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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
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
"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.
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"It was, indeed, very foolish on my part," observed
acquiring confidence, and endeavouring to divest himself of the strange
sensations of horror and dread which the eloquence of the old man had excited
"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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