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LONDON [Vol. II]
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OLD HAG'S INTRIGUE.
the morning after she had received the visit from the Reverend Reginald Tracy,
the old hag rose early, muttering to herself, "I must lose no time — I
must lose no time."
She then proceeded to dress herself in her holiday
attire, each article of which was purchased with the wages of her infamous
Female frailty — female shame had clothed the hag:
female dishonour had produced her a warm gown, a fine shawl, and a new bonnet.
When she was young she had lived by the sale of herself:
now that she was old she lived by the sale of others.
And she gloried in all the intrigues which she
successfully worked out for those who employed her, as much as a sharp
diplomatist triumphs in outwitting an astute antagonist.
It is said that when Perseus carried the hideous head of
the Gorgon Medusa through the air, the gore which dripped from it as he passed
over the desert of Libya turned into frightful serpents: so does the moral filth
which the corruption of great cities distils, engender grovelling and venomous
wretches like that old hag.
Well — she dressed herself in her best attire, and
contemplated herself with satisfaction in a little mirror cracked all across.
Then, having partaken of a hearty breakfast, she sallied
By means of a public conveyance she soon reached the
vicinity of Markham Place.
She had never been in that neighbourhood before; and
when she beheld the spacious mansion, with its heavy but imposing architecture,
she muttered to herself, "She is well lodged — she is well lodged!"
The hag then strolled leisurely round Richard's
miniature domain, debating within herself whether she should knock boldly at the
front door and inquire for Miss Monroe, or wait in the neighbourhood to see if
that young lady might chance to walk out alone.
The day was fine, though cold; and the hag accordingly
resolved to abide by the latter alternative.
Perceiving a seat upon the summit of the hill, whereon
stood the two trees, she opened the gate at the foot of the path which led to
Then she toiled up the hill, and seated herself between
the two ash trees-now denuded of their foliage. [-32-]
Presently, as her eyes wandered hither and thither, they
fell upon the inscriptions engraved on the stem of one of the trees. Thus they
Dec. 25, 1836.
May 17th, 1838.
The old woman marvelled what that name, twice inscribed,
and those dates could mean.
But she did not trouble herself much with conjecture on
that point: she had other business on hand, and was growing impatient because
Ellen did not appear.
At length her penetrating eyes caught a glimpse of a
female form approaching from the direction of the garden at the back of the
The hag watched that form attentively, and in a few
moments exclaimed joyfully, "It is she!"
Ellen was indeed advancing up the hill. She had come
forth for a short ramble; and the clearness of the day had prompted her to
ascend the eminence which afforded so fine a view of the mighty metropolis at a
When she was near the top, she caught sight of a female
seated upon the bench between the trees, and was about to retreat — fearful
that her presence might be deemed a reproach for what was in fact an intrusion
upon private property.
But, to her surprise, she observed the female beckoning
familiarly to her; and she continued her way to the summit.
Then, with profound astonishment and no little
annoyance, she recognised the old hag.
"What are you doing here?" demanded Ellen,
"Resting myself, as you see, miss," answered
the harridan. "But how charming you look this morning! That black velvet
bonnet sets off your beautiful complexion; and the fresh air has given a lovely
glow to your cheeks."
"You have not uttered that compliment without a
motive," said Ellen, vainly endeavouring to suppress a half-smile of
satisfaction. "But you must not suppose that your flattery will make me
forget the part which you played when Mr. Greenwood had me conveyed to his house
somewhere in the country."
"My dear child, do not be angry with me on that
account," said the old hag. "Mr. Greenwood thought that you would
prefer me as your servant instead of a stranger."
"Or rather, he hired you to talk me over to his
wishes — or, perhaps, because he knew that you would wink at any violence
which he might use. But I outwitted you both," added Ellen, laughing.
"Ah! now I see that you have forgiven me, my
child," cried the hag. "And when I behold your sweet lips, red as
cherries — your lovely blue eyes, so soft and languishing — and that small
round chin, with its charming dimple, I feel convinced — "
"Nay — you are determined to flatter me,"
interrupted Ellen; "but I shall not forgive you the more readily on that
"How well this pelisse becomes your beautiful
figure, my child," said the hag, affecting not to notice Ellen's last
"Cease this nonsense," cried Miss Monroe,
"and tell me what brings you hither."
"To see you once more, my child."
"How did you discover my abode?"
"A pleasant question, forsooth!" ejaculated
the hag. "Do you think that I am not well acquainted with all — yes, all
that concerns you?" she added significantly.
"Alas! I am well aware that you know much — too
much," said Ellen, with a profound sigh.
"Much!" repeated the hag. "I know all
I say — even to the existence of the little one that will some day call you
"Who told you that? Speak — who told you that?"
demanded Ellen, greatly excited.
"It cannot matter — since I know it,"
returned the hag: "it cannot matter."
"One question," said Ellen, — "and I
will ask you no more. Was Mr. Greenwood your informant?"
"He was not," answered the hag.
"And now tell me, without circumlocution, what
business has brought you hither — for that you came to meet with me I have no
"Sit down by me, my child," said the hag,
"and listen while I speak to you."
"'Nay — I can attend to you as well here,"
returned Ellen, laughing, as she leant against one of the trees — an attitude
which revealed her tiny feet and delicate ankles.
"You seem to have no confidence in me,"
observed the hag; "and yet I have ever been your friend."
"Yes-you have helped me to my ruin, said Ellen,
mournfully. "And yet I scarcely blame you for all that, because you only
aided me to discover what I sought at the time-and that was bread at any
sacrifice. Well — go on, and delay not: I will listen to you, if only
through motives of curiosity."
"My sweet child," said the harridan,
endeavouring to twist her wrinkled face into as pleasing an expression as
possible, "a strange thing has come to my knowledge. What would you think
if I told you that a man of pure and stainless life, who is virgin of all sin,
— a man who to a handsome exterior unites a brilliant intellect, — a man
whose eloquence can excite the aristocracy as well as produce a profound
impression upon the middle classes, — a man possessed of a fine fortune and a
high position, — what would you think, I say if I told you that such a man has
become enamoured of you?"
"I should first wonder how such a phoenix of
perfection came to select you as his intermediate," answered Ellen, with a
smile, which displayed her brilliant teeth.
"A mere accident made me acquainted with his
passion," said the hag. "But surely you would not scorn the advances
of a man who would sacrifice every thing for you — who would consent to fall
from his high place for one single hour of your love-who would lay his whole
fortune at your feet as a proof of his sincerity."
"To cut short this conversation, I will answer you
with sincerity," returned Ellen. "Mr. Greenwood is the only man who
can boast of a favour which involves my shame: he is the father of my child. I
do not love him — I have no reason to love him nevertheless, he is — I
repeat — this father of my child. That expresses every thing. Who knows but
that sooner or later, he may do me justice? And should [-33-]
an idea ever entered his mind, must I not retain myself worthy of that repentant
sentiment on his part?"
"You cherish a miserable delusion, my child,"
said the hag; "and I am surprised at your confidence in the good feelings
of a man of whom you have already seen so much."
"Ah! there is a higher power that often sways the
human heart," observed Ellen; and, as she spoke, her eyes were fixed upon
the inscriptions on the tree, while her heart heat with emotions unintelligible
to the old hag.
"You will then allow this man of whom I have
spoken, and who has formed so enthusiastic an attachment towards you, to
languish without a hope?" demanded the woman.
"Men do not die of love," said Ellen, with a
"But he is rich — and he would enrich you,"
continued the old harridan: "he would place your father in so happy a
position that the old man should not even experience a regret for the prosperity
which he has lost."
"My father dwells with a friend, and is
happy," observed Ellen.
"But he is dependant," exclaimed the old hag,
"for you yourself once said to me, 'We are dependant upon one who cannot
afford to maintain us in idleness.' How happy would you be — for I know your
heart-to be enabled to place your father in a state of independence!"
"Would he be happy did he know that he owed the
revival of his prosperity to his daughter's infamy?"
"Did he divine whence came the bread that was
purchased by your services to the statuary, the artist, the sculptor, and the
photographer? You yourself assured me that you kept your avocations a profound
"Were I inclined to sell myself for gold, Greenwood
would become a liberal purchaser," said Ellen. "All your sophistry is
vain. You cannot seduce me from that state of tranquil. seclusion in which I now
"At least grant your unknown lover an interview,
and let him plead his own cause." exclaimed [-34-]
the hag, who did not calculate upon so much firmness on the part of the young
"Ah! think not that he is unknown," cried
Ellen, a light breaking in upon her mind: "a man of pure and stainless
life, virgin of all sin, — a man endowed with a handsome person, and a
brilliant intellect, — a man whose. eloquence acts as a spell upon all
classes, — a man possessed of a large fortune and enjoying a high position,
— such is your description! And this man must have seen me to love me! Now
think you I cannot divine the name of your phoenix?"
"You suspect then, my child — "
"Nay — I have something more than mere suspicion
in my mind," interrupted Ellen. "Oh I now I comprehend the motive of
that apparent earnestness with which he implored me to reveal the secret sorrow
that oppressed me! In a word, old woman," added the young lady, in a tone
of superb contempt, "your phoenix is the immaculate rector of St.
"And do you not triumph in your conquest,
Miss?" demanded the hag, irritated by Ellen's manner.
"Oh! yes," exclaimed the young lady, with a
sort of good-humoured irony; "so much so, that I will meet him when and
where you will."
"Are you serious?" inquired the hag,
"Did I ever jest when I agreed to accept the fine
offers which you made me on past occasions?" asked Ellen.
"No: and you cannot have an object in jesting
now," observed the old woman. "But when and where will you meet him
who is enamoured of you?"
"You say that he will make any sacrifice to please
"He will — he will."
"Then he cannot refuse the appointment which I am
about to propose to you. On Monday evening next there is to be a masked ball at
Drury Lane Theatre. At ten o'clock precisely I will be there, dressed as a
Circassian slave, with a thick veil over my face. Let him be attired as a monk,
so that he may be enabled to shroud his features with his cowl. We shall not
fail to recognise each other."
"Again I ask if you are in earnest!" demanded
the old woman, surprised at this singular arrangement.
"I was never more so," answered Ellen.
"But why cannot the appointment take place at my
abode?" said the hag.
"Oh! fie — the immaculate rector in your dirty
court in Golden Lane!" ejaculated Ellen.
"That court was once good enough for you, my
child," muttered the old woman.
"We will not dispute upon that point," said
the young lady. "If I am worth having, I am worth humouring; and I must
test the sincerity of the attachment which your phoenix experiences for me, by
making him seek me at a masked ball."
"Oh! the caprices of you fair ones!"
ejaculated the hag. "Well, my child, I will undertake that it shall be as
"Next Monday evening at ten o'clock," cried
Ellen; and with these words she tripped lightly down the hill in the direction
of the mansion.
The old hag then took her departure by the path on the
opposite side; and, as she went along, she chuckled at the success of her
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
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