“It is so,” answered Varney; “you understand women well, though it may have been long since you were conversant amongst them. Well, then, she is not to be contradicted; yet she is not to be humoured. Understand me—a slight illness, sufficient to take away the desire of removing from thence, and to make such of your wise fraternity as may be called in to aid, recommend a quiet residence at home, will, in one word, be esteemed good service, and remunerated as such.”
“I am not to be asked to affect the House of Life?” said the chemist.
“On the contrary, we will have thee hanged if thou dost,” replied Varney.
“And I must,” added Alasco, “have opportunity to do my turn, and all facilities for concealment or escape, should there be detection?”
“All, all, and everything, thou infidel in all but the impossibilities of alchemy. Why, man, for what dost thou take me?”
The old man rose, and taking a light walked towards the end of the apartment, where was a door that led to the small sleeping-room destined for his reception during the night. At the door he turned round, and slowly repeated Varney’s question ere he answered it. “For what do I take thee, Richard Varney? Why, for a worse devil than I have been myself. But I am in your toils, and I must serve you till my term be out.”
“Well, well,” answered Varney hastily, “be stirring with grey light. It may be we shall not need thy medicine—do nought till I myself come down. Michael Lambourne shall guide you to the place of your destination.” [See Note 7. Dr. Julio.]
When Varney heard the adept’s door shut and carefully bolted within, he stepped towards it, and with similar precaution carefully locked it on the outside, and took the key from the lock, muttering to himself, “Worse than thee, thou poisoning quacksalver and witch-monger, who, if thou art not a bounden slave to the devil, it is only because he disdains such an apprentice! I am a mortal man, and seek by mortal means the gratification of my passions and advancement of my prospects; thou art a vassal of hell itself—So ho, Lambourne!” he called at another door, and Michael made his appearance with a flushed cheek and an unsteady step.
“Thou art drunk, thou villain!” said Varney to him.
“Doubtless, noble sir,” replied the unabashed Michael; “We have been drinking all even to the glories of the day, and to my noble Lord of Leicester and his valiant master of the horse. Drunk! odds blades and poniards, he that would refuse to swallow a dozen healths on such an evening is a base besognio, and a puckfoist, and shall swallow six inches of my dagger!”
“Hark ye, scoundrel,” said Varney, “be sober on the instant—I command thee. I know thou canst throw off thy drunken folly, like a fool’s coat, at pleasure; and if not, it were the worse for thee.”
Lambourne drooped his head, left the apartment, and returned in two or three minutes with his face composed, his hair adjusted, his dress in order, and exhibiting as great a difference from his former self as if the whole man had been changed.