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[-39-]

CHAPTER XVI.

THE BEGINNING OF MISFORTUNES.

    AT eight o'clock in the morning after the scene at the Hell, and while Richard was still in the custody of the police, Sir Rupert Harborough and the Honourable Arthur Chichester were hastening, in a handsome cabriolet, belonging to the former, to Markham Place.
    The conversation of these gentlemen during the drive will tend to throw some light upon one or two preceding incidents that may have appeared a little mysterious to the reader.
    "I wonder what became of him last night," said Chichester.
    "Upon my honour at the moment I did not care,' returned the baronet.
    "Nor I either. I was only intent upon getting off myself."
    "He will not be pleased at our having left him in that unceremonious manner."
    "Oh! trust to me - any explanation will do. He is so exceedingly green."
    "And so marvelously particular in his conduct. If it had not bean for us, he would have remained quite a saint."
    "I am not afraid," observed Chichester, "of being able to manage him and of turning him to immense advantage in our plans. But that vulgar beast Talbot will most certainly spoil all. Even the idea of the fellow's wealth and charities will not always induce Markham to put up with his vulgarities. Besides, the wretch has such execrable bad taste. Last evening, for instance, when I casually dropped a neat little lie about the soup at the King of Prussia's table, Talbot instantly paraded the Duke of Lambeth's pea-soup. Only fancy a Duke and pea-soup united together!"
    "And then his dog's nose, and sore feet, and boiled tripe," said the baronet. "After all the drilling we gave him in the first instance, when he stipulated upon associating with us in order to see how we worked the thing, he is still incorrigible. Then, when I think of all the money I have already laid out in buying the materials - in getting the proper paper - and in keeping him in feather all the time  he was at work, my blood boils to see that he hangs like a millstone round our necks, and threatens by his vulgarity to spoil all."
    "But what could we do?" cried Chichester. "You told me in the first instance to find an engraver on whom we could rely; and I was compelled to enlist the fellow Pocock in our cause. He was the very man, so far as knowledge went, having been employed all his life in working for Bankers. But his atrocious vulgarity is his bane; and even his aristocratic name of Talbot which I made him assume, does not help him to pass himself off as a gentleman. It was a pity he could not listen to reason and take the sum of ready money down, which you offered him in the first instant. But, no - he must needs cry thirds, and insist upon going about us to see fair play."
    "And get his share," added the baronet.
    [-40-] "Yes. Even the very first night that he ever saw Markham," continued Chichester, "his greediness would have induced him to risk the ruin of everything by winning a few paltry pounds of the young fellow at Diana's lodgings. But I d—d soon stopped that. I didn't even want to take the twenty pounds yesterday, which Markham offered for the poor family concerning whom I invented so capital a story."
    "No - it is not a few pounds that will do us any good, or remunerate me for my large outlay," said the baronet. "We want thousands - and this Markham is the very instrument we require. The first trial was made yesterday, and succeeded admirably. The note has actually been changed at a banker's: no one can expect a better test than that. Now if this Talbot is to ruin us with Markham - the very person we want - the most excellent medium we could require - himself being above all suspicion, and entertaining no suspicion —"
    "It would be enough to break one's heart," added Chichester.
    "Besides, my creditors are so clamorous, settle with them I must," continued the baronet. "And then Diana costs me a fortune. I must get rid of her without delay; for I expect that she is getting sentimental on this youth, and will not interest herself in our affair for fear of letting him into a scrape."
    "Why, it is very certain," observed Chichester,  "that according to the admirable way in which we have arranged our plans, if an explosion took place, we could not possibly be implicated. However - we must make haste and work London, and then off to Paris. We might get rid of four or five thousand pounds worth amongst the money-changers in the Palais-Royal. Then off to Germany in due rotation - Italy next - touch at Spain - and home to England."
    "Upon my honour, it is a noble scheme - a grand, a princely scheme!" cried the baronet, elated with the idea. "My God! if it were spoilt in its infancy by any fault of ours or our associates!"
    "And Talbot is such a drunken beast, that we can scarcely rely upon him," said Chichester. "He will one day commit himself and us too: the fellow does not know how to get tipsy like a gentleman."
    "We will tell him the candid truth and see what he says," pursued the baronet. "When he finds that we are determined not to tolerate him with us, and that we will quash the whole thing at once if he insists upon remaining, he must yield. There was that young Walter Sydney who seemed at first to have taken a fancy to Diana. I thought of making use of him too ;- but he never called again after that drunken display of Mr. Talbot's. He was evidently disgusted with him for his conduct, and with us for associating with him."
    "Well," said Chichester, "let us resolve, then, to have an explanation with Talbot in the sense you have mentioned; and you must also speak seriously to Diana and get her to make use of young Markham."
    "And if she will not," added the baronet, "I shall get rid of her without delay. What is the use of having an expensive mistress, unless you can use her either as a blind or a plant ?"
    The delectable conversation terminated here, because those who had carried it on, were now arrived at their destination. 
    The baronet's tiger knocked at the front door, and Mr. Whittingham speedily made his appearance.
    "Is your master at home?" demanded Chichester. 
    "No sir; be has not domesticated himself in his own abode since he went out shortly after you yesterday. But a person of my acquaintance - a man of perfect credibleness - has just come to ensure me that my young master will be here again in the currency of the day."
    "Where did this person see your master ?" enquired Chichester, struck by the absence of Markham the entire night.
    "His respondencies is evasive and dissatisfactory," said Whittingham. 
    "This is very remarkable !" ejaculated Chichester: then, after a pause, he added, "But we will await Mr. Markham's return; and I will just see this man and interrogate him alone - alone, do you hear, Whittingham."
    "I hear, sir, because my accoustic propensities is good. I will send this person to you into the library."
    Mr. Chichester alighted from the vehicle and hastened to the library, while the baronet repaired to the stables to see that his horse (concerning which he was very particular) was properly cared for.
    Mr. Chichester walked up and down the library, reflecting upon the probable causes of Richard's absence. At the moment he fancied that he might have fallen into the hands of the police; but then he thought that, had this been the case, Markham would have sent for himself or the baronet. He did not imagine that the noble nature of the young man whom he was conducting headlong to his ruin, would scorn to take any steps calculated to compromise his friends.
    The door of the library opened, and a man entered. 
    "What? John!" ejaculated Mr. Chichester, turning very pale and manifesting much confusion.
    "Mr. Winchester !" cried Snoggles - for it was he. "Hush, my good fellow - don't say a word " said Chichester, recovering his presence of mind "I am really glad to see you - I have often thought of you since that unpleasant affair. I hope it put you to no inconvenience. At all events, I will make matters all right now."
    "Better late than never," said Snoggles.
    "Well - and you must promise me faithfully not to mention this affair to any one, and I will always stand your friend. And, remember - my name is Chichester now - not Winchester. Pray do not forget that."
    "No-no: I'm fly enough - I'm down to trap," replied Snoggles, with a leer of insolent familiarity.
    "Here is a twenty-pound note - that will cover all your losses, and recompense you into the bargain."
    "That'll do."
    "It would be better that you should not say that you ever knew me before."
    "Just as you like."
    "I prefer that course. But now to another point Where did you see Mr. Richard Markham?"
    "At the station-house, in  — street."
    "The station-house! And for what ?"
    "Ah! there you beat me. I can't say! All that I know is that he gave me half-a-sovereign to come and tell his old butler this morning that he should be home in the course of the day."
    "And that is all you know ?"
    "Everything."
    "Now can I rely upon you in respect to keeping the other matter secret ?" demanded Chichester.
    "I have already told you so," answered Snoggles.
    "And you need not tell old Whittingham that his master is at the station-house."
    [-41-]

    Snoggles withdrew; and Mr. Chichester was immediately afterwards joined by the baronet.
    "Markham is at the station-house in — Street."
    "The deuce he is! and for what ?"
    "I cannot learn. Do you not think it is odd that he did not send for either of us?"
    "Yes. We will return to town this moment," said the baronet, "and send some one unknown to him to hear the case at the police-office. We shall then learn whether anything concerning the notes transpires, and what to say to him when we see him."
    "Yes: there is not a moment to lose," returned Chichester.
    The cabriolet was brought round to the door again in a few minutes, during which interval Chichester assured Whittingham that he had learned nothing concerning his master, and that he and the baronet were only returning to town for the purpose of looking after him.
    As soon as the vehicle was out of sight, Mr. Whittingham returned in a disconsolate manner to his pantry,  where Mr. Snoggles was occupied with a cold pasty and a jug of good old ale.
    "Well, I've learnt someot to-day, I have," observed Snoggles, who could not keep a secret for the life of him.
    "What's that ?" demanded Whittingham.
    "Why that Winchester is Chichester, and Chichester is Winchester."
    "They are two irrelevant cities," observed the butler; "and not by no manner of means indentical."
    "The cities is different, but the men is the same," said Snoggles.
    "I can't apprehend your meaning."
    "Well - I will speak plain. Did you hear me tell Suggett the story about my old master, last night at the Servants'  Arms ?"
    "No - I was engaged in a colloquial discourse at the time."
    "Then I will tell you the adventur' over agin ;" - and Mr. Snoggles related the incident accordingly.
    Mr. Whittingham was quite astounded and he [-42-] delivered himself of many impressive observations upon the affair, but which we shall not be cruel enough to inflict upon our readers.
    It was about half-past twelve o'clock when Richard returned home. His countenance was pale and anxious; and he vainly endeavoured to smile as he encountered his faithful old dependant.
    "Ah! Master Richard,  I was sadly afraid that you had fallen into some trepidation!"
    "A very unpleasant adventure, Whittingham - which I will relate to you another time - kept me away from home. I was with Sir Rupert Harborough and Mr. Chichester —"
    "Mr. Chichester ain't no good, sir," interrupted the butler emphatically.
    "What do you mean, Whittingham ?"
    "I mean exactly what I say, Master Richard,- and nothing more nor less. Both the baronet and Mr. Chichester have been here this morning."
    Then, with a considerable amount of circumlocution and elaborate comment, the butler related the conduct of Chichester towards Snoggles, and their accidental meeting that morning.
    "This is very extraordinary," said Richard, musing.
    "I can't say I ever regularly admired this Mr. Chichester," observed Whittingham. "He seems too dashing, too out-and-out, and too-too-cjrcumwenting in his discourse, to be anythink exceeding and excessive good. Now I like the baronet much better; he isn't so familiar in his manners. Whenever he speaks to me he always says 'Mr. Whittingham;' but Mr. Chichester calls me plain 'Whittingham.' As for that wulgar fellow Taibot, who has called here once or twice, he slaps me on the shoulder, and bawls out, 'Well, Whittingham, my tulip, how are you?' Now, you know, Master Richard, it's not conformant to perceived notions to call a butler a tulip."
    "1 have been deceived in my acquaintances - no doubt I have been deceived," said Richard, musing audibly, and pacing the library with agitated steps. "There is something suspicious in the connexion of that man Talbot - however rich he may be - with so elegant a gentleman as the baronet ;- then this conduct of Chichester's towards his servant - their taking me to a common gambling-house - their deserting me in the moment of need, - yes, I have been deceived! And then, Diana - I ought never more to see her: her influence, her fascination are too dangerous !"
    "A gambling-house !" ejaculated Whittingham, whose ears caught fragments of these reflections.
    "My old friend," said Richard, turning suddenly towards the butler, "I am afraid I have been enticed - inveigled into society which is not creditable to me or my position. I will repair my fault. Mr. Monroe, my guardian, advised me some weeks ago to indulge in a tour upon the continent: I will avail myself of this permission. At four o'clock I have an appointment - a pressing appointment to keep in town: by seven at latest I shall, return. Have a post-chaise at the door and all things in readiness: we will proceed to Dover to-night. You alone shall accompany me."
    "Let's do it, sir - let's do it," exclaimed the faithful old dependent: "it will separate you from them flash fellows which lead young men into scrapes, and from them wulgar persons which call butlers tulips."
    Whittingham retired to make the preparations for the contemplated journey, and Richard seated himself at the table to write a couple of letters. 
    The first was to Mrs. Arlington, and ran thus:-

"Circumstances of a very peculiar nature, and which I cannot at present explain to you, compel me to quit London thus abruptly. I hope you will not imagine that I leave your agreeable society without many regrets. We shall probably meet again, when I may perhaps confide to you the motives of this sudden departure; and you will then understand that I could not have remained in London another minute with  safety to myself. I scarcely know what I write - I am so agitated and uneasy. Pray excuse this scrawl.
                            "RICHARD MARKHAM."

The second letter was to Mr. Monroe, and was couched in the following terms:-

    "You will be surprised, my dear sir, to find that I am Immediately about to avail myself of your kind recommendation and permission to visit the continent. I conceive it to be my duty - in consequence of rumours or reports which may shortly reach your ears concerning me - to inform you that have this moment only awoke to the fearful perils of the career in which I have for some weeks past been blindly hurrying along, till at length yesterday —: but I dare not write any more. I am penitent - deeply penitent; let this statement induce you to defend and protect my reputation,
        "Ever your sincerely obliged,
            "R. MARKHAM."

    Having hastily folded, addressed; and sealed these Ietters, Markham hurried up to his bed-room to select certain articles of clothing and other necessaries which he should require upon his journey.
    He was interrupted in the middle of this occupation, by the entrance of Whittingham, who came to announce that two persons of somewhat strange and suspicious appearance desired an immediate interview with him.
    Scarcely was this message delivered, when the two men, who had followed Whittingham up-stairs, walked very unceremoniously into the bed-room.
    "This is Richard Markham, 'spose ?" said one advancing towards the young man.
    "Yes - my name is Markham: but what means this insolent and unpardonable intrusion ?"
    "Intrusion indeed!" repeated the foremost of the ill-looking strangers. "However, not to keep you waiting, my young friend, I must inform you that me and this man here are officers; and we've a warrant to take you."
    "A warrant!" ejaculated both Richard said Whittingham at the same moment. 
    "Come, come, now - I des say you haven't been without your misgivings since yesterday ;- but if young gen'lemen will play such pranks, why, they most expect some time or another to be wanted - that's all !"
    "But what have I done ?" demanded Richard. "There must be some mistake. I cannot be the person whom you require."
    "Did you not call at a certain bankers' in the City yesterday ?" demanded the officer.
    "Certainly - I had some money to receive, which Mr. Monroe my guardian had paid into their hands for my use."
    "And you changed a five hundred pound note. The clerk did it for your accommodation."
    "I do not deny it: I required change. But how is all this connected with your visit ?"
    "That five hundred pound note was a forgery!"
    "A forgery! Impossible!" cried Richard.
    "A forgery!" said Whittingham: "this is really impudence of too consummating a nature!"
    "Come, there's no mistake, and all this gammon won't do. Me and my partner came in a hackney-coach, which stands-at the corner of the lane; so if you're ready, we'll be off to Bow Street at once."
    "I am prepared to accompany you," said Ri-[-43-]chard, "because I am well aware that I shall not be detained many minutes at the magistrate's office."
    "That's no business of mine," returned the principa1 officer: then, addressing his companion, he said "Jem, you'll stay here and take a survey of the premises; while I get off with the prisoner. You ten follow as soon as you've satisfied yourself whether there's any evidence upon the premises."
    It was with great difficulty that Richard overruled the desire of Whittingham to accompany him, but at length the faithful old man was induced to comprehend the necessity of staying behind, as an officer was about to exercise a strict search throughout the house, and Markham did not choose to leave his property to the mercy of a stranger.
    This point having been settled, Richard took his departure with the officer in whose custody he found himself. They entered the hackney-coach, which was waiting at a little distance, and immediately proceeded by the shortest cuts towards the chief office in Bow street.
    Upon their arrival at that ominous establishment, Richard's pocket-book and purse were taken away from him; and he himself was thrust into a cell until the charge at that moment before the magistrate was disposed of.
    Here must we leave him for the present; as during the night which followed his arrest, scenes of a terrible nature passed elsewhere.

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