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[-408-]

CHAPTER CXXXV.

THE PROPOSAL.  UNEXPECTED MEETINGS.

    RETURN we once more to Markham Place.
    Mr. Monroe had so far recovered from the malady into which the dread discovery of his daughter's dishonour had plunged him, as to be enabled to rise from his bed and sit by the fire in his chamber.
    Ellen was constant in her attentions to the old man; and, with her child in her arms, did she keep him company.
     By a strange idiosyncrasy of our nature, Mr Monroe, instead of abhorring the sight of the infant which proclaimed his well-beloved daughter's shame, entertained the most ardent affection for the innocent cause of that disgrace; and he rapidly recovered health and spirits, as he sate contemplating that young unwedded mother nursing her sin-begotten babe.
    Richard Markham pursued his studies, though rather for amusement than with any desire of gain, inasmuch as the money repaid him by Count Alteroni had once more restored him to a condition of comfort, although not of affluence.
    His mind was far more easy and tranquil than it had wont to be; for he knew that he was beloved by Isabella; and, although she was a high-born princess of Europe, he felt convinced that no circumstances could alienate her affections from him.
    One evening, when the year 1840 was about three weeks old, Whittingham introduced Mr. Gregory into our hero's library.
    The countenance of that gentleman wore a melancholy expression;  his pace was sedate and solemn;  his voice was low and mournful. Markham was shocked when he beheld his altered appearance.
    "Mr. Markham," said the visitor, as he seated himself at Richard's request, "you are, perhaps [-409-] 

surprised to see me here, especially after the manner in which we parted. I am come to demand a favour, and not to reproach you:  indeed, I have no right to use the word reproach towards you at all. You conducted yourself like an honourable man in respect to me: you taught my sons no lessons save those by which they have profited. If you erred in early life, you have no doubt repented;  and shall men dare to withhold that pardon which the Lord vouchsafes to all who implore it? I beheld your triumph at the theatre  would to God that nothing had sullied it! I beheld your fall  and I commiserated you. But before that there were reasons  cogent reasons which forbade me to continue the cultivation of your friendship; and as a man of honour and of good taste, you have not sought mine since we parted."
    "Before you proceed farther," said Richard,  "for I see that you have some business of more or less importance to discuss with me,  allow me to inform you that I was not overpowered by guilt on that fatal night when I was so cruelly denounced at the theatre. The consciousness of crime did not strike me level with the dust. I fell beneath a reaction of feelings too powerful for human nature to struggle with. The proofs of my innocence  "
    "Your innocence!" cried Mr. Gregory, now strangely agitated; "your innocence, say you?"
    "Yes  my innocence," repeated Markham, his cheeks flushed with a noble pride; "for I can glory in that innocence, and assert it boldly and without fear of contradiction."
    "In the name of God, explain your meaning!" exclaimed Mr. Gregory, so excited that he could scarcely draw his breath.
    "I mean that I was the victim of the most infernal treachery ever planned," cried our hero; and he then related the whole particulars at his early misfortunes to Mr. Gregory.
    "Oh! now, indeed, I can make my proposal to you with joy and honour!" cried this gentleman; "for you must know, Mr. Markham, that my daughter loves you, and has for some time loved you with the most pure, the most holy, and the most ardent affection! But you saw that she loved you  you were not blind to that passion which her ingenuous nature would not allow her to conceal: you knew that her heart was fondly devoted to you."
    "And most solemnly I declare," cried Markham, "that neither by word nor deed did I ever encourage that feeling in Miss Gregory's heart." [-410-]
    "I believe you," said the father of that young lady; "for I noticed that you were often reserved when she was gay and friendly towards you. And it was to separate her from the object of her affection that I parted with you as the tutor of my sons; for it was not until the disclosure at the theatre that I learnt the sad accusation under which you had laboured in your early youth."
    Mr. Gregory paused for a moment, and then continued thus:  
    "I hoped that my daughter's happiness was not altogether compromised by her love for you;  I removed her to a change of scene; and there an accident threw her into the society of a charming family, with whom she passed about ten days. At the beginning of this week I fetched her home to my house in Kentish Town; but I found that she was more melancholy than ever. Her naturally joyous and lively disposition has changed to mourning and sorrow. I have not, however, told her that I am acquainted with her secret: I know not whether she even suspects that I have penetrated it. I have studiously avoided all mention of your name; and she never alludes to you by word. But she thinks of you always! She nourishes a flame which consumes her! Now I am come, Mr. Markham, to propose to you the hand of my daughter,  to propose it to you with frankness and candour! I know that the step which I am taking is an unusual one  perhaps an improper one;  but the safety  the happiness  the life of my daughter compels me thus to depart from the usages of society. If your heart be not otherwise engaged  and I never heard you hint that such was the case,  and if you think that the charms and accomplishments of Mary-Anne are worthy of your notice,  in addition to the handsome fortune which my means enable me to settle upon her,  in that case  "
    "My dear sir," interrupted Richard, pressing Mr. Gregory's hands warmly in his own,  "you have honoured me with this proposal;  and, under other circumstances, I should have been no doubt gratified;  but  it is impossible!"
    "Impossible!" repeated Mr. Gregory, a cloud coming over his countenance.
    "Yes  impossible! I appreciate your daughter's great merits  I admire her personal beauty  I respect her excellent quallties,  and I could have loved her dearly as a sister;  but my heart  that is not mine to give!"
    "What? You love another!" ejaculated Mr. Gregory.
    "For some time my affections have been devoted young lady, who has confessed a reciprocal attachment to me  "
    "Enough  enough!" cried the unhappy father: "for my poor daughter there is now no hope! But you, Mr. Markham, will forget that this proposal was over made;  you will bury the particulars of this visit of mine in oblivion?"
    "With me the secret of your daughter's heart is sacred."
    Mr. Gregory wrung the hand of our hero, and took his leave.
    It is scarcely necessary to observe that Mary-Anne had not communicated to her father one word of the conversation which had taken place a few days previously between herself and Isabella, relative to Richard Markham, and which has duly been narrated in a recent chapter; neither was Richard aware that Mr. Gregory and his daughter had accidentally formed the acquaintance of Count Alteroni's family.
    So affected was Richard by the interview which had just taken place, that he sought the fresh air in order to calm his mind, and divert his thoughts from the contemplation of the unhappy condition of a lovely young creature whose heart was so disinterestedly devoted to him.
    He walked towards London: the night was fine, and moonlight; and he was induced to prolong his ramble. He recollected that he required a particular work which was published by a book-seller in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury; and thither did he proceed.
    He entered the shop, made the purchase which he needed, and then repaired to the bottom of Tottenham Court Road, where it joins Oxford Street, in order to obtain a conveyance to take him home.
    But as he turned the corner of Great Russell Street, an individual coming in the opposite direction knocked somewhat violently against him.
    "Why the devil don't you use your eyes?" exclaimed the fellow brutally.
    Richard started back and uttered a cry of mingled astonishment and horror; for the tone of the voice which had just addressed him was familiar  oh! too familiar  to his ears.
    "Wretch!" he ejaculated, almost instantly recovering his presence of mind, and precipitating himself upon the other; "we have met at last where you shall not escape me!"
    "Damnation! Richard Markham!" growled the Resurrection Man  for it was he; then, with a sudden jerk, rather characterised by a particular knack than by any extraordinary degree of strength, he disengaged himself from the grasp of our hero, and turning on his heels, darted off at full speed towards Saint Giles's.
    All this was only the work of a single instant, but as soon as the Resurrection Man thus escaped, Richard gave the alarm, and in a moment a police man and several persons who had witnessed the encounter (for it was but a little past nine o'clock in the evening) joined in the pursuit.
    The Resurrection Man rushed along with desperate speed,  took the first turning to the left, and plunged into the dark and narrow streets lying between Great Russell Street and High Street.
    London was as well known to the miscreant as if it were a mere village, whose topography may be learnt in an hour. This knowledge stood him in good stead on the present occasion: he dived down one street  merged into another  dodged down courts, and up alleys  and at length rushed into a sort of lobby, the front door of which stood open but the inner door of which was shut.
    At that inner door ho knocked violently. A trap was opened above, and a light streamed down upon him.
    "What do you want?" cried a gruff voice, speaking through the trap-door in the ceiling.
    "Open  open!" exclaimed the Resurrection Man; "let me in, and I will reward you well."
    The trap was closed; the lobby was again pitch-dark, as it was before the light streamed down into it and in a few moments the house-door was opened.
    The Resurrection Man rushed in: the door warn closed once more; and the villain exclaimed, "I have done them, by God!"
    "Who are you?" asked the man who had opened the door, and who had the appearance of a gipsy.
    "Judging by the way in which your house is secured, my good friend," was the reply, "there can be no harm in telling you that I am persecuted by blue-bottles  a race which cannot be altogether an-known to you." [-411-]
    "That's enough," said the gipsy; "you are safe here. Follow me."
    The gipsy led the Resurrection Man into one of the lower rooms, where King Zingary, Morcar, and five or six gipsy chiefs were carousing. The Rattlesnake was up stairs with the other women, the Traveller was not yet returned from his day's hunt after his enemy; and the greater number of the gipsies had already taken their departure from London.
    The Resurrection Man was well aware that the gipsies had an establishment in that district of London; but he had never been previously acquainted with its precise whereabouts. It, however, now instantly struck him that accident had led him into that very establishment.
    Advancing towards Zingary, he said, "If I am not mistaken, this is the crib where the famous race of Bohemians and Egyptians are accustomed to meet in London. I claim of them hospitality for a few hours."
    "As long as suits your interests, friend," answered the King. "Sit down, and do as we do."
    The Resurrection Man needed no second invitation. He took the seat offered him near the royal chair, and, in pursuance of another invitation, speedily made himself comfortable with a snicker of rum-flim and broseley.
    "Booze and be merry," said the King: "we shall have nothing to interrupt our merriment to-night; the women have all gone to roost, that they may get up early, for we leave the Holy Land to morrow morning. At five o'clock we depart. But you my friend," he continued, addressing himself to the Resurrection Man, "are welcome to remain here a day or two, if such a plan suits your safety, as I suppose it does. We leave an intendant of our royal palace behind us."
    At this moment Skilligalee entered the room, and took his seat at the board.
    "All is quiet up stairs, your majesty," said this individual; "and so I suppose the women are gone to the downy. They all seem glad at the idea of leaving London to-morrow morning."
    "And none more so, I think, than your Margaret," observed the King, with a laugh. "She seems dreadfully afraid of that man who, she says, is in pursuit of her."
    The Resurrection Man was immediately struck by these remarks: he became all attention, but said nothing.
    "If you knew all," cried Skilligalee, you would not blame her. It appears that the fellow is a perfect demon. His regular trade is in dead bodies; and so he can't be very nice."
    "It is the Rattlesnake  it must be!" said the Resurrection Man to himself.
    But not a muscle of his countenance moved, and he sat smoking his pipe as coolly as if he had heard nothing capable of exciting him. Nevertheless, within him there were emotions of the most fiendish triumph  of the most hellish delight, for his victim was near  and the hour of vengeance approached.
    Then it struck him that his purpose might be defeated, were the Rattlesnake, who had evidently made friends of the gipsies, to meet him in their presence. But he recollected that the women were stated to have already retired to rest; and he felt more easy on this head. Again, he asked himself how he was to discover the room in which she slept  and to this question all his ingenuity could answer nothing more than that he must trust to circumstances.
    And accident did serve his infernal purpose ever in this respect.
    The gipsies, not dreaming that their conversation could have any ulterior interest to him, continued it upon the same topic.
    "Poor Meg is terribly put out because she has lost all her companions up stairs," continued Skilligalee. "She couldn't bear the idea of sleeping all alone in the great room just over this."
    "Then she should get married, and have a husband to take care of her," said the Resurrection Man, with a coarse laugh;  but his remark was merely for the purpose of clearing up a doubt.
    "And so she has some one to take care of her," cried Skilligalee; "and that's me. But there's one rule in this place  men sleep in their rooms, and women in theirs."
    "We can't split the palace into a hundred different bed-chambers," observed Zingary.
    "Certainly not," said the Resurrection Man. "But surely the lady you are talking of can't be afraid in such a fortress as this?"
    "But she is, though," answered Skilligalee. "The women that occupied the same room with her went away this morning, because the court is going out of town again," he added, with a jovial laugh. "Meg wanted to move into her majesty's room; but Aischa and Eva told her that she must learn to get rid of her stupid fear."
    "And very properly," said the Resurrection Man.
    "But never mind these matters of talk," cried Skilligalee; " they're only domestic, after all. Come, I 'll sing you a song, as it's the last night we shall be here."
    Skilligalee accordingly chanted a merry lay; and the conversation afterwards turned upon a variety of topics, none of which possessed sufficient interest to be recorded in our pages.
    At length a clock in the passage struck eleven; and King Zingary instantly rose from his seat.
    This was a signal for the revellers to retire.
    "Skilligalee," said the King, "you will tell the trap-faker* [*The porter] that the Traveller is the only one out; and you will conduct our new guest to the strangers' ward. Lieges and friends, good-night."
    The king withdrew; the other gipsy-chiefs dispersed to their dormitories; and Skilligalee proceeded to conduct the Resurrection Man to the room where he was to sleep.
    If any doubt had remained in the mind of Anthony Tidkins relative to the identity of the Margaret then in that house with the Margaret whom he sought, it would have been dispelled by the mention of the name of Skilligalee  a name which had occurred in the Rattlesnake's history of her life. The Resurrection Man immediately comprehended that she had fallen in with her old companion.
    Skilligalee lighted a candle, and led the way up stairs. On the first floor, he looked into the porter's lodge, which was immediately over, and corresponded in size with, the lobby below.
    "Trap-faker, old fellow," he said, "the Traveller is out late to-night but I suppose he means to come back. He's the only one abroad."
    "All right," returned the porter: "I'll attend to him."
    Skilligalee then conducted the Resurrection Man up another flight of stairs, and into a room which Tidkins knew, from what had been already said, to be immediately over the one where Margaret [-412-] Flathers slept. Skilligalee left the Resurrection Man a candle, wished him good night, and retired to the room in which he slept.
    The moment the Resurrection Man was alone, his hideous countenance threw aside its constrained composure, and assumed an expression so truly fiend-like, that, had a spectator been by, it must have inspired sentiments of terror. Like every greedy and avaricious man, he entertained the most ferocious hatred against the person who had robbed him of his treasure;  and now that the means of revenge were within his reach, together with a hope of recovering his gold, (for he resolved to converse with the Rattlesnake ere he killed her), he experienced that kind of demoniac joy which invariably characterises the triumph of the ruffian.
    Beneath the rough upper coat which the Resurrection Man wore, he had a pair of loaded pistols; and in his pocket he carried a clasp-knife, with a blade as long, pointed, and sharp as a dagger.
    Thus, armed to the very teeth, as it were,  and moreover endowed with that reckless kind of daring which we have seen him exercise on so many different occasions,  the Resurrection Man was as desperate and formidable a villain as any Italian bravo that ever wielded the elastic steel of Milan, or any Spanish bandit whose hand was familiar with the bright blade of Abaceta.
    An hour passed away; and profound silence reigned throughout the Palace in the Holy Land.
    The Resurrection Man, with a candle in his left hand, and his right ready to grasp a weapon of defence, stole cautiously from his room.
    He descended the stairs, and proceeded to the apartment in which the Rattlesnake slept.
    The door yielded to his hand  and he entered the chamber.
    it was a large room, with twelve mattresses spread upon the floor; but only one of the beds was occupied  and that was by Margaret Flathers.
    The intended victim slept.
    Anthony Tidkins approached the bed, placed the candle upon the floor, knelt down, and bent over the bolster.
    "Margaret! " he said, in a low tone, giving her a gentle shake by the shoulder at the same time.
    She opened her eyes; and at the same moment the Resurrection Man clapped his hand tightly upon her mouth. But this precaution was unnecessary; for, without it, profound terror would have sealed the lips of the affrighted woman.
    "If you cause an alarm," muttered the Resurrection Man, in a low but hoarse and dogged tone, "I'll cut your throat that minute. I want to speak to you; and if you tell me the truth I will do you no harm."
    The Rattlesnake clasped her hands together, and cast a glance of the most humble and earnest supplication up into the countenance of the demon whose sudden appearance  there  and at the still hour of night  leaning over her in so menacing a manner, and with dark resolve expressed in his foreboding face,  had struck such terror to her inmost soul.
    "Now, mind," added the Resurrection Man,  "one word to disturb the house  and you die!"
    He then withdrew his hand from her mouth; but she scarcely breathed more freely. Her alarm would not have been of a more appalling character, had she awoke to find herself encircled in the horrible coils of a boa-constrictor.
    "You see, Margaret," continued Tidkins, "no one can escape me: sooner or later I fall in with those who thwart or injure me. But we have not much time for idle chattering. In one word, what have you done with the money you stole from me"
    "The gipsies have got it all," answered the woman, scarcely able to articulate through intense terror; "but a part of it is mine whenever I choose to claim it."
    "Who has got it? Where is it kept?" demanded the Resurrection Man, speaking in a low and sullen whisper.
    "The king of the gipsies."
    "What  the old fool with a white beard?"
    "The same."
    "And where does he keep it, I say?"
    "I have been told that the bag containing the a gipsies' treasure is always placed under his bolster."
    "Are you sure of that?" asked the Resurrection Man.
    "Certain," was the reply: and now Margaret Flathers began to breathe more freely; for she thought that the object of the terrible individual present was not to kill her, but to obtain back his gold.
    "Has any of it been spent?"
    "No  no," answered the Rattlesnake, eagerly; although she well knew that a third had been already divided between the royal family, the Traveller, and Skilligalee  those being the persons who had found her asleep beneath the tree, and possessed themselves of her treasure in the first instance.
    "Do you know where the king, as you call him, sleeps?" proceeded the Resurrection Man.
    "Yes  I am acquainted with every nook and corner of this place." replied Margaret, her presence of mind gradually returning to her aid.
    "But he does not sleep alone," said the Resurrection Man: "I know all about that. How many men occupy the same room with him?"
    "Only his son Morcar."
    "Are they armed?"
    "No," answered the Rattlesnake; "they have nothing  or fancy they have nothing  to fear: this house is so well guarded!"
    "Now listen," said the Resurrection Man, after a pause: "I have no time to waste in words. Will you conduct me to the room where this king of yours sleeps, and help me to get back my gold? or will you have your throat cut this minute?" And as he uttered these terrific words, he coolly drew his clasp-knife from his pocket.
    "Oh! put away that horrid thing, and I will do all you tell me!" said the Rattlesnake, clasping her hands again together, while a cold shudder passed over her entire frame.
    "Well  I don't want to do you any harm," returned Tidkins, with difficulty suppressing a sardonic smile. "But I warn you, that if you attempt any treachery, I will shoot you upon the spot without an instant's hesitation, let the consequences be what they may."
    And this time he showed her the butt-ends of his pistols in the side-pocket of his rough coat.
    "You need not threaten me, Tony," said the woman, endeavouring to assume an insinuating tone; but the dark scowl with which the Resurrection Man surveyed her as she thus addressed him, instantly checked that partial overture towards reconciliation and confidence.
    "None of that nonsense with me, Meg," whispered Tidkina; "it has deceived me before. But I warn you! So now jump up and lead the way to the king's room."
    The Resurrection Man rose from his kneeling posture over the bed, which. as our readers have [-413-] been already informed, was made up on the floor; and Margaret Flathers got up.
    "Shall I dress myself? " she said.
    "What for? You don't think that you're going away with me  do you? No, no: I shall leave you in the excellent company which you have chosen for yourself, and with, your friend Skilligalee."
    The Rattlesnake made no reply; but she marvelled how the Resurrection Man became acquainted with so many particulars concerning her companions.
    "Take the light, and go first," said the Resurrection Man; and, pulling off his heavy shoes, he prepared to follow her.
    Margaret Flathers took the candle in her hand, and led the way cautiously to the room in which Zingary and Morcar slept.
    The door was a-jar  and she entered, followed by the Resurrection Man.
    The king and Morcar were fast asleep in their beds, which were also spread on the floor.
    The Resurrection Man drew a pistol from his pocket, and advanced to the head of the king's couch.
    The Rattlesnake remained in the middle of the room, holding the candle.
    Tidkins cautiously introduced his hand beneath the bolster; and, to his inexpressible joy, his fingers came in contact with a bag evidently containing no small quantity of coin.
    By the sudden flash, of delight which overspread his countenance, the Rattlesnake perceived that her words had not misled him; and she rejoiced in her turn  for she had dreaded the consequences of any disappointment experienced on his part.
    A difficult task yet remained for the Resurrection Man to perform: he had to draw the bag, as gently as he could, from beneath the king's head. At one moment a horrible idea entered his imagination;  he thought of cutting the old man's throat, in order to abstract the treasure without molestation. But then, there was the other man who might happen to awake! Accordingly he abandoned this horrible scheme, and commenced his task of slowly removing the bag.
    But just at the moment when this difficulty seemed entirely overcome, Morcar started up in the next bed, and uttered a loud cry.
    The candle fell from the hands of the Rattlesnake, and was extinguished. Availing himself of the darkness into which the room was thus suddenly plunged. the Resurrection Man seized the bag, and darted towards the door.
    But scarcely had he set foot in the adjacent passage, when the deep tones of a bell suddenly boomed throughout the house; and the notes of the tocsin were instantly responded to by the clamour of voices and the rushing of many persons from the various rooms to know the cause of the alarm.
    The entire house was now in confusion: the alarm, which Morcar rang, awoke every one throughout the establishment.
    Meantime, the Resurrection Man had precipitated himself down stairs, and had already begun to unbolt the front door, when lights appeared, and in another moment he was surrounded by the gipsy chiefs, and pinioned by them.
    "Villain!" cried Morcar, tearing the bag of gold from his grasp: "is this the reward of our hospitality?"
    "It's mine  and I can prove it," thundered the Resurrection Man. "But let me go  I don't want to hurt any of you  and you needn't hurt me."
    "Ah! that voice!" ejaculated the Traveller, who had just reached the bottom of the stairs as Tidkins uttered those words: then, before a single arm could even be stretched out to restrain him, he rushed with the fury of a demon upon the Resurrection Man, and planted his long dagger in the miscreant's breast.
    Tidkins fell: a cry of horror broke from the gipsies; and the Traveller was instantly secured.
    "He is not dead  but he is dying," exclaimed Morcar, raising the Resurrection Man in his arms.
    "Tell him, then," cried the Traveller, in a tone of mingled triumph and joy,  "tell him that the man who was transported four years ago by his infernal treachery has at length been avenged,  tell him that he dies by the hand of Crankey Jem!"
    These words seemed to animate the Resurrection Man for a few moments: he made an effort to speak  but his tongue refused to articulate the curses which his imagination prompted; and, turning a glance of the most diabolical hatred upon the avenger, he sank back insensible in the arms of Morcar.
    The gipsies conveyed him up stairs, and placed him on a bed, where Aischa, who, like many females of her race, possessed no inconsiderable amount of medical knowledge, immediately attended upon him.

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