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TRACY proceeded from the dwelling of the hangman to the corner of Tottenham
Court Road, where his carriage was waiting for him.
He stepped into the vehicle, and ordered the coachman to
drive him to Markham Place near Lower Holloway.
Richard was not at home: he had gone for a short walk
with Mr. Monroe, who was yet too feeble to move far without the support of a
companion's arm. They were, however, expected to return in a short time; —
besides, Miss Monroe was in the drawing-room; and the rector therefore decided
upon walking in and waiting for Mr. Markham.
The name of Miss Monroe produced a powerful sensation in
the breast of that man whose passions, until lately dormant with his birth, now
raged so furiously. He had seen her in a voluptuous negligee, attending
by the sick bed of her father, he had heard her utter words of strange self
accusing import, in connection with that parent's illness; — and his
curiosity, as well as his desires, was kindled.
He had been fascinated by that charming girl, and our
readers will remember that he had felt himself capable of making any
sacrifice to obtain her love!
His mind, too, entertained a distant suspicion — a
very distant one, but still a suspicion — that she had strayed from the path
of virtue;-for of what else could a daughter, whom he had seen hanging like a
ministering angel over her father's couch, accuse herself?
This suspicion — and, at all events, that mystery
which hung around the accusation alluded to, served to inflame the imagination
of a man who now sought to place no bridal [-sic-]
upon his passions. The idea suggested itself to him, that if another had
revelled in her charms, why should not he? In a word, his heart glowed with
secret delight when he learnt from Whittingham that Miss Monroe was alone in the
On his entrance, Ellen rose from the sofa, and welcomed
him with a cordiality which originated in a sense of gratitude for the spiritual
comfort he had rendered her father during his illness.
At a glance his eyes scanned the fair form of Ellen from
head to foot; and his imagination was instantly fired with the thoughts of her
soft and swelling charms — those graceful undulations which were all her own,
and needed no artificial aids to improve the originals of nature!
"I am pleased to learn from the servant that your
father, Miss Monroe, is able to take a little exercise once more," said the
"Oh! all danger is now peat," exclaimed Ellen
cheerfully. "But at one time, Mr. Tracy, I had made up my mind to lose
"I saw how much you were afflicted," observed
the rector; "and I was grieved to hear you reproach yourself to some extent
"Reproach myself!" interrupted Ellen, blushing
deeply. "You heard me reproach myself?"
"I did," answered the rector. "And now
forgive me, if — by virtue of my sacred calling — I make bold to remind you
that Providence frequently tries us, through the medium of afflictions visited
upon those whom we love, in order to punish us for our neglectfulness, our
unkindness, or our errors, towards those so afflicted. Pardon me, Miss Monroe,
for thus addressing you; but I should be unfaithful towards Him whom I serve,
did I not avail myself of every opportunity to explain the lessons which his
wise and just dispensations convey."
"Mr. Tracy," exclaimed Ellen, cruelly
embarrassed by this language, "do you really believe that Providence
punished my father for some misconduct on my part?" [-24-]
"Judging by the reproach — the accusation which
your lips uttered against yourself perhaps in an unguarded moment — when you
administered with angelic tenderness at your father's sick-bed-"
"Sir — Mr. Tracy, this is too much!" cried
Ellen, tears starting from her eyes, while her cheeks were suffused with
blushes: "it is unmanly — it is ungenerous to take advantage of any
expressions which might have been wrung from me in a moment of acute
"Pardon me, young lady," said the rector with
apparent meekness: "heaven knows the purity of my intentions in thus
addressing you. It is not always that my spiritual aid is thus rejected — that
my motives are thus cruelly suspected."
"Forgive me, sir, — I was wrong to excite myself
at words which were meant in kindness," said Ellen, completely deceived by
this consummate hypocrisy.
"Miss Monroe," continued Reginald, believe me
when I assure you that I feel deep compassion — deep interest, wherever I
perceive grief — especially when that sorrow is secret. And, if my eyes have
not deceived me, methinks I have read in your young heart the existence of some
such secret sorrow. My aim is to console you; for the consolation which I can
offer is not human — it is divine! I am but the humble instrument of
the supernal Goodness; but God imparts solace through even the least worthy of
"I thank you sincerely for your friendly intentions
towards me," said Ellen, now recovering her presence of mind; "but,
since my father is restored to health, I have little to vex me."
"And yet that self-reproach, Miss Monroe,"
persisted the rector, determined not to abandon the point to which he had so
dexterously conducted the conversation, — "that self-accusation which
escaped your lips — "
"Is a family secret, Mr. Tracy, which may not be
revealed," interrupted Ellen firmly.
"I ask you not for your confidence, Miss Monroe;
think not that I seek to pry into your affairs with an impertinent curiosity —
"Once more, sir, I thank you for the kindness which
prompts you thus to address me; but — pray, let us change the
These words were uttered in so decided a tone, that
Reginald dared not persist in his attempt to thrust himself into the young
An awkward silence ensued; and the rector was thinking
how he should break it, when the door opened.
Almost at the same moment, a female voice was heard
outside the room, saying, in tender playfulness, "Come to mamma! come to
Then, immediately afterwards, Marian entered the
apartment, bearing an infant in her arms.
Whittingham had neglected to tell her that there was a
visitor in the drawing-room.
Poor Marian, astounded at the presence of the rector,
could neither advance nor retreat for some time.
At length she turned abruptly away.
Ellen sank back upon the sofa, overcome with shame and
The rector threw upon her a glance full of meaning; but
she saw it not — for her own eyes were cast down.
This depression, however, lasted only for a moment.
Suddenly raising her head, she exclaimed with that boldness and firm frankness
which had been taught her by the various circumstances of the last few years of
her life, "You now know my secret, sir: but you are a man of honour. I need
say no more."
"Who has been base enough to leave this grievous
wrong unrepaired?" asked Reginald, taking her hand — that soft, warm,
"Nay — seek to know no more," returned
Ellen, withdrawing her hand hastily from what she however conceived to be only
the pressure of a friendly or fraternal interest; "you have learnt too much
already. For God's sake, let not my father know that you have discovered his
"Not for worlds would I do aught to cause you
pain!" cried the rector, enthusiastically.
"Thank you — thank you," murmured Ellen,
completely deceived in respect to the cause of Tracy's warmth, and mistaking for
friendly interest an ebullition of feeling which was in reality gross and
With these words Ellen hurried from the room,
"I have discovered her secret!" said the
rector triumphantly to himself, as he rose and paced the apartment, mad passions
raging in his breast; "and that discovery shall make her mine. Oh! no
sacrifice were too great to obtain possession of that charming creature! I would
give the ten best years of my life to clasp her in my arms, in the revels of
love! Happy — thrice happy should I be to feel that lovely form become supple
and yielding in my embrace! But my brain burns — my heart beats — my eyes
throb — my blood seems liquid fire!"
Reginald threw himself, exhausted by the indomitable
violence of his passions, upon the sofa.
Scarcely had he time to compose himself, when Markham
entered the room.
The rector communicated to him the particulars of his
interview with Katherine Wilmot, and concluded by saying that, as the girl was
known to his housekeeper, he had determined upon taking her into his service.
"With regard to the fragment of the letter,"
observed Richard, "allusion must have been made to some person of the name
of Markham who is totally unconnected with our family. We have no relations of
that name. I feel convinced that the mention of the name could not in any way
refer to my father; and my brother and myself were children at the time when
that letter must have been written."
"It is a coincidence — and that is all,"
observed the rector. "But as you have to some extent constituted yourself
the benefactor of this young person, do you approve of the arrangement which I
have made for her to enter my household?"
"My dear sir, how can I object?" exclaimed
Richard, who, in the natural generosity of his heart, gave the rector credit for
the most worthy motives. "I consider myself your debtor for your noble
conduct in this instance. Under your roof, Mr. Tracy, the breath of calumny
cannot reach that poor creature; and there no one will dare to make her
family connexions a subject of reproach."
Some farther conversation took place between Reginald
Tracy and Richard Markham upon this subject, and when the former rose to depart,
they both observed, for the first time during their inter-[-25-]
that a violent shower of rain was pouring down.
Richard pressed the rector to remain to dinner — an
invitation which he, whose head was filled with Ellen, did not hesitate to
The rector's carriage and horses were accordingly housed
in the stables attached to Markham Place; and Whittingham was desired to make
Mr. Tracy's coachman and livery-servant as comfortable as possible —
instructions with which the hospitable old butler did not fail to comply.
Dinner was served up at five o'clock; and Reginald had
the felicity of sitting next to Miss Monroe.
The more he saw of this young lady, the more did he
become enraptured with her, — not, however, experiencing a pure and chaste
affection, but one whose ingredients were completely sensual.
The evening passed rapidly away; — the rain continued
to pour in torrents.
As a matter of courtesy — indeed, of hospitality, for
Richard's nature was generosity itself — the rector was pressed to stay the
night at the Place; and. although he had a good close carriage to convey him
home (and persons who have such equipages are seldom over careful of their
servants) he accepted the invitation.
There was something so pleasing — so intoxicating in
the idea of passing the night under the same roof with Ellen!
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
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