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willing I was to take advantage of the villany-hem'
"Gammon, Gammon, you're always harking back to that I'm tired of hearing on't."
"Well, now we're in it, I don't see why we should allow ourselves to be baffled by trifles. The plain question is, undoubtedly, whether we are to stand still, or go on." Mr Quirk gazed at Mr Gammon with an anxious and puzzled look.
"How d'ye make out—in a legal way, you know, Gammon-when a man died—I mean, of a natural death?" enquired Quirk, who was familiar enough with the means of proving the exact hour of certain violent deaths at Debtor's Door.
"Oh! there are various methods of doing so, my dear sir," replied Gammon, carelessly. "Entries in family bibles and prayer-books, registers, tombstonesay, by the way, an old tombstone," continued Gammon, musingly, "that would settle the business!"
"An old tombstone!" echoed Quirk, briskly. "Lord, Gammon, so it would! That's an idea-I call that a decided idea, Gammon. 'Twould be the very thing!"
"The very thing!" repeated Gammon, pointedly. They remained silent for some moments.
"Snap could not have looked about him sharply enough, when he was down at Yatton!" at length observed Quirk, in a low tone, flushing all over as he uttered the last words, and felt Gammon's cold grey eye settled on him like that of a snake.
"He could not, indeed, my dear sir," replied Gammon, while Quirk continued gazing earnestly at him, now and then wriggling about in his chair, rubbing his chin, and drumming with his fingers on the table. "And now that you've suggested the thing, it's not to be wondered atyou know, it would have been an old tombstone-a sort of fragment of a tombstone, perhaps so deeply sunk in the ground, probably, as easily to have escaped observation, eh? Does not it strike you so, Mr Quirk?" All this was said by Gammon in a musing manner, and in a very low tone of voice; and he was delighted to find his words sinking into the eager mind of his companion.
"Ah, Gammon!" exclaimed Quirk,
with a sound of partly a sigh, and partly a whistle, (the former being the exponent of the true state of his feelings, i. e. anxiety-the latter of what he wished to appear the state of his feelings, i. e. indifference.)
"Yes, Mr Quirk?”
"You're a deep devil, Gammon-I will say that for you!" replied Quirk, glancing towards each door, and, as it were, unconsciously drawing his chair a little closer to that of Gammon.
"Nay, my dear sir!" said Gammon, with a deferential and deprecating smile, "you give me credit for an acuteness I feel I do not deserve! If, indeed, I had not had your sagacity to rely upon, ever since I have had the honour of being connected with you
ah, Mr Quirk, you know you lead-I follow"
"Gammon, Gammon! Comeyour name's Oily "—
"In moments like these, Mr Quirk, I say nothing that I do not feel,” interrupted Gammon, gravely, putting to his nose the least modicum of snuff which he could take with the tip of his finger out of the huge box of Mr Quirk, who, just then, was thrusting immense pinches every half minute up his nostrils.
"It will cost a great deal of money to find that same tombstone, Gammon!" said Quirk, in almost a whis per, and paused, looking intently at Gammon.
"I think this is a different kind of snuff from that which you usually take, Mr Quirk, isn't it?" enquired Gammon, as he inserted the tips of his fingers into the box.
"The same the same," replied Quirk, mechanically.
"You are a man better equal to serious emergencies than any man I ever came near," said Gammon; "I perceive that you have hit the nail on the head, as indeed you always do.”
"Tut! Stuff, Gammon; you're every bit as good a hand as I am.' Gammon smiled, shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders.
"Tis that practical sagacity of yours,” said Gammon-"you know it as well as I can tell you that has raised you to your present professional eminence." He paused, and looked very sincerely at his senior partner.
"Well, I must own I think I do know a trick or two."
clever men that can never keep their own counsel; but like a hen that has just laid an egg, and then goes foolishly cackling about every where, and then her egg is taken away."
Ha, ha!" laughed Quirk; "that's devilish good, Gammon!-Capital! Gad, I think I see the hen! Ha, ha!" "Ha, ha!" echoed Gammon, gently. "But to be serious, Mr. Quirk; what I was going to say was, that I thoroughly appreciate your admirable caution in not confiding to any oneeven to me the exact means by which you intend to extricate us from our present dilemma.' Here Quirk got very fidgety.
"Hem! But-hem! Ay-a-a," he grunted, looking with an uneasy air at his calm astute companion; "I didn't mean so much as all that, either, Gammon; for two heads, in my opinion, are better than one. You must own that, Gammon!" said he, not at all relishing the heavy burden of responsibility which he felt that Gammon was about to devolve upon his (Quirk's) shoulders, exclusively.
"'Tis undoubtedly rather a serious business on which we are now entering," said Gammon; “and I have always admired a saying which you years ago told me of that great man Machiavel"
[Oh, Gammon! Gammon! well knew that poor old Mr Quirk never heard of the name of that same Machiavel till this moment!]—
“ That ' when great affairs are stirring, a master-move should be confined to the master-mind that projects it.' I understand! I see! I will not, therefore, enquire into the precise means by which you will make it appear, in due time, (while I am engaged getting up the subordinate, but very harassing details of the general case,) that Henry Dreddlington died before the 7th of August 1742." Here, taking out his watch," Bless me-two o'clock! I ought to have been at Messrs Greg son's a quarter of an hour ago."
"Stop-a moment or two can't signify! It-it," said Quirk hesitatingly, "it was you, wasn't it, that thought of the tombstone."
"I! My dear Mr Quirk"-interrupted Gammon, with a look of astonishment.
"No-it shall never be said that I attempted to take the credit of ". said Gammon; when a clerk, entering, put an end to the colloquy between the partners, each of whom, presently, was sitting alone in his own room-for Gammon found that he was too late to think of keeping his engagement with Messrs Gregson; if indeed he had ever made any, which he had not. Mr Quirk sate in a musing posture for nearly half an hour after he and Gammon had separated. "Gammon is a deep one! I'll be shot if ever there was his equal," said Quirk to himself, at length; and starting off his chair, with his hands crossed behind him, he walked softly to and fro. "I know what he's driving at-though he thought I didn't! He'd let me scratch my hands in getting the blackberries, and then he'd come smiling in to eat 'em! Butshare and share alike-share profit, share danger, master Gammon ;you may find that Caleb Quirk is a match for Oily Gammon-I'll have you in for it, one way or another!" Here occurred a long pause in his thoughts. "Really I doubt the thing's growing unmanageable- the prize can't be worth the risk!-Risk, indeed 'fore Gad,-its neither more nor less than ". Here a certain picture hanging, covered with black crape, in the drawing-room at Alibi House, seemed to have glided down from its station, and to stand before his eyes with the crape drawn aside— a ghastly object-eugh! He shuddered, and involuntarily closed his eyes. "Devilish odd that I should just now have happened to think of it!" he inwardly exclaimed, sinking into his chair in a sort of cold sweat.
"D-n the picture!" at length he exclaimed, almost aloud, getting more and more flustered-" I'll burn it! It sha'n't disgrace my drawing-room any longer!" Here Quirk almost fancied that some busy little fiend sate squatting before the grisly picture, writing the words "CALEB QUIRK" at the bottom of it; and a sort of sickness came over him for a moment. Presently he started up, and took down one of several well-worn dingy-looking books that stood on the shelvesa volume of Burns' Justice. Resuming his seat, he put on his glasses, and with a little trepidation turned to the head "Forgery,” and glanced over it.
At length his eye hit upon a paragraph that seemed suddenly to draw his heart up into his throat; producing a sensation that made him involuntarily clap his hand upon his neck.
"Oh, Gammon!!" he muttered, drawing off his glasses, sinking back in his chair, and looking towards the door that opened into Gammon's room; in which direction he extended his right arm, and shook his fist. "You precious villain!"-" I've an uncommon inclination," at length thought he," to go down slap to Yorkshire-say nothing to any body -make peace with the enemy, and knock up the whole thing!-For a couple of thousand pounds-a trifle to the Aubreys, I'm sure. Were I in his place, I shouldn't grudge it; and why should he?-By Jove," he got a little heated-" that would be, as Gammon has it, a master move! and confined, egad! to the master mind that thought of it!—Why should he ever know of the way in which the thing blew up?-Really 'twould be worth half the money to do Gammon so hollow for once-by George it would! -Gammon, that would slip Caleb Quirk's neck so slyly into the halter, indeed!"
"I'll tell you what, Mr Quirk," said Gammon, suddenly re-entering the room after about an hour's ab sence, during which he too had, like his senior partner, been revolving many things in his mind-" it has occurred to me, that I had better immediately go down to Yatton, alone."
Hereat Mr Quirk opened both his eyes and his mouth to their very widest; got very red in the face; and stared at his placid partner with a mingled expression of fear and wonder. "Hang me, Gammon!" at length he exclaimed, desperately, slapping his fist upon the table-" if I don't think you're the very devil himself!”-and he sunk back in his chair, verily be lieving, in the momentary confusion of his thoughts, that what had been passing through his mind was known to Gammon; or that what had been passing through his (Quirk's) mind, had also been occurring to Gammon, who had resolved upon being beforehand in putting his purposes into execution. Gammon was at first completely confounded by Quirk's reception of him, and stood for a few moments, with his hands elevated, in
silence. Then he approached the table, and his eye caught the wellthumbed volume of Burns' Justice, open at the head " FORGERY!”— and the quicksighted Gammon saw how matters stood at a glance-the process by which the result he had just witnessed had been arrived at.
"Well, Mr Quirk, what new vagary, now?" he enquired, with an air of smiling curiosity. "Vagary be -!" growled old Quirk, sullenly, without moving in his chair.
Gammon stood for a moment or two eyeing him with a keen scrutiny. "What!" at length he enquired, goodhumoredly, "do you then really grudge me any share in the little enterprise?"
"Eh?" quickly interrupted Quirk, pricking up his ears. "Do you intend to play Mackivel? eh?"
"What must you go down alone to Yatton for, Gammon?" enquired Quirk, anxiously.
66 Why, simply as a sort of pioneer to reconnoitre the churchyardeh? I thought it might have been of service; but if".
"Gammon, Gammon, your hand! I understand," replied Quirk, evidently vastly relieved-most cordially shaking the cold hand of Gammon.
"But understand, Mr Quirk," said he, in a very peremptory manner, "no one upon earth is to know of my visit to Yatton except yourself."
He received a solemn pledge to that effect; and presently the partners separated, a little better satisfied with each other. Though not a word passed between them for several days afterwards on the topic chiefly discussed during the interview above described, the reader may easily imagine that neither of them dropped it from his thoughts. Mr Quirk paid one or two visits to the neighbourhood of Houndsditch, (a perfect hotbed of clients,) where resided two or three gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion, who had been placed, from time to time, under considerable obligations by the firm of Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, in respect of professional services rendered both to themselves and to their friends. One of them, in particular, had a painful consciousness that it was in old Mr Quirk's power at any time, by a whisper, to place his -the aforesaid Israelite's-neck in an unsightly noose that every now and
then might be seen dangling from a beam opposite Debtor's Door, Newgate, about eight o'clock in the morning; him, therefore, every consideration of interest and of gratitude combined to render subservient to the reasonable wishes of Mr Quirk. He was a most ingenious little fellow, and had a great taste for the imitative arts -so strong a taste, in fact, that it had once or twice placed him in some jeopardy with the Goths and Vandals of the law, who characterised the noble art in which he excelled by a very ugly and formidable word, and an nexed the most barbarous penalties to its practice. What passed between him and old Quirk on the occasion of their interviews, I know not; but one afternoon, the latter, on returning to his office, without saying any thing to any body, having bolted the door, took out of his pocket several little pieces of paper, containing pretty little picturesque devices of a fragmentary character, with antique letters and figures on them-crumbling pieces of stone, some looking more and some less sunk in the ground, and overgrown with grass: possibly they were designs for ornaments to be added to that tasteful structure, Alibi Housepossibly intended to grace Miss Quirk's album. However this might be, after he had looked at them and carefully compared them one with another for some time, he folded them up in a sheet of paper, sealed it up-with certainly not the steadiest hand in the world-and then deposited it in an iron safe.
Yatton, the recovery of which was the object of these secret and formidable movements and preparations, not to say machinations, was all this while the scene of deep affliction. The lamentable condition of his mother plunged Mr Aubrey, his wife and sister, into profounder grief than had been occasioned by the calamity which menaced them all in common. Had he been alone, he would have encountered the sudden storm of adversity with unshrinking, nay cheerful firm ness; but could it be so, when he had ever before him those whose ruin was involved in his own?-Poor Mrs Aubrey, his wife, having been two or three weeks confined to her bed, during which time certain fond hopes of the husband had been blighted, was almost overpowered, when, languid
and feeble, supported by Mr Aubrey and Kate, she first entered the bed room of the venerable sufferer. What a difference, indeed, was there between the appearance of all of them at that moment, and on the Christmas day when, a happy group, they were cheerfully enjoying the festivities of the season! Kate was now pale, and somewhat thinner; her beautiful fea tures exhibited a careworn expres. sion; yet there was a serene lustre in her blue eye, and a composed resolution in her air, which bespoke the superiority of her soul. What it had cost her to bear with any semblance of self-possession, or fortitude, the sad spectacle now presented by her mother! What a tender and vigilant nurse was she, to one who could no longer be sensible of, or appreciate, her attentions! How that sweet girl humoured all her mother's little eccentricities and occasional excitement, and accommodated herself to every varying phasis of her mental malady! She had so schooled her sensibilities and feelings as to be able to maintain perfect cheerfulness and composure in her mother's presence, on occasions which forced her brother, and his shaken wife, to turn aside with an eye of agony-overcome by some touching speech or wayward action of the unconscious sufferer, who constantly imagined herself, poor soul! to be living over again her early married life; and that in her little grandchildren she beheld Mr Aubrey and Kate as in their childhood! She would gently chide Mr Aubrey, her husband, for his prolonged absence, asking many times a day whether he had returned from London. Every morning old Jacob Jones was shown into her chamber, at the hour at which he had been accustomed, in happier days, to attend upon her. The faithful old man's eyes would be blinded with tears, and his voice choked, as he was asked how Peggy got over her yesterday's jour ney; and listened to questions, messages, and directions, which had been familiar to him twenty years before, about villagers and tenants who had long lain mouldering in their humble graves-their way thither cheered and smoothed by her Christian charity and benevolence! 'Twas a touching sight to see her two beautiful grandchildren, in whose company she delighted, brought, with a timorous and
half-reluctant air, into her presence. How strange must have seemed to them the gaiety of the motionless figure always lying in the bed; a gaiety which, though gentle as gentle could be, yet sufficed not to assure the little things, or set them at their ease. Though her mild features ever smiled upon them, and her voice was cheerful, still 'twas from a prostrate figure that never moved, and was always surrounded by calm, quiet figures, with sorrowful constraint in their countenances and gestures! Charles would stand watching her, with apprehensive eye-the finger of one hand raised to his lip, while his other retained the hand that had brought him in, as if fearful of its quitting hold of him; the few words he could be brought to speak were in a subdued tone and hurried utterance :—and when, having been lifted up to kiss his grandmamma, he and his sister were taken out of the chamber, their little breasts would heave a sigh which showed how relieved they were from their recent constraint.
How wofully changed was every thing in the once cheerful old hall! Mr Aubrey sitting in the library, intently engaged upon books and papers -Mrs Aubrey and Kate now and then, arm in arm, walking slowly up and down the galleries, or one of the rooms, or the hall, not with their former sprightly gaiety, but pensive, and often in tears, and then returning to the chamber of their suffering parent. All this was sad work, indeed, and seemed, as it were, to herald in coming desolation!
But little variation occurred, for several weeks, in the condition of Mrs Aubrey, except that she grew visibly feebler. One morning, however, about six weeks after her seizure, from certain symptoms the medical men intimated their opinion that some important change was on the eve of taking place, for which they prepared the family. She had been very restless during the night. After frequent intervals of uneasy sleep, she would awake with evident surprise and bewilderment. Sometimes a peculiar smile would flit over her emaciated features; at others, they would be overcast with gloom, and she would seem struggling to suppress tears. Her voice, too, when she spoke, was feeble and tremulous; and she would sigh,
and shake her head mournfully. Old Jacob Jones, not being introduced at the accustomed hour, she asked for him. When he made his appearance, she gazed at him for a moment or two, with a puzzled eye, exclaiming, " Jacob! Jacob! is it you?" in a very low tone; and then she closed her eyes, apparently falling asleep. Thus passed the day; her daughter and daughter-in law sitting on either side the bed, where they had so long kept their anxious and affectionate vigils-Mr Aubrey sitting at the foot of the bed
and Dr Goddart and Mr Whateley in frequent attendance. Towards the evening, Dr Tatham also, as had been his daily custom through her illness, appeared, and in a low tone read over the service for the visitation of the sick. Shortly afterwards Mr Aubrey was obliged to quit the chamber, in order to attend to some very pressing matters of business; and he had been engaged for nearly an hour, intending almost every moment to return to his mother's chamber, when Dr Tatham entered, as Mr Aubrey was subscribing his name to a letter, and, with a little earnestness, said " Come, my friend, let us return to your mother; methinks she is on the eve of some decisive change the issue is with God." Within a very few moments they were both at the bedside of Mrs Aubrey. A large chamber-lamp, standing on a table at a little distance from the bed, diffused a soft light over the room, rendering visible at a glance the silent and sad group collected round the bed, all with their eyes directed towards the venerable figure who lay upon it. Mr Aubrey sat beside his wife, close to his mother; and taking her thin, emaciated hand into his own, gently raised it to his lips. She seemed dozing; but his action appeared to rouse her for a moment. Presently she fixed her eye upon him, its expression, the while, slowly but perceptibly changing, and exciting strange feelings within him. trembled, and removed not his eye from hers. He turned very pale-for the whole expression of his mother's countenance, which was turned full towards him, was changing. Through the clouded windows of the falling fabric, behold! its long-imprisoned tenant, THE SOUL, had arisen from its torpor, and was looking at him. Reason was re-appearing. It was, indeed,