Charles James Lever.

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whither the course of events to come was tending, when he heard
the plash of oars, and the rushing sound of a boat mo\dng through
the water in the direction of the stair. The oars, which at some mo-
ments were plied vigorously, ceased to move at others ; and, as well
as Cashel could mark, the course of the boat seemed once or twice to
be changed. Eoland descended to the lowest step of the ladder, the
better to see what this might portend. That terrible river, on whose
smiling eddies the noonday sun dances so joyously, covers beneath
the shadow of night crimes the most awful and appalling.

As Cashel listened, he perceived that the rowing had ceased, and
two voices, whose accents sounded like altercation, could be heard.

The boat, drifting, meanwhile, downward on the fast current, was
now nearly opposite to where he sat, but only perceptible as a dark
speck upon the water. The night was calm, without a breath of wind,
and on the vapour-charged atmosphere sounds floated dull and heavily ;
still Cashel could hear the harsh tones of men in angry dispute, and
to his amazement they spoke in English.

"It's the old story," cried one, whose louder voice and coarser

accents bespoke him the inferior in condition — "the old story that I

am sick of listening to — when you have luck ! when you have luck !"

" I used not to have a complaint against Fortune," said the other.

" Before we met, she had treated me well for many a year."

" And 'twas me that changed it, I suppose," said the first, in the
same insolent tone as before : " do you mean that ?"
" The world has gone ill with me since that day."
"And whose fault is that?"

'^ Partly yours," said the other, in a slow, deliberate voice, every



syllable of \vbicli thrilled through Cashel's heart as he listened. " Had
you secured the right man, it was beyond the power of Fortune to
hurt either of us. That fatal, fatal mistake!"

" How could I help it ?" cried the other, energetically ; " the night
was as dark as this — it was between two high banks — there was no-
thing to be seen but a figure of a man coming slowly along — you
yourself told me who it would be — I didn't wait for more; and
troth " — here he gave a fiendish laugh — " troth ! you'll allow the
work was well done."

" It was a most determined murder," said the other, thoughtfully.

"Murder! murder!" screamed the first, in a voice of fierce pas-
sion ; " and is it you that calls it a miu-der ?"

" No matter how it is called. Let us speak of something else."

" Very well. Let us talk about the price of it. It isn't paid yet !"

" Is it nothing that I have taken you from abject, starving misery,
from a life of cold, want, and wretchedness, to live at ease in the first
city of the universe ? Is it no part of the price thatyoti spend your
days in pleasure and your nights in debauch ? — that, with the appetite
of the peasant you partake of the excesses of the gentleman ? Is it
no instalment of the debt, I say, that you, who might now be ground
down to the very earth as a slave at home, dare to lift your head and
speak thus to Tne/"'

" And is it i/oii dares to tell me this ?" cried the other, in savage
energy ; " is it you, that made me a murderer, and then think that I can
forget it because I'm a drunkard ? But I don't forget it ! I'll never
forget it ! I see him stiU, as he lay gasping before me, and trying to
beg for mercy when he couldn't ask for it. I see him every day when
I'm in a lonely place ; and, oh ! he's never away from me at night,
with his bloody hands on his head trying to save it, and screaming out
for God to help him. And what did I get for it ? answer me that,"
yelled he, in accents shrill with passion. " Is it my wife begging from
door to door — is it my children naked and hungry — is it my little
place, a ruin and a curse over it — or is it myself trying to forget it in
drink, not knowing the day nor the hour that it will rise iip against
me, and that I'll be standing in the dock where I saw hitn that you
tried to murder too ?"

" There is no use in all this passion," said the other, calmly ; " let
us be friends, Tom : it is our interest to be so."

" Them's the very words you towld Mr. Phillis, and the next day
he was taken up for the robbery, and you had him transported."

" Phillis was a fool, and paid the penalty of a fool ; but you are a
shrewd fellow, who can see to his own advantage. Now listen to me
calmly : were it not for bad luck, we might all of us have had more
money now than we could count or squander. Had Maritana con-
tinued upon the stage, her gains would by this time have been enor-


movLS. The bank, too, would Lave prospered ; her beauty would have
drawn around us all that was wealthy and dissipated in the world of
fashion ; we could have played what stake we pleased. Princes, am-
bassadors, ministers of state, would Have been our game. Curses be
on his head who spoiled this glorious plan ! Prom that unhappy
night at Venice she never would appear again, nor could she. The
shock has been like a blight upon her. You have seen her yourself,
and kuow what it has made her."

The artifice by which the speaker contrived to change the topic,
and withdraw the other from a painful subject to one of seeming con-
fidence, was completely successful ; and in the altered tone of voice
might be read tlie change which had come over him.

" Tou wish to go to America, Tom ?" continued he, after a pause.

'■ Ay ; I never feel safe here. I'm too near home."

" "Well, if everything prospers with us, you shall have the money
by Tuesday — "Wednesday at furthest. Eica has at last found a clue
to old Corrigan, and although he seems in great poverty, his name
upou a bill will still raise some hundreds."

" I don't care who pays it, but I must get it," said the other, whose
savage mood seemed to have returned. " I'll not stay here. 'Tis little
profit or pleasure I have standin' every night to see the crowds that
are passing in, to be cheated out of their money — to hear the clink
of the goold I'm never to handle — and to watch all the fine livin' and
coortin' that I've no share in."

'• Be satisfied. Tou shall have the money ; I pledge my word
upon it."

" I don't care for your word. I have a better security than ever it

" And what may that be ?" said the other, cautiously.

"Your neck in a halter, Mr. Linton," said he, laughing ii*onically.
'"' Ay, ye don't understand me — poor innocent that ye are ! but I know
what I'm saying, and I have good advice about it besides."

" How do you mean good advice, Tom ?" said Linton, with seeming
kindliness of manner. " "Whom have you consulted ?"

" One that knows the law well," said Tom, with all the evasive
shrewdness of his class.

" And he tells you "

" He tells me that the devil a bit betther ofi" you'd be than myself
— that you are what they call an ' accessary ' — that's the word ; I
mind it well."

" And what does that mean ?"

" A chap that plans the work, but liasn't the courage to put hand
to it."

" That's an accessary, is it ?" said the other, slowly.

" Just so. He paused for a few seconds, then added, " Besides, if


I vras to turn 'prover, lie says tliat I'd only be transported, and 'tis
^ou would be banged" — tbe last word was uttered in a harsb and
grating tone, and followed by a laugb of insolent mockery — " so tbat
you see 'tis bettber be bonest witb me, and pay me my bire."

"Tou sball bave it, by G !" said Linton, witb a deep

vebemence; and, drawing a pistol from bis bosom, be fired. Tbe
otber fell, witb a loud cry. to tbe bottom of tbe boat. A brief pause
ensued, and tben Linton raised tbe body in bis arms to tbrow it over.
A faint struggle sbowed tbat life was not extinct^ but all resistance
was impossible. Tbe ligbtness of tbe boat, bowever, made tbe effort
difficult ; and it was only by immense exertion tbat be could even lift
tbe beavy weigbt balf way ; and at last, wben, by a great effort, be
succeeded in laying tbe body over tbe gunwale, tbe boat lost its
balance, and upset. Witb a bold spring, Linton dasbed into tbe
current, and made for sbore ; but almost as be did so, anotber and a
stronger swimmer, wbo bad tbrown off bis clotbes for tbe enterprise,
bad reacbed tbe spot, and, grasping tbe inert mass as it was about to
sink, swam witb tbe bleeding body to tbe bank.

Wben Casbel gained tbe stairs, be tbrew tbe wounded man upon
bis sboulder, for signs of life were still remaining, and bastened to a
cabaret near. A sui'geon was soon procured, and tlie bullet was dis-
covered to bave penetrated tbe cbest, cutting in its passage some large
blood-vessel, from wbicb tbe blood flowed copiously. Tbat tbe result
must be fatal it was evident ; but as tbe bleeding sbowed signs of
abatement, it seemed possible life migbt be protracted some bours.
No time was tberefore to be lost in obtaining tbe dying man's decla-
ration, and a Juge d'Instruction, accompanied by a notary, was im-
mediately on tbe spot. As tbe surgeon bad surmised, a coagulum bad
formed in tbe wounded vessel, and, tbe bleeding being tbus tem-
porarily arrested, tbe man rallied into sometbing like strengtb, and
witb a mind perfectly conscious and collected. To avoid tbe sbock
wbicb tbe sigbt of Casbel migbt occasion, Koland did not appear at
tbe bedside,

Nor need we linger eitber at sucb a scene, nor witness tbat fearful
struggle between tbe bope of mercy and tbe dread consciousness of
its all but impossibility. Tbe dying confession bas notbing new for
tbe reader ; tbe secret bistory of tbe crime is already before bim, and
it only remains to speak of tbose events wbicb followed Keane's
flif^bt from Ireland. As Linton's servant be continued for years to
travel about tbe Continent, constantly sustained by tbe bope tbat tbe
price of bis crime would one day be fortbcomiug, and as invariably
put off by tbe excuse, tbat play, on wbicb be entirely depended for
means, bad been unlucky, but tbat better times were certainly in
store for bim. Tbe struggles and difficulties of an existence tbus
maintained ; tbe tenible consciousness of an uuexpiated crime ; tbe


constant presence of one who knew the secret of the other, and might
at any moment of anger, or in some access of dissipation, reveal it,
made up a life of torture to which death would be a boon ; added to
this, that they frequently found themselves in the same city with
Cashel, whom Linton never dared to confront. At Messina they fell
in with Eica, as the proprietor of a gaming-table which Linton con-
tinually frequented. His consummate skiU at play, his knowledge of
life, and particularly the life of gamblers, his powers of agreeabUity,
soon attracted Eica's notice, and an intimacy sprang up which became
a close friendship — if such a league can be called by such a name.

By the power of an ascendancy acquired most artfully, and by per-
suasive flatteries of the most insidious kind, he induced Eica to bring
Maritaiia on the stage ; where her immense success had replenished
their coffers far more rapidly and abundantly than play. At Naples,
however, an incident similar to what happened at Venice was nigh
having occurred. She was recognised by a young Spaniard who had
known her in Mexico ; and as the whole assumed history of her noble
birth and Sicilian origin was thus exposed to contradiction, they took
measures to get rid of this unwelcome witness. They managed to
hide among his effects some dies and moulds for coining — an offence
then, as ever, rife at Naples. A police investigation, in which bribery
had its share, was followed by a mock trial, and the young fellow was
sentenced to the galleys for seven years, with hard labour.

Their career from this moment was one of unchanging success.
Maritana's beauty attracted to the play-table all that every city con-
tained of fashion, wealth, and dissipation. In her ignorance of the
world she was made to believe that her position was one the most
exalted and enviable. The homage she received, the devotion ex-
hibited on every side, the splendour of her life, her dress, her jewels,
her liveries, dazzled and delighted her. The very exercise of her
abilities was a source of enthusiastic pleasure to one who loved ad-
miration. Nor had she, perhaps, awoke from this delusion, had not
the heart-uttered cry of Eoland burst the spell that bound her, and
evoked the maiden's shame in her young heart. Then — witli a re-
vulsion that almost shook reason itself — she turned with abhorrence
from a career associated with whatever could humiliate and disgrace.
Entreaties, prayers, menaces — all were unavailing to induce her to
appear again ; and soon, indeed, her altered looks and failing health
rendered it impossible. A vacant unmeaning smile, or a cold im-
passive stare, usurped the place of an expression that used to shine in
joyous brilliancy. Her step, once bounding and elastic, became slow
and uncertain. She seldom spoke ; when she did, her accents were
heavy, and her thoughts seemed languid, as though her mind was
weary. None could have recognised in that wan and worn face, that
frail and delicate figure, the proud and beautiful Maritana.


She lived now in total seclusion. None ever saw her, save Eica,
who used to come and sit beside her each day, watching, with Heaven
alone knows what mixture of emotion ! that wasting form and decay-
ing cheek. AVhat visions of ambition Linton might yet connect with
her none knew or could guess ; but he followed the changing fortunes
of her health with an interest too deep and earnest to be mistaken
for mere compassion. Such, then, was her sad condition when they
repaired to Paris, and, in one of the most spacious hotels of the Eue
Eichelieu, established their " Bank of Eouge et Is'oir." This costly
establishment vied in luxury and splendour with the most extrava-
gant of those existing in the time of the Empire. All that fastidious
refinement and taste could assemble, in objects of art and virtu,
graced the salons. The cookery, the wines, the service of the dif-
ferent menials, rivalled the proudest households of the nobility.

A difficult etiquette restricted the admission to persons of acknow-
ledged rank and station-, and even these were banded together by the
secret tie of a political purpose, for it was now the eve of that great
convulsion which was to open once more in Europe the dread con-
flict between the masses and the few.

"WhUe Linton engaged deep in play, and still deeper in politics,
" making his book," as he called it, "to win with whatever horse he
pleased," one dreadful heartsore never left him : this was Keane,
whose presence continually reminded him of the past, and brought
up besides many a dread for the future.

It would have been easy at any moment for Linton to have dis-
embarrassed himself of the man by a sum of money ; but then came
the reflection — '• What is to happen wheu, with exhausted means
and dissolute habits, this fellow shall find himself in some foreign
country ? Is he not likely, in a moment of reckless despair, to re-
veal the whole story of our guilt ? Can I ever trust him in hours
of convivial abandonment and debauch ? Yengeauce may, at any
instant, overrule in such a nature the love of life — remorse may seize
upon him. He is a llomauist, and may confess the murder, and be
moved by his priest to bring home the guilt to the Protestant." Such
were the motives which Liuton never ceased to speculate on and think
over, always reverting to the one same conviction, that he must keep
the man close to his person, until the hour might come when he could
rid himself of him for ever.

The insolent demeanour of the fellow — his ruffian assurance — the
evidence of a power that he might wield at will — became at last in-
tolerable. Linton saw this " shadow on his path" wherever he wan-
dered. The evil was insupportable from the very fact that it occupied
his thoughts when great and momentous events required them. It
was like the paroxysm of some painful disease, that came at moments
when liealth and calm of spirit were most wanted. To feel this, to


recognise it thoroughly, and to resolve to overcome it, were, with
Linton, the work of a moment. " His hour is come," said he, at
length ; " the company at La Morgue to-morrow shall be graced by a
guest of my inviting."

Although to a mind prolific in schemes of villany the manner of
the crime could offer no diflSculty, strange enough, his nature re-
volted against being himself the agent of the guilt. It was not fear,
for he was a man of nerve and courage, and was, besides, certain to
be better armed than his adversary. It was not pity, nor any feeling
that bordered on pity, deterred liim ; it was some instinctive shrink-
ing from an act of ruffianism ; it was tlie blood of a man of birth that
curdled at tlie thought of that whicli his mind associated with crimi-
nals of the lowest class — the conventional feeling of Honour surpass-
ing all the dictates of common Humanity !

Nothing short of the pressing emergency of the hour could have
overcome these scruples, but Keane's insolence was now in itself
enough to compromise him, and Linton saw that but one remedy
remained, and that it could not be deferred. Constant habits of in-
tercourse with men of a dangerous class in the Faubourgs and the
Cite gave the excuse for the boating excursion at night. The skiff
was hired by Keane himself, who took up Linton at a point remote
from where he started, and thus no clue could be traced to the person
who accompanied him. The remainder is in the reader's memory,
and now we pursue our story.

The surgeon who examined Keane's wound not only pronounced it
inevitably fatal, but that the result must rapidly ensue. No time was,
therefore, to be lost in obtaining the fullest revelations of the dying
man, and also in taking the promptest measures to secure the guilty

The authorities of the British Embassy lent a willing aid to Cashel
in this matter, and an express was at once despatched to London for
the assistance of a police force, with the necessary warrant for Lin-
ton's arrest. Meanwhile Keane was watched with the narrowest
vigilance, and so secretly was everything done, that his very existence
was unknown beyond the precincts of the room he inhabited.



Vice has its own ambitions.


It was already nigh daybreak. The " Bank" had long since been
closed, and none remained of Eica's guests save the most inveterate
gamblers, who were now assembled in a small room in a secret part
of the establishment, presided over by the host himself.

The persons here met were no bad representatives of the " play
world," of which they formed an important part. They were men,
many of them of the highest rank, who had no other object or pursuit
in life than play ! IMingling to a certain extent in public life, they
performed before the world their various parts as soldiers, statesmen,
courtiers, or ambassadors. Their thoughts meanwhile travelled but
one solitary track. The only field in which their ambition ranged
was the green cloth of the rouge et noir table. As soldiers they
would have lost a battle with more fortitude than as gamblers they
would lose a bet. As statesmen they would have risked the fate of a
kingdom to secure a good " martingale" at play. Men of highest
breeding, in society, abounding in all the graces that adorn inter-
course ; here, they were taciturn, reserved, almost morose, never
sufiering their attention to wander for an instant from that engrossing
theme where gain and loss contended.

Into this society, noiseless and stiU as stifled feelings and repressed
emotions could make it, Linton entered ; a full dress replacing the
clothes he so lately wore, not a trace of unusual agitation on his
features, he seemed in every respect the easy man of fashion for
which the world took him.

A slight nod — a familiar motion of the hand — were all the greet-
ings which passed between him and such of his acquaintances as
deigned to raise their heads from the game. Linton perceived at once
that the play was high, nor did he need to cast a look at the mountain
of gold, the coinage of every European nation, to know that the
*' Bank" was a winner. The chief player was a young noble of the
King's household, the Duke de Marsac, a man of originally immense
fortune, the greater part of which he had already squandered at play.
His full dress of the Court, for he had dined the day before at the
royal table, contrasted strangely with the haggard expression of his
features, while his powdered hair hung in stray and dishevelled
masses over his temples — even his deep lace ruffles, which in his agi-
tation he had torn to very rags, all bespoke the abandonment of the


loser. Linton, who always passed for a mere frequenter of the house,
unconnected with its interests in any way, saw at a glance that a per-
fectly quiet demeanour was imperatively necessary ; that not a word
should be uttered, not a syllable let fall, which should break the spell
of that enchantment that was luring on the gambler to his ruin.

No man was more master of the hundred little artifices by which
the spectator — " the gallery" is the play phrase — can arouse the hopes
and stimulate the expectations of the losing player. He knew to per-
fection when to back the unlucky gambler, and how to throw out
those half-muttered words of encouragement so dear and precious to
the loser's heart. But if he knew all this well, he also knew that
there are times when these interferences become impertinent, and
when the intense excitement of the game will not admit of the. dis-
traction of sympathy. Linton, therefore, was silent; he took his
seat behind the chair of one of his intimates, and watched the table

At the close of a game wherein fortune vacillated for a long time,
the Duke lost above a hundred thousand francs — a kind of pause,
like a truce, seemed to intervene, and Eica sat with the cards before
him, not making preparations for a new deal.

" Fortune is too decidedly your enemy this evening, my Lord
Duke ; I am really ashamed to see you lose thus continuously."

" There is a certain Chateau de Marlier, which belongs to me, near
St. Germain," said the Duke. " It has been valued, with its grounds,
at upwards of seven hundred thousand francs ; are you disposed to
advance so much upon it ?"

" As loan or purchase?" asked Eica.

" "Whichever you prefer. If the choice were mine, I should say as
a loan."

" Parbleu ! it is a beautiful spot," said one of the players. " It was
formerly a hunting seat of Louis XIV."

"You are quite correct, Sir," said the Duke. " It was a present
from that monarch to my grandfather, and possesses, amongst its •
other advantages, the privilege of giving the owner a ducal coronet.
If any man be weak enough in these days to care for the distinction,
he can be Duke de Marlier on easy terms."

" Take him," whispered Linton in Eica's ear. " I accept the ven-
ture as my own."

" Were I to accept this offer, my Lord Duke," said Eica, " am I
to understand that no mortgages nor charges of any kind are in
existence against this property ?"

" It is perfectly unencumbered," said the Duke, calmly. " There
are some half-dozen' pictures — a Velasquez or two amongst them— -
which I should reserve as my own ; but everything else would belong
to the purchaser."


" The cost of transferring property in France is considerable, I
believe, and there is some difficulty respecting the right of foreigners
to inherit," said Eica, again.

" Take him, I say ; the risk is mine," whispered Linton, whose im-
patience at the other's caution became each moment stronger.

" Do you accept. Monsieur de Eica ?" said the Duke, pushing back
his chair from the table, as though about to rise, " or is there to be
an armistice for the present ?"

" It would be ungenerous, my Lord Duke, to refuse you anything
in my power to grant," said Eica, obsequiously. "As a high-spirited
but unfortunate player "

'• Let not this weigh with you, Sir," said the Duke, proudly ; " the
chances are that I leave my estate behind me on this table. That is
the only consideration for you to entertain."

" Take him at once ; it will be too late, soon," whispered Linton

'• I agree, my Lord," said Eica. with a slight sigh, as if yielding in
opposition to his inclination. " When is the money to be forth-

Online LibraryCharles James LeverRoland Cashel (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 32)