The Mummy (Loudon)/Volume 2/Chapter 9

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CHAPTER IX.

 

It was morning, and the glowing sunbeams danced gaily on the sparkling waters of the dark blue deep, as, gently rippling, it laved the rocky shore on which Edric and his tutor had been thrown; and seemed to smile, as if in mockery of the mischiefs it had wrought. There, sheltered by a rock, whose jutting crag had saved them from being carried back into the devouring ocean, lay our travellers, apparently buried in sleep; returning consciousness not having yet dispelled the torpor produced by the fearful terrors of the night. The sun now shone brightly, and its glowing heat revived Edric from his trance. Slowly and heavily he unclosed his languid eyes, and, forgetting where he was, attempted to rise. He succeeded; but weak and dizzy, he only staggered a few paces ere he again fell: the roaring of the ocean still sounded in his ears, his senses swam, and, giddy and enfeebled by his previous exhaustion, he fancied himself still tossed upon the foaming billows. For some time, he lay in a state of torture, the thrill of returning circulation tingling through his veins, till the recollection of what had passed flashing across his mind, he again endeavoured to rouse himself, and seek his tutor. The unfortunate doctor, however, appeared to be no more, and as Edric gazed upon his inanimate form, he might have exclaimed with Prince Henry, "I could have better spared a better man."

At this moment, Edric recollected the strong chemical preparations the doctor generally carried about him, and, searching his pockets, found a potent elixir. With some difficulty, he forced a few drops down his throat, taking a dose also himself. The effects of the medicine were soon visible: the doctor heaved a deep sigh, and, opening his eyes, gazed vacantly around, whilst Edric himself felt perfectly restored.

"Where am I?" cried Doctor Entwerfen, as soon as he was sufficiently recovered to speak, and then, as some of the horrors he had so lately witnessed recurred to his mind, he exclaimed:—"I will never disclose it—no torture shall compel me; where is the justice? He fled away in a flame of fire hanging; to the Devil's horn. Ah, Edric! where are we? Ah! I have had such a horrid dream"

"Alas!" returned Edric, "it is but too real!"

"What! what!" cried the doctor, getting up and staring wildly around him; "I remember now, we were drowned—but where—where are we?"

"I know not," replied his pupil mournfully. "You forget I have been exposed to the same perils as yourself, and that I am equally ignorant where fate has thrown us. I should think, however, from the position we were in when the storm began, that we are somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean; but whether in Europe or Africa, I have as yet had no means of ascertaining."

"We must explore," said the doctor solemnly: "we ought not to remain in doubt another instant upon so important a subject. Follow me!"

They now quitted the rocky beach on which they had so long lain, and advanced towards some cliffs which shut them out from the view of the surrounding country. When they had surmounted this natural barrier, they found the prospect that presented itself superb; and their eyes wandered with delight over orange groves and forests of cork-trees; whilst the green shining leaves, and rich scarlet blossoms of the pomegranates, and light tender waving foliage of the olive, afforded variety to the scene. The burning heat of the sun's rays felt softened by the breezes from the sea; a balmy fragrance seemed to pervade the air; birds flew twittering around them, or, perched upon the branches of the trees, made the groves resound with melodious harmony; whilst butterflies of the most brilliant colours fluttered from flower to flower, and innumerable buzzing insects seemed to fill the air with motion.

"What a lovely country!" said the doctor, as he and Edric penetrated into the deep recesses of a shady grove; "and how delightful is this sensation of refreshing coolness, after having been exposed to the burning rays of the sun! It is yet early, for the sun has not yet reached far above the horizon, and the dew-drops still glisten in his rays like diamonds hanging from every leaf. Where can we be? Surely we are not dead, and now in Paradise!"

Edric smiled: "I rather think," said he, "that we are in Andalusia. I have often read of the exquisite beauty of some of the southern provinces of Spain, and this seems well to accord with the ideas I have always entertained of that country."

They now approached what appeared to be a cemetery, and which was tastefully adorned with weeping willows hanging over the graves; whilst roses, and a thousand beautiful flowering shrubs, flourishing in wild luxuriance from the genial nature of the climate, spread around, and gave this receptacle of the mouldering remains of mortality the aspect of a blooming garden.

"How different from the Pyramids!" exclaimed the doctor and Edric at the same moment.

"The tomb-stones seem to have inscriptions upon them," continued the former, after a short pause; "let us approach and examine them: they will at least declare the country we are in, by the language in which they may be written."

The idea struck Edric as feasible, and they entered the cemetery. "You are right, Edric," said the doctor; "we are in Spain, for here lie the mortal remains of Don Alfonso, that mighty hero of the Bourbon race, who, you doubtless remember, was the first that conquered the northern part of Africa, and by transferring the seat of the Spanish empire to Fez, contributed so powerfully to the civilization and conversion to Christianity of all that vast territory."

"And who destroyed Spain as a monarchy, by so doing," added Edric.

"It is true," replied the doctor," that Spain, finding itself too mighty for a province, shook off in consequence the yoke of his descendants, and erected its present republic, which it most probably would never have done if the seat of government had remained at Madrid. But that is trifling compared with the inestimable benefits produced to the world at large, by the civilization and reduction to a Christian state, of such a mighty empire as that of Morocco. Had it not been for that, we might still have remained in the degrading ignorance in which mankind were immersed for so many centuries respecting the interior of Africa:—Timbuctoo would never have risen to its present eminence in science and commerce; the real course of the Niger would never have been discovered: and the sources of the Nile still remained wrapped in oblivion. Yes, mighty shade! thou wert indeed a hero! Calumny may assail thy fame, and unenlightened minds cavil at the wonders of thy glory; but one firm and attached votary still remains to thee, and thus he humbly bends to do thee homage."

So saying, the doctor prostrated himself upon the tomb, and reverentially kissed the cold marble inscribed with the hero's name.—"Hold! hold!" cried a man, rushing from behind a small temple, and seizing him, whilst in an instant Edric and his tutor found themselves surrounded by soldiers, whose grim visages spoke them inured to blood and warfare.—"Wretch!" exclaimed the leader, apostrophizing the terrified doctor; "but thy life shall soon pay the forfeit of thy crimes. Away with him!" continued he, addressing his soldiers; "bear him before the next alcaide, and let him there suffer the punishment the law enacts against all those who dare to praise the actions or worship the memory of the tyrannic Alfonso—Away with him, I say,"

"Mercy! mercy!" implored the doctor.

"Impossible!" said the leader sternly; "do you not know that this is a land of liberty, and that we abhor the very name of tyranny and oppression? How then can the admirer of a tyrant hope for mercy at our hands? Away with him, I say, and with his companion too; for as they appear to be associates, no doubt their principles are the same,"

"And do you call this a land of liberty?" asked Edric reproachfully.

"Hear him! he blasphemes!" cried the soldiers; "gag him if he dare again to breathe such impiety!" and amidst their shouts and execrations, Edric and his tutor were dragged away. Taught by this lesson that the liberty of the republican Spaniards did not extend to the tolerance of any opinions except their own, Edric and the doctor did not again venture to speak; and they soon, to their infinite dismay, found themselves in the presence of the alcaide; who, however, luckily for our travellers, happened to be a man of some sense and liberality. He smiled when he heard the substance of the facts gravely stated against the prisoners. "This case requires a private hearing," said he: "Velasquez, conduct the prisoners to my own apartment."

"We will have no private hearing," clamoured the people and the soldiers. "The crime was public, and the punishment should be so too; we will not be gulled."

"But, gentlemen," said the magistrate, "supposing these prisoners to be part of a gang of conspirators who have been plotting against the state, it might defeat the ends of justice to have them examined publicly; as it is possible—mind, gentlemen, I only say, as it is possible—some traitors may lurk even among the crowd before me, who might give intelligence to other parties interested, who might be thus enabled to make their escape."

"Ay, now you speak reason," said the mob; "we are always willing to listen to reason;" and without farther remonstrance they permitted the alcaide and the prisoners to retire.

"You see, gentlemen," said the alcaide, shutting the door of the room carefully, and placing chairs, in which he invited his prisoners to sit down, "that all is not liberty which is called so, and that a mob can occasionally be as tyrannical as an emperor. I know that in reality there is not a shadow of complaint against you; yet I dare not release you, as my own life would be the forfeit if I did. You must thus submit to a temporary restraint, which you may rest assured I shall not only endeavour to shorten, but shall render as light as possible whilst I am compelled to inflict it."

"My dear sir," said the doctor, "we are exceedingly obliged by your kindness. If we had not met with you, I do not know what would have become of us. I could not have believed people were in existence so illiberal as these Spaniards, or that any human beings could be so weak as to fancy themselves in a land of liberty whilst they are practising the most refined tyranny."

"And yet my countrymen are neither fools nor hypocrites," returned the alcaide; "but, like many other people, they deceive themselves, and talk about freedom till they fancy they possess it. Their great fault, however, has been, that they did not know where to stop; and as even virtue becomes vice when carried to the extreme, so have the most sublime principles of liberty and patriotism become degraded in their hands, by being attempted to be carried to an exaggerated degree of perfection!"

"Oh, England! England!" sighed the doctor; "would to Heaven I had never left thy happy shores! Alas! alas! what a crowd of horrible events have occupied the last few months!"

"Why did you leave your country, since you so bitterly regret it?" demanded the alcaide.

"Because we could not be contented," replied Edric. "Devoted from my earliest youth to the pursuits of science, I craved ardently for knowledge denied to mortals; I aspired to penetrate into the profoundest secrets of Nature, and burnt to accomplish wishes destined never to be realized. The desire of seeing foreign countries also filled my soul: I longed to travel, to acquire new ideas and meet with strange and wonderful adventures; I sickened of the quiet and tranquillity of home. 'Give me change,' cried I in my madness, 'give me variety, and I ask no more; for even wretchedness itself were better to bear than this tiresome unvarying uniformity.' The unreasonableness of my wishes deserved punishment, and I have been curst with the very fulfilment of my wishes."

"Is this gentleman also a votary of science?" asked the alcaide, who had appeared musing whilst Edric spoke.

"What a question!" exclaimed the doctor, in a transport of indignation. "What! has my whole life been devoted to scientific pursuits! have I deprived myself of rest and almost of food! and wasted the midnight lamp in bringing to perfection some of the most sublime discoveries ever vouchsafed to man, to be insulted with such a doubt as that? Know, sir, that you see before you Doctor Entwerfen, the fortunate inventor of the immortalizing snuff, one single pinch of which cures all diseases by the smell; the discoverer of the capability of caoutchouc being applied to aerial purposes; and the maker of the most compendious and powerful galvanic battery ever yet beheld by mortal!"

"Then you are the very man I want," said the alcaide; "go to prison contentedly, and rest satisfied that your confinement will be of very short duration. In a day or two I will see you, and explain the project I have conceived for your deliverance."

So saying, he summoned his guards, and, ordering them to convey the travellers to prison, the doctor and Edric were dragged away, and, being immured in separate dungeons, were left there to ruminate upon the varied and busy scenes in which they had been so lately engaged. Sadly and heavily passed the time; yet days and weeks rolled on ere they again saw the alcaide. At length, when they had begun almost to despair, they were reconducted to his presence.

"Do you understand the management of an electrical machine?" asked he abruptly.

"Certainly!" cried the doctor, transported with joy at the question, before Edric, who was half blinded by the sudden change from his gloomy prison to the broad light of day, had sufficiently recovered himself to reply.

"Then it is in your own power to set yourselves free," continued the alcaide. "The principal general of the army stationed here is ill; a powerful party exists against him who wish his death, at the head of whom stands the leader who was the cause of your being taken into custody. The general himself is a mere nonentity; but the opposite party, to which I belong, wish to save his life, as his name affords a sanction under which they can act. He is now ill of a palsy, and has been recommended to try the effects of an electrical shock. A machine has been with difficulty procured in this remote district; but the philosopher of the army being lately dead, and another not having been yet appointed, no one here knows how to apply it. Now, if you —"

"Say no more!" cried the doctor, interrupting him, in a transport of delight; "say no more—I see, I comprehend the whole! I shall restore him, and receive my liberty as the reward. Nay more, I shall obtain immortality amongst the Spaniards by the deed; their poets will sing my fame, and their historians will pause upon the fact!"

"You will undertake it then?" said the alcaide, and, reading an indignant affirmative in the doctor's looks, he led the way to a camp, at a short distance from the village, where the paralytic general was sitting in a kind of throne, placed without his tent, and surrounded by the principal officers of his staff; the electrical machine, a large, clumsy, heavy-looking thing, standing before him. The doctor looked with dismay at this unwieldy apparatus, so different from his own neat, powerful compendium of science, as he was wont to call it; and saw with infinite horror that even its construction was totally different from those he had been accustomed to. His natural vanity and presumption, however, revolted from making this mortifying acknowledgment, particularly after the boasts he had been indulging in to the alcaide; and, relying upon his general knowledge of the principles of science, he walked boldly up to the machine, with as much composure and self-confidence as though he had been accustomed to the management of it all his life.

A considerable trepidation, however, crept over him as he examined it and found its movements intricate and complicated in the extreme; and his hands trembled, and a thick film came over his eyes, as he attempted to charge and adjust the cylinder. No time, however, was allowed for deliberation; he was ordered to apply it instantly; and, terrified by the recollection of the prompt manner in which the Spaniards were accustomed to make themselves obeyed, and the already long and severe imprisonment he had undergone, he set it in motion: an unlucky wire, however, which he did not quite understand, pointed upwards, and he tried in vain to arrange it; he tried again, but was instantly felled to the ground by a tremendous shock, whilst a loud crash of thunder burst with violence over his head, and a vivid flash of lightning proclaimed that the ill-managed machine had drawn down the electric fluid from a heavy cloud, that happened unfortunately to be just above them, upon the head of the unfortunate general, whom it scorched to a cinder, levelling some of his officers to the earth, and scattering the rest in all directions. For the moment, the doctor himself was blinded by the sudden light, and, when he recovered his sight, the first thing that met his eyes was his friend the alcaide sticking fast by the skirts of his coat in a hedge.

Terrified at the mischief he had done, the first impulse of the learned doctor was to run away; but, notwithstanding the general confusion and dismay, the first intimation he showed of his design, drew around him a crowd of soldiers, like peasants round a mad dog, who seemed to think him as little entitled to mercy as though he had really been one of those unfortunate animals. "Cut him down!" cried one—"blow his brains out!" shouted another—"chop his head off!" screamed a third; and summary punishment would instantly have been inflicted, if the alcaide, who in the mean time had contrived to extricate himself from his uncomfortable situation, had not interfered. " Villain" cried he, as soon as he had recovered his breath—for being rather fat, he found flying exercise rather too violent to suit his taste; "is this the manner in which you treat me? Was it for this I brought you to the camp, and would have made your fortune? Wretch that you are! hanging is too good for you, and impaling alive mercy to what you deserve.—Away to prison with him! he merits not a death so easy as you would give him; carry him back to his dungeon, and let him there await what punishment the council of state may judge fit for killing a general and frightening an alcaide out of his senses."

"Mercy! mercy!" screamed the doctor; but his cries were disregarded, and he and Edric were dragged back to prison, deprived of every hope of obtaining forgiveness. Sadly and silently passed the hours in this gloomy abode; for, though the doctor and his pupil were now permitted to be together, little communication took place between them, as, though Edric was too good-natured to upbraid his unfortunate companion, yet it was past the power of human nature not to feel enraged at the folly that had drawn them into so disagreeable a situation.

The poor doctor, however, needed not to be upbraided; for the reproaches of his own conscience were more bitter than any Edric could have lavished on him. "I am lost!" cried he; "ruined, and utterly undone! Not only my body will perish miserably, but my fame, my immortal fame is destroyed—oh! I shall go distracted!"

In this manner he lamented; wringing his hands and tearing his hair, whilst Edric felt too angry to attempt to console him.

"Speak to me, Edric, dear," cried the poor doctor at last, quite in despair at his ilence; "for Heaven's sake, speak to me! Do let me hear the sound of some voice, besides ray own and that of those cursed Spaniards. Oh, Edric! Edric! solitary confinement is quite enough to drive a man distracted; but to have a companion in such a place as this, and he to refuse to speak—Oh, Edric! Edric! your heart must be turned to stone, if you can resolve to use me so cruelly."

Edric was moved by the doctor's sorrow.

"What do you wish me to say?" asked he, smiling.

"Oh, now that's like yourself," cried the poor doctor, bursting into tears, and throwing his arms round Edric's neck, whilst he sobbed upon his shoulder like a child. "Now I shall die happy! I don't care what they do to me; I am quite ready for any thing that may happen."

Edric was affected by the doctor's manner, and returning his embrace warmly, he could not restrain his own tears.

"Oh! my dear, dear Edric!" cried the doctor; "how I love you! would to Heaven I could save you! I would not care for myself."

"And I would not accept of liberty without you, my dear tutor, I assure you!" returned Edric. "No, no! the perils we have undergone together have added new force to the ties that formerly united us; and our fate now, be it good or ill, shall be the same. It is possible, however, that there may be some means of escape."

"Alas! no!" said the doctor mournfully; seeing Edric look round at the walls and windows: "this is the same dungeon I have been so long confined in, and not even a mouse could get out of it without the keeper's permission."

"What is to be done, then?" cried Edric.

"Ay," returned the doctor; "what, indeed! However, it is certainly a great comfort to have a companion in one's misery; and though my prospects are certainly not much improved since you joined me, my cares are lessened at least one-half."

"Oh! my poor father!" exclaimed Edric. "The hardest part of my fate seems to die without obtaining his forgiveness! Alas! if he could see me now, he would surely repent his ill-timed severity. Fain would I also know what has passed in England since we left it: if Edmund be married, and if Claudia still reigns. It was spring when we left England, it is now winter: alas! alas! how many changes this brief space of time may have produced. If, however, my father's life has been spared, I care not for the rest."

"How little did we anticipate," said the doctor, "when we first proposed to travel, the misfortunes that were to attend us! Alas! they seem a just punishment for our crime, in presuming to wish to pry into secrets never intended to be revealed to man."

"Can you believe it," returned Edric, "but in spite of all the misfortunes I have suffered, a restless curiosity to know the fate of the Mummy we so strangely resuscitated, is one of the strongest feelings in my bosom."

"I can readily credit it," said the doctor; "for the same feeling operates upon me! It is, however, vain to indulge in useless regrets: we must die; and all we have to do, is to endeavour to become resigned to our fate."