< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >




RICHARD MARKHAM had determined to lose no time in revealing to Count Alteroni those adventures which had rendered him an inmate of the Giltspur Street Compter for two years.
    And yet it was hard to dare the destruction of the bright visions which had dawned upon him in respect to the Signora Isabella it was cruel to dash away from his lips the only cup of enjoyment which he had tasted for a long time.
    He knew not how the count would receive such a narrative as he had to tell. Doubtless it would alarm him: "for society," thought Richard, "was too apt to judge rashly by outward appearances. Should the count nobly and generously rise above the prejudices of the world, and believe the statement of Markham's innocence, corroborated as it was by the document signed by Talbot, alias Pocock, much would have been gained by a candid and honourable confession. But if the reverse ensued, and the count banished Richard from his friendship, the young man felt that he himself would only have performed a melancholy duty, and broken asunder of his own accord those bonds which, were he to remain silent, an accident might one day snap abruptly and rudely.
     "I feel happy," said Markham to himself, as he arose in the morning after the day on which the fruitless search mentioned in the preceding chapter took place,- "I feel happy even while about to consummate a sacrifice which may destroy the most golden of my dreams! The Infinite Being has declared that the days of our life shall be marked with sorrow; and they are - as I can well testify! But the afflictions to which we are subject are attended with blessed antidotes ;- moral sources of enjoyment are given to us, as fruits and flowers for the soul; and the teachings of interest, as well as the impulses of gratitude, should lead us to consider with attention those duties we owe each other, for the sake at the bounties the Almighty showers upon us."
    So reasoned Richard Markham. 
    That evening he arrived at the count's abode near Richmond, a few minutes before dinner.
    A kind welcome awaited him on the part of the count and countess; and the eyes of Signora Isabella expressed the satisfaction she experienced at his return.
    When Markham was seated with the count after dinner, he determined to commence the explanation which he had resolved to give.
    He was just about to broach the subject, when the count observed, "By the bye, I am happy to inform you that I received letters from Greenwood this morning; and he assures me that the speculation looks admirably."
    "I am delighted to hear it," returned Richard. "But the chief object of my present visit — " 
    "Was to speak about this Steam Packet business, no doubt," interrupted the count. " Well, if you like to take shares in it, it is not too late. But what do you think? I am going to tell you a secret. You know that I look upon you as a friend of the family; besides, I am well aware that you respect Isabel and love her like a brother —  " 
    "What did you say, count?" stammered Markham. 
    " I was going to tell you that Mr. Greenwood - who is immensely rich-has taken a liking to Isabella —  " 
    " Yes - and I gave him some little encouragement."
    "What! without previously ascertaining whether the Signora's feelings are reciprocal?" cried Richard.
    "As for that, my dear Markham, remember that a dutiful daughter knows no will and no inclination save those of her parents."
    "This is not an English doctrine," said Markham. " so far as the principle applies to affairs of the heart."
    [-132-] "It is nevertheless an Italian doctrine," exclaimed the count, somewhat haughtily; "and I have no doubt that Isabella will ever recognise the authority of her parents in this as in all other matters."
    As the count uttered these words, he rose and led the way to the drawing-room; and thus deprived Markham of that opportunity of making the confession he had intended.
   Richard was unhappy and dispirited. He perceived that the count was inclined to favour Mr. Greenwood's suit; and he now felt how dear Isabella was to him - how profoundly seated was his love for the beauteous Italian!
    Misfortunes never come alone. Richard was destined to receive a crushing blow, although innocently inflicted, the moment he entered the drawing-room.
    The countess was conversing with her daughter upon her own family connections.
    "Do not let us interrupt your conversation," said the count, as he took his seat upon the sofa near his wife.
    "We were only talking about the Chevalier Guilderstein, whose death was mentioned in yesterday's newspaper," observed the countess. " I was saying that I remembered how delighted I was when I discovered a few years ago that the chevalier was not related to our family, as he had always pretended to be."
    "And why so?" inquired the count.
    "Because the father of the chevalier was put to death in Austria for coining - or rather upon a charge  of coining," answered the countess; "and although his innocence was discovered and proclaimed a few years after his death, I should not like to have amongst my ancestors a man who had been criminally convicted, however innocent he may in reality have been."
    "Certainly not," said the count. "I should be very sorry for any one whose character had ever been tainted with suspicion, to have the slightest connection with our family."
    "I cannot say that I agree with you," observed Isabel. "There can be no disgrace attached to one who has suffered under a false accusation: on the contrary - such a person is rather deserving of our deepest sympathy and —" 
    "Heavens, Mr. Markham!" ejaculated the Countess; "are you ill? Bella, dear - ring the bell - get Mr. Markham a glass of water —  " 
    "It is nothing - nothing, I can assure you," stammered Richard, whose countenance was as pale as that of a corpse. "Miss Isabella, do not give yourself any trouble! It was only a sudden faintness - a spasm: but it is over now."
    With these words Markham hurried to the bed-chamber which was always allotted to him when he visited the count's residence.
    All the horrible tortures which man can conceive, harassed him at that moment. He threw himself upon his couch - he writhed - he struggled, as if  against a serpent which held him in its embraces. His eyes seemed as if they were about to start from their sockets; his teeth were fast closed - he wrung his hair - he beat his breast - and low moans escaped from his bosom. The fiat of the count had gone forth. He who would claim or aspire to connection with his family must be like the wife of Caesar - beyond all suspicion. It was not enough that such an one should be innocent of any crime: he must - never have even been accused of one. Such was the disposition of the count  - elicited by an accident and unexpectedly; and Markham could now divine the nature of the treatment which he would be likely to experience, were he to reveal his misfortunes to a nobleman who entertained such punctilious and extremely scrupulous notions!
    "But I was mad to imagine that Isabella would ever become mine;" thought Markham within himself, as soon as be became somewhat more tranquil. - used. "It was folly - supreme folly  - rank, idiotic, inconceivable folly, in me to have cherished a hope which could never be realised! All that now remains for me to do, is to abandon myself to my adverse fate - to attempt no more struggles against the destinies that await me, - to leave this house without delay - to return home, and bury myself in a solitude from which no persuasions nor attractions shall henceforth induce me to emerge! Would that I could leave this house this very evening ;- but appearances compel me to remain at least until tomorrow! I must endeavour to assume that ease of manner - that friendly confidence, which is reciprocal here :- for a few hours I must consent to act the hypocrite; and to-morrow - to-morrow, I shall be relieved from that dread necessity.- I shall be compelled to bid adieu to Isabella for ever! No avowal of my past sufferings is now required - since I shall to-morrow leave this hospitable mansion, never to return!
    A flood of tears relieved the unfortunate young man; and he descended once more to the drawing- room - very pale, but as calm and tranquil as usual. Isabella glanced towards him from time to time with evident anxiety; and, in spite of all his endeavours to appear cheerful and at his ease, he was embarrassed, cool, and reserved. Isabella was wounded and mortified by his conduct :- she attempted to rally him, and to ascertain whether he was really chilling in his manners on purpose, or only melancholy against his will: but she received frigid and laconic replies, which annoyed and disheartened the poor girl to such an extent that she could scarcely refrain from tears. Markham felt that, as an honourable man, he could no longer aspire to the hand of the signora, after the expression of opinion accidentally conveyed to him by the count and countess; and he therefore forbore from any attempt to render himself agreeable, or to afford the slightest testimony of his passion. Acting with these views, and endeavouring to seem only properly polite, he fell into the opposite extreme, and grew cold and reserved. The count and countess imagined that he was unwell, and were not  therefore annoyed by his conduct ;- but poor Isabella, who was deeply attached to him, set down his behaviour to indifference. This idea on her part was confirmed, when Markham, in the course of conversation, intimated his intention of returning home on the following day.
    " Return home! and what for?" ejaculated the count. "You have no society there, and here you have some - unamusing and tedious though it may be."
    "Never did I pass a happier period of my existence than that which I have spent in your hospitable abode," said Richard.
    "Then remain with us at least ten days or a fortnight," cried the count. "We shall then be visiting London ourselves, for we have promised to pass a few weeks with Lord and Lady Tremordyn."
    "Lord Tremordyn! " exclaimed Richard.
    "Yes - do you know him?"
    "Only by name. But did not his daughter marry Sir Rupert Harborough?" said Markham, shuddering as he pronounced the abhorred name.
    "The same. Sir Robert treats her shamefully - neglects her in every way, and passes whole months [-133-] away from his home. He has, moreover, expended all the fortune she brought him, and is again, I understand, deeply involved in debt."
    "Poor Lady Cecilia! " ejaculated Isabella. "She is deeply to be pitied!"
    "But to return to this sudden resolution of yours to depart to-morrow," said the count.
    "Which resolution is very suddenly taken," added the signora, affecting to be engaged in contemplating a book of prints which lay upon the table before her, while her beautiful countenance was suffused with a deep blush.
    " My resolution is sudden, certainly," observed Richard. "Circumstances over which I have no control, and which it would be useless to communicate to you, frequently compel me to adopt sudden resolutions, and act up to them. Be assured, however, that the memory of your kindness will always be dear to me."
    "You speak as if we were never to meet again," exclaimed the count.
    "We cannot dispose of events in this world according to our own will," said Markham, emphatically. "Would to God we could!"
    "But there are certain circumstances in which we seem to be free agents," said Isabella, still holding down her head; "and remaining in one place, or going to another, appears to be amongst those actions which depend upon our own volition."
    At this moment a servant entered the room and informed the count that the private secretary of the envoy of the Grand Duke of Castelcicala to the English court desired to speak with him in another apartment.
    "Oh! I am interested in this," exclaimed the Countess; and, upon a signal of approval on the part of her husband, she accompanied him to the room where the secretary was waiting.
    Markham was now alone with Isabella.
    This was a probable occurrence which he had dreaded all that evening. He felt himself cruelly embarrassed in her presence; and the silence which prevailed between them was awkward to a degree.
    At length the signora herself spoke.
    "It appears that you are determined to leave us, Mr. Markham ?" she said, without glancing towards him, and in a tone which she endeavoured to render as cool and indifferent as possible.
    "I feel that I have been too long here already signora," answered Richard, scarcely knowing what reply to make.
    "Do you mean to tax us with inattention to your comfort, Mr. Markham?"
    "God forbid, signora! In the name of heaven do not entertain such an idea!"
    "Mr. Markham has been treated as well as our humble means would admit; and he leaves us with an abruptness which justifies us in entertaining fears that he is not comfortable."
    "How can I convince you of the injustice of your suspicions ?" ejaculated Markham. "You would not wantonly wound my feelings, Miss Isabella, by a belief which is totally unfounded? No! that is not the cause of my departure. My own happiness - my own honour  - every thing commands me to quit a spot where - where I shall, nevertheless, leave so many reminiscences of joy and tranquil felicity behind me! I dare not explain myself farther at present; perhaps never will you know the cause - but, pardon me, signora - I am wandering - I know not what I say!"
    "Pray compose yourself, Mr. Markham," said Isabella. now raising her head from the book, and glancing towards him. 
   "Compose myself. Isabella - signora, I mean," he exclaimed: "that is impossible! Oh! if you knew all, you would pity met But I dare not now reveal to you what I wish. A word which this day dropped from your father's lips has banished all hope from my mind. Now I am wandering again! In the name of heaven, take no notice of what I say; I am mad - I am raving !"
   "And what was it that my father said to annoy you?" inquired Isabella timidly.
   "Oh! nothing - nothing purposely," answered Markham. "He himself was unaware that he fired the arrow from his bow."
   "Am I unworthy of your confidence in this instance?" asked Isabella; "and may I not be made acquainted with the nature of the annoyance which my father has thus unintentionally caused you to experience?"
   "Oh I why should I repeat words which would only lead to a revelation of what It is now useless to reveal. Your father and mother bath delivered the same sentiment - a sentiment that destroys all hope. But, oh I you cannot understand the cause of my anxiety - my grief - my disappointment!"
   "And why not entrust me with that cause? I could sympathise with you as a friend."
   "As a friend! Alas, Isabella, is it useless for me now to deplore the visions which I had conjured up, and which have been so cruelly destroyed? You yourself know not what is in store for you - what plans your father may have formed concerning you!"
   "And are you acquainted with those plans?" asked the beauteous Italian, in a tone of voice rendered almost inaudible by a variety of emotions - for the heart of that innocent and charming being fluttered like a bird in the net of the fowler.
    "Do not question me on that head, Isabella! Let me speak of myself - for it is sweet to be commiserated by such as you ! My life for some time past has been a scene of almost unceasing misery. When I came of age I found my vast property dissipated by him to whom it was entrusted. And other circumstances gave a new and unpleasant aspect to those places which were dear to me in my childhood. What wild hopes, in early life, had I there indulged, - what dreams for the future had there visited my mind in its boyhoo! - what vain wishes, what strong yearnings, what ambitious aspirations had there first found existence! When I returned to those spots, after an absence of two years, and thought of the feelings that there once agitated my bosom, and contrasted them with those which had displaced them, - when I traced the history of each hope from its inception there, and followed it through the vista of years until its final extinction, - when I thought how differently my course in life had been shaped from that career which I had there marked out, and how vain and futile were all the efforts and strivings which I exerted against the tide of events and the force of circumstances,- I awoke, as it were from a long dream,  - I opened my eyes upon the path which I should thenceforth have to pursue, and judged of it by the one I had been pursuing ;- I saw the nothingness of men's lives in general, and the utter vanity of the main pursuits which engross their mind,, and waste their energies ;- and I then felt convinced that I was indeed but an instrument in the hands of another, and that the ends which I had obtained had not been those for which I bad striven, but which the Almighty willed! - So is it with me now, Isabella. I had planned a dream - a dream of Elysium, with which to cheer and bless the remainder of my [-134-]    existence; and, behold! like all the former hopes and aspirations of my life, this one is also suddenly destroyed!"
       "How know you that it is destroyed?" inquired Isabella, casting down her eyes.
   "Oh! I am unworthy of you, Isabella - I do not deserve you; and yet it was to your hand that I aspired ;- you were the star that was to irradiate the remainder of my existence! Oh! I could weep - I could weep, Isabella, when I think of what I might have been, and what I am!"
   "You say that you aspired to my hand," murmured the lovely Italian maiden, casting down her large dark eyes and blushing deeply; "you did me honour!"
   "Silence, Isabella - silence!" interrupted Richard. "I dare not now hear the words of hope from your  lips! But I love thee - I love thee - God only knows how sincerely I love thee!"
   "And shall I conceal my own feelings with regard to you, Richard?" said Isabella, approaching him and laying her delicate and beautifully modelled hand lightly upon his wrist.
   "She loves me in return - she loves me!" ejaculated Markham, half wild with mingled joy and apprehensions ;- and, yielding to an impulse which no mortal under such circumstances could have conquered, he caught her in his arms.
   He kissed her pure and chaste brow - he felt her fragrant breath upon his cheek - her hair commingled with his own - and he murmured the words, "You love me?"
   A gentle voice breathed an affirmative in his ear; and he pressed his lips to hers to ratify that covenant of two fond hearts.
   Suddenly he recollected that Count Alteroni had declared that no one against whom there was even a suspicion of crime should ever forum a connection with his family. Markham's high sense of honour told him in a moment that he had no right to secure the affections of a confiding and gentle girl whose father would never yield an assent to their union: - his brain, already excited, now became inflamed almost to madness ;-he abruptly turned aside from her who had just avowed her attachment to him, he muttered some incoherent words which she did not comprehend, and rushed out of the room.
   He hurried to the garden at the back of the house, and walked rapidly up and down a shady avenue of trees which ran along the wall that bounded the enclosure on the side of the public road.
   By degrees he grew calm and relaxed the speed of his pace. He then fell into a long and profound meditation upon the occurrences of the last half hour.
   He was beloved by Isabella, it was true;- but never might he aspire to her hand ;- never could it be accorded to him to lead her to the altar where their attachment might be ratified and his happiness confirmed! An inseparable barrier seemed to oppose itself to his wishes; and he felt that no alternative remained to him but to put his former resolution into force, and take his departure homewards on the ensuing morning.
   Thus was it that be now reasoned.
   The moon shone brightly; and the heavens were studded with stars.
   As Markham was about to turn for the twentieth time at that end of the avenue which was the more remote from the house, the beams of the moon suddenly disclosed to him a human face peering over the wall at him.
   He started, and was about to utter an exclamation of alarm, when a well-known voice fell upon his ears.
   "Hush!" was the word first spoken; "I have just one question to ask you, and then one thing to tell you; and the last will just depend upon the first."
    "Wretch - miscreant - murderer!" exclaimed Richard; "nothing shall now prevent me from securing you on the behalf of justice."
    "Fool!" coolly returned the Resurrection Man - for it was he; "who can catch me in the darkness and the open fields?"
    "True!" cried Markham, stamping his foot with vexation. "But God grant that the day of retribution may come!"
    "Come, come - none of this nonsense, my dear boy," said the Resurrection Man, with diabolical irony. " Now, answer me - will you give me a cool hundred and fifty? If not, then I will get the swag in spite of you."
    "Why do you thus molest and persecute me?  I would sooner handle the most venomous serpent, than enter into a compromise with a fiend like you!"
    "Then beware of the consequences!"
    The moon shone full upon the cadaverous and unearthly countenance of the Resurrection Maim, and revealed the expression of ferocious rage which it wore as he uttered these words. That vile and foreboding face then suddenly disappeared behind the wall.
    "Who are you talking to, Markham?" cried the voice of the count, who was now advancing down the avenue.
    "Talking to?" repeated Richard, alarmed and confused.
    "Yes - I heard your voice, and another answering you," said the count.
    "It was a man in the road," answered Markham.
    "I missed you from the drawing-room on my return; and Bella said she thought you were unwell, and had gone to walk in the garden for the fresh air. The news I have received from Castelcicala, through the Envoy's secretary, are by no means favourable to my hopes of a speedy return to my native land. You therefore see that I have done well to lay out my capital in this. But we will not discuss matters of business now; for there is company up stairs, and we must join them. Who do you think have just made their appearance?"
    "Mr. Armstrong and other friends?" said Markham inquiringly.
    "No - Armstrong is on the Continent. The visitors are Sir Cherry Bounce and Captain Smilax Dapper; and I am by no means pleased with their company. However, my house will always remain open to them in consequence of the services rendered to me by their deceased relative."
    Markham accompanied the count back to the drawing-room, where Captain Smilax Dapper had seated himself next to the signora; and Sir Cherry Bounce was endeavouring to divert the countess with an account, of their journey that evening from London. They both coloured deeply and bowed very politely when Richard entered the apartment.
    "Well, ath I wath thaying," continued Sir Cherry, "one of the twatheth bwoke at the bottom of the hill, and the hortheth took to fwight. Thmilakth thwore like a twooper; but nothing could thwop the thaithe till it wolled thlap down into a dwy dith. Dapper then woared like a bull; and I —  " 
    "And Cherry began to cry, strike me if he didn't!" ejaculated the gallant hussar, caressing his moustache. "A countryman who passed by asked him if his mamma knew he was out: Cherry thought that the fellow was in earnest, and assured him that he had her permission to undertake the journey. I never laughed so much in my life !"
    [-135-] "Oh! naughty Dapper to thay that I cwied! That really ith too cwuel. Well, we got the thaithe lifted out of the dith, and the twathe mended."
    "You are the heroes of an adventure," said the count.
    "I intend to put it into verse, strike me ugly if I don't!" cried the young officer; "and perhaps the signora will allow me to copy it into her Album?"
    "Oh! I must read it first," said Isabella, laughing. "But since you speak of my Album, I must show you the additions I have received to its treasures."
   "This is really a beautiful landscape," observed Captain Dapper, as he turned over the leaves of the book which the beautiful Italian presented to him. "The water flowing over the wheel of the mill is quite natural, strike me! And - may I never know what fair woman's smiles are again, if those trees don't seem actually to be growing out of the paper!"
    "Thuperb? ejaculated  Sir Cherry Bounce.  "The wiver litewally wollth along in the picthure. The cowth and the theepe are walking in the gween fieldth. Pway who might have been the artitht of thith mathleth producthion?"
    "That is a secret," said the signora. "And now read these lines."
    "Read them yourself, Bella," said the count. "No one can do justice to them but you."
    Isabella accordingly read the following stanzas in a tone of voice that added a new charm to the words themselves:-


Twas midnight - and the beam of Cynthia shone
In company with many a lovely star,
Steeping in silver the huge Babylon 
Whose countless habitations stretch afar,
Plain, valley, hill, and river's bank upon,
And in whose mighty heart all interests jar!- 
O sovereign city of a thousand towers,
What vice is cradled in thy princely bowers!

If thou would'st view fair London-town aright.
Survey her from the bridge of Waterloo; 
And let the hour be at the morning's light.
When the sun's earliest rays have struggled through
The star-bespangled curtain of the night.
And when Aurora's locks are moist with dew 
Then take thy stand upon that bridge, and see
London awake in all her majesty!

Then do her greatest features seem to crowd
 Down to the river's brink :- then does she raise 
From off her brow the everlasting cloud,
(Thus with her veil the coquette archly plays)
And for a moment shows her features, proud
To catch the Rembrandt light of the sun's rays:- 
Then may the eye of the beholder dwell
On steeple, column, dome, and pinnacle. 

Yes - he may reckon temple, mart, and tower-
The old historic sites - the halls of kings - 
The seats of art - the fortalice of power- 
The ships that waft our commerce on their wings;-
All these commingle in that dawning;
And each into one common focus brings
 Some separate moral of life's scenes so true,
As all those objects form one point of view!

The ceaseless hum of the huge Babylon
Has known no silence for a thousand years;
Still does her tide of human life flow on, 
Still is she racked with sorrows, hopes, and fears;
Still the sun sets, still morning dawns upon
Hearts full of anguish, eye-balls dimmed with tears;-
Still do the millions toil to bless the few-
And hideous Want stalks all her pathways through!

    "Beautiful - very beautiful!" exclaimed Captain Dapper. "Strike me if I ever heard more beautiful poetry!"
    "Almotht ath good ath your lineth on the Thea therpent. Wath the poem witten by the thame perthon that painted the landthcape?"
   "The very same," answered Isabella. "His initials are in the corner."
   "R. M. Who can that be?" exclaimed Dapper.
   "Robert Montgomery, perhaps?" said Isabella, smiling with charmingly arch expression of countenance.
   "No - Wichard Markham!" cried Sir Cherry; and then be and his friend the hussar captain were excessively annoyed to think that they had been extolling to the skies the performance of an individual who had frightened the one out of his wits, and boxed the ears of the other. 
   Thus passed the evening; but Markham was reserved and melancholy. It was in vain that Isabella exerted herself to instil confidence into his mind, by means of those thousand little attentions and manifestations of preference which lovers know so well how to exhibit, but which those around perceive not. Richard was firm in those resolutions which he deemed consistent with propriety and honour; and he deeply regretted the explanation and its consequences into which the enthusiasm of the moment had that evening led him.
   At length the hour for retiring to rest arrived.
   Richard repaired to his chamber - but not to sleep. His mind was too much harassed by the events of the evening - the plans which he had pursued, and those which be intended to pursue - the love which he bore to Isabel, and the stern opposition which might be anticipated from her father - the persecution to which he was subject at the hands of the Resurrection Man - and the train of evil fortune which appeared constantly to attend upon him ;- of all these he thought; and his painful meditations defied the advance of slumber.
   The window of his bed-chamber overlooked the garden at the back of the house; from which direction a strange and alarming noise suddenly broke in upon his reflections. He listened - and all was quiet: he therefore felt convinced that his terror was unfounded. A few moments elapsed; and he was again alarmed by a sound which seemed like the jarring of an unfastened shutter. A certain uneasiness now took possession of him; and he was determined to ascertain whether all was safe about the premises. He leapt from his bed, raised the window, and looked forth. The night was now pitch dark; and he could distinguish nothing. Not even were the outlines of the trees in the garden discernible amidst that profound and dense obscurity. Markham held his breath; and the whispering of voices met his ears. He could not, however, distinguish a word they uttered :-a low hissing continuous murmur, the nature of which it was impossible to mistake, convinced him that some persons were talking together immediately beneath his window. In a few moments the jarring of a door or shutter, which he had before heard, was repeated; and then the whispering ceased.
   By this time his eyes had become accustomed to the darkness; and he could now faintly discern the outlines of three human forms standing together at the back door of the house. He could not, however, distinguish the precise nature of their present employment. It was, nevertheless, evident to him that they were not there with any honest intention in view; and he resolved to adopt immediate measures to defeat their burglarious schemes. He hastily threw on his clothes, struck a light, and issued from his room.
   Cautiously advancing along a passage was the count, only half-dressed, with a pistol in each hand, and a cutlass under his arm.
    [-136-]  "This is fortunate!" whispered the count I was coming to alarm you: there are thieves breaking  in. You and I can manage them; it is of no use to call Bounce or Dapper. Take this cutlass and let us descend gently. Here come the men-servants."
   The count hurried down stairs, followed by Markham, and the three male domestics of the household.
   A noise was beard in the pantry, which was situate at the back of the house on the same level with the hall.
    "Douse the darkey, blow the glim, and mizzle," cried a hoarse gruff voice, as the count, Richard, and the servants approached the pantry: "there a five on 'em - it's no use —"  
    The count rushed forward, and burst open the door of the pantry, closely followed by Markham, holding the candle.
   Two of the burglars made a desperate push down the kitchen stairs and escaped: the third was captured in an attempt to follow his companion
   The light of the candle fell upon the villain a countenance, which was literally ghastly with a mingled expression of rage and alarm.
   Richard shuddered: for the captured burglar was no other than the Resurrection Man.
   "Wretch! " exclaimed Markham, recovering his self-command : "the law will at length reach you."
   "What! do you know this fellow?" demanded the count, somewhat surprised by the observation.
   "Know me!" cried the Resurrection Man: - "of course he does. But supposing some one was to tell you a piece of valuable information, count - about a matter closely concerning yourself and family - would you be inclined to be merciful?"
   "Of what nature is that information? It must be very valuable indeed, if you think that I will enter into any compromise with such as you."
   "Pledge me your word that you will let me go scot free, and I will tell you something that concerns the peace and happiness - perhaps the honour of your daughter."
   "Miscreant!" cried Markham: " profane not that lady by even alluding to her!"
   "Stay - curse the fellow's impudence," said the count: "perhaps he may really have somewhat worth communicating. At all events, I will try him. Now, then, my man, what is it that you have to say? If your statement be worth hearing I swear that I will neither molest you, nor suffer you to be molested."
   "Hold count," exclaimed Markham: "make no rash vow - you know not what a wretch — "
   "Silence, my dear friend," said the count authoritatively: " I will hear the man, let him be who or what he may!"
   "And you will do well to hear me, sir," continued the Resurrection Man. " You harbour a villain in your house; and that villain is now before you. He boasts of having secured the affections of your daughter, and hopes to gull you into allowing him to marry her."
   "Miscreant - murderer!" exclaimed Markham, no longer able to contain his indignation: "pollute not innocence itself by these allusions to a lady whose spotless mind — "
   "Hush! said the count. "Let us hear patiently all this man has to say. I can soon judge whether he be speaking the truth; and if he deceives me, I will show him no mercy."
   "But, count - allow me one word - I myself will unfold — "
   "Excuse me, Markham,'' interrupted the Italian noble, with dignified firmness " I will hear this man first. Proceed!"
   "The villain I allude to is of course that Markham," continued the Resurrection Man. "It was him, too, that induced me and my pals, the Cracksman and the Buffer, to make this attempt upon your house to-night."
   "What foul - what hideous calumny is this?" almost screamed the distracted Markham, as this totally unexpected and unfounded accusation met his ears.
   The count himself was shocked at this announcement; for he suddenly recollected Richard's moody, embarrassed, and thoughtful manner the whole evening, and his sudden intention of departing the next day.
   "Go on," said the count.
   "I met that man," continued the body-snatcher pointing contemptuously towards Markham, "a little more than a fortnight ago in this neighbourhood: he was walking with your daughter, and it was in consequence of certain little arrangements with me that he went back to London next day Oh! I am well acquainted with all his movements."
   "And you sought my life in a manner the most base — " began Markham, unable to restrain his feelings.
   "Silence, Markham!" exclaimed the count, still more authoritatively than before. "Your time to speak will come."
   "We planned this work while he was in London," continued the Resurrection Man; "and this very evening he told me over the garden wall that all was right."
   "Merciful God! " cried the count: "this is but too true!"
   "Yes, sir - I certainly spoke to him," said Richard, - "and from the garden too — "
   "Mr. Markham, this continued interruption is indecent," exclaimed the count emphatically, while a cold perspiration burst out upon his forehead, for he had recalled to mind the incident respecting the garden.
   "I have little more to add, count," said the Resurrection Man. "This Markham told me that you had plenty of plate and money always in the house, and as he had lost nearly all his property, he should not be displeased at an opportunity of getting hold of a little swag. It was agreed that we should meet in London to arrange the business; and so we did meet at the Dark House in Brick Lane, where we settled the affair along with the Cracksman and the Buffer, who have just made off. This is all I have to say
- unless it is that me and your friend Markham first got acquainted in Newgate — "
   "Newgate!" ejaculated the count, with a thrill of horror.
   "Yes - Newgate; where he was waiting to be tried for forgery, for which he got two years in the Compter. And that's all. Let him deny it if he can."
   Scarcely were these terrible words uttered by the Resurrection Man, when a loud - long - and piercing scream was heard, coming from the direction of the staircase; and then some object instantly fell with violence upon the marble floor of the hall.
   "Isabella! Isabella!" ejaculated Markham, turning hastily round to hurry to her assistance.
   "Stop, sir - seek not my daughter," cried the count, in a stern voice, as he caught Richard's arm, and held him back. "Let not a soul stir until my return!"
   There was a noble and dignified air of command [-137-]

about Count Alteroni, as he uttered these words which could not escape the notice of Richard Markham, even amidst the crushing and overwhelming circumstances that surrounded him.
   The count took the candle from Markham a hand, and hastened to the aid of his daughter, who, half-dressed, was lying upon the cold marble of the hall. He hastened to raise her; and at that moment the countess appeared upon the stairs, followed by a lady's-maid bearing a lamp.
   The count reassured her in respect to the safety of the house, consigned Isabella to her care, and then returned to the pantry, where his presence was awaited in silence.
   "Have you any thing more to say?" demanded the count of the Resurrection Man.
   "Nothing. Have not I said enough?"- and he glanced with fiendish triumph towards Markham.
   "Now, sir," said the count, turning to Richard; "is the statement of this man easy to be refuted?"
   "Alas! I am compelled to admit that, the victim of the most extraordinary circumstantial evidence ever known to fix guilt upon an innocent man, I was a prisoner in Newgate and the Compter; but — "
   "No more! say no more! God forgive me that I should have allowed such a man to become the friend of my wife and daughter!"
   The count uttered these words in a tone of intense agony.
   "Count Alteroni, allow me one word of explanation," said Richard. "Only cast your eyes over this paper, and you will be convinced of my innocence!"
   Markham handed the document signed by Talbot, alias Pocock, to the count; but the nobleman tossed it indignantly on the floor.
   "You have confessed that you have been an inmate of the felons' gaols: what explanation can you give that will wipe away so foul a stain? Depart - begone! defile not my house longer with your presence!"
   Vainly did Markham endeavour to obtain a hearing. The count silenced him with an air of command and an imposing dignity of manner that struck him with awe. Never did the Italian nobleman appear more really noble than when he was thus performing that which he considered to be an imperious duty. His fine form was drawn up to its full height [-138-]  - his chest expanded - his cheeks were flushed - and his eyes flashed fire. Yes - even beneath his dark complexion was the rich Italian blood seen mantling his countenance.
   "Go, sir - hasten your departure - stay not another minute here! A man accused of forgery - condemned to an infamous punishment, - a liberated felon - a freed convict in my family dwelling- Holy God! I can scarcely restrain myself within the bounds of common patience when I think of the indignity that myself, my wife, and my innocent daughter have endured."
   With these words the colonel pushed Markham rudely from the pantry, and ordered a servant to conduct him to the front door.
   The blood of the young man boiled in his veins at this ignominious treatment ;- and yet he dared not rebel against it!
   The Resurrection Man took his departure at the same time by the garden at the back of the house.
   As Markham turned down the shrubbery, a window on the third floor of the count's dwelling was thrown open; and the voices of Sir Cherry Bounce and the Honourable Captain Dapper were heard loading him with abuse.
   Bowed down to the earth by the weight of the misfortune which had just fallen upon his head,- crushed by unjust and unfounded suspicions, - and sinking beneath a sense of shame and degradation, which all his innocence did not deprive of a single pang, - Markham dragged himself away from the house in which he had passed so many happy hours, and where he left behind him all that he held dear in this life.
   He seated himself upon a mile-stone at a little distance from the Count's mansion, to which he turned his eyes to take a last farewell of the place where Isabella resided.
   Lights were moving about in several rooms ;- perhaps she was ill?
  Most assuredly she had heard the dread accusations which had issued from the lips of the Resurrection Man against her lover ;- and she would haply believe them all?
   So thought Richard. Human language cannot convey an adequate idea of the heart-rending misery which the poor oppressed young man endured as he sate by the road-side, and pondered upon all that had just occurred.
   Shame upon shame - degradation upon degradation - mountain upon mountain rolled on his breast, an if he were a modern Titan, to crush him and keep him down - never more to rise ;- this was now his fate!
   At length, afraid of being left alone with his own thoughts, which seemed to urge him to end his earthly woes in the blood of a suicide, he rose from the cold stone, turned one last sorrowful and lingering glance towards the mansion in the distance, and then hurried along the road to Richmond as if he were pursued by bloodhounds.
   And not more fearful nor more appalling would those bloodhounds have been than the horrible and excruciating thoughts which haunted him upon his way, and of which he could not divest himself; so that at length a species of delirium seized upon him as he ran furiously onward, the mark of Cain appearing to burn like red-hot iron upon his brow, and  a terrible voice thundering in his ear- "FREED CONVICT!"

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >