“Art thou sober now, and dost thou comprehend me?” said Varney sternly.
Lambourne bowed in acquiescence.
“Thou must presently down to Cumnor Place with the reverend man of art who sleeps yonder in the little vaulted chamber. Here is the key, that thou mayest call him by times. Take another trusty fellow with you. Use him well on the journey, but let him not escape you—pistol him if he attempt it, and I will be your warrant. I will give thee letters to Foster. The doctor is to occupy the lower apartments of the eastern quadrangle, with freedom to use the old elaboratory and its implements. He is to have no access to the lady, but such as I shall point out—only she may be amused to see his philosophical jugglery. Thou wilt await at Cumnor Place my further orders; and, as thou livest, beware of the ale-bench and the aqua vitae flask. Each breath drawn in Cumnor Place must be kept severed from common air.”
“Enough, my lord—I mean my worshipful master, soon, I trust, to be my worshipful knightly master. You have given me my lesson and my license; I will execute the one, and not abuse the other. I will be in the saddle by daybreak.”
“Do so, and deserve favour. Stay—ere thou goest fill me a cup of wine—not out of that flask, sirrah,” as Lambourne was pouring out from that which Alasco had left half finished, “fetch me a fresh one.”
Lambourne obeyed, and Varney, after rinsing his mouth with the liquor, drank a full cup, and said, as he took up a lamp to retreat to his sleeping apartment, “It is strange—I am as little the slave of fancy as any one, yet I never speak for a few minutes with this fellow Alasco, but my mouth and lungs feel as if soiled with the fumes of calcined arsenic—pah!”
So saying, he left the apartment. Lambourne lingered, to drink a cup of the freshly-opened flask. “It is from Saint John’s-Berg,” he said, as he paused on the draught to enjoy its flavour, “and has the true relish of the violet. But I must forbear it now, that I may one day drink it at my own pleasure.” And he quaffed a goblet of water to quench the fumes of the Rhenish wine, retired slowly towards the door, made a pause, and then, finding the temptation irresistible, walked hastily back, and took another long pull at the wine flask, without the formality of a cup.
“Were it not for this accursed custom,” he said, “I might climb as high as Varney himself. But who can climb when the room turns round with him like a parish-top? I would the distance were greater, or the road rougher, betwixt my hand and mouth! But I will drink nothing to-morrow save water—nothing save fair water.”
tidings do I bring, and lucky joys,
And happy news of price.
Falstaff. I prithee now deliver them like to men of this world.
Pistol. A foutra for the world, and worldlings base!
I speak of Africa, and golden joys. —Henry iv. Part ii.