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    THE youthful stranger had listened with ineffable surprise and horror to the conversation of the two ruffians. His nerves had been worked up by all the circumstances of the evening to a tone bordering upon madness - to that pitch, indeed, when it appeared as if there were no alternative left save to fall upon the floor and yield to the delirium tremens of violent emotions.
    He had restrained his feelings while he heard the burglary at Mr. Markham's dwelling coolly planned and settled; but when the discourse of those two monsters in human shape developed to his imagination all the horrors of the fearful place in which he had sought an asylum, - when he heard that he was actually standing upon the very verge of that staircase down which innumerable victims had been hurled to the depths of the slimy ditch beneath, - and when he thought how probable it was that his bones were doomed to whiten in the dark and hidden caverns below, along with the remains of other human beings who had been barbarously murdered in cold blood, - reason appeared to forsake him. A cold sweat broke forth all over him; and he seemed about to faint under the impression of a hideous nightmare.
    He threw his hat upon the floor - for he felt the want of air. That proud forehead, that  beautiful countenance were distorted with indescribable horror; and an ashy pallor spread itself over his features.
    Death, in all its most hideous forms, appeared to follow - to surround - to hem him in. There was no escape - a trap-door here - a well, communicating with the ditch, there - or else the dagger; - no matter in what shape - still Death was before him - behind him - above him - below him - on every side of him.
    It was horrible - most horrible!
    Then was it that a sudden thought flashes across his brain: he resolved to attempt a desperate effort to escape. He summoned all his courage to his aid, and opened the door so cautiously that, though the hinges were old and rusted, they did not creak.
    The crisis was now at hand. If he could clear the landing unperceived, he was safe. It was true that, seen or unseen, he might succeed in escaping from the house by means of his superior agility and nimbleness; but he reflected that these men would capture him again, in a few minutes, in the midst of a labyrinth of streets with which he was utterly unacquainted, but which they knew so well. He remembered that he had overheard their secrets and witnessed their mysterious modes of concealment; and that, should he fall into their power, death must inevitably await him.
    These ideas crossed his brain in a moment, and convinced him of the necessity of prudence and extreme caution. He must leave the house unperceived, and dare the pitiless storm and pelting rain; for the tempest still raged without.
    He once more approached the window to ascertain if there were any chance of stealing across the landing-place unseen. Unfortunately he drew too near the window: the light of the candle fell full upon his countenance, which horror and alarm had rendered deadly pale and fearfully convulsed.
    It was at this moment that the ruffian, in the midst of his unholy vaunts, had caught sight of that human face - white as a sheet - and with eyes fixed upon him with a glare which his imagination rendered stony and unearthly.
    The youth saw that he was discovered; and a full sense of the desperate peril which hung over him, rushed to his mind. He turned, and endeavoured to fly away from the fatal spot; but, as imagination frequently fetters the limbs in a nightmare, and involves the sleeper in danger from which he vainly attempts to run, so did his legs now refuse to perform their office.
    His brain whirled - his eyes grew dim : he grasped at the wall to save himself from falling - but his senses were deserting him - and he sank fainting upon the floor.
    He awoke from the trance into which he had fallen, and became aware that he was being moved along. Almost at the same instant his eyes fell upon the sinister countenance of Dick, who was carrying him by the feet. The other ruffian was supporting his head.
    They were lifting him down the staircase, upon the top step of which the candle was standing.
    All the incidents of the evening immediately returned to the memory of the wretched boy, who now only too well comprehended the desperate perils that surrounded him.
    The bottom of the staircase was reached: the villains deposited their burden for a moment in the passage, while Dick retraced his steps to fetch down the candle.
    And then a horrible conflict of feelings and inclinations took place in the bosom of the unhappy youth. He shut his eyes; and for an instant debating within himself whether he should [-7-]  remain silent or cry out. He dreamt of immediate - instantaneous death and yet he thought that he was young to die - oh, so. young - and that men could not be such barbarians —
    But when the two ruffians stooped down to take him up again, fear surmounted all other sentiments, feelings, and inclinations; and his deep - his profound - his heartfelt agony was expressed in one long, loud, and piercing shriek!
    And then a fearful scene took place.
    The two villains carried the youth into the front room upon the ground-floor, and laid him down for a moment.
    It was the seine room to which he had first found his way upon entering that house.
    It was the room in which, by the glare of the evanescent lightning, he had seen that black square upon the dirty floor.
    For a few instants all was dark. At length the candle was brought by the man in the fustian coat.
    The youth glanced wildly around him, and speedily recognised that room.
    He remembered how deep a sensation of horror seized him when that black square upon the floor first caught his eyes.
    He raised himself upon his left arm, and once more looked around.
    Great God! was it possible?
    That ominous blackness - that sinister square was the mouth of a yawning gulf, the trap-door of which was raised.
    A fetid smell rose from the depths below, and the gurgling of a current was faintly heard. The dread truth was in a moment made apparent to that unhappy boy - much more quickly than it occupies to relate or read. He started from his supine posture, and fell upon his knees at the feet of those merciless villains who had borne him thither.
    "Mercy, mercy! I implore you! Oh! do not devote me to so horrible a death! Do not - do not murder me!"
    "Hold your noisy tongue, you fool," ejaculated Bill, brutally. "You have heard and seen too much for our safety ; we can't do otherwise."
    "No, certainly not," added Dick. "You are now as fly to the fakement as any one of us."
    "Spare me, spare me, and I will never betray you! Oh! do not send me out of this world, so young - so very young! I have money, I have wealth,  I am rich, and I will give you all I possess!" ejaculated the agonized youth; his countenance wearing an expression of horrible despair.
    "Come; here's enough. Bill, lend a hand!" and Dick seized the boy by one arm, while his companion took a firm hold of the other.
    "Mercy, mercy!" shrieked the youth, struggling violently; but struggling vainly. "You will repent when you know - I am not what I —"
    He said no more: hit last words were uttered over the mouth of the chasm ere the ruffians loosened their hold; - and then he fell.
    The trap-door was closed violently over the aperture, and drowned the scream of agony which burst from his lips.
    The two murderers then retraced their steps to the apartment on the first floor.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

On the following day, about one o'clock, Mr. Markham, a gentleman of fortune residing in the northern environs of London, received the following letter : -

    "The Inscrutable decree, of Providence hare enabled the undersigned to warn you, that this night a burglarious attempt will be made upon your dwelling. The wretches who contemplate this infamy are capable of a crime of much blacker die. Beware!
                                                                    "AN UNKNOWN FRIEND"

    This letter was written in a beautiful feminine hand. Due precaution was adopted at Mr. Markham's mansion; but the attempt alluded to in the warning epistle was, for some reason or another, not made.

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