chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
| > next chapter >
FATHER AND DAUGHTER.
IT was nine o'clock in the morning.
Ellen was lying, pale and tearful, in her bed, by the side of which
The past light had worked a fearful change in the old man: his countenance
was haggard, his look desolate and forlorn.
At one moment his lips quivered as if with concentrated rage: at another he
wiped tears from his eyes.
Ellen watched him with the deepest interest.
"And you persist in refusing to acquaint me with [-370-]
of him who has dishonoured you?" said the old man, in slow and measured terms.
"Oh! my dear father, why will you persist in torturing
Ellen. "Do you think that I have not suffered enough?"
"Oh! I can well believe that you have suffered, Ellen -
profoundly," returned Monroe; "for you were reared in the ways of virtue;
and you could not have fallen into those of crime without a remorse. Suffered!
but how have I not suffered during the last few hours! When I read that fearful
secret, I became a madman. I had but two ideas: my daughter was a mother, and
her child's name was Richard! What could I think? I went straight to the room
where our benefactor was sitting: I closed the door; I approached him, with the
rage of a demon in my breast, and I said, 'Villain! is my daughter's honour the
price of the hospitality which you have shown towards me?' He was
thunderstruck; and I showed him the letter. He burst into tears, exclaiming, 'Could you believe me
capable of such infernal atrocity?' Then we reasoned
together; we conversed upon the subject; and his noble frankness of manner
convinced me that I had erred - grossly erred! He implored me to allow the night
to pass ere I revealed to you the appalling discovery which I had made: he
dreaded the effects of my excited state of wind; he thought that rest would calm
me. But there was no rest for me! I retired to my room; and there - when alone -
felt that I could not endure meditation. I came to your chamber; and then - O God!
the doubt to which I had yet so fondly clung was dissipated!"
My dear father, if you knew all," said Ellen, weeping, "you would pity
me - oh! you would pity me! Do not think that I surrendered myself to him who is the father of my child, in a moment of passion : do not imagine that the
weakness was preceded by affection on my part for him who led me astray!"
"Unhappy girl, what mean you ?" ejaculated Mr. Monroe. "Would
you rob yourself of the only plea of extenuation which woman in such a case can
offer? Speak, Ellen!"
"I will tell you all - that is, all I know," added Ellen, with a blush.
"You remember that when we retained to live in that horrible court in
Golden Lane, the second thus we were reduced to poverty, - you remember what fearful privations we endued?
At length our misery
reached a point when it became intolerable; and one morning you set out with
the determination of seeking relief from the bounty of Richard Markham."
"I well remember it," said Monroe. "Proceed."
"You can then call to mind the circumstance of my absence when you
returned home to our miserable abode "
"I do - I do : hours passed - I had gold - and you were absent!"
ejaculated the old man, with feverish impatience.
"And when I returned home - late -" continued Ellen, her voice scarcely
rising above a whisper, and her face, neck, and bosom suffused with burning
blushes, "did I not bring you gold also ?"
"Merciful heavens!" cried Monroe, starting from his seat;
"say no more, Ellen - say no more - or I shall go mad! Oh, God! I comprehend
it all! You went and sold yourself to some libertine, for gold !"
The old man threw himself into his daughter's arms, and wept bitterly.
"Father - dear father, calm yourself," said Ellen.
"I could not see you want - I had no faith in the success of your appeal to him who has since been our
benefactor - I thought
that there was but one resource left ;- but," she added, her eyes kindling with
the fire of pride, while her father sank back into his seat, "I call my God
to witness that I acted not thus for myself. Oh, no! death sooner should have
been my fate. But you, my dear father, you wanted bread; you were starving; and
that was more than I could bear! I sinned but once - but once; and never, never
have I ceased to repent of that fatal step - for my one crime bore its fruit!"
Monroe was convulsed with grief. The tears trickled through the wrinkled
hands with which he covered his venerable countenance; his voice was lost in
agonising sobs, and all he could utter were the words, "Ellen, my daughter,
it is for me to ask pardon of you!"
"No, say not so, dear father - say not so!" ejaculated Miss Monroe,
throwing her arms around him, and kissing his forehead and hands. "No, my
dear father, it was not your fault if misery drove me to despair. But now you
perceive," she added solemnly, "that I was more to be pitied than to be
blamed; and - and," she murmured, the falsehood at such a moment almost
suffocating her, "you understand why I cannot tell you who was the father
of my child!"
There was something so terrible in the idea that a young, virtuous, and lovely girl had prostituted
herself to the first unknown libertine who had bid a price for her charms, -
something so appalling to a father in the thought that his only child had been urged by excess of misery and profound affection
for him, to such a dismal fate, that Monroe seemed to sink under the blow!
For some thus did his daughter vainly endeavour to solace him;
and it was
only when she herself began to rave and beat her bosom with anguish and despair,
that the old man was recalled to a sense of the necessity of calming his
almost invincible emotions.
The father and daughter were at length restored to partial tranquillity by
each other's endeavours at reciprocal consolation, and were commingling their
tears together, when the door opened.
Markham, followed by Marian, entered the room. But what was the surprise of
Mr. Monroe -what was the joy of Ellen, when Marian advanced towards the bed, and
presented the child to his mother!
"A parent must not be separated from her
offspring!" said Richard;
"henceforth, Ellen, that infant must be nurtured by thee."
"Oh! good, generous friend, my more than brother!" exclaimed
with an ebullition of feeling that might almost be termed a wild paroxysm of
joy; and she pressed the infant to her bosom.
"Richard," said Mr. Monroe, "you possess the noblest soul that over
yet blessed or adorned a human being."
Marian stooped over the bed, apparently to caress the sleeping infant, but in
reality to whisper these words in Ellen's ears: " Fear nothing : I was sent
to fetch the child; and Mr. Wentworth will keep your secret inviolably."
Ellen cast a look of profound gratitude upon Marian; for this welcome
announcement assured her that the surgeon would never admit the fact of
possessing any clue, direct or indirect, to the father of the babe which she
held in her arms.
In a few minutes, when she had recovered herself from the horrible alarm that
had filled her mind lest Markham had himself been to see Mr. Wentworth , [-371-]
and had learnt that the father of the child was so far known that he had
engaged to furnish the means for its support,- in a few minutes, we say, she
turned to her father, and said: "Our benefactor's goodness deserves every
explanation from us; tell him the extent of my misfortune - reveal to him the
origin and cause of my shame - let nothing be concealed."
"Ellen," said Richard, "I know all! forgive me, but I reached the
door of your room when you were telling your sad tale to your father; and I
paused - because I considered that it was improper to interrupt you at such a
moment. And, if I overheard that affecting narrative, it was not a mean
curiosity which made me step and listen - it was the deep interest which I now
more than ever feel in your behalf."
"And you do not despise me?" said Ellen, hanging down her head.
"Despise you!" ejaculated Richard, "I deeply sympathise with
you! Oh, no! you are not criminal; you are unfortunate. Your soul is pure and
"But the world - what will the world think," said Ellen, "when I am
seen with this babe in my arms?"
"The world has not treated you so well, Ellen," returned Markham,
"that its smiles should be deeply valued. Let the world say what it will,
it would be unnatural - inhuman - to separate a mother from her child; unless,
indeed," he added, "it is your desire that that innocent should be nursed
"Oh, no - no!" exclaimed Ellen. "But my unhappy situation shall not
menace your tranquillity, nor shall the tongue of scandal gather food from the
fact of the residence of an unwedded mother beneath your roof. I will retire,
with my father, to some secluded spot "
"Ellen," interrupted Markham, "were I to permit that arrangement, it
would seem as If I were not sincere in the interest and commiseration, instead
of the blame, which I ere now expressed concerning you. No: unless you and your
father be wearied of the monotonous life which you lead with me, home will you
both continue to dwell; and let the world indulge in its idle comments as it
"Your benevolence finds a reason for every good deed which you practise,"
said Ellen. "Ah! Richard, you should have been born a prince, with a
princely fortune: how many thousands would then have been been benefited by your
"My own misfortunes have taught me to feel for those of others," answered
Richard; "and if the world were more anxious than it is to substitute
sympathy for vituperation, society would not be the compound of selfishness,
slander, envy, and malignity that it now is."
"It is settled, then, Richard," murmured Ellen, "that my babe shall
henceforth experience a mother's care!"
And Ellen covered her child with kisses and with tears.
At that moment the infant awoke; and a smile played over its innocent
Ellen pressed it more closely and more fondly to her bosom.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
| > next chapter >