THE BLACK BARONET;
OR, THE CHRONICLES OF BALLYTRAIN.
By William Carleton
I.—A Mail Coach by Night, and a Bit of Moonshine
II.—The Town and its Inhabitants
III.—Paudeen Gair's Receipt how to make a Bad Dinner a Good One —The Stranger finds Fenton as Mysterious as Himself
IV.—An Anonymous Letter—Lucy Gourlay Avows a Previous Attachment
V.—Sir Thomas Gourlay Fails in Unmasking the Stranger—Mysterious Conduct of Fenton
VI.—Extraordinary Scene between Fenton and the Stranger
VII.—The Baronet attempts by Falsehood to urge his Daughter into an Avowal of her Lover's Name.
VIII.—The Fortune-Teller—An Equivocal Prediction
IX. —Candor and Dissimulation
X. —A Family Dialogue—and a Secret nearly Discovered
XI.—The Stranger's Visit to Father MacMahon
XII.—Crackenfudge Outwitted by Fenton —The Baronet, Enraged at his Daughter's Firmness, strikes Her
XIII.—The Stranger's Second Visit to Father MacMahon—Something like an Elopement
XIV.—Crackenfudge put upon a Wrong Scent—Miss Gourlay takes Refuge with an Old Friead
XV.—Interview between Lady Gourlay and the Stranger—Dandy Dulcimer makes a Discovery—The Stranger Receives Mysterious Communications
XVI.—Conception and Perpetration of a Diabolical Plot against Fenton
XVII.—A Scene in Jemmy Trailcudgel's —Retributive Justice, or the Robber Robbed
XVIII. —Dunphy visits the County Wicklow —Old Sam and his Wife
XIX.—Interview between Trailcudgel and the Stranger—A Peep at Lord Dunroe and his Friend
XX.—Interview between Lords Cullamore, Dunroe, and Lady Emily —Tom Norton's Aristocracy fails him—His Reception by Lord Cullamore
XXI.—A Spy Rewarded—Sir Thomas Gourlay Charged Home by the Stranger with, the Removal and Disappearance of his Brother's Son
XXII.—Lucy at.Summerfield Cottage
XXIII.— A Lunch in Summerfield Cottage.
XXIV.—An Irish Watchhouse in the time of the "Charlies"
XXV.—The Police Office — Sir Spigot Sputter and Mr. Coke—An "Unfortunate Translator—Decision in "a Law Case"
XXVI.— The Priest Returns Sir Thomas's Money and Pistols—A Bit of Controversy—A New Light Begins to Appear
XXVII. —Sir Thomas, who Shams Illness, is too sharp for Mrs. Mainwaring, who visits Him—Lucy calls upon Lady Gourlay, where she meets her Lover—Affecting Interview between Lucy and Lady Gourlay
XXVIII.—Innocence and Affection overcome by Fraud and Hypocrisy—Lucy yields at Last
XXIX.—Lord Dunroe's Affection for his Father—Glimpse of a new Character —Lord Cullamore's Rebuke to his Son, who greatly Refuses to give up his Friend
XXX.—A Courtship on Novel Principles
XXXI.—The Priest goes into Corbet's House very like a Thief—a Sederunt, with a Bright look up for Mr. Gray
XXXII.—Discovery of the Baronet's Son —Who, however, is Shelved for a Time
XXXIII.—The Priest asks for a Loan of Fifty Guineas, and Offers "Freney the Robber"as Security
XXXIV.—Young Gourlay's Affectionate Interview with His Father—Risk of Strangulation — Movements of M'Bride
XXXV.—Lucy's Vain but Affecting Expostulation with her Father—Her Terrible Denunciation of Ambrose Gray
XXXVI.—Which contains a variety of Matters, some to Laugh and some to Weep at
XXXVII.—Dandy's Visit to Summerfield Cottage, where he Makes a most Ungallant Mistake — Return with Tidings of both Mrs. Norton and Fenton—and Generously Patronizes his Master
XXXVIII.—Anthony Corbet gives Important Documents to the Stranger—An Unpleasant Disclosure to Dunroe —Norton catches a Tartar
XXXIX.—Fenton Recovered—The Mad-House
XL.—Lady Gourlay sees her Son
The incidents upon which this book is founded seem to be extraordinary and startling, but they are true; for, as Byron says, and as we all know, "Truth is strange—stranger than Fiction." Mr. West, brother to the late member from Dublin, communicated them to me exactly as they occurred, and precisely as he communicated them, have I given them to the reader, at least, as far as I can depend upon my memory. With respect, however, to his facts, they related only to the family which is shadowed forth under the imaginary name of Gourlay; those connected with the aristocratic house of Cullamore, I had from another source, and they are equally authentic. The Lord Dunroe, son to the Earl of Cullamore, is not many years dead, and there are thousands still living, who can bear testimony to the life of profligacy and extravagance, which, to the very last day of his existence, he persisted in leading. That his father was obliged to get an act of Parliament passed to legitimize his children, is a fact also pretty well known to many.
At first, I had some notion of writing a distinct story upon each class of events, but, upon more mature consideration, I thought it better to construct such a one as would enable me to work them both up into the same narrative; thus contriving that the incidents of the one house should be connected with those of the other, and the interest of both deepened, not only by their connection, but their contrast. It is unnecessary to say, that the prototypes of the families who appear upon the stage in the novel, were, in point of fact, personally unknown to each other, unless, probably, by name, inasmuch as they resided in different and distant parts of the kingdom. They were, however, contemporaneous. Such circumstances, nevertheless, matter very little to the novelist, who can form for his characters whatsoever connections, whether matrimonial or otherwise, he may deem most proper; and of this, he must be considered himself as the sole, though probably not the best, judge. The name of Red Hall, the residence of Sir Thomas Gourlay, is purely fictitious, but not the description of it, which applies very accurately to a magnificent family mansion not a thousand miles from the thriving little town of Ballygawley. Since the first appearance, however, of the work, I have accidentally discovered, from James Frazer's admirable. "Hand-book for Ireland," the best and most correct work of the kind ever published, and the only one that can be relied upon, that there actually is a residence named Red Hall in my own native county of Tyrone. I mention this, lest the respectable family to whom it belongs might take offence at my having made it the ancestral property of such a man as Sir Thomas Gourlay, or the scene of his crimes and outrages. On this point, I beg to assure them that the coincidence of the name is purely accidental, and that, when I wrote the novel, I had not the slightest notion that such a place actually existed. Some of those coincidences are very odd and curious. For instance, it so happens that there is at this moment a man named Dunphy actually residing on Constitution Hill, and engaged in the very same line of life which I have assigned to one of my principal characters of that name in the novel, that of a huckster; yet of this circumstance I knew nothing. The titles of Cullamore and Dunroe are taken from two hills, one greater than the other, and not far asunder, in my native parish; and I have heard it said, by the people of that neighborhood, that Sir William Richardson, father to the late amiable Sir James Richardson Bunbury, when expecting at the period of the Union to receive a coronet instead of a baronetcy, had made his mind up to select either one or the other of them as the designation of his rank.
I think I need scarcely assure my readers that old Sam Roberts, the retired soldier, is drawn from life; and I may add, that I have scarcely done the fine old fellow and his fine old wife sufficient justice. They were two of the most amiable and striking originals I ever met. Both are now dead, but I remember Sam to have been for many years engaged in teaching the sword exercise in some of the leading schools in and about Dublin. He ultimately gave this up, however, having been appointed to some comfortable situation in the then Foundling Hospital, where his Beck died, and he, poor fellow, did not, I have heard, long survive her.
Owing to painful and peculiar circumstances, with which it would be impertinent to trouble the reader, there were originally only five hundred copies of this work published. The individual for whom it was originally written, but who had no more claim upon it than the Shah of Persia, misrepresented me, or rather calumniated me, so grossly to Messrs. Saunders & Otley, who published it, that he prevailed upon them to threaten me with criminal proceedings for having disposed of my own work, and I accordingly received an attorney's letter, affording me that very agreeable intimation. Of course they soon found they had been misled, and that it would have been not only an unparalleled outrage, but a matter attended with too much danger, and involving too severe a penalty to proceed in. Little I knew or suspected at the time, however, that the sinister and unscrupulous delusions which occasioned me and my family so much trouble, vexation, and embarrassment, were only the foreshadowings of that pitiable and melancholy malady which not long afterwards occasioned the unhappy man to be placed apart from society, which, it is to be feared, he is never likely to rejoin. I allude to those matters, not only to account for the limited number of the work that was printed, but to satisfy those London publishers to whom the individual in question so foully misrepresented me, that my conduct in every transaction I have had with booksellers has been straightforward, just, and honorable, and that I can publicly make this assertion, without the slightest apprehension of being contradicted. That the book was cushioned in this country, I am fully aware, and this is all I shall say upon that part of the subject. Indeed it was never properly published at all—never advertised—never reviewed, and, until now, lay nearly in as much obscurity as if it had been still in manuscript. A few copies of it got into circulating libraries, but, in point of fact, it was never placed before the public at all. What-ever be its merits, however, it is now in the hands of a gentleman who will do it justice, if it fails, the fault will not at least be his.
My object in writing the book was to exhibit, in contrast, three of the most powerful passions that can agitate the human heart—I mean love, ambition, and revenge. To contrive the successive incidents, by which the respective individuals on whose characters they were to operate should manifest their influence with adequate motives, and without departing from actual life and nature, as we observe them in action about us, was a task which required a very close study of the human mind when placed in peculiar circumstances. In this case the great struggle was between love and ambition. By ambition, I do not mean the ambition of the truly great man, who wishes to associate it with truth and virtue, and whose object is, in the first place, to gratify it by elevating his country and his kind; no, but that most hateful species of it which exists in the contrivance and working out of family arrangements and insane projects for the aggrandizement of our offspring, under circumstances where we must know that they cannot be accomplished without wrecking the happiness of those to whom they are proposed. Such a passion, in its darkest aspect—and in this I have drawn it—has nothing more in view than the cruel, selfish and undignified object of acquiring some poor and paltry title or distinction for a son or daughter, without reference either to inclination or will, and too frequently in opposition to both. It is like introducing a system of penal laws into domestic life, and establishing the tyranny of a moral despot among the affections of the heart. Sometimes, especially in the case of an only child, this ambition grows to a terrific size, and its miserable victim acts with all the unconscious violence of a monomaniac.
In Sir Thomas Gourlay, the reader will perceive that it became the great and engrossing object of his life, and that its violence was strong in proportion to that want of all moral restraint, which resulted from the creed of an infidel and sceptic. And I may say here, that it was my object to exhibit occasionally the gloomy agonies and hollow delusions of the latter, as the hard and melancholy system on which he based his cruel and unsparing ambition. His character was by far the most difficult to manage. Love has an object; and, in this case, in the person of Lucy Gourlay it had a reasonable and a noble one. Revenge has an object; and in the person of Anthony Corbet, or Dunphy, it also had, according to the unchristian maxims of life, an unusually strong argument on which to work and sustain itself. But, as for Sir Thomas Gourlay's mad ambition, I felt that, considering his sufficiently elevated state of life, I could only compensate for its want of all rational design, by making him scorn and reject the laws both civil and religious by which human society is regulated, and all this because he had blinded his eyes against the traces of Providence, rather than take his own heart to task for its ambition. Had he been a Christian, I do not think he could have acted as he did. He shaped his own creed, however, and consequently, his own destiny. In Lady Edward Gourlay, I have endeavored to draw such a character as only the true and obedient Christian can present; and in that of his daughter, a girl endowed with the highest principles, the best heart, and the purest sense of honor—a woman who would have been precisely such a character as Lady Gourlay was, had she lived longer and been subjected to the same trials. Throughout the whole work, however, I trust that I have succeeded in the purity and loftiness of the moral, which was to show the pernicious effects of infidelity and scepticism, striving to sustain and justify an insane ambition; or, in a word, I endeavored
"To vindicate the ways of God to man."
A literary friend of mine told me, a few days ago, that the poet Massinger had selected the same subject for his play of. "A New Way to pay Old Debts," the same in which Sir Giles Overreach is the prominent character. I ought to feel ashamed to say, as I did say, in reply to this, that I never read the play alluded to, nor a single line of Massinger's works; neither have I ever seen Sir Giles Overreach even upon the stage. If, then, there should appear any resemblance in the scope or conduct of the play or novel, or in the character of Sir Thomas Gourlay and Overreach, I cannot be charged either with theft or imitation, as I am utterly ignorant of the play and of the character of Sir Giles Overreach alluded to.
I fear I have dwelt much too long on this subject, and I shall therefore close it by a short anecdote.
Some months ago I chanced to read a work—I think by an American writer—called, as well as I can recollect, "The Reminiscences of a late Physician." I felt curious to read the book, simply because I thought that the man who could, after, "The Diary of a late Physician," come out with a production so named, must possess at the least either very great genius or the most astounding assurance. Well, I went on perusing the work, and found almost at once that it was what is called a catchpenny, and depended altogether, for its success, upon the fame and reputation of its predecessor of nearly the same name. I saw the trick at once, and bitterly regretted that I, in common I suppose with others, had been taken in and bit. Judge of my astonishment, however, when, as I proceeded to read the description of an American lunatic asylum, I found it to be literatim et verbatim taken—stolen—pirated—sentence by sentence and page by page, from my own description of one in the third volume of the first edition of this book, and which I myself took from close observation, when, some years ago, accompanied by Dr. White, I was searching in the Grangegorman Lunatic Asylum and in Swift's for a case of madness arising from disappointment in love. I was then writing. "Jane Sinclair," and to the honor of the sex, I have to confess that in neither of those establishments, nor any others either in or about Dublin, could I find such a case. Here, however, in the Yankee's book, there were neither inverted commas, nor the slightest acknowledgment of the source from which the unprincipled felon had stolen it.
With respect to mad-houses, especially as they were conducted up until within the last thirty years, I must say with truth, that if every fact originating in craft, avarice, oppression, and the most unscrupulous ambition for family wealth and hereditary rank, were known, such a dark series of crime and cruelty would come to light as time public mind could scarcely conceive—nay, as would shock humanity itself. Nor has this secret system altogether departed from us. It is not long since the police offices developed some facts rather suspicious, and pretty plainly impressed with the stamp of the old practice. The Lunatic Commission is now at work, and I trust it will not confine its investigations merely to public institutions of that kind, but will, if it possess authority to do so, strictly and rigidly examine every private asylum for lunatics in the kingdom.
Of one other character, Ginty Cooper, I have a word to say. Any person acquainted with the brilliant and classical little capital of Cultra, lying on the confines of Monaghan and Cavan, will not fail to recognize the remains of grace and beatty, which once characterized that celebrated, and well-known individual.
With respect to the watch-house scene, and that in the police office, together with the delineation of the. "Old Charlies," as the guardians of the night were then called; to which I may add the portraits of the two magistrates; I can confidently refer to thousands now alive for their truth. Those matters took place long before our present admirable body of metropolitan police were established. At that period, the police magistracies were bestowed, in most cases, from principles by no means in opposition to the public good, and not, as now, upon gentlemen perfectly free from party bias, and well qualified for that difficult office by legal knowledge, honorable feeling, and a strong sense of public duty, impartial justice, and humanity.
(Dublin, October 26, 1857.)
CHAPTER I. A Mail-coach by Night, and a Bit of Moonshine.
It has been long observed, that every season sent by the Almighty has its own peculiar beauties; yet, although this is felt to be universally true—just as we know the sun shines, or that we cannot breathe without air—still we are all certain that even the same seasons have brief periods when these beauties are more sensibly felt, and diffuse a more vivid spirit of enjoyment through all our faculties. Who has not experienced the gentle and serene influence of a calm spring evening? and perhaps there is not in the whole circle of the seasons anything more delightful than the exquisite emotion with which a human heart, not hardened by vice, or contaminated by intercourse with the world, is softened into tenderness and a general love for the works of God, by the pure spirit which breathes of holiness, at the close of a fine evening in the month of March or April.
The season of spring is, in fact, the resurrection of nature to life and happiness. Who does not remember the delight with which, in early youth, when existence is a living poem, and all our emotions sanctify the spirit-like inspiration—the delight, we say, with which our eye rested upon a primrose or a daisy for the first time? And how many a long and anxious look have we ourselves given at the peak of Knockmany, morning after morning, that we might be able to announce, with an exulting heart, the gratifying and glorious fact, that the snow had disappeared from it—because we knew that then spring must have come! And that universal song of the lark, which fills the air with music; how can we forget the bounding joy with which our young heart drank it in as we danced in ecstacy across the fields? Spring, in fact, is the season dearest to the recollection of man, inasmuch as it is associated with all that is pure, and innocent, and beautiful, in the transient annals of his early life. There is always a mournful and pathetic spirit mingled with our remembrances of it, which resembles the sorrow that we feel for some beloved individual whom death withdrew from our affections at that period of existence when youth had nearly completed its allotted limits, and the promising manifestations of all that was virtuous and good were filling the parental hearts with the happy hopes which futurity held out to them. As the heart, we repeat, of such a parent goes back to brood over the beloved memory of the early lost, so do our recollections go back, with mingled love and sorrow, to the tender associations of spring, which may, indeed, be said to perish and pass away in its youth.
These reflections have been occasioned, first, by the fact that its memory and associations are inexpressibly dear to ourselves; and, secondly, because it is toward the close of this brief but beautiful period of the year that our chronicles date their commencement.
One evening, in the last week of April, a coach called the "Fly" stopped to change horses at a small village in a certain part of Ireland, which, for the present, shall be nameless. The sun had just sunk behind the western hills; but those mild gleams which characterize his setting at the close of April, had communicated to the clouds that peculiarly soft and golden tint, on which the eye loves to rest, but from which its light was now gradually fading. When fresh horses had been put to, a stranger, who had previously seen two large trunks secured on the top, in a few minutes took his place beside the guard, and the coach proceeded.
"Guard," he inquired, after they had gone a couple of miles from the village, "I am quite ignorant of the age of the moon. When shall we have moonlight?"
"Not till it's far in the night, sir."
"The coach passes through the town of Ballytrain, does it not?"
"It does, sir."
"At what hour do we arrive there?"
"About half-past three in the morning sir."
The stranger made no reply, but cast his eyes over the aspect of the surrounding country.
The night was calm, warm, and balmy. In the west, where the sun had gone down, there could still be noticed the faint traces of that subdued splendor with which he sets in spring. The stars were up, and the whole character of the sky and atmosphere was full of warmth, and softness, and hope. As the eye stretched across a country that seemed to be rich and well cultivated, it felt that dream-like charm of dim romance, which visible darkness throws over the face of nature, and which invests her groves, her lordly mansions, her rich campaigns, and her white farm-houses, with a beauty that resembles the imagery of some delicious dream, more than the realities of natural scenery.
On passing along, they could observe the careless-looking farmer driving home his cows to be milked and put up for the night; whilst, further on, they passed half-a-dozen cars returning home, some empty and some loaded, from a neighboring fair or market, their drivers in high conversation—a portion of them in friendship, some in enmity, and in general all equally disposed, in consequence of their previous libations, to either one or the other. Here they meet a solitary traveler, fatigued and careworn, carrying a bundle slung over his shoulder on the point of a stick, plodding his weary way to the next village. Anon they were passed by a couple of gentlemen-farmers or country squires, proceeding at a brisk trot upon their stout cobs or bits of half-blood, as the case might be; and, by and by, a spanking gig shoots rapidly ahead of them, driven by a smart-looking servant in murrey-colored livery, who looks back with a sneer of contempt as he wheels round a corner, and leaves the plebeian vehicle far behind him.
As for the stranger, he took little notice of those whom they met, be their rank of position in life what it might; his eye was seldom off the country on each side of him as they went along. It is true, when they passed a village or small market-town, he glanced into the houses as if anxious to ascertain the habits and comforts of the humbler classes. Sometimes he could catch a glimpse of them sitting around a basket of potatoes and salt, their miserable-looking faces lit by the dim light of a rush-candle into the ghastly paleness of spectres. Again, he could catch glimpses of greater happiness; and if, on the one hand, the symptoms of poverty and distress were visible, on the other there was the jovial comfort of the wealthy farmer's house, with the loud laughter of its contented inmates. Nor must we omit the songs which streamed across the fields, in the calm stillness of the hour, intimating that they who sang them were in possession, at all events, of light, if not of happy hearts.
As the night advanced, however, all these sounds began gradually to die away. Nature and labor required the refreshment of rest, and, as the coach proceeded at its steady pace, the varied evidences of waking life became few and far between. One after another the lights, both near and at a distance, disappeared. The roads became silent and solitary, and the villages, as they passed through them, were sunk in repose, unless, perhaps, where some sorrowing family were kept awake by the watchings that were necessary at the bed of sickness or death, as was evident by the melancholy steadiness of the lights, or the slow, cautious motion by which they glided from one apartment to another.
The moon had now been for some time up, and the coach had just crossed a bridge that was known to be exactly sixteen miles from the town of which the stranger had made inquiries.
"I think," said the latter, addressing the guard, "we are about sixteen miles from Ballytrain."
"You appear to know the neighborhood, sir," replied the guard.
"I have asked you a question, sir," replied the other, somewhat sternly, "and, instead of answering it, you ask me another."
"I beg your pardon, sir," replied the guard, smiling, "it's the custom of the country. Yes, sir, we're exactly sixteen miles from Ballytrain—that bridge is the mark. It's a fine country, sir, from this to that—"
"Now, my good fellow," replied the stranger, "I ask it as a particular favor that you will not open your lips to me until we reach the town, unless I ask you a question. On that condition I will give you a half-a-crown when we get there."
The fellow put his hand to his lips, to hint that he was mute, and nodded, but spoke not a word, and the coach proceeded in silence.
To those who have a temperament fraught with poetry or feeling, there can be little doubt that to pass, of a calm, delightful spring night, under a clear, starry sky, and a bright moon, through a country eminently picturesque and beautiful, must be one of those enjoyments which fill the heart with a memory that lasts forever. But when we suppose that a person, whose soul is tenderly alive to the influence of local affections, and, who, when absent, has brooded in sorrow over the memory of his native hills and valleys, his lakes and mountains—the rivers, where he hunted the otter and snared the trout, and who has never revisited them, even in his dreams, without such strong emotions as caused him to wake with his eyelashes steeped in tears—when such a person, full of enthusiastic affection and a strong imagination, returns to his native place after a long absence, under the peculiar circumstances which we are describing, we need not feel surprised that the heart of the stranger was filled with such a conflicting tumult of feelings and recollections as it is utterly impossible to portray.
From the moment the coach passed the bridge we have alluded to, every hill, and residence, and river, and lake, and meadow, was familiar to him, and he felt such an individual love and affection for them, as if they had been capable of welcoming and feeling the presence of the light-hearted boy, whom they had so often made happy.
In the gairish eye of day, the contemplation of this exquisite landscape would have been neither so affecting to the heart, nor so beautiful to the eye. He, the stranger, had not seen it for years, except in his dreams, and now he saw it in reality, invested with that ideal beauty in which fancy had adorned it in those visions of the night. The river, as it gleamed dimly, according as it was lit by the light of the moon, and the lake, as it shone with pale but visionary beauty, possessed an interest which the light of day would never have given them. The light, too, which lay on the sleeping groves, and made the solitary church spires, as they went along, visible, in dim, but distant beauty, and the clear outlines of his own mountains, unchanged and unchangeable—all, all crowded from the force of the recollections with which they were associated, upon his heart, and he laid himself back, and, for some minutes, wept tears that were at once both sweet and bitter.
In proportion as they advanced toward the town of Ballytrain, the stranger imagined that the moon shed a diviner radiance over the surrounding country; but this impression was occasioned by the fact that its aspect was becoming, every mile they proceeded, better and better known to him. At length they came to a long but gradual elevation in the road, and the stranger knew that, on reaching its eminence, he could command a distinct view of the magnificent valley on which his native parish lay. He begged of the coachman to stop for half a minute, and the latter did so. The scene was indeed unrivalled. All that constitutes a rich and cultivated country, with bold mountain scenery in the distance, lay stretched before him. To the right wound, in dim but silver-like beauty, a fine river, which was lost to the eye for a considerable distance in the wood of Gallagh. To the eye of the stranger, every scene and locality was distinct beyond belief, simply because they were lit up, not only by the pale light of the moon, but by the purer and stronger light of his own early affections and memories.
Now it was, indeed, that his eye caught in, at a glance, all those places and objects that had held their ground so strongly and firmly in his heart. The moon, though sinking, was brilliant, and the cloudless expanse of heaven seemed to reflect her light, whilst, at the same time, the shadows that projected from the trees, houses, and other elevated objects, were dark and distinct in proportion to the flood of mild effulgence which poured down upon them from the firmament. Let not our readers hesitate to believe us when we say, that the heart of the stranger felt touched with a kind of melancholy happiness as he passed through their very shadows—proceeding, as they did, from objects that he had looked upon as the friends of his youth, before life had opened to him the dark and blotted pages of suffering and sorrow. There, dimly shining to the right below him, was the transparent river in which he had taken many a truant plunge, and a little further on he could see without difficulty the white cascade tumbling down the precipice, and mark its dim scintillations, that looked, under the light of the moon, like masses of shivered ice, were it not that such a notion was contradicted by the soft dash and continuous murmur of its waters.
But where was the gray mill, and the large white dwelling of the miller? and that new-looking mansion on the elevation—it was not there in his time, nor several others that he saw around him; and, hold—what sacrilege is this? The coach is not upon the old road—not on that with every turn and winding of which the light foot of his boyhood was so familiar! What, too! the school-house down—its very foundations razed—its light-hearted pupils, some dead, others dispersed, its master in the dust, and its din, bustle, and monotonous murmur—all banished and gone, like the pageantry of a dream. Such, however, is life; and he who, on returning to his birthplace after an absence of many years, expects to find either the country or its inhabitants as he left them, will experience, in its most painful sense, the bitterness of disappointment. Let every such individual prepare himself for the consequences of death, change, and desolation.
At length the coach drove into Ballytrain, and, in a few minutes, the passengers found themselves opposite to the sign of the Mitre, which swung over the door of the principal inn of that remarkable town.
"Sir," said the guard, addressing the stranger, "I think I have kept my word."
The latter, without making any reply, dropped five shillings into his hand; but, in the course of a few minutes—for the coach changed horses there—he desired him to call the waiter or landlord, or any one to whom he could intrust his trunks until morning.
"You are going to stop in the 'Mithre,' sir, of course," said the guard, inquiringly.
The traveler nodded assent, and, having seen his luggage taken into the inn, and looking, for a moment, at the town, proceeded along the shadowy side of the main street, and, instead of seeking his bed, had, in a short time, altogether vanished, and in a manner that was certainly mysterious, nor did he make his appearance again until noon on the following day.
It may be as well to state here that he was a man of about thirty, somewhat above the middle size, and, although not clumsy, yet, on being closely scanned, he appeared beyond question to be very compact, closely knit, well-proportioned, and muscular. Of his dress, however, we must say, that it was somewhat difficult to define, or rather to infer from it whether he was a gentleman or not, or to what rank or station of life he belonged. His hair was black and curled; his features regular; and his mouth and nose particularly aristocratic; but that which constituted the most striking feature of his face was a pair of black eyes, which kindled or became mellow according to the emotions by which he happened to be influenced.
"My good lad," said he to "Boots," after his return, "Will you send me the landlord?"
"I can't, sir," replied the other, "he's not at home."
"Well, then, have the goodness to send me the waiter."
"I will, sir," replied the monkey, leaving the room with an evident feeling of confident alacrity.
Almost immediately a good-looking girl, with Irish features, brown hair, and pretty blue eyes, presented herself.
"Well, sir," she said, in an interrogative tone.
"Why," said the stranger, "I believe it is impossible to come at any member of this establishment; I wish to see the waiter."
"I'm the waiter, sir," she replied, with an unconscious face.
"The deuce you are!" he exclaimed; "however," he added, recovering himself, "I cannot possibly wish for a better. It is very likely that I may stay with you for some time—perhaps a few months. Will you see now that a room and bed are prepared for me, and that my trunks are put into my own apartment? Get a fire into my sitting-room and bedchamber. Let my bed be well aired; and see that everything is done cleanly and comfortably, will you?"
"Sartinly, sir, an' I hope we won't lave you much to complain of. As for the sheets, wait till you try them. The wild myrtles of Drumgau, beyant the demesne 'isliout, is foulded in them; an' if the smell of them won't make you think yourself in Paradise, 'tisn't my fault."
The stranger, on looking at her somewhat more closely, saw that she was an exceedingly neat, tight, clean-looking young woman, fair and youthful.
"Have you been long in the capacity of waiter, here." he asked.
"No, sir," she replied; "about six months."
"Do you never keep male waiters in this establishment," he inquired.
"Oh, yes, sir; Paudeen Gair and I generally act week about. This is my week, sir, an' he's at the plough."
"And where have you been at service before you came here, my good girl?"
"In Sir Thomas Gourlay's, sir."
The stranger could not prevent himself from starting.
"In Sir Thomas Gourlay's!" he exclaimed. "And pray in what capacity were you there?"
"I was own maid to Miss Gourlay, sir."
"To Miss Gourlay! and how did you come to leave your situation with her?"
"When I find you have a right to ask, sir," she replied, "I will tell you; but not till then."
"I stand reproved, my good girl," he said; "I have indeed no right to enter into such inquiries; but I trust I have for those that are more to the purpose. What have you for dinner?"
"Fish, flesh, and fowl, sir," she replied, with a peculiar smile, "and a fine fat buck from the deer-park."
"Well, now," said he, "that really promises well—indeed it is more than I expected—you had no quarrel, I hope, at parting? I beg your pardon—a fat buck, you say. Come, I will have a slice of that."
"Very well, sir," she replied; "what else would you wish?"
"To know, my dear, whether Sir Thomas is as severe upon her as—ahem!—anything at all you like—I'm not particular—only don't forget a slice of the buck, out of the haunch, my dear; and, whisper, as you and I are likely to become better acquainted—all in a civil way, of course—here is a trifle of earnest, as a proof that, if you be attentive, I shall not be ungenerous."
"I don't know," she replied, shaking her head, and hesitating; "you're a sly-looking gentleman—and, if I thought that you had any—"
"Design, you would say," he replied; "no—none, at any rate, that is improper; it is offered in a spirit of good-will and honor, and in such you may fairly accept of it. So," he added, as he dropped the money into her hand, "Sir Thomas insisted that you should go? Hem!—hem!"
The girl started in her turn, and exclaimed, with a good deal of surprise:
"Sir Thomas insisted! How did you come to know that, sir? I tould you no such thing."
"Certainly, my dear, you—a—a—hem—did you not say something to that effect? Perhaps, however," he added, apprehensive lest he might have alarmed, or rather excited her suspicions—"perhaps I was mistaken. I only imagined, I suppose, that you said something to that effect; but it does not matter—I have no intimacy with the Gourlays, I assure you—I think that is what you call them—and none at all with Sir Thomas—is not that his name? Goodby now; I shall take a walk through the town—how is this you name it? Ballytrain, I think—and return at five, when I trust you will have dinner ready."
He then put on his hat, and sauntered out, apparently to view the town and its environs, fully satisfied that, in consequence of his having left it when a boy, and of the changes which time and travel had wrought in his appearance, no living individual there could possibly recognize him.
CHAPTER II. The Town and its Inhabitants.
The town itself contained about six thousand inhabitants, had a church, a chapel, a meeting-house, and also a place of worship for those who belonged to the Methodist connection, It was nearly half a mile long, lay nearly due north and south, and ran up an elevation or slight hill, and down again on the other side, where it tapered away into a string of cabins. It is scarcely necessary to say that it contained a main street, three or four with less pretensions, together with a tribe of those vile alleys which consist of a double row of beggarly cabins, or huts, facing each other, and lying so closely, that a tall man might almost stand with a foot on the threshold of each, or if in the middle, that is half-way between them, he might, were he so inclined, and without moving to either side, shake hands with the inhabitants on his right and left. To the left, as you went up from the north, and nearly adjoining the cathedral church, which faced you, stood a bishop's palace, behind which lay a magnificent demesne. At that time, it is but just to say that the chimneys of this princely residence were never smokeless, nor its saloons silent and deserted as they are now, and have been for years. No, the din of industry was then incessant in and about the offices of that palace, and the song of many a light heart and happy spirit rang sweetly in the valleys, on the plains and hills, and over the meadows of that beautiful demesne, with its noble deer-park stretching up to the heathy hills behind it. Many a time, when a school-boy, have we mounted the demesne wall in question, and contemplated its meadows, waving under the sunny breeze, together with the long strings of happy mowers, the harmonious swing of whose scythes, associated with the cheerful noise of their whetting, caused the very heart within us to kindle with such a sense of pure and early enjoyment as does yet, and ever will, constitute a portion of our best and happiest recollections.
At the period of which we write it mattered little whether the prelate who possessed it resided at home or not. If he did not, his family generally did; but, at all events, during their absence, or during their residence, constant employment was given, every working-day in the year, to at least one hundred happy and contented poor from a neighboring and dependent village, every one of whom was of the Roman Catholic creed.
I have stood, not long ago, upon a beautiful elevation in that demesne, and, on looking around me, I saw nothing but a deserted and gloomy country. The happy village was gone—razed to the very foundations—the demesne was a solitude—the songs of the reapers and mowers had vanished, as it were, into the recesses of memory, and the magnificent palace, dull and lonely, lay as if it were situated in some land of the dead, where human voice or footstep had not been heard for years.
The stranger, who had gone out to view the town, found, during that survey, little of this absence of employment, and its consequent destitution, to disturb him. Many things, it is true, both in the town and suburbs, were liable to objection.
Abundance there was; but, in too many instances, he could see, at a glance, that it was accompanied by unclean and slovenly habits, and that the processes of husbandry and tillage were disfigured by old usages, that were not only painful to contemplate, but disgraceful to civilization.
The stranger was proceeding down the town, when he came in contact with a ragged, dissipated-looking young man, who had, however, about him the evidences of having seen better days. The latter touched his hat to him, and observed, "You seem to be examining our town, sir?"
"Pray, what is your name?" inquired the stranger, without seeming to notice the question.
"Why, for the present, sir," he replied, "I beg to insinuate that I am rather under a cloud; and, if you have no objection, would prefer to remain anonymous, or to preserve my incognito, as they say, for some time longer."
"Have you no alias, by which you may be known?"
"Unquestionably, an alias I have," replied the other; "for as to passing through life, in the broad, anonymous sense, without some token to distinguish you by, the thing, to a man like me, is impossible. I am consequently known as Frank Fenton, a name I borrowed from a former friend of mine, an old school-fellow, who, while he lived, was, like myself, a bit of an original in his way. How do you like our town, sir," he added, changing the subject.
"I have seen too little of it," replied the stranger, "to judge. Is this your native town, Mr. Fenton," he added.
"No, sir; not my native town," replied Fenton; "but I have resided here from hand to mouth long enough to know almost every individual in the barony at large."
During this dialogue, the stranger eyed Fenton, as he called himself, very closely; in fact, he watched every feature of his with a degree of curiosity and doubt that was exceedingly singular.
"Have you, sir, been here before." asked Fenton; "or is this your first visit?"
"It is not my first visit," replied the other; "but it is likely I shall reside here for some months."
"For the benefit of your health, I presume," asked modest Frank.
"My good friend," replied the stranger, "I wish to make an observation. It is possible, I say, that I may remain here for some months; now, pray, attend, and mark me—whenever you and I chance, on any future occasion, to meet, it is to be understood between us that you are to answer me in anything I ask, which you know, and I to answer you in nothing, unless I wish it."
"Thank you, sir," he replied, with a low and not ungraceful bow; "that's a compliment all to the one side, like Clogher."*
* The proverb is pretty general throughout Tyrone. The town of Clogher consists of only a single string of houses.
"Very well," returned the stranger; "I have something to add, in order to make this arrangement more palatable to you."
"Hold, sir," replied the other; "before you proceed further, you must understand me. I shall pledge myself under no terms—and I care not what they may be—to answer any question that may throw light upon my own personal identity, or past history."
"That will not be necessary," replied the stranger.
"What do you mean, sir," asked Fenton, starting; "do you mean to hint that you know me?"
"Nonsense," said the other; "how could I know a man whom I never saw before? No; it is merely concerning the local history of Ballytrain and its inhabitants that I am speaking."
There was a slight degree of dry irony, however, on his face, as he spoke.
"Well," said the other, "in the mean time, I don't see why I am to comply with a condition so dictatorially laid down by a person of whom I know nothing."
"Why, the truth is," said our strange friend, "that you are evidently a lively and intelligent fellow, not badly educated; I think—and, as it is likely that you have no very direct connection with the inhabitants of the town and surrounding country, I take it for granted that, in the way of mere amusement, you may be able to—"
"Hem! I see—to give you all the scandal of the place for miles about; that is what you would say? and so I can. But suppose a spark of the gentleman should—should—but come, hang it, that is gone, hopelessly gone. What is your wish?"
"In the first place, to see you better clothed. Excuse me—and, if I offend you, say so—but it is not my wish to say anything that might occasion you pain. Are you given to liquor?"
"Much oftener than liquor is given to me, I assure you; it is my meat, drink, washing, and lodging—without it I must die. And, harkee, now; when I meet a man I like, and who, after all, has a touch of humanity and truth about him, to such a man, I say, I myself am all truth, at whatever cost; but to every other—to your knave, your hypocrite, or your trimmer, for instance, all falsehood—deep, downright, wanton falsehood. In fact, I would scorn to throw away truth upon them.
"You are badly dressed."
"Ah! after all, how little is known of the human heart and character!" exclaimed Fenton. "The subject of dress and the associations connected with it have all been effaced from my mind and feelings for years. So long as we are capable of looking to our dress, there is always a sense of honor and self-respect left. Dress I never think of, unless as a mere animal protection against the elements."
"Well, then," observed the other, surveying this unfortunate wretch with compassion, "whether all perception of honor and self-respect is lost in you I care not. Here are five pounds for you; that is to say—and pray understand me—I commit them absolutely to your own keeping—your own honor, your self-respect, or by whatever name you are pleased to call it. Purchase plain clothes, get better linen, a hat and shoes: when this is done, if you have strength of mind and resolution of character to do it, come to me at the head inn, where I stop, and I will only ask you, in return, to tell me anything you know or have heard about such subjects as may chance to occur to me at the moment."
On receiving the money, the poor fellow fastened his eyes on it with such an expression of amazement as defies description. His physical strength and constitution, in consequence of the life he led, were nearly gone—a circumstance which did not escape the keen eye of the stranger, on whose face there was an evident expression of deep compassion. The unfortunate Frank Fenton trembled from head to foot, his face became deadly pale, and after surveying the notes for a time, he held them out to the other, exclaiming, as he extended his hand—
"No, no! have it, no! You are a decent fellow, and I will not impose upon you. Take back your money; I know myself too well to accept of it. I never could keep money, and I wouldn't have a shilling of this in my possession at the expiration of forty-eight hours."
"Even so," replied the stranger, "it comes not back to me again. Drink it—eat it—spend it is you may; but I rely on your own honor, notwithstanding what you say, to apply it to a better purpose."
"Well, now, let me see," said Fenton, musing, and as if in a kind of soliloquy; "you are a good fellow, no doubt of it—that is, if you have no lurking, dishonest design in all this. Let me see. Why, now, it is a long time since I have had the enormous sum of five shillings in my possession, much less the amount of the national debt, which I presume must be pretty close upon five pounds; and in honest bank notes, too. One, two, three—ha!—eh! eh!—oh yes," he proceeded, evidently struck with some discovery that astonished him. "Ay!" he exclaimed, looking keenly at a certain name that happened to be written upon one of the notes; "well, it is all right! Thank you, sir; I will keep the money."
CHAPTER III. Pauden Gair's Receipt how to make a Bad Dinner a Good One
—The Stranger finds Fenton as mysterious as Himself.
The stranger, on reaching the inn, had not long to wait for dinner, which, to his disappointment, was anything but what he had been taught to expect. The fair "waiter" had led his imagination a very ludicrous dance, indeed, having, as Shakspeare says, kept the word of promise to his ear, but broken it to his hope, and, what was still worse, to his appetite. On sitting down, he found before him two excellent salt herrings to begin with; and on ringing the bell to inquire why he was provided with such a dainty, the male waiter himself, who had finished the field he had been ploughing, made his appearance, after a delay of about five minutes, very coolly wiping his mouth, for he had been at dinner.
"Are you the waiter," asked the stranger, sharply.
"No, sir, I'm not the waiter, myself; but I and Peggy Moylan is."
"And why didn't you come when I rang for you at first?"
"I was just finishin' my dinner, sir," replied the other, pulling a bone of a herring from between his teeth, then going over and deliberately throwing it into the fire.
The stranger was silent with astonishment, and, in truth, felt a stronger inclination to laugh than to scold him. This fellow, thought he, is clearly an original; I must draw him out a little.
"Why, sir," he proceeded, "was I served with a pair of d—d salt herrings, as a part of my dinner?"
"Whist, sir," replied the fellow, "don't curse anything that God—blessed be his name—has made; it's not right, it's sinful."
"But why was I served with two salt herrings, I ask again?"
"Why wor you sarved with them?—Why, wasn't it what we had ourselves?"
"Was I not promised venison?"
"Who promised it to you?"
"That female waiter of yours."
"Peggy Moylan? Well, then, I tell you the fau't wasn't hers. We had a party o' gintlemen out here last week, and the sorra drop of it they left behind them. Devil a drop of venison there is in the house now. You're an Englishman, at any rate, sir, I think by your discourse?"
"Was I not promised part of a fat buck from the demesne adjoining, and where is it? I thought I was to have fish, flesh, and fowl."
"Well, and haven't you fish." replied the fellow. "What do you call them!" he added, pointing to the herrings; "an' as to a fat buck, faith, it isn't part of one, but a whole one you have. What do you call that." He lifted an old battered tin cover, and discovered a rabbit, gathered up as if it were in the act of starting for its burrow. "You see, Peggy, sir, always keeps her word; for it was a buck rabbit she meant. Well, now, there's the fish and the flesh; and here," he proceeded, uncovering another dish, "is the fowl."
On lifting the cover, a pair of enormous legs, with spurs on them an inch and a half long, were projected at full length toward the guest, as if the old cock—for such it was—were determined to defend himself to the last.
"Well," said the stranger, "all I can say is, that I have got a very bad dinner."
"Well, an' what suppose? Sure it has been many a betther man's case. However, you have one remedy; always ait the more of it—that's the sure card; ever and always when you have a bad dinner, ait, I say, the more of it. I don't, think, sir, beggin' your pardon, that you've seen much of the world yet."
"Why do you think so," asked the other, who could with difficulty restrain his mirth at the fellow's cool self-sufficiency and assurance.
"Because, sir, no man that has seen the world, and knows its ups and downs, would complain of sich a dinner as that. Do you wish for any liquor? But maybe you don't. It's not every one carries a full purse these times; so, at any rate, have the sense not to go beyant your manes, or whatsomever allowance you get."
"Allowance! what do you mean by allowance?"
"I mane," he replied, "that there's not such a crew of barefaced liars on the airth as you English travellers, as they call you. What do you think, but one of them had the imperance to tell me that he was allowed a guinea a-day to live on! Troth, I crossed mysolf, and bid him go about his business, an' that I didn't think the house or place was safe while he was in it—for it's I that has the mortal hatred of a liar."
"What liquor have you got in the house?"
"No—if there's one thing on airth that I hate worse than another, it's a man that shuffles—that won't tell the truth, or give you a straight answer. We have plenty o' liquor in the house—more than you'll use, at any rate."
"But what descriptions? How many kinds? for instance—"
"Kinds enough, for that matther—all sorts and sizes of liquor."
"Have you any wine?"
"Wine! Well, now, let me speak to you as a friend; sure, 't is n't wine you'd be thinking of?"
"But, if I pay for it?"
"Pay for it—ay, and break yourself—go beyant your manes, as I said. No, no—I'll give you no wine—it would be only aidin' you in extravagance, an' I wouldn't have the sin of it to answer for. We have all enough, and too much to answer for, God knows."
The last observation was made sotto voce, and with the serious manner of a man who uttered it under a deep sense of religious truth.
"Well," replied the stranger, "since you won't allow me wine, have you no cheaper liquor? I am not in the habit of dining without something stronger than water."
"So much the worse for yourself. We have good porther."
"Bring me a bottle of it, then."
"It's beautiful on draught."
"But I prefer it in bottle."
"I don't doubt it. Lord help us! how few is it that knows what's good for them! Will you give up your own will for wanst, and be guided by a wiser man? for health—an' sure health's before everything—for health, ever and always prefer draught porther."
"Well, then, since it must be draught, I shall prefer draught ale."
"Rank poison. Troth, somehow I feel a liking for you, an' for that very reason, devil a drop of draught ale I'll allow to cross your lips. Jist be guided by me, an' you'll find that your health an' pocket will both be the betther for it. Troth, it's fat and rosy I'll have you in no time, all out, if you stop with us. Now ait your good dinner, and I'll bring you the porther immediately."
"What's your name." asked the stranger, "before you go."
"I'll tell you when I come back—wait till I bring you the portlier, first."
In the course of about fifteen mortal, minutes, he returned with a quart of porter in his hand, exclaiming—
"Bad luck to them for pigs, they got into the garden, and I had to drive them out, and cut a lump of a bush to stop the gap wid; however, I think they won't go back that way again. My name you want? Why, then, my name is Paudeen Gair—that is, Sharpe, sir; but, in troth, it is n't Sharpe by name and Sharpe by nature wid me, although you'd get them that 'ud say otherwise."
"How long have you been here," asked the other.
"I've been laborin' for the master goin' on fourteen years; but I'm only about twelve months attendin' table."
"How long has your fellow-servant—Peggy, I think, you call her—been here?"
"Where had she been before, do you know."
"Do I know, is it? Maybe 'tis you may say that."
"What do you mean? I don't understand you."
"I know that well enough, and it is n't my intention you should."
"In what family was she at service."
"Whisper;—in a bad family, wid one exception. God protect her, the darlin'. Amin! A wurra yeelsh! may the curse that's hanging over him never fall upon her this day!"
A kind and complacent spirit beamed in the fine eyes of the stranger, as the waiter uttered these benevolent invocations; and, putting his hand in his pocket, he said,
"My good friend Paudeen, I am richer than you are disposed to give me credit for; I see you are a good-hearted fellow, and here's a crown for you."
"No! consumin' to the farden, till I know whether you're able to afford it or not. It's always them that has least of it, unfortunately, that's readiest to give it. I have known many a foolish creature to do what you are doing, when, if the truth was known, they could badly spare it; but, at any rate, wait till I deserve it; for, upon my reputaytion, I won't finger a testher of it sooner."
He then withdrew, and left the other to finish his dinner as best he might.
For the next three or four days the stranger confined himself mostly to his room, unless about dusk, when he glided out very quietly, and disappeared rather like a spirit than anything else; for, in point of fact, no one could tell what had become of him, or where he could have concealed himself, during these brief but mysterious absences. Paudeen Gair and Peggy observed that he wrote at least three or four letters every day, and knew that he must have put them into the post-office with his own hands, inasmuch as no person connected with the inn had been employed for that purpose.
On the fourth day, after breakfast, and as Pat Sharpe—by which version of his name he was sometimes addressed—was about to take away the things, his guest entered into conversation with him as follows:
"Paudeen, my good friend, can you tell me where the wild, ragged fellow, called Fenton, could be found?"
"I can, sir. Fenton? Begorra, you'd hardly know him if you seen him; he's as smooth as a new pin—has a plain, daicent suit o' clothes on him. It's whispered about among us this long time, that, if he had his rights, he'd be entitled to a great property; and some people say now that he has come into a part of it."
"And pray, what else do they say of him?"
"Wiry, then, I heard Father M'Mahon himself say that he had great learnin', an' must a' had fine broughten-up, an' could, act the real gintleman whenever he wished."
"Is it known who he is, or whether he is a native of this neighborhood?"
"No, sir; he doesn't belong to this neighborhood; an' the truth is, that nobody here that ever I heard of knows anything at all, barrin' guesswork, about the unfortunate poor creature. If ever he was a gintleman," exclaimed the kind-hearted waiter, "he's surely to be pitied, when one sees the state he's brought to."
"Well, Paudeen, will you fetch him to me, if you know where he is? Say I wish to see him."
"What name, if you plaise," asked the waiter, with assumed indifference; for the truth was, that the whole establishment felt a very natural curiosity to know who the stranger was.
"Never mind the name, Paudeen, but say as I desire you."
Paudeen had no sooner disappeared than the anonymous gentleman went to one of his trunks, and, pulling out a very small miniature, surveyed it for nearly half a minute; he then looked into the fire, and seemed absorbed in long and deep reflection. At length, after once more gazing closely and earnestly at it, he broke involuntarily into the following soliloquy:
"I know," he exclaimed, "that resemblances are often deceitful, and not to be depended upon. In this case, however, there is scarcely a trace that could constitute any particular peculiarity—a peculiarity which, if it existed, would strengthen—I know not whether to say—my suspicions or my hopes. The early disappearance of that poor boy, without the existence of a single vestige by which he could be traced, resembles one of those mysteries that are found only in romances. The general opinion is, that he has been made away with, and is long dead; yet of late, a different impression has gone abroad, although we know not exactly how it has originated."
He then paced, with a countenance of gloom, uncertainty, and deep anxiety, through the room, and after a little time, proceeded:
"I shall, at all events, enter into conversation with this person, after which I will make inquiries concerning the gentry and nobility of the neighborhood when I think I shall be able to observe whether he will pass the Gourlay family over, or betray any consciousness of a particular knowledge of their past or present circumstances. 'Tis true, he may overreach me; but if he does, I cannot help it. Yet, after all," he proceeded, "if he should prove to be the person I seek, everything may go well; I certainly observed faint traces of an honorable feeling about him when I gave him the money, which, notwithstanding his indigence and dissipation, he for a time refused to take."
He then resumed his seat, and seemed once more buried in thought and abstraction.
Our friend Paudeen was not long in finding the unfortunate object of the stranger's contemplation and interest. On meeting him, he perceived that he was slightly affected with liquor, as indeed was the case generally whenever he could procure it.
"Misther Fenton," said Paudeen, "there's a daicent person in our house that wishes to see you."
"Who do you call a decent person, you bog-trotting Ganymede." replied the other.
"Why, a daicent tradesman, I think, from—thin sorra one of me knows whether I ought to say from Dublin or London."
"What trade, Ganymede?"
"Troth, that's more than I can tell; but I know that he wants you, for he sent me to bring you to him."
"Well, Ganymede, I shall see your tradesman," he replied. "Come, I shall go to him."
On reaching the inn, Paudeen, in order to discharge the commission intrusted to him fully, ushered Fenton upstairs, and into the stranger's sitting-room. "What's this," exclaimed Fenton. "Why, you have brought me to the wrong room, you blundering villain. I thought you were conducting me to some worthy tradesman. You have mistaken the room, you blockhead; this is a gentleman. How do you do, sir? I hope you will excuse this intrusion; it is quite unintentional on my part; yet I am glad to see you."
"There is no mistake at all in it," replied the other, laughing. "That will do, Paudeen," he added, "thank you."
"Faix," said Paudeen to himself, when descending the stairs, "I'm afeard that's no tradesman—whatever he is. He took on him a look like a lord when that unfortunate Fenton went into the room. Troth, I'm fairly puzzled, at any rate!"
"Take a seat, Mr. Fenton," said the stranger, handing him a chair, and addressing him in terms of respect.
"Thank, you, sir," replied the other, putting, at the same time, a certain degree of restraint upon his maimer, for he felt conscious of being slightly influenced by liquor.
"Well," continued the stranger, "I am glad to see that you have improved your appearance."
"Ay, certainly, sir, as far as four pounds—or, I should rather say, three pounds went, I did something for the outer man."
"Why not the five?" asked the other. "I wished you to make yourself as comfortable as possible, and did not imagine you could have done it for less."
"No, sir, not properly, according to the standard of a gentleman; but I assure you, that, if I were in a state of utter and absolute starvation, I would not part with one of the notes you so generously gave me, scarcely to save my life."
"No!" exclaimed the stranger, with a good deal of surprise. "And pray, why not, may I ask?"
"Simply," said Fenton, "because I have taken a fancy for it beyond its value. I shall retain it as pocket-money. Like the Vicar of Wakefield's daughters, I shall always keep it about me; and then, like them also, I will never want money."
"That is a strange whim," observed the other, "and rather an unaccountable one, besides."
"Not in the slightest degree," replied Fenton, "if you knew as much as I do; but, at all events, just imagine that I am both capricious and eccentric; so don't be surprised at anything I say or do."
"Neither shall I," replied "the anonymous" "However, to come to other matters, pray what kind of a town is this of Ballytrain?"
"It is by no means a bad town," replied Fenton, "as towns and times go. It has a market-house, a gaol, a church, as you have seen—a Roman Catholic chapel, and a place of worship for the Presbyterian and Methodist. It has, besides, that characteristic locality, either of English legislation or Irish crimes—or, perhaps, of both—a gallows-green. It has a public pump, that has been permitted to run dry, and public stocks for limbs like those of your humble servant, that are permitted to stand (the stocks I mean) as a libel upon the inoffensive morals of the town."
"How are commercial matters in it?"
"Tolerable. Our shopkeepers are all very fair as shopkeepers. But, talking of that, perhaps you are not aware of a singular custom which even I—for I am not a native of this place—have seen in it?"
"What may it have been." asked the stranger.
"Why, it was this: Of a fair or market-day," he proceeded, "there lived a certain shopkeeper here, who is some time dead—and I mention this to show you how the laws were respected in this country; this shopkeeper, sir, of a fair or market-day had a post that ran from his counter to the ceiling; to this post was attached a single handcuff, and it always happened that, when any person was caught in the act of committing a theft in his shop, one arm of the offender was stretched up to this handcuff, into which the wrist was locked; and, as the handcuff was movable, so that it might be raised up or down, according to the height of the culprit, it was generally fastened so that the latter was forced to stand upon the top of his toes so long as was agreeable to the shopkeeper of whom I speak."
"You do not mean to say," replied his companion, who, by the way, had witnessed the circumstances ten times for Fenton's once, "that such an outrage upon the right of the subject, and such a contempt for the administration of law and justice, could actually occur in a Christian and civilized country?"
"I state to you a fact, sir," replied Fen-ton, "which I have witnessed with my own eyes; but we have still stranger and worse usages in this locality."
"What description of gentry and landed proprietors have you in the neighborhood?"
"Hum! as to that, there are some good, more bad, and many indifferent, among them. Their great fault in general is, that they are incapable of sympathizing, as they ought, with their dependents. The pride of class, and the influence of creed besides, are too frequently impediments, not only to the progress of their own independence, but to the improvement of their tenantry. Then, many of them employ servile, plausible, and unprincipled agents, who, provided they wring the rent, by every species of severity and oppression, out of the people, are considered by their employers valuable and honest servants, faithfully devoted to their interests; whilst the fact on the other side is, that the unfortunate tenantry are every day so rapidly retrograding from prosperity, that most of the neglected and oppressed who possess means to leave the country emigrate to America."
"Why, Fenton, I did not think that you looked so deeply into the state and condition of the country. Have you no good specimens of character in or about the town itself?"
"Unquestionably, sir. Look out now from this window," he proceeded, and he went to it as he spoke, accompanied by the stranger; "do you see," he added, "that unostentatious shop, with the name of James Trimble over the door?"
"Certainly," replied the other, "I see it most distinctly."
"Well, sir, in that shop lives a man who is ten times a greater benefactor to this town and neighborhood than is the honorable and right reverend the lordly prelate, whose silent and untenanted palace stands immediately behind us. In every position in which you find him, this admirable but unassuming man is always the friend of the poor. When an industrious family, who find that they cannot wring independence, by hard and honest labor, out of the farms or other little tenements which they hold, have resolved to seek it in a more prosperous country, America, the first man to whom they apply, if deficient in means to accomplish their purpose, is James Trimble. In him they find a friend, if he knows, as he usually does, that they have passed through life with a character of worth and hereditary integrity. If they want a portion of their outfit, and possess not means to procure it, in kind-hearted James Trimble they are certain to find a friend, who will supply their necessities upon the strength of their bare promise to repay him. Honor,—then—honor, sir, I say again, to the unexampled faith, truth, and high principle of the industrious Irish peasant, who, in no instance, even although the broad Atlantic has been placed between them, has been known to defraud James Trimble of a single shilling. In all parochial and public meetings—in every position where his influence can be used—he is uniformly the friend of the poor, whilst his high but unassuming sense of honor, his successful industry, and his firm, unshrinking independence, make him equally appreciated and respected by the rich and poor. In fact, it is such men as this who are the most unostentatious but practical benefactors to the lower and middle classes."
He had proceeded thus far, when a carriage-and-four came dashing up the street, and stopped at the very shop which belonged to the subject of Fenton's eulogium. Both went to the window at the same moment, and looked out.
"Pray, whose carriage is that." asked the stranger, fastening his eyes, with a look of intense scrutiny, upon Fenton's face.
"That, sir," he replied, "is the carriage of Sir Thomas Gourlay."
As he spoke, the door of it was opened, and a lady of surpassing elegance and beauty stepped out of it, and entered the shop of the benevolent James Trimble.
"Pray, who is that charming girl?" asked the stranger again.
To this interrogatory, however, he received no reply. Poor Fenton tottered over to a chair, became pale as death, and trembled with such violence that he was incapable, for the time, of uttering a single word.
"Do you know, or have you ever known, this family?" asked the other.
After a pause of more than a minute, during which the emotion subsided, he replied:
"I have already said that I could not—" he paused. "I am not well," said he; "I am quite feeble—in fact, not in a condition to answer anything. Do not, therefore, ask me—for the present, at least."
Fifteen or twenty minutes had elapsed before he succeeded in mastering this singular attack. At length he rose, and placing his chair somewhat further back from the window, continued to look out in silence, not so much from love of silence, as apparently from inability to speak. The stranger, in the mean time, eyed him keenly; and as he examined his features from time to time, it might be observed that an expression of satisfaction, if not almost of certainty, settled upon his own countenance. In a quarter of an hour, the sound of the carriage-wheels was heard on its return, and Fenton, who seemed to dread also a return of his illness, said:
"For heaven's sake, sir, be good enough to raise the window and let in air. Thank you, sir."
The carriage, on this occasion, was proceeding more slowly than before—in fact, owing to a slight acclivity in that part of the street, the horses were leisurely walking past the inn window at the moment the stranger raised it. The noise of the ascending sash reached Miss Gourlay (for it was she), who, on looking up, crimsoned deeply, and, with one long taper finger on her lips, as if to intimate caution and silence, bowed to the stranger. The latter, who had presence of mind enough to observe the hint, did not bow in return, and consequently declined to appropriate the compliment to himself. Fenton now surveyed his companion with an appearance of as much interest and curiosity as the other had bestowed on him. He felt, however, as if his physical powers were wholly prostrated.
"I am very weak," said he, bitterly, "and near the close of my brief and unhappy day. I have, however, one cure—get me drink—drink, I say; that is what will revive me. Sir, my life, for the last fourteen years, has been a battle against thought; and without drink I should be a madman—a madman! oh, God!"
The other remonstrated with him in vain; but he was inexorable, and began to get fierce and frantic. At length, it occurred to him, that perhaps the influence of liquor might render this strange individual more communicative, and that by this means he might succeed in relieving himself of his doubts—for he still had doubts touching Fenton's identity. In this, however, he was disappointed, as a circumstance occurred which prevented him from then gratifying Fenton's wish, or winning him into confidence.
CHAPTER IV. An Anonymous Letter
—Lucy Gourlay avows a previous Attachment.
Whilst Fenton was thus sketching for the stranger a few of the public characters of Ballytrain, a scene, which we must interrupt them to describe, was taking place in the coffee-room of the "Mitre." As everything, however, has an origin, it is necessary, before we raise the curtain, which, for the present, excludes us from that scene, to enable the reader to become acquainted with the cause of it. That morning, after breakfast, Sir Thomas Gourlay went to his study, where, as usual, he began to read his letters and endorse them—for he happened to be one of those orderly and exact men who cannot bear to see even a trifle out of its place. Having despatched three or four, he took up one—the last—and on opening it read, much to his astonishment and dismay, as follows;
"Sir Thomas Gourlay,—There is an adventurer in disguise near you. Beware of your daughter, and watch her well, otherwise she may give you the slip. I write this, that you may prevent her from throwing herself away upon an impostor and profligate. I am a friend to her, but none to you; and it is on her account, as well as for the sake of another, that you are now warned."
On perusing this uncomfortable document, his whole frame became moved with a most vehement fit of indignation. He rose from his seat, and began to traverse the floor with lengthy and solemn strides, as a man usually does who knows not exactly on whom to vent his rage. There hung a large mirror before him, and, as he approached it from time to time, he could not help being struck by the repulsive expression of his own features. He was a tall, weighty man, of large bones and muscles; his complexion was sallow, on a black ground; his face firm, but angular; and his forehead, which was low, projected a good deal over a pair of black eyes, in one of which there was a fearful squint. His eyebrows, which met, were black, fierce-looking, and bushy, and, when agitated, as now, with passion, they presented, taken in connection with his hard, irascible lips, short irregular teeth and whole complexion, an expression singularly stern and malignant.
On looking at his own image, he could not help feeling the conviction, that the visage which presented itself to him was not such a one as was calculated to diminish the unpopularity which accompanied him wherever he went, and the obloquy which hung over his name.
Sir Thomas Gourlay, however, although an exceedingly forbidding and ugly man, was neither a fool nor novice in the ways of the world. No man could look upon his plotting forehead, and sunken eyes closely placed, without feeling at once that he was naturally cunning and circumventive. Nor was this all; along with being deep and designing, he was also subject to sudden bursts of passion, which, although usual in such a temperament, did not suddenly pass away. On the contrary, they were sometimes at once so tempestuous and abiding, that he had been rendered ill by their fury, and forced to take to his bed for days together. On the present occasion, a considerable portion of his indignation was caused by the fact, that he knew not the individual against whom to direct it. His daughter, as a daughter, had been to him an object of perfect indifference, from the day of her birth up to that moment; that is to say, he was utterly devoid of all personal love and tenderness for her, whilst, at the same time, he experienced, in its full force, a cold, conventional ambition, which, although without honor, principle, or affection, yet occasioned him to devote all his efforts and energies to her proper establishment in the world. In her early youth, for instance, she had suffered much from delicate health, so much, indeed, that she was more than once on the very verge of death; yet, on no occasion, was he ever known to manifest the slightest parental sorrow for her illness. Society, however, is filled with such fathers, and with too many mothers of a like stamp. So far, however, as Lucy Gourlay was concerned, this proud, unprincipled spirit of the world supplied to her, to a certain extent at least, the possession of that which affection ought to have given. Her education was attended to with the most solicitous anxiety—not in order to furnish her mind with that healthy description of knowledge which strengthens principle and elevates the heart, but that she might become a perfect mistress of all the necessary and fashionable accomplishments, and shine, at a future day, an object of attraction on that account. A long and expensive array of masters, mistresses, and finishers, from almost every climate and country of Europe, were engaged in her education, and the consequence was, that few young persons of her age and sex were more highly accomplished. If his daughter's head ached, her father never suffered that circumstance to disturb the cold, stern tenor of his ambitious way; but, at the same time, two or three of the most eminent physicians were sent for, as a matter of course, and then there were nothing but consultations until she recovered. Had she died, Sir Thomas Gourlay would not have shed one tear, but he would have had all the pomp and ceremony due to her station in life solemnly paraded at her funeral, and it is very likely that one or other of our eminent countrymen, Hogan or M'Dowall, had they then existed, would have been engaged to erect her a monument.
And yet the feeling which he experienced, and which regulated his life, was, after all, but a poor pitiful parody upon true ambition. The latter is a great and glorious principle, because, where it exists, it never fails to expand the heart, and to prompt it to the performance of all those actions that elevate our condition and dignify our nature. Had he experienced anything like such a feeling as this, or even the beautiful instincts of parental affection, he would not have neglected, as he did, the inculcation of all those virtues and principles which render education valuable, and prevent it from degenerating into an empty parade of mere accomplishments.
It is true, Sir Thomas Gourlay enjoyed the reputation of being an admirable father, and, indeed, from mere worldly principle he was so, and we presume gave himself credit for being so. In the mean time, our readers are to learn that earth scarcely contained a man who possessed a greedier or more rapacious spirit; and, if ever the demon of envy, especially with respect to the possession of wealth and property, tortured the soul of a human being, it did that of our baronet. His whole spirit, in fact, was dark, mean, and intensely selfish; and for this reason, it was a fearful thing for any one to stand in his way when in the execution of his sordid projects, much less to attempt his defeat in their attainment. Reckless and unscrupulous, he left no means unattempted, however odious and wicked, to crush those who offended him, or such as stood in the way of his love of wealth and ambition.
For some minutes after the perusal of the anonymous letter, one would have imagined that the image which met his gaze, from time to time, in the looking-glass, was that of his worst and deadliest enemy, so fierce and menacing were the glances which he cast on it as he paced the floor. At length he took up the document, and, having read it again, exclaimed:
"Perhaps, after all, I'm angry to no purpose; certainly to no purpose, in one sense, I am, inasmuch as I know not who this anonymous person is. But stay, let me be cautious—is there such a person? May this communication not be a false one—written to mislead or provoke me? Lucy knows that I am determined she shall marry Lord Dunroe, and I am not aware that she entertains any peculiar objection to him. In the mean time, I will have some conversation with her, in order to ascertain what her present and immediate feeling on the subject is. It is right that I should see my way in this."
He accordingly rang the bell, when a well-powdered footman, in rich livery, entered.
"Let Miss Gourlay understand that I wish to see her."
This he uttered in a loud, sharp tone of voice, for it was in such he uniformly addressed his dependents.
The lackey bowed and withdrew, and, in the course of a few minutes, his daughter entered the study, and stood before him. At the first glance, she saw that something had discomposed him, and felt a kind of instinctive impression that it was more or less connected with herself.
Seldom, indeed, was such a contrast between man and woman ever witnessed, as that which presented itself on this occasion. There stood the large, ungainly, almost misshapen father, with a countenance distorted, by the consequences of ill-suppressed passion, into a deeper deformity—a deformity that was rendered ludicrously hideous, by a squint that gave, as we have said, to one of his eyes, as he looked at her, the almost literal expression of a dagger. Before him, on the other hand, stood a girl, whose stature was above the middle height, with a form that breathed of elegance, ease, and that exquisite grace which marks every look, and word, and motion of the high-minded and accomplished lady. Indeed, one would imagine that her appearance would have soothed and tranquillized the anger of any parent capable of feeling that glowing and prideful tenderness, with which such an exquisitely beautiful creature was calculated to fill a parent's heart. Lucy Gourlay was a dark beauty—a brunette so richly tinted, that the glow of her cheek was only surpassed by the flashing brilliancy of her large, dark eyes, that seemed, in those glorious manifestations, to kindle with inspiration. Her forehead was eminently intellectual, and her general temperament—Celtic by the mother's side—was remarkable for those fascinating transitions of spirit which passed over her countenance like the gloom and sunshine of the early summer. Nothing could be more delightful, nor, at the same time, more dangerous, than to watch that countenance whilst moving under the influence of melancholy, and to observe how quickly the depths of feeling, or the impulses of tenderness, threw their delicious shadows into its expression—unless, indeed, to watch the same face when lit up by humor, and animated into radiance by mirth. Such is a faint outline of Lucy Gourlay, who, whether in shadow or whether in light, was equally captivating and irresistible.
On entering the room, her father, incapable of appreciating even the natural graced and beauty of her person, looked at her with a gaze of sternness and inquiry for some moments, but seemed at a loss in what terms to address her. She, however, spoke first, simply saying:
"Has anything discomposed you, papa?"
"I have been discomposed, Miss Gourlay"—for he seldom addressed her as Lucy—"and I wish to have some serious conversation with you. Pray be seated."
"I trust, Miss Gourlay," he proceeded, in a style partly interrogatory and partly didactic—"I trust you are perfectly sensible that a child like you owes full and unlimited obedience to her parents."
"So long, at least, sir, as her parents exact no duties from her that are either unreasonable or unjust, or calculated to destroy her own happiness. With these limitations, I reply in the affirmative."
"A girl like you, Miss Gourlay, has no right to make exceptions. Your want of experience, which is only another name for your ignorance of life, renders you incompetent to form an estimate of what constitutes, or may constitute, your happiness."
"Happiness!—in what sense, sir?"
"In any sense, madam."
"Madam!" she replied, with much feeling. "Dear papa—if you will allow me to call you so—why address me in a tone of such coldness, if not of severity? All I ask of you is, that, when you do honor me by an interview, you will remember that I am your daughter, and not speak to me as you would to an utter stranger."
"The tone which I may assume toward you, Miss Gourlay, must be regulated by your own obedience."
"But in what have I ever failed in obedience to you, my dear papa?"
"Perhaps you compliment your obedience prematurely, Lucy—it has never yet been seriously tested."
Her beautiful face crimsoned at this assertion; for she well knew that many a severe imposition had been placed upon her during girlhood, and that, had she been any other girl than she was, her very youth would have been forced into opposition to commands that originated in whim, caprice, and selfishness. Even when countenanced, however, by the authority of her other parent, and absolutely urged against compliance with injunctions that were often cruel and oppressive, she preferred, at any risk, to accommodate herself to them rather than become the cause of estrangement or ill-feeling between him and her mother, or her mother's friends. Such a charge as this, then, was not only ungenerous, but, as he must have well known, utterly unfounded.
"I do not wish, sir," she replied, "to make any allusion to the past, unless simply to say, that, if severe and trying instances of obedience have been exacted from me, under very peculiar circumstances, I trust I have not been found wanting in my duty to you."
"That obedience, Miss Gourlay, which is reluctantly given, had better been forgotten."
"You have forced me to remember it in my own defence, papa; but I am not conscious that it was reluctant."
"You contradict me, madam."
"No, sir; I only take the liberty of setting you right. My obedience, if you recollect, was cheerful; for I did not wish to occasion ill-will between you and mamma—my dear mamma."
"I believe you considered that you had only one parent, Miss Gourlay?"
"That loved me, sir, you would add. But, papa, why should there be such a dialogue as this between you and your daughter—your orphan daughter, and your only child? It is not natural, Something, I see, has discomposed your temper; I am ignorant of it."
"I made you aware, some time ago, that the Earl of Cullamore and I had entered into a matrimonial arrangement between you and his son, Lord Dunroe."
A deadly paleness settled upon her countenance at these words—a paleness the more obvious, as it contrasted so strongly with the previous rich hue of her complexion, which had been already heightened by the wanton harshness of her father's manner. The baronet's eyes, or rather his eye, was fixed upon her with a severity which this incident rapidly increased.
"You grow pale, Miss Gourlay; and there seems to be something in this allusion to Lord Dunroe that is painful to you. How is this, madam? I do not understand it."
"I am, indeed, pale, and I feel that I am; for what is there that could drive the hue of modesty from the cheek of a daughter, sooner than the fact of her own father purposing to unite her to a profligate? You seldom jest, papa; but I hope you do so now."
"I am not disposed to make a jest of your happiness, Miss Gourlay."
"Nor of my misery, papa. You surely cannot but know—nay, you cannot but feel—that a marriage between me and Lord Dunroe is impossible. His profligacy is so gross, that his very name is indelicate in the mouth of a modest woman. And is this the man to whom you would unite your only child and daughter? But I trust you still jest, sir. As a man, and a gentleman, much less as a parent, you would not think seriously of making such a proposal to me?"
"All very fine sentiment—very fine stuff and nonsense, madam; the young man is a little wild—somewhat lavish in expenditure—and for the present not very select in the company he keeps; but he is no fool, as they say, and we all know how marriage reforms a man, and thoroughly sobers him down."
"Often at the expense, papa," she replied with tears, "of many a broken heart. That surely, is not a happy argument; for, perhaps, after all, I should, like others, become but a victim to my ineffectual efforts at his reformation."
"There is one thing, Miss Gourlay, you are certain to become, and that is, Countess of Cullamore, at his father's death. Remember this; and. remember also, that, victim or no victim, I am determined you shall marry him. Yes, you shall marry him," he added, stamping with vehemence, "or be turned a beggar upon the world. Become a victim, indeed! Begone, madam, to your room, and prepare for that obedience which your mother never taught you."
She rose as he spoke, and with a graceful inclination of her head, silently withdrew.
This dialogue caused both father and daughter much pain. Certain portions of it, especially near the close, were calculated to force upon the memory of each, analogies that were as distressing to the warm-hearted girl, as they were embarrassing to her parent. The truth was, that her mother, then a year dead, had indeed become a victim to the moral profligacy of a man in whose character there existed nothing whatsoever to compensate her for the utter absence of domestic affection in all its phases. His principal vices, so far as they affected the peace of his family, were a brutal temper, and a most scandalous dishonesty in pecuniary transactions, especially in his intercourse with his own tenantry and tradesmen. Of moral obligation he seemed to possess no sense or impression whatever. A single day never occurred in which he was not guilty of some most dishonorable violation of his word to the poor, and those who were dependent on him. Ill-temper therefore toward herself, and the necessity of constantly witnessing a series of vile and unmanly frauds upon a miserable scale, together with her incessant efforts to instil into his mind some slight principle of common integrity, had, during an unhappy life, so completely harassed a mind naturally pure and gentle, and a constitution never strong, that, as her daughter hinted, and as every one intimate with the family knew, she literally fell a victim to the vices we have named, and the incessant anxiety they occasioned her. These analogies, then, when unconsciously alluded to by his daughter, brought tears to her eyes, and he felt that the very grief she evinced was an indirect reproach to himself.
"Now," he exclaimed, after she had gone, "it is clear, I think, that the girl entertains something more than a mere moral objection to this match. I would have taxed her with some previous engagement, but that I fear it would be premature to do so at present. Dunroe is wild, no doubt of it; but I cannot believe that women, who are naturally vain and fond of display, feel so much alarm at this as they pretend. I never did myself care much about the sex, and seldom had an opportunity of studying their general character, or testing their principles; but still I incline to the opinion, that, where there is not a previous engagement, rank and wealth will, for the most part, outweigh every other consideration. In the meantime I will ride into Ballytrain, and reconnoitre a little. Perhaps the contents, of this communication are true—perhaps not; but, at all events, it can be no harm to look about me in a quiet way."
He then read the letter a third time—examined the handwriting closely—locked it in a private drawer—rang the bell—ordered his horse—and in a few minutes was about to proceed to the "Mitre" inn, in order to make secret inquiries after such persons as he might find located in that or the other establishments of the town. At this moment, his daughter once more entered the apartment, her face glowing with deep agitation, and her large, mellow eyes lit up with a fixed, and, if one could judge, a lofty purpose. Her reception, we need hardly say, was severe and harsh.