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[-206-] 

CHAPTER CXCVII.
    
ELLEN AND KATHERINE.

    TURN we now to the farm-house of the Bennets near Hounslow  the residence of Katherine Wilmot.
    The morning was dry and beautiful  one of those mornings which sometimes cheer us towards the end of January, and give us a short foretaste of the approaching spring.
    It was nine o'clock, when the door of the farm-house opened, and two young females came forth to enjoy the fresh air of a charming day.
    These were Ellen Monroe  (for by her maiden name must we continue to call her, as she herself, maintained it for the present)  and Katherine Wilmot.
    Never had Ellen appeared more beautiful; nor Katherine more sweetly interesting.
    They had evidently been conversing on a subject which gave them pleasure; and they were both intent on continuing the same delightful topic during their walk.
    The subject of that discourse had inspired Ellen with emotions of pride, as well as of joy. She walked with a dignity and yet an elegance of motion which denoted the vigour of that vital system which was so highly developed in her voluptuous style of beauty. The generous and noble feelings of the heart shone in the light of her deep blue eyes, and in the animation of that countenance where the fair and red were so exquisitely blended. They were indicated, too, by the expression of that short and somewhat haughty upper lip which belonged to the classic regularity of her features, and in the dilation of the rose-tinted nostrils.
    Ellen was a finer and far lovelier creature than Katherine;  but the latter was characterised by more of that tender sensibility and touching interest which physiologists deem the development of the intellectual system. The eyes were intensely expressive; and over her features a soft, pale, and modest light seemed to be shed. Her figure was delicate and slight, and contrasted strongly with that luxuriant expansion which constituted the fine and not less symmetrical proportions of Ellen.
    "I shall really experience deep regret to leave your dwelling-place, dear Katherine," observed Ellen, as they entered a hard and dry pathway leading through the fields; "for even at this season, it possesses many attractions superior to the vicinity of a great city."
    "In the warmer months it is a beautiful spot," returned Katherine. "But you will not leave me today? Consider  you have only been here a few hours  "
    "Since yesterday morning," exclaimed Ellen, with a smile; "and in that time we have formed a friendship which may never, I hope, be interrupted."
    "Oh! never," said Katherine warmly. "It was so kind of you to come and find me out in my seclusion  so considerate to make me acquainted with all those wonderful events which have occurred to my benefactor  "
    "Nay  neither kind nor considerate," again interrupted Ellen. "Richard's letter, dated from the city of Abrantani on the 10th, and received by my father the day before yesterday, enjoined him to send me to see you  to make your acquaintance  to assure myself that you are well and happy  and to communicate to you tidings which Richard feels will be welcome to all his friends."
    "Oh! welcome indeed!" exclaimed Katherine with grateful enthusiasm. "How much do I owe to him  and how worthy is he of that rank which has rewarded his grand deeds! Such a man could not long remain a humble individual: his great talents  his noble heart  his fine qualities were certain to elevate him above the sphere in which he was born."
    "And now will the name of Markham go down to posterity," said Ellen, proudly: "and the glory which Richard has thrown around it, will be to some degree shared by all who bear it. Oh! this was prophesied to me but a little while ago;  and yet, then how far was I from suspecting that the realisation of the prediction was so near at hand, especially too, as that prediction was not uttered with any reference to Richard  but to another,  that other alluding to himself!"
    Katherine cast a glance of surprise towards her companion, whose last words were unintelligible to her; and Ellen, apparently recollecting herself, hastened to add, "But I was speaking of matters which are yet unknown  yet strange to you. Think no more of my observations on that topic. There are times when the soul is lost and bewildered in the contemplation of the world's strange events and marvellous vicissitudes; and such has often been the case with me during the last few days. It was on the 16th of January that we received the letter which imparted us the tidings of Richard's first exploit  the capture of Estella. Oh! how sincerely I prayed for his success  and yet I trembled for him! My father, too, had some misgivings; but we endeavoured to reassure each other, mutually concealing our fears. Two or three days afterwards we received the news of his triumphant entry into Villabella;  another interval of a few days, and we had a letter from him, giving us a brief account of the Battle of Piacere. Our fears were almost entirely dissipated by the tidings of this glorious achievement; and if any doubts yet lingered, they were completely dispelled by the news of the great victory of Abrantani. Oh! how well has he earned that coronet which now adorns his brow!  how well does that proud title of Marquis become the great, the generous, amid the good!"
    "Would that his struggles were over, and that the civil war was put an end to in Castelcicala!" exclaimed Miss Wilmot  for the news of the great victory beneath the walls of Montoni were yet unknown in England.
    "I have no fears for the result," said Ellen. "a conqueror has he hitherto been  and a conqueror will be remain! Heaven itself prospers him in this undertaking: the wise dispensations of Providence are apparent throughout his career in the Grand Duchy. Had the first expedition, which landed at Ossore, succeeded, there were great chiefs  Grachia and Morosino  who would have taken the lead in the State. But the enterprise failed  and those patriots were numbered with the slain. The idea of releasing from their captivity his companions in that fatal affair, led Richard to the attack of Estella. He succeeded  and he stood alone at the head of the movement. There was not a chief amongst the patriots to dispute his title to that elevated situation."
    "Yes  the finger of heaven was assuredly visible in all those circumstances which led to my bene-[-207-]factor's greatness," remarked Katherine. "Methinks that when I see him again, I shall be strangely embarrassed in his presence:  instead of addressing him by the familiar name of Mr. Markham, my lips must tutor themselves to breathe the formal words 'My Lord,' and 'Your Lordship;' and  "
    "Oh! you wrong our noble-hearted friend  our mutual benefactor," interrupted Ellen. "Rank and distinction  wealth and glory cannot change his heart: he will only esteem them as the elements of an influence and of a power to do much good."
    The young ladies paused in their conversation, because two persons were approaching along the pathway.
    A man muffled in a large cloak, and with a countenance of cadaverous repulsiveness scowling above the collar, advanced first; and behind him walked a female whose bowed form denoted the decrepitude of old age. There was an interval of perhaps a dozen yards between them; for the woman was unable to keep pace with the more impatient progress of the man.
    "Is this the way, young ladies, to Farmer Bennet's?" demanded the foremost individual, when he was within a few feet of Ellen and Katherine.
    "It is," replied Kate. "You may see time roof appearing from the other side of yonder eminence. Mr. Bennet is not, however, within at this moment: he has gone to a neighbouring village on business, and will not return till two o'clock."
    "Then you know Farmer Bennet!" exclaimed the Resurrection Man  for he was the individual who had addressed the young ladies.
    But before Katherine could give any reply, an exclamation of astonishment broke from the lips of Ellen, whose, eyes had just recognised the countenance of the old hag.
    "Well, Miss  do I have the pleasure of meeting you once more?" said the detestable woman, with a leer comprehensively significant in allusion to the past: then, as her eyes wandered from Ellen's countenance to that of Katherine, she suddenly became strangely excited, and exclaimed, "Ah! Miss Wilmot!"
    "Is this Miss Wilmot?" demanded the Resurrection Man, with an impatient glance towards Katherine, while he really addressed himself to the old hag.
    "My name is Wilmot," said Kate, in her soft and somewhat timid tone. "Was it for me that your visit to time farm was intended?"
    "Neither more nor less, Miss," answered the Resurrection Man. "This person," he continued, indicating his horrible companion, "has something important to say to you."
    "Yes  and we must speak alone, too," said the hag.
    "No!" ejaculated Ellen, hastily and firmly "that may not be. I am Miss Wilmot's friend  the friend, too, of one in whom she places great confidence; and whatever you may have to communicate to her cannot be a secret in respect to me."
    And, as she uttered these words, she glanced significantly at her young companion.
    "Yes," said Kate, who understood the hint conveyed in that look, although she was of course entirely ignorant of the motives of Ellen's precaution "yes-whatever you may wish to communicate to me must be told in the presence of my friend."
    "But the business is a most delicate one," cried the Resurrection Man.
    "Oh! I have no doubt of that," exclaimed Ellen, with a contemptuous smile which the hag fully comprehended.
    "Do you know this young lady?" asked the Resurrection Man, in an under tone, of the old woman, while he rapidly indicated Ellen.
    "I know that young lady well," said the hag aloud, and with a meaning glance: "I know you well  do I not, Miss Monroe?"
    "I am not disposed to deny the fact," replied Ellen, coolly; "and I can assure you that my disposition is as resolute and determined as you have always found it to be. Therefore, if you have aught to communicate to Miss Wilmot, say it quickly or come with us to the farm, where you will be more at your ease: but, remember, I do not quit this young lady while you are with her."
    "You will repent of this obstinacy, Miss-you will repent of this obstinacy," muttered the hag.
    "It may be so," said Ellen: "nevertheless, menaces will not deter me from my purpose."
    "If you thwart me, I can proclaim matters that you would wish unrevealed," retorted the hag, but in a whisper apart to Ellen.
    "Act as you please," exclaimed this young lady aloud, and with a superb glance of contemptuous defiance. "Your impertinence only convinces me the more profoundly of the prudence of my resolution to remain with Miss Wilmot."
    The hag made no reply: she knew not how to act.
    Tidkins was not, however, equally embarrassed. He saw that Ellen was acquainted with the old woman's character, and that she entertained suspicions of a nature which threatened to mar the object of his visit to that neighbourhood.
    "Miss Monroe," he said,  "for such, I learn, is your name,  I beg of you to allow my companion a few moments' conversation with your young friend. They need not retire a dozen yards from this spot; and your eye can remain upon them."
    "No," returned Ellen, positively: "your companion shall have no private conference with Miss Wilmot. Miss Wilmot's affairs are no secret to me;  she has voluntarily made me acquainted with her past history and her present condition  and she cannot now wish me to remain a stranger to the object of your visit, however delicate be the nature of that business."
    "I am desirous that Miss Monroe should hear your communications," added Kate.
    "I will not speak to Miss Wilmot in the presence of witnesses," said the old hag.
    "Then we have nothing farther to prevent us from returning to the farm immediately," exclaimed Ellen; and, taking Katherine's arm, she turned away with a haughty inclination of her head.
    "Neither need we remain here any longer, Mr Tidkins," said the hag.
    "Tidkins!" repeated Ellen, with a convulsive shudder  for the name reached her ear as she was leading her young friend homeward:  "Tidkins!" she murmured, the blood running cold in her veins; "my God! what new plot can now be contemplated?"
    And she hurried Katherine along the path, as if a wild beast were behind them.
    "Do you know those people?" asked Miss Wilmot, alarmed by her companion's tone and manner.
    "Unfortunately," replied Ellen, in a low voice [-208-] and with rapid utterance,  "unfortunately I can attest that the woman whom we have just met, is the vilest of the vile; and the mention of that man's name has revealed to me the presence of a wretch capable of every atrocity  a villain whose crimes are of the blackest dye-an assassin whose enmity to our benefactor Richard is as furious as it is unwearied. Come, Katherine  come: hasten your steps;  we shall not be in safety until we reach the farm."
    And the two young ladies hurried rapidly along the path towards the dwelling, every now and then casting timid glances behind them.
    But the Resurrection Man and the old hag had not thought it expedient to follow.    

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