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    WE have described at great length, in a former portion of our narrative, the voluptuous attractions of that department of Holmesford House which may very properly be denominated "the harem."
    The reader doubtless remembers the vast and lofty room which we depicted as being furnished in the most luxurious oriental style, and which was embellished with pictures representing licentious scenes from the mythology of the ancients.
    To that apartment we must now once more direct attention.
    Grouped together upon two ottomans drawn close to each other, five beautiful women were conversing in a tone so low that it almost sank to a whisper; while their charming countenances wore an expression of mingled suspense and sorrow.
    They were all in deshabillιe, though it was now past four o'clock in the afternoon.
    This negligence, however, extended only to their attire; for each of those lovely creatures had bathed her beauteous form in a perfumed bath, and had arranged her hair in the manner best calculated to set off its luxuriance to advantage and at the same time to enhance the charms of that countenance which it enclosed.
    But farther than this the toilette of those five fascinating girls had not progressed; and the loose morning-wrappers which they wore, left revealed all the glowing beauties of each voluptuous bust.
    There was the Scotch charmer, with her brilliant complexion, her auburn hair, and her red cherry lips: — there was the English girl — the pride of Lancashire — with her brown hair, and her robust but exquisitely modelled proportions: — and next to her, on the same ottoman, sate the Irish beauty, whose sparkling black eyes denoted all the fervour of sensuality.
    On the sofa facing these three women, sate the French wanton, her taper fingers playing with the gold chain which, in the true spirit of coquetry, she had thrown negligently round her neck, and the massive links of which made not the least indentation upon the plump fullness of her bosom. By her side was the Spanish houri, her long black ringlets flowing on the white drapery which set off her transparent olive skin to such exquisite advantage.
    This group formed an assemblage of charms which would have raised palpitations and excited mysterious fires in the heart of the most heaven-devoted anchorite that ever vowed a life of virgin-purity.
    And the picture was the more fascinating — the more dangerous, inasmuch as its voluptuousness was altogether unstudied at this moment, and those beauteous creatures noticed not, in their sisterly confidence towards each other, that their glowing and half-naked forms were thus displayed almost as it might have seemed in a spirit of competition and rivalry.
    But what is the topic of their discourse? and wherefore has a shade of melancholy displaced those joyous smiles that were wont to play upon lips of coral opening above teeth of pearls?
    Let us hear them converse.
    "This illness is the more unfortunate for us," said the Scotch girl, "because it arrived so suddenly."

"And before the Marquis had made his will," added the French-woman.
    "Yes," observed the English beauty, — "it was only yesterday afternoon that he assured us he should not fail to take good care of us all whenever he did make his will."
    "And now he will die intestate, as the lawyers say," murmured the Scotch girl; "and we shall be sent forth into the world without resources."
    "Oh! how shocking to think of!" cried the Spaniard. "I am sure I should die if I were forced to quit this charming place."
    "Nay — now you talk too absurdly, my dear friend," interposed the French charmer; "for, beautiful as we all are, we need not be apprehensive of the future."
    "After all, the Marquis may make his will," said the English girl.
    "Or recover," added the Irish beauty. "And for my part, I would sooner that he should do that than be snatched away from us so suddenly; for, old as he is, the Marquis is very agreeable-very amiable."
    "From what our maids told us just now," remarked the Scotch girl, "there does not appear to be any chance of his lordship's recovery. Besides, he is much, older than he ever chose to admit to us, and his life has been a long career of pleasure and enjoyment."
    "Alas! poor old nobleman," said the Irish beauty, Kathleen; "his often-expressed wish does not appear destined to be fulfilled! How frequently has he declared that he should die contented if surrounded by ourselves, and with a goblet of champagne at his lips!"
    Scarcely were these words uttered, when the door of the apartment opened abruptly; and the Marquis made his appearance.
    The five women started from their seats, uttering exclamations of joy.
    The Marquis bolted the door with great caution, and then advanced towards his ladies with a smile upon his haggard, pale, and death-like countenance.
    Indeed, it was with the greatest difficulty that the young women could restrain a murmur of surprise — almost of disgust — when, as he drew nearer towards them, they beheld the fearful ravages which a few hours' illness had made upon his face. The extent of those inroads was moreover enhanced by the absence of his false teeth, which he had not [-402-] time to fix in his mouth ere he escaped from the thraldom of his physicians: so that the thinness of his cheeks was rendered almost skeleton-like by the sinking in of his mouth.
    The superb dressing-gown seemed a mockery of the shrivelled and wasted form which it loosely wrapped; and as the old nobleman staggered towards his mistresses, whose first ebullition of joy at his appearance was so suddenly shocked by the ghastly hideousness of his aspect, they had not strength nor presence of mind to hasten to meet him.
    Kathleen was the first to conquer her aversion and dismay; and she caught the Marquis in her arms just at the instant when, overcome by the exertions of the last few minutes, he was about to sink beneath the weight of sheer exhaustion.
    Then the other women crowded forward to lend their aid; and the old nobleman was placed upon one of the luxurious ottomans.
    He closed his eyes, and seemed to breathe with great difficulty.
    "Oh! my God — he is dying!" exclaimed Kathleen: "ring for aid — for the physicians — "
    "No — no!" murmured the Marquis, in a faint tone; and, opening his eyes once more, he gazed around him — vacantly at first, then more steadily, — until he seemed to recover visual strength sufficient to distinguish the charming countenances that were fixed upon him with mournful interest: "no, my dear girls," he continued, his voice becoming a trifle more powerful; "the doors of this room must not be opened again so long as the breath remains in my body — for I am come," he added with a smile the ghastliness of which all his efforts could not subdue, — " I am come to die amongst you!"
    "To die-here-amongst us!" ejaculated all the women (save Kathleen), shrinking back in terror and dismay.
    "Yes, my dear girls," returned the Marquis: "and thus will my hope and my prophecy be fulfilled. But let us not trifle away the little time that remains to me. Kathleen, my charmer — I am faint — my spirit seems to be sinking: — give me wine!"
    "Wine, my lord?" she repeated, in a tone of kind remonstrance.
    "Yes — wine — delicious, sparkling wine!" cried the nobleman, raising himself partially up on the cushions of the sofa. "Delay not-give me champagne!"
    The French and Spanish girls hastened to a splendid buffet near the stage at the end of the room, and speedily returned to the vicinity of the ottoman, bearing between them a massive silver salver laden with bottles and glasses.
    The wine was poured forth: the Marquis desired Kathleen to steady his hand as he conveyed the nectar to his lips; and he drained the glass of its contents.
    A hectic tinge appeared upon his cheeks; his eyes were animated with a partial fire; and he even seemed happy, as he commanded his ladies to drink bumpers of champagne all round.
    "Consider that I am going on a long journey, my dear girls," he exclaimed, with a smile; "and do not let our parting be sorrowful. Kathleen, my sweet one, come nearer: there-place yourself so that I may recline my head on your bosom — and now throw that warm, plump, naked arm over my shoulder. Oh! this is paradise!"
    And for a few minutes the hoary voluptuary whose licentious passions were dominant even in death, closed his eyes and seemed to enjoy with intense gratification all the luxury of his position.
    It was a painful and disgusting sight to behold the shrivelled, haggard, and attenuated countenance of the dying sensualist, pressing upon that full and alabaster globe so warm with health, life, and glowing passions; — painful and disgusting, too, to see that thin, emaciated, and worn-out frame reclining in the arms of a lovely girl in the vigour and strength of youth: — hideous —  — hideous to view that contiguity of a sapless, withered trunk and a robust and verdant tree!
    "Girls," said the Marquis, at length opening his eyes, but without changing his position, "it is useless to attempt to conceal the truth from you: you know that I am dying! Well — no matter: sooner or later Death must come to all! My life has been a joyous — a happy one; and to you who solace me in my dissolution, I am not ungrateful. Anna, dearest-thrust your hand into the pocket of my dressing-gown."
    The French-woman obeyed this command, and drew forth a sealed packet, addressed to the five ladies by their Christian and surnames.
    "Open it," said the Marquis. "Two months ago I made this provision for you, my dear girls — because, entertaining foolish apprehensions relative to making my will, I felt the necessity of at least taking care of you."
    While the nobleman was yet speaking, Anna had opened the packet, whence she drew forth a number of Bank-notes.
    There were ten — each for a thousand pounds; and a few words written within the envelope specified that the amount was to be equally divided amongst the five ladies.
    "Oh! my dear Marquis, how liberal!" exclaimed the French girl, her countenance becoming radiant with joy.
    "How generous!" cried the English beauty.
    "How noble!" ejaculated the Scotch charmer.
    "It is more than generous and noble — it is princely!" said the Spanish houri.
    Kathleen simply observed, "My dear lord, I thank you most unfeignedly for this kind consideration on your part."
    The Marquis made no reply; but taking the delicate white hand of the Irish girl, as he lay pillowed upon his palpitating breast, he gently slipped upon one of her taper fingers a ring of immense value.
    He then squeezed her hand to enjoin silence: and this act was not perceived by the other ladies, who were too busily employed in feasting their eyes upon the Bank-notes to pay attention to aught beside.
    "Come-fill the glasses!" suddenly exclaimed the Marquis, after a short pause: "I feel that my strength is failing me fast — the sand of my life's hour-glass is running rapidly away!"
    The French girl — to whose mind there was something peculiarly heroical and romantic in the conduct of the Marquis — hastened to obey the order which had been specially addressed to her; and the sparkling juice of Epernay again moistened the parched throat of the dying man, and also enhanced the carnation tints upon the cheeks of the five youthful beauties.
    "And now, my charmers," said the nobleman [-403-] addressing himself to the French and Spanish women, "gratify me by dancing some pleasing and voluptuous measure, — while you, my loves," he added, turning his glazing eyes upon the Scotch and English girls, "play a delicious strain, — so that my spirit may ebb away amidst the soothing ecstacies of the blissful scene!"
    The Marquis spoke in a faint and tremulous voice, for he felt himself growing every moment weaker and weaker; and his head now lay, heavy and motionless, upon the bosom of the Irish girl, whose warm and polished arm was thrown around him.
    The Scotch and English girls hastened to place themselves, the former before a splendid harp, and the latter at a pianoforte, the magnificent tones of which had never failed to excite the admiration of all who ever heard them.
    Then the French and Spanish women commenced a slow, languishing, and voluptuous dance, the evolutions of which were well adapted to display the fine proportions of their half-naked forms.
    A smile relaxed the features of the dying man; and his glances followed the movements of those foreign girls who vied with each other in assuming the most lascivious attitudes.
    By degrees, that exciting spectacle grew indistinct to the eyes of the Marquis; and the music no longer fell upon his ears in varied and defined tones, but with a droning monotonous sound.
    "Kathleen — Kathleen," he murmured, speaking with the utmost difficulty, "reach me the glass — place the goblet to my lips — it will revive me for a few minutes-"
    The Irish girl shuddered in spite of herself — shuddered involuntarily as she felt the cheek of the Marquis grow cold and clammy against her bosom.
    "Kathleen — dear Kathleen," he murmured in a whisper that was scarcely audible; "give me the goblet!"
    Conquering her repugnance, the Irish girl, who possessed a kind and generous heart, reached a glass on the table near the sofa; and, raising the nobleman's head, she placed the wine to his lips.
    With a last-last expiring effort, he took the glass in his own hand, and swallowed a few drops of its contents: — his eyes were lighted up again for a moment, and his cheek flushed; but his head fell back, heavily upon the white bosom.
    Kathleen endeavoured to cry for aid-and could not: a sensation of fainting came over her — she closed her eyes — and a suffocating feeling in the throat almost choked her.
    But still the music continued and the dance went on, for several minutes more.
    All at once a shriek emanated from the lips of Kathleen: the music ceased — the dance was abandoned — and the Irish girl's companions rushed towards the sofa.
    Their anticipations were realised: the Marquis was no more!
    The hope which he had so often expressed in his lifetime, was fulfilled almost to the very letter; — for the old voluptuary had "died with his head pillowed on the naked — heaving bosom of beauty, and with a glass of sparkling champagne in his hand!"

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