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HANDSOME STRANGER. — DISAPPOINTMENT
the ensuing morning Farmer Bennet departed early for London.
After breakfast, Ellen said, with a significant smile
"The weather is fine, Kate: let us take advantage of it. Your country air
does me so much good."
Katherine blushed, and then smiled also; but she,
offered no objection to the proposed walk.
The toilette of the young ladies was soon complete; and
they sallied forth on their little excursion.
"Mr. Bennet has promised to call at Markham
Place," observed Ellen. "I have written a note to my father, stating
that I shall return to-morrow, or next day at latest; and I have intimated my
intention of bringing you with me. I most sincerely hope that some fresh tidings
have been received from Richard."
"And in that wish I earnestly partake, said
Katherine. "But wherefore do you choose this path?" she added in a
tremulous tone, and with downcast eyes.
[-219-] "Because it is
the most pleasant," answered Ellen, laughing. "It seems, moreover,
that your hand some stranger was determined to seek you in one direction, as
well as in another; and if he be in the neighbourhood this morning, rest assured
that he will see you — whichever way you may pursue Love has as many
eyes in this respect as Argus. I am with you, dear Kate — you have a
companion, and there is no indiscretion in even taking this very path where you
have on most occasions met your unknown. Besides, should he be here to-day, I am
anxious to catch a glimpse of him. To-morrow or next day you will leave this
vicinity of pleasant memories — at least for a time; and — "
"Ellen, Ellen!" murmured Kate, suddenly; as
she caught her companion by the arm.
"Ah! I understand I — compose yourself,
Katherine. — compose yourself," was the rapid reply. "It
would be improper to betray any emotion. See — he is approaching
slowly; — in the name of heaven, compose yourself!"
And, in effect, a handsome young man, with a dark
completion, fine and expressive eyes, and a graceful figure, — was
advancing in the opposite direction. But he came slowly, as if anxious to keep
some favourite object as long in view as possible!
How the pulse of the maiden's young heart quickened, as
she beheld her unknown lover approaching.
And now the handsome stranger came near: — and
Katherine drew close to her companion, as the timid fawn relies for protection
on the stately deer.
The look of the stranger was cast for a moment upon
Ellen; but not the bright glance of her eye — nor the rich colouring
of her cheeks, framed as they were in masses of glossy hair — nor
that symmetry of swelling bust, delicate waist, and matchless proportions of a
finely-moulded form, — not this assemblage of charms induced the
stranger to dwell for more than an instant on Katherine's companion No: — it
was to Katherine herself that his eyes reverted with adoring glance; and though
he gazed fixedly upon the retiring maiden, yet there was something so respectful
in his manner, that it was impossible to take offence at it.
He made way for the two ladies, and raised his hat as
Katherine returned the salutation without turning her
eyes towards him.
"Your stranger is not only handsome," observed
Ellen, when they were at such a distance as to incur no danger of being
overheard; "but he is also of an appearance so respectable — so
superior, — I had almost said noble, — that I cannot for
a moment suppose his intentions to be dishonourable. At the same time, why does
he not address you? He might, without impropriety, have taken advantage of my
presence to speak to you; and, to tell you the truth, it was to afford him such
an opportunity that I brought you in this direction."
We need not record the conversation that ensued the
reader does not require to be informed that its principal topic was the love of
the young maiden-a theme on which she was naturally pleased to speak, and in the
discussion of which Ellen indulged her, — not, however, with the
view of fanning the flame of incipient passion; but with the affectionate motive
of warning her against the encouragement of hopes which might never be
The walk was prolonged until two o'clock, when the young
ladies retraced their steps to the farm. Mr. Bennet had not yet returned from
London: dinner was however served up. The fresh air had given Ellen an appetite;
but Katherine ate little, and was somewhat pensive.
Indeed, the maiden had sufficient to engage the
meditation of her young mind. The evident impression which the handsome stranger
had made upon her, and the hope that evening would bring her the much-desired
information relative to her parents, divided her thoughts.
But of what nature would the old woman's secrets prove!
In what manner were they to be a source of comfort to her? It will be remembered
that Smithers had made her acquainted with certain particulars relative to her
mother; and the sad inference had been that Katherine was of illegitimate birth.
Would the tendency of the old woman's communications be to clear up this mystery
in a manner satisfactory to the young maiden? As yet all was doubt and
uncertainty; and conjecture was vain!
It was about four o'clock when the farmer made his
He entered the parlour, where Ellen, Katherine, and Mrs.
Bennet were sitting, with a countenance expressive of supreme satisfaction.
"I have glorious news for you, young ladies,"
he exclaimed; "and, indeed, all who know Mr. Markham — I beg
his pardon, the Marquis — must be rejoiced."
"Oh! what of him!" ejaculated Ellen and Kate,
as it were in one breath.
"Patience for a moment," said the farmer.
"Here is a letter from Mr. Monroe to you, Miss," — addressing
Ellen; "and that will explain every thing yet known of the affair."
Ellen hastily tore open her father's note, and began to
read its contents aloud
"January 29th, 1841.
"You will be supremely delighted, dearest Ellen, to
hear the joyful tidings which I am able to communicate. This morning's
newspapers publish a Telegraphic Despatch from Toulon, stating that a
grand and decisive battle took place beneath the walls of Montoni on the 23d.
Richard was completely victorious. The Austrian army was routed with tremendous
loss; the Grand Duke fled; and the capital was delivered. Our dear benefactor is
safe. The steamer which conveyed these tidings to Toulon left Montoni in the
afternoon of the 24th, at the moment when Richard was entering the city — as
the Regent of Castelcicala!
"Nothing more is known at present; but this is
enough not only to reassure us all — but to fill our hearts with
joy. My blood glows in my veins, old as I am, when I think of Richard's grand
achievements. To what a proud height has he raised himself — second
only to a sovereign! As I looked forth from the casement ere now, and beheld the
two trees on the hill-top, I could not avoid a sorrowful reflection concerning
Eugene. What can have become of him? — "
"Heavens! dearest Ellen, are you ill!"
exclaimed Katherine, seeing that her friend suddenly turned ashy pale.
""No, Kate: it is nothing! The abruptness with
which we have received these tidings — "
"Yes — you are unwell,"
persisted Katherine, and she hastened to procure water.
Ellen drank some; and the colour slowly returned to her
"I am better now, Kate," she said. "Do
you terminate the perusal of my father's letter."
perceiving that her friend really seemed to have revived, read the remainder of
the note in the following manner:-
"1 fear that he will not be enabled to tell so
glorious a tale as his younger brother — even if the appointment be
really kept on his part But enough of that. You speak of bringing Miss Wilmot,
to pass a few days at the Place. I entirely approve of the project, if the
excellent people with whom she is living, and of whom Richard has spoken to us
so highly, be willing to part with her.
"I must not forget to mention that poor Whittingham
is nearly crazed with joy at Richard's success. You remember his extravagant but
unfeigned manifestation of delight when we received the tidings of the battle of
Abrantani and its results. Then the worthy fellow danced and capered madly,
exclaiming, 'Master Richard a Markis!' all day long. But when I read him
the Telegraphic Despatch this morning, he took his hat and kicked it all round
the room~ — a new hat too, — until it was battered into
a state beyond redemption, — shouting all the time, Here's a
glorious cataplasm!'-(meaning, 'catastrophe,' no doubt): — 'Master
Richard a Markis, and a Regency!/ I'll get drunk to-night, sir: I haven't been
intosticated for many a year, but I'll get drunk to-tight, in spite of all the
Teetotallers in London! Thank God for this glorious cataplasm! And he rushed
out of the room to communicate the news in his own way to Marian. But conceive
my surprise when I presently heard the report of fire-arms: I listened — a
second report followed — a third — a fourth. I became
alarmed, and hastened into the garden. There was Whittingham firing a salute
with his old blunderbuss; and Marian's new plaid shawl was floating, by way of a
banner, from the summit of a clothes prop fixed in the ground. Poor Marian did
not seem to relish the use to which her Sunday shawl was thus unceremoniously
converted; but all the satisfaction she could obtain from Whittingham was, It's
a glorious cataplasm! Master Richard's a Regency!' And away the old
blunderbuss blazed again, until the salute was complete. I do really believe the
excellent-hearted old man intends to illuminate the Place this evening; and I
shall not interfere with the ebullition of his honest joy.
"I write this long letter while Mr. Bennet partakes
of some refreshment.
"Trusting to see you and your young friend
to-morrow or next day at latest, I am, dearest Ellen," &c., &c.
It is unnecessary to state that the news from Montoni
diffused the most lively joy amongst the party assembled in the parlour of the
Ellen speedily recovered her usual flow of excellent
spirits, and expressed her sincere satisfaction at that remarkable elevation on
the part of Richard which had excited the enthusiasm of her father.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet offered no objection to the proposal
that Kate should pay a visit to Markham Place: on the contrary, though grieved
to part with her, they considered that change of scene could not do otherwise
than benefit her.
And now the appointed hour for the meeting with the old
woman drew near; and Mr. Bennet provided Kate with the necessary funds for her
Shortly before seven, the farmer (provided with a brace
of loaded pistols) and Ellen repaired to the same biding-place which they had
occupied on the preceding evening; and, with a beating heart, Katherine hastened
to the spot where she expected to encounter one who had promised to reveal
secrets so nearly concerning her.
The old woman did not, however, make her appearance.
The minutes passed slowly away — and still
she came not.
Katherine's anxiety was intense.
Half an hour had elapsed: still there was no sign of the
The young maiden waited until past eight o'clock; and at
length she suddenly perceived two persons advancing towards her at a little
For a moment she felt afraid; but the farmer's voice
speedily reassured her.
Ellen and he were alarmed at Katherine's prolonged
absence, and had come to seek her.
Finding that the old woman had not made her appearance,
they began to view the entire affair with some suspicion; and Kate was compelled
to return with them to the farm — a prey to the most cruel
"If the old woman was prevented, by any unforeseen
circumstances from meeting you," said the farmer, "she will
communicate with you early tomorrow. Perhaps we may be favoured with another
visit from her emissary, Mr. Banks; but should he come, I shall take good care
that he treats us to a sight of no more model-coffins."
During the remainder of the evening Kate was pensive and
melancholy; nor could all Ellen's affectionate endeavours wean her from her
They retired to rest early; and Katherine rose next
morning with the hope of receiving tidings from the old woman.
But hour after hour passed without gratifying her wish.
Ellen purposely delayed their departure for London, to
afford a fair opportunity for the arrival of any intelligence which the old
woman might forward; but three o'clock came, and still all was blank
disappointment and mystery in respect to the affair.
Then Kate herself saw the inutility of tarrying longer;
and, having taken an affectionate farewell of Mrs. Bennet, the young ladies were
accompanied by the farmer to Hounslow. There they obtained a conveyance for the
capital, and Mr. Bennet saw them depart in safety.
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