Rodrigues Ottolengui.

A Modern Wizard



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He opened the iron door, lifted the body of the sleeper in his arms and bore it into the passage at the foot of the stairs. Immediately opposite, there was another door, dimly shown by the light from the swinging lamp. This he kicked open with his foot, without dropping his burden. He walked straight across, through the darkness of this old wine cellar, towards a dim ray of light which penetrated at the opposite end, presently coming to a low arch through which he passed with lowered head, emerging into a greater light. They were now in an old cistern, and a circular opening above permitted the moonlight to enter. Here the Doctor laid the sleeper gently down, and retraced his steps. Re-entering the domed chamber, he extinguished the lamp, and then again emerged, closing the door behind him. From a corner under the stairway he procured a long-handled, heavy, iron hammer, such as men use who break large rocks. He next went into the wine cellar, closing the door behind him, and thence passed on through the archway into the cistern. Taking one glance at the still sleeping form of Jack Barnes, he threw off his coat, and attacked the brick-work of the arch, raining upon it heavy blows, each of which demolished a part of the thick wall. At the end of half an hour the opening was choked with fallen debris, and the entrance into the wine vault thus effectually concealed.

This task accomplished, the Doctor resumed his coat, and turned to examine the sleeper. He raised him up, and stood him against that side of the wall upon which the most light was shed. As the body was thus supported, the head hanging, and the weird half-light making the face more ghastly, one might readily have supposed that this was a corpse. But the Doctor presently cried out:

"Awaken! Awaken! not entirely, but so that you may hear and speak!"

In an instant the head was lifted, the eyes opened, and the voice said:

"I am awake! I can hear and speak!"

"Good!" exclaimed the Doctor. "Tell me, what do you remember?"

"You commanded me to remember nothing!"

"True! I commanded! But do you remember?"

"You are the master! I have forgotten!"

"I am the master. Now I tell you to remember!"

"It is impossible! I cannot remember what I have forgotten, unless you tell it to me again!"

"Very true. I will tell you what you have forgotten, and you will then remember it. You will remember even after you are awakened!"

"I will obey. I will remember what you tell me!"

"You left your office this afternoon to follow Dr. Medjora?"

"Yes! I followed Dr. Medjora!"

"He took a car, and you took another?"

"He took a car, and I took another!"

"He left the car, and you followed him to a house and saw him enter?"

"I saw him enter a house!"

"Then there was a fire and you watched the house burning?"

"I saw the house burning!"

"Then you rushed forward and fell into this well?"

"I rushed forward and fell into the well!"

"You will remember all this?"

"Yes, I will remember!"

"Everything else you have forgotten? Nothing else occurred?"

"Nothing else occurred!"

"Now sleep!" The Doctor passed his hands over the eyes and the deep sleep was resumed.

The Doctor pressed his lips near the sleeper's ears, and said:

"You will awaken completely in two hours, climb out of this place, and return to your home!"

To this there was no reply, but the Doctor had no doubt that the injunction would be followed. He laid Barnes down upon the bottom of the cistern so that his opening eyes would gaze directly at the orifice above, and then, climbing upon a lot of loose rubbish, he easily reached the edge of the hole, and clutching it with his strong hands drew himself out.

Exactly two hours later, Barnes opened his eyes and slowly awakened to a sense of stiffness and pain in his limbs. He staggered up, and soon was sufficiently aroused to see that he must climb out of the place where he was. This he did with some difficulty, and after wandering about for nearly an hour he found his way to the bridge and crossed the river. Thence he went home, threw himself on his bed, and was soon wrapped in deep, but natural slumber.

In the morning he wondered why he had slept in his clothing. His head ached, and his limbs felt bruised. Slowly he seemed to recall his following Dr. Medjora, his tracking him across the bridge, the house afire, and his tumble into a well, from which he had climbed out late at night. In fact nothing remained in his recollection except what had been suggested by Dr. Medjora whilst he had been hypnotized. Still in a vague way he half doubted, until at breakfast he found seeming corroboration in the newspaper account, which told that the suspected man had been burned to death. How could he reject so good an authority as his morning paper?

CHAPTER IV.
DR. MEDJORA SURRENDERS

Madam Cora Corona watched the destruction of the old mansion in which she had last seen her lover, with mingled feelings of horror and of hope. At one moment it seems impossible that the Doctor could find a means of escaping from the flames, whilst at the next she could but remember the manner of man that he was, and that having told her of his intention to surrender to the police, he would scarcely have chosen so horrible a death whilst immediate safety was attainable by simply opening the door of the passageway before the flames enveloped the whole building. Besides, how did the fire occur? He must have started it himself, and, if so, with what object, except to cover up his escape? But love, such as she bore this man, could never be entirely free from its anxiety, until the most probable reasoning should become assured facts. So, with a dull pain of dread gnawing at her heart, she drove her horses home, holding the reins herself, and lashing the animals into a swift gait, which made their chains clank as they strained every nerve to obey their mistress's behest.

Reaching her sumptuous home on Madison Avenue, she hurried to her own room, passing servants, who moved out of her way awed by her appearance, for those who dwelt with her had learned to recognize the signs which portended storm, and were wise enough to avoid the violence of her anger.

Tossing aside her bonnet and mantle, regardless of where they fell, Madam Corona dropped into a large, well-cushioned arm-chair, and gazed into vacancy, with a hopeless despair depicted on her features. The death of Dr. Medjora would mean much to this woman, and as the minutes sped by, the conviction that he must have perished, slowly burned itself into her brain.

She was the widow of a wealthy Central American. Her husband had been shot as a traitor, having been captured in one of those ever-recurring revolutions, whose leaders are killed if defeated, but made governors if they succeed; rulers until such time when another revolutionary party may become strong enough to depose the last victors. Thus the chance of a battle makes men heroes, or criminals.

She had never loved her husband, and, with a sensual, passionate temperament, which had never been satisfied by her marriage, she welcomed her freedom and her husband's wealth as a possible step towards that love for which she longed. Exiled from her own country, because of the politics of her dead husband, she had come to the United States, the home of all aliens. Her estates had not been confiscated, for fear that the fires of the revolution, smothered but not quenched, might have been again stirred by a seeming warring against the woman. But the President had said to his council:

"Madam Corona is too rich, and she talks too much." So the hint had been given to her to depart, and she had acquiesced, glad enough to retain her fortune.

In New York she had been welcomed amidst the Spanish-Americans, and with a different temperament might readily have endeared to herself a host of true friends. But her selfish desire for a despotic sway over all who came near, and her extreme jealousy of attentions to others, imbued those who made her acquaintance with an aversion which was scarcely concealed by the thin veneer of the polite formalities of social life. So she knew that in the new, as in the old home, she had no friends.

One day she was taken ill, and sent for Dr. Medjora, of whom she had heard, though she had not met him. His skill brought about her rapid recovery, and, being attracted by his fine appearance, she invited him to visit her as a friend. He availed himself of this opportunity to become intimate with a wealthy patron, and called often. Very soon she became aware of the fact that here was a man over whom she could never hope to dominate, and so, as she could not make him her slave, she became his. Her whole fiery nature went out to him, and she courted him with a wealth of passion which should have melted ice, but which from the Doctor earned but little more than a warm hand-clasp at parting. Finally, to her utter amazement, as she was about to despair of ever attracting him, he came to her and asked her to marry him. She consented joyously, and for twenty-four hours lived in rapture.

Then her morning paper told of the death of Mabel Sloane, and connected the Doctor with the tragedy. She hurried to his office and heaped upon him vituperation and reproach, such as only could emanate from a heart capable of the deepest jealousy. He met the storm unflinchingly, and turned it away from himself by reminding her that he would probably be tried for murder, and that thus she would be rid of him. At once she changed her threats to entreaties. She begged him to fly with her. Her wealth would suffice, and in some other clime they could be safe, and she would forget, forgive, and love him.

He appeared to yield, and bade her be ready to come to him at his bidding. She returned home, only to write him a long urgent letter, containing money; the letter to which the Doctor had alluded during the conversation overheard by young Barnes. Then she had been summoned and had gone to him. And now? Now the longer she thought, the more certain did it appear to her, as the hours went by, that her lover was dead. And such a death! She shuddered and closed her eyes. But she could not shut out the vision of her beloved Doctor standing bravely, with folded arms, as the flames crept upon him, surrounded him, and destroyed him. She could not shut out the sound of a last despairing cry wrung from his unwilling lips, as with a final upflaring of the flame, the whole structure fell in.

Maddened by her thoughts, at length she started up and turned towards her basin, intending to lave her fevered brow, when with a cry she sprang back, for there, in her room, with arms folded as in her vision, stood what she could but suppose to be the wraith of the dead. She shrieked, and fell forward in a swoon, to be caught in the arms of Dr. Medjora, who had admitted himself, unknown to the sleeping servants, by a latch key furnished to him by her, when she had begged him to join her in flight.

When she recovered consciousness and realized that this was no spectre which had intruded upon her, she lavished upon him a wealth of kisses and caresses, which should have assured him of the intensity of her love and joy. She laughed and cried alternately, petted him and patted his cheeks, kissed him upon the hands, upon his face, his hair, his lips. She threw her arms around him and pressed him to her palpitating heart, the while crying:

"Alive! Thank heaven! Alive! Alive!"

"And did you think me dead, Cara mia?" He folded his arms about her, touched by the evident genuineness of her feelings, and moved to some slight response.

"Yes! I thought so! No! I did not! I knew you were too clever to die so. But then the flames! They ate up the whole building, and I did not see how – I could not imagine – and I was afraid! But now you are safe again! You are with me, and I love you a million times more that I have mourned your death!"

"Come, come, dear heart! I am alive and unhurt. I never was in danger.

I would not kill myself, you know. I love my life too well! And it was

I who set the fire!"

"I thought that too at times! You did it to baffle the police! I see it all! Oh, you are so clever! Now they will think you dead, and we can go away together and live without fear! Is it not so?"

"No, Cora! As I told you this afternoon, I shall give myself up to the police!"

"No, no, no! You must not! You shall not! What, risk your precious life again? You will not, say that you will not! If you love me, say it!"

She twined her arms about his neck, and held him tight as though he meditated going away at once. In the fear of this new danger, an agony welled up about her heart, and tears choked her utterance. But the Doctor remained impassive. He gently, but forcibly, disengaged himself from her embrace, and seating himself, drew her down to her knees beside him. Then he took her head in his hands, compelling her to look at him, and spoke to her in measured tones.

"Cora! Calm yourself! You are growing hysterical. You know me too well, to suppose that I would swerve from a fixed purpose. I will not leave this city. As I have told you, all my hopes for the future bind me here. Elsewhere I should be as nothing, here I will grow into greatness, – greatness which you shall share with me, if you be but brave!"

"But this trial! Suppose – suppose – oh! The horror of it!" She dropped her head upon his lap and wept. He stroked her beautiful black hair, which had become disengaged and now fell down her back, completely covering her shoulders. Presently when she was more quiet, only an occasional sob indicating that she was yet disturbed, he spoke to her, soothingly, caressingly, so that under the magic of his tones she gradually recovered her self-possession.

"My little one, have no fear! This trial is but an incident which scarcely gives me a troublesome thought. The worst is that I shall probably be in prison for some time awaiting trial. A meddlesome interference with the liberty of a man, which the law takes, offering no recompense when the accused is proven to have been innocent. This is one of the anomalies of a system which claims to administer equal rights and justice to all. I am accused of a crime. I am arrested and incarcerated for weeks, or months. I am tried and acquitted. I spend thousands of dollars in my defence. When I am released, I am in no way repaid for my loss of liberty and money. Indeed, innocent though I be, I am congratulated by a host of sympathizers because I was not hanged. But I have had full justice. I have been accorded an expensive trial, with learned talent against me, etc., etc. The law is not to blame, nor those who enforce the laws. I am the victim of circumstances, that is all. Well, so be it. A stupid doctor has warned the authorities that a woman has died of morphine poisoning, despite the fact that a more competent man has signed a certificate that she died of a natural disease. So I have been accused, and will undoubtedly be indicted and tried. But do you not see, that I have but to show that diphtheria caused death, and my innocence will be admitted?"

"Yes, but – !"

"No! There is no but? Now show me to a room, where I may rest unobserved, until the day after to-morrow. We must not rob the public of its sensation too soon. Think of it, I read my own holocaust in an afternoon paper!"

Madam Corona shivered at this, not yet fully unmindful of her own recent forebodings. Obediently she took him to a room, and left him, the single comforting thought abiding with her, that she would have him all to herself during the whole of the following day.

When Messrs. Dudley and Bliss learned from Barnes that he had followed Dr. Medjora, and had seen him go into the building which had been destroyed by fire, their hope that possibly the newspaper accounts were erroneous, was dissipated.

"I knew it!" began the junior member. "I knew that it was too good to be true. Think of that man's permitting himself to be burned to death just as we were about to get our chance. It's too exasperating."

"It is annoying, Robert, of course," said Mr. Dudley. "Yet there is some comfort in the thought that he had the courtesy to pay us a retainer. That five hundred is most acceptable."

"Oh! certainly, the money will come handy, but what is five hundred dollars to an opportunity such as this would have been?" Mr. Bliss was in a very bad humor.

"Robert," began his partner, speaking seriously, "you must not be so impatient. We are no worse off, at any rate, than before the man called upon us, so far as our profession goes, and we are better off than we would be if he had not called at all. You should be grateful for the good received, and not cry after lost possibilities."

"Oh! well! I suppose you are right!" and throwing up both arms in a gesture of disgust, he went to his desk and began writing furiously. A long silence was maintained. These two men contrasted greatly. They had met each other during their law-school days, and were mutually attracted. Mr. Dudley was a hard student who had realized early in life that the best fruit comes to him, who climbs, rather than to him who shakes the tree; whilst that man who lies at ease, basking in the sunshine and waiting for ripe plums to fall into his mouth, is likely to go hungry. He was methodical, persistent, patient, energetic. He wasted no time. Even during his office hours, if there were nothing else to occupy him, he would continue his studies, delving into the calf-bound tomes as though determined to be a thorough master of their contents.

Mr. Bliss was his antithesis, and yet he had just those qualifications which made him complement his partner, so that he strengthened the firm. He was a brilliant, rather than a deep student. He read rapidly, and had a remarkable memory, so that he had a superficial comprehension of many things, rather than a positive knowledge of a lesser number. He could be both rhetorical and oratorical, and, at a pinch, could blind a jury with a neat metaphor, where surer logic might have made a smaller impression, being less attractive. When addressing the jury, he would become so earnest, that by suggesting to his hearers that he himself was convinced of the truth of his utterances, he often swayed them to his wishes. He was quick, too, and keen, so that he eventually became justly celebrated for his cross-examinations. But at this time his greatness had scarcely begun to bud, and so he sat like a schoolboy in the dumps, whilst his graver partner, though equally disappointed at the prospect of losing a good case, showed not so much of his annoyance.

Presently Barnes entered with a telegram, which Mr. Bliss took, glad of anything to divert his thoughts. A moment after reading it he was greatly excited, and handing the message to his partner, exclaimed:

"Mortimer, in heaven's name read that!"

Mr. Dudley took the despatch and read as follows:

"Be at office District Attorney to-morrow ten o'clock. I will take your advice and surrender. Medjora."

"Well, Robert, what of it?"

"What of it? Has the Western Union an office in the other world now, that dead men may send telegrams?"

"Certainly not. Therefore this was sent before he died."

"Before he died!" This unthought-of possibility shattered the rising hopes of Mr. Bliss. He made one more effort, however, saying:

"What is the date?"

"Why, the date is to-day!" said Mr. Dudley, slowly. "Singular! But it is an error, of course."

"Why do you say 'of course'?" asked his partner, testily. "You seem to be anxious to lose this case. Now, how do you know that Medjora is dead after all?"

"Why Barnes saw him go into the building, and he could not have escaped, for the place was surrounded by the police."

"There is no telling what that man can do. I verily believe that he is more than human, after the way in which he read my thoughts yesterday. I am going to probe this thing to the bottom." And before his partner could detain him, he had taken down his hat and rushed off.

Two hours later, he returned discouraged. At the main office he had been referred to a branch, far uptown. Arriving there he found that the operator who had sent the despatch had gone off duty. The original blank upon which the message had been written was undated. So he learned practically nothing.

"Never mind," said he, doggedly, after relating his ill-success, "I will go to the District-Attorney's office to-morrow, and wait for that man whether he come, or his ghost. I firmly believe that one or the other will do so."

"I will go with you," said Mr. Dudley. "Only promise me to say nothing, unless our man turns up."

At half-past nine on the next morning, both of the young lawyers were at the appointed place. Mr. Dudley sat down and read, or appeared to read, the paper. Mr. Bliss walked about impatiently, leaving the room occasionally to go out into the hall and stand at the main doorway, looking into the street.

A few moments before ten o'clock the District Attorney himself arrived and nodded pleasantly to the young men, with whom he was acquainted.



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