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[-321-] 

CHAPTER CV.

THE COMBAT.

IN spite of the suspicions entertained by Mr. Monroe and Ellen concerning the genuineness of the appointment for which Markham was engaged, the young man was too devotedly attached to the memory of his brother not to indulge in the most wild and sanguine hopes.
    Thus, as he proceeded to the place of meeting near Twig Folly, he communed with himself in the following manner:-
    "If my brother be involved in pecuniary difficulties, - or if he have committed any imprudence, from the results of which money may release him, - how gladly will I dispose of the remainder of my small income - how joyfully will I devote all I possess to aid him! And then, when I have no other resources, I will open the mysterious document which Thomas Armstrong placed in my hands ere he breathed his last and I feel convinced that I shall at least receive therefrom good advice - if not pecuniary succour - to guide me in future. O Eugene! is it possible that I am now about to meet you once more? On the 10th of July, 1831, did we part on the summit of the hill which overlooks the mansion of our ancestors. This is the 2d of January, 1840. Eight years arid a half have now elapsed since the day of our separation. Ah! I know the proud - the haughty - the independent disposition of my brother! Were he prosperous - were he successful in his pursuits, (be those pursuits what they may,) he would not seek me now. He would wait until the accomplishment of the twelve years: he would not seek me until the 10th of July, 1843. Then should we compare notes, and ascertain who was the more prosperous! Yes - this would be my brother's mode of conduct. And therefore he is unhappy - he is unfortunate, that he seeks me ere the time be elapsed: he is perhaps poor - in want - who knows? Oh! how sincerely I hope that this is no delusion; that my unfortunate star will not pursue me even unto the point of so terrible a disappointment! No - I feel that this is no deception - that Eugene indeed awaits me. Who could wish to injure me? who would desire to take my life? who could hope to obtain a treasure by laying a plot to rob me? The idea is preposterous! Yes -  the appointment [-322-] is a genuine one: I am about to meet my brother Eugene!"
    Such were the meditations of Richard Markham as he proceeded towards the place of appointment.
    He was considerably before his time; for hope cannot brook delay.
    When he reached the banks of the canal, he was struck by the lonely and deserted nature of the spot. The award was damp and marshy with the late heavy rains: the canal was swollen, and rolled, muddy and dark, between its banks, the pale and sickly moon vainly wooing its bosom to respond to the caresses of its beams by a reflective kiss.
    The bank on which Markham now walked back-wards and forwards, and which constituted the verge of the region of Globe Town, was higher than the opposite one; and the canal, swollen by the rains, had deluged many parts of that latter shore.
    In the place where Markham now found himself, several ditches and sluices had been cut; and these, added to the uneven and swampy nature of the soil, rendered his ramble in that quarter not only unpleasant, but even dangerous.
    Nevertheless, Markham continued to pace back-wards and forwards on the bank where he expected to meet one who was so dear to him.
    He had been at his post about half an hour when footsteps suddenly fell upon his ears.
    He stopped, and listened.
    The steps approached; and in a few moments he beheld, through the obscurity of the night, a person advancing towards him.
    "True to your appointment, sir," said the individual, when he came up to the spot where Richard was standing.
    "I told you that I should not fail," answered Markham, who had immediately recognised the voice of the man that had borne him the message making the present appointment. "But what of my brother? will he come? is he near? Speak!"
    "He will be here in a few moments," said the man, who, as our readers well know, was none other than the Buffer.
    "Are you sure?" demanded Markham. "Why has he sent you first? could he suspect treachery from his own brother?"
    "Not a bit of it," replied the Buffer. "Only - but here he comes, sure enow."
    Approaching footsteps were heard; and in a minute or two another form emerged from the gloom of night.
    Markham's heart palpitated violently. "Here is your brother, sir," said the Buffer. 
    "Eugene - dear Eugene!" cried Richard, springing forward to catch his brother in his arms.
    "Brother indeed!" muttered the ominous voice of the Resurrection Man; and at the same moment Richard was pinioned from behind by the Buffer, who skilfully wove a cord around his arms, and fastened his elbows together. 
    "Villains!" ejaculated Richard, struggling with all his might - but vainly, for the Resurrection Man, whose voice he had immediately recognised but too well, threw him violently upon the damp sod.
    "Now, my lad," cried the Resurrection Man, "your fate is decided. In a few minutes you'll  be at the bottom of the canal, and then —"
    He said no more-for at that moment another  person appeared upon the scene; and, quick as thought, the Resurrection Man was felled by the butt end of a pistol.
    But the instant the miscreant touched the ground, he caught a desperate hold of the person who had so suddenly and unexpectedly appeared upon the spot; and Filippo - for it was he - also rolled on the damp sward.
    The Resurrection Man leapt upon him, and caught hold of his throat with such savage violence, that the Italian would have been suffocated in a few moments, had not the flash of a pistol close by the head of the Resurrection Man turned the fortune of the combat.
    The pistol so aimed only flashed in the pan; but the sudden glare singed the Resurrection Man's hair, and caused him to abandon his victim and spring upon his feet with an alacrity that resembled a galvanic effect.
    The Buffer, alarmed by the first attack on the part of Filippo, had relinquished ha hold of the rope that confined Richard's arms; and Markham, encouraged by this sudden and unexpected assistance, disengaged himself from the coil with the rapidity of lightning. He then. sprang upon the Buffer, hurled him to the ground, and, placing his knee upon the ruffian's chest, kept him fast in that prostrate condition on the very verge of the canal.
    The Resurrection Man, with eagle glance, beheld the situation of affairs. He saw his confederate powerless, and desperate odds leagued against himself - for, in the darkness of the night, he could not observe that one of his opponents was a female in disguise.
    The moment that he sprang from the ground, in consequence of the flash of the pistol close by his ear, he cast this comprehensive look over the field of action.
    There was no time for hesitation.
    Pushing Ellen violently aside, and dashing Filippo furiously back again upon the ground from which he was rising, the Resurrection Man darted upon Richard Markham.
    In another moment there was a splash of water a cry of horror issued from the lips of Ellen; the Resurrection Man shouted "Run! run!" - but neither the young lady nor Filippo thought of interrupting the flight of the miscreants.
    "The villains! - they have drowned him!" exclaimed Filippo; and, without an instant's hesitation, he plunged into the canal.
    "Brave man!" cried Ellen. "Save him - oh! save him!"
    As she uttered these words, she stumbled over the coil of rope which had been used to confine Markham's hands, and which the miscreants had left behind them.
    Instantly twining one end round her delicate wrist, she cast the other into the canal; and creeping so far down the bank as nearly to touch the water, she exclaimed, "Here is a rope, Filippo! Richard, try and catch the rope. Speak, Filippo - can you save him? If not, I will myself plunge into the stream - and —"
    "He is lost - he is gone!" said Fillppo, who was swimming about on the surface of the water as skilfully as if it were his native element.
    "Oh, God! do not say that! do not —"
    "I see him - I see him, Miss - yonder - down the stream - struggling desperately —"
    At that moment a faint cry for help echoed over the bosom of the canal.
    Ellen scrambled up the bank, and darted along the margin with the speed of the fawn, dragging the long coil of rope after her.
    In a few moments she beheld a black object appear on the surface of the water - then disappear again in an instant.
    [-323-] But Filippo had already gained that part of the stream; and Ellen directed him with her voice to the spot where the object had sunk.
    The brave Italian, though well-nigh exhausted, dived fearlessly; and to the infinite joy of Ellen, re-appeared upon the surface, exclaiming, " He is saved - he is saved!"
    Supporting Markham's head above the water, Filippo swam to the bank; and, aided by Ellen and the rope, succeeded in landing his burden as well as himself.
    Markham was insensible ; but Filippo placed his hand upon the young man's breast, and said, "He lives!"
    "Heaven be thanked!" ejaculated Ellen, solemnly.
    She then chafed his temples; while the Italian rubbed the palms of his hands.
    In a few minutes Richard moaned.
    The attentions of those who hung over him were redoubled; and Filippo was about to propose to convey him to the nearest dwelling, when he gasped violently, and murmured, "Where am I?"
    "Saved!" answered Ellen. "None but friends are near you."
    A quarter of an hour had not elapsed from the moment that he was rescued from the water when he was so far recovered as to sit up on the bank, and all fears on the part of Ellen relative to his complete resuscitation had vanished.
    "Ellen - is that you? can this be you? was it your voice that I heard?" he said, in a faint tone "or is it a vision?"
    "It is no vision, Richard - it is indeed Ellen, who owes you so much, and who has been the humble instrument - aided by this brave man - of saving your life."
    "And who is this brave man?" asked Markham "Tell me his name, that I may pour forth my gratitude to him, as well as to you, kind Ellen - my sister!"
    "His sister!" murmured Ellen; while an emotion, like an electric shock, agitated her to the very heart's core.
    But those words - "his sister!" - were not heard by either Markham or Filippo.
    "Do not fatigue yourself by speaking now," said Ellen, after a moment's pause. " Suffice it for the present to tell you that I was afraid of treachery towards you - I had my misgivings - a presentiment of evil haunted me! I owed you so much, that I was determined to watch over your safety - weak and powerless as I am. Hence this strange attire. Fortunately I met this brave man - a total stranger to me - near the spot; and, when I communicated my object to him, he generously offered to bear me company."
    "Excellent girl! - generous stranger!" cried Richard; "I owe you my life. Oh! how can I ever express my gratitude?"
    "We must not speak on that subject now, sir," said Filippo. "The chief point to be considered is how to get you home."
    "And he lives so far from here, too," hastily exclaimed Ellen, laying her hand at the same time but unseen by Markham, on Filippo's arm.
    The Italian took the hint, which was to remind him that he must not seem to know the place of residence, or indeed any other particular concerning the affairs, of Richard Markham.
    "Oh! this bitter disappointment - this vile treachery!" cried the young man, whose thoughts were now reflected back to the cause of the perils from which he had just escaped.
    "Compose yourself," said Ellen, with peculiar and touching kindness of manner: "compose yourself. Richard; and do not excite yourself by unpleasant reflections. Let us rather think how we are to convey you home. There is no vehicle to be obtained in this neighbourhood."
    "I feel myself able to walk," said Markham,- "at least as far as the nearest place where we can procure conveyance."
    "Wrap yourself up in my cloak," cried Filippo. "It is close at hand - I took it off and concealed it under yonder tree, before the conflict began."
    Filippo hastened to fetch the cloak, in which Markham enveloped himself. Then, leaning on the arms of those to whom he was indebted for his rescue from the murderous designs of his enemies, he walked slowly away from the spat where he had hoped to meet a brother, but where he had encountered fiends in human shape.
    In this manner they traversed Globe Town, and reached Bethnal Green New Church. In that neighbourhood they procured a cab, into which Markham and Ellen stepped.
    "I shall now take leave of you, sir," said Filippo, "and I most sincerely hope that you will soon recover from the effects of this night's maltreatment."
    "Generous man!" cried Markham, "tell me your name that I may —"
    But Filippo had already disappeared.
    "How strange!" said Markham. "That noble hearted foreigner makes light of his own good deeds. He has left me no opportunity of expressing my gratitude more fully than by mere words."
    "He is evidently a man of lofty feelings and generous disposition," observed Ellen calmly. "It was fortunate that I happened to encounter him in that lonely spot."
    She then informed the driver whither he was to proceed; and the vehicle rolled quickly away.

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