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[-419-]

CHAPTER CCLVIII.

THE APPOINTMENT KEPT.

    IT was the 10th of July, 1843.
    The bell upon the roof of Markham Place had just proclaimed the hour of nine, and the morning was as bright and beautiful as the cheerful sun, the cloudless sky, and the gentle breeze could render a summer-day,  when a party of eight persons ascended the hill on which stood the two trees.
    Those emblems of the fraternal affection of early years were green, verdant, and flourishing; and on the one which had been planted by the hands of the long-lost brother, were the following inscriptions:-
    
    EUGENE.
    Dec. 25, 1836.
    
    EUGENE.
    May I7th, 1838.
    
    EUGENE.
    March 6, 1841.
    
    EUGENE.
    July lst, 1843.
    
    This last inscription, as the reader will perceive, had only been very recently added; and Richard regarded it as a promise-a pledge-a solemn sign that the appointment would be kept.
    It was nine o'clock in the evening when the parting between the brothers took place in the year 1831; and, although it was impossible to determine at what hour of the day on which the twelve years expired, Eugene would return, nevertheless Richard, judging by his own anxiety to clasp a brother in his arms, felt certain that this brother would not delay the moment that was to re-unite them.
    Accordingly, at nine o'clock on the morning of the 10th of July, 1843, the Prince, repaired to the eminence on which he hoped  oh! how fondly hoped  full soon to welcome the long-lost Eugene.
    His seven companions were the Princess Isabella, Ellen, Mr. Monroe, Katherine, Mario Bazzano, Eliza Sydney, and the faithful Whittingham.
    Richard could not conceal a certain nervous suspense under which he laboured; for although he felt assured of Eugene's appearance, yet so long a period had elapsed since they had parted, and so many vicissitudes might have occurred during the interval, that he trembled lest the meeting should be characterised by circumstances which would give his brother pain.
    The Princess Isabella, naturally anxious to become acquainted with her brother-in-law, also looked forward to the return of the long-lost one with emotions which enabled her to comprehend those that animated her husband; and pressing his hand tenderly as they seated themselves on the bench between the trees, she whispered, "Be of good cheer, Richard: your brother will keep the appointment  and oh! what joy for us all!"
    On her side, Katherine was the prey to various conflicting feelings,  anxiety to know a brother whom she had as yet never seen  fear lest he should not come-and curiosity to be convinced whether he were as amiable, as generous-hearted, and as deserving of her sisterly love as Richard.
    And Ellen  poor Ellen!  how difficult for her was the task of concealing all the emotions which agitated her bosom now! But she nevertheless derived much encouragement and hope from the frequent looks of profound meaning which were directed towards her by Eliza Sydney.
    Bazzano endeavoured to soothe the anxiety of his beloved Katherine; while Mr. Monroe and Whittingham shared to a considerable degree the suspense which now animated them all.
    ***
    It was about a quarter past nine o'clock, when Mr. Greenwood halted by the road-side, at a spot which commanded a view of the hill-top whereon stood the two trees.
    He was on foot; and though he had so far recovered from his recent accident as to exhibit only a very trifling lameness hi his gait, still the short walk which he had taken from Islington to the immediate vicinity of Markham Place, compelled him to pause and rest by the way-side.
    He looked towards the hill, and could plainly distinguish the number of persons who were stationed on that eminence.
    A deadly pallor overspread his countenance; and tears started from his eyes.
    But in a few moments he exercised a violent effort over his emotions, and exclaimed aloud, with a kind of desperate emphasis, "I have promised her to go through the ordeal  and I must nerve myself to do so! Ah! Ellen," he added, his voice suddenly changing to a plaintive tone, "you have forced me to love you  you have taught me to bless the affectionate care and solicitude of woman!"
    This apostrophe to his wife seemed to arouse all the better feelings of his soul; and without farther hesitation, he pursued his way towards the hill.
    In a few minutes he reached a point where the road took a sudden turn to the right, thus running round all one side of the base of the eminence, and passing by the mansion itself.
    There he paused again;  for although the party assembled on the hill were plainly perceived by him, he was yet unseen by them  a hedge concealing him from their view.
    "Oh! is the dread ordeal so near at hand?" he exclaimed, with a temporary revival of bitterness of spirit. "Scarcely separated from him by a distance of two hundred yards  a distance so soon cleared  and yet  and yet  "
    At that instant he caught sight of the figure of his wife, who, having advanced a few paces in front [-420-] of her companions, stood more conspicuously than they upon the brow of the hill.
    "She anxiously awaits my coming!" he murmured to himself. "Oh! why do I hesitate?"
    And, as he spoke, he was about to emerge from the shade of the high hedge which concealed him,  about to turn the angle of the road, whereby he would immediately be perceived by those who stood on the hill,  when his attention was suddenly called elsewhere.
    "For, no sooner had the words-"Oh! why do I hesitate?" issued from his lips, than a post-chaise, which was dashing along the road towards London at a rapid rate, upset only a few paces from the spot where he had paused to glance towards the hill.
    One of the fore-wheels of the vehicle had come off; and the chaise rolled over with a heavy crash.
    The postillion instantly stopped his horses; while a man  the only traveller whom the vehicle contained  emerged from the door that was uppermost, and which he had contrived to open.
    All this occurred so rapidly that the traveller stood in the road a few instants after the upsetting of the chaise.
    Greenwood drew near to inquire if he were hurt: but, scarcely had his eyes caught a glimpse of that man's features, when he uttered a cry of mingled rage and delight, and sprang towards him.
    For that traveller was Lafleur!
    "Villain!" cried Greenwood, seizing hold of the Frenchman by the collar: "to you I owe all my misfortunes! Restore me the wealth of which you vilely plundered me!"
    "Unhand me," exclaimed the ex-valet; "or, by heaven  "
    "Wretch!" interrupted Greenwood: 'it is for me to threaten!"
    Lafleur gnashed his teeth with rage, and endeavoured to shake off his assailant with a sudden and desperate effort to hurl him to the ground.
    But Greenwood, weakened though he was by illness, maintained his hold upon the Frenchman, and called for assistance.
    The postillion knew not whose part to take, and therefore remained neutral.
    Lafleur's situation was most critical; but he was not the man to yield without a desperate attempt to free himself.
    Suddenly taking a pistol from his pocket, he aimed a furious blow, with the butt-end of the weapon, at the head of Greenwood, whose hat had fallen off in the struggle.
    The blow descended with tremendous force: and in the next moment Greenwood lay senseless on the road, while Lafleur darted away from the spot with the speed of lightning.
    For an instant the postillion hesitated whether to pursue the fugitive or attend to the wounded man; but he almost immediately decided in favour of the more humane course.
    Upon examination he found that Greenwood's forehead had received a terrible wound, from which the blood was streaming down his temples.
    He was moreover quite senseless; and the postillion, after binding the wound with a handkerchief, vainly endeavoured to recover him.
    "Well, it won't do to let the poor gentleman die in this way," said the man to himself; and, after an instant's reflection, he remembered that Markham Place was close at hand.
    Depositing Greenwood as comfortably as he could on the cushions which he took from the chaise, he hastened to the mansion, and related to the servants all that had occurred.
    Without a moment's hesitation, well knowing that their conduct would be approved of by their excellent master,  three stout footmen hastened, with the means of forming a litter, to the spot where the postillion had left Greenwood.
    On their arrival they found that he had to some extent recovered his senses; and a cordial, which one of the footmen poured down his throat, completely revived him.
    But, alas! he was aroused only to the fearful conviction that he had received his death-blow; for that mysterious influence which sometimes warns the soul of its approaching flight, was upon him!
    "My good friends," he said, in a faint and languid tone, "I have one request to make  the request of a dying man!"
    "Name it, sir," returned the senior footman; "and command us as you will."
    "I conjure you, then," exclaimed Greenwood, speaking with more strength and animation than at first,  "I conjure you to remove me on that litter which your kindness has prepared, to the spot where your master, his family, and friends are now assembled. You hesitate! Oh! grant me this request, I implore you  and the Prince will not blame you!"
    The servants were well aware of the motive which had induced their master and his companions to repair to the hill-top thus early on this particular day; and the urgent request of Greenwood now excited a sudden suspicion in their minds.
    But they did not express their thoughts: there was no time to waste in question or comment-for the wounded gentleman, who had proffered so earnest a prayer, was evidently in a dying state.
    Exchanging significant glances, the servants placed Greenwood upon the litter; and, aided by the postillion, set out with their burden towards the hill.
    The angle of the road was passed; and the party bearing the wounded man, suddenly appeared to the view of those who were stationed on the hill.
    "Merciful heaven!" exclaimed Richard, with a shudder: "what can this mean?"
    "Be not alarmed," said Ellen: "it can have no reference to Eugene. Doubtless some poor creature has met with an accident  "
    "But my own servants are the bearers of that litter which is approaching!" cried the Prince, now becoming painfully excited. "A man is stretched upon it  his head is bandaged  he lies motionless-Oh! what terrible fears oppress me!"
    And as he uttered these words, Richard sank back almost fainting upon the seat.
    The gallant warrior, whose heart had never failed in the thickest of the battle-whose courage was so dauntless when bullets were flying round him like hail  and whose valour had given him a name amongst the mightiest generals of the universe,  this man of a chivalrous soul was subdued by the agonising alarm that had suddenly menaced all his fond fraternal hopes with annihilation!
    For so ominous  so sinister appeared to be the approach of a litter at the very moment when he was anxiously awaiting the presence of a long-lost brother, that his feelings experienced a revulsion as painful as it was sudden.
    And now for a few moments the strange spectacle [-421-] of the litter was forgotten by those who crowded round our hero in alarm at the change which had come over him.
    Even Ellen turned away from the contemplation of that mournful procession which was toiling up the hill;  for she had seen Greenwood on the preceding evening  she had left him in good health  she had raised his spirits by her kind attentions and her loving language-and she did not for one moment apprehend that he could be the almost lifeless occupant of that litter!
    "Pardon me, sweet Isabella  pardon me, dear Kate  and you also, my devoted-friends," said Richard, at the expiration of a few minutes: "I am grieved to think that this weakness on my part should have distressed you  and yet I cannot be altogether ashamed of it!"
    "Ashamed!" repeated Isabella, tenderly: "Oh! no, Richard  that word can never be associated with act or feeling on your part! For twelve years you have been separated from your brother  that last inscription on his own tree promises his return  and your generous heart is the prey of a suspense easily aggravated by the slightest circumstance of apparent ill omen."
    "You describe my feelings exactly, dearest Isabel," said Markham, pressing with the tenderest warmth the band of his lovely young wife.
    "Because I know your heart so well," answered the Princess, with a sweet smile.
    "Let us not believe in omens of an evil nature," said Katherine. "Some poor creature has met with an accident  "
    "But wherefore should the servants bring him hither?" asked Richard.
    This question produced a startling effect upon all who heard it: and no wonder that it did so  for the consideration which it involved had escaped all attention during the excitement of the last few minutes.
    "Oh! heavens  now I am myself alarmed!" whispered Ellen to Eliza Sydney. "And yet it is foolish  "
    At that moment the litter had approached so near the brow of the hill, that as Ellen glanced towards it while she spoke, her eyes obtained a full view of the countenance of him who lay stretched upon that mournful couch.
    A piercing shriek burst from her lips; and she fell back, as if suddenly shot through the heart, into the arms of Eliza Sydney.
    Richard sprang forward: a few steps brought him close by the litter, which the bearers now placed upon the ground beneath the foliage of the very tree whereon the inscriptions were engraved!
    One look  one look was sufficient!
    "Eugene  my brother Eugene!" exclaimed our hero, in a tone of the most intense anguish, as he cast himself on his knees by the side of the litter, and threw his arms around the dying man. "Oh! my God  is it thus that we meet? You are wounded, my dearest brother: but we will save you  we will save you! Hasten for a surgeon-delay not a moment  it is the life of my brother which is at stake!"
    "Your brother, Richard!" cried Isabella, scarcely knowing what she said in that moment of intense excitement and profound astonishment: "your brother, my beloved husband? Oh! no  there is some dreadful mistake  for he whom you thus embrace is Mr. George Montague Greenwood!"
    "Montague  Greenwood!" ejaculated Richard, starting as if an ice-bolt had suddenly entered his heart. "No  no-impossible, Isabella! Tell me  Eugene  tell me-you cannot be he of whom I have heard so much?"
    "Yes, Richard  I am that villain!" answered Eugene, turning his dying countenance in an imploring manner towards his brother. "But do not desert me  do not spurn me-do not even upbraid me now!"
    "Never  never!" cried the Prince, again embracing Eugene with passionate  almost frantic warmth. "Upbraid you, my dearest brother! Oh no  no! Forget the past, Eugene-let it be buried in oblivion. And look up, my dear-dear brother: they are all kind faces which surround you! Here is Katherine  our sister, Eugene-yes, our sister  "
    "I am acquainted with all that concerns her, Richard," said Eugene. "Come to my arms, Katherine  embrace me, my sweet sister;  and say  can you also forgive a brother who has done so much ill in the world, and whose name is covered with infamy!"
    "Speak not thus, my dearest Eugene!" cried Kate, also falling on her knees by the side of her brother, and embracing him tenderly.
    "And you, too, Isabella  for you also are my sister now," continued Eugene, extending his hand towards her: "do you pardon him who once inflicted so much injury upon your father?"
    "You are my husband's brother  and you are therefore mine, Eugene," answered the Princess, tears trickling down her countenance. "None but affectionate relatives and kind friends now surround you; and your restoration to health shall be our earnest care!"
    "Alas! there is no hope of recovery! "murmured Eugene.
    "Yes  there is hope, my dearest husband!" exclaimed Ellen, who, having regained her consciousness through the kind attentions of Eliza Sydney, now flew to the litter.
    "Your husband, Ellen!" cried Mr. Monroe and Richard as it were in the same breath.
    "Yes  Eugene is my husband  my own, much-loved husband!" ejaculated Ellen: "and now you can divine the cause which led to the maintenance of that secret until this day!"
    "And you, Mr. Monroe," said Eugene, a transient fire animating his eyes, as he clasped Ellen in his arms, "may be proud of your daughter  you also, Richard, may glory in her as a sister-for she has taught me to repent of my past errors  she has led me to admire and worship the noble character of Woman! But our child, Ellen  where is my boy  my darling Richard?"
    "We will remove you into the house, Eugene," said his wife, bending over the litter with the tenderest solicitude; "and there you shall embrace your boy!"
    "No  no  leave me here!" exclaimed her husband: "it is so sweet to lie beneath the foliage of this tree which bears my own name, and reminds me of my youthful days,  surrounded, too, by so many dear relatives and kind friends!"
    "Amongst the latter of whom you must now reckon me," said Eliza Sydney, approaching the couch, and extending her hand to Eugene, who wrung it cordially. "Hush!" added Eliza, perceiv-[-422-]ing that he was about to address her: "no reference to the past! All that is unpleasant is forgotten:  a happy future is before us!"
    "Admirable woman!" cried Eugene, overpowered by so many manifestations of forgiveness, affection, and sympathy as he had received within the last few minutes.
    Mario Bazzano was then presented to his brother-in-law.
    "May God bless your union with my sister!" said Eugene, in a solemn tone. "For a long time I have known that I possessed a sister  and much have I desired to see her. Richard, be not angry with me when I inform you that I was in a room adjacent to that apartment wherein the explanations relative to Katherine's birth, took place between your self and the Marquis of Holmesford;  be not angry with me, I say, that I did not discover myself and rush into your arms,  but I was then the victim of an insatiable ambition! Do not interrupt me-I have much to say. Let some one hasten to fetch my child; and do you all gather round me, to hear my last words!"
    " Your last words!" shrieked Ellen: "Oh! no  you must recover!"
    Yes  with care and attention, dearest Eugene," said Richard, his eyes dimmed with tears, "you shall be restored to us."
    Katherine and Isabella also wept abundantly.
    A servant had already departed to fetch a surgeon: a second was now despatched to the house for the little Richard and the young Prince Alberto.
    It was at length Whittingham's turn to go forward; and, whimpering like a child, he pressed Eugene's hand warmly in his own. The old man was unable to speak  his voice was choked with emotion; but Eugene recognised him, and acknowledged his faithful attachment with a few kind words which only increased the butler's grief.
    "Listen to me for a few minutes, my dearest relatives  my kindest friends," said Eugene, after a brief pause. "I feel that I am dying  I have met my fate at the hands of the villanous Lafleur who plundered me more than two years and a half ago, and whom I encountered ere now in my way hither. Alas! I have pursued a strange career a career of selfishness and crime, sacrificing every consideration and every individual to my own purposes  raising at one time a colossal fortune upon the ruin of thousands! I was long buoyed up by the hope of making myself a great name in the world, alike famous for wealth and rank,  that I might convince you, my brother, how a man of talent could carve out his way without friends, and without capital at the beginning! But, alas! I have for some months been convinced  thanks to the affectionate reasoning of that angel Ellen, and to the contemplation of your example, Richard, even from a distance-that talent will not maintain prosperity for ever, unless it be allied to virtue! And let me observe, Richard  as God is my witness!  that with all my selfishness I never sought to injure you! When you were ruined by the speculations of Allen, I knew not that it was your wealth of which I was plundering him: I had not the least suspicion that Mr. Monroe was even acquainted with that man! The truth was revealed to me one day at the dwelling of Isabella's parents: and heaven knows how deeply I felt the villany of my conduct, which had robbed you! Do not interrupt me-I conjure you to allow me to proceed! Many and many a time did I yearn to hasten to your assistance when misfortune first overtook you, Richard:  but, no-the appointment had been made for a certain day  and I even felt a secret pleasure to think that you might probably be reduced to the lowest state of penury, from which in one moment, when that day should come, I might elevate you to an enjoyment of the half of my fortune! But that I have ever loved you, Richard, those inscriptions on the tree will prove; and, moreover, I once penetrated into the home of our forefathers  the study-window was not fastened  I effected an entrance  I sought your chamber-I saw you sleeping in your bed  "
    "Oh! then it was not a dream!" exclaimed Richard. "Dearest Eugene, say no more-we require no explanations  no apology for the past! Here is your child, Eugene  and mine also: your son and your little nephew are by your side!"
    Eugene raised himself, by Ellen's aid, upon the litter, and embraced the two children with the most unfeigned tenderness.
    For a few moments he gazed earnestly upon their innocent countenances: then, yielding to a sudden impulse, as the incidents of his own career swept through his memory, he exclaimed, "God grant that they prove more worthy of the name of Markham than I!"
    Richard and Ellen implored him not to give way to bitter reflections for the past.
    "Alas! such counsel is offered as vainly as it is kindly meant!" murmured Eugene. "My life has been tainted with many misdeeds  and not the least was my black infamy towards that excellent man, who afterwards became your friend, Richard  I mean Thomas Armstrong!"
    "He forgave you  he forgave you, Eugene!  exclaimed time Prince.
    "Ellen has informed me that you have in your possession a paper which he gave you on his deathbed  "
    "Amid which is to be opened this day," added Richard.
    Then, drawing forth the document, he broke the seal.
    A letter fell upon the ground.
    "Read it," said Eugene: "all that concerns you is deeply interesting to me."
    The Prince complied with his brother's request, and read the letter aloud. Its contents were as follow:-
    
    "I have studied human nature to little purpose, and contemplated the phases of the human character with small avail, if I err in the prediction which I am now about to record.
    "Richard, you will become a great man  as you are now a good one.
    "Should necessity compel you to open this document at any time previously to the 10th of July, 1843, receive the fortune to which it refers as an encouragement to persevere in honourable pursuits. But should you not read these words until the day named, my hope and belief are that you will be placed, by your own exertions far beyond the want of that sum, which, in either case, is bequeathed to you as a testimonial or my sincerest regard and esteem.
    "Signor Viviani, banker at Pinalla, in the State of Castelcicala, or his agents, Messrs. Glyn and Co., bankers, London, will pay over to you, on presentation of this letter, the sum of seventy-five thousand pounds, with all interest, simple and compound, accruing thereto since the month of July. 1839, at which period I placed that amount in the hands of Signor Viviani.
    [-423-] "One word more, my dear young friend. Should you ever encounter an individual who speaks ill of the memory of Thomas Armstrong, say to him, 'He forgave his enemies!' And should you ever meet one who has injured me, say to him, 'In the name of Thomas Armstrong, I forgive you!
    "Be happy, my dear young friend  be happy!
    
    "THOMAS ARMSTRONG."
    
    It would be impossible to describe the emotions awakened in the breast of all those who heard the contents of this letter.
    "Now, my dearest brother," exclaimed Richard, after a brief pause, "in the name of Thomas Armstrong, you are forgiven the injury which you did to him!"
    "Thank you, dear brother, for that assurance: it relieves my mind of a heavy load! And, Richard," continued Eugene, in a voice tremulous with emotions and faint with the ebb of life's spirit, "the, prediction is verified  you are a great man! The world is filled with the glory of your name  and you are as good as you are great! The appointment has been kept:  but how! We meet beneath the foliage of the two trees  you as the heir apparent to a throne  I as a ruined profligate!"
    "No  no!" exclaimed the Prince; "you shall live to be rich and prosperous  "
    Eugene smiled faintly.
    "Merciful heavens! he is dying!" ejaculated Ellen.
    And it was so!
    Terrible was the anguish of those by whom he was surrounded.
    Mr. Wentworth, the surgeon, appeared at this crisis; but his attentions were ministered in vain.
    Eugene's eyes grew dim  still he continued sensible; and he knew that his last moments were approaching.
    Richard  Ellen  Katherine-Eliza Sydney  the two children  Mario Bazzano  Isabella  Mr. Monroe  and the faithful Whittingham,  all wept bitterly, as the surgeon shook his head in despair!
    "My husband  my dearest husband!" screamed Ellen, wildly: "look upon me  look upon your child  Oh! my God  this day that was to have been so happy!"
    Eugene essayed to speak  but could not: and that was his last mortal effort.
    In another moment his spirit had fled for ever!

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