Chapter 2 Story of the physician and the saratoga trunk
MR. SILAS Q. SCUDDAMORE was a young American of a simple and harmles_isposition, which was the more to his credit as he came from New England - _uarter of the New World not precisely famous for those qualities. Although h_as exceedingly rich, he kept a note of all his expenses in a little pape_ocket-book; and he had chosen to study the attractions of Paris from th_eventh story of what is called a furnished hotel, in the Latin Quarter. Ther_as a great deal of habit in his penuriousness; and his virtue, which was ver_emarkable among his associates, was principally founded upon diffidence an_outh.
The next room to his was inhabited by a lady, very attractive in her air an_ery elegant in toilette, whom, on his first arrival, he had taken for _ountess. In course of time he had learned that she was known by the name o_adame Zephyrine, and that whatever station she occupied in life it was no_hat of a person of title. Madame Zephyrine, probably in the hope o_nchanting the young American, used to flaunt by him on the stairs with _ivil inclination, a word of course, and a knock-down look out of her blac_yes, and disappear in a rustle of silk, and with the revelation of a_dmirable foot and ankle. But these advances, so far from encouraging Mr.
Scuddamore, plunged him into the depths of depression and bashfulness. She ha_ome to him several times for a light, or to apologise for the imaginar_epredations of her poodle; but his mouth was closed in the presence of s_uperior a being, his French promptly left him, and he could only stare an_tammer until she was gone. The slenderness of their intercourse did no_revent him from throwing out insinuations of a very glorious order when h_as safely alone with a few males.
The room on the other side of the American's - for there were three rooms on _loor in the hotel - was tenanted by an old English physician of rathe_oubtful reputation. Dr. Noel, for that was his name, had been forced to leav_ondon, where he enjoyed a large and increasing practice; and it was hinte_hat the police had been the instigators of this change of scene. At least he, who had made something of a figure in earlier life, now dwelt in the Lati_uarter in great simplicity and solitude, and devoted much of his time t_tudy. Mr. Scuddamore had made his acquaintance, and the pair would now an_hen dine together frugally in a restaurant across the street.
Silas Q. Scuddamore had many little vices of the more respectable order, an_as not restrained by delicacy from indulging them in many rather doubtfu_ays. Chief among his foibles stood curiosity. He was a born gossip; and life, and especially those parts of it in which he had no experience, interested hi_o the degree of passion. He was a pert, invincible questioner, pushing hi_nquiries with equal pertinacity and indiscretion; he had been observed, whe_e took a letter to the post, to weigh it in his hand, to turn it over an_ver, and to study the address with care; and when he found a flaw in th_artition between his room and Madame Zephyrine's, instead of filling it up, he enlarged and improved the opening, and made use of it as a spy-hole on hi_eighbour's affairs.
One day, in the end of March, his curiosity growing as it was indulged, h_nlarged the hole a little further, so that he might command another corner o_he room. That evening, when he went as usual to inspect Madame Zephyrine'_ovements, he was astonished to find the aperture obscured in an odd manner o_he other side, and still more abashed when the obstacle was suddenl_ithdrawn and a titter of laughter reached his ears. Some of the plaster ha_vidently betrayed the secret of his spy-hole, and his neighbour had bee_eturning the compliment in kind. Mr. Scuddamore was moved to a very acut_eeling of annoyance; he condemned Madame Zephyrine unmercifully; he eve_lamed himself; but when he found, next day, that she had taken no means t_aulk him of his favourite pastime, he continued to profit by he_arelessness, and gratify his idle curiosity.
That next day Madame Zephyrine received a long visit from a tall, loosely- built man of fifty or upwards, whom Silas had not hitherto seen. His twee_uit and coloured shirt, no less than his shaggy side-whiskers, identified hi_s a Britisher, and his dull grey eye affected Silas with a sense of cold. H_ept screwing his mouth from side to side and round and round during the whol_olloquy, which was carried on in whispers. More than once it seemed to th_oung New Englander as if their gestures indicated his own apartment; but th_nly thing definite he could gather by the most scrupulous attention was thi_emark made by the Englishman in a somewhat higher key, as if in answer t_ome reluctance or opposition.
"I have studied his taste to a nicety, and I tell you again and again you ar_he only woman of the sort that I can lay my hands on."
In answer to this, Madame Zephyrine sighed, and appeared by a gesture t_esign herself, like one yielding to unqualified authority.
That afternoon the observatory was finally blinded, a wardrobe having bee_rawn in front of it upon the other side; and while Silas was still lamentin_ver this misfortune, which he attributed to the Britisher's malig_uggestion, the concierge brought him up a letter in a female handwriting. I_as conceived in French of no very rigorous orthography, bore no signature, and in the most encouraging terms invited the young American to be present i_ certain part of the Bullier Ball at eleven o'clock that night. Curiosity an_imidity fought a long battle in his heart; sometimes he was all virtue, sometimes all fire and daring; and the result of it was that, long before ten, Mr. Silas Q. Scuddamore presented himself in unimpeachable attire at the doo_f the Bullier Ball Rooms, and paid his entry money with a sense of reckles_evilry that was not without its charm.
It was Carnival time, and the Ball was very full and noisy. The lights and th_rowd at first rather abashed our young adventurer, and then, mounting to hi_rain with a sort of intoxication, put him in possession of more than his ow_hare of manhood. He felt ready to face the devil, and strutted in th_allroom with the swagger of a cavalier. While he was thus parading, he becam_ware of Madame Zephyrine and her Britisher in conference behind a pillar. Th_at-like spirit of eaves-dropping overcame him at once. He stole nearer an_earer on the couple from behind, until he was within earshot.
"That is the man," the Britisher was saying; "there - with the long blond hair - speaking to a girl in green."
Silas identified a very handsome young fellow of small stature, who wa_lainly the object of this designation.
"It is well," said Madame Zephyrine. "I shall do my utmost. But, remember, th_est of us may fail in such a matter."
"Tut!" returned her companion; "I answer for the result. Have I not chosen yo_rom thirty? Go; but be wary of the Prince. I cannot think what curse_ccident has brought him here to-night. As if there were not a dozen balls i_aris better worth his notice than this riot of students and counter-jumpers!
See him where he sits, more like a reigning Emperor at home than a Prince upo_is holidays!"
Silas was again lucky. He observed a person of rather a full build, strikingl_andsome, and of a very stately and courteous demeanour, seated at table wit_nother handsome young man, several years his junior, who addressed him wit_onspicuous deference. The name of Prince struck gratefully on Silas'_epublican hearing, and the aspect of the person to whom that name was applie_xercised its usual charm upon his mind. He left Madame Zephyrine and he_nglishman to take care of each other, and threading his way through th_ssembly, approached the table which the Prince and his confidant had honoure_ith their choice.
"I tell you, Geraldine," the former was saying, "the action is madness.
Yourself (I am glad to remember it) chose your brother for this perilou_ervice, and you are bound in duty to have a guard upon his conduct. He ha_onsented to delay so many days in Paris; that was already an imprudence, considering the character of the man he has to deal with; but now, when he i_ithin eight-and- forty hours of his departure, when he is within two or thre_ays of the decisive trial, I ask you, is this a place for him to spend hi_ime? He should be in a gallery at practice; he should be sleeping long hour_nd taking moderate exercise on foot; he should be on a rigorous diet, withou_hite wines or brandy. Does the dog imagine we are all playing comedy? Th_hing is deadly earnest, Geraldine."
"I know the lad too well to interfere," replied Colonel Geraldine, "and wel_nough not to be alarmed. He is more cautious than you fancy, and of a_ndomitable spirit. If it had been a woman I should not say so much, but _rust the President to him and the two valets without an instant'_pprehension."
"I am gratified to hear you say so," replied the Prince; "but my mind is no_t rest. These servants are well-trained spies, and already has not thi_iscreant succeeded three times in eluding their observation and spendin_everal hours on end in private, and most likely dangerous, affairs? A_mateur might have lost him by accident, but if Rudolph and Jerome were throw_ff the scent, it must have been done on purpose, and by a man who had _ogent reason and exceptional resources."
"I believe the question is now one between my brother and myself," replie_eraldine, with a shade of offence in his tone.
"I permit it to be so, Colonel Geraldine," returned Prince Florizel. "Perhaps, for that very reason, you should be all the more ready to accept my counsels.
But enough. That girl in yellow dances well."
And the talk veered into the ordinary topics of a Paris ballroom in th_arnival.
Silas remembered where he was, and that the hour was already near at hand whe_e ought to be upon the scene of his assignation. The more he reflected th_ess he liked the prospect, and as at that moment an eddy in the crowd bega_o draw him in the direction of the door, he suffered it to carry him awa_ithout resistance. The eddy stranded him in a corner under the gallery, wher_is ear was immediately struck with the voice of Madame Zephyrine. She wa_peaking in French with the young man of the blond locks who had been pointe_ut by the strange Britisher not half-an-hour before.
"I have a character at stake," she said, "or I would put no other conditio_han my heart recommends. But you have only to say so much to the porter, an_e will let you go by without a word."
"But why this talk of debt?" objected her companion.
"Heavens!" said she, "do you think I do not understand my own hotel?"
And she went by, clinging affectionately to her companion's arm.
This put Silas in mind of his billet.
"Ten minutes hence," thought he, "and I may be walking with as beautiful _oman as that, and even better dressed - perhaps a real lady, possibly a woma_r title."
And then he remembered the spelling, and was a little downcast.
"But it may have been written by her maid," he imagined.
The clock was only a few minutes from the hour, and this immediate proximit_et his heart beating at a curious and rather disagreeable speed. He reflecte_ith relief that he was in no way bound to put in an appearance. Virtue an_owardice were together, and he made once more for the door, but this time o_is own accord, and battling against the stream of people which was now movin_n a contrary direction. Perhaps this prolonged resistance wearied him, o_erhaps he was in that frame of mind when merely to continue in the sam_etermination for a certain number of minutes produces a reaction and _ifferent purpose. Certainly, at least, he wheeled about for a third time, an_id not stop until he had found a place of concealment within a few yards o_he appointed place.
Here he went through an agony of spirit, in which he several times prayed t_od for help, for Silas had been devoutly educated. He had now not the leas_nclination for the meeting; nothing kept him from flight but a silly fea_est he should be thought unmanly; but this was so powerful that it kept hea_gainst all other motives; and although it could not decide him to advance, prevented him from definitely running away. At last the clock indicated te_inutes past the hour. Young Scuddamore's spirit began to rise; he peere_ound the corner and saw no one at the place of meeting; doubtless his unknow_orrespondent had wearied and gone away. He became as bold as he had formerl_een timid. It seemed to him that if he came at all to the appointment, however late, he was clear from the charge of cowardice. Nay, now he began t_uspect a hoax, and actually complimented himself on his shrewdness in havin_uspected and outmanoeuvred his mystifiers. So very idle a thing is a boy'_ind!
Armed with these reflections, he advanced boldly from his corner; but he ha_ot taken above a couple of steps before a hand was laid upon his arm. H_urned and beheld a lady cast in a very large mould and with somewhat statel_eatures, but bearing no mark of severity in her looks.
"I see that you are a very self-confident lady-killer," said she; "for yo_ake yourself expected. But I was determined to meet you. When a woman ha_nce so far forgotten herself as to make the first advance, she has long ag_eft behind her all considerations of petty pride."
Silas was overwhelmed by the size and attractions of his correspondent and th_uddenness with which she had fallen upon him. But she soon set him at hi_ase. She was very towardly and lenient in her behaviour; she led him on t_ake pleasantries, and then applauded him to the echo; and in a very shor_ime, between blandishments and a liberal exhibition of warm brandy, she ha_ot only induced him to fancy himself in love, but to declare his passion wit_he greatest vehemence.
"Alas!" she said; "I do not know whether I ought not to deplore this moment, great as is the pleasure you give me by your words. Hitherto I was alone t_uffer; now, poor boy, there will be two. I am not my own mistress. I dare no_sk you to visit me at my own house, for I am watched by jealous eyes. Let m_ee," she added; "I am older than you, although so much weaker; and while _rust in your courage and determination, I must employ my own knowledge of th_orld for our mutual benefit. Where do you live?"
He told her that he lodged in a furnished hotel, and named the street an_umber.
She seemed to reflect for some minutes, with an effort of mind.
"I see," she said at last. "You will be faithful and obedient, will you not?"
Silas assured her eagerly of his fidelity.
"To-morrow night, then," she continued, with an encouraging smile, "you mus_emain at home all the evening; and if any friends should visit you, dismis_hem at once on any pretext that most readily presents itself. Your door i_robably shut by ten?" she asked.
"By eleven," answered Silas.
"At a quarter past eleven," pursued the lady, "leave the house. Merely cry fo_he door to be opened, and be sure you fall into no talk with the porter, a_hat might ruin everything. Go straight to the corner where the Luxembour_ardens join the Boulevard; there you will find me waiting you. I trust you t_ollow my advice from point to point: and remember, if you fail me in only on_articular, you will bring the sharpest trouble on a woman whose only fault i_o have seen and loved you."
"I cannot see the use of all these instructions," said Silas.
"I believe you are already beginning to treat me as a master," she cried, tapping him with her fan upon the arm. "Patience, patience! that should com_n time. A woman loves to be obeyed at first, although afterwards she find_er pleasure in obeying. Do as I ask you, for Heaven's sake, or I will answe_or nothing. Indeed, now I think of it," she added, with the manner of one wh_as just seen further into a difficulty, "I find a better plan of keepin_mportunate visitors away. Tell the porter to admit no one for you, except _erson who may come that night to claim a debt; and speak with some feeling, as though you feared the interview, so that he may take your words i_arnest."
"I think you may trust me to protect myself against intruders," he said, no_ithout a little pique.
"That is how I should prefer the thing arranged," she answered coldly. "I kno_ou men; you think nothing of a woman's reputation."
Silas blushed and somewhat hung his head; for the scheme he had in view ha_nvolved a little vain-glorying before his acquaintances.
"Above all," she added, "do not speak to the porter as you come out."
"And why?" said he. "Of all your instructions, that seems to me the leas_mportant."
"You at first doubted the wisdom of some of the others, which you now see t_e very necessary," she replied. "Believe me, this also has its uses; in tim_ou will see them; and what am I to think of your affection, if you refuse m_uch trifles at our first interview?"
Silas confounded himself in explanations and apologies; in the middle of thes_he looked up at the clock and clapped her hands together with a suppresse_cream.
"Heavens!" she cried, "is it so late? I have not an instant to lose. Alas, w_oor women, what slaves we are! What have I not risked for you already?"
And after repeating her directions, which she artfully combined with caresse_nd the most abandoned looks, she bade him farewell and disappeared among th_rowd.
The whole of the next day Silas was filled with a sense of great importance; he was now sure she was a countess; and when evening came he minutely obeye_er orders and was at the corner of the Luxembourg Gardens by the hou_ppointed. No one was there. He waited nearly half-an-hour, looking in th_ace of every one who passed or loitered near the spot; he even visited th_eighbouring corners of the Boulevard and made a complete circuit of th_arden railings; but there was no beautiful countess to throw herself into hi_rms. At last, and most reluctantly, he began to retrace his steps towards hi_otel. On the way he remembered the words he had heard pass between Madam_ephyrine and the blond young man, and they gave him an indefinite uneasiness.
"It appears," he reflected, "that every one has to tell lies to our porter."
He rang the bell, the door opened before him, and the porter in his bed- clothes came to offer him a light.
"Has he gone?" inquired the porter.
"He? Whom do you mean?" asked Silas, somewhat sharply, for he was irritated b_is disappointment.
"I did not notice him go out," continued the porter, "but I trust you pai_im. We do not care, in this house, to have lodgers who cannot meet thei_iabilities."
"What the devil do you mean?" demanded Silas rudely. "I cannot understand _ord of this farrago."
"The short blond young man who came for his debt," returned the other. "Him i_s I mean. Who else should it be, when I had your orders to admit no on_lse?"
"Why, good God, of course he never came," retorted Silas.
"I believe what I believe," returned the porter, putting his tongue into hi_heek with a most roguish air.
"You are an insolent scoundrel," cried Silas, and, feeling that he had made _idiculous exhibition of asperity, and at the same time bewildered by a doze_larms, he turned and began to run upstairs.
"Do you not want a light then?" cried the porter.
But Silas only hurried the faster, and did not pause until he had reached th_eventh landing and stood in front of his own door. There he waited a momen_o recover his breath, assailed by the worst forebodings and almost dreadin_o enter the room.
When at last he did so he was relieved to find it dark, and to all appearance, untenanted. He drew a long breath. Here he was, home again in safety, and thi_hould be his last folly as certainly as it had been his first. The matche_tood on a little table by the bed, and he began to grope his way in tha_irection. As he moved, his apprehensions grew upon him once more, and he wa_leased, when his foot encountered an obstacle, to find it nothing mor_larming than a chair. At last he touched curtains. From the position of th_indow, which was faintly visible, he knew he must be at the foot of the bed, and had only to feel his way along it in order to reach the table in question.
He lowered his hand, but what it touched was not simply a counterpane - it wa_ counterpane with something underneath it like the outline of a human leg.
Silas withdrew his arm and stood a moment petrified.
"What, what," he thought, "can this betoken?"
He listened intently, but there was no sound of breathing. Once more, with _reat effort, he reached out the end of his finger to the spot he had alread_ouched; but this time he leaped back half a yard, and stood shivering an_ixed with terror. There was something in his bed. What it was he knew not, but there was something there.
It was some seconds before he could move. Then, guided by an instinct, he fel_traight upon the matches, and keeping his back towards the bed lighted _andle. As soon as the flame had kindled, he turned slowly round and looke_or what he feared to see. Sure enough, there was the worst of hi_maginations realised. The coverlid was drawn carefully up over the pillow, but it moulded the outline of a human body lying motionless; and when h_ashed forward and flung aside the sheets, he beheld the blond young man who_e had seen in the Bullier Ball the night before, his eyes open and withou_peculation, his face swollen and blackened, and a thin stream of bloo_rickling from his nostrils.
Silas uttered a long, tremulous wail, dropped the candle, and fell on hi_nees beside the bed.
Silas was awakened from the stupor into which his terrible discovery ha_lunged him by a prolonged but discreet tapping at the door. It took him som_econds to remember his position; and when he hastened to prevent anyone fro_ntering it was already too late. Dr. Noel, in a tall night-cap, carrying _amp which lighted up his long white countenance, sidling in his gait, an_eering and cocking his head like some sort of bird, pushed the door slowl_pen, and advanced into the middle of the room.
"I thought I heard a cry," began the Doctor, "and fearing you might be unwel_ did not hesitate to offer this intrusion."
Silas, with a flushed face and a fearful beating heart, kept between th_octor and the bed; but he found no voice to answer.
"You are in the dark," pursued the Doctor; "and yet you have not even begun t_repare for rest. You will not easily persuade me against my own eyesight; an_our face declares most eloquently that you require either a friend or _hysician - which is it to be? Let me feel your pulse, for that is often _ust reporter of the heart."
He advanced to Silas, who still retreated before him backwards, and sought t_ake him by the wrist; but the strain on the young American's nerves ha_ecome too great for endurance. He avoided the Doctor with a febrile movement, and, throwing himself upon the floor, burst into a flood of weeping.
As soon as Dr. Noel perceived the dead man in the bed his face darkened; an_urrying back to the door which he had left ajar, he hastily closed an_ouble-locked it.
"Up!" he cried, addressing Silas in strident tones; "this is no time fo_eeping. What have you done? How came this body in your room? Speak freely t_ne who may be helpful. Do you imagine I would ruin you? Do you think thi_iece of dead flesh on your pillow can alter in any degree the sympathy wit_hich you have inspired me? Credulous youth, the horror with which blind an_njust law regards an action never attaches to the doer in the eyes of thos_ho love him; and if I saw the friend of my heart return to me out of seas o_lood he would be in no way changed in my affection. Raise yourself," he said;
"good and ill are a chimera; there is nought in life except destiny, an_owever you may be circumstanced there is one at your side who will help yo_o the last."
Thus encouraged, Silas gathered himself together, and in a broken voice, an_elped out by the Doctor's interrogations, contrived at last to put him i_ossession of the facts. But the conversation between the Prince and Geraldin_e altogether omitted, as he had understood little of its purport, and had n_dea that it was in any way related to his own misadventure.
"Alas!" cried Dr. Noel, "I am much abused, or you have fallen innocently int_he most dangerous hands in Europe. Poor boy, what a pit has been dug for you_implicity! into what a deadly peril have your unwary feet been conducted!
This man," he said, "this Englishman, whom you twice saw, and whom I suspec_o be the soul of the contrivance, can you describe him? Was he young or old?
tall or short?"
But Silas, who, for all his curiosity, had not a seeing eye in his head, wa_ble to supply nothing but meagre generalities, which it was impossible t_ecognise.
"I would have it a piece of education in all schools!" cried the Docto_ngrily. "Where is the use of eyesight and articulate speech if a man canno_bserve and recollect the features of his enemy? I, who know all the gangs o_urope, might have identified him, and gained new weapons for your defence.
Cultivate this art in future, my poor boy; you may find it of momentou_ervice."
"The future!" repeated Silas. "What future is there left for me except th_allows?"
"Youth is but a cowardly season," returned the Doctor; "and a man's ow_roubles look blacker than they are. I am old, and yet I never despair."
"Can I tell such a story to the police?" demanded Silas.
"Assuredly not," replied the Doctor. "From what I see already of th_achination in which you have been involved, your case is desperate upon tha_ide; and for the narrow eye of the authorities you are infallibly the guilt_erson. And remember that we only know a portion of the plot; and the sam_nfamous contrivers have doubtless arranged many other circumstances whic_ould be elicited by a police inquiry, and help to fix the guilt mor_ertainly upon your innocence."
"I am then lost, indeed!" cried Silas.
"I have not said so," answered Dr. Noel "for I am a cautious man."
"But look at this!" objected Silas, pointing to the body. "Here is this objec_n my bed; not to be explained, not to be disposed of, not to be regarde_ithout horror."
"Horror?" replied the Doctor. "No. When this sort of clock has run down, it i_o more to me than an ingenious piece of mechanism, to be investigated wit_he bistoury. When blood is once cold and stagnant, it is no longer huma_lood; when flesh is once dead, it is no longer that flesh which we desire i_ur lovers and respect in our friends. The grace, the attraction, the terror, have all gone from it with the animating spirit. Accustom yourself to loo_pon it with composure; for if my scheme is practicable you will have to liv_ome days in constant proximity to that which now so greatly horrifies you."
"Your scheme?" cried Silas. "What is that? Tell me speedily, Doctor; for _ave scarcely courage enough to continue to exist."
Without replying, Doctor Noel turned towards the bed, and proceeded to examin_he corpse.
"Quite dead," he murmured. "Yes, as I had supposed, the pockets empty. Yes, and the name cut off the shirt. Their work has been done thoroughly and well.
Fortunately, he is of small stature."
Silas followed these words with an extreme anxiety. At last the Doctor, hi_utopsy completed, took a chair and addressed the young American with a smile.
"Since I came into your room," said he, "although my ears and my tongue hav_een so busy, I have not suffered my eyes to remain idle. I noted a littl_hile ago that you have there, in the corner, one of those monstrou_onstructions which your fellow- countrymen carry with them into all quarter_f the globe - in a word, a Saratoga trunk. Until this moment I have neve_een able to conceive the utility of these erections; but then I began to hav_ glimmer. Whether it was for convenience in the slave trade, or to obviat_he results of too ready an employment of the bowie- knife, I cannot brin_yself to decide. But one thing I see plainly - the object of such a box is t_ontain a human body.
"Surely," cried Silas, "surely this is not a time for jesting."
"Although I may express myself with some degree of pleasantry," replied th_octor, "the purport of my words is entirely serious. And the first thing w_ave to do, my young friend, is to empty your coffer of all that it contains."
Silas, obeying the authority of Doctor Noel, put himself at his disposition.
The Saratoga trunk was soon gutted of its contents, which made a considerabl_itter on the floor; and then - Silas taking the heels and the Docto_upporting the shoulders - the body of the murdered man was carried from th_ed, and, after some difficulty, doubled up and inserted whole into the empt_ox. With an effort on the part of both, the lid was forced down upon thi_nusual baggage, and the trunk was locked and corded by the Doctor's own hand, while Silas disposed of what had been taken out between the closet and a ches_f drawers.
"Now," said the Doctor, "the first step has been taken on the way to you_eliverance. To-morrow, or rather to-day, it must be your task to allay th_uspicions of your porter, paying him all that you owe; while you may trust m_o make the arrangements necessary to a safe conclusion. Meantime, follow m_o my room, where I shall give you a safe and powerful opiate; for, whateve_ou do, you must have rest."
The next day was the longest in Silas's memory; it seemed as if it would neve_e done. He denied himself to his friends, and sat in a corner with his eye_ixed upon the Saratoga trunk in dismal contemplation. His own forme_ndiscretions were now returned upon him in kind; for the observatory had bee_nce more opened, and he was conscious of an almost continual study fro_adame Zephyrine's apartment. So distressing did this become, that he was a_ast obliged to block up the spy-hole from his own side; and when he was thu_ecured from observation he spent a considerable portion of his time i_ontrite tears and prayer.
Late in the evening Dr. Noel entered the room carrying in his hand a pair o_ealed envelopes without address, one somewhat bulky, and the other so slim a_o seem without enclosure.
"Silas," he said, seating himself at the table, "the time has now come for m_o explain my plan for your salvation. To-morrow morning, at an early hour, Prince Florizel of Bohemia returns to London, after having diverted himsel_or a few days with the Parisian Carnival. It was my fortune, a good whil_go, to do Colonel Geraldine, his Master of the Horse, one of those services, so common in my profession, which are never forgotten upon either side. I hav_o need to explain to you the nature of the obligation under which he wa_aid; suffice it to say that I knew him ready to serve me in any practicabl_anner. Now, it was necessary for you to gain London with your trunk unopened.
To this the Custom House seemed to oppose a fatal difficulty; but I bethough_e that the baggage of so considerable a person as the Prince, is, as a matte_f courtesy, passed without examination by the officers of Custom. I applie_o Colonel Geraldine, and succeeded in obtaining a favourable answer. To- morrow, if you go before six to the hotel where the Prince lodges, you_aggage will be passed over as a part of his, and you yourself will make th_ourney as a member of his suite."
"It seems to me, as you speak, that I have already seen both the Prince an_olonel Geraldine; I even overheard some of their conversation the othe_vening at the Bullier Ball."
"It is probable enough; for the Prince loves to mix with all societies,"
replied the Doctor. "Once arrived in London," he pursued, "your task is nearl_nded. In this more bulky envelope I have given you a letter which I dare no_ddress; but in the other you will find the designation of the house to whic_ou must carry it along with your box, which will there be taken from you an_ot trouble you any more."
"Alas!" said Silas, "I have every wish to believe you; but how is it possible?
You open up to me a bright prospect, but, I ask you, is my mind capable o_eceiving so unlikely a solution? Be more generous, and let me furthe_nderstand your meaning."
The Doctor seemed painfully impressed.
"Boy," he answered, "you do not know how hard a thing you ask of me. But be i_o. I am now inured to humiliation; and it would be strange if I refused yo_his, after having granted you so much. Know, then, that although I now mak_o quiet an appearance - frugal, solitary, addicted to study - when I wa_ounger, my name was once a rallying-cry among the most astute and dangerou_pirits of London; and while I was outwardly an object for respect an_onsideration, my true power resided in the most secret, terrible, an_riminal relations. It is to one of the persons who then obeyed me that I no_ddress myself to deliver you from your burden. They were men of man_ifferent nations and dexterities, all bound together by a formidable oath, and working to the same purposes; the trade of the association was in murder; and I who speak to you, innocent as I appear, was the chieftain of thi_edoubtable crew."
"What?" cried Silas. "A murderer? And one with whom murder was a trade? Can _ake your hand? Ought I so much as to accept your services? Dark and crimina_ld man, would you make an accomplice of my youth and my distress?"
The Doctor bitterly laughed.
"You are difficult to please, Mr. Scuddamore," said he; "but I now offer yo_our choice of company between the murdered man and the murderer. If you_onscience is too nice to accept my aid, say so, and I will immediately leav_ou. Thenceforward you can deal with your trunk and its belongings as bes_uits your upright conscience."
"I own myself wrong," replied Silas. "I should have remembered how generousl_ou offered to shield me, even before I had convinced you of my innocence, an_ continue to listen to your counsels with gratitude."
"That is well," returned the Doctor; "and I perceive you are beginning t_earn some of the lessons of experience."
"At the same time," resumed the New-Englander, "as you confess yoursel_ccustomed o this tragical business, and the people to whom you recommend m_re your own former associates and friends, could you not yourself undertak_he transport of the box, and rid me at once of its detested presence?"
"Upon my word," replied the Doctor, "I admire you cordially. If you do no_hink I have already meddled sufficiently in your concerns, believe me, fro_y heart I think the contrary. Take or leave my services as I offer them; an_rouble me with no more words of gratitude, for I value your consideratio_ven more lightly than I do your intellect. A time will come, if you should b_pared to see a number of years in health of mind, when you will thin_ifferently of all this, and blush for your to-night's behaviour."
So saying, the Doctor arose from his chair, repeated his directions briefl_nd clearly, and departed from the room without permitting Silas any time t_nswer.
The next morning Silas presented himself at the hotel, where he was politel_eceived by Colonel Geraldine, and relieved, from that moment, of al_mmediate alarm about his trunk and its grisly contents. The journey passe_ver without much incident, although the young man was horrified to overhea_he sailors and railway porters complaining among themselves about the unusua_eight of the Prince's baggage. Silas travelled in a carriage with the valets, for Prince Florizel chose to be alone with his Master of the Horse. On boar_he steamer, however, Silas attracted his Highness's attention by th_elancholy of his air and attitude as he stood gazing at the pile of baggage; for he was still full of disquietude about the future.
"There is a young man," observed the Prince, "who must have some cause fo_orrow."
"That," replied Geraldine, "is the American for whom I obtained permission t_ravel with your suite."
"You remind me that I have been remiss in courtesy," said Prince Florizel, an_dvancing to Silas, he addressed him with the most exquisite condescension i_hese words:- "I was charmed, young sir, to be able to gratify the desire yo_ade known to me through Colonel Geraldine. Remember, if you please, that _hall be glad at any future time to lay you under a more serious obligation."
And he then put some questions as to the political condition of America, whic_ilas answered with sense and propriety.
"You are still a young man," said the Prince; "but I observe you to be ver_erious for your years. Perhaps you allow your attention to be too muc_ccupied with grave studies. But, perhaps, on the other hand, I am mysel_ndiscreet and touch upon a painful subject."
"I have certainly cause to be the most miserable of men," said Silas; "neve_as a more innocent person been more dismally abused."
"I will not ask you for your confidence," returned Prince Florizel. "But d_ot forget that Colonel Geraldine's recommendation is an unfailing passport; and that I am not only willing, but possibly more able than many others, to d_ou a service."
Silas was delighted with the amiability of this great personage; but his min_oon returned upon its gloomy preoccupations; for not even the favour of _rince to a Republican can discharge a brooding spirit of its cares.
The train arrived at Charing Cross, where the officers of the Revenu_espected the baggage of Prince Florizel in the usual manner. The most elegan_quipages were in waiting; and Silas was driven, along with the rest, to th_rince's residence. There Colonel Geraldine sought him out, and expresse_imself pleased to have been of any service to a friend of the physician's, for whom he professed a great consideration.
"I hope," he added, "that you will find none of your porcelain injured.
Special orders were given along the line to deal tenderly with the Prince'_ffects."
And then, directing the servants to place one of the carriages at the youn_entleman's disposal, and at once to charge the Saratoga trunk upon th_ickey, the Colonel shook hands and excused himself on account of hi_ccupations in the princely household.
Silas now broke the seal of the envelope containing the address, and directe_he stately footman to drive him to Box Court, opening off the Strand. I_eemed as if the place were not at all unknown to the man, for he looke_tartled and begged a repetition of the order. It was with a heart full o_larms, that Silas mounted into the luxurious vehicle, and was driven to hi_estination. The entrance to Box Court was too narrow for the passage of _oach; it was a mere footway between railings, with a post at either end. O_ne of these posts was seated a man, who at once jumped down and exchanged _riendly sign with the driver, while the footman opened the door and inquire_f Silas whether he should take down the Saratoga trunk, and to what number i_hould be carried.
"If you please," said Silas. "To number three."
The footman and the man who had been sitting on the post, even with the aid o_ilas himself, had hard work to carry in the trunk; and before it wa_eposited at the door of the house in question, the young American wa_orrified to find a score of loiterers looking on. But he knocked with as goo_ countenance as he could muster up, and presented the other envelope to hi_ho opened.
"He is not at home," said he, "but if you will leave your letter and retur_o-morrow early, I shall be able to inform you whether and when he can receiv_our visit. Would you like to leave your box?" he added.
"Dearly," cried Silas; and the next moment he repented his precipitation, an_eclared, with equal emphasis, that he would rather carry the box along wit_im to the hotel.
The crowd jeered at his indecision and followed him to the carriage wit_nsulting remarks; and Silas, covered with shame and terror, implored th_ervants to conduct him to some quiet and comfortable house of entertainmen_n the immediate neighbourhood.
The Prince's equipage deposited Silas at the Craven Hotel in Craven Street, and immediately drove away, leaving him alone with the servants of the inn.
The only vacant room, it appeared, was a little den up four pairs of stairs, and looking towards the back. To this hermitage, with infinite trouble an_omplaint, a pair of stout porters carried the Saratoga trunk. It is needles_o mention that Silas kept closely at their heels throughout the ascent, an_ad his heart in his mouth at every corner. A single false step, he reflected, and the box might go over the banisters and land its fatal contents, plainl_iscovered, on the pavement of the hall.
Arrived in the room, he sat down on the edge of his bed to recover from th_gony that he had just endured; but he had hardly taken his position when h_as recalled to a sense of his peril by the action of the boots, who had knel_eside the trunk, and was proceeding officiously to undo its elaborat_astenings.
"Let it be!" cried Silas. "I shall want nothing from it while I stay here."
"You might have let it lie in the hall, then," growled the man; "a thing a_ig and heavy as a church. What you have inside I cannot fancy. If it is al_oney, you are a richer man than me."
"Money?" repeated Silas, in a sudden perturbation. "What do you mean by money?
I have no money, and you are speaking like a fool."
"All right, captain," retorted the boots with a wink. "There's nobody wil_ouch your lordship's money. I'm as safe as the bank," he added; "but as th_ox is heavy, I shouldn't mind drinking something to your lordship's health."
Silas pressed two Napoleons upon his acceptance, apologising, at the sam_ime, for being obliged to trouble him with foreign money, and pleading hi_ecent arrival for excuse. And the man, grumbling with even greater fervour, and looking contemptuously from the money in his hand to the Saratoga trun_nd back again from the one to the other, at last consented to withdraw.
For nearly two days the dead body had been packed into Silas's box; and a_oon as he was alone the unfortunate New-Englander nosed all the cracks an_penings with the most passionate attention. But the weather was cool, and th_runk still managed to contain his shocking secret.
He took a chair beside it, and buried his face in his hands, and his mind i_he most profound reflection. If he were not speedily relieved, no questio_ut he must be speedily discovered. Alone in a strange city, without friend_r accomplices, if the Doctor's introduction failed him, he was indubitably _ost New-Englander. He reflected pathetically over his ambitious designs fo_he future; he should not now become the hero and spokesman of his nativ_lace of Bangor, Maine; he should not, as he had fondly anticipated, move o_rom office to office, from honour to honour; he might as well divest himsel_t once of all hope of being acclaimed President of the United States, an_eaving behind him a statue, in the worst possible style of art, to adorn th_apitol at Washington. Here he was, chained to a dead Englishman doubled u_nside a Saratoga trunk; whom he must get rid of, or perish from the rolls o_ational glory!
I should be afraid to chronicle the language employed by this young man to th_octor, to the murdered man, to Madame Zephyrine, to the boots of the hotel, to the Prince's servants, and, in a word, to all who had been ever so remotel_onnected with his horrible misfortune.
He slunk down to dinner about seven at night; but the yellow coffee-roo_ppalled him, the eyes of the other diners seemed to rest on his wit_uspicion, and his mind remained upstairs with the Saratoga trunk. When th_aiter came to offer him cheese, his nerves were already so much on edge tha_e leaped half-way out of his chair and upset the remainder of a pint of al_pon the table- cloth.
The fellow offered to show him to the smoking-room when he had done; an_lthough he would have much preferred to return at once to his perilou_reasure, he had not the courage to refuse, and was shown downstairs to th_lack, gas-lit cellar, which formed, and possibly still forms, the divan o_he Craven Hotel.
Two very sad betting men were playing billiards, attended by a moist, consumptive marker; and for the moment Silas imagined that these were the onl_ccupants of the apartment. But at the next glance his eye fell upon a perso_moking in the farthest corner, with lowered eyes and a most respectable an_odest aspect. He knew at once that he had seen the face before; and, in spit_f the entire change of clothes, recognised the man whom he had found seate_n a post at the entrance to Box Court, and who had helped him to carry th_runk to and from the carriage. The New-Englander simply turned and ran, no_id he pause until he had locked and bolted himself into his bedroom.
There, all night long, a prey to the most terrible imaginations, he watche_eside the fatal boxful of dead flesh. The suggestion of the boots that hi_runk was full of gold inspired him with all manner of new terrors, if he s_uch as dared to close an eye; and the presence in the smoking-room, and unde_n obvious disguise, of the loiterer from Box Court convinced him that he wa_nce more the centre of obscure machinations.
Midnight had sounded some time, when, impelled by uneasy suspicions, Sila_pened his bedroom door and peered into the passage. It was dimly illuminate_y a single jet of gas; and some distance off he perceived a man sleeping o_he floor in the costume of an hotel under-servant. Silas drew near the man o_iptoe. He lay partly on his back, partly on his side, and his right forear_oncealed his face from recognition. Suddenly, while the American was stil_ending over him, the sleeper removed his arm and opened his eyes, and Sila_ound himself once more face to face with the loiterer of Box Court.
"Good-night, sir," said the man, pleasantly.
But Silas was too profoundly moved to find an answer, and regained his room i_ilence.
Towards morning, worn out by apprehension, he fell asleep on his chair, wit_is head forward on the trunk. In spite of so constrained an attitude and suc_ grisly pillow, his slumber was sound and prolonged, and he was only awakene_t a late hour and by a sharp tapping at the door.
He hurried to open, and found the boots without.
"You are the gentleman who called yesterday at Box Court?" he asked.
Silas, with a quaver, admitted that he had done so.
"Then this note is for you," added the servant, proffering a sealed envelope.
Silas tore it open, and found inside the words: "Twelve o'clock."
He was punctual to the hour; the trunk was carried before him by several stou_ervants; and he was himself ushered into a room, where a man sat warmin_imself before the fire with his back towards the door. The sound of so man_ersons entering and leaving, and the scraping of the trunk as it wa_eposited upon the bare boards, were alike unable to attract the notice of th_ccupant; and Silas stood waiting, in an agony of fear, until he should deig_o recognise his presence.
Perhaps five minutes had elapsed before the man turned leisurely about, an_isclosed the features of Prince Florizel of Bohemia.
"So, sir," he said, with great severity, "this is the manner in which yo_buse my politeness. You join yourselves to persons of condition, I perceive, for no other purpose than to escape the consequences of your crimes; and I ca_eadily understand your embarrassment when I addressed myself to yo_esterday."
"Indeed," cried Silas, "I am innocent of everything except misfortune."
And in a hurried voice, and with the greatest ingenuousness, he recounted t_he Prince the whole history of his calamity.
"I see I have been mistaken," said his Highness, when he had heard him to a_nd. "You are no other than a victim, and since I am not to punish you may b_ure I shall do my utmost to help. And now," he continued, "to business. Ope_our box at once, and let me see what it contains."
Silas changed colour.
"I almost fear to look upon it," he exclaimed.
"Nay," replied the Prince, "have you not looked at it already? This is a for_f sentimentality to be resisted. The sight of a sick man, whom we can stil_elp, should appeal more directly to the feelings than that of a dead man wh_s equally beyond help or harm, love or hatred. Nerve yourself, Mr.
Scuddamore," and then, seeing that Silas still hesitated, "I do not desire t_ive another name to my request," he added.
The young American awoke as if out of a dream, and with a shiver of repugnanc_ddressed himself to loose the straps and open the lock of the Saratoga trunk.
The Prince stood by, watching with a composed countenance and his hands behin_is back. The body was quite stiff, and it cost Silas a great effort, bot_oral and physical, to dislodge it from its position, and discover the face.
Prince Florizel started back with an exclamation of painful surprise.
"Alas!" he cried, "you little know, Mr. Scuddamore, what a cruel gift you hav_rought me. This is a young man of my own suite, the brother of my truste_riend; and it was upon matters of my own service that he has thus perished a_he hands of violent and treacherous men. Poor Geraldine," he went on, as i_o himself, "in what words am I to tell you of your brother's fate? How can _xcuse myself in your eyes, or in the eyes of God, for the presumptuou_chemes that led him to this bloody and unnatural death? Ah, Florizel!
Florizel! when will you learn the discretion that suits mortal life, and be n_onger dazzled with the image of power at your disposal? Power!" he cried;
"who is more powerless? I look upon this young man whom I have sacrificed, Mr.
Scuddamore, and feel how small a thing it is to be a Prince."
Silas was moved at the sight of his emotion. He tried to murmur som_onsolatory words, and burst into tears.
The Prince, touched by his obvious intention, came up to him and took him b_he hand.
"Command yourself," said he. "We have both much to learn, and we shall both b_etter men for to-day's meeting."
Silas thanked him in silence with an affectionate look.
"Write me the address of Doctor Noel on this piece of paper," continued th_rince, leading him towards the table; "and let me recommend you, when you ar_gain in Paris, to avoid the society of that dangerous man. He has acted i_his matter on a generous inspiration; that I must believe; had he been priv_o young Geraldine's death he would never have despatched the body to the car_f the actual criminal."
"The actual criminal!" repeated Silas in astonishment.
"Even so," returned the Prince. "This letter, which the disposition o_lmighty Providence has so strangely delivered into my hands, was addressed t_o less a person than the criminal himself, the infamous President of th_uicide Club. Seek to pry no further in these perilous affairs, but conten_ourself with your own miraculous escape, and leave this house at once. I hav_ressing affairs, and must arrange at once about this poor clay, which was s_ately a gallant and handsome youth."
Silas took a grateful and submissive leave of Prince Florizel, but he lingere_n Box Court until he saw him depart in a splendid carriage on a visit t_olonel Henderson of the police. Republican as he was, the young American too_ff his hat with almost a sentiment of devotion to the retreating carriage.
And the same night he started by rail on his return to Paris.
Here (observes my Arabian author) is the end of THE HISTORY OF THE PHYSICIA_ND THE SARATOGA TRUNK. Omitting some reflections on the power of Providence, highly pertinent in the original, but little suited to our occiddental taste, I shall only add that Mr. Scuddamore has already begun to mount the ladder o_olitical fame, and by last advices was the Sheriff of his native town.