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When, or under what circumstances, he renewed his intimacy with Grace I never heard; but within three months after his return, to the utter amazement of all who heard it, the banns of marriage between them were published one Sunday morning. Her father, who was present, started up, and in a voice of fury forbade them; but when the poor
old man went into the vestry after service was over to assign his reasons, he could give none that amounted to a valid prohibition : so the marriage took place.
"“You will repent this,” said Giles to his daughter the evening before the wedding
6“I know it, father,” replied Grace. “I feel that I am about to do something terrible ; but I have no power to resist. Richard has got hold of
If he were to bid me hack my flesh off my bones, I should do it. He marries me, because it is his will. I do not marry him,
nor would I; but when he asked me if I would, I could as soon have trod the air as said anything but the one word he himself breathed into my ear, yes. And ever since I have moved in a sort of waking dream, God help me! for I know I am a doomed woman, though I cannot explain what it is that makes me think so."
Next morning they were married. Such a bride! and such bridegroom! and such a marriage! Richard would not allow any one to accompany them, neither would he himself accompany her, but insisted
upon their meeting at the church door, where she found him waiting. He forbade her to lay aside her widow's weeds; and he was dressed in exactly the same clothes he wore when he went to meet her the morning she was married to Sergeant Wilkinson. Well, the knot was tied, and as they were returning, Richard stopped at the spot where her first husband fell and died in that fatal scuffle. Looking sternly in her face, he said,
66 Grief for the fool who lies buried there, not love for me, has kept you mine till now. There was a time when I would have married you -oh, how gladly!—for love; now I have married you
for your sight is hateful to me —worse: it calls up the past, and makes the horrible future stand before me. Go - treacherous devil! the wedded of two husbands, the wife of neither; and if I could bring down the curse of curses on your head, it should be that your heart may wither as mine has, in hopeless love,- that with a hand you dare not give, you may be tormented with longing desires to bestow it. Go— and quickly, or the thought of what your perfidy has driven me to will make me mad, and I shall be tempted to have thy blood upon my soul.”
Grace, who had stood with her head bent, her hands clasped, and her limbs trembling, while these terrible words were addressed to her, now, without once raising her eyes to look at Richard, slowly withdrew, and returned home.
'She went to her bed, from which she never rose again for three months. A violent fever with delirium came on, and the things she raved about were dreadful to hear. In the end she recovered her health ; but her reason was gone, and that she never recovered. It was a gentle and harmless insanity, which showed itself chiefly in attending every wedding that took place, and presenting the bride with a nosegay composed of wild flowers. This she never failed to do, till at last Grace Amos (for the people continued to call her by her maiden name) was as regularly looked for in the churchyard -(the church itself
nothing could induce her to enter) – when there was a marriage, as the young couple who were going to be married. Her poor father died soon afterwards, and the little property he left was applied to her maintenance by a friend of the family; but gradually it wasted away; and gradually, too, charity, which at first supplied its place, wasted away, and grew cold and scant; and then poor Grace had no home but the workhouse. But, as I have said, this was only during the winter months; for the moment there were flowers to be seen she would beg to be let out, and she supported herself during the spring, summer, and autumn, by gathering and selling them.'
* And what became of the wretch who brought her to this condition ? inquired Mrs. Dagleish.
* At first,' said the Major, ‘he tried to bear up against the general scorn and indignation which his treatment of her excited ; but it would not do. He was shunned by every one ; his school went to decay; and at the end of a few years he left the place.
Grace Amos, who lived to be nearly seventy, had been dead about two
years, when one winter's evening my father was called out to visit an old gentleman who was staying at the principal inn, where he arrived only the day before. He went, and was shown into a room lighted with six large wax candles. On a sofa near the fire was lying the person who had sent for him, wrapped up in a black velvet cloak trimmed with sable fur, and seemingly in the last stage of debility. His hair was silver white, and hung loosely over his face and shoulders ; a beard of the same colour descended to his breast. His face was wrinkled, his voice feeble, and everything about him denoted extreme age and decay, except his large prominent black eyes, which were full of youthful fire, and glanced incessantly round the room with a restless expression, that led my father to conclude he had a case of lunacy to deal with.
When they were alone, the stranger inquired how long my father had lived in the town.
"Nearly twenty years," said he.
• The stranger seemed to be considering for a moment how far that would carry him back.
““ Forty years ago,” he continued, looking steadfastly at my father, “there lived in this place two persons whom I knew well
. They were before your time ; but perhaps you may have heard something of them,Richard Warbeck and Grace Amos ?"
"I certainly have heard of both," replied my father, astonished at this address, “and one of them I knew, Grace Amos. The poor old creature died in the workhouse hard by, not more than two years since.”
"“ Dead!" murmured the old man to himself, as he lay with bis eyes closed, “ dead! There is a comfort in that word which I can never know!" And he groaned heavily. “Now she is mistress of my secret. Only two years,” he continued.
*** Not more," replied my father. “But happy had it been for her, poor soul, had she died when that Richard Warbeck you spoke of betrayed her into a false marriage with himself. That was a foul business, I have heard."
«« It was: but I was the fiend's—I was the fiend's, and had pawned my soul to him for revenge! Look here(pointing to the knotted
sinews of his right hand)—this is his mark. I pawned my soul, I say, for revenge, and I must surrender myself to him, if you cannot find a way to save me.”
"“I!" said my father, who supposed he was raving. “What can I do ?”
"“Give me a strong poison-one that will lay me in the grave. But where can such a one be found ? I have sought it through the world in vain.”
"“ Compose yourself,” said my father, who still believed it to be a case of mental delusion," and I doubt not I shall be able to give you some relief from these sufferings." Kill me,
and you may,” said the old man, “else not. It is death I want-death, not life. I will give you wealth beyond your utmost need, if you can send me to my grave. One year, five months, eleven days, and six hours you have to do it in. What say you? Are you so skilled in medicine, think you, that you can compound a poison potent enough to quench the spark of life that still flickers within ? You know St. Nicholas' churchyard ?"
““ Certainly,” said my father. “I live in St. Nicholas' parish.” ""Well
, then,” replied the old man, with a deep sigh, " to sum up all in a few words, let there be (speedily, if possible, but at any rate before the expiration of one year, five months, eleven days, and six hours—I count the time by hours) a grave digged in St. Nicholas' churchyard. In that grave let me be laid, and for my epitaph nothing more than 'Rich
VARBECK,' and I will make you master of all I have." « « Richard Warbeck!” exclaimed my father.
(“I am he! You think me mad. Hear how calmly I can talk. Mark how rationally I will discourse, and tell you of things. ----some of which you know, others you may have heard that shall convince you
I am the person I say."
* The old man, after resting a few moments to recover from his agitation, proceeded to relate such matters connected with himself, his own early life, the former inhabitants of the town, Grace Amos, the death of Sergeant Wilkinson, and various other things, as satisfied my father that he was really and truly no other than Richard Warbeck.
• When Richard had finished, --for Richard it was observed Major Grooby, “and such I shall now call him,-he imposed one condition upon my father, and received from him the most solemn assurance that he would observe it, viz. to keep his secret.
““I would not,” said he, “ be known to the living generation. Let me therefore pass among ye, until I pass away, (and a shudder came over him as he spoke the words,) for Mr. Glencowe, the rich East India merchant, who has ruined his health in amassing riches abroad, and has come here by the advice of his physicians, to retrieve it."
“It was under that name I knew him when a boy; a tall, thin, palefaced, hollow-eyed, and grey-headed old man, limping about upon crutches. My father attended him regularly, and was congratulated (not envied, of course,) by his professional brethren, upon having such a rich old fellow for a patient: one, too, who seemed likely enough to last a reasonable time, provided he was physicked judiciously.
* In the course of his attendance, he learned from time to time most of the particulars I have related; but I do not think he ever gave up his
opinion that everything Richard told him respecting his compact with the devil was the effect of insanity. He was forced, however, to pretend otherwise; for I have heard him say it was dreadful to behold the wretched man's sufferings whenever he found him incredulous upon that point. He had no particular bodily ailment that required medicine, but drugs of a harmless kind were daily administered, which he greedily swallowed, believing they were a slow poison, of certain efficacy, prepared by my father after much labour and research.
* The one year, five months, eleven days, and six hours, had dwindled down to the eleven days only, and Richard became an object ghastly and fearful to look upon. He had no suspicion of the deception my father was practising; he only feared his efforts would be unavailing within the prescribed time. He would roll and writhe about till the perspiration fell in large drops from his face, and scream at each contortion, as if every sinew were being wrenched from its place. To allay these sufferings, my father once or twice administered opium in very large quantities; but it did not seem to possess the slightest narcotic influence. Richard, who knew what it was from the taste, used to complain bitterly of giving him " that baby drug,” which, he said, he had swallowed again and again, in doses sufficient to kill a hundred men, with the same impunity that he would have drunk a glass of water.
* At length came the morning of the eleventh day, and my father visited him early, resolving not to quit him for a single moment till sis hours after midnight, that he might observe every changing symptom of his malady, and be at hand to employ promptly such remedies as he might consider necessary. When he arrived, he found Richard in a deep sleep, breathing gently, and a faint colour in his cheeks. The nurse said he had been in that state the whole night, almost without motion, and showing scarcely any other sign of life but that of a soft, quick respiration. My father felt his pulse. It beat firm and full under his finger.
• “ This is miraculous,” said he,—“ it confounds me! Nature is working mysteriously, for some end which I cannot explain ; let us watch patiently for the result.”
* They did so. All that day till sunset Richard continued in the same death-like slumber; for, except that he breathed, and that his pulse beat, and his cheek retained its tinge of red, he might have passed for one who had already ceased to live.
• It was summer time. The sun had gone down. The clock struck nine-ten-eleven. My father was still sitting by his side, holding his hand, with his finger upon his pulse, and labouring under the most exciting feelings, when suddenly Richard awoke, raised himself up, and looking upon vacancy, said in a low, firm voice, " I know it-I must be there --I come.”
"As he uttered these words, to the amazement of my father and the nurse, he stood upon his feet, without requiring any assistance, or the support of his crutches, a thing he had not been able to do before for several months.
"“I have had revealed to me in sleep,” he continued, “why this strength is given. It is, that I may go alone whither I must go before the clock strikes twelve. The hour I have been running from for so many years has come at last.”
No," said my father, "this is only the eleventh day that is drawing to a close. There will then be six hours.”
« «You are right,” interrupted Richard.“ Tarry here those six hours for my return."
""Where would you go?”—“ To the porch of St. Nicholas' church.” «“What to do ?”—“Keep my word.” «“When was it given ?"_" Fifty years ago—exactly fifty years ago.” "“ Must you go alone ?”—“ Yes.
Say you will remain here another half hour, and I will not oppose your going.” «« Will not ?—you cannot. An angel could not pluck me from per
This you will see. You have already seen that you have no power over my life. I placed it in your hands ; besought you to rid me of it; tempted you with wealth ; entreated you with tears; implored you
efforts failed.” "“ Yes,” said my father ; “ I do acknowledge that none of the means I tried succeeded; but I have not exhausted my art—I did not wish to do so ; I clung to the hope that it might not be necessary, and I reserved for the last moment—if the necessity could no longer be doubted—a potion of such deadly quality, that a single drop is .sufficient to destroy life.”
"“ Man !” exclaimed Richard, clutching my father fiercely by the arm, and looking at him with a countenance violently agitated, “ do not trifle with me now! I am past that. If you speak truth, I'll kneel and worship you. If false, may that hell which is gaping for me be your portion also. Have you this potion about you ?"
6« I have.” “Give it me!-give it me, I say !" and he grasped my father's throat with both his hands. “ Minutes are precious with me now."
““ It requires a little preparation,” said my father, evincing no alarm at Richard's violent manner.
" Sit down. Compose yourself. I will get it ready."
'In less than half a minute my father returned with a small phial in his hand, containing a transparent yellow fluid.
"“ I tremble to think what I am about,” said he. Wait in this room until
you hear St. Nicholas' clock strike twelve, and the evil spell that is upon you will be destroyed.”
"" Do you think I would not do so if I could ?” he asked, in a tone of such utter misery and despair, that it went to my father's heart. “ Have pity on me !” he continued, stretching out his hands for the phial, and bursting into tears.
"“ But twenty seconds more,” said my father, “and I yield.'
• As he uttered these words, with his eyes still upon the timepiece, he slowly drew the cork from the phial, which Richard, by à sudden spring, snatched from his hands, and draining its contents, broke out into a wild screaming laugh, as he flung the empty bottle from him. ““ Rash man!” exclaimed my father, “what is it you
have done ?" "Traitor !" cried Richard, “what is it you have done ? Betrayed me to the fiend! There he stands! There! With that devilish mock upon his countenance which he wore fifty years ago, when he clasped my hand, and by this token made me his. There goes the hour, too! Hark! St. Nicholas's strikes! How the deep booming of that bell crushes my brain! One! two! three !-I am on fire!-four ! five ! six !