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[-272-] 

CHAPTER CCXIX.

THE MURDER.

    IT wanted five minutes to nine o'clock when Anthony Tidkins reached the corner of Oxford Street and the Edgeware Road.
    A cab was standing a few yards up the latter thoroughfare; and as the driver was sitting quietly on his box, without endeavouring to catch a fare, it instantly struck the Resurrection Man that his unknown patroness might be the occupant of the vehicle, and was waiting for him.
    He accordingly approached the window, and by the reflection of a shop gas-light, perceived the veiled lady inside.
    "Is it you!" she said, unable to distinguish his countenance beneath his slouched hat.
    "Yes, ma'am. All right," he cried to the driver;. and, opening the door, entered the cab.
    It then moved rapidly away  the driver having evidently received his instructions beforehand.
    "Draw up the window," said the lady.
    Tidkins obeyed.
    "You remember your promise to be blindfolded?' continued Adeline.
    "I have forgotten nothing that passed between us, ma'am."
    He had taken off his hat upon entering the vehicle; and Adeline now drew over his head a large flesh-coloured silk cap, or bag, fitted with a string that enabled her to gather it in and fasten it round his neck  but not so tightly as to impede the free current of air.
    "I am sorry to be compelled to subject you to any inconvenience," she said, loathing herself at the same time for being compelled to address this conciliatory language to such a man  a murderer by profession.
    "Don't mention it, ma'am: it's all in the way of business."
    A profound silence then ensued between them.
    On his part the Resurrection Man, who was intimately acquainted with London and all its multitudinous mazes, endeavoured to follow in his mind the course which the vehicle was taking; and for some time he was enabled to calculate it accurately enough. But it presently turned off to the left, and shortly afterwards took several windings, which completely baffled his reckoning. He accordingly abandoned the labour, and, trusted to accident is furnish him with the clue which he desired.
    On her side, Adeline was a prey to the most horrible emotions. Now that she had carried the dread proceedings up to the point which they reached, she recoiled from urging them to the awful catastrophe. Vainly did she endeavour to tranquillise herself with the specious reasoning that she would not become a murderess, since her hands were not to do the deed,  or that even if that name must attach. itself to her, she was justified in adopting any means, however extreme, to rid herself of a remorseless enemy:  vainly did she thus argue:  the crime she was about to commit, or to have committed for her, seemed appalling! Often during this long ride was she on the point of declaring to her terrible companion that she would stop short and abandon the murderous project at once: and then would come soul-harrowing remembrances of Lydia's tyranny, accompanied by violent longings after vengeance.
    Thus did nearly three quarters of an hour pass, when the cab suddenly halted.
    "Put on your hat  draw up your cloak-collar  and hold down your head as you alight," said Adeline in a rapid whisper.
    The Resurrection Man understood her; and the darkness of the night favoured the precautions which Lady Ravensworth had suggested to prevent the driver, who opened the door, from observing that Tidkins's face was covered with the flesh-coloured silk.
    "Walt until our return," said Adeline: "we may not be back for two, or even three hours;  but in any case wait."
    And she placed a piece of gold in the man's hand [-273-] 

and then took the arm of Tidkins and hurried him across the fields  for such he could feel the soil upon which he was walking to be.
    In this manner did they proceed for upwards of half an hour, when they reached the fence surrounding the gardens of Ravensworth Hall. Adeline opened the wicket by means of a key which she had with her, and hurried her companion through the grounds to the private door at the southern extremity of the mansion. This she also opened and looked again when they had entered. She then conducted the Resurrection Man up the staircase, and finally into her boudoir.
    Guiding him to a chair, she released him from the silk cap; but when it was removed, he could perceive nothing  for the room was quite dark.
    "My enemy is certain to come hither shortly," whispered Adeline "it may be directly-or it may be in an hour;  still she is sure to come. I shall conceal you behind a curtain  in case the wrong person might happen to enter the room by accident. But when any one comes in, and you hear me close the door and say 'WRETCH!' rush upon her  seize her by the throat  and strangle her. Are you strong enough to do this?  for no blood must be shed."
    "Trust to me, ma'am," returned Tidkins. "The woman  whoever she may be  will never speak again after my fingers once grasp her neck."
    Adeline then guided him behind the curtain of her bed; and she herself took her pest near the door.
    And now succeeded a most appalling interval of nearly twenty minutes,  appalling only to Adeline: for her hardened accomplice was thinking far more of the additional sum he was about to earn, than of the deed he was hired to perpetrate.
    But, Adeline  oh, her thoughts were terrible in the extreme! Not that she dreaded the failure of the deadly plot, and a consequent exposure of the whole machination:  no  her plans were too well laid to admit that contingency. But she felt her mind harrowing up, as it were, at the blackness of the tragedy which was in preparation.
    Twenty minutes, we said, elapsed:  twenty years of mental agony  twenty thousand of acute suffering, did that interval appear to be.
    At length a step echoed in the corridor;-nearer and nearer it came.
    [-274-] Good God! what pangs lacerated the heart of Lady Ravensworth!  and even then  far as she had gone  she was on the point of rushing forward, and crying, "No! no!  spare-spare her!"
    But some demon whispered in her ear, "Now is the time for vengeance!"  and she retained her post  she stifled the better feelings that had agitated within her  she nerved herself to be merciless and unrelenting.
    She knew that the stop approaching was that of Lydia; for Lydia allowed none of the other servants to enter her mistress's own private chamber. The reason of this must be obvious to the reader:-Lydia only repaired thither for the sake of appearances  and not to do the work which it was her duty to perform. No  that had been left for Adeline herself to excute!
    And now the handle of the lock was agitated  the door opened  and Lydia, bearing a light, entered the room.
    Instantly Adeline closed the door violently  exclaiming, "WRETCH, your time is come!"
    Lydia started  and dropped the light.
    But in another second the Resurrection Man, springing like a tiger from his lair, rushed upon her from behind the curtain  seized her throat with his iron grasp  and threw her on the floor as easily as if she were a child.
    The light had gone out  and the fearful deed was consummated in the dark.
    A low gurgling  a suffocating sound  and the convulsions of a body in the agony of death, were the terrible indications to Adeline that the work was indeed in awful progress!
    Faint and sick at heart.  with whirling brain  and bright sparks flashing from her eyes  Lady Ravensworth leant against the door for support.
    Two minutes thus elapsed  the gurgling sound every instant growing fainter and fainter.
    Adeline felt as if her own senses were leaving her  as if she were going mad.
    Suddenly a low, hoarse voice near her whispered, "It's all over!"
    Then Lady Ravensworth was suddenly recalled to the consciousness of her perilous position,  awakened to the necessity of carrying out all her pre-arranged measures of precaution to the end.
    "We must now dispose of the body," she said, in a low and hurried tone. "You must take it on your back, and carry it for a short distance, whither I will lead you. But, first  here is a bag: it contains two hundred and fifty sovereigns-fifty more than I promised you."
    The Resurrection Man clutched the gold eagerly:  the weight was sufficient to convince him that his patroness was not deceiving him.
    While he was hugging his ill-earned gains, Adeline hastily felt her way to the bureau, opened it, and took forth her casket of jewels. She left the door of the bureau open, and the key in the lock.
    The Resurrection Man now suffered her to replace the silk cap over his head  what would he not have done for one who paid so liberally!
    Then, taking the body upon his back, he was led by Adeline from the boudoir.
    They descended the stairs, and passed out of the mansion by the private door, which Adeline closed but left the key in the lock.
    She conducted him through the grounds once more, leaving the wicket open  and proceeded across a field, in one corner of which was a large deep pond.
    A pile of stones was near the brink.
    "Throw the body upon the ground," said Adeline.
    The Resurrection Man obeyed, and seated himself quietly by it.
    Adeline averted her eyes from the pale countenance, on which a faint stream of struggling moon-light stole through the darkness of the night;  and rapidly did she busy herself to secure her casket of rich jewels and several huge stones about the corpse. This she did by means of a strong cord, with which she had provided herself; for  fearful woman!-she had not omitted one single detail of her horrible plan  nor did she hesitate to sacrifice her precious casket to aid in the assurance of her own safety.
    When this labour was finished,  and it did not occupy many minutes,  Adeline rolled the body down the precipitous bank into the pond.
    There was a splash  a gurgling sound; and all was still.
    "By God!" murmured the Resurrection Man; "this is the cleverest woman I ever met in my life. I really quite admire her!"
    The words did not, however, reach the ears of Lady Ravensworth;  or she would have recoiled with abhorrence from that fearful admiration which she had excited in the mind of such a miscreant  a resurrectionist  a murderer!
    "Every thing is now finished," said Adeline, breathing more freely. "Let us depart."
    She led her companion across the fields:  her delicate feet were wet with the dew;  and though she felt wearied-oh! so wearied that she was ready to sink,  yet that woman  within a few weeks of becoming a mother  was armed with an almost superhuman energy, now that it was too late to retreat and her enemy was no more.
    When they reached the cab, the driver was sleeping on his box; and before he was well awake, the Resurrection Man had entered the vehicle.
    "Back to the place where you took up my companion," said Adeline, as she followed Tidkins into the cab.
    And now she was journeying side by side with one who had just perpetrated a cold-blooded murder,  she the promptress  he the instrument!
    In three quarters of an hour they again stopped at the corner of the Edgeware Road, Adeline having removed the cap from the Resurrection Man's head a few minutes previously.
    The cab was dismissed:  Tidkins had vainly looked to discover its number. Adeline, by bribing the driver, had provided against that contingency also!
    "Any other time, ma'am," said Tidkins, "that you require my services  or can recommend me to your friends  "
    "Yes  certainly," interrupted Adeline. "Good night."
    And she hastened rapidly away.
    "It's no use for me to attempt to follow her." murmured the Resurrection Man to himself: "she is too wary for that."
    He then pursued his way homewards, well con tented with his night's work.
    And Adeline regained admittance to her own mansion, having so well contrived matters that the [-275-] housekeeper never suspected she had once quitted it during the day or night.
    Between three and four o'clock in the morning the rain began to pour down in torrents, and continued until past eight,  so that Lady Ravensworth was enabled to assure herself with the conviction that even the very footsteps of herself and Anthony Tidkins were effaced from the ground. belonging to the Hall, and from the fields in one of which was the pond to whose depths the corpse of the murdered victim had been consigned.

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