There was evidently something inside which excited the popular curiosity

Two more events remain to be added to the chain before it reaches fairly from the outset of the story to the close.

While our new sense of freedom from the long oppression of the past was still strange to us, I was sent for by the friend who had given me my first employment in wood engraving, to receive from him a fresh testimony of his regard for my welfare. He had been commissioned by his employers to go to Paris, and to examine for them a fresh discovery in the practical application of his Art, the merits of which they were anxious to ascertain. His own engagements had not allowed him leisure time to undertake the errand, and he had most kindly suggested that it should be transferred to me. I could have no hesitation in thankfully accepting the offer, for if I acquitted myself of my commission as I hoped I should, the result would be a permanent engagement on the illustrated newspaper, to which I was now only occasionally attached.

I received my instructions and packed up for the journey the next day. On leaving Laura once more (under what changed circumstances!) in her sister’s care, a serious consideration recurred to me, which had more than once crossed my wife’s mind, as well as my own, already–I mean the consideration of Marian’s future. Had we any right to let our selfish affection accept the devotion of all that generous life? Was it not our duty, our best expression of gratitude, to forget ourselves, and to think only of HER? I tried to say this when we were alone for a moment, before I went away. She took my hand, and silenced me at the first words.

“After all that we three have suffered together,” she said “there can be no parting between us till the last parting of all. My heart and my happiness, Walter, are with Laura and you. Wait a little till there are children’s voices at your fireside. I will teach them to speak for me in THEIR language, and the first lesson they say to their father and mother shall be–We can’t spare our aunt!”

My journey to Paris was not undertaken alone. At the eleventh hour Pesca decided that he would accompany me. He had not recovered his customary cheerfulness since the night at the Opera, and he determined to try what a week’s holiday would do to raise his spirits.

I performed the errand entrusted to me, and drew out the necessary report, on the fourth day from our arrival in Paris. The fifth day I arranged to devote to sight-seeing and amusements in Pesca’s company.

Our hotel had been too full to accommodate us both on the same floor. My room was on the second story, and Pesca’s was above me, on the third. On the morning of the fifth day I went upstairs to see if the Professor was ready to go out. Just before I reached the landing I saw his door opened from the inside–a long, delicate, nervous hand (not my friend’s hand certainly) held it ajar. At the same time I heard Pesca’s voice saying eagerly, in low tones, and in his own language–”I remember the name, but I don’t know the man. You saw at the Opera he was so changed that I could not recognise him. I will forward the report–I can do no more.” “No more need be done,” answered the second voice. The door opened wide, and the light-haired man with the scar on his cheek–the man I had seen following Count Fosco’s cab a week before–came out. He bowed as I drew aside to let him pass–his face was fearfully pale–and he held fast by the banisters as he descended the stairs.

I pushed open the door and entered Pesca’s room. He was crouched up, in the strangest manner, in a corner of the sofa. He seemed to shrink from me when I approached him.

“Horrible news, Walter! Let us go back to London–I don’t want to stop here–I am sorry I ever came. The misfortunes of my youth are very hard upon me,” he said, turning his face to the wall, “very hard upon me in my later time. I try to forget them–and they will not forget ME!”

I left him with the assurance that he should leave Paris that afternoon. We had arranged the evening before to ascend the Cathedral of Notre Dame, with Victor Hugo’s noble romance for our guide. There was nothing in the French capital that I was more anxious to see, and I departed by myself for the church.

Approaching Notre Dame by the river-side, I passed on my way the terrible dead-house of Paris–the Morgue. A great crowd clamoured and heaved round the door. There was evidently something inside which excited the popular curiosity, and fed the popular appetite for horror.

I should have walked on to the church if the conversation of two men and a woman on the outskirts of the crowd had not caught my ear. They had just come out from seeing the sight in the Morgue, and the account they were giving of the dead body to their neighbours described it as the corpse of a man–a man of immense size, with a strange mark on his left arm.
———–Botanical Slimming Capsule

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