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LONDON [Vol. II]
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on the morning which succeeded the arrest of Katherine Wilmot, Mr. Gregory paid
a visit to Markham Place.
The moment he entered the room where Richard received
him, our hero observed that some deep affliction weighed upon the mind of his
"Mr. Markham," said the latter, in a tone of
profound anguish, "I am come to ask you a favour — and you will
not refuse the last request of a dying girl."
"My dear sir — what do you mean?"
exclaimed Richard, "Surely your daughter — "
"Mary-Anne will not long remain in this world of
trouble," interrupted Mr. Gregory, solemnly. "Hers will soon be the
common lot of mortals — perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow! She must
die soon — God will change her countenance and take her unto
himself. Oh! where shall I find consolation?"
"Consolation is to be found in the conviction that
the earth is no abiding place," answered Markham; "and that there is a
"Yes, truly," said the afflicted father.
"We stand upon the border of an ocean which has but one shore, and
whose hearings beyond are infinite and eternal."
There was a pause, during which Mr. Gregory was wrapped
up in painful reflections.
"Come," said he, at length breaking that
solemn silence, and taking Richard's hand; "you will not refuse to go with
me to the death-chamber of my daughter! You will not offend against the delicacy
of that devotion which you owe to another; for she herself is also
Richard gazed at Mr. Gregory in astonishment so he
uttered these words.
"Yes, my young friend," continued the wretched
father; "within the last four and twenty hours, Mary-Anne and I have had
many explanations. By a strange coincidence, it was at the abode of Count
Alteroni that Mary-Anne passed a few days at the commencement of last month, and
to which visit I alluded the last time I saw you, but without particularising
names. I did not then know that you were even acquainted with the Alteroni
family — much less could I suspect that your affections were fixed
upon the Lady Isabella."
"And your daughter and Isabella are
acquainted?" ejaculated Markham, more and more surprised at what he heard.
"They are friends — and at this moment
the Lady Isabella is by the bed-side of Mary-Anne. It seems that the young
maidens made confidants of each other, during my daughter's visit to the Count's
mansion; and they then discovered that they both loved the same
"How strange that they should have thus met!"
"Then was it," continued Mr. Gregory,
"that my daughter learnt how hopeless was her own passion! Oh! I need not
wonder if she returned home heart-broken and dying! But your Isabella, Richard,
is an angel of goodness, virtue, and beauty!"
"She is worthy of the loftiest destinies!"
said Markham enthusiastically.
"She was present when my daughter poured forth her
soul into my bosom," resumed Mr. Gregory; "and Mary-Anne was guilty of
no breach of confidence in revealing to me the love which existed between the
Signora and yourself. And Isabella, with the most becoming modesty, confirmed
the truth of Mary-Anne's recital. But your secret, Mr. Markham, remains locked
up in my breast. You are too honourable and the Lady Isabella is too pure-minded
to act in opposition to the will of her father: but God grant that events may
prove favourable to you, and that you may be happily united!"
Richard pressed the hand of his respected friend in
token of gratitude for this kind wish.
"And now you cannot hesitate to take a last
farewell of my daughter," said Mr. Gregory; "for all danger of
contagion from her malady has passed."
Markham instantly prepared himself to accompany the
unhappy parent. — Few were the words that passed between them as
they proceeded to the dwelling which was the abode of sorrow.
On their arrival Markham was shown into the drawing-room
for a short time; and then the nurse came to introduce him into the
The room was nearly dark; the curtains of the bed were
close drawn; and thus the dying girl was completely concealed from our hero.
But near the foot of the bed was standing a beauteous
form, whose symmetrical shape Markham could not fall to recognise.
Isabella extended her hand towards him: he pressed it in
silence to his lips.
Mary-Anne had heard his footsteps; and she also gave him
her hand between the folds of the curtains.
"Sit down by the bed-side, Richard," whispered
Isabella: "our poor friend is anxious to speak to you."
And Isabella wept — and Richard also wept;
for those noble-minded beings could not know, without the liveliest emotion,
that one so sweet, so innocent, and so youthful, was stretched upon the bed from
which she was destined never to rise again.
Markham seated himself by the side of the bed; and
Isabella was about to withdraw.
"Stay with us, my dear friend," said
Mary-Anne, in a plaintive but silver tone of voice, which touched a chord of
sympathy that vibrated to their very souls.
Alas! that dulcet voice could not move the tuneless ear
Isabella obeyed her friend's wish in silence.
"This is kind of you — very kind,"
continued Mary-Anne, after a brief pause, and now evidently addressing herself
to Richard. "I longed to speak to you once again before I left this earthly
scene for ever; and that angel who loves you, and whom you love, earnestly
implored my father to procure for me that last consolation. And now that you are
both here together — you and that angel, by my bed-side, — I
may be allowed to tell you, Richard, how fondly — how devotedly I
have loved you; and I know you to be the noble, the enduring, the patient, the
high-minded, and the honourable being I always believed you to be. Oh! how
rejoiced I am that you have not loved me in return; for I should not like to die
and leave behind me one who had loved me as tenderly as I had loved him."
"You will not die — you will
recover!" exclaimed Markham, deeply affected, while Isabella's
ill-suppressed sobs fell upon his ears. "Yes — yes — you
will recover, to bless your father and brothers, and to make us, who are your
friends, happy! It is impossible that Death can covet one so young, so innocent,
and so beautiful — "
"Beautiful!" cried Mary-Anne, with a
bitterness of accent which surprised our hero, and which served to elicit a
fresh burst of sorrow from the sympathising bosom of Isabella:
"beautiful — no, not now!"
Then there was another solemn pause.
"Yes — I shall die; but you will be
happy," resumed Mary-Anne, again breaking silence. "Something assures
me that providence will not blight the love which exists between Isabella and
yourself — as it has seen fit to blight mine! Such is my
presentiment; and the presentiments of the dying are often strangely prophetic
of the future truth. Oh!" continued the young maiden, in a tone of
excitement, "brilliant destinies await you, Richard! All your enduring
patience, your resignation under the oppression of foul wrong, will meet with a
glorious reward. Yes — for I know all: — that angel
Isabella has kept no secret from me. She is a Princess, Richard; and by your
union with her, you yourself. will become one of the greatest Princes in Europe!
Her father, too, shall succeed to his just rights; and then, Richard, then — "
she said, with a sort of, holy enthusiasm and sybilline fervour, — "then
how small will be the distance between yourself and the Castelcicalan
At that solemn moment, Isabella extended her hand
towards Richard, who pressed hers tenderly; and the lovers thus acknowledged the
impression which had been wrought and the happy augury [-44-]
which was conveyed by the fervent language of the dying girl.
"Oh! do not think my words are of vain
import," Continued Mary-Anne, in the same tone of inspiration. "I
speak not of my own accord — something within me dictates all I now
say! Yes — you shall be happy with each other; all obstacles shall
vanish from the paths of your felicity and when, in your sovereign palace of
Montoni, you shall in future years retrospect over all you have seen and all you
have passed through, forget not the dying girl who predicted for you all the
happiness which you will then enjoy!"
"Forget you!" exclaimed Richard and Isabella
in the same breath; "never — never!"
And the tears streamed down their cheeks.
"No — never forget me," said
Mary-Anne; "for if it be allowed to the spirits of the departed to hover
round the dwellings of those whom they loved and have left in this world, then
will I be as a guardian angel unto you — and I shall contemplate
your happiness with joy!"
"Oh! speak not thus surely of approaching
death," exclaimed Richard. "Who knows that your eyes may not again
behold the light!"
"My eyes!" repeated the invalid, with an
evident shudder. "But for what could I live?" demanded the young
maiden: "what attractions could life now offer to me?"
"You are young," returned Markham: "and
hope and youth are inseparable. You can mingle with society, — you
can appear in the great world — a world that will be proud of
you — "
"Oh! Richard, Richard," murmured the soft
tones of Isabella; "you know not what you say!"
At the same time that the Signora thus spoke in a low
whisper, deep and convulsive sobs emanated from behind the curtains.
"Pardon me, Mary-Anne," said Richard, not
comprehending the meaning of Isabella's words; "I have probably touched a
chord — "
"Oh! I do not blame you," said Miss Gregory;
"but my father ought to have told you all!"
"All!" echoed Richard. "What fresh
misfortune could he have communicated?"
"Did he not tell you that I had been attacked with
a grievous malady? that — "
"I remember! He spoke of a dangerous malady which
had assailed you; and he remarked that all fear of contagion was now past. But I
was so occupied at the time with the afflicting intelligence of your severe
illness — so surprised, too, when I learnt that Isabella was here
with you, — that I paid but little attention to that
"Alas!" said Mary-Anne, in a faint and
deeply-melancholy tone, "I have been assailed by a horrible malady — a
malady which leaves its fatal marks behind, as if the countenance had been
seared with red-hot iron — which disfigures the lineaments of the
human face — eats into the flesh — and — and — "
"The small-pox!" cried Markham with a shudder.
"The small-pox," repeated Mary-Anne. "But
you need not be alarmed: all danger of infection or contagion is now past — or
I should not have sent to Isabella to come to me yesterday."
"I am not afraid," answered our hero: "I
shuddered on your account. And even if there were any danger," he added,
"I should not fly from it, if my presence be a consolation to you."
"You now understand," said the dying girl,
"the reason why I could not hope for happiness in this world, even if I
were to recover from my present illness, — and why death will be
preferable to existence in a state of sorrow. How could I grope about in
darkness, where I have been accustomed to feast my eyes with the beauties of
nature and the wonderful fabrics raised by men? How could I consent to linger on
in blindness in a world where there is so much to admire?"
"Blindness!" echoed our hero:
"impossible! You cannot mean what you say!"
"Alas! it were a folly to jest upon one's death
bed," returned the young lady, with a deep sigh. "What I said ere now
was the truth. The malady made giant strides to hurry me to the tomb: never had
the physicians before known its ravages to proceed with such frightful celerity.
It has left its traces upon my countenance — and it has deprived me
of the blessing of sight. Oh! now I am hideous — a monster, — I
know, I feel that I am, — revolting, disgusting," continued
Mary-Anne, bitterly; "and not for worlds would I allow you to behold the
face which once possessed some attraction."
"The marks left by the scourge that has visited you
will gradually become less apparent," said Richard, deeply afflicted by the
tone, the manner and the communications of the invalid; "and probably the
eye-lids are but closed for a time, and can be opened again by the skill of a
"Never — never!" cried Mary-Anne,
convulsively; and, taking Richard's hand, she carried it to her countenance.
She placed his fingers upon her closed eye-lids.
He touched them; they yielded to his pressure.
The sockets of the eyes were empty.
The eye-balls were gone!
"Oh! wherefore art thou thus afflicted — thou
who art so guiltless, so pure, so innocent?' exclaimed our hero, unable to
contain his emotions.
"Question not the will of the deity," said
Mary-Anne. "I am resigned to die; and if, at times, a regret in favour of
the world I am leaving enters my mind, or is made apparent in my language, I
pray the Almighty to pardon me those transient repinings. Of the past it is
useless now to think — the present is here; — and the
future is an awful subject for contemplation. But upon that I must now fix my
Markham made no answer; and during the long silence
which ensued, the dying girl was wrapt up in mental devotion.
At length she said, "Give me your hand,
Richard — and yours, Isabella."
Her voice had now lost all its excitement; and her
utterance was slow and languid.
The lovers obeyed her desire.
Mary-Anne placed their hands together, and said,
"Be faithful to each other — and be happy."
Richard and Isabella both wept plentifully.
"Adieu, my kind — my dear
friends," murmured Mary-Anne. "You must now leave me; and let my
father come to receive the last wishes of his daughter."
"Adieu, dearest Mary-Anne: we shall meet in
heaven!" said Isabella, in a tone expressive of deep emotion.
We will never — never forget you,"
added Richard. [-45-]
He then led the weeping Isabella from the apartment.
As they issued from the chamber of death, they met Mr.
Gregory in the passage: he wrung their hands, and said, " Wait in the
drawing-room until I come."
The unhappy parent then repaired to the deathbed of his
Markham and Isabella proceeded in silence to the
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