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[-281-] 

CHAPTER CCXXII.

THE ARRIVAL AT HOME.

    On the same evening Mr. Monroe, Ellen, and Katherine were assembled in the drawing-room at Markham Place.
    The lamp burnt bright, and there were books open upon the table; but none of the little party had any inclination to read  some event of importance was evidently expected.
    "He will assuredly return this evening," observed Mr. Monroe, after a long pause in the conversation. "The last letter he wrote to us was positive in naming the day when he calculated upon arriving in England."
    "But as he said that he should be compelled to [-282-] come back to his native land in one of the government steamers of Castelcicala," said Ellen, "it is impossible to conjecture what delay adverse weather may have caused."
    "True," exclaimed Mr. Monroe; and he walked to the window, whence he looked forth into the bright clear night.
    It is a strange fact that whenever people are expecting the arrival of some one near or dear to them, they invariably go to the windows, where they watch with a sort of nervous agitation  as if by so doing they could hasten the coming which they anticipate.
    The two young ladies drew close to each other on the sofa, and exchanged a few words in whispers.
    "You seem low-spirited, dearest Kate," said Ellen; "and yet our benefactor is about to return to us. I feel convinced that you are more annoyed than you choose to confess, on account of the non-appearance of the handsome stranger."
    "I should be telling you an untruth, Ellen" answered Kate, blushing deeply, "were I to declare that I do not sometimes think of him whom you alluded to. But have I not another cause of vexation? do you imagine that the recent interview which I had with that odious Mr. Banks  "
    "Yes, dear Kate: all that he told you was well calculated to render you anxious and unsettled in mind," interrupted Ellen. "But it was necessary to await the return of him who can best counsel you; and the time now approaches when you may communicate to Richard all that has passed."
    Katherine was about to reply, when Mr. Monroe, who was still watching at the window, suddenly exclaimed, "A carriage  at last!"
    The two young ladles hurried to the casement, and beheld the lamps of the vehicle rapidly approaching, while the sound of its wheels also reached their ears.
    Then they both hastened from the room, followed by Mr. Monroe, to receive Markham the moment he should alight.
    Whittingham and Marion joined them and the whole party was stationed on the steps of the front door when the carriage drove up.
    In another moment Richard was amongst them; and there were such congratulations  such shaking of hands-and such proofs of joy as were seldom known or seen even on occasions of similar happiness.
    As for the old butler, he was literally mad with the excitement of his feelings. He hugged his young master with a warmth that could not possibly have been exceeded had they stood in the relation of father and son, and the fervour of which considerably deranged the position of our hero's epaulettes and aiguillettes  for he was in his uniform, as the reader will remember. Then, when Whittingham had thus far testified his joy at his master's return, he seized upon Marian and compelled her to perform three or four rapid pirouettes with him in the hall  to the infinite peril of that good woman's equilibrium. She disengaged herself from him with considerable difficulty; and the old man, quite overcome by his feelings and performances, sat, down in one of the hall-chairs, and began to whimper like a child  exclaiming as well as he could, "Don't mind me  don't mind me! I can't help it! It's the unawoidable commotions here!" and he slapped his breast. "Master Richard's come back to the home of his successors; and he's a great man too  in spite of all that them willains Marlborough and Axminster once did to him!"
    "Compose yourself, my excellent old friend," said the young Prince, pressing Whittingham hand: "I am indeed come back  and to remain, too, for a long  long time."
    The footman who attended upon the Grand-Duke's carriage now approached our hero, and with head uncovered, said in a tone of extreme deference, "Is it the pleasure of your Highness that the chariot should remain, or return to Richmond?"
    "I wish you to stay here until the morning," answered Richard; "as shall visit his Serene Highness to-morrow."
    The footman bowed, and retreating to the hall steps, cried aloud to the coachman, "The Prince commands us to remain."
    "Hey! what's that!" ejaculated Whittingham, who, together with the others present, had caught those swelling titles. "I heerd, Master Richard, that you was a Markiss; but  "
    "It has pleased the gracious sovereign to whose service I have the honour to belong, to invest me with the rank which has surprised you," answered Richard, laughing at his old dependant's bewilderment: "at the same time I can assure you that you will please me best by addressing me ever as you have been accustomed to do from my childhood."
    The butler seemed to reflect profoundly for a few moments, with his eyes fixed on the marble floor then, suddenly raising his head, he exclaimed, "No, Master Richard  it can't be done! It would be prorogatory to treat you as if you was still a boy. There's such a thing in the world as epaulette  etiquette, I mean; and I know myself better then to lose sight on it. Besides, Master Richard  it isn't every one as is butler to a Prince; and I'm proud of the office. So now I've called you Master Richard for the last time. Marian, bustle about the supper  and see that the servants with the carriage is well taken care of. You can show 'em round to the stables; while I light his Highness to the drawing-room."
    Having issued these commands in a tone of pompous importance which the old man had not adopted for some years past, he seized a candle and led the way in a solemn and dignified manner up stairs.
    "Poor Whittingham scarcely knows whether he stands on his head or his feet," whispered Richard, laughing, to Ellen and Katherine, as he placed himself between them, and gave them each an arm. "Let us, however, humour the good old man, and ascend with due ceremony to the drawing-room."
    The reader will not require us to detail all the conversation which ensued. Markham had so much to tell, and his hearers so much to learn, that the time slipped away with lightning speed. Our hero not only related at length all that had occurred to him in Italy, but also entered upon explanations which he had never broached before relative to his attachment to Isabella. He made Whittingham sit down and listen to all he had to say; and he concluded by acquainting those present with his intended marriage.
    "But," he hastened to add, "this event will make no difference in regard to the dear friends by whom I am surrounded. You, Mr. Monroe and Ellen, must continue to dwell with me; and you, Katherine, must look upon this house as your home, It is [-283-] large enough for us all  even for those servants whom it will now be necessary to add to our establishment, and who will increase the department ever which you, my faithful friend,"  addressing himself to Whittingham,  "preside so ably."
    "I shall know how to distrain 'em all in order, my lord," said the butler, with an air of considerable importance.
    Ellen's countenance had suddenly become thoughtful, when she heard that Richard was so shortly to be married.
    Leaning towards him, as she sate by his side, she murmured in a hasty whisper, "Tell Whittingham to leave the room: I wish to speak to you and my father immediately."
    Markham requested the old man to see that the servants of the Grand-Duke were well cared for; and Whittingham accordingly withdrew.
    Richard then glanced inquiringly towards Ellen, who rose and whispered to Katherine, "Leave us, my sweet friend, for a few moments: I wish to speak to Richard and my father on a subject which nearly concerns myself."
    Kate cheerfully complied with this request, and retired.
    "What does this mean, Ellen?" inquired Richard with some degree of anxiety. "God grant that no cause of unhappiness may interrupt the joy of my return!"
    "No-reassure yourself on that head," said Ellen. "My dear benefactor  and you, beloved father  listen to me for a few moments. You, Richard, are about to bring home a bride whom you love  whom you respect  and who must be respected,  a lady endowed with every quality that can render her worthy of you,  pure, chaste, and stainless as snow. Richard, she must not be placed in the companionship of one who occupies an equivocal situation in society  like myself!"
    "Ellen, my Isabella is of too generous  too charitable a mind  " began Richard, deeply affected by these words, which recalled so many unpleasant reminiscences with respect to Monroe's daughter.
    "Nay  bear me out," continued Ellen, with a sweet smile of gratitude for the sentiment which Markham had half expressed: "I shall not keep you in suspense for many moments. You wish me to be the companion of your Isabella, Richard?  I will be so  and not altogether unworthily either in respect to her or to myself. And now I am about to communicate to you both a secret which I should have treasured up until the proper time to elucidate it had arrived  were it not for the approaching event which has compelled me to break silence. But in imparting this secret, I must confide in your goodness  your forbearance  not to ask me more than I dare reveal. Richard  father  I am married!"
    "Married?" repeated our hero, joyfully.
    "Come to my anus, Ellen!" cried Mr. Monroe: "let me embrace you fondly  for now indeed are you my own daughter for whom I need not blush!"
    And he pressed her to his heart with the warmest enthusiasm of paternal affection.
    "Yes," continued Ellen, after a short pause, "I am married  married, too, to the father of my child; .~-and that is all that I dare reveal to you at present! I implore you  I beseech you both to ask me no questions; for I could not respond truly to them, and be consistent with a solemn promise of temporary secrecy which I have pledged to my husband! The motives of that mystery are not dishonourable, and do not rest with me. In two or three years there will be no necessity to keep silent. And now tell me, dear father  tell me, Richard  have you sufficient confidence in me, to believe what I have unfolded you, without knowing more?"
    "Believe you, Ellen!" exclaimed Markham: "oh! why should I doubt you! Your motive in revealing the happy fact of your marriage-a motive instigated by delicacy towards her who is so soon to accompany me to the altar  is so generous, so pure, so noble, that it speaks volumes in your favour, Ellen-and I love you as a sister  a very dear sister."
    "Yes  it is with a brother's love that you must regard me," exclaimed Ellen, emphatically and joyfully; "and you know not what happiness your assurance imparts to me! Let me not, however, be misunderstood in any thing that I have already stated. I would not have you infer that I have been married long  nor that I was a wife when I became a mother," continued Ellen, casting down her eyes, and blushing deeply. "No-it was only on the 3d of January, in the present year, that I was united to him who will one day give a father's name to his child."
    "I care not to know more, Ellen!" exclaimed Mr. Monroe. "You are a wife  and your son, as he grows up, need never be made acquainted with the true date of his parents' union. That innocent deception will be necessary."
    "Your father is satisfied  and I am satisfied, dear Ellen," said Richard: "we should be wrong to seek to penetrate into a secret which your good sense would not induce you to retain inviolable without sufficient motives. I cannot express to you my joy at the revelation which you have made; and, believe me, you will now have no cause to blush in the presence of my Isabella."
    "Father-Richard," murmured Ellen, pressing their hands affectionately in her own, "you have made me happy  because you have placed confidence in my word!"
    And as tears of joy stood in her large melting blue eyes, and her face and neck were suffused in blushes, how beautiful did she appear-sweet Ellen!
    "You have banished your young friend from the room," said Markham, after a short pause.
    "But I will speedily summon her hither again," answered Ellen; "for she also has something important to reveal to you."
    "A continuation, doubtless, of the narrative of the mysterious proceedings of the vilest of men and his female accomplice, and concerning which you wrote me full details some weeks ago!" observed Richard.
    "Yes  there is another chapter in that strange history for you to hear," replied Ellen.
    She then hurried from the room, and in a short time returned with Katherine.
    "Tell Richard the remainder of your story in your own way, dear Kate," said Ellen, as the young ladies seated themselves side by side upon the sofa.
    "It was nearly a week ago,' began Katherine "that I rambled forth a little way alone. Ellen was somewhat indisposed and unable to accompany me; and Mr. Monroe had gone into town upon some business. I ascended the hill, and, having enjoyed the prospect for a short time, passed down on the oppo-[-284-]site side, and walked through the fields. I was thinking of various matters,  but chiefly of the cruel disappointment which I had experienced in my recently awakened hopes of obtaining information relative to my parentage,  when I suddenly observed a person approaching; and I was somewhat alarmed when I perceived that it was that odious Mr. Banks, the undertaker, whom Ellen mentioned to you in the letter which related all that had taken place at the farm. I was about to retrace my steps, when Mr. Banks called after me, assuring me that I had no reason to be afraid of him, and declaring that he had important news to communicate. My hopes were revived  I felt convinced that his business was to renew those negotiations between myself and the old woman which had been so suddenly interrupted; and I no longer experienced any alarm. He accosted me, and, in his peculiar phraseology  an imitation of which I shall not inflict upon you  declared that a friend of his possessed certain papers which would entirely clear up the mystery wherein my parentage was involved. You may conceive the emotions which this communication excited within me: I trembled to put implicit faith in what I heard  in case of disappointment  in case of deception; and yet I clung  oh! I clung to the hope of at length being enlightened in matters so dear to my heart. Mr. Banks spoke candidly and intelligibly  though with wearisome circumlocution and a mass of hypocritical cant. He said that his friend had purchased the papers of the old woman for a large sum; and that he would only part with them for a larger sum still. In a word, he demanded five hundred pounds; and he assured me that I should not regret the bargain  for there were letters in my poor mother's own handwriting."
    Kate wiped away the tears that had started into her eyes as she thus alluded to her maternal parent.
    "I represented to Mr. Banks," she continued, after a pause, "that I was unpossessed of the immediate command of the sum demanded, and that I must either apply to the solicitor who had the management of my affairs, or wait until your return, Richard, from Italy. I moreover explained to him the extreme improbability that either Mr. Wharton or yourself would permit me to pay so large an amount for the papers, unless they were previously ascertained to be of the value represented. He seemed prepared for this objection; for he immediately declared that if I would name a day and an hour when I would call upon him, accompanied by any one friend, male or female, whom I might choose to select, he would have the papers in readiness, and that I might glance over them in order to satisfy myself of their value and authenticity."
    "That was certainly a fair proposal for such a gang of villains to make," observed Richard; "and it invests the entire affair with the utmost importance. Did you give the man any definite answer?"
    "I assured him that I could do nothing without consulting my friends; but that I would write to him In the course of a day or two. He advised me to lose no time; as his friend was not a person to be trifled with."
    "And that friend,' said Markham, "is the villain Anthony Tidkins  beyond all doubt. He does not dare appear actively himself in this business, for fear of affording me a clue to his haunts; and therefore he employs this Banks as his agent. The whole scheme is as transparent as possible."
    "Before I parted from the undertaker," observed Katherine, "I objected to visit his house, and proposed to him that, in the event of my friends permitting me to purchase the papers, he should allow the cursory inspection of them either at Mr. Wharton's office or at Markham Place. But to this arrangement he expressed his entire hostility, stating emphatically that the documents must be examined and the purchase-money paid at his own house  and that, too, with four-and twenty-hours' notice of the time which I should appoint for the purpose."
    "I see through it all!" exclaimed Richard. "Tidkins is afraid to trust his own agent with the papers or with the money paid for their purchase; and he will be concealed somewhere in Banks's house when the appointment takes place. Hence the notice required. It is as clear as the noon-day sun."
    "On my return to the Place," continued Katherine, "I acquainted Mr. Monroe and Ellen with the particulars of the interview between the undertaker and myself; and as your letter, announcing the day when you hoped to set foot on the English soil again, had arrived that very morning, it was arranged that no decisive step should be taken until you were present to advise and to sanction the course to be adopted. I accordingly wrote a note to Mr. Banks, stating that I would communicate with him in a positive manner in the course of a week or ten days."
    "You acted wisely, dear Kate," said Richard "and I now question whether the Resurrection Man has not allowed his suspicious avarice to get the better of his prudence. But of that we will speak on a future occasion. You shall purchase the documents, Katherine-and without troubling Mr. Wharton upon the subject. Thanks to the liberality of the Castelcicalan government, my fortune is now far more ample than that which I lost; and pecuniary vexations can never again militate against my happiness. Yes, Katherine, we will yield to the extortion of these villains who are trading in the dearest ties and holiest sympathies of the human heart; but I must tax your patience somewhat-for you can well understand that for a few days I shall be unable to devote myself to even an affair so important as this. To-morrow you can write to Mr. Banks and fix an appointment at his own house  one week hence  the hour to be eight o'clock in the evening for it is then dark."
    Katherine expressed her gratitude to our hero for this additional proof of his kindness towards her.
    The happy party remained in conversation until a late hour  unconscious of the rapid lapse of time, so deeply were they interested in the various topics of their discourse.
    It was, indeed, nearly two o'clock in the morning when the last light was extinguished in Markham Place.
    Nevertheless, the inmates of that happy dwelling rose at an early hour-for there was much to be done that day, and little time for the purpose.
    Ellen and Mr. Monroe repaired to town the moment breakfast was over, to make a variety of purchases in order to render the mansion as complete in all its arrangements as possible for the reception of the bride. Money is endowed with a wondrously electric power to make tradesmen bustling and active; and in spite of the little leisure left for choice [-285-] and selection, the business-habits of Mr. Monroe and the good taste of his daughter enabled them to accomplish their task in a manner satisfactory to all concerned. Thus, in the afternoon, waggons piled with new and costly furniture, carts laden with chinaware and glass, and others containing carpets, curtains, and handsome hangings for the windows, were on their way to Markham Place.
    And at the mansion, in the meantime, all was bustle and activity. Richard had departed early in the Grand-Duke's carriage for Richmond; but Katherine superintended all the domestic arrangements; Marian obtained the assistance of two or three char-women in her special department; and Whittingham forthwith added to the establishment, upon his own responsibility, two footmen and a page, all of whom were well known to him and happened to have been out of place at the moment.
    Thus, by the time the young Prince returned home to dinner at five o'clock, the old mansion exhibited an appearance so changed, but withal so gay and tastefully handsome, that he was unsparing in his praises of those who had exhibited so much zeal rendering it fit to receive his bride on the following day.

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