chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >
HUSBAND, THE WIFE, AND THE UNFORTUNATE WOMAN.
mercy!" were the words that burst from the lips of the affrighted lady, ere
she paused to reflect whether the preceding conversation had been overheard or
"Rise," said Lord Ravensworth, his quivering
lip, flashing eye, hectic cheek, heaving chest and clenched hand denoting a more
powerful excitement than he had experienced for a long, long time. "Rise,
madam: this is a subject which cannot be disposed of in passionate
ejaculations; — it requires a calmer deliberation — for
the honour of two noble families is now at stake!"
"Then you know all!" cried Adeline, in an
agonising tone, as she embraced her husband's knees.
"Yes — I overheard enough to enable me
to comprehend the whole truth," returned the nobleman who for the time
being seemed to have altogether thrown off the apathetic lethargy which had
characterised him lately with such few intermissions.
Then, as he was yet speaking, he forcibly raised his
wife from her suppliant position, and placed her upon the ottoman.
Taking a chair near her, he pointed to another, and,
glancing towards Lydia, said in a tone rather mournful than angry, "Young
woman, be seated."
Lydia obeyed mechanically; for she herself was alarmed
at the serious turn which the affair had taken.
"Adeline," said the nobleman, after a short
pause, during which he evidently endeavoured to compose his feelings as much as
possible," before we enter upon this sad topic, I must in justice to myself
observe that I did not seek your chamber to play the eaves-dropper. I felt
unwell in the drawing-room ere now, and I retired to my own cabinet to solace
myself in the usual manner with the meerschaum. But it struck me that I had
been better during all the early part of the morning than for some weeks past;
and, after a long struggle with myself, I resolved to renounce the pipe. On my
return to the drawing-room, I heard that you were suddenly indisposed; and I
came hither to inquire after you. But at the moment I reached your door, I
overheard words which struck me as with a thunderbolt. Then I listened — and
overheard much — too much!"
"And now you hate — you despise
.me!" cried Adeline, wildly: "you will thrust me forth from your
dwelling — you will cover me with shame! No — no,"
she added hysterically, "death — death before such a
"Calm yourself, Adeline," said Lord
Ravensworth, who evidently suppressed his own feelings with great difficulty:
"I before observed that there is the honour of two families to
preserve — that of Rossville and of Ravensworth. Give me your
"My Bible!" exclaimed Adeline, in astonishment
mingled with alarm.
"Yes — your Bible. Where is it?"
"There — there!" said Adeline in a
faint tone — for she was at a loss to divine the meaning or
intention of her husband; and that mysterious uncertainty filled her with vague
Lydia rose, and taking the Bible from a small book-case
to which Lady Ravensworth pointed, handed it to the nobleman.
"Will you swear, Adeline," he said, in a
solemn and impressive tone, — "will you swear upon this volume
which contains the Word of God, that the child you now bear in your bosom is
mine, and that since your marriage you have never forgotten the fidelity due to
a husband? Will you swear this, Adeline!"
"I will — I will!" she exclaimed,
in almost a joyful tone, as if she were satisfied that her conjugal faith should
be put to such a test.
"Swear, then," said Lord Ravensworth;
"and invoke God to cast you dead — dead this minute at my
feet — if you swear falsely."
"I do — I do!" cried Lady
Ravensworth: then, taking the holy volume in her hand, she said in a calmer and
more measured tone, "I swear, as I hope for future salvation, that I have
never been unfaithful, even in thought, to my marriage vow, and that the child I
bear in my bosom is my husband's. This I swear by every thing sacred and holy;
and if I have sworn falsely, may the great God cast me dead at your feet."
She then kissed the book.
There was a solemn pause: — Lady Ravensworth
was now perhaps the most composed of the three, for she saw that her husband was
satisfied in all that concerned his own honour since the day he had led her to
As for Lydia — she was overawed and even
alarmed at that imposing ceremony of a husband administering an oath to his
wife; and Lord Ravensworth remained for some moments absorbed in deep thought.
"Yes," he suddenly exclaimed, as if continuing
aloud the thread of his silent thoughts, — "the honour of two
families must be preserved! And, after all, — perhaps I am rightly
served! A man of my years should have sought a partner of a fitting age; but it
is the fault — the error — the curse of elderly men to
believe that their rank and wealth warrant them in seeking some young girl who
may thus become as it were a victim. Then mothers take advantage of that longing
to obtain a wife of comparatively tender years; and those worldly-minded
parents — "
"My lord — my lord, spare my
feelings!" ejaculated Adeline, now painfully excited. "My mother knew
not of her daughter's frailty — "
"Well — enough on that head!" said
Lord Ravensworth, somewhat impatiently. "The past cannot be recalled: let
us secure the honour of the future. You have erred in your girlhood, Adeline!
and there," he added, indicating Lydia, "is one who knows that sad
secret. You have been ungrateful to her — by her accusations
and your acknowledgment; and she holds you in her power. Not you
alone: — but she holds your family and mine — for
an exposure would create a scandal that must redound upon us all!"
"I have no wish to avail myself of the possession
of that secret for such an object," said Lydia. "I have two motives
for desiring to remain at least a year in her ladyship's service."
"Never!" cried Adeline, emphatically. "It
is you who have made all this mischief!"
"Silence, Adeline," said Lord Ravensworth, [-236-]
sternly; then, turning towards Lydia, he added, "Young woman, proceed — and
"I stated that I had two objects to serve in being
anxious to remain in her ladyship's service for one year," continued Lydia.
"In the first place I have been so unfortunate — so very, very
miserable, that I wish to calm my livelihood by servitude, and it is my hope to
remain here until her ladyship can conscientiously give me such a character as
will ensure me a good situation elsewhere."
"That is naturally understood," observed Lord
Ravensworth. "What is your second motive?"
"My second motive!" repeated Lydia, with the
least accent of bitterness: "oh! that I will explain to her ladyship in
private — and she will be satisfied!"
"Now listen to me," said the nobleman.
"Lady Ravensworth dislikes the idea that you should remain here. I will
give you the means of settling yourself comfortably for life, if you will leave
forthwith, and promise solemnly to preserve that fatal secret which you
"My lord," answered Lydia, respectfully but
firmly, "I return you my most sincere thanks for that bounteous offer which
I am compelled to decline. Were I to accept your lordship's conditions, my aims
would not be answered. In respect to my first object, I have determined to earn
a character that may to some extent retrieve the past; — for, as
your lordship must have gathered from the conversation which you overheard, I
have been unfortunate — very unfortunate!"
"Merciful heavens!" exclaimed Adeline;
"how can I retain you in my service? You have belonged to a class — oh!
no — it is impossible — impossible!"
"I do not wish to insult your feelings, young
woman," said Lord Ravensworth; "especially since you manifest so
praiseworthy a desire to retrieve your character. But you must perceive the
impossibility, as her ladyship observes, of retaining you in our service. You
might be known — recognised."
"I understand your lordship," interrupted
Lydia, bitterly; "I might be recognised as an unhappy creature who had once
earned a livelihood by parading the public streets. That is scarcely
probable: — I am much changed since then. The kindness of an
excellent lady has enabled me to recruit my strength and to recover a healthy
appearance. Yes — I must be altered; for your lordship does not
perceive in me the poor miserable starving wretch who some few months since
accosted her ladyship in Saint James's Street."
Ah! I recollect," exclaimed the nobleman, as the
incident flashed to his mind. "I only observed you for a moment on that
occasion; but still — so miserable was your appearance — it
made an impression on my mind. Yes — you are indeed changed!
Nevertheless, those who saw you in an unhappy career, before you became so
reduced as you were on the occasion which you have mentioned, might recognise
you. And — pardon my frankness, young woman; but the subject admits
not of the measurement of words — what would be thought of me — of
my wife — of all the other members of my household — "
"If I were seen in your establishment, your
lordship would add," exclaimed Lydia. "I admit the truth of all your
lordship states: still my wish to remain a member of that establishment is
unchanged. For — as your lordship may have ere now gathered from our
conversation — it was her ladyship who first placed me in those
paths which led to my ruin and it must be her ladyship who shall aid me in
earning an honourable character once more."
"But this punishment is too severe!" exclaimed
Adeline, almost wringing her hands; for she perceived how completely the honour
of two families was in Lydia's power.
"Consider, I implore you, the position of my
wife," said the nobleman: "in a few weeks she will become a
"My lord, her ladyship never had any consideration
for me, from the first moment that I ceased to be useful to her," returned
Lydia, with inexorable firmness; "and I cannot consent to sacrifice what I
consider to be my own interests to her ladyship's wishes now."
Then Lydia Hutchinson rose, as if to intimate that her
determination was unchangeable; and that obscure girl was enabled to dictate her
own terms to the noble peer and the proud peeress.
"It must be so, then — it must be
so," said Lord Ravensworth, with a vexation of manner which he could not
conceal. "You shall have an apartment in my establishment and handsome
wages: — all I exact is that you do not force your attentions on her
ladyship save when she demands them."
"If I remain here, it must be in the capacity of
her ladyship's principal attendant," returned Lydia: "otherwise I
could not fairly earn a good character in the eyes of the other dependants of
"Perdition! young woman," exclaimed the
nobleman; "you demand too much!"
"More than I will ever concede," added Lady
Ravensworth, unable to restrain a glance of malignity and desperate hate towards
"Then your lordship will permit me to take my
departure," said she, calmly; and she moved towards the door.
"My God! she will reveal every thing!" almost
shrieked Lady Ravensworth.
"Yes — every thing," said Lydia,
returning the look which Adeline had cast on her a few moments before.
"Stay, young woman — this may not
be!" ejaculated Lord Ravensworth. "You exercise your power with a
"The world has been a fearful despot towards me, my
lord," was the firm but calm reply.
"And with your tyranny in this respect you will
kill my wife — kill my yet unborn child!" exclaimed the
nobleman, rising from his seat and pacing the room in a state of desperate
excitement. "But the honour of the Rossvilles and the Ravensworths must be
preserved — at any sacrifice — at any risk! — Yes — though
you bring misery into this house, here must you remain — since such
is your inflexible will. Were an exposure to take place, the consequences — my
God! would be awful — crushing! The finger of ridicule and scorn
would point at me — the elderly man who espoused the young and
beautiful girl, and who was so proud that he had won her for a wife! And
then — should the child of which she is so soon to become a mother,
prove a son — although the law would recognise him as the heir to my
name and fortune, yet the scandalous world would throw doubts, perhaps, on his
legitimacy. Ah! the thought is maddening! And my brother — my
brother too — "
Lord Ravensworth checked himself in the midst of those
musings, into the audible expression of which the agitation of his mind had
hurried him: — [-237-] he checked
himself, for the convulsive sobs which came from his wife's lips suddenly
reminded him that every word he was uttering pierced like a dagger into her
"Oh! God have mercy upon me!" she exclaimed,
in a voice scarcely audible through the convulsions of her grief: "how
dearly — dearly am I now paying for the errors of my youth!"
"Does that sight not move you, woman?"
muttered the nobleman between his grinding teeth, as he accosted Lydia, and
pointed to the lamentable condition of his wife.
"My lord, I lost all by serving the interests of
her who is now Lady Ravensworth; and it is time that I should think only of my
This reply was given with a frigid — stern — and
inexorable calmness, that struck despair to the heart of the unhappy nobleman
and his still more wretched wife.
"Then be it all as you say — be it all
as you wish, despotic woman!" cried Lord Ravensworth. "Remain
here — command us all — drive us to despair — for
our honour is unhappily in your remorseless hands."
With these words, the nobleman rushed from the room in a
state bordering on distraction.
A few minutes of profound silence elapsed.
Lydia remained standing near the mantel, gazing with
joyful triumph on Adeline, whose head was buried in her hands, and whose bosom
gave vent to convulsive sobs.
Suddenly Lady Ravensworth looked up, and gazed wildly
"He's gone — and you are still
there!" she said, in a low and hoarse voice. "Now we are alone
together — and doubtless I am to look upon you as one determined to
drive me to despair. What other motive had you for insisting upon remaining
"Lady, I will now explain myself," returned
Lydia, speaking slowly and solemnly. "It pierced me to the heart to cause
so much grief to that good nobleman, of whom you are so utterly unworthy; but
for you I have no kind consideration — no mercy. Adeline, I hate
you — I loathe you — I detest you!"
"Merciful heavens!" exclaimed Lady"
Ravensworth: "and you are to be constantly about my person!"
"Yes: and my second motive for remaining here to
enjoy that privilege," continued Lydia, bitterly, "is vengeance!"
"Vengeance!" repeated Adeline, recoiling as it
were from the terrible word, and clasping her hands franticly together.
"Vengeance — vengeance!" continued
Lydia Hutchinson. "Before the rest of the world I shall appear the humble
and respectful dependant — yes, even in the presence of your
husband. But when alone with you, I shall prove a very demon, whose weapons are
galling reproaches, ignominies, insults, and indignities."
"Oh! this is terrible!" cried Adeline, as if
her senses were leaving her. "You cannot be such a fiend."
"I can — I will!" returned Lydia.
"Have I not undergone enough to make me so? And all was occasioned by you!
When I was your wretched tool, you promised me the affection of a sister; and
how did you fulfil your pledge? You came to me at a house where I was a
governess, and whence I was anxious to remove from the importunities of the
master; and there you threw off the mask. I then saw the hollowness of your
soul. My father died of a broken heart, and my brother perished in a duel, in
consequence of my iniquity. But who had made me criminal? You! I called
upon you at Rossville House at a time when a little sympathy on your part might
have still saved me; for I should have felt that I had one friend still
left. But you scorned me — you even menaced me; and I then warned
you that I was absolved from all motives of secrecy on your account. Your black
ingratitude drove me to despair; and I immediately afterwards fell to the lowest
grade in the social sphere — that of a prostitute! Yes — for
I need use no nice language with you. All the miseries I endured in my wretched
career I charge upon your head. And ere now you menaced me again: you threatened
to accuse me falsely of a crime that would render me amenable to the criminal
tribunals of the country. It only required that to fill the cup of your
base ingratitude to the very brim. And think you that your malignant — your
spiteful glances, — your looks of bitter, burning hate, — were
lost upon me? No — you would doubtless assassinate me, if you dared!
Oh! I have long detested you — long loathed your very name! But,
never — never, until we met in this room etc now, did I believe that
my hatred against you was so virulent as it is. And never — never
until this hour did I appreciate the sweets of vengeance. At present I can revel
in those feelings: — I can wreak upon you — and I will — that
revenge which my own miseries and the death of those whom I held dear have
excited in my heart! Your ladyship now knows the terms of our connexion, for one
year; and at the expiration of that period you will be glad — Oh!
too glad to rid yourself of me by giving me a character that will never fail to
procure for me in place in future."
With these words Lydia Hutchinson left the room.
Lady Ravensworth sank back in convulsions of anguish
upon the ottoman.
And Lord Ravensworth, — who throughout the
morning had experienced so much lightness of heart and mental calmness that he
resolved to wrestle in future with that apathy and gloom which drove him to his
pipe, — had shut himself up in his private cabinet, to seek solace
once more in the fatal attractions of the oriental tobacco.
Thus had the presence of Lydia Hutchinson, — once
despised, scorned, and trampled on, — brought desolation and misery
into that lordly dwelling.
O Adeline, Adeline! thou wast now taught a bitter lesson
illustrative of the terrible consequences of ingratitude!
The aristocracy conceives that it may insult the
democracy with impunity. The high-born and the wealthy never stop to consider,
when they put an affront upon the lowly and the poor, whether a day of
retribution may not sooner or later come. The peer cannot see the necessity of
conciliating the peasant: the daughter of the nobility knows not the use of
making a friend of the daughter of the people.
But the meanest thing that crawls upon the earth may
some day be in a position to avenge the injuries it has received from a powerful
oppressor; and the mightiest lord or the noblest lady may be placed in that
situation when even the friendship of the humblest son or the most obscure
daughter of industry [-238-] would be welcome as
the drop of water to the lost wanderer of the desert.
Yes! Most solemnly do I proclaim to you, O suffering
millions of these islands, that ye shall not always languish beneath the yoke of
your oppressors! Individually ye shall each see the day when your tyrant shall
crouch at your feet; and as a mass ye shall triumph over that proud oligarchy
which now grinds you to the dust!
That day — that great day cannot be far
distant; and then shall ye rise — not to wreak a savage vengeance on
those who have so long coerced you, but to prove to them that ye know how to
exercise a mercy which they never manifested towards you; — ye shall
rise, not to convulse the State with a disastrous civil war, nor to hurry the
nation on to the deplorable catastrophe of social anarchy, confusion, and
bloodshed; — but ye shall rise to vindicate usurped rights, and to
recover delegated and misused power, that ye may triumphantly assert the
aristocracy of mind, and the aristocracy of virtue!
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >