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anon, when the crash of rotten boards and fleshless bones
During the excursion which this occurrence had induced us for a short space to procrastinate, Walsingham frequently reverted to the subject of the vaults--sometimes jesting with me on my pusillanimity in regard to vermin, at others moralizing over what he had recently beheld, in that sublime and eloquent strain of declamation for which he was remarkable. An accident I met with in the course of the day, however, changed the current of his thoughts. In scrambling over the rocks on the northern shore of the bay-to which we had directed our steps-I chanced to make an unlucky stumble, and so
severely sprained my ancle, as to oblige us to conclude our ramble by a ride back to Dublin in a post chaise.
On the ensuing day, my twisted joint continued to give me acute pain, and the swelling had increased so prodigiously as to preclude all attempts at exertion. A surgeon was called in to examine it; and inferring from his declaration that I had to calculate on close confinement for at least a week, I entreated Walsingham not to let me draw too largely on his good nature, but to seek out of doors what amusement he listed, and only become my companion when he had nothing more interesting to occupy his time. After some demur, a sudden thought seemed to strike him, and, in a cursory way, he mentioned that he would take a short saunter in the course of the morning. In a few minutes he got up, took his hat, and with an assurance that two hours would be the duration of his absence, departed. It was the last time I looked upon him in life.
The two hours passed-dinner was served-long left untasted, and at length eaten with reluctance, and petulant reflections on his want of punctuality. Tea and supper in like manner appeared and vanished without his partaking of either; and finally, towards midnight, I saw myself under the necessity of retiring, without having an opportunity of exchanging the friendly expressions with which we usually separated. Then, and not till then, did my heart misgive me, and a qualm of sickening apprehension pervade my frame. Dublin I knew to be
a city noted for ruffian acts, and overrun with desperadoes given to robbery, and the shedding of blood: in his solitary wanderings my friend might have encountered a foot-pad; that he would endeavour to repel force by force, I could securely calculate on; and of the consequences of such temerity I trembled to think. Be this as it might, however, I had no means of relieving my anxiety. My injured limb fettered me to my apartment; and no other procedure was left but to seek my pillow, supported by the hope that some juvenile frolic had tempted him to overstep the boundaries of prudence, and that on the morrow he would meet me at breakfast, ashamed of his indiscretion, but unharmed by either bludgeon or knife. Such was the mode of reasoning by which I sought to cheat an anxious mind, but it failed to secure me sound repose. All night I tossed restlessly on my bed-now racking my brain with vague suppositions, or listening breathless for the peal that was to announce his arrival; anon enduring, in broken sleep, all the misery inflicted by extravagant and terrific dreams-those tormentors of the care-worn and sorrow-anticipating heart.
The morning arrived, but my friend arrived not with it; and though the light of day communicated a portion of hope for my sinking spirits, the anxiety I experienced continued of the most painful description. Holding myself as guilty of unpardonable negligence were I longer to hesitate in instituting enquiries regarding him, I wrote a few hurried lines to a gentleman who had been con
spicuously attentive to us both; and in a short time had the satisfaction of seeing him appear, eager to assist me in whatever way we should think advisable. He strenuously recommended our immediate application to the police, at the same time volunteering to make it; and being unable to hit on a preferable expedient, I thankfully assented, and he set off on his mission.
Conscious that measures were in train to effect the restoration of my friend, I felt somewhat easier during the absence of my agent; but, the moment he re-appeared, my apprehensions of somewhat fatal having occurred returned with tenfold strength, for news of evil import sat depicted on his face. He had been to the head quarters of the police, and had made known his errand, but no elucidatory information had been tendered him in lieu; during the time he was unavoidably detained, however, a circumstance had taken place which promised to explain but too clearly the cause of Walsingham's mysterious disappearance. A man had come forward, and given testimony, that in the course of the foregoing night he had heard loud cries of murder proceeding from one of the bridges that he had ventured as near to the spot as regard for his own safety warranted, and, while lying in ambush, beheld a band of ruffians consign to the -waters of the river the body of a man whom they had doubtless plundered and massacred. To me this tale carried conviction the moment I was made acquainted with it. I had no hesitation in acknowledging Walsing
ham as the unfortunate therein described; and tears of anguish coursed down my cheeks, as hope took flight for ever. My Irish acquaintance showed every desire to sympathize with and console me; but the task was beyond his power. The only circumstance that afforded any solace was the assurance that the police would use every means to bring to condign punishment the authors of so barbarous a crime; and that no exertion would be spared to recover the body of the murdered man, and procure its identification. That painful office, I was aware, would devolve on me, as would the heart-breaking duty of communicating his untimely end to those who, like myself, were to forget his worth only when their hearts forgot to beat.
Several days full of wretchedness waned over; my sprain became sufficiently reduced to admit of my going abroad; but neither the murderers nor the murdered had, in the interim, been discovered, though the vigilance of the police had suffered no relaxation, and the river, in the immediate vicinity of the fatal bridge, had been several times trolled with grappling irons. At length I was given to understand that the body was found, and awaited my identification. It may easily be supposed that I required not a second summons to hurry off, in order to fulfil this the last duty, save one, I had to perform towards the departed. With knees knocking against each other, and tongue cleaving to the roof of my mouth, approached the bier on which lay the