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[-10-]

CHAPTER CXL.

    INCIDENTS IN THE GIPSY PALACE.

FOR a few moments Richard remained rooted to the spot where the returned convict had left him. He was uncertain how to proceed.
    Warned by the desperate adventure which had nearly cost him his life at Twig Folly, he feared lest the present occurrence might be another scheme of the Resurrection Man to ensnare him.
    Then he reflected that the individual who had just left him, had met him accidentally, and had narrated to him circumstances which had every appearance of truth.
    We have before said that Markham was not a coward far from it; and he moreover experienced a lively curiosity to satisfy himself concerning the fate of an individual whose inveterate malignity had so frequently menaced not only his dearest interests, but his life.
    This reflection decided him; and, without farther hesitation, he knocked boldly at the front door of the Gipsies' Palace.
    Some minutes elapsed ere his summons appeared to have created any attention within; and he was about to repeat it, when the door slowly moved on its hinges.
    But to Markham's surprise no person appeared in the obscure lobby into which the pale moon threw a fitful light; in fact, the front door was opened by means of a simple mechanism which the porter worked in his lodge overhead.
    While Markham was lost in wonder at this strange circumstance, the trap was suddenly raised above, and a strong light was thrown through it into the lobby.
    "Who are you?" demanded the gruff voice of the porter.
    "I seek a few hours' repose and rest," answered Markham.
    "Who sent you here?"
    "A person who is a friend to you."
    "Do you know what place this is?"
    "Yes it is the head-quarters of the Zingarees"
    "So far, so good," said the porter. "Well wait a few moments I must see."
    The trap closed the lobby was again involved in total darkness; and for the next ten minutes the silence of death appeared to reign within the house.
    At the expiration of that time the inner door was opened: and the porter, bearing a light, appeared.
    "You may enter," he said. "The Zingarees never refuse hospitality when it can be safely granted."
    Markham crossed the threshold without hesitation.
    The porter closed both doors with great care.
    "Follow me," said the man.
    He then led the way up stairs to the first floor. and conducted our hero into a room where there were several beds, all of which were unoccupied.
    "You have your choice of the downies," observed [-11-] the porter, with a half smile; "and I shall leave you this light. Do you require any food?"
    "None, I thank you."
    "So I should think," said the man drily, as he surveyed Markham's appearance in a manner which seemed to express a wonder why a person in his situation of life had come thither at all.
    We have, however, before observed that curiosity formed but a faint feature of the gipsy character; and, even when it existed, it was not expressed in verbal queries. Moreover, individuals in a respectable sphere not unfrequently sought in the Holy Land a refuge against the officers of the laws which they violated; and hence the appearance of a person had nothing to do with the fact of admission into the gipsies' establishment.
    Nevertheless, the porter did survey Markham in a dubious way for a moment; but whether the preceding incidents of the night, or the calm tranquillity of our hero's manner, so inconsistent with the idea that he was anxious to conceal himself from the eyes of justice, excited the suspicions of the porter, it is impossible to say.
    But that glance of curiosity was only momentary.
    Averting his eyes from our hero, the porter placed the light upon the floor, wished him a good night's rest, and retired.
    But to the surprise and annoyance of Markham, the gipsy locked the door of the apartment.
    As the key turned with a grating sound, a tremor crept over Richard's frame; and he almost repented having sought the interior of an abode the character and inmates of which were almost entirely unknown to him. Indeed, all that he knew of either was derived from the meagre information of the man (and that man an acknowledged assassin!) who had induced him to visit the place where be now found himself.
    "How weak I am to yield to this sentiment of fear!" he exclaimed. "Rather let me determine how to act."
    He proceeded to examine the room in which he appeared to be a prisoner. The numerous beds seemed to indicate that he really was in a species of barrack, or lodging-house of some kind; and this circumstance, coupled with the fact that the porter who had admitted him was evidently a member of the Egyptian or Bohemian race, reassured him for he felt convinced that he was actually in the abode of gipsies.
    So far the stranger, who had been the means of his visit to that strange tenement, had not deceived him.
    But how was he to satisfy himself in regard to the Resurrection Man? He tried the door it was indeed fastened: he examined the windows they were not barred, but were of a dangerous height from the back-yard on which they looked.
    Markham paced the room uncertain how to act.
    Suddenly his reverie was Interrupted by the tread of many steps upon the stairs; and then a species of subdued bustle took place throughout the house.
    The whispering of voices the removal of heavy objects overhead the running of persons hither and thither and the opening and shutting of doors, announced that some extraordinary movement was taking place.
    Richard listened with breathless anxiety.
    At length the sounds of several heavy steps, in the landing outside his door, met his ears; and this was at short intervals varied by deep groans.
    The groans seemed to accompany the tread of the heavy steps just mentioned.
    These steps and those expressions of human suffering grew fainter and fainter, as they descended the stairs, until at length they were no longer audible.
    Nevertheless Markham kept his ear fixed to the key-hole of his chamber-door.
    Silence now once more reigned throughout the house; but in a few minutes the noise and bustle seemed to have been transferred to the yard.
    Richard hurried to the window; but the moon had gone down and the darkness without was intense.
    He concealed the light in a corner of the room, and then gently raised one of the windows.
    But he could distinguish nothing with his eyes; and the sounds that met his ears were those of footsteps bustling to and fro. At length these ceased: a door was closed at the end of the yard; and almost immediately afterwards Richard heard, in the same direction, the rumbling noise of a vehicle moving heavily away.
    When that din had ceased, the most profound tranquillity prevailed not only in the house but also in its neighbourhood.
    That silence was interrupted only for a few moments by the sonorous bell of St. Giles's Church, proclaiming the hour of three.
    "Time wears on," said Markham impatiently; "and no opportunity of satisfying myself upon the one point seems to present itself. To attempt to seek repose is impossible: to pass the dull hours in supense [-sic-] like this is intolerable!"
    Then he seated himself on one of the beds, and considered what course he should pursue.
    Slowly slowly passed the time: and though he revolved in his mind many plans, he could fix upon none.
    At length the clock struck four.
    "The hour for departure will come, and I shall leave this house as full of doubt and uncertainty as when I entered it!" he ejaculated, starting up.
    His eye chanced to fall upon a long nail in the wall opposite to the bed from which he had just risen.
    A scheme which had already suggested itself to his mind, now assumed a feasible aspect: he knew that the door was only locked, and not bolted; and that nail seemed to promise the means of egress.
    He, however, first examined the candle which had been left him, and which still burned in the corner where he had concealed it to his joy he found that there was an inch remaining.
    "With the assurance of light for another half hour, and good courage," he said to himself, "I may yet accomplish my purpose."
    Having extracted the nail from the wall, he proceeded to pick the lock of the room-door an operation which he successfully achieved in a few minutes.
    Without a moment's hesitation, he issued from the room, bearing the candle in his hand.
    As he crossed the landing towards the staircase, which he resolved to ascend, his foot came in contact with some object.
    He picked it up: It was an old greasy pocket-book, tied loosely round with a coarse string, and as Markham raised it a letter dropped out. [-12-]
    Richard was in the act of replacing the document in the pocket-book, which he intended to leave upon the stairs, so as to attract the notice of the inmates of the house, when the address on the outside of the letter caught his eyes.
    The candle nearly fell from his hand, so great; was the astonishment which immediately seized upon him.
    That address consisted simply of the words "ANTHONY TIDKINS!" but the handwriting Oh! there was no possibility of mistaking that! Markham knew it so well; and though years had elapsed since he had last seen it, still it was as familiar to him as his own   the more so, as it remained unchanged in style; for it was the writing of his brother Eugene.
    With a hasty but trembling hand he opened the letter, the wafer of which had already been broken; he did not hesitate to read the contents; judging by his own frank and generous heart, he conceived that such a licence was permitted between brothers. Moreover, he experienced a profound and painful anxiety to ascertain what link could connect his brother with the terrible individual to whom the letter was addressed.
    But all that the letter contained was this:  
    "Come to me to-night without fail, between eleven and twelve. Knock in the usual manner."
    Richard examined the handwriting with the most minute attention; and the longer he scrutinized it, the more he became confirmed in his belief that is was Eugene's.
    But Eugene a patron or colleague of the greatest miscreant that had ever disgraced human nature! Was such a thing possible?
    The letter bore no date no signature and was addressed from no place. It had no post-mark upon it, and had, therefore, evidently been delivered by a private hand.
    "Oh!" thought Richard within himself, "if my unhappy brother have really been the victim, the associate, or the employer of that incarnate demon, may God grant that the wretch is indeed no more for the sake of Eugene!"
    And then his curiosity to ascertain the truth relative to the alleged assassination of Tidkins, became more poignant.
    "It must be so!" reasoned Markham within himself; "that stranger has not deceived me: the presence of this pocket-book here is an undeniable trace of the miscreant. Oh, how much it now behoves me to convince myself that he is indeed removed from the theatre of his crimes!"
    Subduing as much as possible the painful emotions which that letter had suddenly excited within him, Markham secured the pocket-book about his person; for now that accident had revealed to him to whom it belonged, he did not consider himself called upon to part with an object which, in case the statement of Tidkins' death should prove untrue, might contain some paper calculated to afford a clue to his haunts or proceedings.
    Scarcely decided in what manner to pursue his investigation in that house, and trusting more to accident than to any settled plan to aid him in testing the truth of the self-accused stranger's statement relative to Tidkins, Markham stole softly up the staircase.
    Arrived on the first landing to which it led, he listened attentively at the various doors which opened from it.
    All was silent as death within the rooms to which those doors belonged.
    Not even the sound of human respiration met his ears. Could it be possible that the house was deserted? Perhaps the bustle which he had heard ere now was caused by the departure of its occupants?
    As this idea grew upon him, he was emboldened to try the latch of one of the doors at which he had already listened. It yielded to his hand, he pushed the door open with great caution, and entered the chamber.
    Not a human soul was there.
    He visited the other rooms upon that landing, the doors of which were all unlocked: and they were alike untenanted.
    There was another story above; and thither he proceeded.
    The first three rooms which he entered were an empty, like the preceding ones; but in the fourth there were three men. They were, however, fast asleep in their beds; and Richard's visit was so an noiseless that they were not in the least disturbed.
    Hastily retreating, and closing the door carelessly behind him, Markham descended to the landing on which his own room opened, and where he had found the pocket-book.
    On that floor were four apartments, as on each of the upper flats, in addition to the porter's lodge, which, it will be remembered, was precisely over the lobby below.
    To avoid elaborate detail, we may state that Markham found the doors of the other three rooms (besides his own) on the first floor unlocked, and the chambers themselves untenanted.
    He was about to leave the last room, when the appearance of one of the beds attracted his attention; and on a closer examination, he perceived that it was saturated with blood. Moreover, on a chair close by, there were pieces of linen rag, on which large stains of gore were scarcely dry, together with lint and bandages unquestionable proofs that a wound had very recently been dressed in that apartment.
    "No that self-accuser has not deceived me!" thought Markham, as he contemplated these objects. "All circumstances combine to bear evidence to the truth of his assertion! Doubtless the gipsies have an departed, carrying away the corpse with them!"
    He stood gazing on the blood-dyed bed at his feet musing in this manner: and then he thought how fearful was the fate of the miscreant, the evidences of whose death he believed to be beneath his eyes, cut off in the midst of his crimes without a moment's preparation or repentance!
    But suddenly he asked himself "Am I certain that he is no more? That lint to stanch the blood those bandages to bind the wound do they not rather bear testimony to a blow which was not fatal, but left life behind it? And yet, for what purpose could the body be removed save for secret interment Oh! if that man be yet alive and if Eugene be indeed his accomplice or his patron "
    And Markham experienced emotions of the most intense anguish! He loved his brother with the most ardent affection; and the idea that the individual so loved could be a criminal, or the friend of criminals, was harrowing to his soul.
    "But, after all," thought Richard, his naturally [-13-] upright and almost severe principles asserting their empire in his mind, "after all, ought I not to rejoice, if this man be indeed still alive, that he has survived the assassin's blow that he is allowed leisure for repentance! My Maker, who can read all hearts, knows that I am not selfish; and yet it is a principle of our frail human nature to rejoice a at the fall of a deadly enemy! Oh! when I think of all the wrongs and injuries I have experienced at the hands of that man, exposures persecutions   attempts upon my life, I cannot pray that he may live to be the scourge of others and perhaps of my brother as he has been of me!"
    Unwilling to contend longer with the varied emotions which agitated his breast, Markham hurried from the room.
    The lower part of the house yet remained to be explored: perhaps the body if the Resurrection Man were indeed dead had been removed to a room on the ground floor?
    Determined to leave no stone unturned to satisfy his doubts, Markham cautiously descended the stairs, and visited the refectory-rooms, one after the other.
    They were all empty.
    His candle was now waxing dim; but he saw that his search was nearly over. A flight of steps, apparently leading to offices in the basement of the building, alone remained for him to visit.
    To that part of the house he descended, and found himself in a small place which had the appearance of a scullery.
    On one side was a massive door, secured with huge bolts, and evidently leading into a vault or cellar. But scarcely had Markham time to cast a glance around him in the subterranean, when the candle flickered and expired.
    At the same moment a hollow groan echoed through the basement.
    Richard started: he was in total darkness and a momentary tremor came over him.
    The groan was repeated.
    His fears vanished; and he immediately concluded that the Resurrection Man, wounded and suffering, must be somewhere near.
    At that idea, all sentiments of aversion, hatred, and abhorrence, all reminiscence of injury and wrong, fled from the mind of that generous-hearted young man: he thought only that a fellow-creature was in anguish and in pain perhaps neglected, and left to die without a soul to administer consolation!
    Reckless of the danger which he might incur by alarming the inmates of the house, he determined upon rousing the porter in order to obtain a light. He turned from the scullery, and was rushing up the Stone steps in pursuance of his humane intention, when he suddenly came in violent contact with a person who was descending the same stairs.

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