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Oh, good Lord, pardon my' wicked soul! Lord, Lord, forgive me, and I will confess all !" The man's limbs shook, and his lips worked to and fro violently, evidencing the presence of terrible emotion. He then gasped and faltered, at intervals, somewhat to the following effect : “ Doctor, I have lived in guilt almost from a child wo to me that I was ever born! I have been a robber, and a smuggler, and even - even”_his retracted lips disclosed his white teeth in a frightful manner-Wa-murderer! Ay—I have! But there is nothing weighs down my soul so heavily in these my last moments, so heavily as one wickedness I have done to an innocent, unoffending man—for, black and cruel as it will it
may be yet in my power to make amends. I shall break my oath—" Here a convulsive twitching seized his whole frame, and Dr. Ebury, under the apprehension that the man was dying, called for assistance. It was nearly a quarter of an hour before the power of speech returned. “ Sir, will God curse me if I break an oath I ought never to have made ?” Dr. Ebury solemnly replied, “No; especially if breaking it will tend to repair the evil you have done !" The man seemed encouraged.
“ It is more than eight years ago now, sir-close going for nine—that a man of the name of Isaacs and I, both being smugglers at the time, were hired to help in kidnapping a man of the name of Fowler_" ler! Fowler !” exclaimed Dr. Ebury, bending down breathlessly to catch every word, uttered more faintly every moment by the dying man.
“ Yes, sir--Fowler was his name, William Fowler -send him off to America, and Isaacs with him; and cruelly did we use the poor harmless fellow !”
“And why was it all ?” “ Because, sir, our employers told us he stood in the way of their rights !"
“What were their names ?" inquired Dr. Ebury, bending down his ear to the very lips of the dying man, to catch every breath of sound.
“ Sir William Gwynne, and-and Squire Ox-Ox-leigh-"
Dr. Ebury turned suddenly pale, and almost over. threw the chair on which he had been sitting.
“Go on-go on! God give you strength to tell all you wish, and truly !" " Amen! amen! amen !” replied the dying man, closing his eyes. His breath was evidently beginning to fail.
“Speak, before it is too late--relieve your soul" “ Mr. Ox--Ox--leigh--paid me--had, in all, hundreds of pounds--Fowler--now in America-hope--alive-New-York--Isaacs--order to kill-oh-save-save --pray!” The wretched man's voice ceased, and gave place to a horrid choking, gurgling sound-his hands quivered a moment with final agonies--there was a sudden start--his jaw dropped--his eyes
looked upward with a fixed leaden stare-and Dr. Ebury sat gazing on as fearful a corpse as he had ever witnessed.
He was so stunned with what he had heard, that he did not think of moving for some minutes from his seat beside the dead man. “Sir William Gwynne! Mr. Oxleigh !” he repeated, scarcely believing he had heard the words aright. He left the workhouse with such agitation in his countenance and trepidation in his gestures, as sufficiently alarmed the master and others whom he encountered, and who knew the dreary errand on which he had been summoned. He returned not to Mr. Oxleigh's party, but hurried to his own house, betook himself to his study, and instantly committed to paper what he had heard, determined, whatever might happen, to preserve such a faithful record as he could
About an hour after Dr. Ebury had left the workhouse, Mr. Oxleigh made his appearance there, having suddenly dismissed his visiters on the plea of illness.
“Is the man dead, sir ?” he inquired, falteringly, from the master. “ What--the man Dr. Ebury came to see, an hour or so since ?" “The same--ay, the same,” replied Oxleigh, hastily. “ Yes, sir. He died while Dr. Ebury was with him ; and he has--" “Give me a light, sir, and let me be shown into the
room alone. It is of consequence,” said Oxleigh, sternly; and presently, with a candle in his hand, he entered the room where the corpse, yet untouched, was lying. He shut the door, and bolted it; approached the corpse, and let the light of the candle fall upon the ghastly features. His own countenance was blanched in a moment. “So-it is you! Dam-ned ruffian!" he gasped, in a low choked tone, his body half recoiling from that of the dead man; his eyes gleaming with a diabolical stare upon those of the corpse ; his left hand elevating his candle, and his right, with the fist convulsively clenched, extended, for nearly a minute, in quivering contact with the face of the deceased. He struck the cold corpse-and then, overcome with horror, sank down into a chair ; his candle droppedwas extinguished--and then the dead and living ruffians were left together in darkness.
In a state of distraction bordering on phrensy,Oxleigh made his way from the workhouse, amazing the people he passed by the wildness and agitation apparent in his countenance. He hurried on horseback to Gwynne Hall, and asked hastily for Sir William Gwynne. He was informed that the baronet, feeling worse that evening, had been some hours in bed. “Never mind, sir," said Oxleigh to the thunderstruck valet; “ show me into Sir William's chamber instantly. Tell him my name, and that my business is of mortal consequence !" The valet returned shortly, and conducted Mr. Oxleigh at once to the bedside of his master.
“ Well, sir-well," commenced the baronet, in a low and hurried tone. “ What is the matter? For God's sake, sir, what has happened ?" he inquired, in still greater agitation, seeing Oxleigh stand speechless, and the image of despair.
“Sir William, it is all over with us ; we are discovERED !" at length replied Oxleigh, in a gasping whisper, laying his shaking hand on the baronet's shoulder. Sir William sprung up in bed, as if he had received an electric shock, tossed of the bedclothes, and lay curved
up and crouching in the midst of them, with his hands clutching the hair of his head, and his countenance full of frightful expression. It did little more than reflect the horror-stricken features of Oxleigh. There was a guilty pair! The baronet, without having uttered a syllable, slowly sank again into bed, and lay there, absolutely gasping. Neither of them spoke. At length Oxleigh recovered himself sufficiently to say, William, Sir William, this is very truth ; but we must not shrink in the hour of danger. We must meet it like men.
We must, Sir William,” he continued, eying the dumbstruck, stupified baronet, who scarce seemed to hear him, but mumbled to himself. At length, Oxleigh distinguished the words, “Is it death, or transportation ?" “ You are rambling, Sir William ! What are you talking about? It is weak to behave thus, in such an awful crisis. Remember how you have implicated me, Sir William !"
The baronet was roused by these last words from his lethargy. He turned his head suddenly towards Oxleigh, looked at him a few seconds, and then suddenly leaped towards him, grasped him by the collar, and shook him with frantic fury, exclaiming, “ You fiend ! you fiend !-to talk thus to me!" He had hardly uttered the words, however, before his hold relaxed, and he dropped into bed again in a swoon. Oxleigh rang the bell; and when the valet made his appearance, he informed him he was going to bring the physician, and suddenly left the hall. He hurried through the lonely park on foot; and when he had reached the thickest clump of trees, he paused, leaned against the glistening trunk of an old ash, and, with folded arms and bent brows, pondered his fearful fortunes.
" What is to be done! Dr. Ebury has taken down his confession, and has not returned, as he promised, to my house!
Then he knows all! Messengers will be sent off to America, Sir William and I shall be arrested, we shall be confronted with Fowler in a court of justice--or--I must away betimes ! And yet sup
pose, after all, the man died before he could make corifession! Suppose he was unable to speak distinctly! Suppose he has not told names--has not mentioned me -and all is yet safe! There is a straw to cling to ! But suppose he has! My neck aches! I must away! I must leave all behind Yes-Sir William Gwynne! Well—what if I do leave him? Would he risk his life for me? Then why I for him? I entered into all this to serve my ends, not his! I must away—be off to America! This night-ay, this very night—and alone! If I had but known where the cursed caitiff that has betrayed me was to have been found, I would have silenced him!” Oxleigh clutched his hands involuntary, as though they were grasping the dead man's throat. - This is why he has been absconding the last six months from Sir William and me the pitiful villain—the cowardly, treacherous devil!"
He sprang from where he had been standing, made for where he had fastened his horse, galloped at his utmost speed over the highway, and was soon at home. After a night of terrible agitation, he determined to take the earliest opportunity of calling at the vicarge, and seeing Dr. Ebury, where he could but learn the worst. By ten o'clock he was knocking at the vicars; but to his consternation, he found that Dr. Ebury had set off an hour before in a carriage and four for London, in company with Mr. Parkhurst, a solicitor in the neighbourhood. There was no mistaking that move, thought Oxleigh! He returned home, and hastily wrote to Sir William Gwynne
“Fate thrusts me from England. When you read this I shall be on my way to foreign parts. I can do no good in England for myself or for you. I leave you bound to the stake by your own weakness. Accursed, damned be the hour I ever saw you, or discovered the means of my ruin.
He altered his intentions suddenly, however, after