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[-246-] 

CHAPTER LXXXII

THE MEDICAL MAN. 

IN the morning, when Ellen awoke at about eight o'clock. the first news she heard from Marian's lips was the return of Richard Markham.
    The first sentiment which this announcement excited in the mind of the young lady, was one of extreme joy and thankfulness that her accouchement should have occurred so prematurely, and thus have happened during his absence; but this feeling was succeeded by one of vague alarm and undefined dread, lest by some means or other her secret should transpire.
    This fear she expressed to Marian.
    "No, Miss - that is impossible," said the faithful attendant. "The child is provided for; and the surgeon is totally ignorant of the house to which be was brought the night the poor infant was born. How could Mr. Markham discover your secret?"
    " It it perhaps my conscience, Marian, that alarms me," returned Ellen; "but I confess that I tremble. Do you think that Mr. Wentworth is to be relied upon, even if he should suspect or should ever discover —"
    "Mr. Greenwood has purchased his silence, Miss. Do not be down-hearted. I declare you are quite white in the face - and you seem to tremble so, the bed shakes. Pray - dear Miss - don't give way to these idle alarms!"
    "I shal1 be more composed presently, Marian."
    "And I will just step down stairs and get up your breakfast."
    When Ellen was alone, she buried her face in the pillow and wept bitterly; and from time to time her voice, almost choked with sobs, gave utterance to the words- "My child! my child!"
    Oh! how happy would she have been, could she have proclaimed herself a mother without shame and have spoken of her child to her father and her friend without a blush.
    In a few minutes Marian returned to the room; and Ellen hastened to assume an  air of composure. She wiped away her tears, and sate up in the bed supported by pillows - for she was yet very weak and sickly - to partake of some refreshment.
    "Mr. Markham is up and has already gone out," said Marian, as she attended upon her lovely young patient. "He left word with Whittingham to tell me that he should come up, and see you on his return in half an hour."
    "I would that this first interview were over Marian," exclaimed Ellen.
    [-247-] "So you said, Miss, in the morning after your accouchement, when your father was coming up to see you; and yet all passed off well enough."
    "Yes - but I felt that I blushed, and then grew deadly pale again, at least ten times in a minute," observed Ellen.
    Marian said all she could to re-assure the young mother; and when the invalid had partaken of some tea, the kind-hearted servant left her, in order to attend to her own domestic duties down stairs.
    Ellen then fell into a mournful reverie, during which she reviewed all the events of the last two years and a half of her life. She pondered upon the hideous poverty in which she and her father had been plunged in the court leading out of Golden Lane; she retrospected upon the strange services she had rendered the statuary, the artist, the sculptor, and the photographer; she thought of the old hag who had induced her to enter upon that career; - and then she fixed her thoughts upon Greenwood and her child.
    She was thus mentally occupied when she heard footsteps ascending the staircase; and immediately afterwards some one knocked at her door.
    In a faint voice she said, "Come in."
    The door opened, and Richard Markham entered the apartment; but, as he crossed the threshold, he turned and said to some one who remained upon the landing, "Have the kindness to wait here one moment."
    He then advanced towards the bed, and took the young lady's thin white hand.
    "Ellen," he exclaimed, " you have been very ill."
    "Yes - very ill, Richard," returned the invalid, casting down her eyes; "but I am better - oh! much, very much better now; and, in a day or two, shall be quite well."
    "And yet you are very pale, and sadly altered," said Markham.
    "I can assure you that I am recovering fast. Indeed. I should have risen to-day; but Marian persuaded me to keep my bed a short time longer."
    "And you have had no medical advice, Ellen. I told your father that he had done wrong —"
    "Oh! no, Richard," interrupted Ellen eagerly; "he was anxious to call in the aid of a physician; but I was not so ill as be thought."
    "Not ill!" ejaculated Markham. "You must have been very - very ill."
    "But Marian was so kind to me."
    "No doubt! Nevertheless I have no confidence in the nostrums and prescriptions of old servants and nurses; and human existence is too serious a thing to be tampered with."
    "I assure you, Richard, that Marian has treated me most judiciously; and I am now very nearly quite well."
    "Ah! Ellen," cried Markham, "I can read your heart! "
    "You, Richard!" exclaimed the young lady, with a cold shudder that seemed to terminate in a death-chill at the heart.
    "Yes," continued Markham, his voice assuming a tone of melancholy interest; "I can well appreciate your motives in combating the desire of your father to procure medical aid. You were afraid of burdening me with an expense which you feared my restricted means would not permit me to afford ;-  Oh! I understand your good feeling! But this was wrong, Ellen; for I did not invite you to my house to deny to either yourself or father the common attentions which I would bestow upon a stranger who fell sick under my roof. No - thank God! I have yet enough left to meet casualties like these."
    "Ah! Richard, how kind - how generous you are," said Ellen; "but I am now really much better ;- and to-morrow - to-morrow I shall be quite well."
    "No - Ellen, you are very far from well," returned Markham; "but you shall be well soon. I have been myself this morning to procure you proper advice."
    "Advice?" repeated Ellen, mechanically.
    "Yes: there is a medical gentleman now waiting to see you."
    With these words Richard hastened to the door, and said, "Miss Monroe, sir, is now ready to receive you. I will leave you with her."
    The medical man then entered the chamber; and Markham immediately retired.
    The votary of AEsculapius was a man of apparently five-and-twenty years of age - pale, but good. looking, with light hair, and a somewhat melancholy expression of countenance. He was attired in deep black. His manners were soft and pleasing; but his voice was mournful; and his utterance slow, precise, and solemn.
    Approaching the couch, he took the hand of the invalid, and, placing his fingers upon the pulse, said, "How long have you been ill, Miss?"
    "Oh! sir - I am not ill now - I am nearly well - I shall rise presently - the fresh air will do me good," exclaimed Ellen, speaking with a rapidity, and almost an incoherence, which somewhat surprised the medical man.
    "No, Miss," he said calmly, after a pause, "you cannot leave your bed yet: you are in a state of fever. How long have you been confined to your couch?"
    "How long? Oh! only a few days - but, I repeat, I am better now."
    "How many days, Miss?" asked the medical man.
    "Ten or twelve, sir; and, therefore, you see that I have kept my bed long enough."
    "What do you feel?" demanded the surgeon, seating himself by the side of the invalid with the air of a man who is determined to obtain answers to his questions.
    "I did feel unwell a few days ago, sir," said Ellen; "but now-oh! now I am quite recovered."
    "Perhaps, miss, you will allow me to be the judge of that. You are very feverish - your pulse is rapid. Have you been taking any medicine?"
    "No - that is, a little cooling medicine which the servant who attends upon me purchased. But why all these questions, since I shall soon be well?"
    "Pardon me, Miss: you must have the kindness to answer all my queries. If, however, you would prefer another medical adviser, I will at once acquaint Mr. Markham with your desire, and will relieve you of my presence."
    "No, sir - as well you as another," cried Ellen. scarcely knowing what she said, and shrinking beneath the glance of mingled curiosity and surprise which the surgeon cast upon her.
    "During your illness were you at all delirious?" inquired the medical adviser.
    "Oh! no - I have not been so ill as you are led to suppose. All I require is repose - rest - tranquility —"
    "And professional aid," added the surgeon. "Now, I beg of you, Miss Monroe, to tell me without reserve what you feel. How did your illness commence?"
    "Ah! sir, I scarcely know," replied Ellen. " I have experienced great mental affliction; and that operated upon my constitution, I suppose."
    [-248-] "And you say that you have been confined to your bed nearly a fortnight?"
    "Oh! no - not so long as that," said Ellen, fearful of confirming the surgeon's impression that she had been very ill, and consequently stood greatly in need of professional assistance: "not so long as that! Ten days exactly."
    "Ten days!" repeated the medical man, as if struck by the coincidence of this statement with something which at that moment occurred to his memory; then glancing rapidly round the room, he started from his chair, and said, "Ten days ago, Miss Monroe! And at what hour were you taken ill?"
    "At what hour?" repeated the unhappy young lady, who trembled for her secret.
    "Yes - at what hour?" demanded the surgeon, the slow solemnity of his tone changing to a strange rapidity of utterance: "was it not a little before midnight?"
    "Sir - what do you mean? why do you question me thus?"
    "On that night," continued the surgeon, gazing fixedly upon Ellen's countenance, "a man with his eyes blind-folded —"
    "His eyes blindfolded?" repeated Ellen mechanically, while a fearful shudder passed through her frame.
    "Led by a servant wearing a black veil —" 
    "A black veil?"
    "Entered this room —"
    "Ah! my God - spare me!"
    "And delivered a lady of a male child."
    "How do you know it, sir? who told you?"
    "That man was myself!" cried the surgeon emphatically.
    "Oh! kill me  -kill me!" exclaimed Ellen, and covering her face with her hands, she burst into an agony of tears and heart-wrung sobs.
    "Yes," continued the surgeon, pacing the room, and glancing rapidly on all sides: "there is the chest of drawers against which I dashed my foot - here stood the bed - here the table - I sate down in this chair - Oh! now I remember all!"
    And for some moments he walked up and down the room in profound silence.
    Suddenly Ellen started up to a sitting posture in the bed, and exclaimed. "My child, sir? Tell me - have you taken care of my child?"
    "Yes - Miss - Madam," replied Mr. Wentworth, "the little boy thrives well, although deprived of his natural nourishment."
    "Thank you, sir - thank you at least for that assurance," said Ellen. "Oh! sir - you cannot understand how deeply a mother feels to be separated from her child !"
    "Poor girl,2 said the surgeon, in a compassion ate tone; "you have then suffered very much?"
    "God alone knows what I have endured for months past, mentally and bodily!" cried Ellen, clasping her hands together. "And now you know all, sir - will you betray me? say, sir - will you betray me?"
    Mr. Wentworth appeared to reflect deeply for some moments.
    Ellen awaited his reply in a state of the most agonising suspense.
    "Miss Monroe," at length said Mr. Wentworth, speaking in his usual solemn and grave tone, "you know your own affairs better than I; but would it not be well to confide in those friends by whom you are surrounded?"
    "I would die first - die by my own hand! answered Ellen emphatically. "If you tell me that you will betray me - if you leave this room to communicate my secret to Mr. Markham, who brought you hither, or to my father - I will not hesitate a moment - I will throw myself from the window —"
    "Calm, yourself, Miss Monroe. Your secret is safe in my hands."
    "Oh! thank you, sir - a thousand times I thank you," exclaimed Ellen. "There are circumstances which render it necessary that this secret should not transpire - circumstances, not altogether connected with my own shame, which I cannot, dare not reveal to you."
    "Enough, Miss Monroe - I do not seek to penetrate into those mysteries. Your child is with me - I will be a father to him!"
    "And heaven will bless you!" said Ellen pressing the surgeon's hand with the warmth of the most fervent gratitude.
    "In time you will be able to call at my house," observed Mr. Wentworth; "and you can see your son - you can watch his growth - mark his progress —"
    "How kind you are! Oh! now I am rejoiced that you know all!"
    "And no one will ever suspect the real motive of your visits," continued the surgeon. " Mrs. Went worth shall call upon you in a few days; and thus an acquaintance may be commenced. With reference to my visit of this morning, I shall inform Mr. Markham that you will be convalescent in a few days."
    Ellen once more expressed her sincere and heart felt thanks to the surgeon, who shortly took his leave of her, after strictly recommending her to take the medicaments which he should mend in the course of the day.
    And now the recovery of the young invalid progressed rapidly; and her own mind, relieved of many sources of anxiety and alarm, aided nature in conducting her to convalescence; for she longed to behold and caress her child!

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