“To none but what I partake in doubly,” answered the stranger, with a voice of assurance which it was impossible to mistrust.

I followed the turnkey, who, leaving the inner wicket unlocked behind him, led me up a turnpike (so the Scotch call a winding stair), then along a narrow gallery,—then opening one of several doors which led into the passage, he ushered me into a small apartment, and casting his eye on the pallet bed which occupied one corner, said with an under voice, as he placed the lamp on a little deal table, “She’s sleeping.”

“She!—who?—can it be Diana Vernon in this abode of misery?”

I turned my eye to the bed, and it was with a mixture of disappointment oddly mingled with pleasure, that I saw my first suspicion had deceived me. I saw a head neither young nor beautiful, garnished with a grey beard of two days’ growth, and accommodated with a red nightcap. The first glance put me at ease on the score of Diana Vernon; the second, as the slumberer awoke from a heavy sleep, yawned, and rubbed his eyes, presented me with features very different indeed—even those of my poor friend Owen. I drew back out of view an instant, that he might have time to recover himself; fortunately recollecting that I was but an intruder on these cells of sorrow, and that any alarm might be attended with unhappy consequences.

Meantime, the unfortunate formalist, raising himself from the pallet-bed with the assistance of one hand, and scratching his cap with the other, exclaimed, in a voice in which as much peevishness as he was capable of feeling, contended with drowsiness, “I’ll tell you what, Mr. Dugwell, or whatever your name may be, the sum total of the matter is, that if my natural rest is to be broken in this manner, I must complain to the lord mayor.”

“Shentlemans to speak wi’ her,” replied Dougal, resuming the true dogged sullen tone of a turnkey, in exchange for the shrill clang of Highland congratulation with which he had welcomed my mysterious guide; and, turning on his heel, he left the apartment.

It was some time before I could prevail upon the unfortunate sleeper awakening to recognise me; and when he did so, the distress of the worthy creature was extreme, at supposing, which he naturally did, that I had been sent thither as a partner of his captivity.

“Oh, Mr. Frank, what have you brought yourself and the house to?—I think nothing of myself, that am a mere cipher, so to speak; but you, that was your father’s sum total—his omnium—you that might have been the first man in the first house in the first city, to be shut up in a nasty Scotch jail, where one cannot even get the dirt brushed off their clothes!”

He rubbed, with an air of peevish irritation, the once stainless brown coat, which had now shared some of the impurities of the floor of his prison-house,—his habits of extreme punctilious neatness acting mechanically to increase his distress.

“Oh, Heaven be gracious to us!” he continued. “What news this will be on ’Change! There has not the like come there since the battle of Almanza, where the total of the British lost was summed up to five thousand men killed and wounded, besides a floating balance of missing—but what will that be to the news that Osbaldistone and Tresham have stopped!”

I broke in on his lamentations to acquaint him, that I was no prisoner, though scarce able to account for my being in that place at such an hour. I could only silence his inquiries by persisting in those which his own situation suggested; and at length obtained from him such information as he was able to give me. It was none of the most distinct; for, however clear-headed in his own routine of commercial business, Owen, you are well aware, was not very acute in comprehending what lay beyond that sphere.

The sum of his information was, that of two correspondents of my father’s firm at Glasgow, where, owing to engagements in Scotland formerly alluded to, he transacted a great deal of business, both my father

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.