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AT the expiration of ten days from the mysterious accouchement of Ellen
Monroe, Richard Markham returned home.
It was late at night when he alighted at his dwelling; but,
as he had written two days previously to say when his arrival might be expected,
Mr. Monroe and Whittingham were sitting up to receive him.
Richard's countenance was mournful; and he wore a black crape
round his hat.
"You have lost a kind friend, Richard," said Mr.
Monroe. "Your hasty letter acquainted us with the fact of Mr. Armstrong's
death; but you gave us no details connected with that event."
"I will now tell you all that has occurred," said
Richard. "You need not leave the room, Whittingham: you knew Mr. Armstrong,
and will be, no doubt, interested in the particulars of his last moments."
"I knowed him for a staunched and consisting. man in his
demmycratical opinions," answered Whittinghain; "and what's more
comportant, he thought well of you, Master Richard."
"He was an excellent man!" observed Markham, wiping
away a tear.
"Worth a thousand Ilchesters, and ten thousand
wulgarians which calls butlers tulips," added Whittingham,
"I will tell you the particulars of his death,"
continued Richard, after a pause. "You remember that I received a letter
from Mr. Armstrong, written in a hurried manner, and desiring me to repair to
him in Boulogne, where he was detained by an accident which, he feared, might
proved fatal. I posted to Dover, which town I reached at about five in the
evening; and I found that no packet would leave for France until the following
morning. The condition of my friend, as I judged of it by his note, seemed too
serious to allow me to delay I accordingly hired a vessel, and proceeded without
loss of time to Boulogne, where I arrived at eleven that same night, after a
tolerably rough passage. I hurtled to the hotel at which my friend was staying,
and the card of which he had enclosed in his letter. I found him in bed,
suffering from a fearful accident caused by the overturning of the chaise in
which he had arrived at Boulogne from Paris, an his way to England. No limbs
were broken: but he had sustained internal injuries of a most serious nature. A
nurse was seated at his bed-side; and his medical attendant visited him every
two or three hours, He was delighted to see me - wept - and said frequently,
even up to the moment of his decease, 'Richard, this is very - very kind of
you.' I sate up with him all that night, in spite of his entreaties that I would
retire to rest; and from the first moment that I set my eyes upon him in that
room, I felt convinced he would never leave it alive. I need not tell you that I
did all I could to solace and render comfortable the man who had selected me, of
all his acquaintances, to receive his last breath. I considered myself honoured
by that mark of friendship; and I moreover remembered that he had believed in my
innocence when I first told him my sad tale within the walls of Newgate. I never
left him, save for one hour, from the instant I arrived in Boulogne until that
of his death."
"Poor Master Richard," said Whittingham, surveying
the young man with affectionate admiration.
"I said that I left him for one hour," continued
Markham: "that was the evening before his death. Five days after my
arrival, he called me to his bed-side, and said, 'Richard, I feel that my hours
are numbered. You heard what my physician observed ere now; and I am not the man
to delude myself with vain and futile hope. I repeat -my moments are now
numbered. Leave me alone, Richard, for one hour; that I may commune with
myself.' This desire was sacred; and I immediately obeyed it. But I remained
away only just one hour, and then hastened back to him. He was very faint and
languid; and I saw, with much surprise, that he had been writing. I sate down by
his bed-aide, and took his emaciated hand. He pressed mine, and said in a slow
and calm tone,- 'Richard, I need not recall to your mind under what
circumstances we first met I heard your tale; I knew that you were innocent. I
could read your heart. In an hour I understood all your good qualities. I formed
a friendship for you; and in the name of that friendship, listen to the last
words of a dying man.' He paused for a few moments, and then continued thus :-
'When I am no more, you will take possession of the few effects that I have with
me here. In my desk you will find a sum sufficient to pay all the expenses
incurred by my illness and to meet the cost of my interment. I desire to be
buried in the Protestant cemetery in the neighbourhood of Boulogne: you and the
physician will attend me to my grave. The funeral must be of the moat humble
description. Do not neglect this desire on my part. I have been all my life
opposed to pomp and ostentation, and shall scarcely wish any display to mark my
death.' He paused again; and I gave him some refreshing beverage. He then
proceeded :- 'Beneath my pillow, Richard, there is a paper in a sealed
envelope. After my death you will open that envelope and read what is written
within it. And now I must exact from you a solemn promise - a promise made to a
dying man - a promise which I am not ashamed to ask, and which you need not fear
to give, especially as it relates eventually to yourself. I require you to
pledge yourself most sacredly that you will obey to the very letter the
directions which are written within that envelope, and which relate to the
papers that the envelope contains.' I readily gave the promise required. He then
directed me to take the sealed packet from beneath his pillow, and retain it
safely about my person. He shortly after sank into a deep slumber - from which
he never awoke. His spirit glided imperceptibly away!"
[-246-] "Good old
man!" exclaimed Whittingham, applying his snow-white handkerchief to his
"According to the French laws," continued Richard,
"interments must take place within forty-eight hours after death. The
funeral of Thomas Armstrong was humble and unostentatious as he desired. The
physician and myself alone followed him to the tomb. I then inspected his
papers; but found no will-no instructions how his property was to be disposed
of; and yet I knew that he was possessed of ample means. Having liquidated his
debts with a portion of the money I found in his desk, and which amounted to
about a hundred pounds, I gave the remainder to an English charity at Boulogne.
And now you are no doubt anxious to know the contents of that packet so
mysteriously delivered to me. When I broke the seal of the envelope, I found a
letter addressed thus :- 'To my dear friend Richard Markham.' This letter
was sealed. I then examined the envelope. You shall yourselves see what was
written within it.
Markham took a paper from his pocket, and handed it to
Monroe, who read its contents aloud as follows:-
"Richard, remember your solemn promise to a dying
man; for when I write this, I know you will not refuse to give me that sacred
pledge which I shall ask of you.
"When you are destitute of all resources - when
adversity or a too generous heart shall have deprived you of all means of
subsistence - and when your own exertions fail to supply your wants, open the
"But should no circumstances of any kind deprive you of
the little property which you now possess,- and should you not be plunged into a
state of need from which your own talents or exertions cannot relieve you - then
shall you open this letter upon the morning of the 10th, of July, 1843, on which
day you have told me that you are to meet your brother.
"These directions I charge you to observe faithfully and
"How very extraordinary!" ejaculated Monroe.
"Nevertheless, I have a presentiment that these
mysterious instructions intend some eventual good to you, Richard."
"It's a fortin! -a fortin! depend upon it," said
the old butler.
"Upon that head it is useless to speculate,"
observed Richard. "I shall obey to the very letter the directions of my
late friend, be their tendency what it may. And now that I have told you all
that concerns myself, allow me to ask how fares it with you here. Does Ellen's
"For the last ten days she has been confined to her
bed," answered Monroe, tears starting to his eyes.
"Confined to her bed!" cried Markham. "I hope
you have had proper medical advice?"
"I wished to call in the aid of a physician," said
Monroe, "but Ellen would not permit me. She declared that she should soon
be better; she assured me that her illness was produced only by the privations
and mental tortures which she had undergone, poor creature! previous to our
taking up our abode in your hospitable dwelling; and then Marian was so kind and
attentive, and echoed every thing which Ellen advanced, so readily, that I
suffered myself to be over-persuaded."
"You did wrong - you did wrong, Mr. Monroe,"
exclaimed Markham. "Your daughter should have had medical advice; and she
shall have it tomorrow."
"She appears to be mending in health, though not in
spirits," observed Monroe. " But my dear young friend, you shall have
your own way; and I thank you sincerely for the interest you show in behalf of
one who is dear - very dear to me."
Richard pressed the hand of the old man, and retired to his
chamber, to seek that repose of which he stood so much in need after his
journey. But ere he sought his couch, be sate down and wrote the following note
to Count Alteroni, that it might be despatched to Richmond without delay in the
"Mr. Markham regrets to be the means of communicating news of an
afflicting nature to Count Alteroni; nor should he intrude himself again upon
Count Alteroni's notice, did he not feel himself urged by a solemn duty to do so
in the present instance. Count Alteroni's old and esteemed friend, Thomas
Armstrong, is no more. He departed this life four days ago, at Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Mr. Markham had the melancholy honour of closing the eyes of a good man and true
patriot, and of following his remains to the tomb."
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