Our present purpose, by the reader’s leave, and in his company, is to violate Doctor Hiero Glyphic’s retirement, as he lies asleep in bed. Nor shall we stop at his bedside; we mean to penetrate deep into the darksome caves of his memory, and to drag forth thence sundry odd-looking secrets, which shall blink and look strangely in the light of discovery;—little thought their keeper that our eyes should ever behold them! Yet will he not resent our, intrusion; it is twenty years ago,—and he lies asleep.
Two o’clock sounds from the neighboring steeple of the Old South Church, as we noiselessly enter the chamber,—noiselessly, for the hush of the past is about us. We scarcely distinguish anything at first; the moon has set on the other side of the hotel, and perhaps, too, some of the dimness of those twenty intervening years affects our eyesight. By degrees, however, objects begin to define themselves; the bed shows doubtfully white, and that dark blot upon the pillow must be the face of our sleeping man. It is turned towards the window; the mouth is open; probably the good Doctor is snoring, albeit, across this distance of time, the sound fails to reach us.
The room is as bare, square, and characterless as other hotel rooms; nevertheless, its occupant may have left a hint or two of himself about, which would be of use to us. There are no trunks or other luggage; evidently he will be on his way again to-morrow. The window is shut, although the night is warm and clear. The door is carefully locked. The Doctor’s garments, which appear to be of rather a jaunty and knowing cut, are lying disorderly about, on chair, table, or floor. He carries no watch; but under his pillow we see protruding the corner of a great leathern pocket-book, which might contain a fortune in bank-notes.
A couple of chairs are drawn up to the bedside, upon one of which stands a blown-out candle; the other supports an oblong, coffin-shaped box, narrower at one end than at the other, and painted black. Too small for a coffin, however; no human corpse, at least, is contained in it. But the frame that lies so quiet and motionless here, thrills, when awaked to life, with a soul only less marvellous than man’s. In short, the coffin is a violin-case, and the mysterious frame the violin. The Doctor must have been fiddling overnight, after getting into bed; to the dissatisfaction, perhaps, of his neighbor on the other side of the partition.
Little else in the room is worthy notice, unless it be the pocket-comb which has escaped from the Doctor’s waistcoat, and the shaving materials (also pocketable) upon the wash-stand. Apparently our friend does not stand upon much toilet ceremony. The room has nothing more of significance to say to us; so now we come to the room’s occupant. Our eyes have got enough accustomed to the imperfect light to discern what manner of man he may be.