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LONDON [Vol. II]
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ORPHAN'S FILIAL LOVE.
evening was calm, fresh, and dry: the heavens were covered with stars; and
objects were visible at a considerable distance.
A few minutes before the wished-for hour, Katherine,
Ellen, and the farmer reached the hill at the foot of which was the place of
Then Kate left them and proceeded alone, while her two
friends hastened by a circuitous route to gain a clump of trees which would
enable them to remain concealed within a distance of fifty yards of the spot
where Kate was to meet the old woman.
The young girl pursued her way — her heart
palpitating with varied emotions, — vague alarm, excited hope, and
all the re-awakened convictions of her orphan state.
She reached the foot of the hill, and in a few minutes
beheld a human form emerging, as it were, from the obscurity at a
distance- — the dim outline gradually defining itself into a
positive shape, and at length showing the figure of the old woman whom she had
seen in the morning.
"You have done well to obey my summons, Miss,"
said the hag, as she approached the timid and trembling girl, "But let me
look well on your countenance — let me be satisfied that it is
indeed Katherine Wilmot."
When Kate turned towards the moon, and parted the light
chesnut hair which clustered around her countenance; so that a pure flood of
silvery lustre streamed on all the features of that sweetly interesting
face — a sight too hallowed for the foul-souled harridan to gaze
It was as if the veil of the Holy of Holies, in the
Jewish temple, were lifted before some being fresh from the grossest pollutions
of the world.
" Yes — I am satisfied!" murmured
the hag. "You are Katherine Wilmot — the Katherine whom I saw
and recognised this morning. I feared lest your artful friend, Ellen Monroe,
less timid than yourself, might have come to play your part."
Wherefore should you speak ill of Miss Monroe?"
inquired Katherine, mildly. "Malicious allusions to my friends will not
serve as a passport to my confidence."
"Well, well," maid the hag, "we will
speak no more on that subject. It was for other purposes that I sought this
interview. Tell me, Miss — do you remember your mother!"
"I remember her, with that faint and dim knowledge
which consists only of many vague and dubious impressions," replied Kate,
in a deeply plaintive tone. "I was but four years of age when God snatched
her from me; and it was not until I was old enough to feel her loss, that my
memory began to exert itself to the utmost to recall every incident which I
could associate with her kindness towards me. For kind she must have been — because
every reminiscence which my mind has ever been able to shadow forth concerning
her, fills my heart with grateful tenderness and love. Oh! I have sate for
hours — in the solitude of my own chamber — endeavouring
to fit the volatile ideas which at times flash through my memory in reference to
the past, — until I have seemed to connect them in a regular
chain; — and then I have fancied that at the end of the vista of
years through which my mental glances retrospected, I could define a beautiful
but melancholy countenance — the mild blue eyes weeping, and the
lips smiling sweetly, over me — the gentle hand smoothing down my
hair, and caressing my cheeks, — and all this in a manner so
touching, so plaintive, so softly sorrowful, that the picture fills my soul with
sad fears lest my mother was not happy! And [-212-]
there have been times, too," continued Kate, tears trickling down her
cheeks, "when it appeared to me, that I could remember the fervent
tenderness with which my mother clasped me in her arms — fondled
me — played with me-did all she could to make me laugh — and
then wept bitterly, because my infantine joy was so exuberant! Yes — these
and many other things of the same kind have I pondered on and treasured up as
holy memories of the past; — and then the dread thought has suddenly
flashed to my brain, that I have been merely worshipping the images of my own
fond creation. At such times, I have gone down upon my knees — I
have prayed that these ideas might really be reflections of the long-gone
truth, — bright reflections which had been cast in the mirror of my
mind during the days of my infancy! Oh! it would grieve me sadly — it
would wring my soul with anguish — it would fill my heart with
desolation, were I to be led to the fearful conviction that all those
pleasing-painful glimpses of my mother's presence and my mother's love are not,
the reminiscences of reality, but the creations of a fond and credulous
"Your memory has not deceived you, Miss," said
the old woman. "Your mother fondled and caressed you — smiled
and wept over you, in the manner you have described."
"Oh! thank you — thank you for that
assurance!" exclaimed Katherine, forgetting, in the enthusiasm of her
filial, but orphan, love, all her late repugnance to that old woman:
"again, I say, thank you! You know not the consolation you have imparted to
me! Oh! were it possible to recall from the tomb that dear mother who fondled
and caressed me — smiled and wept over me, I would give all the
remainder of my life for one day of her presence here — one day of
her love! When I think that she is really gone for ever — that no
tears and no prayers can bring her back — ah! it seems as if there
were an anguish in my heart which no human sympathy can ever soothe. But you
knew my mother, then?" added Kate, suddenly; "you knew her — did
you not? Oh! tell me of her: I could never weary of hearing you speak of
"Yes — I knew your mother well,"
was the answer: "I knew her before you were born."
"And was she happy?" demanded Katherine,
trembling at the question she thus put, for fear the reply should not be as she
would wish it.
"She knew happiness — and she was also
acquainted with sorrow," said the hag: "but that is the lot of us
all — that is the lot of us all!"
"Poor mother!" murmured the young girl, with a
profound sob: "it is then true that, in my infancy, I saw her weep as well
as smile! Wherefore was she unhappy? Was she betrayed and neglected? But, oh! I
tremble to ask those questions, which — "
"To explain the cause of her sorrows would be to
tell you all her history," answered the old woman; "and, ere I can do
that, I have some questions to ask you, and — and some conditions
to — to propose."
The hag hesitated: — yes, even she,
with her soul so hardened in the tan-pits of vice, as to be on all other
occasions proof against the dews of sympathy, — even she hesitated,
as if softened by the ingenuous and holy outpourings of that young orphan's
"Speak — say quickly what you require
of me," exclaimed Katherine; "and hasten to tell me of my
parents — for in your letter you spoke of both my father and my
As Katherine entertained not the slightest recollection
of her father, all her thoughts had ever been fixed on the memory of her
mother; — but when she coupled the two names together — when
she found her lips pronouncing the sacred denominations of father and mother
in the same breath, there arose in her soul such varied and overpowering
emotions that she dissolved into a violent agony of weeping.
But that efflux of tears relieved the surcharged heart
of the orphan; and, composing herself as quickly as she could, she exclaimed,
"Speak, good woman — name your conditions: I am rich — and
they shall be complied with, — so that you hasten to tell me of my
"Did your mother leave no papers behind her — no
letters — no private documents of any kind?" inquired the old
"Nothing, — nothing save the fragment
of a note which she commenced when in a dying state, and which death did not
permit her to finish," answered Katherine.
"And that fragment — did it suggest no
trace — "
"Stay — I will repeat its contents to
you," exclaimed Katherine; "the words are indelibly fixed upon my
memory — Oh! how were it possible that I could ever forget them?
Those words ran thus: — 'Should my own gloomy presages prove
true, and the warning of my medical attendant be well founded, — if,
in a word, the hand of death be already extended to snatch me away thus in the
prime of life, while my darling child is — :' there,"
continued Katherine, "is a blank, occasioned — alas! by the
tears of my poor mother! Two or three lines are thus obliterated; and then
appears a short — disjointed — but a most mysterious
portion of a sentence, written thus: — 'and inform Mr. Markham,
whose abode is — .' There's not another word on the paper!"
added the orphan.
"Markham — Markham!" repeated the
hag, as it sorely troubled by some reminiscence; "she mentioned the name of
Markham in the letter she wrote on her death-bed? Young lady, did you ever hear
more of that Mr. Markham?"
"Inquiries were instituted at my mother's
death," replied Kate; "but the Mr. Markham alluded to in the note
could not be discovered. The name-the very name, however, seems to be of good
omen to me; for one of that name, — who is now a noble of exalted
rank, and the commander of a mighty army in a foreign land, — has
been my best friend — my benefactor — my saviour. Yes-it
is to Richard Markham — "
"Ah! now I comprehend the cause of your intimacy
with Miss Monroe," said the hag, hastily: "she resides with her father
at the house of Mr. Richard Markham. And so," she continued in a musing
tone, — "and so that same Mr. Richard Markham is your
friend — your benefactor?"
"Oh! what should I have been without him!"
ejaculated Katherine. "When I was involved in that fearful situation, of
which you have no doubt heard, he was the only one who came to me and
said, 'I believe you to be innocent!' May heaven ever prosper him for
that boundless philanthropy — that noble generosity which induced
him to espouse the orphan's cause! Yes — to him I owed the
development of my innocence — the unravelling of that terrible web
of circumstantial evidence in which I was [-213-]
entangled. He employed an active agent to collect evidence in my favour; and the
measures which he adopted led to the results which must be known to you."
"It is, then, as I thought," said the old
woman, scarcely able to subdue a chuckle of delight. "You know but little
concerning your mother — and nothing relative to your father."
"And it is to receive precious communications of
those points that I have met you now," exclaimed Katherine. "Let us
lose no more time — my friends will grow uneasy at my prolonged
absence! Speak — in the name of heaven, speak on a subject so near
and dear to my heart."
"Listen attentively, young miss, to what I am about
to say — listen attentively," returned the hag. "Now do
not be alarmed at my words: you will see that I am disposed to act well towards
you. The man who was with me this morning — ," and here the old
woman cast a rapid glance around, and lowered her voice to a whisper, — "that
man is a bad one, and he knows I am acquainted with all that concerns your
parentage. He is avaricious, and desires to turn my knowledge to a good
"I understand you," said Katherine: "he
requires money. But are you influenced by him!"
"I cannot explain all that, Miss: attend to what I
choose to tell you — or may tell you — and you will act
wisely," returned the old woman. "He is a desperate man — and
I dare not offend him. He wants money; and money he must have — money
he must have!"
"How much will satisfy him!" asked Katherine.
"And if I procure the sum that he needs, will you then tell me all you know
in connexion with my parents!"
"Wait a moment — wait a moment,
Miss," said the hag. "I am but a poor — miserable — wretched-oppressed — starving
creature myself — "
"Again I understand you," interrupted
Katherine, unable to subdue a tone expressive of contempt. "You declare
yourself to be the possessor of a secret which nearly and dearly concerns me;
and you intend to barter it for gold! But if I meet your demands in all
respects, — if I satisfy that man who exercises such influence over
you, and if I reward yourself, — what security can you give me that
you are really acquainted with those particulars which you offer to communicate?
what guarantee can you show that this first concession on my part will not be
followed by increased demands on yours!"
"I will convince you of my good faith," was
the old woman's ready reply. "Give me wherewithal to satisfy that man; and
the reward you intend for me need not be bestowed until I have told you all I
"How much will that man require?" asked
Katherine, wearied by this mercenary trading in matters which to her appeared so
' Give him a hundred pounds: — you are rich
and can well afford it — for report says that you inherited the
fortune of Reginald Tracy," exclaimed the hag.
"And for yourself?" said Kate, impatiently.
"Alack! I am a poor, starving old creature,"
was the answer; "I am miserable — very miserable! Give me
wherewith to make my few remaining days happy — as I shall be able
to show you great sources of comfort in the news I have to impart."
"Listen, now, to me," said Kate, after a
moment's hesitation. "I will give you that sum of one hundred pounds to
enable you to satisfy the man of whom you speak; and, afterwards — if
your communications should really and truly prove a source of comfort to
me — I will reward you with a liberality surpassing your most
sanguine expectations. But, alas! some delay must take place ere I can procure
the funds from the solicitor who has my affairs in his charge; and, oh! I shall
know no peace until your lips reveal those secrets which are to prove such
sources of comfort to me."
There was a temporary pause: — the old woman
seemed to be reflecting upon the orphan's words, and the young girl herself was
rapidly conjecturing of what nature the promised revelations could be. But how
vain were all her attempts to assign a satisfactory solution to that enigma
which the hag, like some horrible sphynx, had set before her!
During this prolonged interview the early loveliness of
the evening had yielded to one of those sudden variations peculiar to our
island-climate at that season of the year: — the sky had become
overcast-the moon no longer poured forth a flood of sweet silver lustre to light
up the innocent countenance of the maiden, or to mock with its chaste halo the
wrinkled expression of the foul hag.
"But perhaps your solicitor may refuse you the
advances which you need?" said the old woman at length.
"No: he will not cast an obstacle in the way of
aught which is to contribute to my happiness," answered Katherine. "I
have seen him but twice, and, inexperienced as I am in the ways of life I feel
confident that he possesses a kind and generous heart. Oh! if Richard — I
mean, the Marquis of Estella — were in England now, I should not be
compelled to wait many hours in suspense for the want of this money which you
"The Marquis of Estella!" exclaimed the hag in
astonishment: "who is he? and what connexion can he have with you?"
"Have you not heard or read the news which have
doubtless appeared in all the London journals?" inquired Katherine; — "
those glorious news-"
"Alack! dear Miss — I never read a
newspaper, said the hag.
"Then you are ignorant that the Richard Markham of
whom we have been speaking, is a great noble — a poet of a foreign
realm, — that the coronet of a Marquis has been conferred upon him
for his gallant deeds — "
"Well-a-day! this world sees strange ups and
downs!" interrupted the hag. "Ah! Miss — lose no time in
satisfying that man who was with me this morning, and I will tell you a secret
that will be well worth all the gold you will have to give for its purchase. But
what was that noise? did you not hear something!"
"It seemed to me that there was a rustling along
the path," replied Katherine, in a hasty and timid whisper. "Oh! you
would not do me any harm-you have not been deceiving me? My God! how cruel would
it be to lead the orphan into danger by the allurements of fond hopes respecting
the memory of her parents!"
"Silence, Miss — listen!" said the
hag in a subdued but earnest tone: "I mean you no harm."
Then they both held their breath; — but all
was still — not a sound met their ears, save the low mur-[-214-]mur
of the breeze which had sprung up within the last few minutes.
"It is nothing," observed the old woman.
"But why should you mistrust me?"
"Pardon me if I wrong you," returned
Kate:" — you are a stranger to me — and, although
you may mean to serve me, your proceedings are conducted with so much
mystery — so much secrecy — that I must be forgiven if
"I know it — I know it,"
interrupted this old woman; and after a short pause, she added, "Yes — I
will ensure your confidence, Miss; and then you will understand my sincerity.
That man who was with me this morning discovered your place of abode at my
desire. He demanded to be present at our interview; but I refused — for
reasons of my own. I assured him I would speak to you alone, or not at all. I
was therefore compelled, this morning, in his presence, to insist on having none
by to overhear the business that made me seek you; and the same reason forced me
to stipulate that you should meet me this evening unaccompanied by any of your
friends. For if I had permitted one to be present at our interview, then there
was no reason to exclude another; and that man might have insisted on being a
witness as well as any companion of yours."
"If that be the only reason for this mystery,"
observed Katherine, considerably relieved by the old woman's explanation,
"you cannot object to Miss Monroe accompanying me on the next occasion of
"No," answered the old woman; "that may
not be, for the man who is to be satisfied with money will watch me at a
distance when we meet again. But, afterwards — at any future
interview that may be necessary — Miss Monroe may accompany
"I understand you," said Kate. "To-morrow
evening I will meet you again — here-and at the same hour. I shall
then doubtless be prepared to give you the amount necessary to satisfy that
man's avarice; and his interference will be disposed of. It will afterwards
remain for you to satisfy me — and for me to
"Agreed, young lady — agreed!"
answered the old woman. "We have now no more to say — except,"
she added, as a sudden thought struck her, — "except that,
should the man insist on speaking to you to-morrow evening, you need not tell
him that you have any intention of bestowing a separate recompense on me."
"I hope that he will not dare to approach me,"
said Katherine, indignantly; "and, were he to force his disagreeable
presence upon me, I should scarcely permit myself to be catechised by him."
"'T is well, Miss," returned the hag,
apparently well pleased with the resolute manner of the young orphan.
They then separated.
The old woman went one way; and Katherine proceeded
direct to the clump of trees where Ellen and the farmer were concealed; — for
it was now so dark that there was no fear of the direction she took being
It may be naturally supposed that Ellen and Mr. Bennet
were deeply anxious to be made acquainted with the particulars of an interview
concerning which they had some few misgivings.
On the return of the trio to the farm-house, they round
Mrs. Bennet very uneasy on Kate's account. The appearance of the young maiden
re-assured the good-hearted woman; and Katherine then gave a detailed account of
all that had passed between herself and the hag.
The impression produced was, that there was really a
legitimate foundation for the old woman's proceedings, and that she was actually
possessed of secrets touching Kate's parentage. The agreement that the
recompense was only to be awarded to her after she had made the promised
communications, was considered a proof of good faith; and Kate's promise to
supply the sum demanded in the first instance to satisfy the avarice of the
Resurrection Man, met with the approval of her friends.
"To-morrow, then," said Kate, "I must
repair to London, and procure the necessary funds from Mr. Wharton. You will
accompany me, Ellen!"
"That journey is not requisite," observed the
farmer. "Mr. Wharton would demand an explanation of the business for which
the money is intended; and he would only view it with the calm and severe eye of
a lawyer. He might even go so far as to insist upon having those persons
arrested as extortioners. He might not fully appreciate your filial anxiety,
Kate, to risk every chance to know more of the authors of your being. I can well
comprehend your feelings; and, after all, the venture is but a hundred
pounds — for the old woman is to make her revelations before she
receives a recompense. No — you shall say nothing to Mr. Wharton on
the subject. I am going to London to-morrow; and on my return I will supply you
with the sum required."
It is needless to say that Katherine expressed her
gratitude to Mr. Bennet for his goodness; and Ellen readily promised to stay at
the farm for a day or two longer, until the pending mysteries should be cleared
up. Mr. Bennet moreover undertook to call at Markham Place, with a note from
Ellen to relieve Mr. Monroe of any anxiety which he might feel on her account,
as her absence from home would be protracted beyond the time originally
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >