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The Black Baronet; or, The Chronicles Of Ballytrain - The Works of William Carleton, Volume One
by William Carleton
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But, after all, and notwithstanding his base and ungodly views of life, let us ask, had the baronet no painful visitations of remorse in contemplating the fading form and the silent but hopeless agony of his daughter? Did conscience, which in his bosom of stone indulged in an almost unbroken slumber, never awaken to scourge his hardened spirit with her whip of snakes, and raise the gloomy curtain that concealed from him the dark and tumultuous fires that await premeditated guilt and impenitence? We answer, he was man. Sometimes, especially in the solemn hours of night, he experienced brief periods, not of remorse, much less of repentance, but of dark, diabolical guilt—conscious guilt, unmitigated by either penitence or remorse, as might have taught his daughter, could she have known them, how little she herself suffered in comparison with him. These dreadful moments remind one of the heavings of some mighty volcano, when occasioned by the internal stragglings of the fire that is raging within it, the power and fury of which may be estimated by the terrible glimpses which rise up, blazing and smouldering from its stormy crater.

"What am I about?" he would say. "What a black prospect does life present to me! I fear I am a bad man. Could it be possible now, that there are thousands of persons in life who have committed great crimes in the face of society, who, nevertheless, are not responsible for half my guilt? Is it possible that a man may pass through the world, looking on it with a plausible aspect, and yet become, from the natural iniquity of his disposition and the habitual influence of present and perpetual evil within him, a man of darker and more extended guilt than the murderer or robber? Is it, then, the isolated crime, the crime that springs from impulse, or passion, or provocation, or revenge?—or is it the black unbroken iniquity of the spirit, that constitutes the greater offence, or the greater offender against society? Am I, then, one of I those reprobates of life in whom there is everything adverse to good and friendly to evil, yet who pass through existence with a high head, and look upon the public criminal and felon with abhorrence or affected compassion? But why investigate myself? Here I am; and that fact is the utmost limit to which my inquiries and investigations can go. I am what I am: besides, I did not form nor create myself. I am different from my daughter, she is different from me. I am different from most people. In what? May I not have a destined purpose in creation to fulfil; and is it not probable that my natural disposition has been bestowed upon me for the purpose of fulfilling it? Yet if all were right, how account for these dreadful and agonizing glimpses of my inner life which occasionally visit me? But I dare say every man feels them. What are they, after all, but the superstitious operations of conscience—of that grim spectre which is conjured up by the ridiculous fables of the priest and nurse? Conscience! Why, its fearful tribunal is no test of truth. The wretched anchorite will often experience as much remorse if he neglect to scourge his miserable carcass, as the murderer who sheds the blood of man—or more. Away with it! I am but a fool for allowing it to disturb me at all, or mar my projects."

In this manner would he attempt to reason himself out of these dreadful visitations, by the shallow sophistry of the sceptic and infidel.

The time, however, he thought, was now approaching when it was necessary that something should be done with respect to Lucy's approaching marriage. He accordingly sent for her, and having made very affectionate inquiries after her health, for he had not for a moment changed the affected tenderness of his manner, he asked if she believed herself capable of granting an interview to Lord Dunroe. Lucy, now that escape from the frightful penalty of her obedience was impossible, deemed it, after much painful reflection, better to submit with as little apparent reluctance as possible.

"I fear, papa," she said, in tones that would have touched and softened any heart but that to which she addressed herself, "I fear that it is useless to wait until I am better. I feel my strength declining every day, without any hope of improvement. I may therefore as well see him now as at a future time."

"My dear Lucy, I know that you enter into this engagement with reluctance. I know that you do it for my sake; and you may rest assured that your filial piety and obedience will be attended with a blessing. After marriage you will find that change of scene, Dunroe's tenderness, and the influence of enlivening society, will completely restore your health and spirits. Dunroe's a rattling, pleasant fellow; and notwithstanding his escapades, has an excellent heart. Tut, my dear child, after a few months you will yourself smile at these girlish scruples, and thank papa for forcing you into happiness."

Lucy's large eyes had been fixed upon him while he spoke, and as he concluded, two big tears, the first she had shed for weeks, stood within their lids. They seemed, however, but visionary; for although they did fall they soon disappeared, having been absorbed, as it were, into the source from which they came, by the feverish heat of her brain.

"It is enough, papa," she said; "I am willing to see him—willing to see him whenever you wish. I am in your hands, and neither you nor he need apprehend any further opposition from me."

"You are a good girl, Lucy; and you may believe me again that this admirable conduct of yours will have its reward in a long life of future happiness."

"Future happiness, papa," she replied, with a peculiar emphasis on the word; "I hope so. May I withdraw, sir?"

"You may, my dear child. God bless and reward you, Lucy. It is to your duty I owe it that I am a living man—that you have a father."

When she had gone, he sat down to his desk, and without losing a moment sent a note to Dunroe, of which the following is a copy:

"My dear Lord Dunroe,—I am happy to tell you that Lucy is getting on famously.

"Of course you know, I suppose, that these vaporish affections are, with most young girls, nothing but the performance of the part which they choose to act before marriage; the mere mists of the morning, poor wenches, which only prognosticate for themselves and their husbands an unclouded day. All this make-believe is very natural; and it is a good joke, besides, to see them pout and look grave, and whine and cry, and sometimes do the hysteric, whilst they are all the time dying in secret, the hypocritical baggages, to get themselves transformed into matrons. Don't, therefore, be a whit surprised or alarmed if you find Miss Lucy in the pout—she is only a girl, after all, and has her little part to play, as well as the best of them. Still, such a change is often in reality a serious one to a young woman; and you need not be told that no animal will allow itself to be caught without an effort. When you see her, therefore, pluck up your spirits, rattle away, laugh and jest, so as, if possible, to get her into good humor, and there is no danger of you. Or stay—I am wrong. Had you followed this advice, it would have played the deuce with you. Don't be merry. On the contrary, pull a long face—be grave and serious; and if you can imitate the manner of one of those fellows who pass for young men of decided piety, you were nothing but a made man. Have you a Bible? If you have, commit half-a-dozen texts to memory, and intersperse them judiciously through your conversation. Talk of the vanity of life, the comforts of religion, and the beauty of holiness. But don't overdo the thing either. Just assume the part of a young person on whose mind the truth is beginning to open, because Lucy knows now very well that these rapid transitions are suspicious. At all events, you will do the best you can; and if you are here to-morrow—say about three o'clock—she will see you.

"Ever, my dear Dunroe,

"Faithfully, your father-in-law that is to be,

"Thomas Gourlay."

This precious epistle Dunroe found upon his table after returning from his ride in the Phoenix Park; and having perused it, he immediately rang for Norton, from whom he thought it was much too good a thing to be concealed.

"Norton," said he, "I am beginning to think that this black fellow, the baronet, is not such a disgraceful old scoundrel as I had thought him. There's not a bad thing in its way—read it."

Norton, after throwing his eye over it, laughed heartily.

"Egad," said he, "that fellow has a pretty knowledge of life; but it is well he recovered himself in the instructions, for, from all that I have heard of Miss Gourlay, his first code would have ruined you, sure enough."

"I am afraid I will break down, however, in the hypocrisy. I failed cursedly with the old peer, and am not likely to be more successful with her."

"Indeed, I question whether hypocrisy would sit well upon one who has been so undisguised an offender. The very assumption of it requires some training. I think a work to be called 'Preparations for Hypocrisy' would be a great book to the general mass of mankind. You cannot bound at one step from the licentious to the hypocritical, unless, indeed, upon the convenient principle of instantaneous conversion. The thing must be done decently, and by judicious gradations, nor is the transition attended with much difficulty, in consequence of the natural tendency which hypocrisy and profligacy always have to meet. Still, I think you ought to attempt the thing. Get by heart, as her father advises, half-a-dozen serious texts of Scripture, and drop one in now and then, such as, 'All flesh is grass.' 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' 'He that marrieth not doth well, but he that marrieth doth better.' To be sure, there is a slight inversion of text here, but then it is made more appropriate."

"None of these texts, however," replied his lordship, "except the last, are applicable to marriage."

"So much the better; that will show her that you can think of other and more serious things."

"But there are very few things more serious, my boy."

"At all events," proceeded the other, "it will be original, and originality, you know, is your forte. I believe it is supposed that she has no great relish for this match, and is not overburdened with affection for you?"

"She must have changed, though," replied his lordship, "or she wouldn't have consented."

"That may be; but if she should candidly tell you that she does not like you—why, in that case, your originality must bear you out. Start some new and original theory on marriage; say, for instance, that your principle is not to marry a girl who does love you, but rather one who feels the other way. Dwell fearfully on the danger of love before marriage: and thus strike out strongly upon the advantages of indifference—honest indifference. By this means you will meet all her objections, and be able to capsize her on every point."

"Norton," said his lordship, "I think you are right. My originality will carry the day; but in the meantime you must give me further instructions on the subject, so that I may be prepared at all points."

"By the by, Dunroe, you will be a happy fellow. I am told she is a magnificent creature; beautiful, sensible, brilliant, and mistress of many languages."

"Not to be compared with the blonde, though."

"I cannot say," replied Norton, "having not yet seen her. You will get very fond of her, of course."

"Fond—'gad, I hope it will never come to that with me. The moment a man suffers himself to become fond of his wife, he had better order his Bible and Prayer-book at once—it is all up with him."

"I grant you it's an unfortunate condition to get into; and the worst of it is, that once you are in, it is next to an impossibility to get out. Of course, you will take care to avoid it, for your own sake, and, if you have no objection, for mine. Perhaps her ladyship may take a fancy to support the venerable peer against me in recommending the process of John Thrustout. If so, Dunroe, whatever happiness your marriage may bring yourself, it will bring nothing but bitterness and calamity to me. I am now so much accustomed—so much—so much—hang it, why conceal it?—so much attached and devoted to you—that a separation would be the same as death to me."

"Never fear, Norton," replied Dunroe, "I have not yielded to my father on this point, neither shall I to my wife. Happen what may, my friend must never be given up for the whim of any one. But, indeed, you need entertain no apprehensions. I am not marrying the girl for love, so that she is not likely to gain any ascendancy whatever over me. It is her fortune and property that have attracted my affections, just as the title she will enjoy has inveigled those of the old father."

Norton, in deep emotions of gratitude, ably sustained, had already seized the hand of his patron, and was about to reply—but the effort was too much for him; his heart was too full; he felt a choking; so, clapping his handkerchief to his face with one hand, and the other upon his heart, he rushed out of the room, lest Dunroe might perceive the incredible force of his affection for him.

The next day, when Dunroe made his appearance in the drawing-room, Lucy, before descending, felt as one may be supposed to do who stands upon the brow of a precipice, conscious at the same time that not only is retreat from this terrible position impossible, but that the plunge must be made. On this occasion she experienced none of that fierce energy which sometimes results from despair, and which one might imagine to have been in accordance with her candid and generous character, when driven as she was to such a step. On the contrary, she felt calm, cold, and apathetic. Her pulse could scarcely be perceived by Alley Mahon; and all the physical powers of life within her seemed as if about to suspend their functions. Her reason, however, was clear, even to torture. Those tumultuous vibrations of the spirit—those confused images and unsettled thoughts of the brain; and all those excited emotions of the heart, that are usually called into existence in common minds by such scenes, would have been to her as a relief, in comparison to what she experienced. In her case there was a tranquillity of agony—a quiet, unresisting submission—a gentle bowing of the neck to the stake, at the sacrifice that resulted from the clear perception of her great mind, which thus, by its very facility of apprehension, magnified the torture she suffered. Whilst descending the stairs, she felt such a sinking of the soul within her, as the unhappy wretch does who ascends from those which lead to that deadly platform from which is taken the terrible spring into eternity.

On entering the room she saw herself in the large mirror that adorned the mantel-piece, and felt for the first time as if all this was some dreadful dream. The reality, however, of the misery she felt was too strongly in her heart to suffer this consoling fiction, painful even though it was, to remain. The next moment she found Lord Dunroe doing her homage and obeisance,—an obeisance which she returned with a lady-like but melancholy grace, that might have told to any other observer the sufferings she felt, and the sacrifice she was making.

Dunroe, with as much politeness as he could assume, handed her to the sofa, close to which he drew a chair, and opened the dialogue as follows:

"I am sorry to hear that you have not been well, Miss Gourlay. Life, however, is uncertain, and we should always be prepared—at least, so says Scripture. All flesh is grass, I think is the expression—ahem."

Lucy looked at him with a kind of astonishment; and, indeed, we think our readers will scarcely feel surprised that she did so; the reflection being anything but adapted to the opening of a love scene.

"Your observation, my lord," she replied, "is very true—too true, for we rarely make due preparation for death."

"But I can conceive, readily enough," replied his lordship, "why the man that wrote the Scripture used the expression. Death, you know Miss Gourlay, is always represented as a mower, bearing a horrible scythe, and an hour-glass. Now, a mower, you know, cuts down grass; and there is the origin of the similitude."

"And a very appropriate one it is, I think," observed Lucy.

"Well, I dare say it is; but somewhat vulgar though. I should be disposed to say, now, that the man who wrote that must have been a mower himself originally."

Lucy made no reply to this sapient observation. His lordship, however, who seemed to feel that he had started upon a wrong principle, if not a disagreeable one, went on:

"It is not, however, to talk of death, Miss Gourlay, that we have met, but of a very different and much more agreeable subject—marriage."

"To me, my lord," she replied, "death is the more agreeable of the two."

"I am sorry to hear that, Miss Gourlay; but I think you are in low spirits, and that accounts for it. Your father tells me, however, that I have your permission to urge my humble claims. He says you have kindly and generously consented to look upon me, all unworthy as I feel I am, as your future husband."

"It is true, my lord, I have consented to this projected union; but I feel that it is due to your lordship to state that I have done so under very painful and most distressing circumstances. It is better I should speak now, my lord, than at a future day. My father's mind has been seized by an unaccountable ambition to see me your wife. This preyed upon him so severely that he became dangerously ill." Here, however, from delicacy to the baronet, she checked herself, but added, "Yes, my lord, I have consented; but, understand me—you have not my affections."

"Why, as to that, Miss Gourlay, I have myself peculiar opinions; and I am glad that they avail me here. You will think it odd, now, that I had made my mind up never to marry a woman who loved me. This is really fortunate."

"I don't understand you, my lord."

"Well, I suppose you don't; but I shall make myself intelligible as well as I can. Love before marriage, in my opinion, is exceedingly dangerous to future happiness; and I will tell you why I think so. In the first place, a great deal of that fuel which feeds the post-matrimonial flame is burned away and wasted unnecessarily; the imagination, too, is raised to a ridiculous and most enthusiastic expectation of perpetual bliss and ecstasy; then comes disappointment, coolness, indifference, and the lights go out for want of the fuel I mentioned; and altogether the domestic life becomes rather a dull and tedious affair. The wife wonders that the husband is no longer a, lover; and the husband cannot for the soul of him see all the—the—the—ahem!—I scarcely know what to call them—that enchanted him before marriage. Then, you perceive, that when love is necessary, the fact comes out that it was most injudiciously expended before the day of necessity. Both parties feel, in fact, that the property has been prematurely squandered—like many another property—and when it is wanted, there is nothing to fall back upon. I wish to God affection could be funded, so that when a married couple found themselves low in pocket in that commodity they could draw the interest or sell out at once."

"And what can you expect, my lord, from those who marry without affection?" asked Lucy.

"Ten chances for happiness," replied his lordship, "for one that results from love. When such persons meet, mark you, Miss Gourlay, they are not enveloped in an artificial veil of splendor, which the cares of life, and occasionally a better knowledge of each other, cause to dissolve from about them, leaving them stripped of those imaginary qualities of mind and person which never had any existence at all, except in their hypochondriac brains, when love-stricken; whereas, your honest, matter-of-fact people come together—first with indifference, and, as there is nothing angelic to be expected on either side, there is consequently no disappointment. There has, in fact, been no sentimental fraud committed—no swindle of the heart—for love, too, like its relation, knavery, has its black-legs, and very frequently raises credit upon false pretences; the consequence is, that plain honesty begins to produce its natural effects."

"Can this man," thought Lucy, "have been taking lessons from papa? And pray, my lord," she proceeded, "what are those effects which marriage without love—produces?"

"Why, a good honest indifference, in the first place, which keeps the heart easy and somewhat indolent withal. There is none of that sharp jealousy which is perpetually on the spy for offence. None of that pulling and pouting—falling out and falling in—which are ever the accessories of love. On the contrary, honest indifference minds the family—honest indifference, mark, buys the beef and mutton, reckons the household linen—eschews parties and all places of fashionable resort, attends to the children—sees them educated, bled, blistered, et cetera, when necessary; and, what is still better, looks to their religion, hears them their catechism, brings them, in their clean bibs and tuckers, to church, and rewards that one who carries home most of the sermon with a large lump of sugar-candy."

"These are very original views of marriage, my lord."

"Aha!" thought his lordship, "I knew the originality would catch her."

"Why, the fact is, Miss Gourlay, that I believe—at least I think I may say—that originality is my forte. I have a horror against everything common."

"I thought so, my lord," replied Lucy; "your sense, for instance, is anything but common sense."

"You are pleased to flatter me, Miss Gourlay, but you speak very truly; and that is because I always think for myself—I do not wish to be measured by a common standard."

"You are very right; my lord; it would be difficult, I fear, to find a common standard to measure you by. One would imagine, for instance, that you have been on this principle absolutely studying the subject of matrimony. At least, you are the first person I have ever met who has succeeded in completely stripping it of common sense, and there I must admit your originality."

"Gad!" thought his lordship, "I have her with me—I am getting on famously."

"They would imagine right, Miss Gourlay; these principles are the result of a deep and laborious investigation into that mysterious and awful topic. Honest indifference has no intrigues, no elopements, no disgraceful trials for criminal conversation, no divorces. No; your lovers in the yoke of matrimony, when they tilt with each other, do it sharply, with naked weapons; whereas, the worthy indifferents, in the same circumstances, have a wholesome regard for each other, and rattle away only with the scabbards. Upon my honor, Miss Gourlay, I am quite delighted to hear that you are not attached to me. I can now marry upon my own principles. It is not my intention to coax, and fondle, and tease you after marriage; not at all. I shall interfere as little as possible with your habits, and you, I trust, as little with mine. We shall see each other only occasionally, say at church, for instance, for I hope you will have no objection to accompany me there. Neither man nor woman knows what is due to society if they pass through the world without the comforts of religion. All flesh—ahem!—no—sufficient unto the day—as Scripture says."

"My lord, I think marriage a solemn subject, and—"

"Most people find it so, Miss Gourlay."

—"And on that account that it ought to be exempted from ridicule."

"I perfectly agree with you, Miss Gourlay: it is indeed a serious subject, and ought not to be sported with or treated lightly."

"My lord," said Lucy, "I must crave your attention for a few moments. I believe the object of this interview is to satisfy you that I have given the consent which my father required and entreated of me. But, my lord, you are mistaken. Our union cannot take place upon your principles, and for this reason, there is no indifference in the case, so far, at least, as I am concerned. It would not become me to express here, under my father's roof, the sentiments which I feel. Your own past life, my lord—your habits, your associates, may enable you to understand them. It is enough to say, that in wedding you I wed misery, wretchedness, despair; so that, in my case, at least, there is no 'sentimental fraud' committed."

"Not a bit of it, Miss Gourlay; your conduct, I say, is candid and honorable; and I am quite satisfied that the woman who has strength of mind and love of truth to practice this candor before marriage, gives the best security for fidelity and all the other long list of matrimonial virtues afterwards. I am perfectly charmed with your sentiments. Indeed I was scarcely prepared for this. Our position will be delightful. The only thing I have any apprehension of is, lest this wholesome aversion might gradually soften into fondness, which, you know, would be rather unpleasant to us both."

"My lord," replied Lucy, rising up with disdain and indignation glowing in her face, "there is one sentiment due to every woman whose conduct is well regulated and virtuous—that sentiment is, respect. From you on this occasion, at least, and on this subject especially, I had thought myself entitled to it. I find I have been mistaken, however. Such a sentiment is utterly incompatible with the heartless tirade of buffoonery in which you have indulged. This dialogue is very painful, my lord. I have already intimated to you that I am prepared to fulfil the engagement into which my father has entered with you. I know—I feel what the result will be—you are to consider me your victim, my lord, as well as your wife."

"Excuse me, Miss Gourlay, I was utterly unconscious of any buffoonery. Upon my honor, I expressed on the subject of matrimony no principles that I do not feel; but as to your charge of disrespect, I solemnly assure you there is not an individual of your sex in existence whom I respect more highly; nor do I believe there is a lady living more signally entitled to it from all who have the honor to know her."

"Then, if you be serious, my lord, it betrays a painful equality between your understanding and your heart. No man with such a heart should enter into the state of matrimony at all; and no man with an understanding level to such principles is capable either of communicating or receiving happiness."

"Well, then, suppose I say that I shall submit myself in everything to your wishes?"

"Then I should reply, that the husband capable of doing so would experience from me a sentiment little short of contempt. What, my lord! so soon to abandon your favorite principles! That is a proof, I fear, that, after all, you place but little value on them."

"Well, but I know I have not been so good a boy as I ought to have been; I have been naughty now and then; and as I intend to reform, I shall make you my guide and adviser. I assure you, I am perfectly serious in the reformation. It shall be on quite an original scale. I intend to repent, Miss Gourlay; but, then, my repentance won't be commonplace repentance. I shall do the thing with an aristocratic feeling—or, in other words, I shall repent like a man of honor and a gentleman."

"Like anything but a Christian, my I presume."

"Just so; I must be original or die. I will give up everything; for, after all. Miss Gourlay, what is there more melancholy than the vanity of life—unless, indeed, it be the beauty of holiness—ahem! All flesh—no—I repeated that sweet text before. He that marrieth doth well; but he that marrieth not doth better. Sufficient unto the day—No, hang it, I think I misquoted it. I believe it runs correctly—He that giveth 'way, does well; but he that giveth not way, does better: then, I believe, comes in, Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. What beautiful and appropriate texts are to be found in Scripture, Miss Gourlay! By the way, the man that wrote it was a shrewd fellow and a profound thinker. The only pity is, that the work's anonymous."

Lucy rose, absolutely sickened, and said, "My lord, excuse me. The object of our interview has been accomplished, and as I am far from well, you will permit me to withdraw. In the meantime, pray make whatever arrangements and hold, whatever interviews may be necessary in this miserable and wretched business; but henceforth they must be with my father."

"You are surely not going, Miss Gourlay?"

She replied not, but turning round, seemed to reflect for a moment, after which she spoke as follows:

"I cannot bring myself to think, my lord, after the unusual opinions you have expressed, that you have been for one moment serious in the conversation which has taken place between us. Their strangeness and eccentricity forbid me to suppose this; and if I did not think that it is so, and that, perhaps, you are making an experiment upon my temper and judgment, for some purpose at present inconceivable; and if I did not think, besides, notwithstanding these opinions, that you may possess sufficient sense and feeling to perceive the truth and object of what I am about to say, I would not remain one moment longer in your society. I request, therefore, that you will be serious for a little, and hear me with attention, and, what is more, if you can, with sympathy. My lord, the highest instance of a great and noble mind is to perform a generous act; and when you hear from my own lips the circumstances which I am about to state, I would hope to find you capable of such an act. I am now appealing to your generosity—your disinterestedness—your magnanimity (and you ought to be proud to possess these virtues)—to all those principles that honor and dignify our nature, and render man a great example to his kind. My lord, I am very unhappy—I am miserable—I am wretched; so completely borne down by suffering that life is only a burden, which I will not be able long to bear; and you, my lord, are the cause of all this anguish and agony."

"Upon my honor, Miss Gourlay, I am very much concerned to hear it. I would rather the case were otherwise, I assure you. Anything that I can do, I needn't say, I shall be most happy to do; but proceed, pray."

"My lord, I throw myself upon your generosity; do you possess it? Upon your feeling as a man, upon your honor as a gentleman. I implore, I entreat you, not to press this unhappy engagement. I implore you for my sake, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of God; and if that will not weigh with you, then I ask it for the sake of your own honor, which will be tarnished by pressing it on. I have already said that you possess not my affections, and that to a man of honor and spirit ought to be sufficient; but I will go farther, and say, that if there be one man living against a union with whom I entertain a stronger and more unconquerable aversion than another, you are that man."

"But you know, Miss Gourlay, if I may interrupt you for a moment, that that fact completely falls into my principles. There is only one other circumstance wanting to make the thing complete; but perhaps you will come to it; at least I hope so. Pray, proceed, madam; I am all attention."

"Yes," she replied, "I shall proceed; because I would not that my conscience should hereafter reproach me for having left anything undone to escape this misery. My lord, I implore you to spare me; force me not over the brow of this dreadful precipice; have compassion on me—have generosity—act with honor."

"I would crown you with honor, if I could, Miss Gourlay."

"You are about to crown me with fire, my lord; to wring my spirit with torture; to drive me into distraction—despair—madness. But you will not do so. You know that I cannot love you. I am not to blame for this; our affections are not always under our own control. Have pity on me, then, Lord Dunroe. Go to my father, and tell him that you will not be a consenting party to my misery—and accessory to my death. Say what is true; that as I neither do nor can love you, the honor of a gentleman, and the spirit of a man, equally forbid you to act ungenerously to me and dishonorably to yourself. What man, not base and mean, and sunk farther down in degradation of spirit than contempt could reach him, would for a moment think of marrying a woman who, like me, can neither love nor honor him? Go, my lord; see my father; tell him you are a man—an Irish gentleman—"

"Pardon me, Miss Gourlay, I do not wish to be considered such."

—"That justice, humanity, self-respect, and a regard for the good opinion of the world, all combine to make you release me from this engagement."

"Unfortunately, Miss Gourlay, I have it not in my power, even if I were willing, to release you from this engagement. I am pledged to your father, and cannot, as a man of honor and a gentleman, recede from that pledge. All these objections and difficulties only bring you exactly up to my theory, or very near it. We shall marry upon very original principles; so that altogether the whole affair is very gratifying to me. I had expectations that there was a prior attachment; but that would be too much to hope for. As it is, I am perfectly satisfied."

"Then, my lord, allow me to add to your satisfaction by assuring you that my heart is wholly and unalterably in possession of another; that that other knows it; and that I have avowed my love for him with the same truth and candor with which I now say that I both loathe and despise you."

"I perceive you are excited, Miss Gourlay; but, believe me, all this sentimental affection for another will soon disappear after marriage, as it always does; and your eyes will become open to a sense of your enviable position. Yes, indeed, you will live to wonder at these freaks of a heated imagination; and I have no doubt the day will come when you will throw your arms about my neck, and exclaim, 'My dear Dunroe, or Cullamore (you will then be my countess, I hope), what a true prophet you have been! And what a proof it was of your good sense to overcome my early folly! I really thought at the time that I was in love with another; but you knew better. Shan't we spend the winter in England, my love? I am sick of this dull, abominable country, where nobody that one can associate with is to be met; and you mustn't forget the box at the Opera. Yes; we shall have an odd scene or so occasionally of that sort of thing; and no doubt be as happy as our neighbors."

Lucy turned upon him one withering look, in which might be read hatred, horror, contempt; after which she slightly inclined her head, and without speaking, for she had now become incapable of it, withdrew to her own apartment, in a state of feeling which the reader may easily imagine.

"Alice," said she to her maid, and her cheek, that had only a little before been so pale, now glowed with indignation like fire as she spoke, "Alice, I have degraded myself; I am sunk forever in my own opinion since I saw that heartless wretch."

"How is that, miss?" asked Alice; "such a thing can't be."

"Because," replied Lucy, "I was mean enough to throw myself on his very compassion—on his honor—on his generosity—on his pride as a man and a gentleman—but he has not a single virtue;" and she then, with cheeks still glowing, related to her the principal part of their conversation.

"And that was the reply he gave you, miss?" observed Alley; "in truth, it was more like the answer of a sheriff's bailiff to some poor woman who had her cattle distrained for rent, and wanted to get time to pay it."

"Alice," she exclaimed, "I hope in God I may retain my senses, or, rather, let them depart from me, for then I shall not be conscious of what I do. Matters are far worse than I had even imagined—desperate—full of horror. This man is a fool; his intellect is beneath the very exigencies of hypocrisy, which he would put on if he could. His infamy, his profligacy, can proceed even from no perverted energy of character, and must therefore be associated with contempt. There is a lively fatuity about him that is uniformly a symptom of imbecility. Among women, at least, it is so, and I have no doubt but it is the same with men. Alice, I know what my fate will be. It is true, you may see me married to him; but you will see me drop dead at the altar, or worse than that may happen. I shall marry him; but to live his wife!—oh! to live the wife of that man! the thing would be impossible; death in any shape a thousand times sooner! Think, Alice, how you should feel if your husband were despised and detested by the world; think of that, Alice. Still, there might be consolation even there, for the world might be wrong; but think, Alice, if he deserved that contempt and detestation—think of it; and that you yourself knew he was entitled, to nothing else but that and infamy at its hands! Oh, no!—not one spark of honor—not one trace of feeling—of generosity—of delicacy—of truth—not one moral point to redeem him from contempt. He may be a lord, Alice, but he is not a gentleman. Hardened, vicious, and stupid, I can see he is, and altogether incapable of comprehending what is due to the feelings of a lady, of a woman, which he I outrages without even the consciousness of the offence. But, Alice, oh Alice! when I think—when I compare him with—and may Heaven forgive me for the comparison!—when I compare him with the noble, the generous, the delicate, the true-hearted, and intellectual gentleman who has won and retains, and ever will retain, my affections, I am sick almost to death at the contrast. Satan, Alice, is a being whom we detest and fear, but cannot despise. This mean profligate, however, is all vice, and low vice; for even vice sometimes has its dignity. If you could conceive Michael the Archangel resplendent with truth, brightness, and the glory of his divine nature, and compare him with the meanest, basest, and at the same time wickedest spirit that ever crawled in the depths of perdition, then indeed you might form an opinion as to the relative character of this Dunroe and my noble lover. And yet I cannot weep, Alice; I cannot weep, for I feel that my brain is burning, and my heart scorched. And now, for my only melancholy consolation!"

She then pulled from her bosom the portrait of her mother, by the contemplation of which she felt the tumult of her heart gradually subside; but, after having gazed at it for some time, she returned it to its place next her heart; the consolation it had transiently afforded her passed away, and the black and deadly gloom which had already withered her so much came back once more.



CHAPTER XXXI. The Priest goes into Corbet's House very like a Thief

—a Sederunt, with a Bright look up for Mr. Gray.

It is unnecessary to say that the priest experienced slight regret at the mistake which had been instrumental in bringing him into collision with a man, who, although he could not afford them any trace of unfortunate Fenton, yet enabled them more clearly to identify the baronet with his fate. The stranger, besides, was satisfied from the evidence of the pound note, and Trailcudgel's robbery, that his recent disappearance was also owing to the same influence. Still, the evidence was far from being complete, and they knew that if Fenton even were found, it would be necessary to establish his identity as the heir of Sir Edward Gourlay. No doubt they had made a step in advance, and, besides, in the right direction; but much still remained to be done; the plot, in fact, must be gradually, but clearly, and regularly developed; and in order to do so, they felt that they ought, if the thing could be managed, to win over some person who had been an agent in its execution.

From what Skipton had disclosed to Father M'Mahon, both that gentleman and the stranger had little doubt that old Corbet could render them the assistance required, if he could only be prevailed upon to speak. It was evident from his own conversation that he not only hated but detested Sir Thomas Gourlay; and yet it was equally clear that some secret influence prevented him from admitting any knowledge or participation in the child's disappearance. Notwithstanding the sharp caution of his manner, and his disavowal of the very knowledge they were seeking, it was agreed upon that Father M'Mahon should see him again, and ascertain whether or not he could be induced in any way to aid their purpose. Nearly a week elapsed, however, before the cunning old ferret could be come at. The truth is, he had for many a long year been of opinion that the priest entertained a suspicion of his having been in some way engaged, either directly or indirectly, in the dark plots of the baronet, if not in the making away with the child. On this account then, the old man never wished to come in the priest's way whenever he could avoid it; and the priest himself had often remarked that whenever he (old Corbet), who lived with the baronet for a couple of years, after the child's disappearance, happened to see or meet him in Ballytrain, he always made it a point to keep his distance. In fact, the priest happened on one occasion, while making a visit to see Quin, the monomaniac, and waiting in the doctor's room, to catch a glimpse of Corbet passing through the hall, and on inquiring who he was from one of the keepers, the fellow, after some hesitation, replied, that he did not know.

By this time, however, the mysterious loss of the child had long passed out of the public mind, and as the priest never paid another visit to the asylum, he also had ceased to think of it. It is quite possible, indeed, that the circumstance would never again have recurred to him had not the stranger's inquiries upon this very point reminded him that Corbet was the most likely person he knew to communicate information upon the subject. The reader already knows with what success that application had been made.

Day after day had elapsed, and the priest, notwithstanding repeated visits, could never find him at home. The simple-hearted man had whispered to him in the watch-house, that he wished to speak to him upon that very subject—a communication which filled the old fellow with alarm, and the consequence was, that he came to the resolution of not seeing him at all, if he could possibly avoid it.

One day, however, when better than a week had passed, Father M'Mahon entered his shop, where he found a woman standing', as if she expected some person to come in. His wife was weighing huckstery with her back to the counter, so that she was not aware of his presence. Without speaking a word he passed as quietly as possible into the little back parlor, and sat down. After about fifteen minutes he heard a foot overhead passing stealthily across the room, and coming to the lobby, where there was a pause, as if the person were listening. At length the foot first came down one stair very quietly, then another, afterwards a third, and again there was a second pause, evidently to listen as before. The priest kept his eyes steadily on the staircase, but was placed in such a position that he could see without being visible himself. At length Corbet's long scraggy neck was seen projecting like that of an ostrich across the banisters, which commanded a view of the shop through the glass door. Seeing the coast, as he thought, clear, he ventured to speak.

"Is he gone?" he asked, "for I'll take my oath I saw him come up the street."

"You needn't trust your eyes much longer, I think," replied his wife, "you saw no such man; he wasn't here at all."

"Bekaise I know it's about that poor boy he's coming; and sure, if I stir in it, or betray the others, I can't keep the country; an', besides, I will lose my pension."

Having concluded these words he came down the stairs into the little parlor we have mentioned, where he found Father M'Mahon sitting, his benevolent features lit up with a good deal of mirth at the confusion of Corbet, and the rueful aspect he exhibited on being caught in the trap so ingeniously laid for him.

"Dunphy," said the priest, for by this name he went in the city, "you are my prisoner; but don't be afraid in the mane time—better my prisoner than that of a worse man. And now, you thief o' the world, why did you refuse to see me for the last week? Why keep me trotting day after day, although you know I wanted to speak with you? What have you to say for yourself?"

Corbet, before replying, gave a sharp, short, vindictive glance at his wife, whom he suspected strongly of having turned traitress, and played into the hands of the enemy.

"Troth, your reverence, I was sorry to hear that you had come so often;" and as he spoke, another glance toward the shop seemed to say, "You deceitful old wretch, you have betrayed and played the devil with me."

"I don't at all doubt it, Anthony," replied the priest, "the truth being that you were sorry I came at all. Come I am, however, and if I were to wait for twelve months, I wouldn't go without seeing you. Call in Mrs. Dunphy till I spake to her, and ask her how she is."

"You had better come in, ma'am," said the old fellow, in a tone of voice that could not be misunderstood; "here's Father M'Mahon, who wants to spake to you."

"Arra, get out o' that!" she replied; "didn't I tell you that he didn't show his round rosy face to-day yet; but I'll go bail he'll be here for all that—sorra day he missed for the last week, and it's a scandal for you to thrate him as you're doin'—sorra thing else."

"Stop your goster," said Dunphy, "and come in—isn't he inside here?"

The woman came to the door, and giving a hasty and incredulous look in, started, exclaiming, "Why, then, may I never sin, but he is. Musha! Father M'Mahon, how in the name o' goodness did you get inside at all?"

"Aisily enough," he replied; "I only made myself invisible for a couple of minutes, and passed in while you were weighing something for a woman in the shop."

"Troth, then, one would think you must a' done so, sure enough, for the sorrow a stim of you I seen anyhow."

"O, she's so attentive to her business, your reverence," said Anthony, with bitter irony, "that she sees nothing else. The lord mayor might drive his coach in, and she wouldn't see him. There's an ould proverb goin' that says there's none so blind as thim that won't see. Musha, sir, wasn't that a disagreeable turn that happened you the other morning?"

"But it didn't last long, that was one comfort. The Lord save me from ever seeing such another sight. I never thought our nature was capable of such things; it is awful, even to think of it. Yes, terrible to reflect, that there were unfortunate wretches there who will probably be hurried into eternity without repenting for their transgressions, and making their peace with God;" and as he concluded, Corbet found that the good pastor's eye was seriously and solemnly fixed upon him.

"Indeed—it's all true, your reverence—it'a all true," he replied.

"Now, Anthony," continued the priest, "I have something very important to spake to you about; something that will be for your own benefit, not only in this world, but in that awful one which is to come, and for which we ought to prepare ourselves sincerely and earnestly. Have you any objection that your wife should be present, or shall we go upstairs and talk it over there?"

"I have every objection," replied Corbet; "something she does know, but—"

"O thank goodness," replied the old woman, very naturally offended at being kept out of the secret, "I'm not in all your saicrets, nor I don't wish to know them, I'm sure. I believe you find some of them a heavy burden; at any rate."

"Come, then," said the priest, "put on your hat and take a walk with me as far as the Brazen Head inn, where I'm stopping. We can have a private room there, where there will be no one to interrupt us."

"Would it be the same thing to you, sir, if I'd call on you there about this time to-morrow?"

"What objection have you to come now?" asked the priest. "Never put off till tomorrow what can be done to-day, is a good old proverb, and applies to things of weightier importance than belong to this world."

"Why, then, it's a little business of a very particular nature that I have to attend to; and yet I don't know," he added, "maybe I'll be a betther match for them afther seeing you. In the mane time," he proceeded, addressing his wife, "if they should come here to look for me, don't say where I'm gone, nor, above all things, who I'm with. Mark that now; and tell Charley, or Ginty, whichever o' them comes, that it must be put off till to-morrow—do you mind, now?"

She merely nodded her head, by way of attention.

"Ay," he replied, with a sardonic grin, "you'll be alive, as you were a while ago, I suppose."

They then proceeded on their way to the Brazen Head, which they reached without any conversation worth recording.

"Now, Anthony," began the priest, after they had seated themselves comfortably in a private room, "will you answer me truly why you refused seeing me? why you hid or absconded whenever I went to your house for the last week?"

"Bekaise I did not wish to see you, then."

"Well, that's the truth," said the priest, "and I know it. But why did you not wish to see me?" he inquired; "you must have had some reason for it."

"I had my suspicions."

"You had, Anthony; and you've had the same suspicions this many a long year—ever since the day I saw you pass through the hall in the private mad-house in—."

"Was that the time Mr. Quin was there? asked Anthony, unconsciously committing himself from the very apprehension of doing so by giving a direct answer to the question.

"Ah! ha! Anthony, then you knew Mr. Quin was there. That will do; but there's not the slightest use in beating about the bush any longer. You have within the last half-hour let your secret out, within my own ears, and before my own eyes. And so you have a pension from the Black Baronet; and you, an old man, and I fear a guilty one, are receiving the wages of iniquity and corruption from that man—from the man that first brought shame and everlasting disgrace, and guilt and madness into and upon your family and name—a name that had been without a stain before. Yes; you have sold yourself as a slave—a bond-slave—have become the creature and instrument of his vices—the clay in his hands that he can mould as he pleases, and that he will crush and trample on, and shiver to pieces, the moment his cruel, unjust, and diabolical purposes are served."

Anthony's face was a study, but a fearful study, whilst the priest spoke. As the reverend gentleman went on, it darkened into the expression of perfect torture; he gasped and started as if every word uttered had given him a mortal stab; his keen old eye nickered with scintillations of unnatural and turbid fire, until the rebuke was ended.

The priest had observed this, and naturally imputed the feeling to an impression of remorse, not, it is true, unmingled with indignation. We may imagine his surprise, therefore, on seeing that face suddenly change into one of the wildest and most malignant delight. A series of dry, husky hiccoughs, or what is termed the black laugh, rapidly repeated, proceeded from between his thin jaws, and his eyes now blazed with an expression of such fiery and triumphant vengeance, that the other felt as if some fiendish incarnation of malignity, and not a man, sat before him.

"Crush me!" he exclaimed, "crush me, indeed! Wait a little. What have I been doin' all this time? I tell you that I have been every day for this many a long year windin' myself like a serpent about him, till I get him fairly in my power; and when I do—then for one sharp, deadly sting into his heart:—ay, and, like the serpent, it's in my tongue that sting lies—from that tongue the poison must come that will give me the revenge that I've been long waitin' for."

"You speak," replied the priest, "and, indeed, you look more like an evil spirit than a man, Anthony. This language is disgraceful and unchristian, and such as no human being should utter. How can you think of death with such principles in your heart?"

"I'll tell you how I think on death: I'm afeared of it when I think of that poor, heartbroken woman, Lady Gourlay; but when I think of him—of him—I do hope and expect that my last thought in this world will be the delightful one that I've had my revenge on him."

"And you would risk the misery of another world for the gratification of one evil passion in this! Oh, God help you, and forgive you, and turn your heart!"

"God help me, and forgive me, and turn my heart! but not so far as he is consarned. I neither wish it, nor pray for it, and what's more, if you were fifty priests, I never will. Let us drop this subject, then, for so long as we talk of him, I feel as if the blood in my ould veins was all turned into fire."

The priest saw and felt that this was true, and resolved to be guided by the hint he had unconsciously received. To remonstrate with him upon Christian principles, in that mood of mind, would, he knew, be to no purpose. If there were an assailable point about him, he concluded, from his own words, that it was in connection with the sufferings of Lady Gourlay, and the fate of her child. On this point, therefore, he resolved to sound him, and ascertain, without, if possible, alarming him, how far he would go on—whether he felt disposed to advance at all, or not.

"Well," said the priest, "since you are resolved upon an act of vengeance—against which, as a Christian priest and a Christian man, I doubly protest—I think it only right that you should perform an act of justice also. You know it is wrong to confound the innocent with the guilty. There is Lady Gourlay, with the arrow of grief, and probably despair, rankling in her heart for years. Now, you could restore that woman to happiness—you could restore her lost child to happiness, and bid the widowed mother's heart leap for joy."

"It isn't for that I'd do it, or it would, maybe, be done long ago; but I'm not sayin' I know where her son is. Do you think now, if I did, that it wouldn't gratify my heart to pull down that black villain—to tumble him down in the eyes of all the world with disgrace and shame, from the height he's sittin' on, and make him a world's wondher of villany and wickedness?"

"I know very well," replied the priest, who, not wishing to use an unchristian argument, thought it still too good to be altogether left out, "I know very well that you cannot restore Lady Gourlay's son, without punishing the baronet at the same time. If you be guided by me, however, you will think only of what is due to the injured lady herself."

"Do you think, now," persisted Corbet, not satisfied with the priest's answer, and following up his interrogatory, "do you think, I say, that I wouldn't 'a' dragged him down like a dog in the kennel, long ago, if I knew where his brother's son was."

"From your hatred to Sir Thomas Gourlay," replied the other, "I think it likely you would have tumbled him long since if you could."

"Why," exclaimed Corbet, with another sardonic and derisive grin, "that's a proof of how little you know of a man's heart. Do you forget what I said awhile ago about the black villain—that I have been windin' myself about him for years, until I get him fairly into my power? When that time comes, you'll see what I'll do."

"But will that time soon come?" asked the other. "Recollect that you are now an old man, and that old age is not the time to nourish projects of vengeance. Death may seize you—may take you at a short notice—so that it is possible you may never live to execute your devilish purpose on the one hand, nor the act of justice toward Lady Gourlay on the other. Will that time soon come, I ask?"

"So far I'll answer you. It'll take a month or two—not more. I have good authority for what I'm sayin'."

"And what will you do then?"

"I'll tell you that," he replied; and rising up, he shut his two hands, turning in his thumbs, and stretching his arms down along his body on each side, he stooped down, and looking directly and fully into the priest's eyes, he replied, "I'll give him back his son."

"Tut!" returned the clergyman, whose honest heart, and sympathies were all with the widow and her sorrows; "I was thinking of Lady Gourlay's son. In the mane time, that's a queer way of punishing the baronet. You'll give him back his son?—pooh!"

"Ay," replied Corbet, "that's the way I'll have my revenge; and maybe it'll be a greater one than you think. That's all."

This was accompanied by a sneer and a chuckle, which the ambiguous old sinner could not for the blood of him suppress. "And now," he added, "I must be off."

"Sir," said Father M'Mahon, rising up and traversing the room with considerable heat, "you have been tampering with the confidence I was disposed to place in you. Whatever dark game you are playing, or have been playing, I know not; but this I can assure you, that Lady Gourlay's friends know more of your secrets than you suspect. I believe you to be nothing more nor less than a hardened old villain, whose heart is sordid, and base, and cruel—corrupted, I fear, beyond all hope of redemption. You have been playing with me, sir—sneering at me in your sleeve, during this whole dialogue. This was a false move, however, on your part, and you will find it so. I am not a man to be either played with or sneered at by such a snake-like and diabolical old scoundrel as you are. Listen, now, to me. You think your secret is safe; you think you are beyond the reach of the law; you think we know nothing of your former movements under the guidance and in personal company with the Black Baronet. Pray, did you think it impossible that there was above you a God of justice, and of vengeance, too, whose providential disclosures are sufficient to bring your villany to light? Anthony Corbet, be warned in time. Let your disclosures be voluntary, and they will be received with gratitude, with deep thanks, with ample rewards; refuse to make them, endeavor still further to veil the crimes to which I allude, and sustain this flagitious compact, and we shall drag them up your throat, and after forcing you to disgorge them, we shall send you, in your wicked and impenitent old age, where the clank of the felon's chain will be the only music in your ears, and that chain itself the only garter that will ever keep up your Connemaras. Now begone, and lay to heart what I've said to you. It wasn't my intention to have let you go without a bit of something to eat, and a glass of something to wash it down afterwards; but you may travel now; nothing stronger than pure air will cross your lips in this house, unless at your own cost."

The old fellow seemed to hesitate, as if struck by some observation contained in the priest's lecture.

"When do you lave town, sir?" he asked.

"Whenever it's my convanience," replied the other; "that's none of your affair. I'll go immediately and see Skipton."

The priest observed that honest Anthony looked still graver at the mention of this name. "If you don't go," he added, "until a couple of days hence, I'd like to see you again, about this hour, the day afther tomorrow."

"Whether I'll be here, or whether I won't is more than I know. I may be brought to judgment before then, and so may you. You may come then, or you may stay away, just as you like. If you come, perhaps I'll see you, and perhaps I won't. So now good-by! Thank goodness we are not depending on you!"

Anthony then slunk out of the room with a good deal of hesitation in his manner, and on leaving the hall-door he paused for a moment, and seemed disposed to return. At length he decided, and after lingering awhile, took his way toward Constitution Hill.

This interview with the priest disturbed Corbet very much. His selfishness, joined to great caution and timidity of character, rendered him a very difficult subject for any man to wield according to his purposes. There could be no doubt that he entertained feelings of the most diabolical resentment and vengeance against the baronet, and yet it was impossible to get out of him the means by which he proposed to visit them upon him. On leaving Father M'Mahon, therefore, he experienced a state of alternation between a resolution to make disclosures and a determination to be silent and work out his own plans. He also feared death, it is true: but this was only when those rare visitations of conscience occurred that were awakened by superstition, instead of an enlightened and Christian sense of religion. This latter was a word he did not understand, or rather one for which he mistook superstition itself. Be this as it may, he felt uneasy, anxious, and irresolute, wavering between the right and the wrong, afraid to take his stand by either, and wishing, if he could, to escape the consequences of both. Other plans, however, were ripening as well as his, under the management of those who were deterred by none of his cowardice or irresolution. The consideration of this brings us to a family discussion; which it becomes our duty to detail before we proceed any further in our narrative.

On the following day, then, nearly the same party of which we have given an account in an early portion of this work, met in the same eating-house we have already described; the only difference being that instead of O'Donegan, the classical teacher, old Corbet himself was present. The man called Thomas Corbet, the eldest son Anthony, Ginty Cooper the fortune-teller, Ambrose Gray, and Anthony himself, composed this interesting sederunt. The others had been assembled for some time before the arrival of Anthony, who consequently had not an opportunity of hearing the following brief dialogue.

"I'm afraid of my father," observed Thomas; "he's as deep as a draw-well, and it's impossible to know what he's at. How are we to manage him at all?"

"By following his advice, I think," said Ginty. "It's time, I'm sure, to get this boy into his rights."

"I was very well disposed to help you in that," replied her brother; "but of late he has led such a life, that I fear if he comes into the property, he'll do either us or himself little credit; and what is still worse, will he have sense to keep his own secret? My father says his brother, the legitimate son, is dead; that he died of scarlet-fever many years ago in the country—-and I think myself, by the way, that he looks, whenever he says it, as if he himself had furnished the boy with the fever. That, however, is not our business. If I had been at Red Hall, instead of keeping the house and place in town, it's a short time the other—or Fenton as he calls himself—would be at large. He's now undher a man that will take care of him. But indeed it's an easy task. He'll never see his mother's face again, as I well know. Scarman has him, and I give the poor devil about three months to live. He doesn't allow him half food, but, on the other hand, he supplies him with more whiskey than he can drink; and this by the baronet's own written orders. As for you, Mr. Gray, for we may as well call you so yet awhile, your conduct of late has been disgraceful."

"I grant it," replied Mr. Gray, who was now sober; "but the truth is, I really looked, after some consideration, upon the whole plan as quite impracticable. As the real heir, however, is dead—"

"Not the real heir, Amby, if you please. He, poor fellow, is in custody that he will never escape from again. Upon my soul, I often pitied him."

"How full of compassion you are!" replied his sister.

"I have very little for the baronet, however," he replied; "and I hope he will never die till I scald the soul in his body. Excuse me, Amby. You know all the circumstances of the family, and, of course, that you are the child of guilt and shame."

"Why, yes, I'm come on the wrong side as to birth, I admit; but if I clutch the property and title, I'll thank heaven every day I live for my mother's frailty."

"It was not frailty, you unfeeling boy," replied Ginty, "so much as my father's credulity and ambition. I was once said to be beautiful, and he, having taken it into his head that this man, when young, might love me, went to the expense of having me well educated. He then threw me perpetually into his society; but I was young and artless at the time, and believed his solemn oaths and promises of marriage."

"And the greater villain he," observed her brother; "for I myself did not think there could be danger in your intimacy, because you and he were foster-children; and, except in his case, I never knew another throughout the length and breadth of the country, where the obligation of that tie was forgotten."

"Well," observed Ambrose, "we must only make the best of our position. If I succeed, you shall, according to our written agreement, be all provided for. Not that I would feel very strongly disposed to do much for that enigmatical old grandfather of mine. The vile old ferret saw me in the lock-up the other morning, and refused to bail me out; ay, and threatened me besides."

"He did right," replied his uncle; "and if you're caught there again, I'll not only never bail you out, but wash my hands of the whole affair. So now be warned, and let it be for your good. Listen, then; for the case in which you stand is this: there is Miss Gourlay and Dunroe going to be married after all; for she has returned to her father, and consented to marry the young lord. The baronet, too, is ill, and I don't think will live long. He is burned out like a lime-kiln; for, indeed, like that, his whole life has been nothing but smoke and fire. Very well; now pay attention. If we wait until these marriage articles are drawn up, the appearance or the discovery of this heir here will create great confusion; and you may take my word that every opposition will be given, and every inquiry made by Dunroe, who, as there seems to be no heir, will get the property; for it goes, in that case, with Miss Gourlay. Every knot is more easily tied than untied. Let us produce the heir, then, before the property's disposed of, and then we won't have to untie the knot—to invalidate the marriage articles. So far, so good—that's our plan. But again, there's the baronet ill; should he die before we establish this youth's rights, think of our difficulty. And, thirdly, he's beginning to suspect our integrity, as he is pleased to call it. That strange gentleman, Ginty, has mentioned circumstances to him that he says could come only from my father or myself, or you."

"Proceed," replied his sister, "proceed; I may look forward to the fulfilment of these plans; but I will never live to see it."

"You certainly are much changed for the worse," replied her brother, "especially since your reason has been restored to you. In the meantime, listen. The baronet is now ill, although Gibson says there's no danger of him; he's easier in his mind, however, in consequence of this marriage, that he has, for life or death, set his heart on; and altogether this is the best time to put this vagabond's pretensions forward."

"Thank you, uncle," replied Ambrose, with a clouded brow. "In six months hence, perhaps, I'll be no vagabond."

"Ay, in sixty years hence you will; and indeed, I fear, to tell you the truth, that you'll never be anything else. That, however, is not the question now. We want to know what my father may say—whether he will agree with us, or whether he can or will give us any better advice. There is one thing, at least, we ought to respect him for; and that is, that he gave all his family a good education, although he had but little of that commodity himself, poor man."

He had scarcely concluded, when old Anthony made his appearance, with that mystical expression on his face, half sneer, half gloom, which would lead one to conclude that his heart was divided between remorse and vengeance.

"Well," said he, "you're at work, I see—honestly employed, of course. Ginty, how long is Mr. Ambrose here dead now?"

"He died," replied her brother, "soon after the intention of changing the children took place. You took the hint, father, from the worthy baronet himself."

"Ay, I did; and I wish I had not. You died, my good young fellow, of scarlet-fever—let me see—but divil a much matther it is when you died; it's little good you'll come to, barrin' you change your heart. They say, indeed, the divil's children have the divil's luck; but I say, the divil's children have the divil's face, too; for sure he's as like the black fiend his father as one egg is to another."

"And that will strengthen the claim," replied the young man, with a grin. "I don't look too old, I hope?"

"There's only two years' difference between you and the boy, your brother, that's dead," said his mother. "But I wish we were well through with this. My past life seems to me like a dream. My contemplated revenge upon that bad man, and my ambition for this boy, are the only two principles that now sustain me. What a degraded life has Thomas Gourlay caused me to lead! But I really think that I saw into futurity; nay, I am certain of it; otherwise, what put hundreds of predictions into my lips, that were verified by the event?"

There was a momentary expression of wildness in her eye as she spoke, which the others observed with pain.

"Come, Ginty," said her brother, "keep yourself steady now, at all events; be cool and firm, till we punish this man. If you want to know why you foretold so much, I'll tell you. It was because you could put two and two together."

"My whole life has been a blank," she proceeded, "an empty dream—a dead, dull level; insanity, vengeance, ambition, all jostling and crossing each other in my unhappy mind; not a serious or reasonable duty of life discharged; no claim on society—no station in the work of life—an impostor to the world, and a dupe to myself; but it was he did it. Go on; form your plans—make them firm and sure; for, by Him who withdrew the light of reason from my spirit—by Him from whom it came, I will have vengeance. Father, I know you well, and I am your daughter."

"You know me well, do you?" he replied, with his usual grin. "Maybe you do, and maybe you don't; but let us proceed. The baronet's son's dead, you know."

"But what makes you look as you do, father, when you say so? Your face seems to contradict your words. You know you have told us for years that he's dead."

"And I'm a liar, am I?" he replied, looking at him with a peculiar smile.

"No, I don't say so; certainly not. But, still, you squeeze your face up in such a way that you don't seem to believe it yourself."

"Come, come," continued the old man, "this is all useless. What do you intend to do? How do you intend to proceed?"

"We sent for you to advise us in that," replied his son. "You are the oldest and the wisest here, and of course ought to possess the soundest judgment."

"Well, then, my advice to you is, to go about your business; that is, to do any lawful business that you have to do, and not to bring yourselves to disgrace by puttin' forrid this drunken profligate, who will pitch us all to the devil when he gets himself safe, and tread in his black father's steps afterwards."

"And you must assist us, father," said Ginty, rising up, and pacing to and fro the room in a state of great agitation. "You, the first cause, the original author of my shame; you, to whose iniquitous avarice and vulgar ambition I fell a sacrifice, as much as I did to the profligacy and villany of Thomas Gourlay. But I care not—I have my ambition; it is a mother's, and more natural on that account. I have also my vengeance to gratify; for, father, we are your children, and vengeance is the family principle. Father, you must assist us—you must join us—you must lend us your perjury—supply us with false oaths, with deceitful accounts, with all that is necessary; for, father, it is to work out your own principles—that I may be able to die smiling—smiling that I have overreached and punished him at last. That, you know, will be a receipt in full for my shame and madness. Now, I say, father, you must do this, or I will kneel down and curse you."

The old man, as she proceeded, kept his eyes fixed upon her, first with a look of indifference; this, however, became agreeable and complacent; gradually his eye kindled as he caught her spirit, and when she had concluded, he ground his black old stumps of teeth together with a vindictive energy that was revolting, or at least would have been so to any others unless those that were present.

"Well, Ginty," he replied, "I have turned it over in my mind, and as helpin' you now will be givin' the black fellow an additional stab, I'll do it. Yes, my lad," he added, grinning rather maliciously, by the way, at the object of his promised support, "I will make a present of you to your father; and a thankful man he ought to be to have the like of you. I was sometimes for you, and sometimes against you; but, at all events, the old fellow must have you—for the present at least."

This was accompanied by another grin, which was, as usual, perfectly inexplicable to the others. But as he had expressed his assent and promised his assistance, they were glad to accept it on his own terms and in his own way.

"Well, then," he proceeded, "now that we've made up our minds to go through with it, I'll think over what's to be done—what's the best steps to take, and the best time and place to break it to him. This will require some time to think of it, and to put things together properly; so let us have a drop of something to drink, and we can meet again in few days."

Having partaken of the refreshment which was ordered in, they soon afterwards separated until another opportunity.

Ambrose Gray, with whose real name the reader is already acquainted, took but little part, as may have been perceived, in the discussion of a project which so deeply affected his own interests. When it was first discovered to him by his mother and uncle, he was much struck even at the bare probability of such an event. Subsequent reflection, however, induced him to look upon the whole scheme as an empty bubble, that could not bear the touch of a finger without melting into air. It was true he was naturally cunning, but then he was also naturally profligate and vicious; and although not without intellect, yet was he deficient in self-command to restrain himself when necessary. Altogether, his character was bad, and scarcely presented to any one a favorable aspect. When affected with liquor he was at once quarrelsome and cowardly—always the first to provoke a fight, and the first, also, to sneak out of it.

Soon after the disappearance of Sir Edward Gourlay's heir, the notion of removing the baronet's own son occurred, not to his mother, nor to her brother, but to old Corbet, who desired his son Charles, then a young man, and the baronet's foster-brother, as a preparatory step to his ultimate designs, to inform him that his illegitimate son was dead. Sir Thomas at this time had not assumed the title, nor taken possession of the immense estates.

"Mr. Gourlay," said Charles, "that child is dead; I was desired to tell you so by my father, who doesn't wish to speak to you himself upon the subject."

"Well," replied Mr. Gourlay, "what affair is that of mine?"

"Why," said the other, "as the unfortunate mother is insane, and without means of providing decently for its burial, he thinks it only reasonable that you should furnish money for that purpose—he, I know, won't."

"What do you mean by providing decently?" asked Mr. Gourlay. "What stuff that is!—throw the brat into a shell, and bury it. I am cursedly glad it's gone. There's half-a-crown, and pitch it into the nearest kennel. Why the deuce do you come to me with such a piece of information?"

Charles Corbet, being his father's son, looked at him, and we need not at any length describe the nature of that look nor the feeling it conveyed. This passed, but was not forgotten; and on being detailed by Charles Corbet to his father, the latter replied,

"Ah, the villain—that's his feelin', is it! Well, never mind, I'll punish him one day."

Some months after this he came into Mr. Gourlay's study, with a very solemn and anxious face, and said,

"I have something to say to you, sir."

"Well, Anthony, what is it you have to say to me?"

"Maybe I'm wrong, sir, and I know I oughtn't to alarm you or disturb your mind; but still I think I ought to put you on your guard."

"Confound your caution, sir; can't you come out with whatever you have to say at once?"

"Would it be possible, sir, that there could be any danger of the child bein' taken away like the other—like your brother's?"

"What do you mean—why do you ask such a question?"

"Bekaise, sir, I observed for the last few days a couple of strange men peepin' and pimpin' about the place, and wherever the child went they kept dodgin' afther him."

"But why should any one think of taking him away?"

"Hem!—well, I don't know, sir; but you know that the heir was taken away."

"Come, Anthony, be quiet—walls have ears; go on."

"What 'ud you think if there was sich a thing as revinge in the world? I'm not suspectin' any one, but at the same time, a woman's revinge is the worst and deepest of all revinges. You know very well that she suspects you—and, indeed, so does the world."

"But very wrongly, you know, Anthony," replied the baronet, with a smile dark as murder.

"Why, ay, to be sure," replied the instrument, squirting the tobacco spittle into the fire, and turning on him a grin that might be considered a suitable commentary upon the smile of his employer.

"But," added Mr. Gourlay, "what if it should be the father, instead of the son, they want?"

"But why would they be dodgin' about the child, sir?"

"True; it is odd enough. Well, I shall give orders to have him well watched."

"And, with the help o' God, I'll put a mark upon him that'll make him be known, at any rate, through all changes, barrin' they should take his life."

"How do you mean by a mark!" asked the other.

"I learnt it in the army, sir, when I was with Sir Edward. It's done by gunpowder. It can do no harm, and will at any time durin' his life make him known among millions. It can do no harm, at any rate, sir."

"Very well, Anthony—very well," replied Mr. Gourlay; "mark him as you like, and when it is done, let me see it."

In about a fortnight afterwards, old Corbet brought his son to him, and raising his left arm, showed him the child's initials distinctly marked on the under part of it, together with a cross and the family crest; all so plainly and neatly executed, that the father was surprised at it.

Nothing, however, happened at that time; vigilance began to relax as suspicion diminished, until one morning, about eight months afterwards, it was found that the child had disappeared. It is unnecessary to add, that every possible step was taken to discover him. Searches were made, the hue and cry was up, immense rewards were offered; but all in vain. From that day forth neither trace nor tidings of him could be found, and in the course of time he was given up, like the heir of the property, altogether for lost.



CHAPTER XXXII. Discovery of the Baronet's Son

—Who, however, is Shelved for a Time.

Lord Dunroe, as had already been agreed upon between him and her father, went directly to that worthy gentleman, that he might make a faithful report of the interview.

"Well, Dunroe," said the baronet, "what's the news? How did it go off?"

"Just as we expected," replied the other. "Vapors, entreaties, and indignation. I give you my honor, she asked me to become her advocate with you, in order to get released from the engagement. That was rather cool, wasn't it?"

"And what did you say?"

"Why, the truth is, I conducted the affair altogether on a new principle. I maintained that love should not be a necessary element in marriage; vindicated the rights of honest indifference, and said that it was against my system to marry any woman who was attached to me."

"Why, I remember preaching some such doctrine, in a bantering way, to her myself."

"Guided by this theory, I met her at every turn; but, nevertheless, there was a good deal of animated expostulation, tears, solicitations, and all that."

"I fear you have mismanaged the matter some way; if you have followed my advice, and done it with an appearance of common sense, so much the better. This would have required much tact, for Lucy is a girl very difficult to be imposed upon by appearances. I am the only person who can do so, but! that is because I approach her aided by my knowledge of her filial affection. As it is, however, these things are quite common. My own wife felt much the same way with myself, and yet we lived as happily as most people. Every young baggage must have her scenes and her sacrifices. Ah! what a knack they have got at magnifying everything! How do you do, my Lady Dunroe? half a dozen times repeated, however, will awaken her vanity, and banish all this girlish rodomontade."

"'Room for the Countess of Cullamore,' will soon follow," replied his lordship, laughing, "and that will be still better. The old peer, as Norton and I call him, is near the end of his journey, and will make his parting bow to us some of these days."

"Did she actually consent, though?" asked the father, somewhat doubtfully.

"Positively, Sir Thomas; make your mind easy upon that point. To be sure, there were protestations and entreaties, and God knows what; but still the consent was given."

"Exactly, exactly," replied her father; "I knew it would be so. Well, now, let us not lose much time about it. I told those lawyers to wait a little for further instructions, because I was anxious to hear how this interview would end, feeling some apprehension that she might relapse into obstinacy; but now that she has consented, we shall go on. They may meet to-morrow, and get the necessary writings drawn up; and then for the wedding."

"Will not my father's illness stand a little in the way?" asked Dunroe.

"Not a bit; why should it? But he really is not ill, only getting feeble and obstinate. The man is in his dotage. I saw him yesterday, and he refused, most perversely, to sanction the marriage until some facts shall come to his knowledge, of which he is not quite certain at present. I told him the young people would not wait; and he replied, that if I give you my daughter now, I shall do so at my peril; and that I may consider myself forewarned. I know he is thinking of your peccadilloes, my lord, for he nearly told me as much before. I think, indeed, he is certainly doting, otherwise there is no understanding him."

"You are light, Sir Thomas; the fuss he makes about morality and religion is a proof that he is. In the meantime, I agree with you that there is little time to be lost. The lawyers must set to work immediately; and the sooner the better, for I am naturally impatient."

They then shook hands very cordially, and Dunroe took his leave.

The reader may have observed that in this conversation the latter reduced his account of the interview to mere generalities, a mode of reporting it which was agreeable to both, as it spared each of them some feeling. Dunroe, for instance, never mentioned a syllable of Lucy's having frankly avowed her passion for another; neither did Sir Thomas make the slightest allusion to the settled disinclination to marry him which he knew she all along felt. Indifferent, however, as Dunroe naturally was to high-minded feeling or principle, he could not summon courage to dwell upon this attachment of Lucy to another. A consciousness of his utter meanness and degradation of spirit in consenting to marry any woman under such circumstances, filled him with shame even to glance at it. He feared, besides, that if her knavish father had heard it, he would at once have attributed his conduct to its proper motives—that is to say, an eagerness to get into the possession and enjoyment of the large fortune to which she was entitled. He himself, in his conversations with the baronet, never alluded to the subject of dowry, but placed his anxiety for the match altogether to the account of love. So far, then, each was acting a fraudulent part toward the other.

The next morning, about the hour of eleven o'clock, Thomas Corbet—foster-brother to the baronet, though a much younger man—sent word that he wished to see him on particular business. This was quite sufficient; for, as Corbet was known to be more deeply in his confidence than any other man living, he was instantly admitted.

"Well, Corbet," said his master, "I hope there is nothing wrong."

"Sir Thomas," replied the other, "you have a right to be a happy and a thankful man this morning; and although I cannot mention the joyful intelligence with which I am commissioned, without grief and shame for the conduct of a near relation of my own, yet I feel this to be the happiest day of my life."

"What the deuce!" exclaimed the baronet, starting to his feet—"how is this? What is the intelligence?"

"Rejoice, Sir Thomas—rejoice and be thankful; but, in the meantime, pray sit down, if you please, and don't be too much agitated. I know how evil news, or anything that goes in opposition to your will, affects you: the two escapes, for instance, of that boy."

"Ha! I understand you now," exclaimed the baronet, whilst the very eyes danced in his head with a savage delight that was frightful, and, for the sake of human nature, painful to look upon, "I understand you now, Corbet—he is dead! eh? Is it not so? Yes, yes—it is—it is true. Well, you shall have a present of one hundred pounds for the intelligence. You shall, and that in the course of five minutes."

"Sir Thomas," replied Corbet, calmly, "have patience; the person, Fenton, you speak about, is still alive; but to all intents and purposes, dead to you and for you. This, however, is another and a far different affair. Your son has been found!"

The baronet's brow fell: he looked grave, and more like a man disappointed than anything else. In fact, the feeling associated with the recovery of his son was not strong enough to balance or counteract that which he experienced in connection with the hoped-for death of the other. He recovered himself, however, and exclaimed,

"Found! Tom found!—little Tom found! My God! When—where—how?"

"Have the goodness to sit down, sir," replied Corbet, "and I will tell you."

The baronet took a seat, but the feeling of disappointment, although checked by the intelligence of his son, was not extinguished, and could still be read in his countenance. He turned his eyes upon Corbet and said,

"Well, Corbet, go on; he is not dead, though?"

"No, sir; thank God, he is not."

"Who—who—are you speaking of? Oh, I forgot—proceed. Yes, Corbet, you are right; I am very much disturbed. Well, speak about my son. Where is he? In what condition of life? Is he a gentleman—a beggar—a profligate—what?"

"You remember, Sir Thomas—hem—you remember that unfortunate affair with my sister?"

Corbet's face became deadly pale as he spoke, and his voice grew, by degrees, hollow and husky; yet he was both calm and cool, as far, at least, as human observation could form a conjecture.

"Of course I do; it was a painful business; but the girl was a fool for losing her senses."

"Hear me, Sir Thomas. When her child died, you may remember my father sent me to you, as its parent, for the means of giving it decent interment. You cannot forget your words to me on that occasion. I confess I felt them myself as very offensive. What, then, must his mother have suffered—wild, unsettled, and laboring, as she was, under a desperate sense of the injury she had experienced at your hands?"

"But why have mentioned it to her?"

"I confess I was wrong there; but I did so to make her feel more severely the consequences of her own conduct. I did it more in anger to her than to you. My words, however, instead of producing violence or outrage on my sister, seemed to make her settle down into a fearful silence, which none of us could get her out of for several days. It struck us that her unfortunate malady had taken a new turn, and so it did."

"Well? Well? Well?"

"Soon after that, your son, Master Thomas, disappeared. You may understand me now: it was she who took him."

"Ah! the vindictive vagabond!" exclaimed the baronet.

"Have patience, Sir Thomas. She took your little boy with no kind intention toward him: her object was to leave you without a son; her object, in fact, was, at first, to murder him, in consequence of your want, as she thought, of all paternal affection for him she had just lost, and, in short, of your whole conduct toward her. The mother's instinct, however, proved stronger than her revenge. She could not take away the child's life for the thought of her own; but she privately placed him with an uncle of ours, a classical hedge-school-master, in a remote part of the kingdom, with whom he lived under a feigned name, and from whom he received a good education."

"But where is he now?" asked the other. "How does he live? Why not bring him here?"

"He must first wait your pleasure, you know, Sir Thomas. He's in town, and has been in town for some time, a student in college."

"That's very good, indeed; we must have him out of college, though. Poor Lucy will go distracted with joy, to know that she has now a brother. Bring him here, Corbet; but stop, stay—his appearance now—let me see—caution, Corbet—caution. We must look before us. Miss Gourlay, you know, is about to be married. Dunroe, I understand; he cares little or nothing personally about the girl—it is her fortune, but principally her inheritance, he loves. It is true, he doesn't think that I even suspect this, much less feel certain of it. How does the young fellow look, though? Good looking—eh?"

"Exceedingly like his father, sir; as you will admit on seeing him."

"He must have changed considerably, then; for I remember he was supposed to bear a nearer resemblance to his mother and her family, the only thing which took him down a little in my affection. But hold; hang it, I am disturbed more than I have been this long time. What was I speaking of, Corbet? I forgot—by the way, I hope this is not a bad sign of my health."

"You were talking of Dunroe, sir, and Miss Gourlay's marriage."

"Oh, yes, so I was. Well—yes—here it is, Corbet—is it not possible that the appearance of this young man at this particular crisis—stepping in, as he does, between Dunroe and the very property his heart is set upon—might knock the thing to pieces? and there is all that I have had my heart set upon for years—that grand project of ambition for my daughter—gone to the winds, and she must put up with some rascally commoner, after all."

"It is certainly possible, sir; and, besides, every one knows that Lord Dunroe is needy, and wants money at present very much."

"In any event, Corbet, it is our best policy to keep this discovery a profound secret till after the marriage, when it can't affect Miss Gourlay, or Lady Dunroe as she will then be."

"Indeed, I agree with you, Sir Thomas; but, in the meantime, you had better see your son; he is impatient to come to you and his sister. It was only last night that the secret of his birth was made known to him."

"By what name does he go?"

"By the name of Ambrose Gray, sir; but I cannot tell you why my sister gave him such a name, nor where she got it. She was at the time very unsettled. Of late her reason has returned to her very much, thank God, although she has still touches of her unfortunate complaint; but they are slight, and are getting more so every time they come. I trust she will soon be quite well."

The baronet fixed his eye upon the speaker with peculiar steadiness.

"Corbet," said he, "you know you have lost a great deal of my confidence of late. The knowledge of certain transactions which reached that strange fellow who stopped in the Mitre, you were never able to account for."

"And never will, sir, I fear; I can make nothing of that."

"It must be between you and your father, then; and if I thought so—"

He paused, however, but feared to proceed with anything in the shape of a threat, feeling that, so far as the fate of poor Fenton was concerned, he still lay at their mercy.

"It may have been my father, Sir Thomas, and I am inclined to think it must, too, as there was no one else could. Our best plan, however, is to keep quiet and not provoke him. A very short time will put us out of his power. Fenton's account with this world is nearly settled."

"I wish, with all my heart, it was closed," observed the other; "it's a dreadful thing to feel that you are liable to every accident, and never beyond the reach of exposure. To me such a thing would be death."

"You need entertain no apprehension, Sir Thomas. The young man is safe, at last; he will never come to light, you may rest assured. But about your son—will you not see him?"

"Certainly; order the carriage, and fetch; him—quietly and as secretly as you can, observe—his sister must see him, too; and in order to prepare her, I must first see her. Go now, and lose no time about it."

"There is no necessity for a carriage, Sir Thomas; I can have him here in a quarter of an hour."

Sir Thomas went to the drawing-room with the expectation of finding Lucy there—a proof that the discovery of his son affected him very much, and deeply; for, in general his habit when he wanted to speak with her was to have her brought to the library, which was his favorite apartment. She was not there, however, and without ringing, or making any further inquiries, he proceeded to an elegant little boudoir, formerly occupied by her mother and herself, before this insane persecution had rendered her life so wretched. The chief desire of her heart now was to look at and examine and contemplate every object that belonged to that mother, or in which she ever took an interest. On this account, she had of late selected this boudoir as her favorite apartment; and here, lying asleep upon a sofa, her cheek resting upon one arm, the baronet found her. He approached calmly, and with a more extraordinary combination of feelings than perhaps he had ever experienced in his life, looked upon her; and whether it was the unprotected helplessness of sleep, or the mournful impress of suffering and sorrow, that gave such a touching charm to her beauty, or whether it was the united influence of both, it is difficult to say; but the fact was, that for an instant he felt one touch of pity at his heart.

"She is evidently unhappy," thought he, as he contemplated her; "and that face, lovely as it is, has become the exponent of misery and distress. Goodness me! how wan she is! how pale! and how distinctly do those beautiful blue veins run through her white and death-like temples! Perhaps, after all, I am wrong in urging on this marriage. But what can I do? I have no fixed principle from any source sufficiently authentic to guide me; no creed which I can believe. This life is everything to us; for what do we know, what can we know, of another? And yet, could it be that for my indifference to what is termed revealed truth, God Almighty is now making me the instrument of my own punishment? But how can I receive this doctrine? for here, before my eyes, is not the innocent suffering as much, if not more, than the guilty, even granting that I am so? And if I am perversely incredulous, is not here my son restored to me, as if to reward my unbelief? It is a mysterious maze, and I shall never get out of it; a curse to know that the most we can ever know is, that we know—nothing. Yet I will go on with this marriage. Pale as that brow is, I must see it encircled by the coronet of a countess; I must see her, as she ought to be, high in rank as she is in truth, in virtue, in true dignity. I shall force the world to make obeisance to her; and I shall teach her afterwards to despise it. She once said to me, 'And is it to gain the applause of a world you hate and despise, that you wish to exalt me to such a bawble?'—meaning the coronet. I replied, 'Yes, and for that very reason.' I shall not now disturb her."

He was about to leave the room, when he! noticed that her bosom began suddenly and rapidly to heave, as if by some strong and fearful agitation; and a series of close, pain-fed sobbings proceeded from her half-closed lips. This tumult went on for a little, when at length it was terminated by one long, wild scream, that might be supposed to proceed from the very agony of despair itself; and opening her eyes, she started up, her! face, if possible, paler than before, and her eyes filled as if with the terror of some horrible vision.

"No," she said, "the sacrifice is complete—I am your wife; but there is henceforth an eternal gulf between us, across which you shall never drag me."

On gazing about her with wild and disturbed looks, she paused for moment, and, seeing her father, she rose up, and with a countenance changed from its wildness to one in which was depicted an expression so woe-begone, so deplorable, so full of sorrow, that it was scarcely in human nature, hardened into the induration of the world's worst spirit, not to feel its irresistible influence. She then threw her arms imploringly and tenderly about his neck, and looking into his eyes as if she were supplicating for immortal salvation at his hands, she said, "Oh, papa, have compassion on me."

"What's the matter, Lucy? what's the matter, my love?"

But she only repeated the words, "Oh, papa, have pity on me! have mercy on me, papa! Save me from destruction—from despair—from madness!"

"You don't answer me, child. You have been dreaming, and are not properly awake."

Still, however, the arms—the beautiful arms—clung around his neck; and still the mournful supplication was repeated.

"Oh, papa, have pity upon me! Look at me! Am I not your daughter? Have mercy upon your daughter, papa!" And still she clung to him; and still those eyes, from which the tears now flowed in torrents, were imploring him, and gazing through his into the very soul within him; then she kissed his lips, and hung upon him as upon her last stay; and the soft but melting accents were again breathed mournfully and imploringly as before. "Oh, have pity upon me, beloved papa—have pity upon your child!"

"What do you mean, Lucy? what are you asking, my dear girl? I am willing to do anything I can to promote your happiness. What is it you want?"

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