chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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MARQUIS OF HOLMESFORD.
was eleven o'clock on the following day, when the Marquis of Holmesford rose
from the arms of one of the houris who formed his harem.
He thrust his feet into a pair of red morocco slippers,
put on an elegant dressing-gown of gay-coloured silk, and passed from the room
of his charmer to his own chamber.
There he entered a bath of warm milk; and, while
luxuriating in the tepid fluid which imparted temporary vigour to a frame
enfeebled by age and dissipation, he partook of a bowl of the richest. French
soup, called consommιe, which his valet presented on a massive silver salver.
Having finished a broth that was well calculated to
replenish the juices of his wasting frame, the hoary voluptuary left the bath,
which was immediately wheeled into an adjacent chamber.
Every morning was a certain quantity, consisting of many
gallons, of new milk supplied for the use of the Marquis of Holmesford; and when
it had served him for one bath it became the perquisite of his valet.
And what did this domestic do with it? Had he possessed
hogs, he would not have given to those unclean beasts the fluid which had washed
off all the impurities of his master's person: no he
would not have allowed the very pigs to partake of the milk with which the
disgusting exudations of the old voluptuary's body had commingled!
But he contracted with a milk-man whose "walk"
was in a very poor neighbourhood; and that milkman paid the valet a certain sum
daily for the perquisite.
It was then retailed to the poor as the best
"country grass-fed milk!"
Let us, however, return to the Marquis.
Upon quitting his bath, he commenced the mysteries of
the toilet, that ceremony which involves so many repulsive details
when connected with old men or old women who have recourse to cosmetics or
succedaneous means to render less apparent the ravages of time and debauchery.
Taking out his complete set of false teeth, he placed
them in a glass filled with pure lavender water. His dressing-case supplied a
silver instrument to scrape the white fur from a tongue that denoted the fever
produced by the previous evening's deep potations; a pair of silver tweezers
removed the hairs from his nostrils; and, in the meantime, his wig, stretched
upon a block, was skilfully dressed by the valet.
It was past mid-day when Lord Holmesford quitted his
chamber, looking as well as all the artificial means which he adopted towards
the improvement of his person, and all the accessories of faultless clothes,
whitest linen, and richest jewellery, could render an old worn-out beau of
As he was descending the Stairs, a servant met him, and
said in a profoundly respectful tone, "Mr. Greenwood, my lord, is in the
The Marquis nodded his head, as much as to say that he
heard the announcement, and proceeded to the apartment where the Member for
Rottenborough was waiting.
"Well, Greenwood, my boy," cried the Marquis,
affecting the sparkling hilarity of youth, and endeavouring to walk with a
jaunty and easy air, just as if his old bones did not move heavily in their
sockets like a door on rusty hinges; "how goes the world with you? As for
me, by God! I really think I am growing young again, Instead "
"Your lordship does look uncommonly
well," said Greenwood, who had his own purposes to serve by flattering the
nobleman; "and for a man of fifty-two "
"Come, Greenwood that won't do!"
cried the Marquis. "Fifty-one, if you please, last birth-day."
"Yes I meant in your fifty-second
year, my lord," said Greenwood, with admirable composure of countenance,
although he well knew that the hoary old sinner would never see sixty-four
again: "but, as I was observing, you are really an
astonishing man; and if I were married egad! I should deem it but
prudent to request your lordship not to call at the house except when I was at
"Ah! you rogue, Greenwood!" exclaimed the
Marquis, highly delighted at the compliment thus conveyed for with
debauchees in fashionable life such a degrading assertion is a
compliment, and a most welcome one, too: "no no not
so bad as that, either, Greenwood. Friendship before every thing!"
[-300-] "No, my
lord love before every thing with your lordship!"
cried Greenwood, gravely sustaining the familiar poke in the chest which his
former compliment had elicited from the old nobleman. "You are really
terrible amongst the women; and, some how or another, they cannot resist you. By
the bye, how gets on the action which Dollabel has against you?"
"What! Dollabel, the actor at the Haymarket!"
ejaculated the Marquis. "Oh! settled settled long ago. My
lawyer ferretted out an overdue bill of his, for ninety-odd pounds, bought it up
for seven guineas, sued him on it, and threw him into some hole of a place in
the City, that they call Redcross "
"No Bluecross, I think,"
suggested Greenwood, doubtingly although he knew perfectly well to
what place the Marquis was alluding.
"No no that isn't it
either," cried time nobleman: "Whitecross Street that's
"Ah! Whitecross Street so it
is!" exclaimed Greenwood. "What a memory your lordship has!"
"Yes improves daily better
than when I was a boy," said the Marquis. "But as I was observing, my
solicitor threw Dollabel into Whitecross Street gaol, and starved him into a
compromise. I consented to give him his discharge from the debt and a ten-pound
note to see his way with when he came a out. But his wife was a really a nice
She was a very nice woman," observed
Greenwood. " You got out of that little crim. con. very nicely. Then
there was Maxton's affair "
"What! the tea-dealer in Bond Street!"
exclaimed the Marquis, chuckling with delight as his exploits in the wars of
love were thus recalled to his mind. "Oh! that was not so easily settled,
my dear fellow, It went up to within a week of trial; and then Maxton agreed to
stop all further proceedings and take his wife back if she came with a cool two
thousand in her pocket. Well, my lawyer knowing fellow,
that! drew him into a correspondence, and got him to receive his
wife. Home she went: Maxton met her with open arms declared
before witnesses 'that he was at length convinced of her innocence (this
he said to patch up her reputation) and all was well till next
morning, when he asked her to give him the two thousand pounds, that he might
take them to the Bank. Then she laughed in his face and he saw
that he was done. Condonation, the civilians call it and so
he could not go on with the suit. Capital wasn't it?"
"Capital, indeed!" ejaculated Greenwood,
nearly dying with laughter.
The Marquis never for a moment suspected it to be all
forced, but rubbed his hands together so briskly and chuckled so heartily, that
a violent fit of coughing supervened, and he was compelled to turn aside to hold
in his false teeth. "Your lordship has naught a little
cold," said the Member for Rottenborough. "But it is nothing a
mere nothing: I often have a cough like that. I've known many young men much
younger than your lordship have worse coughs."
"Oh! I know that it's nothing," cried the
Marquis, still stammering with a diabolical irritation in the throat.
"By the bye," said Greenwood, imagining that
he had now so effectually worked himself into the old nobleman's good graces
that he might safely explain the business that had brought him thither:
"you are not in any hurry for the ten thousand I borrowed of you at the
beginning of the year?"
"Not in the least, my dear fellow," returned
the Marquis. "But, while I think of it, what has become of the fair
Georgian the blue-eyed Mabkhatoun?"
"I handed her over to Dapper some time ago,'
answered Greenwood. "We were, however, speaking of those ten thousand
"A trifle a mere trifle, Say no more
about it," cried the nobleman.
"I expected as much from your lordship's generous
friendship," said Greenwood, obsequiously "In fact, I came to tax you
for a further loan just for a few days "
"Impossible at present, my dear fellow!"
interrupted the Marquis, rather peremptorily; for he had entertained doubts of
his friend's prosperity for some time past; and this application only tended to
confirm his suspicions. "I am really so pressed at this moment "
The dialogue was interrupted by the sudden entrance of a
servant, who said, "My lord, the Prince of Montoni requests an interview
with your lordship."
"The Prince Richard here!"
exclaimed Greenwood, thrown off his guard.
"Show his Highness up immediately," said the
Marquis, in the tone of a man who was surprised but not alarmed at this visit.
"My lord," interrupted Greenwood, speaking in
a hurried and thick tone, "I have the most urgent reasons for not meeting
the Prince of Montoni for not even being seen by him. I implore
you not to say that I am here not even to allude to me."
And having uttered this hasty injunction, Greenwood
passed into a back drawing-room, which was separated from the front one by
But it was easy to overhear in the former apartment all
that was said in the latter.
Scarcely had the Member for Rottenborough thus
retreated, when the Prince was ushered into the presence of the Marquis of
Those two personages had never met before; and the
moment they thus found themselves face to face, they surveyed each other with
rapid but scrutinising glances.
On one side Richard Markham was naturally curious to
behold the man, the monster in human form, who could
have practised so much villany against so much virtue who, in a
word, had destroyed the happiness of the deceased and lamented a mother of
On the other hand, the Marquis was struck by the
handsome and noble appearance of that fine young man, who had raised himself
from a sphere comparatively humble to an exalted position who had
led armies to a crowning triumph through the deadly strife of battle and
who was himself the personification of that generous spirit of political freedom
which now influences the civilised world from the banks of the Thames to the
waters of the Volga.
And, oh! what a contrast was formed in that splendid
drawing-room where a great Prince and a wealthy peer now met for the first
time: the one possessing a heart beating with all the generous
emotions that can redeem frail humanity from some of the dire consequences of
the Primal Fall the other accustomed to sacrifice all and every-[-301-]thing
to his own selfish lusts and degrading debaucheries: the one
endowed with, that manly beauty which associates so well with the dignity of
high rank and the aristocracy of virtue; the other sinking beneath the
infirmities of age and the ravages of dissipation: the one noble
alike by nature and by name; the other noble only by name: the one
carrying his head erect, and well able to meet the glance of every eye that
would seek to penetrate into the recesses of his soul; the other conscious of
having outraged so many hearts, that he quailed beneath the look of every
visitor whose business was not immediately announced: the one, in
a word, the type of all that is great, good, chivalrous and estimable; the other
a representative of a vicious hereditary aristocracy!
The Marquis requested our hero to be seated, and, having
himself taken a chair, waited for an explanation at the motives of this visit.
"I have called upon you, my lord," said
Richard, "for the purpose of requesting one half-hour's serious
conversation on a subject which deeply interests me and an amiable girl whom I
only yesterday discovered to be my sister. My name is not unknown to your
"I have heard much of your Highness,"
interrupted the nobleman; "and am well acquainted with those great
achievements which have covered you with glory."
"When I said that my name was not unknown to your
lordship," continued Richard, bowing coldly in acknowledgment of the
compliment thus paid him, "I did not allude to that title by which the
forms of ceremony compelled me to announce myself: I intended you to understand
that the name of Markham must occupy no agreeable place in your
"Your Highness oversteps the bounds of courtesy in
undertaking to answer for the state of my feelings," exclaimed the Marquis,
with evident signs of astonishment: "your Highness insinuates that I have
reason for self-reproach; and this between strangers "
"Pardon me for interrupting your lordship,"
said our hero, calmly but firmly: "if we were personally strangers to each
other until now, the name of my deceased father was not unknown to you; nor am I
unacquainted with your conduct towards one who was dear to him. And now,
my lord, let us understand each other. I came not hither on an inimical
errand scarcely even to reproach you. You are an old man and
it would be unseemly in me, who am a young man, to assume a tone of intimidation
or of menace. But I come to request an explanation of a certain affair which is
to some degree enveloped in doubt and mystery although, alas! I
dread the very worst: I come as one gentleman seeks another, to
demand the only atonement that can be made for wrongs inflicted years ago on him
who was the author of my being; and that atonement is a full
avowal of the past, so that no uncertainty even as to the worst may dwell in the
minds of those who are now interested in the subject to which I allude."
"Your Highness is labouring under some
extraordinary error," said the Marquis of Holmesford, warmly. "I
declare most solemnly that the name of your father was totally unknown to me:
indeed, I never heard of your family until the newspapers first became busy with
your own exploits in Italy."
"Is this possible?" cried Richard; then as a
sudden reminiscence struck him, he said in a musing tone, "Yes it
may be so. In her last letter addressed to the Marquis of Holmesford poor
Harriet intimated that the name of her husband was unknown to him and
that letter was never sent!"
Although the Prince uttered these words rather in a
musing tone to himself than in direct address to the Marquis, this latter caught
the name of Harriet, and instantly became deeply agitated.
"Harriet, my lord? did your Highness
mention the name of Harriet?" murmured the nobleman.
Yes, my lord," continued Richard: "I see that
I have hitherto been speaking in enigmas. But I will now explain myself better.
It is of one whom you knew as Harriet Wilmot that I require explanations, at
"Harriet Wilmot! yes I
knew her," said the Marquis, faintly: "I did her grievous wrong! and
"Your lordship will understand wherefore I feel
interested in all that relates to Harriet Wilmot," interrupted
Markham, "when I declare to you that she was secretly married
to my own father and it is her child whom I yesterday embraced as
"As there is a God in heaven, my lord,"
exclaimed the Marquis of Holmesford, emphatically, "I never until this
moment knew the name of Harriet's husband; and with equal solemnity would I
assert on my death-bed that she was innocent, my lord she was
"Oh! if I could believe if I were
assured " Richard could say no more: he pressed his hand to
his brow, as if to steady his brain and collect his thoughts; and tears trembled
on his long black lashes.
"Prince of Montoni," cried the Marquis, rising
front his seat, and speaking with more sincerity and more seriousness than had
characterised his tone for many, many years; "I am a man of pleasure, I
admit a man of gallantry, I allow; but I have no inclination to
gratify, no interest to serve, by uttering a falsehood now. Again I declare to
you as God is my judge that Harriet was innocent in
respect to myself, and I believe nay, I would
venture to assert innocent also with regard to others and
faithful to her husband!"
"My lord," said Richard, in a voice tremulous
with mingled emotions of joy and doubt; and as he spoke, he also rose from his
seat, and took the nobleman's hand, which he pressed with nervous force, "my
lord, prove to me what you have just stated explain all that took
place between yourself and Harriet on that night which appears to have been so
fatal to her happiness, show me, in a word, that she was
innocent, and I will banish from my mind all angry feelings which
may have been excited by the knowledge of your intrigues to undermine her
"I cannot for a moment hesitate to satisfy you in
this respect," said the Marquis. Resume your seat, my lord and
I will narrate, as distinctly as I can, all that transpired when she was
inveigled to my house; for I perceive that you are well acquainted with many
details concerning her."
"It is but right to inform you," observed
Richard, "that the old woman who aided your designs with regard to her whom
I must consider to have been my step-mother. has committed to paper a narrative
of [-302-] all which she knew relative to that
unfortunate young woman. But there is one gap which your lordship must fill
up one mystery which is as yet unrevealed. I allude to the
incidents of that fatal might, when, even if Harriet escaped innocent from this
house, she, by some strange combination of untoward circumstances, lost the
confidence of my father her husband and appeared
guilty in his eyes."
"And yet she was innocent!" exclaimed
the Marquis, emphatically. "Listen, Prince, to what I am about to say. The
old woman to whom you have alluded, inveigled Harriet to. my house and,
I confess, by my instructions. I knew that she was married; but the old woman
told me not to whom even if she knew."
"She did know," remarked our hero; "but
the marriage was kept secret "
"And I never asked the vile procuress any
particulars concerning it," interrupted the Marquis. "All I coveted
was Harriet's person: I cared nothing for her connexions or circumstances. The
young mother came hither, with her child in her arms. One of my female servants
took the babe from her, and locked her in a room where she expected to find the
woman whom she believed to be her friend. But she was alone with me! She knew
me and the conviction that she was betrayed dashed to her mind the
moment her eyes met mine. Then she fell upon her knees, and implored me to save
her to spare her. I was inflamed with wine maddened
with desire; and I heeded not her prayers. I attempted to reason with her; but
not all the tempting offers I made her not all the promises I
uttered not all the inducements I held out, could persuade her to
submit to my wishes. I was already a widower, and I even swore to make her my
wife, so soon as a divorce could be obtained between herself and her husband, if
she would become my mistress. No: she wept and shrieked she
prayed and menaced she grew violent and imploring, by turns. At
length for I must tell you all I had recourse to
violence: I was no longer able to master my passions But she resisted me with a
strength and energy that surprised me. I was completely baffled and
Harriet remained innocent!"
"Thank God thank God!" exclaimed
Markham, fervently clasping his hands together.
"Yes, my lord she remained
innocent," continued the Marquis; "and, when I myself grew more cool,
I felt ashamed humiliated cast down, in the presence
of that young woman who had preserved her virtue from my violence, the
first who ever entered that room and conquered me! I suddenly experienced
an admiration for her such as I had never known till then on
behalf of any female! I approached her in my turn I became a
suppliant; but it was for pardon! I deplored the outrage I had
committed I went upon my knees to ask her forgiveness. 'My
child' she suddenly exclaimed, as if awaking from a profound reverie. I
rang the bell, and received her child at the door: in my own arms I carried the
babe to her. She covered it with kisses; and my manner touched her for
she declared that she would pardon me, if I never molested her more. I called
heaven to witness the sincerity of the oath that I then pledged to observe this
condition. Two hours had thus elapsed; and when she was composed, I rang the
bell and ordered a hackney-coach to be fetched. When the vehicle arrived, I
escorted her to it But as I handed her down the steps of the front door, a
gentleman, who was passing at the moment, caught sight of her countenance. 'Harriet!'
he exclaimed, in a voice of mingled astonishment, rage, and despair. 'My
husband!' she cried, with a wild shriek; and she would have fallen on the
pavement, had I not caught her in my arms. 'Sir,' I said to
the stranger, 'this lady is innocent, although appearances may be against
her.' 'Innocent,' he repeated, in a tone of bitterness and
grief: "innocent when she comes calmly from the house of the Marquis of
Holmesford, and sinks into the Marquis of Holmesford's arms! No: I am not to be
deceived! Harriet, vile woman, I cast you off forever!' And,
with these words, the stranger hurried away."
"Alas! that was my poor father!" said Markham,
the tears trickling down his cheeks.
"I had no opportunity to explain the circumstances
that had occurred," continued the nobleman, after a pause. "Your
father disappeared with the rapidity of lightning; and the moment he was gone,
Harriet burst from my arms, evidently in pursuit of him. I was so bewildered
with the suddenness of these events, that I remained transfixed as it were to
the spot. At length I hurried down the street after Harriet; but I
could not overtake her. Distressed beyond measure, I returned home, vented my
wrath upon the old woman, whom I loathed as the authoress of this misfortune,
and drove her from my house. The wretch wrote to me afterwards, and even
endeavoured to obtain an interview with me; but I would never see her
"And did your lordship lose sight of poor Harriet
altogether?" asked Richard.
"I once received a letter from her," was the
reply: "I think it must have been about a year after the occurrences which
I have just related. She wrote in a mild and respectful tone declaring
that the sufferings of her half-famished child could alone have induced her to
apply for assistance to me. I enclosed her a hundred pounds, and desired her in
my letter of reply never to hesitate to avail herself of my purse as
I should not attempt to take any advantage of the assistance which I might
render her. But to my astonishment she sent back eighty pounds retaining
only twenty, and declaring in a brief note that she felt ashamed of being even
compelled to accept that sum. I never heard from her again; but I gather from
your Highness's observations that she is no longer living!"
"She died unhappily, miserably
upwards of thirteen years ago," said Richard. "A strange combination
of circumstances threw me in the way of her daughter, the orphan
whom she left, about fifteen months ago; and it was only last
night that I discovered a sister in her whom I had known as Katherine
"Katherine Wilmot!" exclaimed the Marquis:
"surely that name is known to me?"
"My sister was accused of a crime which the Rev.
Reginald Tracy had in reality perpetrated; and "
"I remember the occurrence full well,"
interrupted the Marquis. "When that exposure of the rector of Saint David's
took place, I was struck by the name of Wilmot; but I suspected not for a moment
that the Katherine Wilmot, who was concerned in that affair, and whose innocence
trans[-303-]pired so clearly, was the daughter of
"Katherine Markham for such is now
her name," said Richard, "was for a period the victim of
circumstantial evidence even as a combination of unfortunate
circumstances had persecuted her mother before her. Yes it was
evidence of that kind which ruined Harriet in the eyes of my father! But I shall
intrude no longer upon your lordship unless it be to say that your
candid explanation this day has gone far to retrieve the past in my estimation.
For, oh! my lord you can perhaps understand how welcome to me is
the conviction that the mother of my newly-discovered sister was virtuous: and
to her, poor girl! the assurance of her parent's innocence will be joyful
indeed! Every thing is now cleared up and the narrative of
Katherine's parentage is complete. Its truth is proved by the fact that certain
letters now in my possession are in the handwriting of my father; and some which
Harriet also wrote, correspond with a fragment of a note that the poor creature
commenced on her death-bed, and which has remained in her daughter's possession.
One link was alone wanting to make the history perfect the
occurrence of that night which was so fatal to my step-mother's happiness. That
link your lordship has supplied; and I thank you."
The Prince then took his leave of the Marquis.
Scarcely had Richard left the room, when Greenwood
re-entered it from the back apartment.
His countenance was pale his manner was
"What is the matter with you?" demanded the
Marquis, astonished at his friend's altered mien.
"Your lordship cannot divine how nearly all that I
have overheard concerns us," was the answer.
And Greenwood left the house abruptly.
We must leave the reader to imagine the joy that
prevailed at Markham Place, when the Prince returned thither, the bearer of
those happy tidings which proved the legitimacy of Katherine and the innocence
of her departed but not unlamented mother.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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