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as she said, who would not hurt a fly. Sarah wanted to beg his pardon ; but Mr. Morton sent her word by one of the constables, that though he could not see her, she should not be without her wages. He's a generous gentleman, and has ordered the two men that keep watch on him to call for what they like. I don't believe he poisoned the man at all,” concluded Boniface, on whose opinion this liberality for the good of the house was working a visible change, as he conducted the old juror to the door of the prisoner's room. Here he was made over to the charge of a constable, who ushered him into the presence of the individual he sought.
“ You are welcome,” said Mr. Morton, after having for a moment silently regarded the countenance of his visiter. He waved his hand to the constable, who, placing a chair for Mr. Parr, withdrew.
“ You remember me, then,” replied the juror. “ Perhaps you saw me this morning, and expected that I should seek you."
“ I saw you remembered you—I felt that you would come to me,” exclaimed the prisoner in a hollow tone. “There are dispensations of an angry and avenging Providence which must have a record, or many a fearful warning would be lost. Need I tell you that the present is one of these?”
“ You have much to tell me,” answered Mr. Parr, “ if I am to understand that which I beheld this morning. I tremble now to think of it. An event of a quarter of a century ago seemed again enacted before my eyes. It appeared to me that I once more looked on the corpse
my friend and of your brother. I tried to think it was but a vision, --a fancy such as the mind is sometimes betrayed into when we imagine that we have ere now been participators in the scene around
I returned to the room I had left; the sheet was then over the corpse,- I might have been mistaken,—but I beheld you, changed, yet still
“A living judgment !” interrupted the prisoner. “It is but right you should be informed how—why you may perchance guess."
With a calmness of manner that was almost appalling to Mr. Parr, who could not but suspect the storm that raged within the breast of the wretched man, he now rose from the seat, which he had not quitted on the entrance of his visiter, and placed a bottle of wine and glasses on the table. He again threw himself into his chair, and confronted the old juror, who, having watched his proceedings, at length said,
“I want no refreshinent, Mr. Morton, if so it please you to be called. My only thirst is for information as to the sight of to-day in connection with the past, when you bore another and, to me, a more familiar name.”
“What is thy thirst to me?" hoarsely cried the prisoner, while in an instant a hideous smile, that was “not of mirth,” lighted up his thin face. “I can drink! Yes! — to-day the goblet comes not from the hands of the dead—and to-day I may drink the wine to the dregs, nor see it bubble again to the brim of the cup, that the pale blue lips of the murdered may quaff!”
Morton poured wine into a large glass, and drank it off. When he replaced the tumbler on the table his countenance had lost the gleam of unnatural excitement which had so strangely illumed it.
“ You may pledge me safely,” he remarked, laying particular emphasis on the word “safely.” Mr. Parr bowed, and would have answered; but, in a tone which admitted not of reply, the prisoner con
tinued, “You came not here to bandy compliments with me—drink or not as it pleases you. There is mercy in Heaven-I can drink.”
As he uttered this last extraordinary expression, it occurred to Mr. Parr, prepared as he was for the excitement of the interview he had sought, that he might have possibly put himself in the power of a maniac. He was in another instant reassured by Morton, who, clasping his head between his two emaciated hands, as though to still the rocking of his brain, exclaimed,
“ Forgive me-forgive me, my dear sir! I will be collected, and I will tell you all you wish to know, but not now. Do not be alarmed if I talk wildly ; it is not madness, but sane sane agony. I may inform you of things hard to believe, but doubt them not. What saw you this morning? What now lies in the room beneath us? Do not be afraid of me. To-morrow I will give myself up to justice-will that satisfy you? Now leave me. Before I die I will place in your hands a tale of horror, which you must not read till after my death. You may call it the ravings of madness; but it has been to me all too true.”
The prisoner became suddenly silent. He buried his face in his hands, and bowed his head on the table. Mr. Parr again addressed him, expressing a wish not to be considered in the light of an enemy who sought his destruction, but as a friend, who, let his guilt be what it might, would willingly serve him. Mr. Morton answered not but by a convulsive laugh; he waved his hand impatiently, but looked not up, and his visiter was constrained, in courtesy to the wretchedness he could not alleviate, to quit the apartment.
The next day Mr. Parr was too unwell to attend the inquest even as a spectator, but his nephew brought him the information that Mr. Morton had declared himself the murderer of the deceased; but had not offered any explanation as to who his victim was, or any particulars respecting the cause of his crime. The body had undergone surgical examination, and the action of a violent poison on the brain and intestines was evident, but the exact nature of this active agent of death not all the medical men within twenty miles of the town could discover. The servant, James, had not yet returned the time for which he had leave to absent himself not having expired. Nothing further was likely to be elicited by protracting the inquest, and it was accordingly brought to a close, Mr. Morton being committed by the coroner's warrant to the county gaol, to await his trial for the murder of a person unknown.
It so happened that in the whole case there was not any magisterial examination, the local magistrates being in London, deeply interested in a question connected with the franchise of the borough; and the only other law-dispenser of the neighbourhood, the vicar of the parish, being dangerously ill.
Before Mr. Morton was removed to the county-prison, he directed that the body of the murdered man should be buried by torchlight, and a most expensive funeral, the cost of which was liberally defrayed by the supposed murderer, gathered together a crowd of spectators, such as never before assembled in the churchyard of H-Curiosity was at its utmost stretch to discover who the deceased person was, and whether he had been introduced alive or dead into Mr. Morton's house ; but no further light was thrown on the matter. The time had come and passed when, according to the housekeeper's statement, James, the man-servant, ought to have returned; but he had not made his
appearance, though every means of procuring his evidence by advertisements in the papers, and posting-bills distributed throughout the country, were duly tried. In spite of Sarah Hodge's testimony that the deceased was in many respects unlike her fellow-servant, not a few of the gossips of the town believed that James was the murdered man; but how were they to account for the pains his murderer must have taken to disguise the body. Other busy tongues said that James must have been an accessary in the crime committed by his master, and had, therefore, kept out of the way.
At length the assize time arrived. The day was fixed for Mr. Morton's trial, when it was hoped this extraordinary criminal would make full confession. His behaviour in prison had been marked by the most profound melancholy. He held little communion with any one, the medical attendant, and the chaplain of the gaol excepted; the former of these officials gave it as his opinion that the prisoner was sinking fast, and that even if he escaped the penalty of the law, his death would speedily ensue; the latter, as a physician of the soul, found his cares equally unavailing. Mr. Morton treated him with courtesy, but ever refused to join him in religious exercises, and shunned all mention, either in justification or repentance, of his crime.
Old Mr. Parr, who had kept all he knew respecting the accused scrupulously locked in his own bosom, repaired to the assize town, to be at hand in case Mr. Morton might at any time recollect his promise to him, and require his attendance. He had written to the prisoner, and was much disappointed that no answer had been returned, even up to the morning of the day fixed for the trial. At seven o'clock that morning Mr. Morton was found dead in his bed. The prisoner had passed from the finite judgment of man to the dread tribunal of an unseen world. Never was public curiosity so completely baffled. The day of trial had come, but the accused was even as his supposed victim-dead, and his secret had died with him.
It was towards noon of the day marked by this last event that, as Mr. Parr was on the point of returning to H-, he was waited on by the chaplain of the gaol. Mr. Morton had not forgotten his promise to the old merchant, having placed in the safe custody of the reverend gentleman the strange document which we now lay before our readers. “ Richard Merville, now called Morton, to Charles Parr, gentleman,
late merchant of Liverpool. “I know not why I should feel a satisfaction in revealing my un. natural crime, and its terrible consequences ; but for a reason which, if I recollect rightly, influenced my promise to you when we last metmet, after a lapse of many years, when my career was nearly ended as if it were ordained that so awful a judgment might not be without record. I feel that I have almost done with time. This pulse beats feebly the last throbs of existence. Let me, then, at once lay bare the ulcer of my soul. I have not to tell you who I was when you knew me in Liverpool, where, perhaps, you envied my happy position. My father was rich, and I was indulged as few sons have been. Carriages, horses, money, all at my command; but I expended, not enjoyed. I had a burning discontent at my heart; my twin-brother he who was born but some few minutes before I had looked upon the light - my father, in the pride of his heart, had resolved to make bis principal heir. We were his only children, for our birth had caused our mother's death. Oh! that she had died ere she had conceived us! That I should be well provided for, I never doubted, but I was not content. Some busy demon seemed ever whispering, even as in the voice of mine own heart, 'the days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother :' and they did come. Henry Merville was the possessor of princely wealth for a few fleeting months, and then died by poison. I was the poisoner. Old man, you were on the inquest.' Yes! you were one of those who returned a verdict of · Wilful Murder' against an innocent stripling -a boy whom my brother out of charity had placed about his person. It was I who strewed the hellish powder in the boy's trunk. It was I who, in exaggerated detail, swore to some passages of anger between my two victims. I knew that the chidden servant had said before witnesses that he would be 'even with his master.' On this I worked to his conviction. He was hanged, and I-I was above suspicion.
“But a golden cradle rocks not the conscience to sleep. Wealth was mine, and all that wealth could bestow. Friends gathered round me; but I sat in the room where I had pledged my brother in a poisoned cup. He who had lain with me in the womb, whose bed was mine till we were even past childhood ; he who loved me as a second self, save that he valued my happiness beyond his own. This generous, this confiding brother I had murdered! How could I look upon the board where the deed was done? I sold off everything I possessed in Liverpool, and went on the Continent. It was then you lost sight of me. Oh, how often had I heard the praises of the affectionate brother who could not be happy in the place that reminded him of his loss! It reminded me of my crime--my most unnatural crime! I left England, and France being then open to our countrymen, plunged into the dissipations of the French capital. I hired a château within a short distance of Paris. Splendid were the salons of the rich English stranger. The young, the pure, the intellectual, mingled there with the libertine, the depraved, the infidel, but pleasure was the object of all; the innocent saw not defilement in the contact, and the vile laughed to mark their prey within the vortex of destruction. I lived in a bewilderment of excitement, and, ere a year had quite elapsed from the period of my brother’s death, if I had not forgotten him,-forgotten how he died, -conscience was unheard amid the revel and the song. And love, too, in all the delirium of passion, had taken possession of my soul - what had I to do with conscience ? — I who would have steeped that soul in twice its guilt to win one smile from Matilde de B. She sat by me at the banquet. It was the hour when the revel was hushed, the loud voice stilled, a few, a chosen few yet lingered. Delicious music wantoned on the perfumed air ; the silken drapery waved in the nightbreeze; and the moon looked in upon our bliss, and paled the lamps that had lit our noisy revelry, as though she came to assert her right to minister in passion's hour. Now, Matilde !' I cried, thou hast kissed the cup, and I have drunk from its brim the sweet poison of thy sigh!' Poison! The word had awakened an echo
whence it came I knew not. None heard it but myself, for Matilde smiled; her hand was ready to receive the goblet ; but, startled at my frenzied
she drew it back, and looked around with dread. Oh! in that moment a whirlwind-rush of thought had lashed my brain into a storm of memory. "Twas the anniversary of my brother's death. It was the hour I saw him drink ‘Good night' unto his murderer! Ere Matilde, seeing no cause for fear, had turned to chide my jesting with her, a hand bad taken the cup. My brother stood beside me, habited as I had last beheld him. He looked around the banquet-hall, replaced the goblet on the table, and fixed his eyes on me. Then slowly he passed from among us. I fell from my seat in a swoon.
When I came to myself I was in charge of my servants. Had all my guests fled ? No! I perceived that I was in my usual sleeping apartment.
“ Reckless of reputation, Matilde must have remained by me, and for her the state-chamber of the château had been prepared. It was morning
I would attend her toilet. The delirium I had been in during the night could not have left me, for, no sooner was I struck with this idea than I became completely possessed with it. I made my valet dress me. I insisted on his acquainting Madame de B—that I would wait on her. In vain the man opposed me. I listened not to what he had to say, and ere he could prevent me, I made my way into the chamber where, flinging open the curtains of the bed, I beheld—not Matilde-the corpse of my brother! How I became not on the instant irrevocably mad has ever been a wonder to me; but my brain strangely stood the shock, and after awhile a dread of impending danger made me bestir myself to dispose of the body. I pretended not to account for its appearance in my bed, and I had it removed, and buried at night, with little ceremony, in the consecrated ground of a neighbouring ruined abbey. By flying into Italy I baffled the inquiries of the authorities respecting the corpse which had so mysteriously been found in my house, and so silently disposed of; and the latter portion of Louis the Fifteenth's reign was too much convulsed by his arbitrary measures to allow of the public mind dwelling long on private occurrences, however strange.
“ The next year I was in a village at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. I had been a wanderer through Italy, and now a dread came over me that the anniversary of my crime might again be marked by the appearance of my brother: I therefore sought a scene of desolation, for the volcano had been lately in full eruption, and vineyards, and villages, and flocks, and herds, were destroyed; so that if the evil came upon me, it might be in the midst of those who, in alarm for their own lives and property, would not take cognizance of a stranger's actions. The night came. I had chosen it for a nearer view of the fiery throes of nature, and with a single guide I proceeded toward the crater. The eruption had spent its force, but a stream of lava, like a river of hell, was slowly progressing towards a grove of spreading chestnuts. The mighty wood bowed to the power of the sea of flames. We had approached too near its course, and the heat, and the black sulphureous cinders which every now and then fell on us from on high as the crater sent them forth into the air, warned us to retreat.
“ Our way was over plains of pumice and yielding ashes; the fires of Vesuvius seemed to have reached my throat. I turned to my guide, and asked for drink. He handed a calabash to me, and I drank. Merciful heaven! a cold and clammy hand received it from me! My brother stood before me; the gourd was at his lips. I uttered a wild scream. The guide looked around. The vision had disappeared, and the wine was mingling with the dust. The fellow muttered an execration at my carelessness. We had yet more than a mile to walk. When we reached the village there was a cry that the body of a stranger was found stretched on my bed. I once more beheld my poisoned brother. Great was the astonishment of the villagers, but I was this