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HOLYWELL STREET was once noted only as a mart for second-hand clothing, and
booksellers' shops [-319-] dealing in indecent
prints and volumes. The reputation it thus acquired was not a very creditable
Time has, however, included Holywell Street in the clauses of
its Reform Bill. Several highly respectable booksellers and publishers have
located themselves in the place that once deserved no better denomination than
Rag Fair. The unprincipled venders of demoralizing books and pictures have, with
few exceptions, migrated into Wych Street or Drury Lane; and even the two or
three that pertinaciously cling to their old temples of infamy in Holywell
Street, seem to be aware of the incursions of respectability into that once
notorious thoroughfare, and cease to outrage decency by the display of vile
obscenities in their windows.
The reputation of Holywell Street has now ceased to be a
by-word: it is respectable ; and, as a mart for the sale of literary wares,
threatens to rival Paternoster Row.
It is curious to observe that, while butchers, tailors,
linen-drapers, tallow-manufacturers, and toy-venders, are gradually dislodging
the booksellers of Paternoster Row, and thus changing the once exclusive nature
of this famous street into one of general features, the booksellers, on the
other hand, are gradually ousting the old clothes dealers of Holywell Street.
As the progress of the American colonist towards the far-west
drives before it the aboriginal inhabitants, so do the inroads of the
bibliopoles menace the Israelites of Holywell Street with total extinction.
Paternoster Row and Holywell Street are both toeing their
primitive features: the former is becoming a mart of miscellaneous trades ; the
latter is rising into a bazaar of booksellers.
Already has Holywell Street progressed far towards this
consummation. On the southern side of the thoroughfare scarcely a clothes shop
remains; and those on the opposite side wear a dirty and miserably dilapidated
appearance. The huge masks, which denote the warehouse where masquerading and
fancy-attire may be procured on sale or hire, seem to "grin horribly a
ghastly smile," as if they knew that their occupation was all but gone. The
red-haired ladies who stand at their doors beneath a canopy of grey trousers
with black seats, and blue coats with brown elbows - a distant imitation of
Joseph's garment of many colours - seem dispirited and care-worn, and no longer
watch, with the delighted eyes of maternal affection, their promising offspring
playing in the gutters. Their glances are turned towards the east - a sure sign
that they meditate an early migration to the pleasant regions which touch upon
Holywell Street is now a thoroughfare which no one can decry
on the score of reputation: it is, however, impossible to deny that, were the
southern range of houses pulled down, the Strand would reap an immense
advantage, and a fine road would be opened from the New Church to Saint Clement
It was about half-past seven in the evening that Ellen
Monroe, dressed in the most simple manner, and enveloped in a large cloak,
entered Holywell Street.
Her countenance was pale ; but its expression was one of
resolution and firmness.
She walked slowly along from the west end of the street
towards the eastern extremity, glancing anxiously upon the countenances of those
traders who stood in front of the second-hand clothes shops.
At length she beheld a female - one of the identical ladies
with red hair above alluded to - standing on the threshold of one of those
Ellen looked upwards, and perceived all kinds of articles of
male attire suspended over the head of this female, and swinging backwards and
forwards, like so many men hanging, upon the shop-front.
Ellen paused - glanced wistfully at the Jewess, and appeared
Her manner was so peculiar, that, although the clothes
venders do not usually solicit the custom at females, the Jewess immediately
exclaimed in a sharp under-tone, "Sell or buy, ma'am?"
Ellen turned, without another moment's hesitation, into the
" I wish to purchase a complete suit of male attire -
for myself," said Miss Monroe. "Serve me quickly - and we shall not
dispute about the price."
These last words denoted a customer of precisely the nature
that was most agreeable to the Jewess. She accordingly bustled about her,
ransacked drawers and cupboards, and spread such a quantity of coats, trousers,
and waistcoats, before Ellen, that the young lady was quite bewildered.
"Select me a good suit which you think will fit
me," said Miss Monroe, after a moment's hesitation; "and allow me to
try it on in a private room."
"Certainly, ma am," answered the Jewess; and,
having looked out a suit, she conducted Ellen up stairs into her own
"And now I require a hat and a pair of boots," said
Ellen ;-" in a word, every thing suitable to form a complete male disguise.
I am going to a masquerade," she added, with a smile.
The Jewess made no reply: it did not concern her, if her
customer chose to metamorphose herself, so long as she was paid; and se
accordingly hastened to supply all the remaining apparel necessary to complete
She then left Ellen to dress herself at leisure. And soon
that charming form was clothed in the raiment of the other sex: those delicate
feet and ankles were encased in heavy boots; thick blue trousers hampered the
limbs lately so supple in the voluptuous dance; a coarse shirt and faded silk
waistcoat imprisoned the lovely bosom; a collar and black neckcloth concealed
the swan-like neck and dazzling whiteness of the throat; and a capacious frock
coat concealed the admirable symmetry of the faultless figure. The hair was then
gathered up in a manner which would not betray the sex of the wearer of those
coarse habiliments, especially when the disguise was aided by the darkness of
the night, and when that luxuriant mass was covered with the broad-brimmed and
somewhat slouching hat which the Jewess had provided for the purpose.
Ellen's toilette was thus completed, and she then descended
to the shop.
The Jewess - perhaps not altogether accustomed to such
occurrences - made no comment, and took no impertinent notice of the
metamorphosed lady. She contented herself with asking a handsome price for the
clothes and accommodation afforded; - and Ellen paid the sum without a murmur,
merely observing that she should send for her own apparel next day.
Miss Monroe then left the shop, and issued from Holywell
Street just as the church clocks in the neighbourhood struck eight.
The reader has, doubtless, seen enough of the character to be
well aware that she had acquired a considerable amount of fortitude and
self-possession from the various circumstances in which she has
[-320-] been placed: she was not, therefore, now likely to betray any
diffidence or timidity as she threaded, in male attire, the crowded streets of
the metropolis. She threw into her gait as much assurance as possible; and thus,
without exciting any particular notice, she pursued her way towards the eastern
districts of the great city.
The weather was cold and damp; but the rain, which had fallen
in torrents the day before, had apparently expended its rage for a short
interval. A sharp wind, however, swept through the streets; and Ellen pitied the
poor shivering, half-naked wretches, whom she saw huddling upon steps, or
crouching beneath archways, as she passed along.
Ellen walked rapidly, and having gained Bishopsgate Street,
proceeded as far as the terminus of the Eastern Counties Railway.
There she halted, and glanced anxiously around her.
In a few minutes, a tall man, wrapped up an a large cloak,
came up to the spot where she was standing.
"Is that you, Filippo?" said Ellen.
"Yes, Miss; I am here in obedience to your
commands," returned Mr. Greenwood's Italian valet. "I promised your
servant yesterday evening that I would be punctual to the hour - half-past eight
- to-night; and I have kept my word."
"I owe you a debt of gratitude, which I never shall be
able to repay," said Ellen. "Your generous behaviour towards me on a
former occasion emboldened me to write to you when I required a friend. I told
you in my note not to be surprised if you should find me disguised in male
attire; I moreover requested you to arm yourself with pistols. Have you complied
with this desire on my part? "
"I have, Miss," answered Filippo. "Conceiving
it to be impossible that you could wish me to aid you in any dishonourable
service, I have attended to your commands in every respect. I mentioned to you
when we last met that my mission to England is from a lady now enjoying a
sovereign rank, and that it is devoted to good and liberal purposes. Under those
circumstances, I am ready to assist you in any manner consistent with my own
principles and with the real objects of my mission."
"You will this night be the means of rendering an
essential service to a fellow-creature," said Ellen, in an impressive tone.
"A foul conspiracy against him, - whether to take his life or for other
purposes of villany, I know not, - has been devised; and he has blindly fallen
into the snare that has been spread for him. At ten o'clock he is to attend an
appointment on the banks of the canal at a place called Twig Folly. We must
proceed thither: we must watch at a little distance; and, if need be, we must
interpose to save him."
"A more simple plan, Miss," said the Italian,
"would be to warn this individual of his danger."
"I have done so; but he will not believe that treachery
is intended," returned Ellen.
"Then another effectual manner to counteract the designs
of villains in such a case is to obtain the assistance of the police."
"No, Filippo; such a proceeding would lead to inquiries
and investigations whence would transpire circumstances that must not be made
"Miss Monroe, this proceeding on your part is so
mysterious, that I hesitate whether to accompany you further," said the
While thus conversing, they had pursued their way, Ellen
being the guide, along Church Street into the Bethnal Green Road.
"Come with me - do not hesitate - I implore you,"
exclaimed Ellen. " If you persist in penetrating my motives for acting in
this strange manner, I will tell you all, rather than you should retreat at a
moment when it is too late for me to obtain other succour. And be your resolve
as it may," added Ellen, hastily, "nothing shall induce me to turn
back. Desert me - abandon me if you will, Filippo - but, in the name of every
thing sacred, lend me the weapons which you carry with you."
The Italian made no reply for some moments, but continued to
walk rapidly along by the side of the disguised lady.
"I will believe, Miss Monroe," he said, at length,
"that your motives are excellent; but are you well advised?"
"Listen," exclaimed Ellen. "The individual,
whose life we may perhaps this night save, is Richard Markham - the generous
young man who has been a son to my father, and a brother to myself."
"I have heard Mr. Greenwood mention his name many
times," observed Filippo.
"He believes that he is to meet his brother, from whom
he has been for many years separated, this night on the banks of the
canal," continued Ellen. - "For certain reasons I know most positively
that the idea of such an appointment can only be a plot on the part of some
enemies of Richard Markham. And yet I dared not communicate those reasons to him
- Oh! no," added Ellen, with a shudder, "that was impossible -
"I do not seek to penetrate further into your secrets,
Miss," said Filippo, struck by the earnestness of the young lady's manner,
and naturally inclined to admire the heroism of her character, a developed by
the proceeding in which he was now bearing a part.
"And the necessity of keeping those certain reasons
a profound secret," continued Ellen, "has also prevented me from
procuring the intervention of the police. In the same way, should the result of
our present expedition introduce you to the notice of Mr. Markham, it would be
necessary for you to retain as a profound secret who you are - how you came to
accompany me - and especially your connexion with Mr. Greenwood. Not for worlds
must the name of Greenwood be mentioned in the presence of Richard Markham! If
it should be necessary to enter into explanations with him, leave that task to
me ; and contradict nothing that you may hear me state. I have my motives for
all I do and all I say - motives so grave, so important, that, did you know them
all, you would applaud and not doubt me. And now are you satisfied?"
"Perfectly," returned Filippo : "I will not
ask another question, nor hesitate another moment."
"My everlasting gratitude is your due," said Ellen.
"And now, one more favour have I to ask."
"Name it," answered the Italian.
"Give me one of your pistols."
"But, Miss Monroe "
"Pray do not refuse me! I am not a coward; and I must inform you that I learnt
to fire a pistol at the theatre."
The Italian handed the young lady one of his loaded weapons.
She concealed it beneath the breast of her coat; - and her heart palpitated
with pride and satisfaction.
Ellen and the Italian then quickened their pace, and proceeded rapidly
towards Globe Town.
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