< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >


[-340-]

CHAPTER CXI.

A SCENE AT MR. CHICHESTER'S HOUSE.

IT was about half-past nine on the same evening that the above incidents occurred, when a double knock at the front door echoed through Mr. Chichester's dwelling, in the immediate vicinity of the Cambridge Heath Gate.
    [-341-] Mr. Chichester himself was seated in an elegantly- furnished parlour, sipping a glass of excellent Madeira, and pondering upon the best means of enjoying himself when he should have fingered the cash to obtain which he had perpetrated so diabolical an outrage against the confiding woman who had bestowed upon him her hand, and made him a partner in the enjoyment, if not in the actual possession, of her fortune.
    The room was not large, but very comfortable; and at one end a pair of ample folding doors, now closed, afforded admission into a back parlour.
    A few moments after the echo of the double-knock above mentioned, through the house, a female servant entered and announced Mr. Tomlinson.
    Having requested the stock-broker to be seated, Mr. Chichester followed the servant into the hall, and said to her in a low whisper, "When the other person comes, show him into the back parlour, as I may require to have some conversation with this gentleman before I introduce them to each other."
    This command being given, Mr. Chichester returned to the room where he had left Mr. Tomlinson.
    "You are before your time," said Chichester, pushing the decanter and a glass towards the stockbroker: "that looks like business."
    "I accidentally had an appointment upon some business in this neighbourhood," was the reply; "and when that matter was disposed of, I came I straight hither."
    "We cannot repair to the lunatic asylum until ten or half-past," said Chichester, "because, as a precaution, the keeper has promised to call upon me presently, and report whether my wife continues in the same docile mood as when he wrote to me yesterday afternoon."
    "I should be delighted to hear that you could settle this unpleasant - very unpleasant affair in some amicable way," returned Tomlinson, whose mind was still painfully excited by the interview which had taken place between him and his late cashier.
    "Impossible, my dear sir!" ejaculated Chichester. "These is no way save the one chalked out. "I hope that you do not hesitate to fulfil the agreement into which you entered with me."
    "The truth is, Mr. Chichester," said Tomlinson, "there is no man in London to whom a few hundreds of pounds would prove as welcome as to me - especially as to-morrow I have to pay two hundred to men who will not be very well pleased to experience a disappointment. It is true that I possess such a sum at my bankers'; but I dare not draw out every shilling - my credit would be ruined."
    "So much the better reason for doing as I require of you," said Chichester, filling the glasses with Madeira.
    "True," observed Tomlinson. "But, on the other hand, I tremble to take a false step - I fear to jeopardize myself by connivance at a direct conspiracy —"
    "Pshaw!" cried Chichester. "What is the use of compunction on the part of a man who stands in so much need of money as yourself?"
    Tomlinson was about to reply, when a low knock at the front door fell upon his ears.
    "It is no one - of any consequence," said Chichester; then, as he refilled the glasses, he muttered to himself, "There is no use in introducing these men to each other, unless this milk-and-water fool is quite agreeable to act."
    "Did you make an observation?" inquired the stock-broker. 
    "I was observing that it was no one of any consequence ;- only some person for the servants, most probably. But let me now ask you seriously, Mr. Tomlinson, whether you feel disposed to proceed further in this matter or not?"
    "Candidly speaking, I would rather not," was the reply.
    "Then you were wrong to give me a false hope of your aid, and allow so much valuable time to elapse, during which I might have found a broker less punctilious than you."
    "I regret that I should have caused this inconvenience," answered Tomlinson; "but I had resolved to perform my promise until about an hour ago, and I have even brought the necessary documents for the purpose."
    "Something very remarkable must have intervened to change your resolutions," said Chichester, contemptuously.
    "I am not superstitious," observed Tomlinson ;"but I believe that a providential warning was conveyed to me  —"
    "A providential fiddle-stick! Remember, Mr. Tomlinson, that by your unpardonable vacillation in this matter you will only prolong the incarceration of my wife."
    "And, pray, who is responsible for that deed?"
    "We will not discuss this point," returned Chichester. "I did not ask you to become my Mentor. At the same time," he added, sinking his voice, "every moment is important - for my wife is going mad in reality!"
    "Then, in the name of God, release her at once!" ejaculated Tomlinson.
    "Never - until she signs the deed."
    "Release her," continued Tomlinson; "and then bring her with you to my office, where she can make the transfer."
    "Are you mad yourself? Do you suppose she would ever put pen to paper if she were once liberated in that manner? I am surprised at your ignorance - vexed at your cowardice. You have not acted like a man of business, nor as a man of the world. It was for you to accept or decline my proposal - not to deceive me by these changes and shiftings of inclination. Come, sir - once for all-pluck up your courage: remember the two hundred pounds which you say must be paid to-morrow to two men who will not be put off, and the settlement of which debt will so materially embarrass your finances."
    "My mind is made up, Mr. Chichester," answered Tomlinson firmly.
    "And what is your decision? "
    "I shall beg to withdraw from the transaction."
    And Tomlinson rose to depart. 
    But at the same moment the folding-doors, communicating with the inner room, were thrown open, and a man with a cadaverous countenance stood forward.
    "You shall not forfeit your word in this respect," exclaimed the individual, whom Tomlinson immediately recognised to be the body-snatcher engaged in the affair of Michael Martin.
    "What does this man do here?" asked Tomlin son, in a faint voice, of Chichester.
    "What do I do here? what do I do every where?" cried the man, with a diabolical laugh "Tell me the secret plot - the cunning intrigue - the scheme of villany to which Anthony Tidkins, surnamed the Resurrection Man, is a stranger! But little did I think when I called upon you this [-342-] morning, - little did I imagine when I met you again this evening, that you were the person enlisted by Mr. Chichester in the affair which we have now in hand."
    "It would appear, then, that you are acquainted with each other," said Chichester, laughing heartily at the confusion manifested by the stock-broker in the presence of the Resurrection Man. "Why, what devilry was it that brought you two together ?"
    "Whether I keep Mr. Tomlinson's secret, or whether I proclaim it to you and every one else whom I know, until the whole town rings with the circumstance, is a matter for him to decide," said  the Resurrection Man ;- and, with admirable coolness, he helped himself to a bumper of Madeira.
    "If I pay you two hundred pounds, as agreed upon," exclaimed Tomlinson, "what more would you require of me?"
    "I require that you remain faithful to your promise to Mr. Chichester ;- I require that you fulfil the service which you have undertaken to perform in his behalf," was the resolute reply.
    "And in what way does the business regard you  - you, who acknowledge yourself to be  —"
    "A resurrectionist! Certainly I am - and the most skilful in London, no other excepted," exclaimed Tidkins, with a satanic chuckle. "But that does not prevent me from turning mad-house keeper - or any thing else - when opportunity offers."
    "What! you are the keeper of the asylum in which this gentleman's wife is imprisoned!" exclaimed the stock-broker, in a tone of the most profound astonishment.
    "Yes, he is indeed," said Chichester: "and a better keeper could not have been found. So now you know all about that point."
    "And Mr. Tomlinson will be good enough to accompany me to my house," observed the Resurrection Man. "You, Mr. Chichester, can follow us at a little distance. It looks suspicious for three people to walk together."
    "I really must decline  —" began Tomlinson, trembling from head to foot, as the warning voice of Michael Martin seemed to ring in his ears.
    "One word more, Mr. Tomlinson," said the Resurrection Man, " I am a person of determined spirit and resolution. I never stick at trifles myself; - and I don't choose others, with whom I am connected, to balk me in my designs, when I can prevent them. Now, either come with me, and do what is required of you; or, as sure as there is breath in your body, I will deliver up a certain person to the police, and stand the consequences myself."
    "I beg of you - I implore you  —"
    " Pshaw!" cried Chichester: " this is child's play!"
    "Child's play, indeed! " thundered the Resurrection Man in a terrible voice. "But I will put an end to it. Come, sir - hesitate another minute, and that old man is lost!"
    "I will accompany you," answered the stockbroker ;- then, in an under tone, he added, "But God knows how unwillingly!"
    The Resurrection Man seized him by the arm, and conducted him out of the house.
    Five minutes afterwards, Chichester followed in the same direction.

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >