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


[-237-] 

CHAPTER LXXVIII.

MARIAN.

IN the evening Ellen retired early to her apartment, for she felt very unwell ; and certain sensations which she had experienced during the day had alarmed her.
    A short time after she had withdrawn to the security of her own chamber, the faithful and kindhearted Marian made her appearance.
    "This is very good of you, Marian," said Ellen. "I never felt the want of some one to talk to and console, so much as I do to-night."
    "You look very pale and ill, Miss," observed the servant: "had you not better retire to rest?"
    "Yes," said Ellen. "I wish to struggle against a sense of weariness and oppression which comes over me; and I cannot."
    "Heavens, Miss! - If anything was to happen to you to-night —"
    "It cannot be that, Marian; but I feel very, very ill."
    Marian aided Miss Monroe to divest herself of her garments; and the young lady retired to her couch.
    "How do you feel now, Miss ?"
    "Alas! I am not better, good Marian. I feel - I feel —"
    "My God, Miss! you are about to become a mother this very night. Oh! what is to be dome? what is to be done?"
    "Save me, save me, Marian - do not suffer me to be exposed!" cried Ellen wildly.
    "Why did I not speak to you before last night? We might have made some arrangement - invented some plan : but now - now it is impossible!"
    "Do not say it is impossible, Marian - do not take away every remaining hope - for I am wretched, very wretched."
    "Poor young lady !" said Marian, advancing towards the bed, and taking Ellen's hand.
    "It is not for myself that I care so much," continued the unhappy girl; "it is for my poor father. It would break his heart - oh! it would break his heart!"
    "And he is a good, kind old gentleman," observed Marian.
    "And he has tasted already so deeply of the [-238-] bitter cup of adversity," said Ellen, "that a blow like this would send him to his grave. I know him so well - he would never survive my dishonour. He has loved me so tenderly - he has taken such pride in me, it would kill him! Do you hear, Marian? - it would kill him. Ah! you weep - you weep for me, kind Marian!"
    "Yes, Miss: I would do anything I could to serve you. But now - it is too late —"
    "Say not that it is too late! ejaculated Ellen distractedly: "say not that all chance of avoiding exposure has fled! take compassion on me, Marian; take compassion on my poor old father! .Ah! these pains —"
    "Tell me how I can serve you, Miss —"
    "Alas! I cannot concentrate my ideas, Marian; I am bewildered - I am reduced to despair! Oh! if men only knew what bitter, bitter anguish they entail upon poor woman, when they sacrifice her to their desires —"
    "Do not make yourself miserable, dear young lady," interrupted Marian, whose eyes were dimmed with tears. "Something must be done! How do you feel now?"
    "I cannot explain my sensations. My mental pangs are so great that they almost absorb my bodily sufferings; and yet, it seems as if the latter were increasing every moment."
    "There can be no doubt of it, Miss," said Marian. "Do you know that when I heard this morning of Mr. Markham's intended departure for France it struck me at the moment that Providence interfered in your behalf. I do not know why such an idea should have come across me; for I could not foresee that you would be so soon overtaken with —"
    "I feel that I am getting worse, Marian; can nothing be done? must my poor father know all? Oh! think of his grey hairs - his wrinkles! Think how he loves me - his only child! Alas! can nothing be done to save me from disgrace? How shall I ever be able to meet Mr. Markham again? Ah! Marian, you would not desert me in such a moment as this?"
    "No, dear young lady - not for worlds!"
    "Thank you, Marian! And yet forgive me if I say again, do not desert me - do not expose me!  Oh! let me die rather than have my shame made known. Think, Marian - do you not know of any means of screening me?"
    "I am bewildered," exclaimed the poor woman. "How do you feel now?"
    "My fears augment, that —"
    "Ah! it is premature, you see, Miss! What is to be done? what shall we do?"
    "Marian, I beseech you - I implore you not to expose me !" said Ellen, in a tone of such intense agony, that the good-hearted woman was touched to the very soul.
    A sudden idea seemed to strike her.
    "I know a young surgeon in the village - who is just married, and has only set up in business a few weeks - he is very poor - and he does not know where I am now in service."
    "Do anything you choose, Marian - follow the dictates of your own mind - but do not expose me! Oh! my God! what misery - what misery is this!"
    "Yes," continued Madam, musing, "there is no other resource. But, Miss," she added, turning towards the suffering girl, "if I can save you from exposure, you must part with your child, should it be born alive!"
    "I am in your hands: save me from exposure - for my poor old father's sake! This is all I ask."
    "This, then," said Madam, "is the only alternative; there is nothing else to be done! And perhaps even he will not consent —"
    "To whom do you allude?" demanded Ellen impatiently.
    "To the young surgeon of whom I spoke But I must try: at all events his assistance must be had Miss, my plan is too long to tell you now: do you think it is sate to leave you alone for three quarters of an hour?"
    "Oh! yes - if it be for my benefit, kind - good Marian," said Ellen. "But I must not be exposed - even to the surgeon!"
    "The room must then be quite dark," observed Madam. "Do you mind that?"
    Ellen shook her head.
    "Then, take courage, Miss - and I think I can promise - but we shall see."
    The servant then hastily extinguished the lights and left the room.
    She hurried up to her own chamber, took from her box a purse containing forty sovereigns - all her little savings, put on her bonnet and shawl, concealed her face with a thick black veil, and then stole carefully down stairs.
    All was quiet; and she left the house by the back door.

* * * * *

    In three quarters of an hour two persons advanced together up the garden at the back of the house.
    One was a woman; and she led a man, whose eyes were blindfolded with a black handkerchief.
    "Your hand trembles," said Marian - for she was the female alluded to.
    "No," answered the surgeon. "But one word - ere I proceed farther."
    "Speak - do not delay."
    "You gave me forty pounds for this night's work. What guarantee do you offer me that the child - should it survive - will not be left on my hands, altogether unprovided for?"
    "Trust to paternal affection, sir," answered Marian. "I can promise you that the child will not even remain long with you."
    "Well, I will venture it," said the surgeon. "Your money will save me from being compelled to shut up my establishment after an unsuccessful struggle of only a few weeks; and I ought not to ask too many questions."
    "And you remember your solemn promise, sir, not to attempt to obtain any clue to the place to which I am conducting you."
    "On my honour as a man - on my solemn word as a gentleman."
    "Enough, sir. Let us proceed."
    Marian let the surgeon onward, and admitted him into the house by the back door.
    All was still quiet.
    We have said on a previous occasion that the mansion was a spacious one. Ellen's apartment was far removed from that on which her father slept; and the rooms occupied by Whittingham and Holford were on the uppermost storey. There consequently existed little chance of disturbing any one.
    Marian led the surgeon very cautiously up the staircase to Ellen's chamber, which they entered as noiselessly as possible.
    Upon advancing into the room, which was quite dark, the surgeon struck against a chest of drawers, and uttered a slight ejaculation of pain; but not loud enough to reach the ears of those from whom it was necessary to conceal this nocturnal proceeding.
    [-239-] Ellen was in the pangs of maternity when Marian and the surgeon came to her assistance; and in a few moments after their arrival, she was the mother of a boy.
    Oh! who can express her feelings when the gentle cry of the child fell upon her ears - that child from whom she was to part in a few minutes, perhaps for ever?

* * * * *

    Half an hour afterwards Marian and the surgeon were again threading the garden ;- but this time their steps led them away from the house.
    Beneath her thick shawl, carefully wrapped up, the servant carried Ellen's child.
    She conducted the surgeon to within a short distance of his own abode, placed the child in his arms, and hurried rapidly away.
    She returned to the Place, and ascended to Ellen's chamber without disturbing the other inmates.
    "Ah! Marian," said Ellen, "how can I ever sufficiently thank you for your kindness of this night?"
    "Silence, my dear young lady. Do not mention it! You must keep yourself very tranquil and quiet; and in the morning I must say that you are too unwell to rise."
    "And that surgeon —"
    "I know what you would ask, Miss," interrupted Madam. "All is safe and secret - the bandage was never raised from the surgeon's eyes from the moment he left his own house until he was far away from here again; nor did he once catch a glimpse of my face, for when I first went to explain the business to him and engage his assistance, he came down from his bed-chamber and spoke to me in the passage where it was quite dark. Moreover, I had taken my thick black veil with me by way of precaution. Therefore, he can never know me again."
    "But the means of securing his assistance? how did you contrive that, Marian?"
    "Well, Miss, if you must know," said the servant, after some hesitation, "I had saved up forty pounds —"
    "And you gave him all!" exclaimed Ellen "Oh! this was truly noble! However - I shall know how to repay you fourfold."
    "We will speak of that another time, Miss," answered Marian. "You must now endeavour to obtain some sleep;- and I shall sit with you all night."
    "Tell me one thing, Mariam," said Ellen, with tears in her eyes ; - "the child —"
    "Will be well taken care of, Miss. Do not alarm yourself about that. And now you must try and obtain some repose."
    In a few moments the young mother was overtaken by a profound sleep - the first she had enjoyed for many, many weeks. But even this slumber was not attended by dreams of unmixed pleasure: the thoughts of her child - her new-born child, entrusted to the care of strangers, and severed from the maternal bosom - followed her in her visions.
    She awoke, considerably refreshed, at about seven o'clock in the morning.
    The faithful Marian was still watching by her side, and had prepared her some refreshment, of which Ellen partook.
    The young mother then asked for writing materials; and, in spite of the remonstrances of Marian, sate up in her bed, and wrote a letter.
    When she had sealed and addressed it, she spoke in the following manner:
    "Marian, I have now one favour to ask you. You have already given me such proofs of friendship and fidelity, that I need not implore you to observe the strictest secresy with respect to the request that I am about to make. At the same time, I shall feel more happy if you will promise me, that under any circumstances - whether my shame remain concealed, or not - you will never disclose, without my consent, the name of the person to whom this letter is addressed, and to whom you must carry it as speedily as possible."
    "You know, Miss, that I will do anything I can to make you happy. Your secret is safe in my keeping."
    "Thank you, Marian! My father would curse me - Mr. Markham would scorn me, did they know that I held communication with this man;" - and she showed the address upon the letter to Marian.
    "Mr. Greenwood!" exclaimed the servant. "Ah! now I recollect - Whittingham has told me that he is the person who ruined your poor father, and robbed Mr. Markham of nearly all his property."
    "And yet, Marian," said Ellen, "that man - that same Mr. Greenwood, who reduced my poor father to beggary, and plundered Mr. Markham - that very same individual is the father of my child!"
    "Ah Miss, now I understand how impossible it was for you to reveal your condition to your father, or to Mr. Markham. The blow would have been too severe upon both!"
    "Yea, Marian - Mr. Greenwood is the father of my child; and more than that - he is - but no matter," said Ellen, suddenly checking herself. "You now know my secret, Madam; and you will never reveal it?"
    "Never, Miss, I promise you most solemnly."
    "And you will take this letter to him to-day - and you will wait for his reply."
    "I will go this afternoon, Miss; and will obey your wishes in every way."
    "And now, Marian, hasten to tell my father that I am unwell; and resist any desire on his part to obtain medical assistance."
    "Leave that to me, Miss. You already appear so much better that the old gentleman will easily be induced to suppose that a little rest is all you require."
    "Ah! Marian - how can I ever reward you for all your goodness towards me?"

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