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[-285-] 

CHAPTER CCXXIII.

THE MARRIAGE.

THE happy morning dawned.
    The weather was mild and beautiful; the sky was of a cloudless azure; and all nature seemed to smile with the gladness of an early spring.
    Markham rose at seven o'clock, and dressed himself in plain clothes; but upon his breast he wore the star which denoted his princely rank.
    And never had he appeared so handsome;  no  not even when, with the flush of his first triumph upon his cheeks, he had entered the town of Estella and received the congratulations of the inhabitants. When he descended to the breakfast-room, he found Mr. Monroe, Ellen, and Katherine already assembled: they too were attired in a manner which showed that they were not to be omitted from the bridal party.
    At eight o'clock the Grand-Duke's carriage drove to the door; and in a few minutes our hero and his friends were on their way to Richmond.
    "Strange!" thought Ellen to herself; "that I should have passed my honey-moon of twenty-four hours with him in the same neighbourhood whither Richard is now repairing to fetch his bride."
    The carriage rolled rapidly along; and as the clock struck nine it dashed up the avenue to the door of the now royal dwelling.
    Richard and his companions were ushered into the drawing-room, where the Grand-Duke and the Duchess, with the aides-de-camp, and a few select guests, were awaiting their arrival. The reception which Mr. Monroe, Ellen, and Katherine experienced at the hands of the royal pair was of a most cordial kind, and proved how favourably our hero had spoken of them.
    In a short time Isabella made her appearance, attended by her bridemaids  the two daughters of an English peer.
    Richard hastened to present his friends to the Princess; and the cordiality of the parents underwent no contrast on the part of the daughter;  but if she were more courteous  nay, kind  in her manner to either, that preference was shown towards Ellen.
    And it struck the young lady that such slight preference was evinced towards her; for she turned a quick but rapid glance of profound gratitude upon Richard, as much as to say, "'Tis you whom I must thank for this!"
    How lovely did Isabella seem  robed in virgin white, and her cheeks suffused with blushes! There was a charm of ineffable sweetness  a halo of innocence about her, which fascinated the beholder even more than the splendour of her beauty. As she cast down her eyes, and the long slightly-curling black fringes reposed upon her cheeks, there was an air of purest chastity in her appearance which showed how nearly allied her heart was to the guilelessness of angels. And then her loveliness of person  oh! that was of a nature so ravishing, so enchanting, as to inspire something more than mere admiration  something nearer resembling a worship. Poets have compared eyes to stars  teeth to ivory  lips to coral  bosoms to snow;-they have likened symmetry of form to that of sylphs, and lightness of step to that of fairies;  but poor, poor indeed are all similitudes which we might call to our aid to convey an idea of the beauty of this charming Italian maiden, now arrayed in her bridal vestment!
    The ceremony was twofold, Richard being a Protestant and Isabella a Roman Catholic. A clergyman of the Church of England therefore united them, in the first instance, by special licence, at the Grand-Duke's mansion. The bridal party immediately afterwards entered the carriages, which were in readiness, and repaired to the Roman Catholic chapel at Hammersmith, where the hands of the young couple were joined anew according to the ritual of that creed.
    And now the most exalted of Richard's earthly hopes were attained;  the only means by which his happiness could be ensured, and a veil drawn over the sorrows of the past, were accomplished. When he looked back to tile period of his first acquaintance with Isabella,  remembered how ridiculously insignificant was once the chance that his love for her would ever terminate in aught save disappointment,  and then followed up all the incidents which had gradually smoothed down the difficulties that arose in his path until the happy moment when he knelt by her side at the altar of God,  he was lost in astonishment at the inscrutable ways of that Providence which had thus brought to a successful issue an aspiration that at first wore the appearance of a wild and delusive dream!
    On the return of the bridal party to the mansion near Richmond, a splendid banquet was served up: and if there were a sentiment of melancholy which stole upon the happiness of any present, it was on the part of Isabella and her parents at the idea of separation.
    At length the dejeuner is over; and Isabella retires with her mother and bridemaids to prepare for her departure. The Grand-Duke takes that opportunity to thrust a sealed packet into our hero's hand. A few minutes elapse-Isabella returns  the farewells take place-and the bridegroom conducts his charming bride to the carriage. Mr. Monroe, Ellen, and Katherine follow in a second chariot.
    [-286-] It was four o'clock in the afternoon when Richard assisted the lovely young wife to alight at the door of his own mansion; and now Markham Place becomes the residence of the Prince and Princess of Montoni.
    Vain were it to attempt to describe the delight of the old butler when he beheld his master bring home that beauteous, blushing bride; and  as he said in the course of the day to Mr. Monroe, "It was only, sir, a due sense of that comportance which belongs to a man in my situation of authority over the servants that perwented me from collapsing into some of them antics that I indulged in when we heerd of Master-I mean of his Highness's successes in Castle Chicory, and when he came home the day before yesterday. But I won't do it, sir  I won't do it; although I don't promise, Mr. Monroe," he added, in a mysterious whisper, "that I shan't go to bed rayther jolly to-night with champagne."
    ***
    It was eleven o'clock that night when Ellen cautiously issued from the back door of the mansion.
    She passed rapidly through the garden, passed out of the gate, and hastily ascended the hill on whose summit were the two trees.
    A man was seated on the bench.
    Ellen approached him, threw her arms round his neck, and embraced him with a tenderness that even appeared to surprise him by its warmth.
    She placed herself by his side; he drew her towards him  and kissed her almost affectionately.
    "You are not happy!" said Ellen, in a plaintive and anxious tone. "I knew that by the contents of the note which Marian gave me just now; and your manner confirms me in the opinion."
    "I know not how it is," replied Greenwood, without answering her question in a direct way, "but you never seemed dear to me, Ellen, until this evening."
    "And am I dear to you now!" she asked, in a tone tremulous with joy.
    "You are  you are," exclaimed Greenwood, speaking nevertheless in a manner which seemed to indicate that he was giving way to a feeling of weakness which he could not conquer, but of which he was ashamed; "you are dear to me  for my heart appears as if it required something to love, and some one to love me."
    "And do I not love you?" cried Ellen, pressing her lips to his. "Oh! there was a time when I never thought I could love you  when I only sought you as a husband because you were the father of my child:  but since we have been united in holy bonds, I have learnt to love you  and I do love you  I do love you  in spite of all that has passed!"
    "You are a good girl, Ellen," said Greenwood, upon whose lash a tear stood: but he hastily dashed it away, exclaiming, "This is unlike me! What can be the cause of these emotions  hitherto unknown? Is it that I am envious of his happiness? Is it that I pine for that sweet domesticity which he will now enjoy! Or is it that I am wearied of a world false and hollow-hearted?"
    "Alas!" cried Ellen, the tears streaming from her eyes: "is the world really false and hollow-hearted? or have you sought only that sphere which wears the appearance that you deplore? Look yonder," she continued, pointing towards the mansion; "no falsehood  no hollow-heartedness are there! And why? Because he who rules in that abode has encouraged every sweet sympathy that renders life agreeable  every amenity which inspires confidence and mutual reliance between a number of persons dwelling together. The sphere that he has chosen is purified by his own virtues: the light of his excellence is reflected from the hearts of all around him. All are good, or strive to be good in his circle  because he himself is good. Where you have moved  ever agitating amidst the selfish crowd, as in troubled waters  none are good, because no one sets a good example. Every thing in your world is SELF: in Richard's world he sacrifices SELF unto others. Hence his prosperity  his happiness  "
    "And hence my adversity  my dissatisfied spirit!" exclaimed Greenwood, impatiently. "But talk not thus, Ellen, any more: you will drive me mad!"
    "Oh! my dear husband, what makes you thus!" cried Ellen, in alarm: "I never saw you so before. You who were ever so cool  nay, pardon me, if I say so chilling,  so calculating  so inaccessible to the tenderest emotions,  you are now an altered being! But God grant that your heart is touched at last, and that you will abandon those paths of selfishness which, as you have by this time learnt, are not those of permanent prosperity! Do not be offended with me:  heaven knows I would not wound your heart; for I love you ten thousand times better to-night than ever I did before  and solely because you are changed, or appear to be. Oh! let me implore you to cast aside your assumed name  to throw off all disguise  to return to that home where the arms of sincerest affection will be extended to welcome you  "
    "No  no, Ellen!" cried Greenwood, almost furiously: "my pride will not permit me to do that! Speak no more in this way  or I will quit you immediately. I will fulfil my destiny  whatever it may be. Not a day  not an hour before the appointed time must he and I meet? No-broken though my fortunes be, they are not irreparable. Had it not been for the flight of that villain Tomlinson, I should have retrieved them ere now. I must not, however, despair: my credit is still good in certain quarters; and I possess talents for finance and speculation of no mean order."
    "But you will not again embark in any such desperate venture as  as  "
    "As the forged bills, you would say, Ellen," added Greenwood, hastily. "No  be not alarmed on this head. I will not sully that name which he has rendered great."
    "Oh! do you not remember," cried Ellen, as a sudden reminiscence shot through her brain, "that on the morning when our hands were united, you promised that the name which you then gave me should go down to posterity?"
    "It will  it will: the prediction is already fulfilled, Ellen," said Greenwood, hastily;  "but not by me!" he added mournfully. "I know not why I feel so low spirited to-night; and yet your presence consoles me! Richard now clasps his lovely bride in his arms  and we are forced to snatch this stolen interview, as if we had no right to each other's society!"
    "And whose fault is that!" asked Ellen, somewhat reproachfully. "Is it not in your power to put an end to all this mystery?"
    "I cannot  I will not," returned Greenwood, [-287-] with renewed impetuosity. "No  let us not touch upon the topic again. My resolves are immoveable on that point. If you love me, urge me not to inflict so deep a wound upon my pride. This lowness of spirits will soon pass away: I am afraid that envy  or jealousy, rather  has in some degree depressed me. And yet envy is not the term  nor does jealousy express the true nature of my sentiments. For, in spite of all my faults, I have loved him, Ellen  as you well know. But it is that I feel disappointed  almost disgusted:  I have as yet toiled for naught I contrast my position with his  and that makes me mournful. Still I am proud of him, Ellen:  I cannot be otherwise."
    "That is a generous feeling," said Ellen, again embracing her husband: "It does me good to hear you express such a sentiment."
    "I scarcely know what I have been saying," continued Greenwood: "my mind is chaotic  my ideas are confused. Let us now separate: we will meet again shortly  and I will tell you of my progress towards the fortune which I am resolved to acquire."
    "Yes  let us meet again soon," said Ellen: "but not here," she added, glancing towards the trees. "It makes you melancholy."
    'Well  well: I will find another spot for our interviews. Farewell, Ellen  dearest Ellen."
    "Farewell, my dearest husband."
    They embraced, and separated  Ellen retracing her steps towards the mansion, and Greenwood remaining on the hill.
    ***
    On the following morning, after breakfast, Richard conducted his lovely bride over the grounds belonging to the Place; and when they had inspected the gardens, he said, "I will now lead you, to the hill-top, beloved Isabella, where you will behold the memorials of affection between my brother and myself, which mark the spot where I hope again to meet him."
    They ascended the eminence that stood between the two trees.
    But scarcely had Richard cast a glance towards the one planted by the hand of Eugene, when he started, and dropped Isabella's arm.
    She threw a look of intense alarm on his countenance; but her fears were immediately succeeded by delight when she beheld the unfeigned joy that was depicted on his features.
    "Eugene is alive! He has been hither again-he has revisited this spot!" exclaimed Richard. "See, Isabella-  he has left that indication of his presence."
    The Princess now observed the inscriptions on the tree.
    They stood thus:  
    
    EUGENE.
    
    Dec. 26, 1836.
    
    EUGENE.
    
    May 17th, 1838.
    
    EUGENE.
    
    March 6, 1841.
    
    "Eugene was here yesterday," said Richard. "Oh!  he still thinks of me  he remembers that he has a brother. Doubtless he heard of my happiness  my prosperity: perhaps he even learnt that yesterday blest me with your hand, dearest Isabel: and that inscription is a congratulation  a token of the kind wish alike to you and to me."
    Isabella partook of her husband's joy; and after lingering for some time upon the spot, they retraced their steps to the mansion.
    The carriage was already at the door: they entered it; and Richard commanded the coachman to drive to Woolwich.
    On their arrival at the wharf where Richard had landed only two days previously, they found a barge waiting to convey them on board the Castelcicalan steamer.
    The Grand-Duke and Grand-Duchess, with their suite, received them upon the deck of the vessel.
    The hour of separation had come: Alberto and his illustrious spouse were about to return to their native land to ascend a throne.
    The Grand-Duke drew Richard aside, and said, "My dear son, you remember your promise to return to Montoni so soon as the time of appointment with your brother shall have passed."
    "I shall only be too happy to return, with my beloved Isabella, to your society." answered Markham. "My brother will keep his appointment; for yesterday he revisited the spot where that meeting is to take place, and inscribed his name upon the tree that he planted."
    "That is another source of happiness for you, Richard," said the Grand-Duke; "and well do you deserve all the felicity which this world can give."
    "Your Serene Highness has done all that is in mortal power to ensure that felicity," exclaimed Markham. "You have elevated me to a rank only one degree inferior to your own;  you have bestowed upon me an inestimable treasure in the person of your daughter  and you yesterday placed in my hands a decree appointing me an annual income of twenty thousand pounds from the decal treasury. Your Serene Highness has been too liberal:  a fourth part will be more than sufficient for all our wants. Moreover, from certain hints which Signor Viviani dropped when I was an inmate at his house at Pinalla  and subsequently, after his arrival at Montoni to take the post of Minister of Finance which I conferred upon him, and which appointment has met the approval of your Serene Highness  I am justified in believing that in July, 1843, I shall inherit a considerable fortune from our lamented friend Thomas Armstrong."
    "The larger your resources, Richard, the wider will be the sphere of your benevolence," said the Grand-Duke; then, by way of cutting. short our hero's remonstrances in respect to the annual revenue, his Serene Highness exclaimed, "But time presses: we must now say farewell."
    We shall not dwell upon the parting scene. Suffice it to say that the grief of the daughter in separating from her parents was attempered by the conviction that she remained behind with on affectionate and well-beloved husband; and the parents sorrowed the less at losing their daughter, because they knew full well that she was united to one possessed of every qualification to ensure her felicity.
    And now the anchor was weighed; the steam hissed through the waste-valves as if impatient of delay; and the young couple descended the ship's side into the barge.
    The boat was pushed off-and the huge wheels of [-288-] the steamer began to revolve on their axis, ploughing up the deep water.
    The cannon of the arsenal thundered forth a parting salute in honour of the sovereign and his illustrious spouse who were returning to their native land from a long exile.
    The ship returned the compliment with its artillery, as it now sped rapidly along.
    And the last waving of the Grand-Duchess's handkerchief, and the last farewell gesture on the part of the Grand-Duke met the eyes of Isabella and Richard during an interval when the wind had swept away the smoke of the cannon.
    The Prince and Princess of Montoni landed at the wharf, re-entered their carriage, and were soon on their way back to Markham Place.

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