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LONDON [Vol. II]
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PATRICIAN LADY AND THE UNFORTUNATE WOMAN.
RAVENSWORTH retired to her boudoir; and, throwing herself upon a voluptuous
ottoman, she burst into a flood of tears.
The wife of one of England's wealthiest nobles, — mistress
of a splendid mansion and numerous household, — young, beautiful,
and admired, — with a coronet upon her brow, and all the luxuries
and pleasures of the world at her command, — this haughty and
high-born lady now trembled at the idea — now shrunk from the
thought — of meeting an obscure young woman who was forced to accept
a menial place in order to earn her daily bread!
It was a strange coincidence that thus brought Lydia
Hutchinson beneath the roof of Lady Ravensworth, whom the young woman was very
far from suspecting to be that same Adeline Enfield who had been her
companion — nay, her tutoress — in the initiative of
wantonness and dishonour.
Mrs. Chichester had manifested a sisterly kindness
towards the unfortunate Lydia; and, instead of shrinking in disgust, as so many
others would have done, from the young woman who had been urged by stern
necessity to ply a loathsome trade, she had endeavoured, by the most delicate
attentions, to reclaim the mind of society's outcast from the dark ocean of
despair in which it was so profoundly plunged.
The reader has doubtless seen that Lydia Hutchinson had
never courted vice for vice's sake. She was not naturally of a depraved nor
lascivious disposition. Circumstances — amongst which must be
reckoned the treachery exorcised by Lord Dunstable to accomplish her seduction,
and the accident which threw the poor creature upon the tender mercies of Mrs.
Harpy, — had conspired, — fearfully conspired, to brand
her with infamy, and to drag her through the filth and mire of the various
phases which characterise the downward path of a career of prostitution.
Necessity had made her what she was!
Mrs. Chichester comprehended all this; and she was not
one of those who believe that there is no sincere penitence — no
reformation for the lost one. She longed to afford Lydia an opportunity of
entering on a course of virtue and propriety. She would have willingly afforded
the poor creature a permanent asylum, as a matter of charity, and even to insure
a companion to cheer her own species of semi-widowed loneliness; but she was
well aware that eleemosynary aid of such a kind, by retaining its object in a
condition of idleness and of dependence, was of a most demoralising nature. She
wished to give Lydia an opportunity of retrieving her character in her own
estimation, and of regaining a proper confidence In herself; and she resolved
that no excess of indulgence, nor extreme of charity, on her part, should permit
the young woman to live in an indolence that might unfit her for any occupation
in case of ultimate necessity, and that would thus fling her back upon the last
and only resource — a recurrence to the walks of ignominy [-232-]
and crime. To reclaim and reinstate, as it were the unfortunate Lydia
Hutchinson, was Viola Chichester's aim; and the object of this humane solicitude
was deeply anxious to second, by her own conduct, the intentions of her generous
As time wore on, Lydia improved greatly in mental
condition and personal appearance: her thoughts became settled and composed, and
her form resumed much of the freshness which had characterised her youth. She
speedily began to express a desire to exert herself in some honest employment to
gain her livelihood; — she also felt that indolence and dependence,
even in the presence of the best moral examples, produce a vitiated frame of
mind; — and she revolted from the mere idea of a relapse into the
horrible path from which a friendly hand had redeemed her, as the most appalling
catastrophe that her imagination could conceive.
Mrs. Chichester felt so persuaded of Lydia's firmness of
purpose in pursuing a career of rectitude, that she resolved to take a step
which only the extreme urgency of the case and a settled conviction of the young
woman's inclination to do well, could justify. This was to obtain her a
situation in some family. Lydia was overjoyed at the proposal. An advertisement
was accordingly inserted in a newspaper; and a few days brought many written
answers. Miss Villiers — now Lady Bounce — called
personally, and was so pleased with Lydia's manner that she put no special
questions to Mrs. Chichester.
Viola, however, addressed Miss Villiers thus: — "The
young woman who now stands before you has been unfortunate — very
unfortunate; and hers has been the fate of the unfortunate. She is most anxious
to eat the bread of industry and honesty. I am persuaded that a kind hand
stretched out to aid her in this desire, will raise her to happiness, and ensure
her lasting gratitude."
Miss Villiers was a young lady of an excellent heart:
she did not completely understand all that Mrs. Chichester meant; but she
comprehended enough to render her willing to assist a fellow-creature who sought
to earn her livelihood honourably, and who seemed to possess the necessary
qualifications for the employment desired. Thus the bargain was hastily
concluded; and when Miss Villiers desired Lydia to join her on a certain day at
Ravensworth Hall, the young woman entertained not the least idea that her school
friend Adeline Enfield was Lady Ravensworth, the mistress of that lordly
We will now return to Adeline, whom we left weeping in
The presence of Lydia in that house was indeed enough to
alarm and embarrass her. Not that she precisely feared exposure at Lydia's hands
in respect to the past — especially as it would been easy to deny
any derogatory statement of the kind. But Adeline felt that she should now
possess a dependant before whom her dignity and self-confidence would ever be
overwhelmed by the weight of that dread secret of which Lydia's bosom was the
depository. Such a prospect was most galling — most
humiliating — most degrading to the mind of the haughty peeress.
"But of what avail are tears?" said Adeline,
suddenly. "The danger is here — the evil is before me. We must
meet: — it were better that I should see her at once! Doubtless she
is unaware in whose abode she is now a menial!"
Adeline wiped her eyes, rang the bell, and reseating
herself, assumed as composed a manner as possible under the circumstances.
In a few moments she hoard footsteps approaching.
"This is my lady's apartment," said the
house-keeper in the passage.
"Thank you," replied another voice.
Oh! how Adeline's heart beat; — the
well-remembered tones of Lydia Hutchinson had just met her ears.
Then she heard the retreating sounds of the
housekeeper's footsteps; and there was a gentle knock at the door of their
"Come in," said Adeline, in a half-stifling
voice. The door opened, and Lydia Hutchinson entered the room.
Lady Ravensworth's countenance was averted towards the
fire; and it was not until she heard the door close that she turned towards
Lydia, who was in a state of trembling anxiety, mingled with curiosity, as to
what might be the disposition of her mistress.
But no pen can describe the astonishment of the young
woman, when by that pale but beautiful countenance, which was now suddenly
turned towards her, she recognised her whom she had so much reason never to
Staggering towards the mantel for support, and with her
eyes fixed almost wildly upon her mistress, she exclaimed, "Miss Enfield!
Is it indeed you?"
"I am Lady Ravensworth," was the somewhat
"Oh! now I understand it all!" cried Lydia, an
expression of sincere gratitude animating her countenance, while she clasped her
hands fervently together: "you have taken compassion on me at length, — you
discovered where I was residing, — you sent some friend to engage me
as if for herself~ — and you were determined to surprise me by this
proof of your goodness — this token of your kind remembrance of
"No," returned Adeline: "accident alone
has brought you into my service; and you must well understand that I am not over
well pleased with the coincidence. In a word, name the sum that will satisfy you
for the loss of a good place — and take your departure. You can
leave to me the invention of some proper excuse — "
"Is it possible?" ejaculated Lydia; "this
cold — heartless — ungrateful reception — "
"Do you recollect to whom you are speaking?"
demanded Adeline, the colour mounting to hot cheeks.
"Oh! yes, — I know that full well — too
well," said Lydia, again clasping her hands, and casting her eyes upwards,
as if in appeal to heaven against the ingratitude of the world. "I stand in
the presence of one to save whose good fame I sacrificed my own — to
shield whom from the finger of scorn and reproach, I allowed myself to be made a
victim! Yes, proud lady of Ravensworth — so many years have not
elapsed since, in my cold and cheerless garret, in the depth of a winter night,
you gave birth — "
"Silence, Lydia!" ejaculated Adeline, her lips
quivering, and the colour coming and going on her cheeks with rapid
alternations. "Let us not refer to the past. The present — "
"No," interrupted Lydia, in a solemn tone:
"you can not — you shall not deter me from
talking of the past. For you, lady, are so highly exalted above [-233-]
that it is almost impossible for you to shape the least — the
faintest — the most remote idea of the depth of misery into which I
have been plunged. And yet I pant — I long — I feel a
burning desire to make you comprehend all I have suffered; — because
to my acquaintance with you — to my fatal connexion with you at the
seminary — may be traced all the sorrows — the profound,
ineffable woes — the degradations — the terrible
afflictions that have since marked my career!"
"I will not hear more; — I cannot
permit you thus to insult — to upbraid me," faltered Lady
Ravensworth, her bosom agitated with the most cruel emotions.
"Oh! I have longed for this opportunity to meet you
face to face, and tell you all I have suffered, and all I now feel!"
exclaimed Lydia; "and it is not likely that I will abandon so favourable an
occasion. No — you have triumphed over me long enough you have used
me as a tool when it suited your convenience — and you spurned me
when I had ceased to be useful. Though maintaining your own outward
respectability, honour, and good name upon the wreck of mine, you dare to treat
me with the blackest ingratitude. Lady Ravensworth, I said that all I have
endured was traceable to you! When I first met you at the Kensington seminary, I
was pure, artless, innocent: — you wore already initiated in the
secrets of intrigue — you were even then, at that tender age, a
wanton in your heart."
"Lydia — Miss Hutchinson! Oh! my
God!" exclaimed Adeline, covering her face with her hands.
"Yes-you were already trembling on the verge of
dishonour — you were courting seduction and all its
consequences!" continued the unfortunate woman, upbraiding that proud
peeress with a remorselessness, a bitterness, and a feeling of delighted
vengeance that made her language the more terrible and its effect more
overwhelming. "I even remember still — Oh! how well I
remember — that you were the first who opened my eyes to the
existence of female frailty. Yes — I, who went to that school as a
teacher, was taught by a pupil! And merciful heavens! what did you teach me? You
led me on step by step in the path of duplicity and dishonour: you made me the
companion of your own amours; and we became victims to our seducers on the some
[-234-] "Oh! spare
me — spare me!" moaned Adeline. "My God! if we were
overheard! I would be 1ost — ruined — undone!"
"Rest tranquil on that head: — it does
not suit my present purposes to betray you — and I will explain my
reason shortly. In the meantime," continued Lydia Hutchinson, "I must
recall to your recollection all those circumstances which led me to sacrifice
myself to save you."
"No — no: I remember everything. Say no
more, Lydia," cried Lady Ravensworth. "Tell me what you require — what
I can do for you! Will you have money? or — "
"Peace! — silence!" said Lydia,
eyeing the patrician lady with a glance of ineffable scorn. "Oh!" she
added, almost wildly, "I have sold myself for gold; — but
never — never may that occur again; either bodily or morally! Your
ladyship declares you remember all that has ever passed, between us! Then does
your ingratitude become infinitely the more vile and contemptible. For when you
lay writhing in the agonies of maternity, I was there, — there in
that cold and cheerless garret, — to minister unto you! And when the
lifeless form of your babe was discovered concealed amongst my clothes — in
my room — and in my box, — I did not turn to the
schoolmistress and say, It is not mine: it is Miss Adeline Enfield's; — When,
too, I saw that you were so weak, so feeble, and so suffering that the cold
night air would kill you, I took your child, and, like a thief, I stole away
from the house to sink the corpse in a distant pool. For you had said to me, 'Keep
my secret, dearest Lydia: the honour of a noble family depends upon your
prudence!' — My prudence! Oh! no: — the honour of your
family depended on the sacrifice of mine! And I did sacrifice my
family to save you — for to all that I did for you may be traced the
broken heart of my poor father and the assassination of my brother by the hand
of the duellist!"
"Oh! spare me — spare me!" again
exclaimed Lady Ravensworth. "I have been very ungrateful — very
unkind; but now, Lydia, I will endeavour to compensate you for all that has
"One being alone can so compensate me, lady,"
said Miss Hutchinson in a solemn tone; "and that being is God! No human
power can give me back my poor father or my much-loved brother: no human agency
can obliterate from my mind those infamies and degradations to which I have been
subject. What amount of gold can reward me for days of starvation and nights of
painful wanderings amidst the creatures of crime, without a place to repose my
aching, shivering limbs? And sometimes, amidst the overwhelming crowd of sorrows
that so often drove me to the river's bank, or made me pause on the threshold of
the chemist's-shop where poison was to be procured, — I saw, from
time to time, your name mentioned in the newspapers. Oh! what memories did those
occasions recall! On the very day that you were presented at Court, I had not a
crust to eat! And twice on that day did I seek the river's brink, whence I
turned away again — afraid of changing even the horrible certainties
of this life's sufferings for the more appalling uncertainties of another
"Lydia — Lydia, you are killing
me!" exclaimed Lady Ravensworth. "Pity me — if not for
myself, for the sake of the innocent child which I bear in my bosom. Tell me
what I can do for you — what you require — "
"My views are soon explained," interrupted
Lydia. "I demand permission to remain in the service of your
"Oh! no — no: impossible!" said
Adeline, in an imploring tone.
"It must be as I say," observed Lydia, coolly.
"Insolent menial!" ejaculated Lady Ravensworth,
losing all command over herself. "Leave me — quit this
house — go "
"Do you dare me?" said Miss Hutchinson.
"I assured your ladyship ere now that it did not suit my present plans to
expose you; because I seek to remain in your service. But, if you essay again to
triumph over me — to spurn me from your presence — I
will, remorselessly and fearlessly, proclaim the past."
"And who will believe you?" cried Adeline,
trembling with mingled alarm and rage: "who will believe you? The whole
world will denounce you as an impostress. Nay — more: I will punish
you — yes, I will punish you for your insolence! I will declare that
you have attempted to extort money from me by means of the most diabolical
threats — "
"Think not that I am to be intimidated by your
ladyship's miserable subterfuges," interrupted Lydia, who grew if possible
more cold and contemptuous in her manner in proportion as the proud patrician
became excited and indignant. "Are there no witnesses to speak to
collateral facts! Could Cholmondeley and Dunstable prove nothing against
"They would not raise their voices against a noble
lady's fame," said Adeline, impatiently.
"They would speak the truth when placed on their
oaths in a court of justice," exclaimed Lydia, confidently; "for it is
to a court of justice that your ladyship threatens to drag me, And now, proud
peeress, I dare you to the public investigation! Throw open the door — summon
your domestics — send me to a gaol! — but the day of
fair and searching scrutiny must come — and I should await in
confidence the reply that a British judge and a British jury would give to the
vile calumny of even a lady so highly exalted as yourself!"
"Enough!" cried Adeline, now almost purple
with rage, and every vein on her forehead swollen almost to bursting. "I
accept your challenge — for I well know that I can rely upon the
honour of Lord Dunstable and Colonel Cholmondeley. Yes — yes: they
would sooner perjure themselves than attaint the honour of a peeress!"
"There is one other consideration, then," said
Lydia, still completely unruffled: "and perhaps the ingenuity of your
ladyship will devise a means of frustrating that test also."
"To what do you allude?" demanded Adeline.
"I mean that when you summon your domestics to drag
me to a gaol on a charge of extortion," replied Lydia, contemptuously,
"that moment do I proclaim the history of the past! Then will medical
experience speedily prove whether Lady Ravensworth now bears her first child
in her bosom!"
Adeline uttered a faint shriek, and fell back upon the
sofa, overwhelmed by this dread menace.
That shriek was accompanied by a low moan that seemed to
come from the passage outside.
Lydia hastened towards the door; but ere she had half
crossed the room, it was thrown violently open. and Lord Ravensworth entered the
husband!" screamed Adeline, in a frantic tone: then, flinging herself on
her knees before him, she cried, "Mercy! mercy!"
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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