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[-412-]

CHAPTER CCLVI.

 ELIZA SYDNEY AND ELLEN.  THE HOSPITAL.

    ELIZA SYDNEY had just sate down to breakfast, when a cab drove hastily up to the door of the villa, and Ellen alighted from the vehicle.
    The moment she entered the parlour, Eliza advanced to meet her, saying, "My dearest friend, I can divine the cause of this early visit;  and, indeed, had you not come to me, it was my intention to have called upon you without delay."
    Ellen heard these remarks with unfeigned surprise.
    "Sit down, and compose yourself," continued Eliza, "while I explain to you certain matters which it is now proper that you should know."
    "Heaven grant that you have no evil tidings to communicate!" exclaimed Ellen, taking a chair near her friend, upon whose countenance she turned a look of mingled curiosity and suspense.
    "Be not alarmed, dear Ellen," answered Eliza: "my object is to serve and befriend you  for I know that at this moment , you. require a friend!"
    "Oh! Indeed I do," cried Ellen, bursting into tears, "But is it possible that you are acquainted with-"
    "With all your history, my dear friend," interrupted Eliza.
    "All my history" ejaculated Ellen.
    "Yes  all. But let me not keep you in suspense. In a few words let me assure you that there is no important event of your life unknown to me."
    "Then, my dearest friend," cried Ellen, throwing herself into Eliza's arms, "you are aware that my husband is lying in a common hospital  and that it breaks my heart to think of the depth into which he has fallen from a position once elevated and proud!"
    "Yes," answered Eliza, returning the embrace of friendship; "I learnt that sad event last evening  a few hours after it occurred; and hence my intention to visit you this morning. But I am better pleased that you should have come hither  because we can converse at our ease. You must know, my dear friend, that a few years ago I received some wrong at the hands of him who has now every claim upon the sympathy of the charitable heart."
    "You speak of my husband, Eliza!" cried Ellen. "Were you also wronged by him? Oh! how many, alas! can tell the same tale?"
    "He attempted to wrong me, Ellen  but did not succeed," answered Eliza, emphatically: "twice he sought to ruin me-and twice Providence interposed to save me. Pardon me, if I mention these facts: but they are necessary to justify my subsequent conduct in respect to him."
    "Oh! ask me not to pardon aught that you may do or may have done!" ejaculated Ellen: "for your goodness of heart is an unquestionable guarantee for the propriety of your actions."
    "You flatter me, my dear friend," said Eliza; "and yet God knows how pure have been my intentions through life! Let us not, however, waste time by unnecessary comment: listen rather while I state a few facts which need be concealed from you no longer. Aware, then, that he who has so long passed by the name of George Montague Greenwood  "
    "Ah!" cried Ellen, with a start: "you know that also?"
    "Have patience-and you shall soon learn the extent of my information upon this subject," said Elisa. "I was about to inform you that a knowledge of the character of him whom we must still call George Greenwood, gave me the idea of adopting some means to check, if not altogether to counteract, those schemes by which he sought alike to enrich himself dishonourably and to gratify his thirst after illicit pleasure. During the first year of my residence in Castelcicala I sent over a faithful agent to enter, if possible, the service of Mr. Greenwood. He succeeded, and  "
    "Filippo Dorsenni!" exclaimed Ellen, a light breaking in upon her mind: "Oh now I comprehend it all!"
    "And are you angry with me for having thus placed a spy upon the actions of your husband?" inquired Eliza, in a sweet tone of conciliation.
    "Oh! no-no," cried Ellen: "on the contrary, I rejoice! For doubtless you have saved him from the commission of many misdeeds!"
    "I have indeed, Ellen," was the reply; "and amongst them may be reckoned your escape from his snares, when he had you carried away to his house in the country."
    [-413-] "Yes  that escape was effected by the aid of Filippo," said Ellen; "and the same generous man also assisted me to save the life of Richard on that terrible night when his enemies sought to murder him near Globe Town."
    "Well, then, my dear friend," observed Eliza, "you see that the presence of Filippo in England effected much good. I may also mention to you the fact that when Richard accompanied General Grachia's expeditionary force to Castelcicala, I was forewarned of the intended invasion by means of a letter from Filippo: and that letter enjoined me to save the life of him who has since obtained so distinguished a renown. Filippo had heard you speak in such glowing colours of Richard's generous nature and noble disposition, that he was induced to implore me to adopt measures so that not a hair of his head might be injured. And, oh! when I consider all that has occurred, I cannot for one moment regret that intervention on my part which saved our friend in order to fulfil such glorious destinies!"
    "But how was it, my dearest Eliza," asked Ellen, "that you discovered those secrets which so especially regard me?"
    "In one word," replied the royal widow, "Filippo overheard that scene which occurred between yourself and Greenwood when you restored him the pocket-book that you had found; and on that occasion you called him by a name which was not George!"
    "Ah; I remember  yes, I remember!" cried Ellen, recalling to mind the details of that memorable meeting to which Eliza Sydney alluded.
    "Thus Filippo learnt a great secret," continued the royal widow; "and in due time it was communicated to me, by whom it has been retained inviolate until now. Nor should I have ever touched upon the topic with you, had not this accident which has occurred to your husband rendered it necessary for me to show you that while I am prepared to assist you in aught that may concern his welfare, I am only aiding the virtuous intentions of a wife towards him whom she has sworn at the altar to love and reverence."
    Ellen again threw herself into the arms of the generous-hearted widow, upon whose bosom she poured forth tears of the most profound gratitude.
    "And now," said Eliza, "can you tell me in which manner I can serve you  or rather your husband?"
    "My first and most anxious wish," returned Ellen, "is that he should be removed, as soon as possible, to some place where tranquillity and ease may await him. Sincerely  sincerely do I hope that his heart may have been touched by recent misfortunes-"
    "Yes  and by the contemplation, even from a distance, of that excellent example which the character of Richard affords," added Eliza, emphatically.
    "And yet," continued Ellen, mournfully, "I know his proud disposition so well, that he will not permit his secret to be revealed one minute before the appointed time: he will not allow himself to be conveyed to that place where he would be received with so much heart-felt joy!"
    "This is your conviction?" said Eliza, interrogatively.
    "My firm conviction," answered Ellen.
    "Then listen to my proposal," exclaimed the widow, after a brief pause. "Filippo shall be instructed to hire some neatly furnished house in the neighbourhood of Islington; and thither may your husband be removed so soon as the medical attendants at the hospital will permit. It is not necessary for him to know that any living soul save yourself, Ellen, has interfered to procure him those comforts which he shall enjoy, and to furnish which my purse shall supply you with ample means."
    "Dearest friend," exclaimed Ellen, "It was your kind counsel that I came to solicit  and you have afforded me the advise most suitable to my own wishes. But, thanks to the generosity of Richard towards my father and myself. I possess sufficient resources to ensure every comfort to my husband. And, oh, if he will but consent to this project, I can see him often  yes, daily  and under my care he will speedily recover!"
    "Then delay not in repairing to the hospital to visit and console him," said Eliza, "and Filippo, whom I expect to call presently, shall this very day seek a comfortable abode to receive your husband when his removal may be effected with safety."
    Ellen expressed the deepest gratitude to her friend for the kind interest thus manifested in behalf of herself and her husband; and, having taken an affectionate leave of the royal widow, she repaired to Saint Bartholomew's Hospital.
    The clock of the establishment was striking eleven when Ellen alighted from the cab at the entrance in Duke Street; and, having inquired her way to the Casualty Ward, she crossed the courtyard towards the department of the building where her husband lay.
    Ascending a wide staircase, she reached a landing, where she accosted a nurse who was passing from one room to another at the moment.
    Ellen intimated her request to see the gentleman who was brought in with a broken leg on the preceding afternoon.
    "Well," answered the nurse, "you couldn't possibly have applied to a better person; for I'm at the head of that ward, and I shall be most happy to obleege you. But surely a charming young lady like you will be afeard to go into a place where there's a many male inwalids all in bed?"
    "The gentleman to whom the accident has happened, is very dear to me," said Ellen, in a low tone, and with tears trickling down her cheeks.
    "Ah! poor dear thing  his sister, maybe?" observed Mrs. Jubkins.
    "Yes  I am his sister," replied Ellen, eagerly catching at the hint with which the curiosity of the woman furnished her.
    "Then I'm sure, my pretty dear," said the nurse, "there's no harm in seeing your brother. But stay  just step into this room for a moment  there's only one old woman in it,  while I go into the male Casualty and see that every thing's proper and decent to receive such a sweet creatur' as you are."
    Thus speaking, Mrs. Jubkins threw open the door of a small room, into which she showed Ellen, who availed herself of that opportunity to slip a guinea into her hand.
    Mrs. Jubkins expressed her thanks by a nod, and hurried away with the assurance that she should not be many minutes absent.
    When the door had closed behind the nurse, Ellen [-414-] surveyed, with a rapid glance, the room in which she now found herself.
    It was small, but exquisitively clean and well ventilated. There were four beds in the place, only one of which was occupied.
    Obeying a mechanical impulse, rather than any sentiment of curiosity, Ellen glanced towards that couch which was tenanted by an invalid; but she started with mingled surprise and horror as her own bright eyes encountered the glassy ones that stared at her from the pillow.
    For a moment she averted her head as if from some loathsome spectacle; but again she looked towards the bed, to satisfy herself whether the suspicion which had struck her were correct or not.
    Yes  that idea was indeed well-founded; for there-in a dying state, with her hideous countenance rendered ghastly by disease  lay the old hag in Golden Lane!
    A faint attempt at a smile relaxed the rigid expression of the harridan's death-like face, as she recognised Ellen; and her toothless jaws moved for a moment as if she were endeavouring to speak:  but she evidently had not strength to utter a word.
    All on a sudden the boundless aversion which the young lady entertained towards the wretch, became changed into a sentiment of deep commiseration; and Ellen exclaimed involuntarily, "Oh! it is terrible to die thus  in a hospital  and without a friend!"
    The bed shook as if with a convulsive shudder on the part of the hag, whose countenance, upturned towards Ellen, wore an expression which  intelligible amidst all the ghastly ugliness of that face-seemed to say, "Is it possible that you can feel pity for me?"
    Ellen understood what was passing in the old woman's mind at the moment; and, advancing nearer to time couch, she said in a tone tremulous with emotions, "If you seek forgiveness at my hands for any injury which your pernicious counsels and your fatal aid ever did me, I accord it-Oh! God knows how willingly I accord it! For, though after my fall I long remained callous to a sense of virtue, and acknowledged only the fear of shame as the motive for avoiding farther frailty, yet since I became a wife-for I am a wife," she added proudly, "holier and better thoughts have taken up their abode in my soul; and good examples have restored my mind to its former purity! Thus, then, I can forgive thee with sincerity  for the injuries and wrongs I have endured through thy counsels, are past and gone!"
    At that moment the door opened, and Mrs. Jubkins returned to the room.
    Ellen cast another glance of forgiveness upon the hag and hurried into the passage.
    "What ails that old woman?" she asked, in a low tone, when the door had closed behind herself and the nurse.
    "It seems, by all I can hear, Miss," replied the hospital nurse, "that the old woman had saved up a little money; and as she lived in a low neighbourhood, I 'spose it got wind amongst the thieves and housebreakers. At all events a burglar broke into her place one night, about a week ago; and because she resisted, he beat her in such a cruel way that her ribs was broke and one of her thighs fractured  so I 'spose he must have thrown her down and jumped on her. The rascal got clean off with all the money she had; and a policeman going his rounds, saw that the house where she lived had been broken open. He went in, and found the old creatur' nearly dead. She was brought here; and when she had recovered a little, she mumbled a few words, telling just what I've now told you. Oh! yes," added the nurse, recollecting herself, "and she also said who the thief was; for when questioned about that point, she was just able to whisper a dreadful name-so dreadful that it haunts me in my dreams."
    "What was that name which sounded so terrible?" asked Ellen, with some degree of curiosity.
    "The Resurrection Man," replied the nurse, shuddering visibly, "And no sooner had the old woman said those shocking words, than she lost her voice altogether, and has never had the use of it since. We put her into that room to keep her quiet; but she can't live out the week  and her sufferings at times are quite horrible."
    As she uttered these words Mrs. Jubkins opened a door at the end of the passage, and conducted Ellen into the room where her husband was lying.
    For a moment the young lady recoiled from the appearance of that large apartment, filled with beds in which there lay pillowed so many ghastly faces; but this emotion was as evanescent as the most rapid flash of lightning.
    And now, firm in her purpose to console and solace him whom she had taught herself to love, she followed the nurse towards the bed where the patient lay,  looking neither to the right nor to the left as she proceeded thither.
    Greenwood's countenance was very pale; but the instant the lovely features of his wife burst upon his view, his eyes were lighted up with an expression of joy such as she had never seen them wear before, and the glow of which appeared to penetrate with a sensation of ineffable bliss into the very profundities of her soul.
    "Ellen, this is very kind of you," said Greenwood, tears starting on his long silken lashes, as he pressed her hand warmly in his own.
    "Do not use the word kind, my dearest husband,"  whispered Ellen: "in coming hither I not only perform a duty  but should also fulfil it cheerfully, were it not for the sad occurrence which caused the visit."
    "Be not alarmed, Ellen," murmured Greenwood: "there is no danger  a temporary inconvenience only! And yet," he added, after a brief pause, "to me it is particularly galling just at the very time when I was struggling so hard-so very hard  to build up my fallen fortunes, and prepare  "
    "Oh! do not grieve on that head!" whispered Ellen: "abandon, I implore you, those ambitious dreams  those lofty aspirations which have only led you astray! Do you suppose that, were you to acquire an amount of wealth far greater than that which blesses him, he would welcome you with one single smile the more joyous  with one single emotion the more blissful? Oh! no  far from it! And believe me when I assert my conviction that it would be his pride to place you with his own hand, and by means of his own resources, in a position to enable you to retrieve the past  "
    "Ellen, speak not thus!" said Greenwood, impatiently.
    [-415-] "Well, my dearest husband, I will not urge the topic," answered the beautiful young woman, smiling with a plaintive and melancholy sweetness as she leant over his couch, "But you will permit me to implore that when you are enabled to leave this place, you will suffer yourself to be conveyed to a dwelling which I  your own wife-will provide for you, and where I shall be enabled to visit you every day  as often, indeed, as will give you pleasure? And then  oh! then we shall be happy together  and you can prepare your mind to encounter that day which, I fear, you now look upon to be one of trial, but which I must tutor you to anticipate as one of joy and pleasure as yet unknown."
    Greenwood made no answer; but he meditated profoundly upon those loving words and touching assurances that his beauteous wife breathed in his ear.
    "Yes," continued Ellen, "you will not refuse my prayer! This very day will I seek a comfortable abode  in the northern part of Islington, if possible  so that I may soon be with you every day. For I am possessed of ample resources to accomplish all that I propose; and you know, dearest husband, that every thing which I can call my own is lawfully yours. You smile  oh! now I thank you, because you listen to me with attention; and I thank God also, because he has at length directed your heart towards me, who am your wife, and who will ever, ever love you  dearly love you!"
    "Ellen," murmured Greenwood, pressing her band to his lips, "I should be a monster were I to refuse you any thing which you now demand of me; and, oh! believe me  I am not so bad as that'"
    Sweet Ellen, thou hast conquered the obduracy of that heart which was so long the abode of selfishness and pride;  thou hast subdued the stubborn soul of that haughty and ambitious man:  thine amiability has triumphed over his worldliness;  and thou hast thy crowning reward in the tears which now moisten his pillow, and in the affectionate glances which are upturned towards thee!
    And Ellen departed from the hospital where her angelic influence had wrought so marvellous a change,  departed with a bosom cherishing fond hopes and delicious reveries of happiness to come.
    In the course of that very day Filippo engaged a house in the northern part of Islington; and Ellen superintended, with a joyful heart, the preparations that were made during the ensuing week to render the dwelling as comfortable as possible.
    At length she had the pleasure,  nay, more than pleasure-the ineffable satisfaction of welcoming her husband to that abode which, if not so splendid nor so spacious as the mansion he had once occupied in Spring Gardens, was at least a most grateful change after the cold and cheerless aspect of a hospital.

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