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Revenge!" he shouted, "yes, you shall have it; revenge and freedom, in a word. Go then! father of the girl I loved, and in a better world pray for the soul of the murderer." Inflamed-maddened
with the violence of contending emotions, he tightened his grasp, while the poor old man sunk senseless and dying at his feet. "You have robbed me of my daughter," he feebly exclaimed, "but my spirit shall haunt the murderer. Farewell! we shall meet again." With these words he expired.
I pass by the trial, and subsequent acquittal of Wharton under the plea of insanity; for in good sooth I dislike having any thing to do with law, either in the way of fiction or reality. Children should never play with edge-tools. But I cannot so easily prêtermit his sullen contrition, or the fact that he gave up billiards, sold his horses, portioned off his mistresses, and took, like an ascetic hermit, to his beads and his prayer-book. His penitence, indeed, was wondrously edifying, and scarcely less marvellous than the fact which I am about to relate.
He was awakened one night from dreams of horror, by a sulphureous radiance, that illumined his whole chamber. As the light grew more and more vivid, he discovered a phantom standing with an air of easy assurance by his bed-side, with his hands thrust into a visionary pair of leather breeches.
"In the name of goodness, who are you?" said Wharton. "Meaning me, Sir," replied the apparition, in the homely dialect of his county; "I was once Sam Boots, ostler at the Pig and Tinder-box; but having had a slight accident with the gallows, was rewarded for my martyrdom by the place of book-keeper to Pluto. I am sent here by one Shirley, to say, that since his murder he has been appointed driver of the Devil's coach, which leaves Beverley at twelve o'clock at night, and reaches the Styx at the first crowing of the cock." "Shirley !" ex
claimed the paralyzed Wharton. repeated the phantom: "perhaps you are surprised to hear of him below; but he was none of the best of us, and must answer for himself as well as others. He desires me to add, that he promised to meet you again, and that there is one outside place vacant on the box, to be kept expressly for you." "God of heaven! is my death then so near?" "Yes," returned the sprite, "in three days from this time, when the Minster clock is on the hour of twelve, a clay-cold corpse will be all that remains of Wharton." "Eternal Providence!" resumed the libertine,
am I so soon to be cut off, when life is yet young, and my crimes are yet unrepented ?" "Lord bless us," returned the hobgoblin, "it is nothing when one's used to it; for my own part, I have been dead and damned these five years." With this consoling
assurance, he vanished in a clap of thunder from the apartment.
The next morning, about half a dozen thin spinsters were seen gossiping together in the front of Wharton's house. Many thick heads were shaken on the occasion, and great was the wagging of tongues. Among other worthies, the Parson of St. Mary's was summoned to the bed-side of the invalid: but, as he was a very orthodox minister, he averred that it was highly probable that the patient would be damned, unless he presented him to the next living that was in his gift. The physician too, under whose management our hero's case became really dangerous, talked much of the healing quality of fees, while both agreed in offering consolation. Alas! what can console a man, who, by a long course of carnality, has paid for an outside place on the Devil's coach?
The fatal day at last arrived, and, confined by nervous indisposition to his room, poor Wharton was in a state of the gloomiest despondency. An old woman, the best nurse in the world for an invalid, sate on each side of his bed, revolving with blanched countenance the probable catastrophe of the night. As evening drew on, his dejection increased, and he was scarcely roused from melancholy by the abrupt entrance of one of his fashionable London friends. "Why, Wharton," said
the Corinthian, "what's all this I hear about your dream of the death-coach and the book-keeper?" ""Tis no dream, Jack: I am going to the Devil; and that cursed four-in-hand, about which we used to laugh so incredulously, is sent to convey me to Tophet." "Phoo nonsense," resumed his friend, "are you fool enough to believe so nonsensical a legend?" "Nonsensical!" shrieked both the old gentlewomen at once; "hear the blasphemous young man, he calls the Devil's coach nonsensical, when our two husbands, who, God rest them, are dead and gone, were carried away in it themselves." With these words, they raised such a clatter about the ears of Wharton and his friend, that both were fain to apologise. "Well, well," resumed the Dandy, "if you are really going to take an airing, I will thank you to remember me to our old friend Whitaker, for you may depend on it that he is there." "I am in no humor to joke,” said Wharton with a melancholy smile; "for the hour of death is near, and we meet for the last time on earth. Adieu, Jack," he continued, holding out his wasted hand, "we have spent many pleasant hours together, cherish the memory of them for my sake, and when the wine-cup goes round, be the name of Wharton the toast that memory pledges to the past." As he said these words he motioned his companion from the room; who, struck with such
apparent weakness, quitted the house in a state of mind veering very doubtfully between ridicule and regret.
It was evening-nine, ten, eleven-half past eleven o'clock struck, the nurses had retired for the night, and every coach that rattled along the streets was mistaken for the Acherontic four-in-hand. the awful hour approached, the night became unusually tempestuous; the blue lightning streamed through the closed window-shutters, and the thunder echoed in rattling peals along the sky. At this instant the deep-toned Minster clock, struck the hour of twelve, and the eyes of the invalid grew dim with a death-like slumber. 'Tis done-the room shook as with an earthquake, and the rumbling sound of a distant vehicle was heard clattering along the stony pavement. The whole machine was picturesquely fearful: the wheels were composed of the bones of dead men; the box-seat was fashioned out of skulls, the thickest that could be procured; and the martingales, traces, and horsecollars, were manufactured from the dried skin of a parricide. As for the headless driver, he was closely muffled in a box-coat, formed of graveclothes; while the book-keeper, who, being duly rigged out in a new pair of phantasmagoriacal leathers, appeared the most sociable of this devilish assembly, shouted aloud, "Any passenger for the