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[-339-]

CHAPTER CX.

THE EFFECTS OF A TRANCE. 

IT was half-past eight o'clock in the evening.
    By the side of a bed in a comfortable chamber at the surgeon's house in the Cambridge Road, near Bethnal Green New Church, sate James Tomlinson.
    The light of the candles that burnt upon the table, fell on the pale and ghastly countenance of old Michael Martin, who lay in that bed, his head propped up with pillows.
    There was no one else in the room at the time, save these two persons.
    "And thus was it, my good and faithful friend," said Tomlinson, breaking the long silence which had ensued after mutual explanations, - " thus was it that you so nobly sacrificed yourself for me! Oh! believe me that I have never ceased to think of your generous - your unparalleled behaviour in that sad business!"
    "I know it - I know it," returned the old man in a weak and hollow voice. "If you had not been a kind master to me, I should never have done all that for you. But, tell me, - and tell me truly," added Michael, fixing his glassy eyes upon the stock-broker, "do you think that these persons - the surgeon, and that hideous man who —"
    Martin ceased - and his entire frame was convulsed with horror as he remembered the appalling circumstances under which he had been recovered from his late death-like trance and restored to life.
    "Compose yourself, my excellent friend," said Tomlinson, who fully comprehended what was passing in his mind; "fear alone will seal these people's lips - even if no other motive were powerful enough to ensure their silence. The surgeon seems an honest kind of man, and may be relied upon: besides, he would seriously compromise himself were he to breathe a word of this strange occurrence. As for the other person - he who came to tell me what had taken place, and brought me hither this evening - I have agreed to purchase his silence and that of a comrade, who, it appears, was engaged with him in the business."
    "I know you cannot afford to do any such thing," said old Michael, speaking with somewhat of that bluntness, or even gruffness of manner, which had characterised him in past times; "and I won't have you get yourself into difficulties on my account."
    " Believe me, I can afford it," returned Tomlinson.
    "You can't. You told me just now that you were struggling against many difficulties. How much are you going to give these scoundrels?"
    "A mere trifle - nothing beyond my means —"
    "How much?" demanded old Michael, imperatively.
    "Two hundred pounds."
    "Two hundred pounds! It can't - and it shan't be done, Mr. Tomlinson. You have not got two hundred pounds: I know you have not."
    "I am to receive five hundred this evening for certain professional service, to be rendered," said Tomlinson; "and I can readily spare a portion to ensure a silence which is necessary not only to your safety but to mine."
    "True - your safety," muttered old Michael, whose thoughts seemed ever fixed upon the welfare of his late employer. "Well - well, I suppose it must be done. Do it, then."
    Another long pause ensued.
    Suddenly Martin turned towards Tomlinson, and said, in a sharp querulous tone, "You told me that you were going to receive five hundred pounds this evening?"
    "Such is my hope," answered the stock-broker, averting his glances from the old man.
    "Ah! you can't look me in the face," exclaimed Michael, almost savagely. "Where are you going to get that money from ?"
    "From a client  - for whom I am to do business - of a certain nature," faltered Tomlinson.
    "Certain nature, indeed! What is it ?"
    "Merely professional. Michael," was the answer.
    [-340-]  "Professional business in one evening, that will produce five hundred pounds," said the old man, dwelling emphatically upon every word : then, after a pause, he added abruptly. "I don't believe it."
    "I declare most solemnly that I am telling you the truth," cried Tomlinson, somewhat hurt by Michael's manner and observations.
    "So much the worse for you, then," rejoined the old man, laconically. "The business you are to perform for that sum is not honest."
    Tomlinson was about to make some excuse to put an end to the topic by an evasive reply, when Michael Martin raised himself to a sitting posture in the bed, arid, fixing his eyes upon his late master, exclaimed, with strange emphasis of manner, "Have you not seen enough - experienced enough - and suffered enough, to render you timorous in re-embarking upon the great ocean of chicanery, duplicity, and crime? Be you well assured that though the currents of that ocean may float you prosperously along for a season, they will sooner or later dash you against a sunken rock, and shipwreck you beyond redemption. Oh!" he continued, his ghastly countenance becoming animated with the ruddy tinge of excitement, and fire once more sparkling from his glassy eyes,- "Oh! if you had only passed through all that I have within these last few days, you would not neglect so terrible a warning! Do you know," - and his utterance became rapid and eloquent, - "do you know that I have passed the limits of the tomb, and have wandered in the worlds beyond? Do you know that I have learnt the grand - the sublime - the supernal secret of eternity? Yes - when the breath left this mortal clay, my soul winged its light into the regions of infinite space! With the rapidity of a whirlwind I was hurried away from the earth; and, although I was nothing but a spirit, and could not touch myself, yet had I ears to hear, and eyes to see, and organs to receive sensations. I was permitted to wander amidst the regions of eternal bliss, and to penetrate into the mysteries of hell. O God! I tasted of the joys of the former, and was equally compelled to submit to the torments of the latter - each for a little space ! Ah I sir, can you not divine wherefore the Almighty from time to time plunges mortals into a trance - submits them to the dominion of death for a season ? It is that he may snatch away their souls, to lead them into the celestial mansions, and precipitate them into the depths of Satan's kingdom, - so that, when restored to their mortal clay, they may teach their fellow-creatures the grand truths of eternity - they may announce to them that there is a heaven to reward, and a hell to punish! And the Almighty made choice of me, - of me, a grovelling worm, one of the most obscure and humble of his creatures, - He made choice of me, I say, to become the means through which His warning voice might speak to you and others! What the pleasures of heaven are, or of what the torments of hell consist, I dare not say: suffice it for you to know that there is a heaven, and there is a hell - and the former exceeds all idea which man can conceive of bliss, while the latter surpasses every thing which he can imagine of horror! Be warned, then, by me, James Tomlinson - be warned by one who for four days was snatched away from earth, and, during that period was initiated in the mighty secrets of Eternity!"
    The old man fell back in the bed, exhausted.
    Tomlinson had at first listened to him with sorrow and alarm : he trembled lest the delirium of a fever had suddenly overtaken him - lest his brain was faltering. But as he proceeded - in a style of galvanic force and eloquence of which the listener, who had known him for so many years, deemed him incapable, - in a manner so inconsistent with all his former habits, so strangely at variance with his nature, his character, and his disposition, - the stock. broker became afraid, for it seemed to him as if those burning, searching, searing, scorching words were indeed an emanation from a source belonging to the mysteries of other worlds.
    An awful pause ensued when Michael Martin ceased to speak.
    For some moments Tomlinson sate riveted in speechless terror to his chair - stunned, bewildered, astounded, appalled by all he had just heard.
    That dread silence was at length interrupted by the entrance of the surgeon.
    "How gets on my patient now?" he said, approaching the couch.
    "I fear - I am afraid - that is, I think - his head wanders," faltered the stock-broker, scarcely knowing what he said.
    "We must expect that such will be the case - for some days to come," returned the surgeon, with the coolness of a professional man who saw nothing extraordinary in such results following so strange a resuscitation, from a death-like trance.
    "You think, then," asked Tomlinson, "that it is possible for this poor old man to rave - about things of -  a very extraordinary nature?"
    "People, when delirious, burst forth into the most wild and fanciful ravings," answered the surgeon, as he felt Michael's pulse.
    "And he might, then, rave of heaven - and hell - and things relating to —"
    "He may rave of any nonsense," said the surgeon, abruptly; "but that is no reason why we should allow ourselves to be affected by it - as I see that you are."
    "It was, indeed, very foolish on my part," observed Tomlinson, now acquiring confidence, and endeavouring to divest himself of the strange sensations of horror and dread which the eloquence of the old man had excited within him.
    "You had better retire for the present," said the surgeon. "He is in a high fever-produced, perhaps, by this interview with you, under such circumstances. Do not think of seeing him again this evening: to-morrow evening he will be better and more composed."
    "And you will take every possible care of him," exclaimed the stock-broker. "Remember that no expense must be spared to make him comfortable - to ensure his recovery. I will remunerate you handsomely, sir."
    "Well, well," said the surgeon, impatiently. "We will talk about that another time. Good evening - you may return to-morrow at the same hour."
    "Good evening," answered Tomlinson; and he slowly took his departure.

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