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LONDON [Vol. II]
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two young ladies had new retired to the bed-chamber which Kate occupied at the
farm, and which Ellen shared with her during her visit.
The respective characters of those two charming
creatures were then incidentally contrasted and powerfully set forth, each in
its peculiar phase, by means of occurrences apparently trivial to a degree, but
which were nevertheless significant in the eyes of those who closely observed
the nature of the human mind.
While Ellen was disrobing herself, she stood, in all the
pride of her glorious beauty, before the mirror; in the reflection of which she
also arranged her long, luxuriant hair previously to retiring to rest.
But Katherine, in the semi-obscurity of the remotest
corner, laid aside her vestment; nor did she once think of approaching the
Whence arose this discrepancy, this pride
on the one hand, and this bashfulness on the other!
It was that Ellen had been placed in those circumstances
which had taught her the value and led [-215-] her
to appreciate the extent of her almost matchless charms: her
lovely countenance had served as a copy, and her exquisitely modelled form as a
pattern, for artists and sculptors; during her brief dramatic
career, she had been the object of unceasing adulation; and when
she forced Greenwood to espouse her, the splendour of her beauty had disarmed
him of the resentment which he would otherwise have experienced in being
compelled to sacrifice for her all his hopes of a brilliant matrimonial
Hers was the pride of a loveliness which had produced
her bread in the hour of her bitter need, which was perpetuated in
great works of art, which had elicited the heartfelt admiration of
many suitors of rank and name, and which was still in all the
freshness of health and youth. Still that pride was never obtrusive not
even conspicuous; for It was attempered by a natural generosity, an innate
loftiness of soul which rendered her as adorable for her disposition as she was
desirable for her beauty.
Katherine had long languished in a condition which
compelled her to retire from observation. While she dwelt with the late
executioner, she was glad to be able to shroud herself from public view. She was
always neat and cleanly from principle, but not from pride. The germinations of
self-complacency had been checked in their nascent state, though not completely
obliterated; and now, if they were slightly expanding in the genial atmosphere
of the improved circumstances which surrounded her, it was with a legitimate
growth, such as no female mind should remain unacquainted with. For a certain
degree of proper pride is necessary to woman, to preserve her
self-esteem, and to maintain her soul so happily poised that it may not fall
into overweening confidence on the one side, nor into an awkward and repulsive
reserve on the other.
That chamber-scene would have made a fine and deeply
interesting subject for the pencil of the artist, who would have delighted to
shadow forth the variety of the female character, here the
glorious loveliness of the wife who dared not avow that sacred name, there
the retiring beauty of the young virgin.
But Katherine had not altogether escaped the influence
of that blind deity who exercises so important a control over the destinies of
How this happened we must leave her to describe in her
own artless manner.
"I have been thinking, dear Kate," said Ellen,
as she stood combing her long and silky hair, on which a lamp's reflection in
the mirror shed a bright glory, "I have been thinking that
this is a dull and lonely place for you. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are very kind and
amiable people; but it will not be suitable for one whose worldly prospects are
so good as yours, to remain in this solitude. You are literally buried here! I
am almost inclined to take you with me to Markham Place for a short time, when
the business with that old woman is decided. I am sure Richard would be pleased
with such an arrangement."
"I should like to be with you, Ellen," was the
reply: "but-for the present-I must remain here," added Katherine, with
some little hesitation.
"Oh! no-you must come with me to Markham
Place," exclaimed Ellen; "and the change of scene will please you.
Besides I have a secret to tell you, Kate."
"A secret!" repeated the maiden.
"Yes a secret that will surprise
you," continued Ellen. "I shall reveal it to you now; but you must not
mention it to any one here for particular reasons which I cannot
explain to you at present. What should you think if I were to tell you that I am
"You! married!" exclaimed
Katherine. "Then why are you still called Miss Monroe?"
"There are certain circumstances which compel me to
keep my marriage a secret. When you come to Markham Place as you
must you will see my father; but never in his presence, nor in
that of Richard when be returns home, may you speak of me as a wife. And now do
you know why I have told you this! Because, as I am determined that you shall
come and pass at least a few days with me, you will see my child "
"Oh! Ellen, are you indeed a mother?" cried
Katherine. "Are you not devotedly attached to your child! do you not
fondle-play with it!"
"I am never wearied of its little company"
answered Ellen. "It is a boy, and named after our mutual benefactor
Richard. And now you know my secret. But tell me, Kate, wherefore you wish to
remain pent up in this secluded dwelling! Has some happy youth in the
neighbourhood touched your heart! You do not answer me. I cannot see you where
you are; but I'll wager that you are blushing. Oh! if there be any truth in my
suspicion, let it be revelation for revelation. We are friends and
you may confide in me."
"I know not how to answer you, Ellen; and
"And yet you have a secret," returned
the young wife, laughing; "oh! yes you have a
secret and you must make me your confidant."
"I am willing to tell you all that relates to this
foolish affair," said Katherine; "but that all is very
And she hesitated, suffused with blushes
even in the nook whither Ellen's eyes were not directed!
"Nay, continue," exclaimed Ellen. "I
perceive that you are about to interest me with the commencement of a charming
little love-tale. Seriously speaking, Kate you will lose nothing
by entrusting your secret to one who may be enabled to give you some useful
counsel in a matter which is of far greater moment than young persons of our sex
are induced to believe!"
"I will conceal nothing from you, Ellen,"
returned Katherine, in a low and timid tone. "It was only at the
commencement of last week that I was rambling in the neighbourhood on
as fine a day as this one has been when I met a young gentleman,
who was crossing the same field as myself, but in an opposite direction. The
path was very narrow; and he stood on one side to allow me to pass. I bowed in
acknowledgment of his politeness, and he raised his hat. The glance that I threw
upon him was of course only momentary; and I passed on. I thought no more of the
"He is doubtless very handsome," said Ellen,
laughing. "All heroes of such romantic adventures are."
"Nay hear me to the end,"
continued Katherine; "for since I have begun this silly tale, I may as well
terminate it. The following day was fine; and I walked out again as
indeed I always do, when the weather will permit. I was proceeding through the
same field "
[-216-] "The same
field," observed Ellen slily.
"Oh! I can assure you, my dear friend, that you do
me an injustice by the suspicion which your words imply," exclaimed
Katherine. "I had totally forgotten the trifling incident of the preceding
day; but I chose that path, it was the same which we took this
morning, because it was dry and hard. To my surprise I again met
that gentleman; and when he made way as before, to let me pass, he looked at me
with an attention not rude, but still earnest. Our eyes met-and I passed hastily
on. I felt myself blushing I knew not why to the
very verge of my forehead. And yet I had done no wrong. I had glanced towards
him as I acknowledged his politeness in stepping aside to allow me to pass; and
it was by accident at least on my part-that our eyes thus met.
When I became more composed, I was angry at having been annoyed with myself. I
then found myself involuntarily reflecting upon the handsome countenance, for
he is handsome, Ellen, of which I had only so hasty a
glimpse. I must admit that I thought of him more than once during the remainder
of that day."
"Love at second sight, we must denominate it,"
observed Ellen, with a smile. "I will hazard a guess that the next day was
fine, for the weather is usually favourable in such
circumstances, and that you unwittingly found yourself rambling in
the same path."
"Ah! Ellen, I am afraid that I was wrong but
all happened as you have described," said Kate, in a soft and melancholy
tone; "and I obeyed some impulse for which I could not account. I candidly
confess that I wondered, as I walked along, whether he would be there again; and
when I did not perceive him, I experienced a sentiment of vexation. At length he
appeared at the extremity of the field he drew near nearer
and nearer. I felt ashamed of myself: it suddenly struck me that he must suppose
I came thither on purpose to see him again. I never thought so little of
myself no, not even when I was pointed at as the presumed relative
of an executioner. I turned abruptly round, and began to retrace my way towards
the farm. I reached the low stile on the brow of the hill: at that moment I
heard steps behind me. I cannot describe the sensations which I then
experienced a few short seconds of pleasing, painful suspense. Ere
a minute had elapsed, the stranger stood by my side; and with a low bow he
extended his hand to assist me in crossing the barrier. My head seemed to swim
round; and I mechanically gave him my hand. He held it but for an instant as I
passed into the next field; and yet he pressed it gently very
gently; still he pressed it! I know not whether I bowed or hurried
abruptly on I was so confused!"
"And during the remainder of that day you pondered
on the incident," observed Ellen.
"Oh! how well you seem to divine all my
thoughts all my emotions!" exclaimed Katherine.
"Love has the same emblems the same
symbols, throughout the world," answered Ellen; "and it also has the
same unvarying worship. Of the true nature of. the great God there are many
conflicting opinions; and different nations offer up their adoration in
different manners. But to that blind deity whom we call Love, there is only one
incense and that is common to all humanity!"
"Then it was not wrong on my part to experience
those emotions which I have explained to you?" said Katherine, with the
most amiable naοvetι.
"Wrong, dearest girl! oh, no!" exclaimed
Ellen. "That heart must be a cold a callous-a worldly-minded
one, which never feels those most beautiful and holy of all sympathies! But go
on with your narrative, Kate; for I feel convinced that you have seen your
handsome lover since the day mentioned."
"I will tell you how we met again," said
Katherine. "On the following day I did not stir abroad: I wished to take my
usual ramble but I feared that I should be doing wrong to incur
the chance of meeting him again. As I was sitting at the parlour window,
he passed. I was so taken by surprise-he appeared so unexpectedly, ah!
no-I am deceiving myself I am deceiving you; he came
not altogether unexpectedly for I had found myself wondering more
than once whether he would again revisit this neighbourhood. He passed the
window, then as I have said; and I did not turn away until it was
too late, he saw me he seemed pleased: he bowed and
I slightly responded to his salutation. Then I retreated from the window, and
did not approach it again during the rest of that day. The next day was wet and
gloomy; and I felt persuaded that I should not see him. Will you blame me if I
say that I was vexed at this circumstance? would you believe me if I declared
that I treated it with indifference? But, ah! my annoyance was soon
dissipated: he passed the house at the same hour as on the
preceding day! He was wrapped in a long military cloak; and when he saw me, he
bowed with the same courtesy as heretofore; but methought he
smiled, as if with satisfaction at seeing me. And now you will say that I am a
vain and foolish girl; but, dearest Ellen, I am faithfully
detailing to you all that occurred, and all the emotions I have
"Proceed, Katherine," said Ellen. "I
become deeply interested in your narrative."
"The next day was fine once more; and I felt
indisposed for want of exercise," continued the maiden. "I accordingly
walked out-but in another direction. How I trembled at the slightest sound which
resembled a footstep! How my heart beat when a bird flew past me! But my
alarms if I can honestly so call them were without
foundation: I beheld not the stranger that day. On the ensuing one I walked out
again in the same direction; and, lost in thought, I rambled to a considerable
distance. But at length I turned homewards once more; and when in sight of the
farm, I suddenly beheld the stranger advancing towards me across a field. He was
pursuing no direct path-my heart beat violently for something told
me that he was coming that way only on my account! In a few moments we met: he
bowed I returned his salutation; he suddenly took my
hand, and pressed it I hastily withdrew it-and passed rapidly
"This mute declaration of love is truly
romantic," said Ellen, laughing, as she threw herself, half undressed, into
an easy chair, and began to unlace the boots which enclosed her pretty feet.
Katherine had emerged from her nook, and was sitting on
the side of the bed which was farthest removed from Ellen; and there, veiling
her blushes behind the curtain, the young maiden continued her artless
"I know not how it was," she said: "but
that gentle pressure seemed to remain upon my hand. I [-217-]
even feel it now, when I think of it. Is not this very foolish, Ellen? But you
wish me to tell you everything; and therefore you must expect to be wearied with
my frivolous details. The incident which I have just related made a profound
impression upon me. The image of the stranger was constantly present to my
memory throughout that day. I fancied that there was something, sincere and
yet extremely respectful,-something fervent and yet quite
inoffensive-in his manner toward me when he seized and pressed my hand. But I
have forgotten to give you some idea of his appearance. He is young tall slight-and
of a dark complexion. He seems to be of a foreign nation. His eyes are black and
animated, and on his lip he wears a small moustache. His gait is elegant. and
his manners are evidently those of a polished gentleman."
"And his name?"' said Ellen. "He has
doubtless communicated that?"
"He has never spoken a word to me," answered
Katherine, with the most ingenuous seriousness. "We have not exchanged a
syllable. I think, indeed, that I have already been sufficiently imprudent in
allowing him to touch my hand. Still I could not have prevented him he
took it suddenly!"
"And you have not exchanged a syllable!"
exclaimed Ellen. "But it is as well that matters have remained where they
appear to be. I will, however, give you my advice presently. In the meantime,
continue your narrative."
"I have little more to say," answered
Katherine, with a sigh. "On the following morning I met him once more that
was three days ago, and he accosted me evidently with the intention of speaking.
But I hurried on; and he stopped. When I was at some distance, I cast a rapid
glance round: he was still standing where I had left him. He saw that I threw
that hasty look behind me, for but, no I cannot tell
you the indiscretion of which he was guilty. It pains me to think of it; and
perhaps he himself is conscious of his impropriety, for I have not seen him
"What, in heaven's name, did he do?" asked
Ellen, surprised by the thoughtful seriousness of her young friend's manner.
"Do you wish me to tell you?" exclaimed Kathe-[-218-]rine.
"Well I must confess all! He kissed his hand to me."
"Were I not afraid of wounding your feelings, I
should laugh immoderately, Kate," said Ellen. "Here was I on the
tenter-hooks of expectation awaiting some truly mortifying
disclosure; and I find that the only fault which your swain has committed, is a
delicate and mute declaration of his attachment. But to speak seriously once
more. If you really entertain any sentiment of interest in behalf of this
handsome stranger, you must allow time and circumstances to serve you. These
romantic meetings, dear Katherine, are calculated to fill your young heart with
hopes which may be cruelly disappointed. If he really experience a tender
feeling towards you, he will find means to make it known in a more satisfactory,
if not more intelligible manner. Then will be the proper. time for your friends
to ascertain who he is. For the present I cannot, as I wish you
well, counsel you to incur the chance of meeting him in that wild
way again. I am glad you have imparted this secret to me. It shall be sacred.
But, oh! I am too intimately acquainted with the World to treat lightly or
neglectfully a matter that may so nearly touch, that does,
perhaps, already to some extent concern, your happiness; more than
ever do I now desire that you should pass a few days with me at Markham Place.
If your stranger really wishes to know more of you, if his views
be honourable, and his pretensions feasible, he will soon institute inquiries at
the farm regarding you. Mr. Bennet will then know how to act. In the meantime
there is no necessity to mention the affair to either him or his wife."
The tender interest of the subject had so completely
absorbed all other ideas in the mind of Katherine, that-no longer under the
restraint of the extreme bashfulness which had driven her into the obscure part
of the chamber in order to lay aside her vesture-she had emerged from the
concealment of the curtain, and gradually approached nearer and nearer towards
Ellen, while the latter was affectionately offering, her counsel.
The scene was now a most touching one.
In the large arm-chair reclined the young wife, her
luxuriant hair, not yet arranged for repose, flowing in shining waves over her
ivory shoulders, and forming a dark curtain behind her arching neck, the
dazzling whiteness and graceful contour of which were thus enhanced with an
effect truly enchanting; while a stray curl of the glossy hair,
detached from the mass behind, and more fortunate than its companions, fell on
the glowing bosom which was without shame revealed in the sanctity of that
And, standing meekly before the young wife, with
downcast eyes and blushing cheeks, was the young virgin, her
white arms supporting the loosened garments over her bosom in that sweet
attitude of modesty which so many great masters have loved to delineate in their
marble representations of female beauty.
It seemed as if Venus, the Queen of Love, were enthroned
In the voluptuous negligence of the boudoir, and had suddenly assumed a
demeanour befitting her sovereign sway, while she tutored one of her attendant
Graces in some lesson whose importance demanded that unusual seriousness.
"And now, dearest Katherine," added Ellen,
after a moment's pause, "I have given you the best advice which my humble
capacity allows me to offer and I think so well of you that I feel convinced of
your readiness to follow it."
"I should be unworthy of your good opinion-I should
despise myself, were I to hesitate a moment what course to pursue,"
returned Kate; and, yielding to the generous emotions of friendship, she threw
herself on the bosom, of her whom she had made the confidant of her young love.
"And you will consent to pass a short time with me
at Markham Place?" said Ellen, embracing her affectionately.
"I will follow your counsel in all things, dear
Ellen," replied the maiden, weeping from emotions of gratitude and love.
Human nature has no essence more pure, the
world knows nothing more chaste, heaven has endowed the mortal
heart with no feeling more holy, than the nascent affection of a young virgin's
The warmest language of the sunny south is too cold to
shadow forth even a faint outline of that enthusiastic sentiment. And God has
made the richest language poor in the same respect, because the depths of hearts
that thrill with love's emotions are too sacred for the common contemplation.
The musical voice of Love stirs the source of the sweetest thoughts within the
human breast, and steals into the most profound recesses of the soul, touching
chords which never vibrated before, and calling into gentle companionship
delicious hopes till then unknown!
Yes the light of a young maiden's first
love breaks dimly but beautifully upon her as the silver lustre of a star
glimmers through a thickly-woven bower; and the first blush that mantles her
cheek, as she feels the primal influence, is faint and pure as that which a
rose-leaf might cast upon marble. But how rapidly does that light grow stronger,
and that flush deeper, until the powerful effulgence of the one
irradiates every corner of her heart, and the crimson glow of the other suffuses
every feature of her countenance.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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