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come to rescue you from Wild's violence. I must break open the door. Hold your hand for a moment."
“ You have heard my fixed determination, villain,” cried Mrs. Sheppard. “I know my life is valuable to you, or you would not spare it. But I will disappoint you. Get you gone. Your purposes are defeated."
« Footsteps are approaching," cried Thames. “ Heed her not. It is but a wild threat."
“ I know not how to act,” exclaimed Jack, almost driven to desperation.
“ I hear you plotting with your wicked associates,” cried Mrs. Sheppard.“ I have baffled you."
“ Force the door,” said Thames, “ or you will be too late.”
“ Better she die by her own hand, than by that monster's,” cried Jack, brandishing the bar. « Mother, I come to you."
With this, he struck the door a heavy blow.
He listened. There was a deep groan, and the sound of a fall within.
“ I have killed her,” exclaimed Jack, dropping the bar, “ by your advice, Thames. Oh God! pardon me."
“ Do not delay," cried Thames. “ She may yet be saved. I am too weak to aid you."
Jack again seized the bar, and, dashing it furiously against the door, speedily burst it open.
The unfortunate woman was stretched upon the floor, with a bloody knife in her hand.
“ Mother !” cried Jack, springing towards her. “ Jack !” she cried, raising her head. “Is it you ? " “ It is,” replied her son. “Oh! why would you not listen to
“I was distracted,” replied Mrs. Sheppard, faintly.
“ I have killed you,” cried Jack, endeavouring to staunch the effusion of blood from her breast. “ Forgive-forgive me!”
“ I have nothing to forgive,” replied Mrs. Sheppard. “I alone am to blame.”
“ Can I not carry you where you can obtain help?” cried Jack, in an agony of distress.
“ It is useless," replied Mrs. Sheppard : “ nothing can save me. I die happy-quite happy in beholding you. Do not remain with me. You may fall into the hands of your enemy. Fly ! fly!”
“ Do not think of me, mother, but of yourself,” cried Jack, in an agony of tears.
- You have always been far dearer to me than myself,” replied Mrs. Sheppard. “ But I have one last request to make. Let me lie in Willesden churchyard."
“ You shall-you shall,” answered Jack.
“ We shall meet again ere long, my son,” cried Mrs. Sheppard, fixing her glazing eyes upon him.
“Oh God! she is dying,” exclaimed Jack, in a voice suffocated by emotion. “Forgive me-oh, forgive me !” “ Forgive you — bless you !” she gasped.
A cold shiver ran through her frame, and her gentle spirit passed away for ever.
“Oh, God! that I might die too,” cried Jack, falling on his knees beside her.
After the first violent outbreak of grief had in some degree subsided, Thames addressed him.
“ You must not remain here," he said. “You can render no further service to your poor mother.”
“I can avenge her,” cried Jack in a terrible tone.
“ Be ruled by me,” returned Thames. “You will act most in accordance with her wishes, could she dictate them, by compliance. Do not waste time in vain regrets, but let us remove the body, that we may fulfil her last injunctions.”
After some farther arguments, Jack assented to this proposal.
“Go on first with the light,” he said. “I will bear the body." And he raised it in his arms.
Just as they reached the end of the passage, they heard the voices of Jonathan and the Jew in Thames's late place of confinement. Wild had evidently discovered the body of Quilt Arnold, and was loudly expressing his anger and astonishment.
“Extinguish the light,” cried Jack; “ turn to the left. Quick ! quick!”
The order was only just given in time. They had scarcely gained the adjoining cellar when Jonathan and the Jew rushed past in the direction of the vault.
“ Not a moment is to be lost,” cried Jack. “Follow me."
So saying, he hurried up stairs, opened the back door, and was quickly in the yard. Having ascertained that Thames was at his heels, he hurried with his ghastly burthen down Seacoal-lane.
“Where are you going?” cried Thames, who, though wholly disencumbered, was scarcely able to keep up with him.
“I know not — and care not,” replied Jack.
At this moment a coach passed them, and was instantly hailed by Thames.
“ You had better let me convey her to Dollis Hill,” he said. “ Be it so,” replied Jack.
Luckily it was so dark, and there was no lamp near, that the man did not notice the condition of the body, which was placed in the vehicle by the two young men.
- What will you do?” asked Thames.
“Leave me to my fate,” rejoined Jack. “Take care of your charge.”
“ Doubt me not,” replied Thames.
“ Bury her in Willesden churchyard, as she requested, on Sunday," said Jack. “I will be there at the time.”
So saying, he closed the door.
The coachman having received his order, and being offered an extra fare if he drove quickly, set off at full speed.
As Jack departed, a dark figure, emerging from behind a wall, rushed after him.
Every one knows (who knows anything about the great and free city of Hamburg) that the lowest classes of society within its ramparts are sadly to be pitied. The rich are very great people there, as they are everywhere else, and the poor are very small indeed. They are diminutive alike in stature and importance, so that Katerina Bürger, though barely three feet high, was by no means remarkable among her own particular class; and no one in it would ever have dreamed of such a thing as calling her a dwarf. The magnificent senators (for a senator is “ Your Magnificence,” even though his name be inscribed in large characters on the milk cart which stops daily at your door,) — the “ magnificent " senators walk proudly by the poor little inhabitants of “ the old town,” and feel, with reason, that they stand higher in the scale of creation, while the rickety and undersized creatures stop in their painful walk, to gaze with envy on their fellow mortals, who by the “accident of birth ” are placed so infinitely above them.
It was Sunday, and the Jungfernstieg (the fashionable promenade of the Hamburgers) was crowded with company. Gentle and simple, Jew and Gentile, bond and free, were on the wide walk together. The little race, of whom we have begun to speak, were also there, the pigmy creatures who live, or rather vegetate, in damp cellars, and who crawl out on warm Sundays, to air themselves and their clothes on the sunny Jungfernstieg. And there was Katerina ; and she must be described, for a stranger little being in form, feature, and mind, could hardly be imagined. She lived in one of the darkest and narrowest streets in the oldest part of Hamburg. The houses there are very high, and a sluggish canal crosses its confined limits; over it is a small bridge, from which the passenger looks down in dismay and disgust on the deep black waters, and pities the forlorn beings who are dragging out their existence within its unwholesome influence.
It is said that rich men own the houses in that melancholy street, on which the sun never shines, and where the stream of life seems to stand still. It is said that those rich men heap up their gold above the heads of the forlorn dwellers in the damp cellars beneath, and that there the utmost extremes of wealth and poverty are to be found. It may be so, but of that wealth Katerina knew but little, to judge from the abject appearance of herself and all belonging to her. Underground, and close to the canal, was her abode; and from that home she never stirred, except on Sundays; and now she is on the promenade, taking her weekly recreation. Short as she was, her legs must have been disproportionately diminutive, judging from the rate at which she progressed, for she did not compass more than one mile an hour. Her head was large, and adorned with one of the large white caps with fapping borders, worn by the Hamburg maid-servants ; her dress was of coarse brown stuff, of which she took amazing care, scrupulously lifting up the petticoat when accident obliged her to cross a puddle. Her height was that of a well-grown child of two years old, and her breadth exceeded her stature. Add to this description that she was at least sixty years of age, that her complexion was of a dirty yellow, and her countenance most forbidding, and Katerina Bürger is before you.
Though Katerina never begged, she gained more in charity than all the mendicants in Hamburg put together: and as she had been in the habit of taking fees for many a long year, the chances were that she had a “pretty considerable " strong box somewhere.
Katerina went back to her cellar, and others to the rich men's feasts; the champagne flowed freely ; the havannahs were smoked, and Hamburg luxury was at its height ; when at eight o'clock a distant but loud report of a cannon was heard. “Poor people!” said one or two of the more feeling among the company. All knew the cause why that warning-shot was fired. The tide was high, and the underground inhabitants of the old town must leave their wretched shelter, or be drowned.
“ Poor people!” they might well say; the night was cold—as March nights generally are, especially in a climate so cold as that of Hamburg. The frost had only just broken up, and detached masses of ice were floating on the canals in those parts of the town where the sun's influence was not felt. It was not much of furniture, or warmth, or dryness of which Katerina's cellar could ever boast ; in short, she had more of the water-rat in her nature and habits than of a human being, but the floor and the walls were beginning to dry after the last high tide had saturated them with moisture, and now they would be colder and wetter than ever, and her bed, and table, and chair, must be removed up higher. In short, Katerina was in despair.
Immediately above her, on the ground floor, lodged two good, peace, able, but very poor women. They were worse off thau Katerina, as to money, and only less to be pitied, inasmuch as they were safe from the incursions of the flood. They were Mecklenburghers, and stood in the mutual relations of mother and daughter. Their natural protector was dead; and the poor destitute widow, oppressed with grief and want, was dying.
Clärchen, the daughter, was sitting motionless beside the narrow curtainless bed on which her mother lay. To her, poor girl, those hours seemed long ages, as she watched, with eyes fixed in fearful earnestness on the fast changing face of her only friend. The bright sunny day had passed away : Clärchen knew that it was bright, for she looked up very high, above the roofs of the opposite houses, and she saw that the sky was clear and blue. But the sunny day was gone, and in its place was a thick covering of fog, which wrapped up the evening light as in a blanket. At length night came, and poor Clärchen felt frightened, for she could not see her mother's face. She was very cold; but she could not stir, for the sick woman's hand was clasped in hers, Clärchen was very unhappy, and now she felt nervous too — nervous, as peasant girls can ever feel. She longed for sound, for a light, for anything to break the solemn stillness of the room. She bent her head over her mother's face, and gently whispered the words, “ Meine mutter." There came no sound,- for life was too far gone for words, but the fingers of the dying woman closed more firmly round her daughter's hand. The mother's heart responded to the last; Clärchen's words were felt and answered there. But the hand grew colder, and Clärchen felt it. “Mein Gott !” she said, “she's dying!” and the agonising scream of the terrified girl was heard through every corner of that gloomy, spacious house. But with it came another sound the warning gun. Clärchen's feelings were wound up to the highest pitch