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Young Manesty, however, was not hardened into this sordid depravation. Seeing that the dying man was left without a friend, he resolved, as far as in him lay, to supply that deficiency. Bending by the side of Stanley, he raised his head, supported it on his knee, and wiped away the death-perspiration that hung on his forehead and cheek.
“ Here will I stay till all is over,” said Hugh, to the earl. “Meanwhile, let me beseech you, for Heaven's sake, to fetch a surgeon from Liverpool.”
Lord Silverstick seemed for awhile undetermined how to act. “I do not altogether approve,” at length observed he, “ the callous desertion of his principal by Captain Brooksbank. Still, prudence is a great virtue. Without it, our lives would be excessively miserable. Lord Chesterfield has many excellent remarks on this head; and it behoves every man of quality to bear them in mind. His morals are profitable. I recollect his saying, "Nothing could be more perfectly foolish in any one than to uffer his feelings to lead him away from expediency. This I call practicable wisdom, Hugh; it is pretty generally acted on, I assure you; and I think you will admit that, to say the least, it would be extremely inconvenient for one in my station to be taken before a magistrate, as having been present at a murder. I came here with you to assist at a gentlemanly arbitrement. That it should have terminated in assassination is not my fault nor yours. I shall depart from Liverpool with all speed. Will you come with me?”
“ And leave this unhappy victim to die alone? Never!” exclaimed young Manesty.
“ Then, my dear friend, until I have the happiness to see you again, accept mes adieux."
The earl disappeared as quickly as Captain Brooksbank had done, and Hugh was left alone with the dying man. The rattle of Lord Silverstick's coach-wheels soon died away in the distance. Silence returned, investing the scene with additional solemnity. Hugh bound his handkerchief over Stanley's wound with an endeavour to stanch the oozing blood. What would he not have given for some restorative which might mitigate the sufferer's fierce agonies—for even a cup of water to moisten his parched tongue!
Hugh looked around him-all was vacant. He listened intently, hoping to catch some distant sound of footsteps. In vain. Nothing could be heard but Stanley's heavy groans. Thus, supporting the head of his ghastly companion, did he remain a weary space of time. At length, he shouted aloud for help twice or thrice. The last shout was answered; and Ozias Rheinenberger appeared.
Having sorrowfully gazed at Stanley, the Moravian spoke; and his measured enunciation sounded dismally in the night air.
“ This is a dreadful sight, Hugh Manesty! I know that thy hands are innocent of blood in fact, but not in intention. Thou camest here on a senseless, and a wicked, and a savage errand. The fatal business is beginning to be known in Liverpool. The moment I heard of it, I hastened to the spot to find, and, if possible, comfort thee; for of a surety none can so grievously need comfort as he who hath offended against the ordinances of the Most High. Lo, here will I abide with thee. Others will soon be in the place—ministers of justice.”
“ Thank Heaven!” exciaimed Hugh; “ then something may yet be done to save this unfortunate man.”
“Let us hope so," answered Ozias. * Thy uncle--how have I been
deceived in him!—is indeed a fearful man of blood. Like unto Abimelech, the son of Jerubbaal, he hath made slaughter the road to power; and even as Abimelech perished, so will he. And yet, would I could save him, and cause him to repent, for I owe much to the name of Manesty; but it may not be!”
Poor Hugh groaned in bitterness of heart.
“ I wonder not to see thee so troubled in spirit,” resumed the Moravian. “In the eye of worldly law, thy crime is not great. Thou shalt not lack my counsel and company. Wherever they take thee, I will be by thy side.”
“My heart thanks you, Mr. Rheinenberger!” ejaculated young Manesty.
“But thy uncle,” continued Ozias. “ What is to become of him? Alas! I fear he is lost, body and soul. Avenging men are hotly on his track; among whom is Richard Hibblethwaite, who (so I hear) is mad with rage at something he has recently discovered. I tremble to think John Manesty's speedy death may not be averted. My heart yearns to save him after death. He hath tempted Satan to tempt him. O God!” added the Moravian, with uplifted eyes, “ be merciful, even unto him, a desperate sinner!”
Further discourse was prevented, by the arrival of four persons, three of whom were constables, bearing a litter; the other was a medical man.
It appeared, that though the pursuit of Manesty was the chief object of Oglethorpe and his followers, one of the latter was nevertheless dispatched to the public office of Liverpool with news of Manesty's fresh atrocity, which Oglethorpe had witnessed on approaching the group, and with a requisition for assistance on the spot. This astounding news was buzzed about, and reached the ears of the Moravian.
Hugh was immediately taken into custody; and the surgeon having, as well as he was able, examined Colonel Stanley's wound, ordered him to be placed in the litter, and conveyed to his own house. Young Manesty, the officer who had charge of him, and Ozias Rheinenberger, then proceeded to the magistrate's office, where, after examination, Hugh was held to bail to appear, should any charge be made against him. His sureties were the Moravian, and another of the “Unitas Fratrum;" the former of whom took the afflicted young man to his (Rheinenberger's) own house.
News was brought to them, in the course of the night, that Stanley had expired on the litter, as they were carrying him home.
LAWYER VARNHAM'S PERFIDY AND ITS RESULTS.—MRS. YARINGTON
AND MARY STANLEY.
Joan MANESTY had not long left Varnham's house before that respectable attorney, having sent away the constables in the passage, took counsel with himself how far he might be able to obtain possession of the secrets contained in the portmanteau, and yet secure the five hundred pounds for delivering it to the person authorized by Manesty to receive it. In this interesting and all-absorbing contemplation, he was oblivious of Mr. Mott in his narrow prison. Having ordered his clerk to deny him to any applicant, the lawyer
took the portmanteau from his iron chest, inspected the lock and seals, and soon determined on further proceedings.
If the rules of honour and common honesty cannot withhold a man from doing wrong, other impediments offer but feeble resistance. mould,” thought Ezekiel, "might be taken from the seals, and counterfeits be thus obtained.”
The lock was evidently a good one, and could not easily be picked nor opened by such keys as Varnham possessed; but then, with a little patience and dexterity the rivets might be withdrawn and refastened. In patience and dexterity the lawyer was not deficient; so he applied himself to his task, and, having formed what are called matrices of the different seals capable of renewing the impressions, he melted and disengaged the wax. His next process was to withdraw the rivets by which the hasp of the lock was fastened. This was so adroitly accomplished as not to threaten any difficulty in the work of restoration. The contents of the portmanteau were thus placed in Varnham's power.
Mysterious indeed, but wise and blessed, are the works of the Creator! His mighty protection is manifest even in the acts of daring
Was not Jeroboam tempted to stretch out his hand against the man of God at the altar in Bethel ? And did he not, by so doing, draw down a withering curse upon his arm, and bring evil on all his descendants? Without a consideration such as this, it might seem marvellous that so cautious and crafty a man as John Manesty should leave writings from which (ambiguous and fragmentary as they were) it might be possible to form damning conclusions. But so it was.
The first paper which Varnham drew forth was a diary, embracing not only certain memorandums leading to an inference of the gradual and long-sighted treachery by which he had undermined the elder Hibblethwaite, but some obscure hints only intelligible on the supposition, that, by subtle poison, brought from the West Indies, he had destroyed that unsuspecting man in the memorable room in the cornstore. To kill him was unquestionably more merciful than, by a series of villanous acts, to drag him to poverty. In the present day the latter is the current plan among unprincipled men. That Manesty chose the former method, was not out of charity for his victim, but because he thought the shortest road the best. No wonder that, with trembling apprehension, he concealed his papers both at Poollane and at Wolsterholme. His besotted incontinence of pen (whatever might have been his views) was a necessary agent in the fulfilment of eventual justice.
Varnham did not stop to read more. He knew that Dick Hibblethwaite, fool and spendthrift as he was, retained a wreck of his property; that he could yet pay handsomely for such information as was developed in the written document, which afforded evidence sufficient of the foul practices of Manesty towards his father and himself. To young Ilibblethwaite, therefore, Varnham immediately repaired; and, after representing that he had facts of vital importance to communicate, and binding him to secrecy, obtained from him a valuable douceur. Dick's astonishment at the interpretation which he could not fail giving to the writer's memorandums, was overcome by a spirit of vengeance against him whom he now believed to be the destroyer of his father; and he swore never to rest till he had hunted him even to death. Hearing that Oglethorpe had a warrant to apprehend Manesty, the young man attached himself to the pursuing party-provided horses for every member of it, and was himself mounted on his blood-mare, Jessy.
On returning to his house, and again secluding himself in his room, with a view to a further examination of the portmanteau, Varnham was startled by a low knocking, seemingly against the wainscot. Guilt starts at trifles. Ezekiel looked round in dismay; ut no one was in the apartment except himself
. Again the knocking was heard, and for a moment the lawyer underwent a tremor at the idea that some invisible agent was rebuking his treachery. “Let me out!" cried a voice; and then, though not till then, did the lawyer recollect that Mott was locked in the parlour closet. Hurrying the portmanteau out of sight, Varnham released the prisoner, who, staggering forward, sank exhausted into a chair.
“Why, you look ill, my friend,” said Ezekiel, opening the window, and admitting air.
Enough to make a man look ill, and feel ill, too,” returned Mott. “I've been jammed upright in that infernal cupboard two hours at least. Why didn't you let me out before you went out yourself ?"
“I was called away by pressing business, and actually forgot you, Mott,” replied Varnham. “Shall I order you some refreshment?”
“No,” said Mr. Mott, sulkily. “ To speak upright and downright, Mr. Varnham, I am able to prove that you've took and compounded felony. If you hadn't opened that closet door, I should have took John Manesty upon a charge of murder, as sure as eggs is eggs."
“Not you,” responded the lawyer. “I mean no offence to you, Mott, but two better men than you would have been required to secure the merchant. Talk no more nonsense, man; but be thankful that by providing you with a retreat, I prevented the blowing out of your brains by John Manesty's pistol.”
“When an officer's on service,” observed Mott, with a dogged air, “ ain't it his duty to expose his precious life to all hazards? Though I'm a husband and a father, Mr. Varnham, and have three small babbies and a wife to provide for, yet my body belongs to our sovereign lord the king, in the execution of the statutes as by law
“ I know all about that,” interrupted Varnham. Say no more. Here are a couple of guineas for you."
“I don't think it's altogether agreeable to my duty to take 'em," returned Mott, handling the money. “I never, in all my life, took a bribe, especially on service."
“ But you are not on service now," observed the lawyer. “Besides, you know you can trust me. Put the coin in your pocket, Mott, and say no more about it.”
The constable did as he was bidden. Then assuming a very grave and important face, he said
“ There's another thing, Mr. Varnham, which you and I must just understand one another about, afore I leave this room.”
Why, what's the matter now?” demanded Ezekiel, in a trembling voice.
"I see you through the key-hole,” pursued Mr. Mott, "a taking moulds of seals, and drawing out of rivets from a lock to a portmantel. It may be all right, you know, or it mayn't; but if any question about papers in a portmantel should ever come up, and I should be put upon my bodily oath as to what I see when I was locked into the cupboard,
I must speak the truth, Mr. Varnham. It's clean agen the law to commit perjury.”
The lawyer shook from head to foot. Oh, how he cursed his forgetfulness! His golden project was in danger of a disgraceful miscarriage. What was to be done?
“My good friend,” said Varnham, coaxingly, “what you saw me do, was done from the best motives. You will, I am sure, believe me when I say so. But one is obliged sometimes to do good by stealth, as the saying is, and I wish to confer a benefit without any one suspecting me as the agent. You understand me. So strong, indeed, is this desire of mine, that I am disposed to make it worth your while to be silent on this head. In short, I'll give you something handsome, Mott.”
“Why, twenty guineas. There! What think you of that?” said Varnham, as if he were offering an unheard-of treasure.
“It's no go,” responded Mott. “Do you think I can forget such a caper as that for twenty guineas? I must have fifty, at least.”
“ You are hard with me,” said the lawyer. “But come, as I hate quarrelling, here's the money. You are a fortunate man.”
Things had indeed that morning turned out well for Mott; and he chuckled in his sleeve at having, by a mere accident, and without much trouble, gained so much more than Oglethorpe was likely to obtain, even on severe and hazardous service. Varnham and his friend now separated with mutual smiles; but the former was not quite so silly a rogue as to feel altogether secure that his secret in Mott's hands was inviolable. Neither did Mott mean that it should be so, if a good opportunity were to offer. No popular fallacy is so great as the adage, “Honour among thieves.” “Fifty-two guineas gone!” exclaimed Varnham.
“ A trifle more than my fee from Hibblethwaite. And, worse than all, I am in the power of that scoundrel Mott. What could have possessed me to forget him? I was too hot upon my gains. Fool, fool! I wish Mott had been fairly suffocated in the closet, and tumbled out a heavy corpse when the door was opened. I shall be a slave to that fellow as long as I live. Well, it can't be helped. Fate was against me.”
It was some time before the lawyer resumed his examination of the portmanteau."
Meanwhile, intelligence of Manesty's flight-of his last atrocious deed, and of Hugh's apprehension as a supposed accessory in the murder of George Stanley, reached Eaglemont. Sir Hildebrand was at first overpoweringly amazed and virtuously indignant. These emotions, however, gradually gave way to a feeling of self-congratulation that John Manesty's guilt might, in the end, absolve him (the baronet) from certain heavy liabilities he was under to the merchant. Sir Hildebrand was no party in the murder of his nephew. Why, then, should he suffer his lamentation at that event to blind him to the “goods the gods provided?” So truly does the old proverb say, “ It is an ill wind indeed that benefits no one!” And so surely does love of self blind some men to the sufferings of others.
But a far different effect was produced by the news on the hearts of Mary Stanley and Mrs. Yarington. The former of these ladies was distracted when informed of the violent fate of her cousin, and the supposed peril of Hugh. The latter was breathless as if she