In a small room, remarkable for the air of comfort imparted by the combined effects of the neatly white washed
walls, the floor, plainly carpeted and the snug little wood-stove roaring in front of the hearth, sat a man of some
forty-five winters, bending over the table in the corner, covered with strange-looking books and loose
The light of the iron lamp which stood in the centre of the table, resting on a copy of Cornelius Agrippa, fell full
and strongly over the face and form of the Astrologer, disclosing every line of his countenance, and illumining the
corner where he sat, while the more distant parts of the room were comparatively dim and shadowy.
As he sat in the large old-fashioned arm-chair, bending down earnestly over a massive manuscript, covered
with strange characters and crossed by intricate lines, the lampbeams disclosed a face, which somewhat plain
and unmeaning in repose, was now agitated by an expression of the deepest interest. The brow, neither very
high nor very low, shaded by tangled locks of thin brown hair, was corrugated with deep furrows, the eyebrows
were firmly set together, the nostrils dilated, and the lips tightly compressed, while the full grey eyes, staring
vacantly on the manuscript, indicated by the glassy film spread over each pupil, that the mind of the Astrologer,
instead of being occupied with outward objects, was buried within itself, in the contemplation of some intricate
subject of thought.
There was nothing in the dress of the man, or in the appearance of his room, that might realize the ideas
commonly attached to the Astrologer and his den. Here were no melodramatic curtains swinging solemnly to and
fro, brilliant and terrible with the emblazoned death's-head and cross-bones. Here were no blue lights imparting
a lurid radiance to a row of grinning skeletons, here were no ghostly forms standing pale and erect, their glassy
eyes freezing the spectator's blood with horror, here was neither goblin, devil, or mischievous ape, which, as
every romance reader knows, have been the companions of the Astrologer from time immemorial; here was
nothing but a plain man,
seated in an old-fashioned arm chair, within the walls of a comfortable room, warmed by a roaring little stove.
No cap of sable relieved the Astrologer's brow, no gown of black velvet, tricked out with mysterious emblems
in gold and precious stones, fell in sweeping folds around the outlines of his spare figure. A plain white overcoat,
much worn and out at the elbows,
a striped vest no remarkable for its shape or fashion, a cross-barred neckerchief, and a simple linen shirt collar
completed the attire of the astrologer who sat reading at the table.
The walls of the room were hung with the Horoscopes of illustrious men, Washington, Byron, and Napoleon,
delineated on large sheets of paper, and surrounded by plain frames of black wood; the table was piled with the
works of Sibly, Lilly, Cornelius Agrippa and other masters in the mystic art; while at the feet of the Astrologer
nestled a fine black cat, whose large whiskers and glossy fur, would seem to afford no arguments in favor of the
supposition entertained by the neighbors, that she was a devil in
disguise, a sort of familiar spirit on leave of absence from the infernal regions.
"I'm but a poor man—" said the Astrologer, turning one of the leaves of the massive volume in manuscript which
he held in his hand—"I'm but a poor man, and the lawyer, and the doctor, and the parson all despise me, and
yet—" his lip wreathed with a sneering smile—"this little room has seen them all within its walls, begging from the
humble man some knowledge of the future! Here they come—one and all—the fools, pretending to despise my
science, and yet willing to place themselves in my power, while they affect to doubt. Ha-ha—here are their
Nativities one and all—That" he continued, turning over a leaf—"is the Horoscope of a clergyman—Holy man of
God!—He wanted to know whether he could ruin an innocent girl in his congregation without discovery. And
that is the Horoscope of a lawyer, who takes fees from both sides. His desire is to know, whether he can
perjure himself in a case now in court without detection. Noble counsellor! This Doctor—" and he turned over
another leaf—"told me that he had a delicate case m hand. A pretty girl has been ruined and so on the seducer
wants to destroy the fruit of his crime and desires the doctor to undertake the job. Doctor wants to know what
moment will be auspicious—ha-ha!"
And thus turning from page to page, he disclosed the remarkable fact, that the great, the good, and the wise of
the Quaker City, who met the mere name of astrology, when uttered in public, with a most withering sneer, still
under the cover of night, were happy to steal to the astrologer's room, and obtain some glimpses of their future
destiny through the oracle of the stars.
"A black-eyed woman—lusty and amorous—wants to know whether she can present her husband with a pair
of horns on a certain night? I warned her not to proceed in her course of guilt. She does proceed—and will be
exposed to her husband's hate and public scorn—"
And thus murmuring, the Astrologer turned to another leaf.
"The Horoscope of a puppy-faced editor! A spaniel, a snake, and an ape—he is a combination of the three.
Wants to know when he can run off with a lady of the ballet at the theatre, without being caught by his
creditors? Also, whether next Thursday is an auspicious day for a little piece of roguery he has in view? The
penitentiary looms darkly in the distance—let the editor of the 'DAILY BLACK MAIL' beware—"
Another leaf inscribed with a distinguished name, arrested the Astrologer's attention.
"Ha—ha! This fellow is a man of fashion, a buck of Chesnut street, and—and a Colonel! He lives—I know how
—the fashionables who follow in his wake don't dream of his means of livelihood. He has committed a crime—
an astounding crime—wants to know whether his associate will betray him? I told him he would. The Colonel
laughed at me, although he paid for the knowledge. In a week the fine, sweet, perfumed gentleman will be
lodged at public expense—"
The Astrologer laid down the volume, and in a moment seemed to have fallen into the same train of thought,
marked by the corrugated brow and glassy eye, that occupied his mind at the commencement of this scene. His
lips moved tremulously, and his hands ever and anon were pressed against his wrinkled brow. Every moment his
eye grew more glassy, and his mouth more fixedly compressed, and at last, leaning his elbows on the table with
his hands nervously clasped, his gaze was fixed on the blank wall opposite, in a wild and vacant stare that
betrayed the painful abstraction of his mind from all visible objects.
And as he sat there enwrapt in thought, a footstep, inaudible to his ear, creaked on the stairway that ascended
into the Astrologer's chamber from the room below, and in a moment, silent and unperceived, Gus Lorrimer
stood behind his chair, looking over his head, his very breath hushed and his hands upraised.
"In all my history I remember nothing half so strange. All is full of light except one point of the future, and that is
dark as death!" Thus ran the murmured soliloquy of the Astrologer—"And yet they will be here to-night—here—
here both of them, or there's no truth in the stars. Lorrimer must beware—"
"Ha—ha—ha—" laughed a bold and manly voice—"An old stage trick, that. You didn't hear my footsteps on
the stairs—did you? Oh no—oh no. Of course you didn't. Come—come, my old boy, that clap-trap mention of
my name, is rather too stale, even for a three-fipenny-bit melo-drama—"
The sudden start which the Astrologer gave, the unaffected look of surprise which flashed over his features at
the sight of the gentleman of pleasure, convinced Lorrimer that he had done him rank injustice.
"Sit down, sir—I have much to say to you—" said the Astrologer, in a voice strikingly contrasted with his usual
tone, it was so deep, so full and so calmly deliberate—"Last Thursday morning at this hour you gave me the day
and hour of your birth. You wished me to cast your horoscope. You wished to know whether you would be
successful in an enterprise which you meditated. Am I correct in this?"
"You are, my old humbug—that is my friend—" replied Lorrimer, flinging himself into a seat.
"Humbug?" cried the other with a quiet sneer—"You may alter your opinion after a-while, my young friend.
Since last Thursday morning I have given the most careful attention to your horoscope. It is one of the most
startling that ever I beheld. You were born under one of the most favorable aspects of the heavens, born, it
would seem, but to succeed in all your wishes; and yet your future fate is wrapt in some terrible mystery—"
"Like a kitten in a wet blanket, for instance?" said Lorrimer, in the vain endeavor, to shake off a strange feeling
of awe, produced by the manner of the Astrologer.
"This night I was occupied with your horoscope when a strange circumstance attracted my attention. Even while
I was examining book after book, in the effort to see more clearly into your future, I discovered that you were
making a new acquaintance at some festival, some wine-drinking or other affair of the kind. This new
acquaintance is a man with a pale face, long dark hair and dark eyes. So the stars tell me. Your fate and the fate
of this young man are linked together till death. So the heavens tell me, and the heavens never lie."
"Yes—yes—my friend, very good—" replied Gustavus with a smile—"Very good, my dear sir. Your
conclusions are perfect—your prophetic gift without reproach. But you forget one slight circumstance:—I have
made no new acquaintance to-night! I have been at no wine-drinking! I have seen no interesting young man with
a pale face and long dark hair—"
"Then my science is a lie!" exclaimed the Astrologer, with a puzzled look—"The stars declare that this very
night, you first came in contact with the man, whose fate henceforth is linked with your own. The future has a
doom in store for one of ye. The stars do not tell me which shall feel the terror of the doom, but that it will be
inflicted by one of ye upon the other, is certain—"
"Well, let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that I did meet this mysterious young man with long black hair.
"Three days ago, a young man, whose appearance corresponds with the indication given by the stars of the new
acquaintance you were to make this very night, came to me and desired me to cast his horoscope. The future of
this young man, is as like yours as night is to-night. He too is threatened with a doom—either to be suffered or
inflicted. This doom will lower over his head within three days. At the hour of sunset on next Saturday—
Christmas Eve—a terrible calamity will overtake him. At the same hour, and in the same manner, a terrible
calamity will blacken your life forever. The same doubt prevails in both cases whether you will endure this
calamity in your own person, or be the means of inflicting its horrors on some other man, doomed and fated by
"What connection has this young man with the 'new acquaintance' which you say I have formed to-night?"
"I suspect that this young man and your new acquaintance are one. If so, I warn you, by your soul, beware of
him—this stranger to you!"
"And why beware of me?" said a calm and quiet voice at the shoulder of the Astrologer.
As though a shell had burst in the centre of that quiet room, he started, he trembled, and arose to his feet.
Byrnewood, the young merchant, calm and silent, stood beside him.
"I warn ye—" he shrieked in a tone of wild excitement, with his grey eyes dilating and flashing beneath the
woven eyebrows—"I warn ye both—beware of each other! Let this meeting at my house be your last on earth,
and ye are saved! Meet again, or pursue any adventure together, and ye are lost and lost forever! I tell ye,
scornful men that ye are, that ask my science to aid you, and then mock its lessons, I tell ye, by the Living God
who writes his will, in letters of fire on the wide scroll of the firmament, that in the hand of the dim Future is a
Goblet steeped in the bitterness of death, and that goblet one or the other must drink, within three little days!"
And striding wildly along the room, while Byrnewood stood awed, and even the cheek of Lorrimer grew pale,
he gave free impulse to one of those wild deliriums of excitement peculiar to his long habits of abstraction and
thought. The full truth, the terrible truth, seemed crowding on his brain, arrayed in various images of horror, and
he shrieked forth his interpretation of the future, in wild and broken sentences.
"Young man, three days ago you sought to know the future. You had never spoken to the man who sits in
yonder chair. I cast your horoscope—I found your destiny like the destiny of this man who affects to sneer at
my science. My art availed me no further. I could not identify you with the man who first met Lorrimer this night,
amid revelry and wine. Now I can supply the broken chain. You and his new-formed acquaintance are one.
And now the light of the stars breaks more plainly on me—within three days, one of you will die by the
Lorrimer slowly arose to his feet, as though the effort gave him pain. His cheek was pale, and beaded drops of
sweat stood on his brow. His parted lips, his upraised hands and flashing eyes attested his interest in the
astrologer's words. Meanwhile, starting suddenly aside, Byrnewood veiled his face in his hands, as his breast
swelled and quivered with sudden emotion.
Stern and erect, in his plain white overcoat, untricked with gold or gems, stood the Astrologer, his tangled
brown hair flung back from his brow, while, with his outstretched hand and flashing eye, he spoke forth the
fierce images of his brain.
"Three days from this, as the sun goes down, on Christmas eve, one of you will die by the other's hand. As
sure as there is a God in Heaven, his stars have spoken, and it will be so!"
"What will be the manner of the death?" exclaimed Lorrimer, in a low-toned voice, as he endeavored to subdue
the sudden agitation inspired by the Astrologer's words, while Byrnewood raised his head and awaited the
answer with evident interest.
"There is the cloud and the mystery—" exclaimed the Astrologer, fixing his eye on vacancy, while his
outstretched hand trembled like a leaf in the wind—" The death will over take the doomed man on a river, and
yet it will not be by water; it will kill him by means of fire and yet he will not perish in the midst of flames—"
There was a dead pause for a single instant. There stood the Astrologer, his features working as with a
convulsive spasm, the light falling boldly over his slight figure and homely attire, and there at his side, gazing in his
face, stood Byrnewood, the young merchant, silent as if a spell had fallen on him, while on the other side,
Gustavus Lorrimer, half recoiling, his brow woven in a frown, and his dark eyes flashing with a strange glance,
seemed making a fearful effort to command his emotion, and dispel the gloom which the wierd prophecy had
flung over his soul.
"Pah! What fools we are! To stand here listening to the ravings a madman or a knave—" cried Byrnewood,
with a forced laugh, as he shook off the spell that seemed to bind him—"What does he know of the future—
more than we? Eh? Lorrimer? Perhaps, sir, since you are so familiar with fate, destiny and all that, you can tell us
the nature of the adventure on which Lorrimer is bound to-night ?"
The Astrologer turned and looked upon him. There was something so calmly scornful in his glance, that
Byrnewood averted his eyes.
"The adventure is connected with the honor of an innocent woman—" said the Astrologer—"More than this I
know not, save that a foul outrage will be done this very night. And—hark ye sir—either the heavens are false,
or your future destiny hangs upon this adventure. Give up the adventure at once, go back in your course, part
from one another, part this moment never to meet again, and you will be saved. Advance and you are lost!"
Lorrimer stood silent, thoughtful and pale as death. It becomes me not to look beyond the veil that hangs
between the Visible and the Invisible, but it may be, that in the silent pause of thought which the libertine's face
manifested, his soul received some indications of the future from the very throne of God. Men call these sudden
shadows, presentiments; to the eyes of angels they may be, but messages of warning spoken to the soul, in the
spirit-tongues of those awful beings whose habitation is beyond the threshold of time. What did Lorrimer behold
that he stood so silent, so pale, so thoughtful? Did Christmas Eve, and the River, and the Death, come terrible
and shadow-like to his soul?
"Pshaw! Lorrimer you are not frightened by the preachings of this fortune-teller?" cried Byrnewood with a laugh
and a sneer—" You will not give up the girl? Ha—ha—scared by an owl! Ha—ha—What would Petriken say?
Imagine the rich laugh of Mutchins—ha—ha—Gus Lorrimer scared by an owl!"
"Give up the girl?" cried Lorrimer, with a blasphemous oath, that profaned the name of the Saviour—"Give up
the girl? Never! She shall repose in my arms before daylight! Heaven nor hell shall scare me back! There's your
money Mister Fortune Teller—your croaking deserves the silver, the d—1 knows! Come on Byrnewood—let
"Wait till I pay the gentleman for our coffins—" laughed Byrnewood, flinging some silver on the table—"See that
they're ready by Saturday night, old boy? D'ye mind? You are hand-in-glove with some respectable
undertaker—no doubt—and can give him our measure. Good bye—old fellow—good bye! Now, Lorrimer,
"Away, away to Monk-hall!"
And in a moment they had disappeared down the stairway, and were passing through the lower room toward
"On Christmas Eve, at the hour of sunset—" shrieked the Astrologer, his features convulsed with anger, and his
voice wild and piercing in its tones—"One of you will die by the other's hand! The winding sheet is woven, and
the coffin made—you are rushing madly on your doom!"
|Come back next week as we delve into the secret life of the wealthy and wanton . . .