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in the vault, instead of coming as my deliverers, and the agents of Dr. Linnel, as I had so fondly conceited, were sacrilegious ruffians, whose purpose was to steal my body and sell it to the surgeons for mutilation and dismemberment!
Again with elastic speed did my thoughts rush forward to the probable result of their proceedings ; but oh! how miserably different were my present anticipations from those in which I had so recently indulged! One only glimmering of hope was perceptible in the hideous prospect before
It was just possible that Mr. Holloway, an experienced surgeon, discovering my entranced state, might stay his uplifted hand, throw away his scalpel, and succeed in effecting my resuscitation. But how much more probable that the progress of his operations might reanimate me for a time, only to writhe and die under the agony
wounds; or perhaps to be patched up after I had been half-butchered, that I might stagger under the load of life as a maimed and disfigured cripple, a misery to myself and a revolting object to my friends!
While tortured by these harrowing ideas, the lid of the coffin was removed, and Hodges, turning his dark lantern full upon my face, said to his companion - What dy'e think of that, Griffiths?' There's a beauty of a stiff-un! don't know as ever I see a finer. Just take hold of his legs, will ye, and help to lift him out."
By their joint exertions I was raised from the coffin, and deposited upon a piece of old carpet spread beside it—a position that enabled me to contemplate the scene before me. The sexton's brent and snowy head glistened, and his sharp eyes twinkled in the light, as he counted, in the palm of his shrivelled hand, the ten shillings with which he had doubtless been bribed for giving admission to the vault. His accomplice, in spite of his revolting occupation, exhibited a not unpleasing physiognomy, and screwed down the lid with a complacent smile, as if he were well pleased with his night's work. The piled coffins at the back of the vault were mostly thrown into deep shade, though here and there an unrusted nail or inscriptionplate caught the flickering ray; or some ghastly bone, escaped from its mouldering receptacle, gathered a sickly gleam around it. The whole picture was framed in the black arch of the vault.
When the lid of the coffin had been replaced, the men rolled the carpet around me, raised me on their shoulders, carried me out, and laid me on a flat barrow or truck. I heard the door cautiously locked, and at the same moment I felt myself to be trundling along the churchyard path; the wheel being almost inaudible, owing to the softness of the ground, for it was still raining heavily.
On emerging from the burial-ground into the high-road, a sudden gust of wind turned back a portion of the carpeting, allowing the rain to beat against niy head and face, and enabling me again to use my eyes, so far as the darkness would allow. If I had been peculiarly impressed with the beauty and splendour of the sunlighted world as displayed to me through the window when they were first placing me in the coffin, I was still more deeply affected by the midnight glories that irradiated the sky, where the black and driving clouds partially revealed them. They drew my thoughts upwards to the mysterious and omnipotent Unseen,
the Creator and Upholder of the universe, amid whose countless worlds the globe which we inhabit might be deemed no more than a particle of starry dust; but in the belief that not even the humblest dweller upon this insignificant speck would address himself to Heaven in vain, and that the Creator of all would listen to the prayers of all, I silently implored forgiveness for my past sins, and supplicated a deliverance from the terrible fate that menaced me. Supported by this act of devotion, I awaited my doom with less agony of soul than I had previously endured.
The road being that which led to my own house, I was familiar with all the objects of which I could obtain a glimpse as I passed along. My heart yearned strangely towards them; and as I gazed, fully believing it to be for the last time, upon a well-known tree, or even a field-gate, I felt as if I were being torn away from an old friend. Guess how immeasurably this tender sorrow 'must have been increased when we reached the entrance to my own residence, and Hodges, putting down the barrow, said,
Hang me I baint aʼmost tired. The stiff-un aint no great weight, but these sandy roads be so uncommon heavy a'ter rain. Why, this is the old cove's roosting-place, I do declare. Ah! shouldn't wonder if he'd give a good lot of his money-bags to get out of the barrow, ring the bell, walk upstairs, and turn into a warm bed, instead of being stretched out on a cold dissecting-table.” In every fibre did my
heart feel the contrast; for memory conjured up the years I had passed, and the many social and domestic pleasures I had enjoyed in that home which I was never to see again, which had now, by such iniquitous means, become the property of my parricidal son. At this moment my grief and indignation were aggravated by a sound of hilarious laughter from the dining-room, where I conjectured that the miscreant and his boon companions from Newmarket had not yet corcluded their Bacchanalian orgies. A thousand times more than ever did I now languish for a restoration to life, that I might expose and punish his atrocities, and dispossess him of the estates he had so villanously usurped.
Owing to the lateness of the hour and the inclemency of the weather, we did not encounter a single wayfarer on our further progress to the house of Professor Holloway, which stood on the outskirts of the town. I was conveyed to the garden-gate, which Hodges unlocked; and again securing it, wheeled me to the back of the dwelling, opened a door, and passed with the truck into a small room, appropriated to Hodges for his disinterred bodies, in which a good fire was burning.
“This looks comfortable,” he said; “I knew I should want a good drying a'ter such a job on such a night. I feel quite shivery, and sha'n't be no worse for a rummer of hot brandy and water.
Where did I put the bottle ?"
He withdrew into an inner apartment, probably for the purpose of changing his wet clothes, for his absence was of some duration.
Either from the effect of the refreshing night-air on my being taken out of the vault, or of the shower-bath to which I had been subjected, or of the reaction produced by my present exposure to a flaming fire, I became sensible, at this precise juncture, of a change in my corporeal system. It began with a gentle thrilling and throbbing at my bosom,
succeeded by scarcely perceptible tremors and shudderings, and a slight twitching of the limbs, accompanied by a sense of painful numbness and cold at the extremities. My frozen blood, thawed by the grateful warmth, struggled to resume circulation, though its first efforts were sluggish, and limited to the neighbourhood of the heart. Slowly, however, it crawled onwards to the members, and, after a while, I found that I had the power to move my limbs, but only in a very small degree. Doubting the reality of this incipient reanimation, and wishing to test the delightful hope that thrilled through my nerves, I summoned my newly-awakened powers by making a strenuous effort to change my position; and though I did not quite succeed in my object, I had the satisfaction of hearing the truck upon which I was stretched creak beneath me. Ineffably dulcet and harmonious to mine ear was that untuneful sound, for it confirmed the cessation of my catalepsy, and announced, as with an angel's voice, the glad tidings of my speedy restoration to life, and light, and happiness.
But how far inferior did that voice seem to the matchless music of my own, when, after several vain efforts, my tongue was partially untied, and I succeeded in uttering the words—“ Thank God! Thank God!" though they were breathed in an almost inaudible whisper. Scarcely had it passed my lips ere the foreman re-entered, walked to the fire, and was in the act of raising it with the poker, when my spasmodic twitchings shook the carpeting with which I was covered. The fellow had been too long conversant with midnight violations of the grave to have any apprehension of ghosts, but he was evidently frightened, for he started back with the poker in his hand, ejaculating, as one of my legs again moved
“The Lord above! The Lord above! May I never stir if the stiff-un baint alive and kicking !"
While he was still staring, utterly aghast and bewildered, I sought to draw him towards me, that I might be the better heard, by uttering the word—“ Hodges !" -a sound at which he started in still greater alarm, muttering perturbedly to himself
“ He's no more dead than I am, and he knows my name! Here's a fix—here's a precious job! Sure as fate I shall be pulled up afore the magistrates, and it's a Botany Bay affair, that's what it is. ''Twouldn't take much to hush up the matter, and make all sure with this here”-his eye fell
upon the poker as he spoke — and I'm blessed if I don't think it would be an act of pure kindness to put him out of his misery; besides, a fellow may always take another chap's life to preserve his own."
My new danger flashed upon me in an instant, and not losing a moment in trying to repair the perilous mistake I had made by the mention of his name,
I said, in the loudest tone I could utter-
my life, and I will make your fortune !"-words which acted like a charm. His altered countenance showed that a new light had broken in
upon he came close to the truck, and putting down his ear, asked me what I had said; exclaiming, as I distinctly repeated my promise
“It's a barg'n—it's a barg'n. Save ye? Lord love ye, that's what I will, with all the pleasure in life. I'm a reg'lar body-snatcher, as many a better man has been, but I baint a murderer : I wouldn't go for to Burke a fellow-creature. No; that's the very last thing as ever I should think on.”
On intimating that my feet felt frozen and dead, he uncovered them,
and placed the truck in such a position that they faced the fire ; and on my pronouncing the word “tea,” for I was miserably faint and thirsty, he cried, with an expression of ineffable contempt
“ What's the use of them wishy-washy things ? No, no; you shall have something better than tea.”
So saying, he took a case-bottle of brandy from a closet, filled a small spoon, and poured it into my mouth. At first I was unable to swallow, but the warmth of the spirit gradually relaxed the muscles, and restored the power of deglutition, so that, after a few fruitless efforts, it passed down my throat. The dose was repeated three or four times, its administrator observing that—"if brandy wouldn't save me, nothing in the world wouldn't save me.” Its effects, at all events, were rapid, for I felt the quickened circulation tingling through my whole frame. In answer to his inquiry what he should do next, I desired him to run for Doctor Linnel, who resided, most fortunately, in a neighbouring street. This order being instantly obeyed, I was left alone to reflect, with a devoutly grateful heart, upon the strange life-involving perils to which I h twice exposed, and upon the still more strange, not to say providential, . occurrences by which I had been hitherto saved from destruction.
Curious as was the concurrence of circumstances which had produced my apparent death and real burial, the concatenation of events which terminated in my disinterment and my restoration to life was by no means less extraordinary. Among the subordinate causes contributing to the latter result, was the fortunate fact that Doctor Linnel, reaching his home at a late hour, and having an accumulation of letters to read, had not retired to rest when Hodges rang the night-bell and gave him a hurried statement of what had occurred; so that he was enabled to hasten back, and to be kneeling by my side in a very short time after the despatch of my messenger.
“Do not speak a word,' was his first injunction ; “you have no strength for talking. Leave everything to me; I will take care of you." .
Ordering a mattress to be brought and to be spread before the fire, he placed me upon it; bottles of hot water were applied to the soles of my
feet; he poured into my inouth a renovating cordial ; after which preliminaries I was rubbed with warm flannels until both my operators were thrown into a profuse perspiration, and I myself felt a vital glow throughout my whole frame. All goes well,” said the Doctor ;
6 but I have
my own house and under my own eye, or I cannot answer for your recovery. We must remove you before daylight. Bring me a couple of blankets immediately.
These being found, and hung before the fire till they were quite hot, were carefully wrapped around me, when the Doctor and Hodges, both of whom were powerful men, placed me on their shoulders, and carried me to the residence of the former, where I was laid in his own bed, still enveloped in the heated blankets. Tenderly as I had been conveyed, the motion had quite exhausted me; and I lay extended, without speech or change of posture, until I fainted, or gradually sank into a gentle sleep.
All that could be accomplished by consummate skill, combined with an unremitting and most devoted friendship, was now exerted in my behalf, and with such success that I myself was astonished at the rapidity of my progress, though I was still occasionally prostrated by a milder form of the alarming attacks which had preceded my trance. Linnel had expressly stipulated that my marvellous resuscitation should, for the present, be kept a profound secret.
“ You cannot be restored to your rights,” urged that discreet friend, you cannot resume your station in society, without active exertions, and an exposure to social and domestic trials of too exciting, not to say too harrowing a nature to be safely encountered in your present critical state. Any painful agitation might occasion a relapse--a danger against which we must especially guard ourselves. When you are strong enough to face the world, I will not only give you notice, but will stand by your side to support you in your undertaking."
Neglecting nothing that could contribute to my cheer of mind, as well as to the corroboration of my health, my kind friend, who frequently saw my daughter, brought me such gratifying accounts of her deep but unobtrusive grief for my presumed death, that I yearned with more than paternal fondness to clasp the dear girl once more to my heart. Linnel, however, would not permit this until three weeks had elapsed, when he entered
my room, saying: “ Here is a letter from dear Sarah, requesting permission to call and ask my advice, on a matter of importance, at twelve o'clock to-day. Now, if
will promise to command your feelings as well as you can, you shall be ensconced in the arm-chair of our little back drawing-room, and overhear our interview; and after I have duly prepared her for the startling intelligence, I will announce your resuscitation, and apprise her of your presence."
All was done as he had arranged ; but, though I had promised to lie perdu till the close of their interview, I could not avoid indulging myself in one momentary peep as she entered the room. Her deep mourning, and the shade of sorrow upon her features, imparted a more touching interest to her beauty. Oh! how lovely did she appear to me at that moment! Oh! how my heart thrilled when I caught the first accents of her soft and winning voice !
After pleading the long intimacy that had existed between myself and Linnel as an excuse for the trouble she was giving, she continued
“You are aware that by my dear father's will I am reduced from a handsome independence to comparative poverty, if I marry Mr. Mason.”
“ I am ; and if my friend had consulted me on the subject, I should have told him it was a foolish and unjustifiable act. What possible objection could he have had to such a man as Mason ?”
“ I believe that he had none whatever, but I am sure that he acted from the kindest motives. He thought that the daughter of so rich a man ought to make a grand alliance.”
In other words, he wanted to gratify his own ambition at your expense. A common fatherly feeling, but not very paternal, for all that.”
“ I had promised my dear father, in his lifetime, that I would never marry Mr. Mason without his consent; and nothing should have induced me to violate that pledge ; but now that I am left—now that I am