On the same day a very different scene was passing in another quarter, whither for a few moments we must transport the reader. In a large and aristocratic-looking brick house, situated near the then fashionable suburb of Glasnevin, surrounded by stately trees, and within furnished with the most prodigal splendour, combined with the strictest and most minute attention to comfort and luxury, and in a large and lofty chamber, carefully darkened, screened round by the rich and voluminous folds of the silken curtains, with spider-tables laden with fruits and wines and phials of medicine, crowded around him, and rather buried than supported among a luxurious pile of pillows, lay, in sore bodily torment, with fevered pulse, and heart and brain busy with a thousand projects of revenge, the identical Nicholas Blarden, whose signal misadventure in the theatre, upon the preceding evening, we have already recorded. A decent-looking matron sate in a capacious chair, near the bed, in the capacity of nurse-tender, while her constrained and restless manner, as well as the frightened expression with which, from time to time, she stole a glance at the bloated mass of scars and bruises, of which she had the care, pretty plainly argued the sweet and patient resignation with which her charge endured his sufferings. In the recess of the curtained window sate a little black boy, arrayed according to the prevailing fashion, in a fancy suit, and with a turban on his head, and carrying in his awe-struck countenance, as well as in the immobility of his attitude, a woeful contradiction to the gaiety of his attire.
Drinkdrinkwhere's that dd hag? give me drink, I say! howled the prostrate gambler.
The woman started to her feet, and with a step which fell noiselessly upon the deep-piled carpets which covered the floor, she hastened to supply him.
He had hardly swallowed the draught, when a low knock at the door announced a visitor.
Come in, can't you? shouted Blarden.
How do you feel now, Nicky dear? inquired a female voice and a handsome face, with rather a bold expression, and crowned by a small mob-cap, overlaid with a profusion of the richest lace, peeped into the room through the half-open door how do you feel?
In hellthat's all, shouted he.
Doctor Mallarde is below, love, added she, without evincing either surprise or emotion of any kind at the concise announcement which the patient had just delivered.
Let him come up then, was the reply.
And a Mr. M'Quirka messenger from Mr. Chancey.
Let him come up too. But why the hell did not Chancey come himself?That will dopackbe off.
The lady tossed her head, like one having authority, looked half inclined to say something sharp, but thought better of it, and contented herself with shutting the door with more emphasis than Dr. Mallarde would have recommended.
The physician of those days was a solemn personage: he would as readily have appeared without his head, as without his full-bottomed wig; and his ponderous gold-headed cane was a sort of fifth limb, the supposition of whose absence involved a contradiction to the laws of anatomy; his dress was rich and funereal; his step was slow and pompous; his words very long and very few; his look was mysterious; his nod awful; and the shake of his head unfathomable: in short, he was in no respect very much better than a modern charlatan. The science which he professed was then overgrown with absurdities and mystification. The temper of the times was superstitious and credulous, the physician, being wise in his generation, framed his outward man (including his air and language) accordingly, and the populace swallowed his long words and his electuaries with equal faith.
Doctor Mallarde was a doctor-like person, and, in theatrical phraseology, looked the part well. He was tall and stately, saturnine and sallow in aspect, had bushy, grizzled brows, and a severe and prominent dark eye, a thin, hooked nose, and a pair of lips just as thin as it. Along with these advantages he had a habit of pressing the gold head of his professional cane against one corner of his mouth, in a way which produced a sinister and mysterious distortion of that organ; and by exhibiting the medical baton, the outward and visible sign of doctorship, in immediate juxtaposition with the fountain of language, added enormously to the gravity and authority of the words which from time to time proceeded therefrom.
In the presence of such a spectre as thisintimately associated with all that was nauseous and deadly on earthit is hardly to be wondered at that even Nicholas Blarden felt himself somewhat uneasy and abashed. The physician felt his pulse, gazing the while upon the ceiling, and pressing the gold head of his cane, as usual, to the corner of his mouth; made him put out his tongue, asked him innumerable questions, which we forbear to publish, and ended by forbidding his patient the use of every comfort in which he had hitherto
p.133found relief, and by writing a prescription which might have furnished a country dispensary with good things for a twelvemonth. He then took his leave and his fee, with the grisly announcement, that unless the drugs were all swallowed, and the other matters attended to in a spirit of absolute submission, he would not answer for the life of the patient.
I am dd glad he's gone at last, exclaimed Blarden, with a kind of gasp, as if a weight had been removed from his breast. Curse me, if I did not feel all the time as if my coffin was in the room. Are you there, M'Quirk?
Here I am, Mr. Blarden, rejoined the person addressed, whom we may as well describe, as we shall have more to say about him by-and-by.
Mr. M'Quirk was a small, wiry man, of fifty years and upwards, arrayed in that style which is usually described as shabby genteel. He was gifted with one of those mean and commonplace countenances which seem expressly made for the effectual concealment of the thoughts and feelings of the possessoran advantage which he further secured by habitually keeping his eyes as nearly closed as might be, so that, for any indication afforded by them of the movements of the inward man, they might as well have been shut up altogether. The peculiarity, if not the grace, of his appearance, was heightened by a contraction of the muscles at the nape of the neck, which drew his head backward, and produced a corresponding elevation of the chin, which, along with a certain, habitual toss of the head, gave to his appearance a kind of caricatured affectation of superciliousness and hauteur, very impressive to behold.
Along with the swing of the head, which we have before noticed, there was, whenever he spoke, a sort of careless libration of the whole body, which, together with a certain way of jerking or twitching the right shoulder from time to time, were the only approaches to gesticulation in which he indulged.
Well, what does your master say? inquired Blarden out with it, can't you.
Mastermasterindeed! Cock him up with master echoed the man, with lofty disdain.
Ay! what does he say? reiterated Blarden, in no very musical tones. D you, are you choking, or moonstruck? Out with it, can't you?
Chancey says that you had better think the matter overand that's his opinion, replied M'Quirk.
And a fine opinion it is, rejoined Blarden, furiously. Why, in hell's name, what's the matter with himthedrivelling idiot? What's law forwhat's the courts for? Am I to be trounced and cudgelled in the face of hundreds, andand half murdered, and nothing for it? I tell you, I'll
p.134be beggared before the scoundrel shall escape. If every penny I'm worth in the world can buy it, I'll have justice. Tell that sleepy sot Chancey that I'll make him work. Hooooh! bawled the wretch, as his anguish all returned a hundredfold in the fruitless attempt to raise himself in bed.
Drink, heredrinkI'm choking! Hock and water.
Dyou, don't look so stupid and frightened. I'll not be bamboozled by an old 'pothecary. Quick with it, you fumbling witch.
He finished the draught, and lay silently for a time.
Seemind me, M'Quirk, he said, after a pause, tell Chancey to come out himselftell him to be here before evening, or I'll make him sorry for it, do you mind; I want to give him directions. Tell him to come at once, or I'll make him smoke for it, that's all.
I understandall rightvery well; and so, as you seem settling for a snooze, I wish you good-evening, Mr. Blarden, and all sorts of pleasure and happiness, rejoined the messenger.
The patient answered by a grin and a stifled howl, and Mr. M'Quirk, having his head within the curtains, which screened him effectually from the observation of the two attendants, and observing that Mr. Blarden's eyes were closely shut in the rigid compression of pain, put out his tongue, and indulged for a few seconds in an exceedingly ugly grimace, after which, repeating his farewell in a tone of respectful sympathy, he took his departure, chuckling inwardly all the way downstairs, for the little gentleman had a playful turn for mischief.
When Gordon Chancey, Esquire, barrister-at-law, in obedience to this summons, arrived at Cherry Hill, for so the residence of the sick voluptuary was called, he found his loving friend and patron, Nicholas Blarden, babbling not of green fields, but of green curtains, theatres, dice-boxes, bright eyes, small-swords, and the shades infernalin a word, in a high state of delirium. On calling next day, however, he beheld him much recovered; and after an extremely animated discussion, these two well-assorted confederates at length, by their united ingenuity, succeeded in roughly sketching the outlines of a plan of terrific vengeance, in all respects worthy of the diabolical council in which it originated, and of whose progress and development this history very fully treats.