chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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AT RAVENSWORTH HALL.
was about five o'clock in the afternoon of the same day on which the interview
between George Montague Greenwood and the Honourable Gilbert Vernon took place,
that a post-chaise advanced rapidly through Ravensworth Park, towards the Hall.
In a few minutes it stopped at the principal entrance of
the mansion; and the Honourable Mr. Vernon alighted.
Quentin, who received him, made some inquiry in a
respectful tone concerning his baggage.
"My valet will be here in the evening with my
trunks," replied Vernon, abruptly.
Thus, without committing himself by a positive
assertion, he led Quentin and the other domestics who were present to infer that
he had only just arrived in England, and had left his servant in London to clear
his baggage at the Custom-House.
Quentin bowed as he received that answer, and hastened
to conduct Mr. Vernon to the drawing-room where Lady Ravensworth was seated.
The widow and her brother-in-law now met for the first
Vernon saw before him a young and beautiful woman, very
pale, and with a countenance whose expression denoted much suffering — mental
rather than physical. It was true that she had only lately become a
mother, — that little more than a month had elapsed since she had
given birth to an heir to the proud title and broad lands of Ravensworth; — and
though the pallor of her face was the natural consequence of so recent an event,
yet the physical languor which usually follows also, had given place to a
nervousness of manner — a restlessness of body — a rapid
wandering of the eyes — and an occasional firm compression of the
lips, which indicated an uneasy mind.
Alas! upon that woman's soul lay a crime heavy and
oppressive as a weight of lead! The voice of the murdered Lydia was ever ringing
in her ears; — the countenance of the murdered Lydia was ever
staring her in the face — ghastly, distorted, and livid in
appearance; — the form of the murdered Lydia was ever standing
before her! At night the spectre placed itself between the opening of the
curtains, and seemed more palpable — more horrible — more
substantial in the hours of darkness.
No wonder, then, that her mind was restless — that
her manner was nervous — and that her looks were wandering and
But let us continue the thread of our narrative, taking
it up at the moment when the Honourable Gilbert Vernon entered the apartment
where Lady Ravensworth rose to receive him.
Extending her hand towards him, she said, "Welcome
to this mansion: it is kind of you to answer so speedily in person the letters
which it was my painful duty to address to you at Beyrout."
These words reassured Vernon on one important point:
they proved that letters had been sent, conveying the intelligence of his
"Accept my gratitude for the cordiality with which
you receive me, sister — for such you will permit me to call
you," answered Vernon; "and believe me — . But, good God!
what ails you? what is the matter, Lady Ravensworth? You are ill — you — "
"That voice — that voice!"
shrieked Adeline, staggering towards a chair, on which she sank helplessly.
"Oh! Mr. Vernon — "
Gilbert was astounded at the affrighted manner and
strange ejaculations of his sister-in-law; — but, seeing that she
was on the point of fainting, he snatched from the table a small bottle of
powerful scent, and handed it to her.
She inhaled the perfume, which acted as a slight
restorative; but it was chiefly to the natural rigour of her mind, and to the
imperious necessity in which dread circumstances had placed her of constantly
maintaining as much command over herself as possible, that she was indebted for
her almost immediate recovery from the state into which sudden surprise and
profound alarm had thrown her.
"Perhaps your ladyship is desirous that I should
withdraw?" said Vernon. "There many be some-[-320-]thing
in my countenance — my manner — or my voice that recalls
to your mind painful reminiscences of my lately-departed brother: — it
is natural that you should experience these feelings; — and I will
leave you for the present."
"No, Mr. Vernon — stay!" exclaimed
Adeline, in a tone which denoted the most painful excitement and agitation.
"Compose yourself, then: attempt not to pursue the
conversation immediately," said Gilbert; "for as — with
your permission — it is my intention to become your guest for a few
weeks — "
"My guest!" repeated Adeline, with a shudder.
"Really, my dear sister," exclaimed Vernon,
somewhat impatiently; "I am at a loss to understand the meaning of this
excitement on your part. It is not caused by those reminiscences to which I ere
now alluded: it begins to assume the aspect of aversion towards myself. Pardon
me if I speak thus plainly; but if I be indeed hateful to you — if
slanderous tongues have wronged me in your estimation — if even my
own brother were cruel enough to malign me to his wife — "
"Mr. Vernon," interrupted Adeline, with a kind
of feverish haste, "your conjectures will never lead you to discover the
true cause of that agitation which I could not conquer, and which has offended
you. The moment you addressed me, I was seized with a strange surprise — a
wild alarm; and those feelings still influence me to some extent, — for
methinks that I have heard your voice before!"
And she fixed her eyes in a penetrating manner upon his
"It may be," answered Vernon, quailing not
beneath that look — for he had so desperate a part to play at
Ravensworth Hall, that he knew how much depended upon a self-command and a
collectedness of ideas that might avert suspicion, — "it may
be, sister, that some years ago — ere I left England — we
met in those circles in which we both move by right of birth and social
position; and, although I do not remember that I ever had the pleasure of seeing
you until now, still such a meeting may have occurred, and your mind may have
retained certain impressions — "
"No, Mr. Vernon," again interrupted Adeline;
"that surmise — even if correct — will not account
for the cause of my agitation. To speak candidly, my impression was — and
still is, — and yet," she added, suddenly recollecting herself,
"if that impression should be indeed erroneous, I should insult you — insult
you grossly by explaining it — "
"Proceed, dear sister," said Vernon, gaining
additional assurance, in proportion as Lady Ravensworth hesitated. "State
to me candidly the impression which you received; and I will as candidly answer
"Yes — I will tell you the
reason of that excitement which nearly overcame me," cried Adeline, whose
suspicions were robbed of much of their strength by the calm and apparently open
manner of her brother-in-law.
"And believe me when I declare that I shall readily
pardon you, however injurious to myself may be the impression my voice has
unfortunately made upon you. I can make ample allowances for one who has lately
lost a beloved husband, and whose anxieties have been increased by the duties of
maternity," added Gilbert.
"In one word, then, Mr. Vernon," continued
Adeline, "it struck me that on a certain evening — in the month
of February — I heard your voice, — yes, your voice in
conversation with another person, in a ruined cottage which stands on the verge
of the Ravensworth estate."
And, as she spoke, she again studied his countenance
with the most earnest attention.
Desperate was the effort which the guilty man exerted
over the painful excitement of feeling which this declaration produced within
him: — in a moment he recalled to mind all the particulars of his
meeting with the Resurrection Man at the ruined lodge; and he also remembered
that he had lost on the same occasion the scrap of paper on which was written
the address of his terrible agent in crime. But he did succeed in
maintaining a calm exterior: — steadily he met the searching glance
fixed upon him; — and though his heart beat with fearful emotions,
not a muscle of his countenance betrayed the agitation that raged within his
"My dear sister," said Vernon, in a cool and
collected tone, "you are labouring under a most extraordinary delusion.
Think you that there is not another voice in the world like mine? Believe me,
had I been in this country at the time to which you allude, I should have only
felt too much rejoiced to have paid my respects to you at an earlier period than
Adeline listened to the deep tones of that voice which
now rolled upon her ear like a perpetuation of the echoes of the one which she
had heard in the ruins; — and she was still staggered at the
resemblance! She also remembered that, in spite of the darkness of the night,
she had on that occasion caught a glimpse of the tall and somewhat stout form
which had passed near her, and which she knew not to have been that of the
Resurrection Man, whom she had since seen: — and she was bewildered
more and more.
But the calmness with which Vernon denied the
circumstance of being in England at that time, — the steady, honest
manner with which he declared that she was labouring under a delusion in
identifying his voice with the one she had heard in the ruined lodge, — and
the absence of any motive which she could conjecture for his maintaining his
presence in this country (even were he really here at the period alluded to) so
profoundly secret. — these arguments staggered her still more than
even her contrary suspicions.
On his side, Vernon was congratulating himself on the
evident embarrassment of his sister-in-law; and he felt convinced that the sound
of his voice alone — and nothing that had passed between him and
Tidkins in the ruined cottage — had produced an impression upon her.
"You will then forgive me for a momentary suspicion
that was injurious to you!" said Adeline, after a short pause, and now
adopting the only course open to her in the matter.
"I have come to England to form your
acquaintance — your friendship, — to see if I can be of
service to you in the position in which my brother's death and the birth of a
son have placed you, — to aid you in the settlement of any affairs
which may require the interference of a relative," answered Vernon;
"for these purposes have I come — and not to vex you by taking
umbrage at impressions which, however painful to me, are pardonable on the side
of one in your situation."
let us banish from our conversation the disagreeable topic which has hitherto
engrossed it," exclaimed Adeline. "It is my duty to give you some
information in respect to certain matters; and the family solicitor will, when
you may choose to call upon him, enter into more elaborate details. You are
aware that your poor brother died ere his child was born. But so far back as
last November his lordship made a will the provisions of which were so
prudentially arranged as to apply to the welfare of either male or female
progeny, whichever might be accorded by Providence. Two distinguished noblemen
are now my son's guardians, under that will, and consequently the trustees of
the entailed estate."
Vernon bit his lip with vexation.
"In reference to his personal property,"
continued Adeline, "my lamented husband has left me sole executrix."
A dark cloud passed over the countenance of the
"But, by a special clause in his will," added
Lady Ravensworth, who did not observe those manifestations of feeling on the
part of Gilbert Vernon, "your deceased brother has ensured in your behalf
double the amount of that pension which has hitherto been paid to you."
"Thus my brother deemed me unworthy to be the
guardian of his child; — he also considered it prudent to exclude me
from any share in the duty of carrying his wishes into effect; — and
he has provided me with a pittance of one thousand pounds a-year."
In spite of the necessity of maintaining the most
complete self-command over himself, in order to carry out his plans
successfully, Gilbert Vernon could not avoid those bitter observations whisk
showed how deeply he was galled at the total want of confidence displayed in
respect to him by his deceased brother.
Adeline felt that the point was a delicate one, and made
Fortunately for them both, each being much embarrassed
by the present topic of discourse, a servant now entered to announce that dinner
was served up.
Gilbert Vernon and Lady Ravensworth accordingly repaired
to the dining-room.
[-322-] We may here observe
that Lord Dunstable and Mr. Graham had left the mansion some weeks previously,
the young nobleman having recovered from the wound which he had received in the
When dinner was over, Vernon and his sister-in-law
returned to the drawing-room, where coffee was served up. Adeline directed that
the infant heir — then scarcely more than a month old — should
be brought in, Gilbert having hypocritically expressed a desire to see his
newly-born nephew. The request was granted: — the nurse made her
appearance with the babe; and Vernon passed upon it the usual flattering
encomiums which are so welcome to a mother's ears.
But there was no falsehood in those praises, — however
insincere might be the manner in which they were uttered — for the
infant was a remarkably fine one, and appeared sweetly interesting as it slept
in the nurse's arms.
Vernon flattered the mother's vanity so adroitly, by
distant but by no means unintelligible allusions to her own good looks, as he
spoke of the child, that she began to consider him a far more agreeable man than
she had at first supposed he could possibly prove to be.
Shortly after the nurse had retired with the child
Quentin entered the drawing-room, and, addressing himself to Vernon, said,
"Your valet has just arrived, sir, with your baggage."
"If her ladyship will permit me," returned
Gilbert, "I will withdraw for a few moments to give my servant some
"I am about to retire to my own chamber, Mr.
Vernon," observed Adeline, "and shall leave you in undisturbed
possession of this apartment. Your valet can therefore wait upon you here."
Quentin withdrew for the purpose of sending Mr. Vernon's
domestic to the drawing-room; and Lady Ravensworth, having remained for a few
moments to finish her coffee, also retired.
On the landing she heard hasty steps approaching, and
almost immediately afterwards Quentin appeared, followed by the Honourable
Gilbert Vernon's valet.
They passed Lady Ravensworth as she was about to ascend
the stairs leading from the brilliantly lighted landing to the floor above.
But — O horror! — was it
possible? — did her eyes deceive her? — was she the
sport of a terrible illusion?
No — a second glance at the countenance of
the false valet was sufficient to confirm the appalling suspicion which the
first look in that direction had suddenly excited within her.
For his was a countenance which, once seen — if
only for a moment — could never be forgotten; — and, in
Spite of the new suit of complete black which he wore, — in spite of
the care that had been bestowed upon his person, — in spite of the
pains which a Globe Town barber had devoted to his usually matted hair, — it
was impossible not to recognise in this individual so disguised, the instrument
of Adeline's own crime — the terrible Resurrection Man!
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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