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- The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales - 30/79 -
this roof? Oh, heavens,--what happiness!
But how? Torn from her home. Ruthlessly dragged, perhaps, from her evening devotions, by the hands of a relentless barbarian. Could she forgive him?
He dashed frantically up the stairs. He opened the door.
She was standing beside his couch with averted face.
A strange giddiness overtook him. He sank upon his knees at the threshold.
--Pardon, pardon. My angel, can you forgive me?
A terrible nausea now seemed added to the fearful giddiness. His utterance grew thick and sluggish.
--Speak, speak, enchantress. Forgiveness is all I ask. My Love, my Life!
She did not answer. He staggered to his feet. As he rose, his eyes fell on the pan of burning charcoal. A terrible suspicion flashed across his mind. This giddiness--this nausea. The ignorance of the barbarian. This silence. Oh, merciful heavens! she was dying!
He crawled toward her. He touched her. She fell forward with a lifeless sound upon the floor. He uttered a piercing shriek, and threw himself beside her.
* * * * *
A file of gendarmes, accompanied by the Chef Burke, found him the next morning lying lifeless upon the floor. They laughed brutally--these cruel minions of the law--and disengaged his arm from the waist of the wooden dummy which they had come to reclaim, from the mantua-maker.
Emptying a few bucketfuls of water over his form, they finally succeeded in robbing him, not only of his mistress, but of that Death he had coveted without her.
Ah! we live in a strange world, messieurs.
BY W-LK-E C-LL-NS
The following advertisement appeared in the "Times" of the 17th of June, 1845:--
WANTED.--A few young men for a light, genteel employment. Address J. W., P. 0.
In the same paper, of same date, in another column:--
TO LET.--That commodious and elegant family mansion, No. 27 Limehouse Road, Pultneyville, will be rented low to a respectable tenant if applied for immediately, the family being about to remove to the Continent.
Under the local intelligence, in another column:--
MISSING.--An unknown elderly gentleman a week ago left his lodgings in the Kent Road, since which nothing has been heard of him. He left no trace of his identity except a portmanteau containing a couple of shirts marked "209, Ward."
To find the connection between the mysterious disappearance of the elderly gentleman and the anonymous communication, the relevancy of both these incidents to the letting of a commodious family mansion, and the dead secret involved in the three occurrences, is the task of the writer of this history.
A slim young man with spectacles, a large hat, drab gaiters, and a notebook, sat late that night with a copy of the "Times" before him, and a pencil which he rattled nervously between his teeth in the coffee-room of the Blue Dragon.
MARY JONES'S NARRATIVE
I am upper housemaid to the family that live at No. 27 Limehouse Road, Pultneyville. I have been requested by Mr. Wilkey Collings, which I takes the liberty of here stating is a gentleman born and bred, and has some consideration for the feelings of servants, and is not above rewarding them for their trouble, which is more than you can say for some who ask questions and gets short answers enough, gracious knows, to tell what I know about them. I have been requested to tell my story in my own langwidge, though, being no schollard, mind cannot conceive. I think my master is a brute. Do not know that he has ever attempted to poison my missus,--which is too good for him, and how she ever came to marry him, heart only can tell,--but believe him to be capable of any such hatrosity. Have heard him swear dreadful because of not having his shaving-water at nine o'clock precisely. Do not know whether he ever forged a will or tried to get my missus's property, although, not having confidence in the man, should not be surprised if he had done so. Believe that there was always something mysterious in his conduct. Remember distinctly how the family left home to go abroad. Was putting up my back hair, last Saturday morning, when I heard a ring. Says cook, "That's missus's bell, and mind you hurry or the master 'ill know why." Says I, "Humbly thanking you, mem, but taking advice of them as is competent to give it, I'll take my time." Found missus dressing herself and master growling as usual. Says missus, quite cairn and easy-like, "Mary, we begin to pack to-day." "What for, mem?" says I, taken aback. "What's that hussy asking?" says master from the bedclothes quite savage-like. "For the Continent-- Italy," says missus. "Can you go, Mary?" Her voice was quite gentle and saintlike, but I knew the struggle it cost, and says I, "With you, mem, to India's torrid clime, if required, but with African Gorillas," says I, looking toward the bed, "never." "Leave the room," says master, starting up and catching of his bootjack. "Why, Charles!" says missus, "how you talk!" affecting surprise. "Do go, Mary," says she, slipping a half-crown into my hand. I left the room, scorning to take notice of the odious wretch's conduct.
Cannot say whether my master and missus were ever legally married. What with the dreadful state of morals nowadays and them stories in the circulating libraries, innocent girls don't know into what society they might be obliged to take situations. Never saw missus's marriage certificate, though I have quite accidental-like looked in her desk when open, and would have seen it. Do not know of any lovers missus might have had. Believe she had a liking for John Thomas, footman, for she was always spiteful-like--poor lady--when we were together--though there was nothing between us, as cook well knows, and dare not deny, and missus needn't have been jealous. Have never seen arsenic or Prussian acid in any of the private drawers--but have seen paregoric and camphor. One of my master's friends was a Count Moscow, a Russian papist--which I detested.
THE SLIM YOUNG MAN'S STORY
I am by profession a reporter, and writer for the press. I live at Pultneyville. I have always had a passion for the marvelous, and have been distinguished for my facility in tracing out mysteries, and solving enigmatical occurrences. On the night of the 17th June, 1845, I left my office and walked homeward. The night was bright and starlight. I was revolving in my mind the words of a singular item I had just read in the "Times." I had reached the darkest portion of the road, and found myself mechanically repeating: "An elderly gentleman a week ago left his lodgings on the Kent Road," when suddenly I heard a step behind me.
I turned quickly, with an expression of horror in my face, and by the light of the newly risen moon beheld an elderly gentleman, with green cotton umbrella, approaching me. His hair, which was snow white, was parted over a broad, open forehead. The expression of his face, which was slightly flushed, was that of amiability verging almost upon imbecility. There was a strange, inquiring look about the widely opened mild blue eye,--a look that might have been intensified to insanity or modified to idiocy. As he passed me, he paused and partly turned his face, with a gesture of inquiry. I see him still, his white locks blowing in the evening breeze, his hat a little on the back of his head, and his figure painted in relief against the dark blue sky.
Suddenly he turned his mild eye full upon me. A weak smile played about his thin lips. In a voice which had something of the tremulousness of age and the self-satisfied chuckle of imbecility in it, he asked, pointing to the rising moon, "Why?--Hush!"
He had dodged behind me, and appeared to be looking anxiously down the road. I could feel his aged frame shaking with terror as he laid his thin hands upon my shoulders and faced me in the direction of the supposed danger.
"Hush! did you not hear them coming?"
I listened; there was no sound but the soughing of the roadside trees in the evening wind. I endeavored to reassure him, with such success that in a few moments the old weak smile appeared on his benevolent face.
"Why?"--But the look of interrogation was succeeded by a hopeless blankness.
"Why?" I repeated with assuring accents.
"Why," he said, a gleam of intelligence flickering over his face, "is yonder moon, as she sails in the blue empyrean, casting a flood of light o'er hill and dale, like--Why," he repeated, with a feeble smile, "is yonder moon, as she sails in the blue empyrean"--He hesitated,--stammered,--and gazed at me hopelessly, with the tears
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