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PROGRESS OF LYDIA HUTCHINSON'S VENGEANCE.
means this new device, terrible woman!" cried Adeline, advancing towards
Lydia Hutchinson, and giving vent to the question which was uppermost in her
"Ah! you have already detected my handiwork in the
new source of torment which is now open against you!" said Lydia, with a
smile of triumphant contempt.
"I know that you have forged a letter in imitation
of my writing — " began Adeline.
"And that letter has already produced the desired
effect," interrupted Lydia, coolly; "for five minutes have scarcely
elapsed since Colonel Cholmondeley stole from the private door opening upon the
"Then you were watching the results of your
detestable scheme," cried Lady Ravensworth, in a tone bitter with rage.
"Not only I — but half a dozen of the
other dependants of the household," returned Lydia.
"Merciful God! you have done this, vile
woman!" screamed Lady Ravensworth. "No — no: you surely
could not have been so wicked!"
"I have done it," replied Lydia, in her calm,
"Then it is now for me to think of
vengeance!" said Adeline, conquering the turbulent emotions of passion
which agitated within her, and flinging herself once more upon the sofa, while
her thoughts wandered to the address concealed in the casket of jewels.
"You think of vengeance!" repeated
Lydia, scornfully. "Oh! I should rejoice if you were to meet me with my own
weapons — for such conduct on your part would afford me
scope and excuse for augmenting the means of punishment which I employ. And now
listen to the details of that scheme by which I have this evening so
successfully degraded you."
"Wretch!" muttered Adeline, hoarsely between
"Hard names break no bones, my lady," said
Lydia. "But again I enjoin you to listen to what I have to tell you. I knew
your handwriting well — and it was no difficult thing to imitate it.
I penned that letter which the Colonel ere now showed you — and I
enclosed the key. In the note I desired that no allusion might be made by him to
that letter, because I wished the interview to be a long one, and I suspected
that the suddenness and boldness of his unexpected intrusion would cause a
protracted conversation ere any question on your part would elicit from him the
means by which he had obtained access to your privacy. Nor was I mistaken."
"Then you listened — you overheard all
that passed between us!" cried Adeline.
"Nearly every word," answered Lydia: "I
only quitted the door of this chamber when he was about to leave it."
"And therefore you are well aware that he received
no criminal encouragement on my part?"
"Oh! Is there nothing criminal in the fact of a
lady accepting her seducer — her former lover — the
father of her first child, as her friend! And such a friend as Cholmondeley
would prove!" continued Lydia, in a tone of the most mordent sarcasm:
"such a friend! Good heavens! does your ladyship suppose that that man who
is so selfish in his pleasure — so unprincipled in his adoption of
means to procure the gratification of his wishes — would content
himself with the cold title and small privileges of a friend! No — no!
Were you to encourage his visits to this boudoir, ere the third were passed, you
would become criminal again!"
"And was it to render me criminal again that you
inveigled him hither by an atrocious forgery! exclaimed Adeline.
"Such was not my object," replied Lydia;
"although I have no interest in protecting your virtue! Your virtue — the
virtue of Adeline Enfield — the virtue of Lady Ravensworth! Where
was ever virtue so immaculate!"
"Beware lest you destroy every particle of
virtue — that is, of forbearance — remaining within
me," cried Adeline, her thoughts again reverting to the address which she
had concealed in her jewel-casket.
"Could you kill me, I believe you capable of laying
violent hands upon me," returned Lydia; "for I know how you must hate me — even
as sincerely as I loathe you! But I have before told you that I am stronger than
Adeline made no answer: her mind now dwelt with less
horror than before upon the possible use which she might be driven to make of
the address in the casket.
"Oh! brood — brood over plans of
vengeance," exclaimed Lydia; "and remember that I defy you! All the
dark malignity which is now expressed in your lowering countenance, does not
terrify me. But listen to the conclusion of the narrative which I ere now began.
My object in effecting the prolongation of the interview between Cholmondeley
and yourself, was to afford me leisure to warn those of your servants to whom I
had already hinted my suspicions of your infidelity."
Adeline started convulsively, but checked the reply
which rose to her lips.
"I stationed myself in the garden, accompanied by
the housekeeper," continued Lydia; "for I suspected that your Colonel
would not allow one evening to elapse ere he availed himself of the invitation
which be supposed to have come from you. Nor was I mistaken. We saw him creep
stealthily along towards the private door: we saw him enter. Then, while I flew
hither to listen in the passage to what might pass between you, the housekeeper
hastened to fetch Quentin — "
"Quentin!" cried Adeline, with a shudder.
"Yes — your husband's principal valet
and four of the other servants, that they might watch your [-263-]
supposed lover's departure," continued Lydia. "But fear not that the
tidings will reach your husband. No: my vengeance does not seek to wound
him: — I pity him too much for that! My sole object was to degrade
you in the eyes of your domestics, as I have been degraded in the eyes of
the world; for I must reduce your situation as nearly as I can to the
level of what mine so lately was — that you may understand
how much I have suffered, and how strong is my justification in avenging myself
on the one whose bad example and ungrateful heart threw me into the ways of vice
"And how can you, detestable woman, prevent
my servants from circulating this terrible scandal?" cried Lady Ravensworth,
trembling as she beheld ruin and disgrace yawning like a black precipice at her
feet, ready to engulph her: "how can you seal the lips of Quentin, so that
this same scandal shall not reach the ears of my husband?"
"I have enjoined them all to secresy on many
grounds," answered Lydia: "I have pointed out to them the necessity of
waiting for ampler proofs of your guilt — I have represented to them
the propriety of sparing you in your present position, so near the time of
becoming a mother as you are — and I have also conjured them to
exercise forbearance on account of their lord, for whom they all feel
"Oh! how kind — how considerate were
you in my behalf!" exclaimed Adeline, bitterly: "and yet — were
I already a mother — you would not hesitate, doubtless, to wreak
your fiend-like vengeance upon my poor innocent babe."
"God forbid!" tried Lydia, emphatically:
"no — it is enough that I punish you."
"And yet every taunt you throw in my teeth — every
indignity you compel me to undergo — every torture you inflict upon
me, redound in their terrible effects upon the child which I bear in my
bosom," said Lady Ravensworth, pressing her clasped hands convulsively to
"I know it — and I regret it,"
returned Lydia coldly: "but I cannot consent to forego one tittle of all
the tortures which my mind suggests as a punishment for such a bad and heartless
creature as yourself. I shall now leave you; for I have more work in hand. I
have undertaken to sit up during the first half of the night, in the chamber of
the wounded Lord Dunstable. The housekeeper will relieve me for the second
"Heavens! have you found another object whereunto
wreak your vengeance?" exclaimed Adeline. "Then may God have mercy
upon the unhappy man!"
"Yes — pray for him, Adeline: he will
have need of all your sympathy!"
With these words Lydia Hutchinson left the boudoir.
it was now nine o'clock in the evening: Mr Graham had
been left to dine alone; and Adeline felt the necessity of proceeding to the
drawing-room, to join her guest in partaking of coffee.
A plea of indisposition was offered for her absence from
the dinner-table; and to her questions concerning his patient, Mr. Graham
The evening dragged its slow length wearily along; for
Adeline was too much depressed in spirits to prove a very agreeable companion.
She moreover fancied she beheld an impudent leer upon the countenances of the
domestics who served the coffee; and this circumstance, although in reality
imaginary, only tended to complete her confusion and paralyse her powers of
Were it not that she now dreamt of vengeance in
her turn, — were it not that she beheld a chance of speedily ridding
herself for ever of the torturess whom circumstances had inflicted upon
her, — she could not possibly have endured the weight of the last
indignity forced upon her.
To be made the object, as she deemed herself to be, of
her very servants' scandalous talk and insulting looks, was a position so
utterly debasing, that she would have fled from it by means of suicide, had she
not consoled herself by the idea that a terrible vengeance on the authoress of
her degradation was within her reach.
Crime is like an object of terror seen dimly through the
obscurity of night. When afar off from it, the appearance of that object is so
vaguely horrible — so shapelessly appalling, that it makes the hair
stand on end; but the more the eye contemplates it — the more
familiar the beholder grows with its aspect — and the nearer he
advances towards it, the less terrible does it become; until at length, when he
goes close up to it, and touches it, he wonders that he was ever so weak as to
be alarmed by it.
We have seen Lady Ravensworth recoiling with horror from
the bare idea of perpetrating the crime which the possession of the self-vaunted
bravo's address suggested to her imagination: — the next time it
entered her thoughts, she was less terrified; — a few hours
passed — and she was now wondering calmly and coldly upon the
O God! what is the cause of this! Is there implanted in
the heart of man a natural tendency towards even the blackest crimes — a
tendency which only requires the influence of particular circumstances to
develop it to its dark and terrible extreme?
We may here explain the motives which had induced
Colonel Cholmondeley to endeavour to renew his connexion with Adeline.
Of love remaining to her he had none — even
if he had ever experienced any at all. But his interests might have been
probably served by the restoration of his former influence over her.
He was a man of ruined fortunes — having
dissipated a large property; and although he still contrived to maintain
appearances, the struggle was a severe one, and only kept up with the desperate
view of "hooking an heiress."
Thus, when he found the letter and the key in the
carriage — naturally presuming that Adeline had herself thereby
intimated her readiness to renew their former liaison, — he
began to reflect that Lord Ravensworth was dying — that Lady
Ravensworth might, should she have a son, be speedily left a wealthy widow — or
that at all events she must acquire some fortune at her husband's decease, — and
that he should be acting prudently to adopt all possible means to regain his
ancient influence over her.
This explanation will account for his readiness to act
in accordance with the hint which he had fancied to have been conveyed by
Adeline through the medium of the letter and the key: it will also show
wherefore he humoured her, during their interview [-264-]
in respect to accepting the colder denomination of friend, instead of the
warmer one of lover.
The reader may imagine his confusion, when an
explanation took place relative to the letter and the key; nor need we describe
the bitter feelings with which he beat his ignominious retreat.
It was eleven o'clock at night.
Mr. Graham had just left his patient in a profound
sleep, and had retired to the bed-room allotted to him, Lydia Hutchinson having
already come to keep the promised vigil by the couch of the wounded nobleman.
The curtains were drawn around the bed: wax-lights burnt
upon the mantel.
A deep silence reigned throughout the mansion.
Lydia Hutchinson threw herself back in the armchair, and
gave way to her reflections.
"Thus far has my vengeance progressed: but it is
not yet near its termination. It must fall alike upon the woman who first taught
me the ways of duplicity and vice, and on him who used the blackest treachery to
rob me of my innocence. Oh! who would have ever thought that I — once
so humane in disposition — once possessed of so kind a heart that I
sacrificed myself to save a friend, — who would have thought that I
could have become such a fiend in dealing forth retribution? But my heart is not
yet completely hardened: it is only towards those at whose hands I have
suffered, that my sympathies flow no longer. And even in respect to the hateful
Adeline, how often — oh! how often am I forced to recall to mind all
my wrongs — to ponder, to brood upon them — in order to
nerve myself to execute my schemes of vengeance! When she spoke this evening of
her unborn child, she touched my heart: — I could have wept — I
could have wept, — but I dared not! I was compelled to take refuge
in that freezing manner which I have so well studied to assume when I
contemplate her sufferings. My God! thou knowest how great are my wrongs! A
father's grey hairs brought down with sorrow to the grave impel me to
revenge: — the voice of a brother's blood appeals to me also for
revenge! Revenge — revenge — upon Adeline and on the
perfidious nobleman sleeping here!"
She had reached this point in her musings, when Lord
Dunstable moved, and coughed gently.
He was awake.
"Graham," he murmured, in a faint tone:
"for God's sake give me some drink — my throat is
"Mr. Graham is not present," answered Lydia;
"chance has brought me hither to attend upon you."
Thus speaking, she drew aside the curtains.
Lord Dunstable cast one glance up to that countenance
which looked malignantly on him.
"Lydia!" he said: "is that you? or is my
imagination playing me false!"
'It is Lydia Hutchinson, whom you betrayed. — whose
brother fell by your hand — and who is now here to taunt you with
all the infamy of your conduct towards her," was the calm and measured
"Ah! alone with you I — is there none
else present!" asked Dunstable, in a tone of alarm.
Lydia drew the curtains completely aside; and the
nobleman cast a hasty look round the room.
"You see that we are alone together," she
said, "and you are in my power!"
"What would you do to me, Lydia!" he exclaimed
"you cannot be so wicked as to contemplate — "
"I am wicked enough to contemplate any thing
horrible in respect to you!" interrupted the avenging woman. 'But
fear not for your life. No: — -although your hands be imbrued with
the blood of my brother, I would not become a murderess because you are a
"Did a man apply that name to me," said
Dunstable, darting a savage glance towards Lydia's countenance, "he should
repent his insolence sooner or later."
"And are you not a murderer as well as a
ravisher!" cried Lydia, in a taunting tone. "By means the most
vile — the most cowardly — the most detestable — the
most degrading to a man, you possessed yourself of my virtue. Afterwards, when
my brother stood forth as the avenger of his sister's lost honour, you dared to
point the murderous weapon at him whom you had already so grossly wronged in
wronging me. Ravisher, you are a cowardly villain! — duellist, you
are a cold-blooded murderer!"
"Lydia — Lydia, what are you?"
cried Lord Dunstable; "a fiend — thus to treat a wounded man
who is so completely at your mercy!"
"And how did you treat me when I was at your mercy
at the house of your equally abandoned friend Cholmondeley?" continued
Lydia. "Was not the wine which I drank, drugged for an especial purpose!
Or, even if it were not — and supposing that I was
intemperate, — granting, I say, that the stupefaction into which I
fell was the result of my own imprudence in drinking deeply of a liquor till
then unknown to me, — did you act honourably in availing yourself of
my powerlessness to rob me of the only jewel I possessed? I was poor, my
lord — but I was still virtuous: — you plundered me of
that chastity which gave me confidence in myself and was the element of my good
name! No prowling — skulking — masked thief ever
performed a more infernal part than did you on that foul night!"
"And now that years have passed, you regret the
loss of a bauble — call it a jewel, indeed! — which I
certainly seized an opportunity to steal, but which you would have given me of
your own accord a few days later, had I chosen to wait!" said Dunstable,
speaking contemptuously, and yet with great difficulty.
"It is false — it is false — it
is false!" replied Lydia, in a hoarse voice that indicated the rage which
these words excited in her bosom. "I never should have yielded to you:
never — never! But when once I was lost, I became like all women in
the same state — reckless, indifferent! Villain that you are, you
make light of your crimes. Oh! I am well aware that seduction — rape,
even, under such circumstances as those in which you ravished me — are
not deemed enormities in the fashionable world[-:-]
they are achievements at which profligates like yourself laugh over their wine,
and which render them favourites with the ladies! You call seductions and rapes
by the noble name of 'conquests! O glorious conqueror that you were, when
you lay down by the side of a mere girl who was insensible, and rifled her of
the only jewel that adorned her! how was your victory celebrated? By my tears!
What have been its consequences? My ruin and [-265-]
Detestable man, of what have you to boast? Of plunging a poor, defenceless woman
into the depths of misery — of hurrying her father to the grave with
a broken heart — of murdering her brother! Those are your conquests,
monster that you are!"
Weak as was the young nobleman's frame, — attenuated
as was his mind by suffering and by prostration of the physical energies, it is
not to be wondered at if those terrible reproaches produced a strange effect
upon him, — uttered as they were, too, in a tone of. savage
malignity, and by a woman with whom he found himself alone at an hour when all
the other inmates of the mansion were probably rocked in slumber.
That evanescent gleam of a naturally spirited
disposition which had enabled him to meet her first taunts with a contemptuous
reply, had disappeared; and he now found himself prostrated in mind and
body — rapidly yielding to nervous feelings and vague alarms — and
almost inclined to believe himself to be the black-hearted criminal which Lydia
"And when such profligates as you appear in the
fashionable world, after some new conquest," proceeded Lydia, "how
triumphant — how proud are ye, if the iniquity have obtained
notoriety! Ye are the objects of all conversation — of all interest!
And what is your punishment at the hands of an outraged society? Ladies tap you
with their fans, and say slyly, 'Oh, you naughty man!' And the naughty
man smiles — displays his white teeth — and becomes the
hero of the party! But all the while, how many bitter tears are shed elsewhere
on his account! what hearts are breaking through his villany! Such has doubtless
been your career, Lord Dunstable: and I do not envy you the feelings which must
now possess you. For should that wound prove fatal — should
mortification ensue — should this, in a word, be your death-bed, how
ill-prepared are you to meet that all-seeing and avenging Judge who will punish
you the more severely on account of the high station which you have held in the
"Water, Lydia — water!" murmured
Lord Dunstable: "my throat is parched. Water — I implore
"How could I give you so poor a drink as water when
you gave me wine?"
[-266-] "Oh! spare
those taunts! I am dying with thirst."
"And I am happy in the thirst which now possesses
me — but it is a thirst for vengeance!"
"Water — water! I am fainting."
"Great crimes demand great penance. Do you know in
whose mansion you are? This is Ravensworth Hall," added Lydia; "and
Lady Ravensworth is Adeline — Cholmondeley's late paramour."
"I know all that," said Lord Dunstable,
faintly, "but how came you here!"
"It were too long to tell you now."
"Water, Lydia, — Oh! give me
"Tell me that you are a vile seducer — and
"Oh! give me water — and I will do all
you tell me!"
"Then repeat the words which I have dictated,"
said Lydia, imperiously.
"I am a seducer — "
"No: a vile seducer!"
"A vile seducer — and I repent. Now
give me water!"
"Not yet. Confess that you are a ruthless murderer,
and that you repent!"
"No — never!" said Dunstable,
writhing with the pangs of an intolerable thirst. "Water give me
"You implore in vain, unless you obey me.
Confess — "
"I do — I do!" exclaimed the
miserable nobleman. "I confess that I am — I cannot say
"Then die of thirst!" returned Lydia,
"No: do not leave me thus! Give me water — only
one drop! I confess that I murdered your brother in a duel — and I
deeply repent that deed! Now give me to drink!"
"First swear that you will not complain to a living
soul of my treatment towards you this night," said Lydia, holding a glass
of lemonade at a short distance from his lips.
"I swear to obey you," murmured Dunstable,
almost driven to madness by the excruciating anguish of his burning thirst.
"You swear by that God before whom you may so soon
have to appear?" continued Lydia, advancing the glass still nearer to his
"I swear — I swear! Give me the
Then Lydia allowed him to drink as much as he chose of
the refreshing beverage.
At that moment the time-piece struck, and a low knock
was heard at the door.
"I now leave you," said Lydia, in a whisper,
as she leant over him. "Another will watch by your side during the
remainder of the night. To-morrow evening I shall visit you again. Remember your
oath not to utter a complaint that may induce the surgeon to prevent me from
attending on you. If you perjure yourself in this respect, I shall find other
means to punish you: — and then my vengeance would be terrible
Lord Dunstable groaned in anguish, and closed his
eyes — as if against some horrific spectre.
Lydia smiled triumphantly, and hastened to admit the
"His mind wanders a little," she whispered to
the person who thus came to relieve her in the vigil; "and he appeared to
think that I wished to do him a mischief."
"That is a common thing in delirium," answered
the housekeeper, also in a low tone, inaudible to the invalid. "Good
"Good night," returned Lydia.
She then withdrew — satisfied at having
adopted a precautionary measure in case the nobleman should utter a complaint
And she retired to her own chamber gloating over the
vengeance which she had already taken upon the man who had ruined her, and happy
in the hope of being enabled to renew those torments on the ensuing night.
We must conclude this chapter with an incident which has
an important bearing upon events that are to follow.
Adeline arose early on the morning following that dread
night of vengeance, and dressed herself before Lydia made her appearance in the
Hastening down stairs, Lady Ravensworth ordered
breakfast to be immediately served, and the carriage to be got ready.
When she returned to the boudoir to assume her
travelling attire, Lydia was there.
"You have risen betimes this morning, madam,"
she said "but if you think to escape the usual punishment, you are
I am going to London, Lydia, upon important business for
Lord Ravensworth," answered Adeline; "and as you have frequently
declared that you do not level your vengeance against him, I — "
"Enough, madam: I will do nothing that may directly
injure the interests of that nobleman, whom I sincerely pity. When shall you
return!" she demanded in an authoritative manner.
"This evening — or at latest to-morrow
after-noon," was the reply, which Adeline gave meekly — for she
had her own reasons not to waste time by irritating her torturess on this
"'Tis well, Adeline," said Lydia: "I
shall not accompany you. You are always in my power — but Dunstable
may soon be far beyond my reach; and I would not miss the opportunity of passing
the half of another night by his bedside."
Adeline was now ready to depart; and Lydia attended her,
for appearance' sake, to the carriage.
Ere the door of the vehicle was closed, Lady Ravensworth
said to Lydia, "You will prepare my room as usual for me this evening — and
see that the fire be laid by eleven o'clock — as it is probable that
I may return to-night."
Lydia darted upon her mistress a glance which was
intended to say — "You shall soon repent the authoritative
voice in which you uttered that command;" — but she answered
aloud, in an assumed tone of respect, "Yes, my lady."
The footman closed the door-and the carriage drove
rapidly away for the town-mansion at the West End.
And as it rolled along, Adeline mused thus: — "Now,
Lydia, for vengeance upon you! You have driven me to desperation — and
one of us must die! Oh! I have overreached you at last! You think that I am
bound upon business for my husband: — no, it is for you, And
well did I divine that your schemes of vengeance against the poor wounded
nobleman would retain you at the Hall: well was I convinced that you would not
offer to accompany me! At length, Lydia, you are in my power!"
[-267-] Then, as she smiled
with demoniac triumph, Adeline took from her bosom and devoured with her eye,
the address that she had picked up in the ruins of the gamekeeper's cottage.
There was only an old housekeeper maintained at the
town-mansion, to take care of the dwelling; — and thus Adeline was
under no apprehension of having her motions watched.
Immediately after her arrival, which was shortly before
eleven in the forenoon, she repaired to a chamber, having given instructions
that as she had many letters to write, she desired to remain uninterrupted.
But scarcely had the housekeeper withdrawn, when Adeline
enveloped herself in a large cloak, put on a common straw bonnet with a thick
blank veil, and left the house by a private door of which she possessed the.
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LONDON [Vol. II]
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