chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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LAPSE OF TWO YEARS
SHAKSPEARE said, "All the world is a stage;"
we say, "All the world is an omnibus."
The old and young - the virtuous and wicked - the rich and
the poor, are invariably thrown and mixed up together; and yet their interests
are always separate. Few stretch out a hand to help a ragged or decrepit man
into the vehicle; and the well-dressed draw back and avert their heads as the
impoverished wretch forces his way with difficulty past them up to the vacant
seat in the farthest corner. The moment a well-dressed individual mounts the
steps of the omnibus, every hand is thrust out to help him in, and the most
convenient seat is instantaneously accorded to him. And then the World's omnibus
hurries along. stopping occasionally at the gates of a church-yard to put down
one of its passengers, and calling at some palace or some cottage
indiscriminately to fill up the vacant seat.
Away - away thunders the World's omnibus again, crushing the
fairest flowers of the earth in its progress, and frequently choosing rough,
dreary, and unfrequented roads in preference to paths inviting, even, and
pleasant. Sometimes, by the caprice of the passengers, or by the despotic
commands of the masters of the World's omnibus, the beggar and the rich man
change garments and places; and then the former becomes the object of deference
and respect, while the latter is treated with contempt and scorn. In the World's
omnibus might makes right ;- but cunning frequently secures
a more soft and comfortable seat than either.
If a dispute ensues, and the question at issue is referred to
the conductor for arbitration, he glances at the personal appearance of the
complainant and defendant, and decides in favour of him who wears the better
coat. When stones or other impediments obstruct the way of the World's omnibus,
the poor and the ragged passengers are commanded to alight and clear them away;
and yet, when the vehicle stops for dinner at the inn by the way side, the
well-dressed and the affluent appropriate to themselves the luxuries, while
those who cleared away the stones and who grease the wheels, get only a sorry
crust - and sometimes nothing at all.
And then, away - away the World's omnibus goes again, amidst
noise, dust, and all variations of weather. In the inclement seasons extra
garments are given to the well-dressed and the rich but none to the ragged and
the poor: - on the contrary, their very rags and tatters are frequently taken
from them to pay the prices of the hard crusts at the road-side inns. So goes
the World's omnibus; and the moment the driver and conductor, who are its
masters and owners, are deposited in their turn at the gates of some cemetery,
their sons succeed them, whether competent or not - whether infants in
swaddling-clothes, or old men [-103-] in their
dotage. And few - very few of those drivers know how to bold the reins ;- and
thus is it that the World's omnibus is frequently hurried at a thundering rate
over broken ground, even unto the very verge of some precipice, down which it
would be inevitably dashed, did not some bold intrepid passenger emerge from his
obscurity in the corner, rush upon the box, hurl the incompetent driver from his
seat, and assume the reins in his stead. But mark the strange opinions of those
who journey in the World's omnibus! The passengers, instead of being grateful to
him who has thus rescued them from ruin, pronounce him the usurper of a seat to
which he has no hereditary claim, and never rest till they have succeeded in
displacing him, and restoring the incompetent driver to his function.
So goes the World's omnibus! None of the passengers are ever
contented with their seats even though they may have originally chosen those
seats for themselves. This circumstance leads to a thousand quarrels and mean
artifices; and constant shiftings of positions take place. One passenger envies
the seat of another; and, when he has succeeded in working his way into it, he
finds to his surprise that it is not so agreeable as he imagines, and he either
wishes to get back to his old one or to shove himself into another. The
passengers in the World's omnibus are divided into different sects and parties,
each party professing certain opinions for the authority of which they have no
better plea than "the wisdom of their forefathers." Thus one party
hates and abhors another; and each confidently imagines itself to be in the
right, and all other parties to be in the wrong. And for those differences of
opinion the most sanguinary broils ensue ; and friendship, honour, virtue, and
integrity are all forgotten in the vindictive contention.
But the World's omnibus rolls along all the same and the
Driver and Conductor laugh at the contests amongst the passengers, which they
themselves have probably encouraged, and which somehow or another always turn to
their individual benefit in the long run.
So goes the World's omnibus ;- so it has always hurried
onwards;- and in like manner will it ever go!
Oh! say not that Time his a leaden wing while it accompanies
the World's omnibus on its way!
Two years elapsed from the date of the Old Bailey trials
decribed in preceding chapters.
It was now the beginning of December, 1837.
The morning was dry, fine, and bright the ground was as hard
as asphalte; and the air was pure, cold, and frosty.
From an early hour a stout, elderly man well wrapped up in a
large great coat, and with a worsted "comforter" coming up to his very
nose, which was of a purple colour with the cold - was seen walking up and
down the front of the Giltspur Street Compter, apparently dividing his attention
between the prison entrance and the clock of Saint Sepulchre's church.
At a quarter to ten o'clock, on that same morning, a private
carriage, without armorial bearings upon the panels, and attended by two
domestics whose splendid liveries were concealed beneath drab great-coats, drove
up to the door of the house inhabited by the Governor of Newgate. Inside that
carriage was seated a lady - wrapped up in the most costly firs, and with a
countenance whose beauty were enhanced by the smile of pleasure and satisfaction
which illuminated it.
Previously as the clock of Saint Sepulchre's Church struck
ten, the doors of the Compter and Newgate opened simultaneously, and with a
From the Compter issued Richard Markham:- the portal of
Newgate gave freedom to Eliza Sydney.
They were both restored to liberty upon the same day - the
terms of their imprisonment dating from the commencement of the sessions during
which they were tried.
The moment Richard set foot in the street, he was caught in
the arms of the faithful Whittingham, who welcomed him with a kind of paternal
affection, and whimpered over him like a child.
Eliza Sydney entered the carriage awaiting her at the door of
Newgate, and was clasped to the bosom of Mrs. Arlington. The vehicle immediately
drove rapidly away in a north-easterly direction.
"Mr. Monroe is waiting for you at your own house at
Holloway," said Whittingham to his young master, when the first ebullition
of joy was over. "He has been ailing lately - and he thought that this
happy and fortitudinous event would be too much for his nerves."
"Let us make haste home, my excellent friend,"
observed Markham. "I am dying to behold once more the haunts of my
Whittingham summoned a cab; and he and his young master were
soon rolling along the road which led to home.
Two years' imprisonment had produced a great effect upon
Richard Markham. The intellectual cast and faultless beauty of his countenance
still remained; but the joyous expression, natural to youth, had fled for ever;
and in its place was a settled melancholy which proclaimed an early and intimate
acquaintance with misfortune. His spirit was broken; but his principles were not
undermined :- his heart was lacerated to its very core, but his integrity
remained intact. Even though the gate of his prison had closed behind him, he
could not shake off the idea that his very countenance proclaimed him to be a Freed
At length the cab reached Markham Place.
Richard glanced, with a momentary gleam of satisfaction upon
his pale countenance, towards the hill on which stood the two trees - the
rallying point for the brothers who had separated, more than six years back,
beneath the foliage. Tears started to his eyes; and the ray of sunshine upon his
brow gave place to a cloud of deep and sombre melancholy. He thought of what he
was when he bade adieu to his brother at that period, and what he was at the
present moment. Then all was blooming and encouraging in his path; and now
he felt as if the mark of Cain was upon him!
He alighted from the vehicle, and entered the library, where
Mr. Monroe awaited him. He and his guardian were at length alone together.
But how altered was Monroe since Richard had last seen him!
His form was bowed down, his countenance was haggard, his eyes were sunken and
his brow was covered with wrinkles. He glanced furtively end anxiously around
him the instant the young man entered the room; and instead of hastening forward
to welcome him, he sank upon a chair, covering his face with his hands. The
tears trickled through his fingers; and his breast was convulsed with deep sobs.
"In the name of heaven, what ails you, sir?"
"My boy - you have come back at last", exclaimed
the old gentleman, scarcely able to articu-[-104-]late
a wind, through the bitterness of his grief;- "and the much-dreaded day has
at length arrived!"
"Much-dreaded day," repeated Markham, in unfeigned
astonishment. "I should have thought, sir," he added coldly,
"that you, who professed yourself so convinced of my innocence, would have
received me with a smile of welcome!"
"My dear - dear boy," gasped the old man, "God
knows I am rejoiced to hail your freedom; and that same Almighty power can also
attest to my sincere conviction of your innocence. Believe me, I would go
through fire and water to serve you,- I would lay down my life, miserable and
valueless as it is, to benefit you ;- but, oh! I cannot - cannot support your
And the old gentlemen seemed absolutely convulsed with agony
as he spoke.
"I presume," said Richard, leaning over him, so as
to be enabled to whisper its his ear, although there was no-one else at hand to
listen,- "I presume that you scorn the man who has been convicted of
felony? It is natural, sir - it is natural; but such a demonstration of aversion
is not the less calculated to wound one who never injured you."
"No, - no, Richard; you never injured me; and that makes
me feel the more acutely now. But - hear me. I take God to witness that I love
you as my own son, and that I am above such unnatural conduct as that which you
would impute to me."
"My God!" cried Markham, impatiently, "what
does all this mean? Are you ill? Has anything unpleasant occurred? If so, we
will postpone all discussion upon my affairs until a period more agreeable to
As Markham uttered these words, he gently disengaged the old
man's hands from his countenance, and pressed them in his own. He was then for
the first time struck by the altered and care-worn features of his guardian; and
without thinking of the effect his words might produce, he exclaimed, "My
dear sir, you have evidently been very - very ill!"
"Ill!" cried the old man, bitterly. " When the
mind suffers, the body is sympathetically affected; and this has been my case!
If you have suffered much Richard, during the last two years - so have I; and we
have both only the same consolation - our innocence!"
"You speak in enigmas," ejaculated Markham.
"What can you have to do with innocence or guilt - you who never wronged a
human being ?"
So strange became the expression of the old man's
countenance, as Richard uttered these words, that the young man was perfectly
astonished, and almost horrified; and undefined alarms floated through his
brain. He was in a painful state of suspense; and yet he was afraid to ask a
"Richard!" suddenly exclaimed the old man, now
looking our hero fixedly arid fearlessly in the face, "I have a terrible
communication to make to you."
"A terrible communication!" repeated Markham :
"is it in respect to my brother? If so, do not keep me in suspense - let me
know the worst at once - I can bear anything but suspense!"
"I have never heard from nor of your
brother," answered Mr. Monroe; "and cannot say whether he is dead or
"Thank God, you have nothing terrible to communication
relative to him," exclaimed Markham ; for he always had and still
entertained a presentiment that the appointment on the hill, beneath the two
trees, would be punctually kept ;- and this hope had cheered him during his
"But I will not keep you in suspense, Richard,"
said the old man; "it is better for me to unburthen my mind at once. You
"Ruined! said Markham starting as that dread word fell
upon his ears; for the word ruin does not express one evil, like other
words such as sickness, poverty, imprisonment; but it comprises and expresses an
awful catalogue of all the miseries which can be supposed to afflict humanity.
"Ruined!" he cried ;- then catching at a straw, he added, "Aye!
ruined in reputation, doubtless; but rich in the possessions which this world
principally esteems. My property was all vested in you by my deceased father - I
was not of age when I was condemned - and consequently the law could not touch
my fortune when it filched from me my good name!"
"Ruined - ruined in property and all!" returned Mr.
Monroe, solemnly. "Unfortunate speculations on my part, but in your
interest, have consumed the vast property entrusted to me by your father!"
Markham fell into an arm chair; and for a moment he thought
that every fibre in his heart would break. A terrible load oppressed his chest
and his brain ;- he was the victim of deep despair. As one look, forth into the
darkness of midnight, and sees it dense and motionless, so did he now survey his
own prospects The single consolation which, besides the hope of again meeting
his brother,- the real, the present, the tangible consolation, as it might be
called, which would have enabled him to forget a portion of his sufferings and
his wrongs - this was now gone; and, a beggar upon the face of the earth, he
found that he bed not even the advantage of a good name to help him onwards in
his career. Hope was quenched within him!
A long pause ensued.
At its expiration Markham suddenly rose from the arm-chair,
approached his guardian, and said in a low and hollow voice, "Tell me how
all this has happened: let me know the circumstances which led to this
"They are brief," said Monroe, "and will
convince you that I am more to be pitied than blamed. Long previous to your
unfortunate trial, I commenced a series of speculations with my own property,
all of which turned out unhappily. The year 1832 was a fatal one to many
old-established houses; and mine was menaced with absolute ruin. In an evil hour
I listened to the advice of a Mr. Allen, a merchant who had been reduced by
great losses in America trading; and by his counsel. I employed a small portion
of your property with the view of recovering my own, and augmenting your
wealth at the same time. Allen acted as my agent in these new speculations. At
first we were eminently successful: I speedily released myself from difficulty,
and doubled the sum that I had borrowed from your fortune. At the beginning of
1836 Mr. Allen heard of a gentleman who required the loan of a considerable sum
of money to work a patent which was represented to be a perfect mine of gold.
Mr. Allen and I consulted upon the eligibility of embarking money in this
enterprise: in a word, we were dazzled by the immense advantages to be derived
from the speculation. At that time - it was shortly after your trial and
sentence, Richard - I was ill and confined to my bed. Mr. Allen therefore
managed this for me; and it is an extraordinary fact that I have never once seen
to whom I lent an enormous sum of money - for I did advance the sum required by
that person; and I drew largely upon your fortune to procure it! Oh! Richard -
had this speculation succeeded, I should have been a wealthy man once more, and
your property would have been more than doubled. But, alas! this individual to
whom I advanced that immense amount, and whose securities I had fancied
unexceptionable, defrauded me in the most barefaced manner! And yet the law
could not touch him, for he had contrived to associate Allen's name with his own
as a partner in the enterprise. Rendered desperate by this appalling loss, I
embarked in the moat extravagant speculations with the remainder of your money.
The infatuation of the gambler seized upon me: end I never stopped until the
result was ruin - total ruin to me and comparative ruin to you!"
"Comparative ruin - only comparative ruin!"
ejaculated Markham, his countenance suddenly brightening up at these words:
"is there any thing left from the wrecks of my property - is there any
thing available still remaining ? Speak ;- and if you answer me in the
affirmative - if you announce the existence of never so small a pittance, I will
yet forgive you all!"
"This house and the small estate attached to it are
left," answered the old man, "and totally unincumbered. I neither
could nor would touch your paternal possessions."
Markham felt indescribable relief from this statement; and he
wrung his guardian's hand with the same gratitude which he would have shown had
he that day received his inheritance entire.
"Thank God, I am not totally ruined! " cried
Markham. "I can at least bury myself in this re-[-106-]treat
; - I can daily ascend that hill where the memorials of fraternal affection
stand ; - and I can there hope for the return of my brother! My dears sir, what
has been done cannot be recalled: reproaches, even were I inclined to offer any,
would be useless; and regrets would be equally unavailing. This estate will
produce me a small income - but enough for my wants. Two hundred pounds a-year
are certainly a beggar's pittance, when compared with the inheritance which my
father left me ;- but I am still grateful that even the means of subsistence are
left. And you, Mr. Monroe - upon what are you subsisting?"
" I still attend to the wrecks of my affairs,"
replied the old man; "and then I have my daughter Ellen - who earns a
little with her needle "
"You shall come and take up your abode with me - you and
your daughter - and share my income," interrupted the generous young man, who saw
not before him an individual that had deprived him of a large fortune, but an
old - old man, bent down by the weight of numerous and deep afflictions.
Monroe wept at this noble conduct on the part of his ward,
and strenuously refused to accept the proffered kindness and hospitality.
Markham urged, begged, and entreated ;- but the old man would not accede to his
"You have not told me what became of your friend Mr.
Allen," said Richard, after a pause.
"He was an honourable and an upright man," was the reply;
"and the ruin which he had been the means of entailing, though innocently,
upon me, broke his heart. He died three months ago."
"And what became of the infamous cheat whose schemes
have thus killed one person and ruined two others?"
"I know not," answered Mr. Monroe. "I never saw him
myself; nor did he even know that there was such a person as myself connected
with the loan which he received. Certain commercial reasons - too long to be
explained now - made me put forward Allen as the person who advanced the money,
and conducted the entire business as a principal, and not as an agent. Thus no
communication ever took place between me and this George Montague."
"George Montague! " ejaculated Richard.
"Yes - he was the villain who has plundered us."
"George Montague again !" murmured Richard, as he
paced the room with hurried and uneven steps. " Why is it that this name
should constantly obtrude itself upon my notice? wherefore should I be
perpetually condemned to hear it uttered, and always coupled with epithets of
abhorrence and reproach? and why should I be amongst the number of that
miscreant's victims? Strange combination of circumstances! "
"Are you acquainted with this Montague?" demanded his
guardian: "the name seemed to produce a singular effect upon you."
"I am not acquainted with him: like you, I have never even
seen him," said Markham. "But I have heard much concerning him; and all that
I have heard is evil. Surely - surely justice will some day overtake a miscreant
who is constantly preying upon society, and who enriches himself at the expense
of his fellow-creatures' happiness! "
Some time longer was devoted to conversation upon topics of
interest to Markham and his guardian; and when the former had partially
succeeded in tranquillising the mind of the latter, the old man was suffered to
take his departure.
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