent, to be a foreigner—a circumstance that raised him still more in her estimation, for our amorous American ladies adore foreigners. He was also a man of wit, education and talent; and Julia became completely fascinated with him. He proposed an exchange of cards; she assented, and found her new friend to be the 'Signor Montoni'; and he subsequently informed her that he was an Italian teacher of languages—a piece of information that gave her pleasure, as his following a profession was a pretty certain indication that he was poor.
When Julia returned home, the Italian accompanied her to the door. The next day they met again, and the next; and the intimacy between them increased so rapidly, that within a week after their confidential chat on the Common, Montoni called on Julia at her residence. But the lady noticed that he had suddenly grown reserved and bashful; and he made this and their other interviews provokingly short. She had hoped to have found in him an impetuous and impassioned lover—one who needed but the opportunity to pluck the ripe fruit so temptingly held out to him; but she found him, instead, an apparently cold and passionless man, taking no advantage of his intimacy with her, and treating her with a distant respect that precluded all hope in her bosom of a successful amour.
In vain did the beautiful wanton assail him with inviting glances and seductive smiles; in vain did she, while in his presence, recline upon the sofa in attitudes of the most voluptuous abandonment; in vain did she, as if unconsciously, display to his gaze charms which might have moved an anchorite—a neck and shoulders of exquisite proportions, and a bosom glowing and swelling with a thousand suppressed fires. He withstood all these attacks, and remained calm and unmoved. When she gave him her hand to kiss at parting, he would merely raise it to his lips, and leave her with a cold 'adieu.'
'He is cold—senseless—unworthy of my regard; I will see him no more,' said Julia to herself. Yet when the image of the handsome Italian arose before her, so calmly noble, so proudly composed, her resolution forsook her, and she felt that he held her, heart and soul, under some strange and magical fascination.
'Yes, I love him,' she cried, bursting into a passionate flood of tears—'devotedly, madly love him. Oh, why am I the suppliant slave of this cold stranger? why cannot I entice him to my arms? Distraction: my most consummate art fails to kindle in his icy breast a single spark of the raging fire that is consuming me!'
It may be proper to mention that Mr. Hedge knew nothing of the Italian's visits to his wife; for Julia received him in a private parlor of her own, and there was no danger of interruption. The old gentleman passed most of his evenings in his library; and having implicit faith in the integrity of his wife, he allowed her to spend her evenings as she chose.
One evening Signor Montoni visited Julia rather earlier than usual; and she resolved that evening to make a desperate effort to conquer him, even if obliged to make known her wishes in words.
During the evening she exerted herself, as usual, to captivate him, and bring him to her feet. She sang—she played—she liberally displayed the graces of her person, and the charms of her accomplished mind, but still in vain.—There he sat, with folded arms, in deep abstraction, gazing at the elaborate figures on the gorgeous carpet.
At nine o'clock, Montoni arose, and took the lady's hand to bid her adieu. She gently detained him, and drew him towards her upon the sofa.
'Listen to me, Montoni;' said she, gazing into his eyes with an expression of deep fondness—'listen to me, and I will speak calmly if I can, though my heart is beating in wild tumult. Call me unwomanly, bold, wanton if you will, for making this declaration—but I love you!—God only knows how ardently, how passionately. The first moment I saw you, your image impressed itself indelibly upon my heart; in person, you were my beau ideal of manhood—and in mind I found you all that I could wish. I have sought to make you my lover—for my husband is old and impotent, and my passions are strong. Look at me, Montoni; am I ugly or repulsive? Nay, the world calls me beautiful, yet I seek to be beautiful only in your eyes, my beloved. Why, then, have you despised my advances, disregarded my mute invitations, and left me to pine with disappointment and with hope deferred? Why will you not take me in your arms, cover me with kisses, and breathe into my ear the melody of your whispered love?'
The lady paused, and the Italian gazed at her with admiration. Ah, how beautiful she looked! and yet how like a fiend in the shape of a lovely woman, tempting a man to ruin!
'Lady,' said Montoni, as a shade of sadness passed over his fine features—'you have mentioned your husband, and the recollection that you have a husband forbids that I should take advantage of your preference for me. God forbid that I should be the cause of a wife's infidelity! Pardon me, lady—you are very beautiful; the Almighty never created so fair a sanctuary to become the dwelling place of sin; be advised, therefore, to suppress this guilty passion, and remain faithful to your husband, who, old though he be, has claims upon your constancy.'
'I long for the declarations of a lover, not the reasonings of a philosopher,' cried Julia passionately.—'Thou man of ice, nothing can melt you?'
'Remember your duty to your husband,' said Montoni, gravely, as he arose to depart. 'I will see you to-morrow evening—adieu.'
He left her to her reflections.—Wild, tumultuous thoughts arose in her mind; and from the chaos of her bewildered brain, came a Hideous Whisper, prompting her to a bloody crime.
She thought of her husband as an obstacle to her happiness with Montoni; and she began to hate the old man with the malignity of a fiend.
'Curses on the old dotard!' she cried, in a paroxysm of rage—'were it not for him, I might revel in the arms of my handsome Italian, whose unaccountable scruples will not permit him to enjoy the bliss of love with me, while I have a husband.—Were that husband DEAD—'
Then, like a Mighty Shadow, came that dark thought over her soul. Myriads of beautiful demons, all bearing the semblance of Montoni, seemed to gather around her, and urge her to perpetrate a deed of—murder!
But then a fair vision spread itself before her wandering fancy. There was her girlhood's home—far, far away in a green, flowery spot, where she had dwelt ere her life had been cast amid the follies and vices of cities. Then she thought of her mother—that gentle mother, whose heart she had broken, and who was sleeping in the old church-yard of her native village.—A tear dim'd her brilliant eye as these better feelings of her nature gained a temporary ascendancy: but she dashed her tear away, and suppressed the emotions of her heart, when the image of the fascinating Italian arose before her.
'He must be mine! I swear it by everything in heaven, earth or hell—he must be mine! Yes, though I stain my soul with the blackest crime—though remorse and misery be my lot on earth—though eternal torment be my portion in the world to come—he must and shall be mine! Aid me, ye powers of hell, in this my scheme—make my heart bold, my hand firm, my brain calm; for the deed is full of horror, and the thought of it chills my blood; I shudder and turn sick and dizzy—yet, for thy sake, Montoni, I WILL DO IT!'
That night the wretched woman slept not; but in the solitude of her chamber employed her mind in endeavoring to form some plan by which to accomplish her fell purpose with secrecy and safety. Ere morning dawned, she had arranged the programme of the awful drama in which she was to play the part of a murderess.
When Mr. Hedge met her at breakfast, he noticed that she appeared feverish and unwell; and with almost parental solicitude, he gently chided her for neglecting to take proper care of her health.
'My dear Julia,' said he—'you must not pour out the golden sands of youth too fast. If you will suffer me to offer you advice, you will go less abroad, and endeavor to seek recreation at home. You know my ardent affection for you alone prompts me to make this suggestion.'
Julia slightly curled her lip, but said nothing. The kindness of her husband's manner did not in the least affect her, or alter the abominable purpose of her heart. Mr. Hedge did not notice her contemptuous look; he gave her a sum of money, as usual, kissed her and bade her adieu.
When he had gone, she dressed herself in her plainest attire, and going into an obscure part of the city, entered an apothecary's shop and purchased some arsenic. She then retraced her steps to her residence, and found that Mr. Hedge, contrary to his usual custom, had returned, and would dine at home. This arrangement afforded her much satisfaction.
'The fates are propitious,' said she—'to-night Montoni shall find me without a husband.'
Mr. Hedge and Julia dined alone; dispensing with the attendance of a servant, they never were more sociable or more affectionate together.
The old gentleman was in high spirits. 'My dear,' said he, 'your presence to-day inspires me with an unusual degree of happiness—and egad, I feel younger than ever. Pledge me in a bumper of good old port.'
'I cannot endure port,' said Julia—'sparkling champagne for me. I will ring for some.'
'By your leave, madam,' said her husband, with an air of gallantry; and rising, he walked across the room, and rang the bell.
Quick as lightning, Julia took a small paper parcel from her bosom, and breaking it open, poured a white powder into her husband's glass, which was nearly full of port wine.
Mr. Hedge resumed his seat, and raising the fatal glass to his lips, slowly drained it to the dregs. Just then the butler entered, in answer to the summons; and in obedience to Julia's order, he brought in a bottle of champagne, and withdrew.
'I am very unwell,' said the old gentleman—'my love, will you assist me to my chamber?' He arose with difficulty, and with her aid reached his chamber, and lay down upon the bed. Instantly he closed his eyes, and seemed to fall into a deep slumber.
'He will wake in another world,' murmured the guilty woman, as she saw the hue of death beginning to overspread his features. No repentance, no remorse, touched her vile heart; calmly she surveyed her victim for a few moments—then, not wishing to witness his dying agonies, she left the chamber, having carefully locked the door.
That afternoon she went out and purchased a new and magnificent set of jewels. If for a moment the recollection of her horrible crime obtruded itself upon her mind, she banished it by thinking of her adored Montoni. Hers was a kind of mental intoxication, under the influence of which she could have perpetrated the most enormous crimes, blindly and almost unconsciously.
Returning home she prepared her toilet with the most elaborate care. A French 'artist,' (all barbers are artists, by the way,) was sent for, who arranged her beautiful hair in the latest mode; and when arrayed in her superb evening dress of white satin with her fair neck, her wrist and her lovely brow blazing with jewels, she looked like some queen of Oriental romance, waiting to receive the homage of her vassals.
And when, as the clock struck eight, the Signor Montoni entered, who can wonder that he thought her divinely lovely, as he glanced at her face radiant with smiles, her cheek suffused with the rich hues of health and happiness, and her eyes sparking with delight at seeing him?
We said happiness—'twas not the deep, quiet happiness of the heart, but the wild, delirious joy of the intoxicated brain.
'Dear Montoni,' she cried, embracing and kissing him—'your presence never gave more pleasure. I have waited for your coming with impatience. You are mine now, you cannot deny me—the obstacle is removed.—Oh, my God, what happiness!'
'Lady,' replied the Italian, in his usual cold and respectful tone, as he disengaged himself from her embrace, 'what means this agitation? You speak of an obstacle as being removed; pray explain the enigma.'
'Signor Montoni,' cried Julia, her eyes flashing almost fearfully—'when I spoke to you of love last night, you preached to me of my husband, and my duty to him. The recollection that I had a husband, you said, forbade that you should take advantage of my preference for you. Rejoice with me, Montoni—come to my arms—my husband is no more!'
'How—what mean you?' demanded the Italian, in breathless astonishment.
'Follow me,' she said; and taking a lamp, she led the way to the chamber of Mr. Hedge. She unlocked the door, they entered, and she beckoned her companion to approach the bed.
Montoni advanced, and gazed upon the swollen, disfigured face of a corpse!
'Your husband—dead!' cried the Italian. 'By heaven there has been foul play here. Woman, can it be possible—'
'Yes, all things are possible to Love!' exclaimed Julia, laughing hysterically;—''twas I did the deed, Montoni; for your dear sake I killed him!'
'Murderess!' cried Montoni, recoiling from her with horror, 'has it come to this?—Then indeed it is time that this wretched farce should end!'
He tore off the wig, the false whiskers, imperial and moustache—and Frank Sydney stood before her! With a wild shriek she fell senseless upon the carpet.
'God of heaven!' exclaimed Frank—'what infernal crimes blot thy fair creation! Let me escape from this house, for the atmosphere is thick with guilt, and will suffocate me if I remain longer!'
And without casting one look at the ghastly corpse, or the swooning murderess upon the floor, he rushed from the house, and fled rapidly from it, as though it were the abode of the pestilence.
Miserable Julia! She awoke to a full consciousness of her guilt and wretchedness. The intoxication of her senses was over; her delirium was past, and horrible remorse usurped the place of passion in her breast.—She arose, and gazed fearfully around her; there lay the body of her murdered victim, its stony eyes turned towards her, and seeming to reproach her for the deed. She could not remain in that awful chamber, in the presence of that accusing corpse, whose blood seemed to cry out for vengeance; she ran from it, and at every step imagined that her dead husband was pursuing her, to bring her back.
Not for worlds would she have remained that night in the house; hastily throwing on a bonnet and shawl, she issued forth into the street. She cared not where she went, so long as she escaped from the vicinity of that scene of murder. In a state of mind bordering on distraction, the wretched woman wandered about the streets until a late hour; the disorder of her dress, the wildness of her appearance, induced many whom she met to suppose her to be intoxicated; and several riotous young men, returning from a theatre, believing her to be a courtezan, treated her with the utmost rudeness, at the same time calling her by the most opprobrious names, until a gentleman who was passing rescued her from their brutality.
Midnight came, and still was the unhappy Julia a wanderer through the streets. At length she found herself upon Charlestown bridge; and being much fatigued, she paused and leaned against the railing, uncertain what to do or where to go. That hour was the most wretched of her life; her brain was dizzy with excitement—her heart racked with remorse—her limbs weak with fatigue, and numbed with cold. The spirit of Mr. Hedge seemed to emerge from the water, and invite her with outstretched arms to make the fatal plunge; and when she thought of his unvaried kindness to her, his unbounded generosity, and implicit faith in her honor, how bitterly she reproached herself for her base ingratitude and abominable crime! Oh, how gladly would she have given up her miserable life, could she but have undone that fearful deed! And even in that wretched hour she cursed Frank Sydney, as being the cause of her crime and its attendant misery.
'May the lightning of heaven's wrath sere his brain and scorch his heart!' she said—'had he not, disguised as the Italian, won my love and driven me to desperation, I now should be happy and comparatively guiltless. But, by his infernal means, I have become a murderess and an outcast—perhaps doomed to swing upon the scaffold! But no, no;—sooner than die that death, I would end my misery in the dark waters of this river, which flows so calmly beneath my feet!'
She heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and saw two men advancing on the opposite foot-path of the bridge. She crouched down to avoid observation; and as they passed, she distinctly heard their conversation.
'Have you heard,' said one, 'of the case of murder in —— street?'
'No; how was it?' demanded the other.
'Why, a rich old fellow named Hedge was found this evening in his chamber, stone dead, having been poisoned by his wife, who they say is a young and handsome woman. It is supposed she did it on account of a lover, or some such thing; and since the murder, she has disappeared—but the police are on her track, and they won't be long in finding her. 'Twill be a bad job for her.'
The men passed on out of sight and hearing; but the words struck terror to the heart of Julia. She started up and gazed wildly around her, expecting every moment to see the myrmidons of the law approaching, to drag her away to prison. Then she looked down upon the calm river, on whose placid breast reposed the soft moonlight.
'Why should I live?' she murmured, sadly—'earth has no longer any charms for me; the past brings remorse, the present is most wretched, the future full of impending horror! Death is my only refuge; the only cure for all my sorrows. Take me to thy embrace, thou peaceful river; thou canst end my earthly woes, but thou canst not wash off the stains of guilt from my soul! There may be a hell, but its torments cannot exceed those of this world—'
She mounted upon the topmost rail of the bridge, clasped her hands, muttered a brief prayer, and leaped into the river. There was a splash—a gurgling sound—and then profound and solemn silence resumed its reign.
* * * * *
One more unfortunate, Weary of breath, Rashly importunate, Gone to her death!
* * * * *
The bleak wind of March Made her tremble and shiver; But not the dark arch Of the black flowing river; Mad from life's history, Glad to death's mystery, Swift to be hurl'd— Any where, any where Out of the world!
In she plunged boldly, No matter how coldly The rough river ran— Over the brink of it, Picture it—think of it, Dissolute Man!
* * * * *
Owning her weakness, Her evil behaviour! And leaving, with meekness, Her sins to her Saviour!
Wherein one of the Characters in this Drama maketh a sudden and rapid exit from the stage.
In an upper apartment of an old, rickety wooden building in Ann street, two men were seated at a rough deal table, engaged in smoking long pipes and discussing the contents of a black bottle. Not to keep the reader in suspense, we may as well state at once that these two individuals were no other than our old acquaintances, the Dead Man and the Doctor.
The room was dusky, gloomy, and dirty, with a multitude of cob-webs hanging from the ceiling, and the broken panes in the windows stuffed full of rags. The smoke-dried walls were covered with rude inscriptions and drawings, representing deeds of robbery and murder; and a hanging scene was not the least prominent of these interesting specimens of the 'fine arts.' The house was a noted resort for thieves, and the old harridan who kept it was known to the police as a 'fence,' or one who purchased stolen goods.
'Yes, Doctor,' cried the Dead Man, with an oath, as he slowly removed the pipe from his lips, and blew a cloud which curled in fantastic wreaths to the ceiling—'this state of affairs won't answer: we must have money. And money we will have, this very night, if our spy, Stuttering Tom, succeeds in finding out where those Franklin ladies live. The bottle's out—knock for another pint of lush.'
The Doctor obeyed, and in answer to the summons an old, wrinkled, blear-eyed hag made her appearance with the liquor. This old wretch was the 'landlady' of the house; she had been a celebrated and beautiful courtezan in her day, but age and vice had done their work, and she was now an object hideous to look upon. Though tottering upon the verge of the grave (she was over eighty,) an inordinate love of money, and an equal partiality for 'the ardent,' were her characteristics; but stranger than all, the miserable old creature affected still to retain, undiminished, those amorous propensities which had distinguished her in her youth! This horrible absurdity made her act in a manner at once ludicrous and disgusting; and the Dead Man, being facetiously inclined, resolved to humor her weakness, and enjoy a laugh at her expense by pretending to have fallen in love with her.
'By Satan!' he cried, clasping the old crone around the waist—'you look irresistible to-night, mother: I've half a mind to ravish a kiss from ye—ha, ha, ha!'
'Have done, now!' exclaimed the hag, in a cracked tone, at the same time vainly endeavoring to contort her toothless jaws into an engaging simper, while the Doctor nearly burst with laughter—'have done now, or I'll slap ye for your impudence. But, faith, ye are such a pleasant gentleman, that I don't mind bestowing a kiss or two upon ye!'
'You're a gay old lass,' said the Dead Man, without availing himself of the old lady's kind permission—'you have been a 'high one' in your time, but your day is nearly over.'
'No, no!' shrieked the old wretch, while her head and limbs quivered with palsy—'don't say that—I'm young as ever, only a little shakey, or so—I'm not going to die for many, many years to come—ha, ha, ha! a kiss, love, a kiss—'
The old woman fell to the floor in a paralytic fit, and when they raised her up, they found that she was dead!
'Devil take the old fool!' cried the Dead Man, throwing the corpse contemptuously to the floor—'I meant to have strangled her some day, but I now am cheated of the sport. No matter; drink, Doctor!'
The dead body was removed by several of the wretched inmates of the house, just as Stuttering Tom entered to announce the result of his search for the Franklin ladies.
Tom was a short, dumpy specimen of humanity, with red hair, freckled face, nose of the pug order, and goggle eyes. His dress was picturesque, if not ragged: his coat and pants were so widely apart, at the waist, as to reveal a large track of very incorrect linen; and the said coat had been deprived of one of its tails, an unfortunate occurrence, as the loss exposed a large compound fracture in the rear of the young gentleman's trowsers, whereby he was subjected to the remark that he had 'a letter in the post office.' His name was derived from an inveterate habit of stuttering with which he was afflicted; and he related the issue of his search somewhat in the following manner:
'You see, I ha-ha-happened to be l-loafing down Wa-Wa-Washington street, this evening, quite pro-miscus like, ven I seed two vim-vimmen, as vos gallus ha-handsum, and dr-dressed to kill, a valking along, vich puts me in m-m-mind of the F-F-Franklin vimmen, as you hired me to f-f-find out. So I up and f-follers 'em, and by-and-by a f-fellers meets 'em and says, says he, 'Good evening, Missus and Miss F-F-Franklin.' These is the werry victims, says I to myself; and I f-f-foller them till they goes into a house in Wa-Washington street—and here I am.'
'You have done well, Tom,' said the Dead Man, approvingly—'you must now conduct us to the house in Washington street which the ladies entered: it is nine o'clock, and time that we should be up and doing.'
Stuttering Tom led the way, and the three issued from the house. Ann street was 'all alive' at that hour; from every cellar came forth the sound of a fiddle, and the side-walks were crowded with a motley throng of Hibernians, Ethiopians, and Cyprians of an inferior order. Talk of Boston being a moral city! There is villainy, misery and vice enough in Ann street alone, to deserve for the whole place the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Dead Man and the Doctor, under the guidance of Stuttering Tom, soon reached the house in Washington street where Josephine and her mother had taken up their residence. The guide was then rewarded and dismissed; the two adventurers ascended the steps, and one of them rang the door-bell.
A servant girl answered the summons, and in reply to their inquiries informed them that the ladies were both in the parlor.
'Show us up there,' said the Dead Man, in a commanding tone, as he concealed his hideous face behind his upturned coat-collar. The girl obeyed, and having conducted them up a flight of stairs, ushered them into an apartment where Josephine and her mother were seated, engaged there in playing ecarte.
Their confusion and terror may easily be imagined, when turning to see who their visitors were, their eyes rested upon the awful lineaments of the DEAD MAN!
'Your humble servant, ladies,' said the villain, with a triumphant laugh—'you see you cannot hide from me, or escape me. Fair Josephine, you look truly charming—will you oblige me with a private interview?'
'It will be useless,' said Josephine coldly, as she recovered some portion of her composure—'we have no more money to give you.'
'You can give me something more acceptable than money,' rejoined the other, with a horrible leer—'at our last interview I told you what I should require at our next. Doctor, I leave you with the voluptuous mother, while I make court to the beautiful daughter.'
He grasped Josephine violently by the arm, and dragged her from the room, forced her into an adjoining apartment, and thrust her brutally upon a sofa, saying with a fearful oath—
'Dare to resist me, and I'll spoil your beauty, miss! Why do you act the prude with me—you, a shameless hussey, who has numbered more amours than years?'
'Odious ruffian!' exclaimed Josephine, no longer able to control her indignation—'I view you with contempt and loathing. Sooner than submit to your filthy embraces, I will dare exposure, and death itself! Think not to force me to a compliance with your wishes—I will resist you while life animates my frame. I fear you not, low villain that you are.'
The Dead Man raised his iron hand as if to dash out her brains for her temerity.—But he checked himself, and surveyed her with a sort of calm ferocity, as he said—'Young lady, since you are determined to oppose my wishes, I will not force you. Neither will I kill you; yet my vengeance shall be more terrible than death. You are beautiful and you pride yourself upon that beauty—but I will deprive you of your loveliness. You call me hideous—I will make you hideous as I am. Your cheeks shall become ghastly, your complexion livid, and your brilliant eyes shall become sightless orbs—for the curse of blindness shall be added to your other miseries. Obstinate girl, bid an eternal farewell to eyesight and beauty, for from this moment you are deprived of both, forever!'
He drew from his pocket a small phial, and with the quickness of lightning dashed it in the face of the unfortunate Josephine. It was shattered in a hundred pieces, and the contents—VITRIOL—ran in her eyes and down her face, burning her flesh in the most horrible manner. She shrieked with agony the most intense, and the Doctor rushed into the room, followed by Mrs. Franklin. They both stood aghast when they beheld the awful spectacle.
The Doctor was the first to recover his presence of mind; he rushed to the aid of the burning wretch, and saved her life, though he could not restore her lost eyesight, or remove the horrible disfigurement of her burned and scarred visage. Mrs. Franklin was so overcome at her daughter's misfortune and sufferings that she fell upon the floor insensible.
At that moment the door of the apartment was violently thrown open, and a young gentleman entered. The Dead Man and the Doctor turned, and in the newcomer recognised Frank Sydney!
It will be necessary to explain the mystery of Frank's sudden appearance at that emergency. A day or two after the suicide of Julia, the body of that wretched woman was picked up by some fisherman, and conveyed to the city, where it was immediately recognized as the lady of Mr. Hedge. The circumstance of her death soon came to the knowledge of our hero; and while he could not help shedding a tear as he thought of her melancholy fate (she had once been his wife, and he had once loved her,) he could not deny to himself that he derived a secret joy from the thought, that now his hopes with reference to Sophia Franklin were not without some foundation. Acting upon this impulse, he had taken the earliest opportunity to call upon the young lady; and at that interview, he had with his customary frankness, related to her his entire history, and concluded his narrative by making her an offer of his hand and heart—and, reader, that honorable offer was accepted with the same frankness with which it was made. On the evening in question, Frank was enjoying one of those charming tete-a-tetes with his Sophia, which all lovers find so delightful, when the agonizing screams of the suffering Josephine brought him to the room, as we have seen, and he found himself, to his astonishment, standing face to face with the Dead Man and the Doctor.
'Why, blood and fury!' cried the former, a gleam of pleasure passing over his horrid features—'here is the very man of all men upon earth, whom I most desired to see. Sydney, you are welcome.'
'What damnable villainy have you been at now?' demanded Frank, recovering his courage and presence of mind, altho' he had reason to believe that he had fallen into the power of his worst enemy in the world.
'What business is that of yours?' growled the Dead Man—'Suffice it for you to know that my next act of villainy will be your assassination.'
Our hero drew a revolver from his pocket, and levelled it at the villain's head, saying—
'Advance but a step towards me, and you are a dead man indeed—Scoundrel! I am no longer a prisoner in your dungeon vaults, but free, and able to protect myself against your brutal cruelty. Though you are aided by the Doctor, whom I once thought my friend, I fear you not, but dare you to do your worst.'
'You are brave, Sydney,' said the Dead Man, with something like a grim of admiration—'but I hate you, and you must die. From the first moment when I met you in the Dark Vaults, to the present time, I have observed something in you that inspires me with a kind of fear—a moral superiority over my malice and hatred that inflames me with jealous rage. Even when you were in my power, undergoing my trials and tortures, I have observed contempt upon your lip and scorn in your eye. I once called you coward—but you are a man of doubtless courage, and by Satan! I have half a mind to shake hands with you and call you friend.'
During this harangue, Frank had unconsciously lowered his pistol, not suspecting that the long speech was merely a ruse of the Dead Man to spring upon him unawares. While he stood in an attitude poorly calculated for defence, the miscreant suddenly, with the quickness of lightning, sprang upon him, and with irresistible force hurled him to the floor.
But our hero received an aid which was as unexpected as it was welcome; for the Doctor threw himself upon the Dead Man, grappled him by the throat, and nearly strangled him. In vain the ruffian struggled—he was in the grasp of an adversary too powerful and too intrepid to be successfully resisted by him. Panting and breathless, he was soon vanquished by his ancient enemy, who, having tied his arms behind him with a strong cord, regarded him with a look of hatred and contempt.
'Why, Doctor, what means this?' demanded the villain, in astonishment at having been so desperately attacked by one whom he had lately regarded as a friend.
'It means, d——n you,' coolly replied the other—'you have been deceived and foiled. In deserting Mr. Sydney to join your bloody standard, I acted in accordance with a plan which I had formed to entrap and conquer you. I know that as long as I remained the professed friend of Mr. Sydney, you would view me with distrust and fear, and consequently, that you would be always on the alert to guard against any attempt of mine to wreak my vengeance on you. So I professed to become your friend, and pretended to attach myself to your interest, knowing that a good opportunity would thereby be afforded me to frustrate any scheme you might form against the life or safety of Mr. Sydney. You see how well I have succeeded; you are completely in my power, and by G——d, this night shall witness the termination of your bloody and infamous career.'
'You surely will not murder me,' said the Dead Man, frightened by the determined tone and manner of a man whose vengeance he had reason to dread.
'To take your accursed life will be no murder,' replied the Doctor—'you are a thousand times worse than a poisonous reptile or a beast of prey, and to kill you would be but an act of justice. Yet do not flatter yourself with the prospect of an easy and comparatively painless death; I have sworn that you shall die a death of lingering torture, and you will see how well I'll keep my oath. My knowledge as a physician, and natural ingenuity, have furnished me with a glorious method of tormenting you; and although you are a master in the art of torture, you will see how far I have surpassed you.'
'You have, by serving me this trick, proved yourself to be both a liar and a traitor,' remarked the Dead Man, bitterly.
'Any means,' rejoined the Doctor, calmly—'are justifiable in overthrowing such an infernal villain as you are; but I see the motive of your sneer—you wish to enrage me, that I may stab you to the heart at once, and place you beyond the reach of protracted torment. You shall fail in this, for I am cool as ice. Before commencing operations upon you, I must attend professionally to those ladies.'
Mrs. Franklin was easily recovered from her fainting fit;—and the suffering Josephine received at the skillful hands of the Doctor every care and attention which her lamentable case demanded. He pronounced her life in no danger; but alas! her glorious beauty was gone forever—her face was horribly burnt and disfigured, and her brilliant eyes were destroyed; she was stone blind!
Thus it is that the wicked are often the instruments of each other's punishment in this world, as devils are said to torment each other in the next.
The mother and daughter having been properly looked after, Frank Sydney took the Doctor aside, and warmly thanked him for his timely and acceptable aid.
'You have proved yourself to be a true and faithful man,' said he grasping his friend's hand—'and my unjust opinions in regard to you have given place to the highest confidence in your integrity and honor. You have saved my life tonight, and not for the first time. I owe you a debt of gratitude; and from this moment we are sworn friends. You shall share my fortune, and move in a sphere of respectability and worth.'
'Mr. Sydney,' said the Doctor, much affected—'do you remember that night I met you in the Park, and would have robbed you? I was then moneyless and starving. I will not now stop to relate how I became reduced to such abject wretchedness, but I must do myself the justice to say that my downfall was produced by the rascalities of others. Your liberality to me upon that night was an evidence to my mind that the world was not entirely heartless and unjust; and tho' I did not immediately forsake the evil of my ways, yet your kindness softened me, and laid the foundation of my present reformation.—Noble young man, I accept the offer of your friendship with gratitude, but I will not share your fortune. No—my ambition is, to build up a fortune of my own, by laboring in my profession, in which I am skilled. By following a course of strict honor and integrity, I may partially retrieve the errors of my past life.'
'I cannot but commend your resolution,' remarked Frank—'but you must not refuse to accept from me such pecuniary aid as will be necessary to establish you in a respectable and creditable manner.—But in regard to this miscreant here; you actually intend to kill him by slow torture?'
'I do,' replied the Doctor, in a determined manner—'and my only regret is that I cannot protract his sufferings a year. Do not think me cold-blooded or cruel, my dear friend; that villain merits the worst death that man can inflict upon him. If we were to hand him over to the grasp of the law, for his numerous crimes, his infernal ingenuity might enable him to escape. Our only security lies in crushing the reptile while we have him in our trap.'
'I shall not interfere with you in your just punishment of the villain,' said our hero—'but I must decline being present. The enormous crimes he had committed, and the wrongs which I have sustained at his hands, will not allow me to say a single word in his behalf—yet I will not witness his torments.'
'I understand and respect your scruples; I being a physician, such a spectacle cannot affect my nerves.—You will please assist me to place the subject upon this table, and then you can retire.'
They raised the Dead Man from the floor, and placed him on a large table which stood in the centre of the room. Frank then bade the Doctor a temporary farewell, and passing through the hall was about to leave the house, when a servant informed him that Miss Sophia Franklin wished to see him. He joyfully obeyed the summons, and found the young lady in deep distress at the condition of her sister Josephine, and very anxious for an explanation of the terrible cause. Frank stated all he knew of the matter, and we leave him to the task of consoling her, while we witness the operations of the Doctor upon his living subject.
In the first place, he tied the Dead Man down upon the table so firmly, that he could not move a hair's breadth. During this process, the miserable victim, losing all his customary bravado and savage insolence, begged hard to be killed at once, rather than undergo the torments which he dreaded. But the Doctor only laughed, and drew from his pocket a case of surgical instruments; he then produced a small phial, which he held close to his victim's eyes, and bade him examine it narrowly.
'You see,' said he, 'this little phial?—it contains a slow poison of peculiar and fearful power. You shall judge of its effects yourself presently. I will infuse it into your blood, and it will cause you greater agony than melted lead poured upon your heart.'
'For God's sake, Doctor,' cried the wretch,—'spare me that! I have heard you tell of it before. Will nothing move you? Show me mercy, and I will reveal to you many valuable and astounding secrets, known only to me. I will tell you where, within twenty miles of Boston, I have buried over twenty thousand dollars in gold and silver; I will myself lead you to the spot and you shall have it all—all! I will furnish you with a list of fashionable drinking houses in the city, where is sold liquor impregnated with a slow but deadly poison, which in two years will bring on a lingering disease, generally thought to be consumption; this disease always terminates in death, and the whole matter is arranged by physicians, who thus get a constant and extensive practice. I will take you to rooms where persons, under the name of 'secret societies,' privately meet to indulge in the most unnatural and beastly licentiousness. I will prove to you, by ocular demonstration, that in certain cities of the Union, not a letter passes through the post offices, that is not broken open and read, and then re-sealed by a peculiar process—by which means much private information is gained by the police, and the most tremendous secrets often leak out, to the astonishment of the parties concerned. I will communicate to you a method by which the most virtuous and chaste woman can be made wild with desire, and easily overcome. I will show you how to make a man drop dead in the street, without touching him, or using knife or pistol—and not a mark will be found on his person. I will—'
'That'll do,' said the Doctor, dryly—'the matters you have mentioned are mostly no secrets to me; and if your object was to gain time and dissuade me from my purpose, you have signally failed. Villain! your long career of crime is now about to receive its reward. Prayers and entreaties shall not avail you; and to put an end to them, as well as to prevent you from yelling out in your agony—by which people would be attracted hither—I will take the liberty to gag you.'
In forcing the jaws of the Dead Man widely apart, in order to accomplish that purpose, the victim contrived to get one of his tormentor's fingers between his teeth, and it was nearly bitten off ere it could be disengaged. This enraged the Doctor so that he was about to kill his enemy instantly, but he checked himself; and having effectually gagged him, he prepared to commence the terrible ordeal.
Taking a lancet from the case, he made an incision in the subject's right arm; then, in the wound, he poured a few drops of the contents of the phial. The effects were instantaneous and terrible; the poison became infused in every vein of the sufferer's body, and his blood seemed changed to liquid fire; he writhed in mighty agony—his heart leaped madly in his breast, in the intensity of his torment—his brain swam in a sea of fire—his eyes started from their sockets, and blood oozed from every pore of his body.
These awful results were produced by a wonderful chemical preparation, known to but few, and first discovered in the days of the Spanish Inquisition. It was then termed the 'Ordeal of Fire;' and the infernal vengeance of hell itself could not have produced torment more intense or protracted; for though it racked every nerve and sinew in the body, filling the veins with a flood like molten lead, it was comparatively slow in producing death, and kept the sufferer for several hours writhing in all the tortures of the damned.
For two mortal hours the miserable wretch endured the torment; while the Doctor stood over him, viewing him with a fixed gaze and an unmoved heart. Then he removed the gag from the sufferer's mouth, and poured a glass of water down his throat, which temporarily assuaged his agony.
'Doctor,' gasped the dying wretch—'for God's sake stab me to the heart, and end my misery! I am in hell—I am floating in an ocean of fire—my murdered victims are pouring rivers of blazing blood upon me—my soul is in flames—my heart is RED HOT! Ah, kill me—kill me!'
The Doctor, after a moment's deliberation, again took an instrument from his case, and skillfully divided the flesh in the region of the abdomen, making an incision of considerable extent. He then produced a small flask of gunpowder, in the neck of which he inserted a straw filled with the same combustible; and in the end of the straw he fastened a small slip of paper which he had previously prepared with saltpetre. Having made these arrangements, he placed the powder flask completely in the victim's abdomen, leaving the slow match to project slightly from the wound. The Dead Man was perfectly conscious during this horrible process, notwithstanding he suffered the most excruciating pain.
'You are going to blow me to atoms, Doctor,' he with difficulty articulated, as a ghastly smile spread over his hideous features—'I thank you for it; although I hate and curse you in this my dying hour. Grant me a moment longer; if the spirits of the dead are allowed to re-visit the earth, my spirit shall visit you! Ha, ha, ha! In a few seconds, I shall be free from the power of your torture—free to follow you like a shadow through life, free to preside in ghastly horror over your midnight slumbers and to breathe constantly in your ear, curses—curses—curses!'
'Miserable devil, your blood-polluted spirit will be too strongly bound to hell, to wander on earth,' said the Doctor, with a contempt not unmingled with pity. 'Farewell, thou man of many crimes; for the wrongs you have done me, I forgive you, but human and divine justice have demanded this sacrifice.'
He ignited a match, touched it to the paper at the end of the straw, and hastily retreated to the further extremities of the room.
It was an awful moment; slowly the paper burnt towards the straw—so slowly, that the victim of this awful sacrifice had time to vent his dying rage in malignant curses, on himself, his tormentor, and his Maker! The straw is reached—the fire runs down to the powder flask with a low hiss—and then—
Awful was the explosion that followed; the wretch was torn into a hundred pieces; his limbs, his brains, his blood were scattered all about. A portion of the mangled carcass struck the Doctor; the lamp was broken by the shock and darkness prevailed in the room.
The inmates of the house, frightened at the noise, rushed to the scene of the catastrophe with lights. Frank Sydney, Sophia and Mrs. Franklin, as well as several other male and female domestics, entering the apartment, stood aghast at the shocking spectacle presented to their gaze. There stood the Doctor, with folded arms and his face stained with blood; here an arm, here, a blackened mass of flesh; and here, the most horrible object of all, the mutilated and ghastly head, with the same expression of malignant hate upon its hideous features as when those livid lips had last uttered curses!
'The deed is done,' said the Doctor, addressing Sydney, with a grim smile—'justice has its due at last, and the diabolical villain has gone to his final account. Summon some scavenger to collect the vile remains, and bury them in a dung-hill. To give them Christian, decent burial would be treason to man, sacrilege to the Church, and impiety to God!'
Thus perished the 'Dead Man,' a villain so stupendous, so bloodthirsty and so desperate that it may well be doubted whether such a monster ever could have existed. But this diabolical character is not entirely drawn from the author's imagination; neither is it highly exaggerated;—for the annals of crime will afford instances of villainy as deep and as monstrous as any that characterized the career of the 'Dead Man' of our tale. What, for example, can be more awful or incredible than the hideous deed of a noted criminal in France, who, having ensnared a peasant girl in a wood, brutally murdered her, then outraged the corpse, and afterwards ate a part of it? Yet no one will presume to doubt the fact, as it forms a portion of the French criminal records. Humanity shudders at such instances of worse than devilish depravity.
Moreover, to show that we have indulged in no improbabilities in portraying the chief villain of our tale, we assert that a person bearing that name and the same disfigurement of countenance, really existed not two years ago. He was renowned for his many crimes, and was murdered by a former accomplice, in a manner not dissimilar to the death we have assigned to him in the story.