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[-156-]

CHAPTER LII.

THE BED OF SICKNESS. 

RETURN we to the dwelling of Richard Markham on the same day that Eliza Sydney sought her friend Mrs. Arlington, as related in the preceding chapter.
    Richard awoke as from a long and painful dream.
    He opened his eyes, and gazed vacantly around him. He was in his own bed, and Whittingham was seated by his side.
    "The Lord be praised!" ejaculated the faithful old domestic ;- and conceiving it necessary to quote Scripture upon the occasion of this happy recovery, he uttered, in a loud and solemn voice, the first sentence which presented itself to his memory, -  "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer!"
    "How long have I been ill, Whittingham?" demanded our hero, in a faint tone.
    "Four blessed days have yon been devoided of your sensations, Master Richard," was the reply; "and most disastrous was my fears that you would never be evanescent no more. I have sustained my vigils by day and my diaries by night at your bed-side, Master Richard and I may say, without mitigating against truth, that I haven't had my garments off my back since you was first brought home."
    "Indeed, Whittingham, I am deeply indebted to - you, my good friend," said Richard, pressing the faithful old domestic's hand. "But have I really been so very ill?"
    "Ill!" exclaimed Whittingham; " for these four days you have never opened your eyes, save in delirium, until this moment. But you have been a ravaging in your dreams - and sobbing - and moaning so! I suppose, Master Richard, you haven't the most remotest idea of how you come home again?"
    "Not in the least, Whittingham. All I recollect was, running along the Richmond Road, in the middle of the night - with a whirlwind in my brain —"
    "And you must have fallen down from sheer fatigue," interrupted the butler; " for two drovers picked you up, and took you to a cottage close by. The people at the cottage searched your pockets and found your card, so they sent off a messenger to your own house, and I went in a po-shay, and fetched you home."
    "And I have been ill four whole days!" cried Markham.
    "Yes, but you don't know yet what has happened during that period," said the butler, with a solemn shake of the head.
    "Tell me all the news, Whittingham: let me know what has passed during my illness."
    [-157-] "I'll repeat to you allegorically all that's incurred," resumed Whittingham, preparing to enumerate the various incidents upon his fingers. "In the first place - let me see - yes, it was the first incurrence of any consequence - the old sow littered. That a annygoat the first. Then come a terrible buffoon - a tifoon, I mean - and down tumbled the eastern stack of chimbleys. That s annygoat the socoud. Third, the young water-cress gal was confined with a unlegitimated child; and so I told her mother never to let her call here again, as we didn't encourage immoral karikters. That a annygoat the third. Next, there a poor Ben Halliday, who wouldn't pay the pavement rate at Holloway, 'cause he hasn't got any pavement before his house, sold up, stick and stock; and so I gave him a couple of guineas. Annygoat the fourth. And last of all, a gentleman's livery servant - not that villain Yorkminster's, or it whatever his name was - come with a horse and shay and left your pokmanty, without saying a word. That's anny —"
    "My portmanteau!" exclaimed Richard, whose countenance was now suddenly animated with a ray of hope: "and have you unpacked it?"
    "Not yet: I haven't had no time."
    "Bring it to the bed-side, place it upon a couple of chairs, and open it at once," said Markham hastily. "Bestir yourself, good Whittingham: I am anxious to see if there be any note - any letter - any —"
    While Richard uttered these words with a considerable degree of impatience, the butler dragged the portmanteau from beneath the bed, where be had deposited it, and placed it close to his master's right hand. It was speedily opened, unpacked, and examined throughout; the clothes and linen were unfolded; and Richard's eyes followed the investigation with the most painful curiosity. But there was no letter - no note from any inmate of the count's abode.
    A sudden reminiscence entered his mind. Was the document signed at the Dark House amongst his papers? He recollected having handed it to the count; but he could not call to mind what had afterwards become of it. A moment's examination convinced him that it had not been returned to him. At first he was grievously annoyed by this circumstance ;- in another minute he was pleased, for it struck him that, after all, its contents might have been perused by the count and his family when the excitement of that fatal night had worn off. But how to wipe away the dread suspicion raised by the Resurrection Man, relative to the burglary - oh! that was the most painful, and yet the most necessary task of all!"
    Markham sank back upon his pillow, and was lost it in thought, when a low knock was heard at the door of his chamber. Whittingham answered it, and introduced Mr. Monroe.
    The old man was the very picture of care and wretchedness :- the mark of famine was, moreover, upon his sunken cheeks. His eyes were dead and lustreless ; - his neck, his wrists, and his hands - scorned nothing but skin and bone. In spite of the cleanliness of his person, the threadbare shabbiness of his clothes could not escape the eye of even the most superficial observer.
    Markham had not seen him for some months; and now, forgetting his own malady and his own cares, he felt shocked at the dreadful alteration wrought upon the old man's person during that interval. On his part, Mr. Monroe was not less surprised to find Richard upon a bed of sickness. 
    "My dear sir," said Markham, "you are ill - you are suffering - and you do not come to me to —"
    "What! you have penetrated my secret, Richard!" exclaimed the old man bitterly. "Well - I will conceal the truth no longer: yes - myself and my poor daughter - we are dying by inches!"
    "My God! and you were too proud to come to me! Oh! how sincerely - how eagerly would I have offered you the half of all I possess —"
    "How could I come to you, Richard," interrupted the old man, bursting into tears, "when I had already ruined you?"
    "No - not you - not you," said Markham: "you were the victim of a scoundrel; and, in acting for the best, you lost all!"
    "God knows how truly you speak!" cried the old man fervently. "But tell me - what ails you? and how long have you been upon a bed of sickness?"
    "A day or two ;- it is nothing! Never mind me - I am now well - at all events, much better :- let us talk of yourself and your own affairs."
    "My fate. Richard, is a melancholy one - my destiny is sad, indeed! From the pinnacle of wealth and prosperity I have been dashed down to the lowest abyss of destitution and misery! But it is not for myself that I complain - it is not for myself that I suffer! I am by this time inured to every kind of disappointment and privation : - but my daughter - my poor Ellen! Oh! my God - it was for her sake that I came to you this morning to implore the wherewith to purchase a loaf of bread!"
    "Merciful heavens, Mr. Monroe! are you reduced to this?" cried Richard, horror-struck at the piteous tale thus conveyed to him in a few words.
    "It is true :-we are starving!" answered the old man, sinking into a chair, and sobbing bitterly.
    Whittingham walked towards the window, and wiped his eyes more than once.
    "Ah! I am glad you have come to me at last,2 said Markham. " I will assist you to the utmost of my power - I will never let you want again! Oh! that villain Montague I how many hearts has he already broken - how many more will he yet break!"
    "He is the cause of all this deep - deep misery," observed Monroe. "But not alone by me is his name mentioned with loathing and horror: others have doubtless been, and will yet be, his victims. I have learnt - by the merest accident - that he has changed his name, and is now pursuing at the West End, the same course he so successfully practised in the City."
    "Changed his name!" ejaculated Markham. "And what does he call himself now?"
    "Greenwood," answered Mr. Monroe.
    "Greenwood! George Montague and Greenwood one and the same person!" cried Richard, suddenly recalling to mind the name of the individual to whom the count had entrusted his capital. "Ah! you talk of new victims-  I know one, whose ruin is perhaps by this time consummated. Quick - quick, Whittingham, give me writing materials: I will send a warning - although I am afraid it is already too late!"
    While Whittingham was arranging his master's portfolio upon the coverlid of the bed, Markham reflected upon the best means of communicating to Count Alteroni the character of the man to whom he had confided his fortune, and whom he thought of favourably as a suitor for his daughter's hand. Anonymous letters were detestable to the honourable and open disposition of Richard, and he hesi-[-158-]tated at the idea of sending a note direct from him self, fearing that it might be thrown into the fire the moment its signature should be perceived, and thus fail in its proposed aim. To call upon the count was impossible: to send Mr. Monroe was disagreeable. To communicate the important intelligence was imperiously necessary. But how was it to be conveyed? An idea struck across his brain in this perplexity :- he would write to the countess,  and trust to the natural curiosity of the female disposition to ensure the perusal of his letter. He accordingly penned the ensuing epistle:-

"MADAM,

"Although calumniated in the presence of Count Alteroni, without being permitted to justify myself, and although ruined in your estimation, without the freedom of explanation, - believe me, I have still the welfare of your family most sincerely at heart. As a proof of this assertion, allow me to inform you that the Mr. Greenwood, to whom Count Alteroni has entrusted his capital, is an adventurer and a villain. I on several occasions casually mentioned to you that I was plundered of all my property, before I became of an age entitled to enjoy it. My guardian Mr Monroe, employed a certain Mr. Allen to speculate for him; and this Mr. Allen was mercilessly robbed of all he possessed. and all he could raise, and all his friends who backed him could provide him with, by a miscreant of the name of Montague. These particulars, which I never mentioned to you before, I now deem it requisite to acquaint you with. Madam, that same George Montague is your Mr. Greenwood!
    "I remain, Madam, your obedient servant
            "RICHARD MARKHAM"

This letter was dispatched that same evening to Richmond.

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