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[-106-]

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE VISIT.

WE purpose to follow the history of Richard Markham a little farther, ere we return to Eliza Sydney. whose adventures, after her release from Newgate, will, it is believed, excite the liveliest interest in the minds of the readers.
    As soon as Mr. Monroe had taken his departure, Richard made Whittingham acquainted with his altered prospects; and they two together settled certain economical alterations in the establishment at the Place which were calculated to meet the limited means of its master, - who, it will be remembered, was now of age, and, consequently invested with the control of the little property that the villany of George Montague had left him.
    Markham then proceeded, attended by Whittingham, to visit the various apartments of the old mansion from which he had been so long absent; and each recalled to his mind reminiscences that circumstances had made painful. In one apartment he had been wont to sit with his revered father of an evening, and survey the adjacent scenery and the mighty city from the windows. In another he had pursued his studies with the dearly loved brother whom he had lost: whichever way he turned, visions calculated to oppress his mind rose before him. He felt like a criminal who had disgraced an honourable name; and even the very pictures of his ancestors appeared to frown upon him from their antique and dust-covered frames.
    But when he entered the room where the spirit of his father had taken its leave of this world, his emotions almost overpowered him. He wept aloud; and even the old butler did not now endeavour to comfort him. He had returned, branded with shame, to a house where he had received an existence that was full of hope and honour ; - he had come back to a dwelling in the rooms of which were hung the portraits of many great and good men, who were his ancestors, but amongst whom his own likeness could never take a place, for fear that some visitor to that mansion should write the words "Freed Convict" upon the frame.
    For though conscience reproached him not for guilt, the world would not believe his innocence.
    That night he could not sleep; and he hailed the dawn of morning as the shipwrecked mariner upon the raft beholds the signal of assistance in the horizon. He rose, and hastened to the hill, where he seated himself upon the bench between the two trees. There he gave free vent to his tears; and he was relieved.
    Suddenly his eye caught sight of letters carved upon the bark of his brother's tree. He looked closer; and, to his indescribable joy, he beheld these characters rudely hut deeply cut on the tree

EUGENE.

Dec. 25, 1836

    "Thank God! my brother lives! " exclaimed Richard, clasping his hands together. "This is an intimation of his remembrance of me! But - oh! why did he desert me in my need? wherefore came he not to see me in my prison? Alas! years must yet elapse ere I clasp him to my heart! Let me not repine - let me not reproach him without hearing his justification! He has revisited the hill; and he chose a sacred day for what he no doubt deemed a sacred duty! It was on the anniversary of the nativity of the Saviour that he came back to the [-107-] scenes of his youth! Oh, Eugene! I thank thee for this: it is an assurance that the appointment on the 10th of July, 1843, will be punctually kept!
    From the moment when his eyes rested upon the memorial of his lost brother thus carved upon the bark of the tree, Richard's mind became composed, and, indeed, comparatively happy. His habits, however, grew more and more secluded and reserved; and he seldom ventured into that mighty Babylon whose snares had proved so fatal to his happiness.
    One day - it was about the middle of March, 1838 - Richard was surprised by the arrival of a phaeton and pair at his abode; and he eagerly watched from the window to ascertain who could have thought of paying him a visit. In a few minutes he was delighted to see Mr. Armstrong, the political martyr with whom he had become acquainted in Newgate, alight from the vehicle.
    Richard hastened to welcome him with the most unfeigned sincerity.
    "You see I have found you out, my dear young friend," said Armstrong. " I miscalculated the date of your release from that abominable hole, and a few weeks ago was waiting for hours one day in Giltspur Street to welcome you to freedom. At length I did what I ought to have done at first - that is, inquired of the turnkeys whether you were to be released that day or not: and, behold - I found that the bird had flown."
    "I should have written to you," said Richard, "for you were kind enough to give me your address; but really my mind has been so bent upon solitude —"
    "From which solitude," interrupted Armstrong, smiling, " I am come to drag you away. Will you allow me to dispose of the next ten days for you?"
    "How do you mean, my good friend?" inquired Markham. 
    "I mean that you shall pass that time with me at the house of a friend at Richmond. Solitude and seclusion will never wean you from the contemplation of your past sorrows."
    "But you know that I cannot go into society again," said Richard.
    "This is absurd, Markham. I will hear no apologies: you must and shall place yourself at my disposal," returned the old gentleman, in a kind and yet positive manner.
    "But to whom do you wish to introduce me?" inquired Markham.
    "To an Italian emigrant, who has only just arrived in this country, with his family, but the honour of whose friendship I have enjoyed for many, many years. I must tell you that I have travelled much ; and that Italy has always been a country which has excited my warmest sympathy. It was at Montoni, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Castelcicala that I first met Count Alteroni; and his extremely liberal political opinions, which completely coincide with my own, were the foundation of a staunch friendship between us. Ten years ago he was compelled to fly from his native land; and he sought refuge in England. His only child - a beautiful girl, of the name of Isabella - thus obtained an English education and speaks the language with fluency. Two years ago, he was allowed to return to Castelcicala; but a few months back fresh political events in that state forced him once more to become an exile. He arrived in England a month ago, and hasp taken a small but commodious and picturesque residence at Richmond. His means are ample, but not vast; and he therefore lives in comparative seclusion - other reasons, moreover, inducing him to avoid the pomp and ostentation which noblemen of his rank usually maintain. Thus, in addressing him, you must drop the formality of My Lord; and remember also that his daughter chooses to be called simply, Miss Isabella, or the Signora Isabella.
    "And how can I venture to present myself to this nobleman of high rank, and his wife and daughter, knowing that but a few weeks ago I was liberated from a gaol?" demanded Richard, somewhat bitterly.
    "The count has not heard of your misfortune, and is not likely to do so," answered Armstrong.  He pressed me yesterday to pass a few days with him; and I happened to mention that I was about to visit a young friend - meaning yourself - in whom I felt a deep interest. I then gave him such an account of you that he expressed a desire to form your acquaintance. Thus, you perceive, that I am taking no unwarranted liberty in introducing you to his house. As for the danger which you incur of your history being known, that cannot be avoided; and it is a point which you may as well risk how as upon any future occasion. A man of the world must always he prepared for reverses of this kind, and I think that I am not mistaken in you, Markham, when I express my opinion that you would know how to vindicate your character and assert your innocence in a manner which would disarm resentment and conquer prejudice. At least, assume as cheerful an appearance as possible; and, believe me, you will find yourself right welcome at the dwelling of Count Alteroni."
    Reassured by remarks of this nature, and warmed by the generous friendship displayed towards him by the Republican writer, Markham's countenance again wore a smile; and he felt more at ease than he had done ever since his misfortune. The presence of one who took an interest in his welfare - the prospect of enjoying pleasant society - and the idea of change of scene, combined to elevate his spirits and create new hopes in his breast. He began to think that he was not altogether the solitary, deserted, and sorrow-doomed being he had so lately considered himself.
    It was about four o'clock in the afternoon that the phaeton, in which rode Markham and his friend the Republican, entered a spacious shrubbery, through which a wide avenue led to the front-door of a very beautiful country residence near Richmond. The dwelling was not large; but its external appearance seemed to bear ample testimony to its interior comfort.
    A domestic, in a plain and unpretending livery, appeared at the door the moment the phaeton stopped; and the count himself met his visitors in the hall, to welcome their arrival.
    The nobleman shook hands with Armstrong in the most cordial manner; and, when Richard was introduced to him, he received him with a courtesy and warm affability which showed how much any friend of Armstrong's was valued by the Italian exile.
    The guests were ushered into the drawing-mom. where the countess and her daughter, and two gentlemen who were also visitors, were seated. 
    But while we allow Richard time to get acquainted with the family of the Italian noble, we must give the reader a brief description of the new characters now introduced upon the stage.
    Count Alteroni was about forty years of age. His hair and whiskers, originally of a deep black, were tinged prematurely with grey; but his moustachios were of the darkest jet. His complexion was of a clear olive. In figure he was tall, well formed, and [-108-] muscular, though slight. His countenance was expressive of great dignity - one would almost say of conscious superiority; hut this softness of aspect and the nobility of demeanour which distinguished him, failed to produce any unpleasant impression, inasmuch as every one who approached the count was charmed by the affability of his manners and the condescending kindness of his tone.
    The countess was about two years younger than her husband, and was of a complexion and cast of countenance which denoted her northern origin. In fact, she was a German lady of high birth; but she spoke Italian, French, and English with as much facility as her own tongue.
    But what of Isabella? To say that she was beautiful were to say nothing. Her aspect was resplendent with all those graces which innocence lavishly diffuses over the lineaments of loveliness. She was sixteen years old; and her dark black eyes were animated with all the fire of that impassioned age, when even the most rugged paths of life seem adorned and strewed with flowers. Her mouth was small; but the lips were full and pouting, and revealed, when she smiled, a set of beautifully white and even teeth. Her hair was dark as the raven's wing, and was invariably arranged in the most natural and simple manner. Her brows were exquisitely pencilled; and as her large black eyes were the mirror of her pure and guileless soul, when she glanced downwards, and those expressive orbs were concealed by their long black fringes, it seemed as if she were drawing a veil over her thoughts. Her complexion was that of a brunette; but the pure, red blood shone in her vermilion lips and her rose-tinted nostrils, and mantled her pure brow with a crimson hue when any passion was excited. Her sylph-like figure was modelled with the most perfect symmetry. Her waist was so delicate, and her hands and feet, so small, that it was easy to perceive she came of patrician blood; and the swell of her bosom gave a proper roundness to her form, without expanding into proportions that might be termed voluptuous.
    In manners, disposition, and accomplishments, Isabel was equally calculated to charm all her acquaintances. Having finished her education in England, she had united all the solid morality of English manners, with the sprightliness and vivacity of her native clime; and as she was without levity and frivolity, she was also entirely free from any insipid and ridiculous affectations. She was artlessness itself; her manners commanded universal respect; and her bearing alone repressed the impertinence of the libertine's gaze. With a disposition naturally lively, she was still attached to serious pursuits; and her mind was well stored with all useful information, and embellished with every feminine accomplishment.
    The two gentlemen who were present in the drawing room when Armstrong and Richard arrived, were two young beaux - members of the aristocracy; and this was their only recommendation. It was not, however, on this account that they had obtained a footing in the count's abode; but because they were nearly related to a deceased English general who had taken part with the Italians against the French, during the career of Napoleon, and had been of essential service to the family to which the count belonged. With regard to their exterior, suffice it to say, that they were dressed in the extreme of fashion: one was very effeminate in appearance, having neither whiskers nor the slightest appearance of a beard; and the other was rather good-looking, sported an incipient moustachio, and wore an undress military uniform.
    The effeminate young gentleman was introduced to Armstrong and Markham by the name of Sir Cherry Bounce, and the moustachioed one as the Honourable Smilax Dapper, a captain (at the age of twenty) in His Majesty's —th Regiment of Hussars.
    During the hour which intervened between the arrival of the new guests and the announcement of dinner, a conversation ensued which will serve to throw some light upon the characters of those inmates of the hospitable abode, whom we have as yet only partially introduced to our readers.
    "You reside in a very pleasant and healthy part of London, Mr. Markham," said the count; "I am well acquainted with the situation of your mansion and grounds, from the description which my friend Armstrong has given me. The house stands close by a hill, on the summit of which there are two trees."
    "Ah, indeed! " ejaculated Sir Cherry Bounce. " The other day I wode by there for the firtht time in my life; and I remember the houth ith veway beautifully thithuate in the neighbourwood of the hill dethwibed by the count, and with two ath tweeth on the top."
    "That is my house," said Richard. "But it is an antiquated, gloomy-looking pile; but —"
    "Oh! I beg your pardon, thir; it is the thweeteth little plaith I ever thaw. I never thaw it but that time, and wath thwuck with the weway wemarkable appearanth of the hill and the tweeth."
    "Those trees were planted many years ago by my brother and myself," said Markham, a deep shade of melancholy suddenly overclouding his countenance ; " and they yet remain there as the trysting-mark for a strange appointment."
    "Indeed!" said the count; and as Richard saw that Isabella was also interested in his observations, he determined to gratify the sentiment of curiosity which he had excited.
    "It is nearly seven years since that event took place. My elder brother disputed with my father, and determined to leave home and choose some career for himself, which he hoped might lead to fortune. He and I parted upon that hill, beneath those trees, with the understanding that in twelve years we were to meet again upon that same spot, and then compare our respective fortunes and worldly positions. On the 10th of July, 1848, that appointment is to be kept."
    "And during the seven years which have already elapsed, have you received no tidings of your brother ?" inquired Isabella.
    "None direct," answered Markham. "All that I know is that on Christmas-day, 1836, he was alive; for he went to the hill, while I was absent from home, and carved his name upon the tree that he himself planted."
    "Strike me stupid, if that isn't the most romantic thing I ever heard of!" exclaimed Captain Dapper, caressing his moustacbio.
    "You ought to wite a copy of vertheth upon the wemarkable inthident, in Mith Ithabella'th Album," observed Sir Cherry Bounce.
    "So I would, strike me! if I was half such a good poet as you, Cherry," returned the captain.
    "You wote thum veway pwetty poetry the other day upon the Gweat Thea Therpenth, Thmilackth," said the effeminate baronet: "and I don't know why you thouldn't do the thame by the two ath tweeth."
    Yes; but-strike me ugly! Miss Isabella would not let me insert them in her Album," observed the captain; "and that was very unkind."
    "Bella says that you undertook to finish a butter fly and spoilt it" exclaimed the count laughing.
    [-109-] "And now it theemth for all the world like an enormouth fwog," said Sir Cherry.
    "Now, really, Bounce, that is too bad!" drawled the captain, playing with his mouzstachio. "I appeal to the Signora herself, whether the butterfly was so very - very bad?"
    "Considering it to be your first attempt," said the young lady, "it was not so very much amiss; end I must say that I preferred the butterfly to the lines upon the Sea Serpent."
    "Well, may I perish," cried the hussar, "if I think the lines were so bad. But we will refer them to Mr. Markham ;- not that I dispute Miss Isabella's judgment: I'd rather have my moustachios singed than do that! But —"
    "The vertheth! the vertheth!" cried Sir Cherry. 
    "I am afraid that my talent does not justify such a reference to it," said Markham; "and I should rather imagine that Miss Isabella's decision will admit of no appeal."
    "My dear thir, we will have your opinion. The vertheth were compothed in a hurway; and they may not be quite tho ekthellent and faultleth ath they might be."
    "I only devoted half an hour to them, strike me if I did!"
    "Let'th thee - how do they begin?" continued the effeminate young baronet of nineteen. "Oh! I wemember - the opening ith thimple but ekpwethive:

"Thwough the thea the therpenth wollth, 
 Moving ever 'thwixth the polth,
 Fwightning herwinth, pwath, and tholth, 
            In hith pwogweth wapid;- 
 Thwallowing up the mighty thipth, 
 By the thuction of hith lipth, 
 Onward thill the monthtwer twipth,
    Like —"

    "Well, strike me!" interrupted the captain, "if ever I heard poetry spouted like that before. Please listen to me, Mr. Markham. This is the way the poem opens:-

"Through the sea the serpent rolls
Moving ever twixt the poles,
Fright'ning herrings, sprats, and soles, 
In his progress rapid;- 
Swallowing up the mighty ships,
By the motion of his lips, 
Onward still the monster trips,
Like —"

    "No, that ithn't the way," cried Sir Cherry.
    "Well, strike me, if I'll say another word more then," returned the captain of hussars, apparently very much inclined to cry. 
    "I am sure Miss Isabella was wrong not to have inserted these verses in her album," said Armstrong, with a smile of good-natured satire. "But I know that my young friend, Mr Markham, has a more refined taste with regard to poetry than he chose just now to admit."
    "Indeed!" said the beautiful Isabella; "I should be delighted to hear Mr. Markham's sentiments upon the subject of poetry; for I confess that I myself entertain very singular notions in that respect. It is difficult to afford a minute definition of what poetry is; for, like the unearthly visitants which the fears of superstition have occasionally summoned to the world, poetry fascinates the senses, but eludes the grasp of the beholder, and stands before him visible, powerful, and yet impalpable!"
    "I1 concur with your views, Miss Isabella," said Markham, delighted to hear, amidst the frivolity of the conversation, remarks which exhibited sound sense and judgment. "It is impossible to set forth, in any array of words, the subtlety and peculiarity of poetry, which soars above the powers of language and defies the reach of description."
    "Yes," said Isabella; "the painter cannot place the rainbow or the glittering dew-drop upon his canvass; the sculptor cannot invest his image with a soul; and it seems equally difficult to define poetry."
    "We know of what we are speaking when we allude to it; but there are no definitions which give us views of it sufficiently comprehensive."
    "Well, strike me! If I didn't think that every thing with rhymes, or in lines of a certain length, was poetry," observed the captain of hussars.
    "My daughter can explain the mystery to you," said the countess, surveying Isabella with pride and maternal enthusiasm.
    Isabella blushed deeply. She feared that she had intruded her remarks on the company, and dreaded to be considered vain or anxious for display Mark ham immediately perceived the nature of her thoughts, and skilfully turned the conversation to the poetry of her native land, and thence to the leading characteristics and features of Italian life.
    Dinner was at length announced, and Richard had the felicity of conducting the lovely daughter of the count to the dining-room, and of occupying a seat by her side during the banquet.

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