Dr. Sombre, who now stood with his finger between the leaves of his book, where its frequent pressure had nearly obliterated the word "obedience" in the marriage ceremony, said,
"My dear children, it is a custom of mine—and it is so because I conceive it a duty—to give you a few preliminary words of advice, a little homily, as it were, upon the nature of the duties into which you are about to enter."
This intimation was received with solemn silence, if we except the word "Attention!" which proceeded in a respectful and earnest, but subdued tone from old Sam. The Doctor looked about him a little startled, but again proceeded,
"Marriage, my children, may be divided into three heads: first, its duties; next, its rights; and lastly, its tribulations. I place tribulations last, my children, because, if it were not for its tribulations—"
"My good friend," said Sir Thomas, with impatience, "we will spare you the little homily you speak of, until after the ceremony. I dare say it is designed for married life and married people; but as those for whose especial advantage you are now about to give it are not man and wife yet, I think you had better reserve it until you make them so. Proceed, Doctor, if you please, with the ceremony."
"I have not the pleasure of knowing you, sir," replied the Doctor; "I shall be guided here only by Sir Thomas Gourlay himself, as father of the bride."
"Why, Doctor, what the deuce is the matter with you? Am not I Sir Thomas Gourlay?"
The Doctor put up his spectacles on his forehead, and looking at him more closely, exclaimed,
"Upon my word, and so you are. I beg your pardon, Sir Thomas, but with respect to this dejeuner—homily, I would say—its enunciation here is exceedingly appropriate, and it is but short, and will not occupy more than about half-an-hour, or three-quarters, which is only a brief space when the happiness of a whole life is concerned. Well, my children, I was speaking about this dejuner," he proceeded; "the time, as I said, will not occupy more than half-an-hour, or probably three-quarters; and, indeed, if our whole life were as agreeably spent—I refer now especially to married life—its tribulations would not—"
Here he was left once more in his tribulations, for as he uttered the last word, Gibson returned, pronouncing in a distinct but respectful voice, "The Earl of Cullamore;" and that nobleman, leaning upon the arm of his confidential servant, Morty O'Flaherty, immediately entered the room.
His venerable look, his feeble state of health, but, above all his amiable character, well known as it was for everything that was honorable and benevolent, produced the effect which might be expected. All who were not standing, immediately rose up to do him reverence and honor. He inclined his head in token of acknowledgment, but even before the baronet had time to address him, he said,
"Sir Thomas Gourlay, has this marriage yet taken place?"
"No, my lord," replied Sir Thomas, "and I am glad it has not. Your lordship's presence is a sanction and an honor which, considering your state of ill-health, is such as we must all duly appreciate. I am delighted to see you here, my lord; allow me to help your lordship to a seat."
"I thank you, Sir Thomas," replied his lordship; "but before I take a seat, or before you proceed further in this business, I beg to have some private conversation with you."
"With infinite pleasure, my lord," replied the baronet. "Dr. Sombre, whilst his lordship and I are speaking, you may as well go on with the ceremony. When it is necessary, call me, and I shall give the bride away."
"Dr. Sombre," said his lordship, "do not proceed with the ceremony, until I shall have spoken to Miss Gourlay's father. If it be necessary that I should speak more plainly, I say, I forbid the banns. You will not have to wait long, Doctor; but by no means proceed with the ceremony until you shall have permission from Sir Thomas Gourlay."
In general, any circumstance that tends to prevent a marriage, where all the parties are assembled to witness it, and to enjoy the festivities that attend it, is looked upon with a strong feeling of dissatisfaction. Here, however, the case was different. Scarcely an individual among them, with the exception of those who were interested in the event, that did not feel a sense of relief at what had occurred in consequence of the appearance of Lord Cullamore. Dunroe's face from that moment was literally a sentence of guilt against himself. It became blank, haggard, and of a ghastly white; while his hope of securing the rich and lovely heiress died away within him. He resolved, however, to make a last effort.
"Roberts," said he, "go to Sombre, and whisper to him to proceed with the ceremony. Get him to perform it, and you are sure of a certain sister of mine, who I rather suspect is not indifferent to you."
"I must decline to do so, my lord," replied Roberts. "After what has just occurred, I feel that it would not be honorable in me, neither would it be respectful to your father. However I may esteem your sister, my lord, and appreciate her virtues, yet I am but a poor ensign, as you know, and not in a capacity to entertain any pretensions—"
"Well, then," replied Dunroe, interrupting him, "bring that old dog Sombre here, will you? I trust you will so far oblige me."
Roberts complied with this; but the Doctor was equally firm.
"Doctor," said his lordship, after urging several arguments, "you will oblige Sir Thomas Gourlay very much, by having us married when they come in. It's only a paltry matter of property, that Sir Thomas acceded to this morning. Pray, proceed with the ceremony, Doctor, and make two lovers happy."
"The word of your honorable father," replied the Doctor, "shall ever be a law to me. He was always a most hospitable man; and, unless my bishop, or the chief secretary, or, what is better still, the viceroy himself, I do not know a nobleman more worthy of respect. No, my lord, there is not in the peerage a nobleman who—gave better dinners."
What with this effort on the part of Dunroe, and a variety of chat that took place upon the subject of the interruption, at least five-and-twenty minutes had elapsed, and the company began to feel somewhat anxious and impatient, when Sir Thomas Gourlay entered; and, gracious heaven, what a frightful change had taken place in him! Dismay, despair, wretchedness, misery, distraction, frenzy, were all struggling for expression in his countenance. He was followed by Lord Cullamore, who, when about to proceed home, had changed his mind, and returned for Lady Emily. He advanced, still supported by Morty, and approaching Lucy, took her hand, and said,
"Miss Gourlay, you are saved; and I thank God that I was made the instrument of rescuing you from wretchedness and despair, for I read both in your face. And now," he proceeded, addressing the spectators, "I beg it to be understood, that in the breaking off of this marriage, there is no earthly blame, not a shadow of imputation to be attributed to Miss Gourlay, who is all honor, and delicacy, and truth. Her father, if left to himself, would not now permit her to become the wife of my son; who, I am sorry to say, is utterly unworthy of her."
"Attention!" once more was heard from the quarter in which old Sam stood, as if bearing testimony to the truth of his lordship's assertion. "John," said the latter, "you may thank your friend, Mr. Norton, for enabling me, within the last hour, to save this admirable girl from the ruin which her union with you would have entailed upon her. You will now know how to appreciate so faithful and honorable a friend."
All that Dunroe must have felt, may be easily conceived by the reader. The baronet, however, becomes the foremost figure in the group. The strong, the cunning, the vehement, the overbearing, the plausible, the unbelieving, the philosophical, and the cruel—these were the divided streams, as it were, of his character, which all, however, united to make up the dark and terrible current of his great ambition; great, however, only as a passion and a moral impulse of action, but puny, vile, and base in its true character and elements. Here, then, stood the victim of his own creed, the baffled antagonist of God's providence, who despised religion, and trampled upon its obligations; the man who strove to make himself his own deity, his own priest, and who administered to his guilty passions on the altar of a hardened and corrupted heart—here he stood; now, struck, stunned, prostrated; whilst the veil which had hitherto concealed the hideousness of his principles, was raised up, as if by an awful hand, that he might know what it is for man to dash himself against the bosses of the Almighty's buckler. His heart beat, and his brain throbbed; all presence of mind, almost all consciousness, abandoned him, and he only felt that the great object of his life was lost—the great plan, to the completion of which he had devoted all his energies, was annihilated. He imagined that the apartment was filled with gloom and fire, and that the faces he saw about him were mocking at him, and disclosing to each other in whispers the dreadful extent, the unutterable depth of his despair and misery. He also felt a sickness of heart, that was in itself difficult to contend with, and a weakness about the knees that rendered it nearly impossible for him to stand. His head, too, became light and giddy, and his brain reeled so much that he tottered, and was obliged to sit, in order to prevent himself from falling. All, however, was not to end here. This was but the first blow.
Lord Cullamore was now about to depart; for he, too, had become exceedingly weak and exhausted, by the unusual exercise and agitation to which he had exposed himself.
Old Anthony Corbet then stepped forward, and said,
"Don't go, my lord. There's strange things to come to light this day and this hour, for this is the day and this is the hour of my vengeance."
"I do not understand you," replied his lordship; "I was scarcely equal to the effort of coming here, and I feel myself very feeble."
"Get his lordship some wine," said the old man, addressing his son. "You will be good enough to stop, my lord," he proceeded, "for a short time. You are a magistrate, and your presence here may be necessary."
"Ha!" exclaimed his lordship, surprised at such language: "this may be serious. Proceed, my friend: what disclosures have you to make?"
Old Corbet did not answer him, but turning round to the baronet, who was not then in a capacity to hear or observe anything apart from the terrible convulsions of agony he was suffering, he looked upon him, his keen old eyes in a blaze, his lips open and their expression sharpened by the derisive and satanic triumph that was legible in the demon sneer which kept them apart.
"Thomas Gourlay!" he exclaimed in a sharp, piercing voice of authority and conscious power, "Thomas Gourlay, rise up and stand forward, your day of doom is come."
"Who is it that has the insolence to call my father Thomas Gourlay under this roof?" asked his son Thomas, alias Mr. Ambrose Gray. "Begone, old man, you are mad."
"Bastard and impostor!" readied Anthony, "you appear before your time. Thomas Gourlay, did you hear me?"
By an effort—almost a superhuman effort—the baronet succeeded in turning his attention to what was going forward.
"What is this?" he exclaimed; "is this a tumult? Who dares to stir up a tumult in such a scene as this? Begone!" said he, addressing several strangers, who appeared to take a deep interest in what was likely to ensue. The house was his own, and, as a matter of course, every one left the room with the exception of those immediately connected with both families, and with the incidents of our story.
"Let no one go," said Anthony, "that I appointed to come here."
"What!" said Dunroe, after the strangers had gone, and with a look that indicated his sense of the baronet's duplicity, "is this gentleman your son?"
"My acknowledged son, sir," replied the other.
"And, pray, were you aware of that this morning?"
"As clearly and distinctly as you were that you had no earthly claim to the title which you bear, nor to the property of your father," replied the baronet, with a look that matched that of the other. There they stood, face to face, each detected in his dishonor and iniquity, and on that account disqualified to recriminate upon each other, for their mutual perfidy.
"Corbet," said the baronet, now recovering himself, "what is this? Respect my house and family—respect my guests. Go home; I pardon you this folly, because I see that you have been too liberal in your potations this morning."
"You mistake me, sir," replied the adroit old man; "I am going to do you a service. Call forward Thomas Gourlay."
This considerably relieved the baronet, who took it for granted that it was his son whom he had called in the first instance.
"What!" exclaimed Lord Cullamore, "is it possible, Sir Thomas, that you have recovered your lost son?"
"It is, my lord," replied the other. "Thomas, come over till I present you to my dear friend Lord Cullamore."
Young Gourlay advanced, and the earl was in the act of extending his hand to him, when old Anthony interposed, by drawing it back.
"Stop, my lord," said he; "that hand is the hand of a man of honor, but you must not soil it by touchin' that of a bastard and impostor."
"That is my son, my lord," replied Sir Thomas, "and I acknowledge him as such."
"So you may, sir," replied Corbet, "and so you ought; but I say that if he is your son, he is also my grandson."
"Corbet," said his lordship, "you had better explain yourself. This, Sir Thomas, is a matter very disagreeable to me, and which I should not wish even to hear; but as it is possible that the interests of my dear friend here. Lady Gourlay, may be involved in it, I think it my duty not to go."
"Her ladyship's interests are involved in it, my lord," replied Corbet; "and you are right to stay, if it was only for her sake. Now, my lady," he added, addressing her, "I see how you are sufferin', but I ask it as a favor that you will keep yourself quiet, and let me go on."
"Proceed, then," said Lord Cullamore; "and do you, Lady Gourlay, restrain your emotion, if you can."
"Thomas Gourlay—I spake now to the father, my lord," said Corbet.
"Sir Thomas Gourlay, sir!" said the baronet, haughtily and indignantly, "Sir Thomas Gourlay!"
"Thomas Gourlay," persisted Corbet, "it is now nineteen years, or thereabouts, since you engaged me, myself—I am the man—to take away the son of your brother, and you know the ordhers you gave me. I did so: I got a mask, and took him away with me on the pretence of bringin' him to see a puppet-show. Well, he disappeared, and your mind, I suppose, was aisy. I tould you all was right, and every year from that to this you have paid me a pension of fifty pounds."
"The man is mad, my lord," said Sir Thomas; "and, under all circumstances, he makes himself out a villain."
"I can perceive no evidence of madness, so far," replied his lordship; "proceed."
"None but a villain would have served your purposes; but if I was a villain, it wasn't to bear out your wishes, but to satisfy my own revenge."
"But what cause for revenge could you have had against him?" asked, his lordship.
"What cause?" exclaimed the old man, whilst his countenance grew dark as night, "what cause against the villain that seduced my daughter—that brought disgrace and shame upon my family—that broke through the ties of nature, which are always held sacred in our country, for she was his own foster-sister, my lord, suckled at the same breasts, nursed in the same arms, and fed and clothed and nourished by the same hand;—yes, my lord, that brought shame and disgrace and madness, my lord—ay, madness upon my child, that he deceived and corrupted, under a solemn oath of marriage. Do you begin to undherstand me now, my lord?"
His lordship made no reply, but kept his eyes intently fixed upon him.
"Well, my lord, soon after the disappearance of Lady Gourlay's child, his own went in the same way; and no search, no hunt, no attempt to get him ever succeeded. He, any more than the other, could not be got. My lord, it was I removed him. I saw far before me, and it was I removed him; yes, Thomas Gourlay, it was I left you childless—at least of a son."
"You must yourself see, my lord," said the baronet, "that—that—when is this marriage to take place?—what is this?—I am quite confused; let me see, let me see—yes, he is such a villain, my lord, that you must perceive he is entitled to no credit—to none whatsoever."
"Well, my lord," proceeded Corbet.
"I think, my lord," said Thomas Corbet, stepping forward, "that I ought to acquaint your lordship with my father's infirmity. Of late, my lord, he has been occasionally unsettled in his senses. I can prove this on oath."
"And if what he states be true," replied his lordship, "I am not surprised at it; it is only right we should hear him, however, as I have already said, I can perceive no traces of insanity about him."
"Ah, my lord," replied the old man, "it would be well for him if he could prove me mad, for then his nephew, the bastard, might have a chance of succeeding to the Gourlay title, and the estates. But I must go on. Well, my lord, after ten years or so, I came one day to Mr. Gourlay—he was then called Sir Thomas—and I tould him that I had relented, and couldn't do with his brother's son as I had promised, and as he wished me. 'He is living,' said I, 'and I wish you would take him undher your own care.' I won't wait to tell you the abuse I got from him for not fulfillin' his wishes; but he felt he was in my power, and was forced to continue my pension and keep himself quiet. Well, my lord, I brought him the boy one night, undher the clouds of darkness, and we conveyed him to a lunatic asylum."
Here he was interrupted by something between a groan and a scream from Lady Gourlay, who, however, endeavored immediately to restrain her feelings.
"From that day to this, my lord, the cruelty he received, sometimes in one madhouse and sometimes in another, sometimes in England and sometimes in Ireland, it would be terrible to know. Everything that could wear away life was attempted, and the instruments in that black villain's hands were well paid for their cruelty. At length, my lord, he escaped, and wandhered about till he settled down in the town of Ballytrain. Thomas Gourlay—then Sir Thomas—had been away with his family for two or three years in foreign parts, but when he went to his seat, Red Hall, near that town, he wasn't long there till he found out that the young man named Fenton—something unsettled, they said, in his mind—was his brother's son, for the baronet had been informed of his escape. Well, he got him once more into his clutches, and in the dead hour of night, himself—you there, Thomas Gourlay—one of your villain servants, by name Gillespie, and my own son—you that stand there, Thomas Corbet—afther making the poor boy dead drunk, brought him off to one of the mad-houses that he had been in before. He, Mr. Gourlay, then—or Sir Thomas, if you like—went with them a part of the way. Providence, my lord, is never asleep, however. The keeper of the last mad-house was more of a devil than a man. The letter of the baronet was written to the man that had been there before him, but he was dead, and this villain took the boy and the money that had been sent with him, and there he suffered what I am afraid he will never get the betther of."
"But what became of Sir Thomas Gourlay's son?" asked his lordship; "and where now is Lady Gourlay's?"
"They are both in this room, my lord. Now, Thomas Gourlay, I will restore your son to you. Advance, Black Baronet," said the old man, walking over to Fenton, with a condensed tone of vengeance and triumph in his voice and features, that filled all present with awe. "Come, now, and look upon your own work—think, if it will comfort you, upon what you made your own flesh and blood suffer. There he is, Black Baronet; there is your son—dead!"
A sudden murmur and agitation took place as he pointed to Fenton; but there was now something of command, nay, absolutely of grandeur, in his revenge, as well as in his whole manner.
"Keep quiet, all of you," he exclaimed, raising his arm with a spirit of authority and power; "keep quiet, I say, and don't disturb the dead. I am not done."
"I must interrupt you a moment," said Lord Dunroe. "I thought the person—the unfortunate young man here—was the son of Sir Thomas's brother?"
"And so did he," replied Corbet; "but I will make the whole thing simple at wanst. When he was big enough to be grown out of his father's recollection, I brought back his own son to him as the son of his brother. And while the black villain was huggin' himself with delight that all the sufferings, and tortures, and hellish scourgings, and chains, and cells, and darkness, and damp, and cruelty of all shapes, were breakin' down the son of his brother to death—the heir that stood between himself and his unlawful title, and his unlawful property—instead of that, they were all inflicted upon his own lawfully begotten son, who now lies there—dead!"
"What is the matter with Sir Thomas Gourlay?" said his lordship; "what is wrong?"
Sir Thomas's conduct, whilst old Corbet was proceeding to detail these frightful and harrowing developments, gave once or twice strong symptoms of incoherency, more, indeed, by his action than his language. He seized, for instance, the person next him, unfortunate Dr. Sombre, and after squeezing his arm until it became too painful to bear, he ground his teeth, looked into his face, and asked, "Do you think—would you swear—that—that—ay—that there is a God?" Then, looking at Corbet, and trying to recollect himself, he exclaimed, "Villain, demon, devil;" and he then struck or rather throttled the Doctor, as he sat beside him. They succeeded, however, in composing him, but his eyes were expressive of such wildness and horror and blood-shot frenzy, that one or two of them sat close to him, for the purpose of restraining his tendency to violence.
Lady Gourlay, on hearing that Fenton was not her son, wept bitterly, exclaiming, "Alas! I am twice made childless." But Lucy, who had awakened out of the deathlike stupor of misery which had oppressed her all the morning, now became conscious of the terrible disclosures which old Corbet was making; and on hearing that Fenton was, or rather had been, her brother, she flew to him, and on looking at his pale, handsome, but lifeless features, she threw her arms around him, kissed his lips in an agony of sorrow, and exclaimed, "And is it thus we meet, my brother! No word to recognize your sister? No glance of that eye, that is closed forever, to welcome me to your heart? Oh! miserable fate, my brother! We meet in death. You are now with our mother; and Lucy, your sister, whom you never saw, will soon join you. You are gone! Your wearied and broken spirit fled from disgrace and sorrow. Yes; I shall soon meet you, where your lips will not be passive to the embraces of a sister, and where your eyes will not be closed against those looks of affection and tenderness which she was prepared to give you, but which you could not receive. Ah, here there is no repugnance of the heart, as there was in the other instance. Here are my blessed mother's features; and nature tells me that you are—oh, distressing sight!—that you were my brother."
"Keep silence," exclaimed Corbet, "you must hear me out. Thomas Gourlay, there lies your son; I don't know what you may feel now that you know he's your own—and well you know it;—but I know his sufferings gave you very little trouble so long as you thought that he was the child of the widow of your brother that was dead. Well now, my lord," he proceeded, "you might think I've had very good revenge upon Thomas Gourlay; but there's more to come."
"Attention!" from old Sam, in a voice that startled almost every one present.
"Yes, my lord, I must fulfil my work. Stand forward, Sir Edward Gourlay. Stand forward, and go to your affectionate mother's arms."
"I fear the old man is unsettled, certainly," said his lordship. "Sir Edward Gourlay!—there is no Sir Edward Gourlay here."
"Attention, Ned!" exclaimed old Sam, again taking the head of his cane out of his mouth, where it had got a merciless mumbling for some time past. "Attention, Ned! you're called, my boy."
Old Corbet went over to Ensign Roberts, and taking him by the hand, led him to Lady Gourlay, exclaiming, "There, my lady, is your son, and proud you may be out of him. There is the real heir of the Gourlay name and the Gourlay property. Look at him and his cousin, your niece, and see how they resemble one another. Look at his father's features in his face; but I have plenty of proof, full satisfaction to give you besides."
Lady Gourlay became pale as death. "Mysterious and just Providence," she exclaimed, "can this be true? But it is—it must—there are the features of his departed father—his figure—his every look. He is mine!—he is mine! My heart recognizes him. Oh, my son!—my child!—are you at length restored to me?"
Young Roberts was all amazement. Whilst Lady Gourlay spoke, he looked over at old Sam, whose son he actually believed himself to be (for the fine old fellow had benevolently imposed on him), and seemed anxious to know what this new parentage, now ascribed to him, could mean.
"All right, Ned! Corbet is good authority: but although I knew you were not mine, I could never squeeze the truth out of him as to who your father was. It's true, in spite of all he said, I had suspicions; but what could I do?—-I could prove nothing."
We will not describe this restoration of the widow's son. Our readers can easily conceive it, and, accordingly, to their imagination we will leave it.
It was attended, however, by an incident which we cannot pass over without some notice. Lady Emily, on witnessing the extraordinary turn which had so providentially taken place in the fate and fortune of her lover, was observed by Mrs. Mainwaring to grow very pale. A consciousness of injury, which our readers will presently understand, prevented her from offering assistance, but running over to Lucy, she said, "I fear, Miss Gourlay, that Lady Emily is ill."
Lucy, who was all tenderness, left her brother, over whom she had been weeping, and flew to her assistance just in time to prevent her from falling off her chair. She had swooned. Water, however, and essences, and other appliances, soon restored her; and on recovering she cast her eyes about the room as if to search for some one. Lady Gourlay had her arm round her, and was chafing her temples at the time. Those lovely fawn-like eyes of hers had not far to search. Roberts, now young Sir Edward Gourlay, had been standing near, contemplating her beautiful features, and deeply alarmed by her illness, when their eyes met; and, to the surprise of Lucy Gourlay, a blush so modest, so beautiful, so exquisite, but yet so legible in its expression, took place of the paleness which had been there before. She looked up, saw the direction of her son's eyes, then looked significantly at Lucy, and smiled. The tell-tale blush, in fact, discovered the state of their hearts, and never was a history of pure and innocent love more appropriately or beautifully told.
This significant little episode did not last long; and when Lady Emily found herself recovered, Thomas Corbet advanced, and said: "I don't know what you mean, father, by saying that the young man who has just died was Sir Thomas Gourlay's son. You know in your heart that this"—pointing to his nephew—"is his true and legitimate heir. You know, too, that his illegitimate son has been dead for years, and that I myself saw him buried."
"My lord, pay attention to what I'll speak," said his father. "If the bastard died, and if my son was at his burial, and saw him laid in the grave, he can tell us where that grave is to be found, at least. His father, however, will remember the tattooing."
The unexpected nature of the question, and its direct bearing upon the circumstance before them, baffled Thomas Corbet, who left the room, affecting to be too indignant to reply.
"Now," proceeded his father, "he knows he has stated a falsehood. I have proof for every word I said, and for every circumstance. There's a paper," he added, "a pound note, that will prove one link in the chain, for the very person's name that is written on it by the poor young man himself, I have here. He can prove the mark on his neck, when in outlier despair, the poor creature made an attempt on his own life with a piece of glass. And what is more, I have the very clothes they both wore when I took them away. In short, I have everything full and clear; but I did not let either my son or daughter know of my exchangin' the childre', and palmin' Thomas Gourlay's own son on him as the son of his brother. That saicret I kept to myself, knowin' that I couldn't trust them. And now, Thomas Gourlay," he said, "my revenge is complete. There you stand, a guilty and a disgraced man; and with all your wisdom, and wealth, and power, what were you but a mere tool and puppet in my hands up to this hour? There you stand, without a house that you can call your own—stripped of your false title—of your false property—but not altogether of your false character, for the world knew pretty well what that was."
Corbet's daughter then came forward, and laying her hand on the baronet's shoulder, said, "Do you know me, Thomas Gourlay?"
"No," replied the other, looking at her with fury; "you are a spectre; I have seen you before; you appeared to me once, and your words were false. Begone, you are a spectre—a spirit of evil."
"I am the spirit of death to you," she replied; "but my prophetic announcement was true. I called you Thomas Gourlay then, and I call you Thomas Gourlay now—for such is your name; and your false title is gone. That young man there, named after you, is my son, and you are his father—for I am Jacinta Corbet: so far my father's words are true; and if it were not for his revenge, my son would have inherited your name, title, and property. Here now I stand the victim of your treachery and falsehood, which for years have driven me mad. But now the spirit of the future is upon me; and I tell you, that I read frenzy, madness, and death in your face. You have been guilty of great crimes, but you will be guiltier of a greater and a darker still. I read that in your coward spirit, for I know you well. I also am revenged, but I have been punished; and my own sufferings have taught me to feel that I am still a woman. I loved you once—I hated you long; but now I pity you. Yes, Thomas Gourlay, she whom you drove to madness, and imposture, and misery, for long years, can now look down upon you with pity!"
Having thus spoken, she left the room.
We may add here, in a few brief words, that the proof of the identity of each of the two individuals in question was clearly, legally, and most satisfactorily established; in addition to which, if farther certainty had been wanting, Lady Gourlay at once knew her son by a very peculiar mole on his neck, of a three-cornered shape, resembling a triangle.
The important events of the day, so deeply affecting Sir Thomas Gourlay and his family, had been now brought to a close; all the strangers withdrew, and Fenton's body was brought up stairs and laid out. Lady Emily and her father went home together; so did Roberts, now Sir Edward Gourlay, and his delighted and thankful mother. Her confidence in the providence of God was at length amply rewarded, and the widow's heart at last was indeed made to sing for joy.
"Well, Ned, my boy," said old Sam, turning to Sir Edward, after having been introduced to his mother, "I hope I haven't lost a son to-day, although your mother gained one?"
"I would be unworthy of my good fortune, if you did," replied Sir Edward. "Whilst I have life and sense and memory I shall ever look upon you as my father, and my best friend."
"Eight," replied the old soldier; "but I knew it was before you. He was no everyday plant, my lady, and so I told my Beck. Your ladyship must see my Beck," he added; "she's the queen of wives, and I knew it from the first day I married her; my heart told me so, and it was all right—all the heart of man."
The unfortunate old Doctor was to be pitied. He walked about with his finger in his book, scarcely knowing whether what he had seen and heard was a dream, or a reality. Seeing Lord Dunroe about to take his departure, he approached him, and said, "Pray, sir, are we to have no dejeuner after all? Are not you the young gentleman who was this day found out—discovered?"
Dunroe was either so completely absorbed in the contemplation of his ill fortune, that he did not hear him, or he would not deign him an answer.
"This is really too bad," continued the Doctor; "neither a marriage fee nor a dejeuner! Too bad, indeed! Here are the tribulations, but not the marriage; under which melancholy circumstances I may as well go on my way, although I cannot do it as I expected to have done—rejoicing. Good morning, Mr. Stoker."
Our readers ought to be sufficiently acquainted, we presume, with the state of Lucy's feelings after the events of the day and the disclosures that had been made. Sir Thomas Gourlay—we may as well call him so for the short time he will be on the stage—stunned—crushed—wrecked— ruined, was instantly obliged to go to bed. The shock sustained by his system, both physically and mentally, was terrific in its character, and fearful in its results. His incoherency almost amounted to frenzy. He raved—he stormed—he cursed—he blasphemed; but amidst this dark tumult of thought and passion, there might ever be observed the prevalence of the monster evil—the failure of his ambition for his daughter's elevation to the rank of a countess. Never, indeed, was there such a tempest of human passion at work in a brain as raged in his.
"It's a falsehood, I didn't murder my son," he raved; "or if I did, what care I about that? I am a man of steel. My daughter—my daughter was my thought. Well, Dunroe, all is right at last—eh? ha—ha—ha! I managed it; but I knew my system was the right one. Lady Dunroe!—very good, very good to begin with; but not what I wish to see, to hear, to feel before I die. Nurse me, now, if I died without seeing her Countess of Cullamore, but I'd break my heart. 'Make way, there—way for the Countess of Cullamore!'—ha! does not that sound well? But then, the old Earl! Curse him, what keeps him on the stage so long? Away with the old carrion!—away with him! But what was that that happened to-day, or yesterday? Misery, torture, perdition!—disgraced, undone, ruined! Is it true, though? Is this joy? I expected—I feared something like this. Will no one tell me what has happened? Here, Lucy—Countess of Cullamore!—where are you? Now, Lucy, now—put your heel on them—grind them, my girl—remember the cold and distrustful looks your father got from the world—especially from those of your own sex—remember it all, now, Lucy—Countess of Cullamore, I mean—remember it, I say, my lady, for your father's sake. Now, my girl, for pride; now for the haughty sneer; now for the aristocratic air of disdain; now for the day of triumph over the mob of the great vulgar. And that fellow—that reverend old shark who would eat any one of his Christian brethren, if they were only sent up to him disguised as a turbot—the divine old lobster, for his thin red nose is a perfect claw—the divine old lobster couldn't tell me whether there was a God or not. Curse him, not he; but hold, I must not be too severe upon him: his god is his belly, and mine was my ambition. Oh, oh! what is this—what does it all mean? What has happened to me? Oh, I am ill, I fear: perhaps I am mad. Is the Countess there—the Countess of Cullamore, I mean?"
Many of his subsequent incoherencies were still more violent and appalling, and sometimes he would have got up and committed acts of outrage, if he had not been closely watched and restrained by force. Whether his complaint was insanity or brain fever, or the one as symptomatic of the other, even his medical attendants could scarcely determine. At all events, whatever medical skill and domestic attention could do for him was done, but with very little hopes of success.
The effect of the scene which the worn and invalid Earl had witnessed at Sir Thomas Gourlay's were so exhausting to his weak frame that they left very little strength behind them. Yet he complained of no particular illness; all he felt was, an easy but general and certain decay of his physical powers, leaving the mind and intellect strong and clear. On the day following the scene in the baronet's house, we must present him to the reader seated, as usual—for he could not be prevailed upon to keep his bed—in his arm-chair, with the papers of the day before him. Near him, on another seat, was Sir Edward Gourlay.
"Well, Sir Edward, the proofs, you say, have been all satisfactory."
"Perfectly so, my lord," replied the young baronet; "we did not allow yesterday to close without making everything clear. We have this morning had counsel's opinion upon it, and the proof is considered decisive."
"But is Lady Emily herself aware of your attachment?"
"Why, my lord," replied Sir Edward, blushing a little, "I may say I think that—ahem!—she has, in some sort, given—a—ahem!—a kind of consent that I should speak to your lordship on the subject.'
"My dear young friend," said his lordship, whose voice became tremulous, and whose face grew like the whitest ashes.
"Have you got ill, my lord?" asked Sir Edward, a good deal alarmed: "shall I ring for assistance?"
"No," replied his lordship; "no; I only wish to say that you know not the extent of your own generosity in making this proposal."
"Generosity, my lord! Your lordship will pardon me. In this case I have all the honor to receive, and nothing to confer in exchange."
"Hear me for a few minutes," replied his lordship, "and after you shall have heard me, you will then be able at least to understand whether the proposal you make for my daughter's hand is a generous one or not. My daughter, Sir Edward, is illegitimate."
"Illegitimate, my lord!" replied the other, with an evident shock which he could not conceal. "Great God! my lord, your words are impossible."
"My young friend, they are both possible and true. Listen to me:
"In early life I loved a young lady of a decayed but respectable family. I communicated our attachment to my friends, who pronounced me a fool, and did not hesitate to attribute my affection for her to art on the part of the lady, and intrigue on that of her relatives. I was at the time deeply, almost irretrievably, embarrassed. Be this as it may, I knew that the imputations against Maria, for such was her name, as well as against her relatives, were utterly false; and as a proof I did so, I followed her to France, where, indeed, I had first met her. Well, we were privately married there; for, although young at the time, I was not without a spirit of false pride and ambition, that tended to prevent me from acknowledging my marriage, and encountering boldly, as I ought to have done, the resentment of my relations and the sneers of the world. Owing to this unmanly spirit on my part, our marriage, though strictly correct and legal in every respect, was nevertheless a private one, as I have said. In the meantime I had entered parliament, and it is not for me to dwell upon the popularity with which my efforts there were attended. I consequently lived a good deal apart from my wife, whom I had not courage to present as such to the world. Every day now established my success in the House of Commons, and increased my ambition. The constitution of my wife had been naturally a delicate one, and I understood, subsequently to our union, that there had been decline in her family to such an extent, that nearly one-half of them had died of it. In this way we lived for four years, having no issue. About the commencement of the fifth my wife's health began to decline, and as that session of parliament was a very busy and a very important one, I was but little with her. Ever since the period of our marriage, she had been attended by a faithful maid, indeed, rather a companion, well educated and accomplished, named Norton, subsequently married to a cousin of her own name. After a short visit to my wife, in whose constitution decline had now set in, and whom I ought not to have left, I returned to parliament, more than ever ambitious for distinction. I must do myself the justice to say that I loved her tenderly; but at the same time I felt disappointed at not having a family. On returning to London I found that my brother, who had opposed all notion of my marriage with peculiar bitterness, and never spoke of my wife with respect, was himself about to be married to one of the most fascinating creatures on whom my eyes ever rested; and, what was equally agreeable, she had an immense fortune in her own right, and was, besides, of a high and distinguished family. She was beautiful, she was rich—she was, alas! ambitious. Well, we met, we conversed, we compared minds with each other; we sang together, we danced together, until at length we began to feel that the absence of the one caused an unusual depression in the other. I was said to be one of the most eloquent commoners of the day—her family were powerful—my wife was in a decline, and recovery hopeless. Here, then, was a career for ambition; but that was not all. I was poor—embarrassed almost beyond hope—on the very verge of ruin. Indeed, so poor, that it was as much owing to the inability of maintaining my wife in her proper rank, as to fear of my friends and the world, that I did not publicly acknowledge her. But why dwell on this? I loved the woman whose heart and thought had belonged to my brother—loved her to madness; and soon perceived that the passion was mutual. I had not, however, breathed a syllable of love, nor was it ever my intention to do so. My brother, however, was gradually thrown off, treated with coldness, and ultimately with disdain, while no one suspected the cause. It is painful to dwell upon subsequent occurrences. My brother grew jealous, and, being a high-spirited young man, released Lady Emily from her engagement. I was mad with love; and this conduct, honorable and manly as it was in him, occasioned an explanation between me and Lady Emily, in which, weak and vacillating as I was, in the frenzy of the moment I disclosed, avowed my passion, and—but why proceed? We loved each other, not 'wisely, but too well.' My brother sought and obtained a foreign lucrative appointment, and left the country in a state of mind which it is very difficult to describe. He refused to see me on his departure, and I have never seen him since.
"The human heart, my young friend, is a great mystery. I now attached myself to Lady Emily, and was about to disclose my marriage to her; but as the state of my wife's health was hopeless, I declined to do so, in the expectation that a little time might set me free. My wife was then living in a remote little village in the south of France; most of her relatives were dead, and those who survived were at the time living in a part of Connaught, Galway, to which any kind of intelligence, much less foreign, seldom ever made its way. Now, I do not want to justify myself, because I cannot do so. I said this moment that the human heart is a great mystery. So it is. Whilst my passion for Lady Emily was literally beyond all restraint, I nevertheless felt visitations of remorse that were terrible. The image of my gentle Maria, sweet, contented, affectionate, and uncomplaining, would sometimes come before me, and—pardon me, my friend; I am very weak, but I will resume in a few moments. Well, the struggle within me was great. I had a young duke as a rival; but I was not only a rising man, but actually had a party in the House of Commons. Her family, high and ambitious, were anxious to procure my political support, and held out the prospect of a peerage. My wife was dying; I loved Lady Emily; I was without offspring; I was poor; I was ambitious. She was beautiful, of high family and powerful connections; she was immensely rich, too, highly accomplished, and enthusiastically attached to me. These were temptations.
"At this period it so fell out that a sister of my wife's became governess in Lady Emily's family; but the latter were ignorant of the connection. This alarmed me, frightened me; for I feared she would disclose my marriage. I lost no time in bringing about a private interview with her, in which I entreated her to keep the matter secret, stating that a short time would enable me to bring her sister with eclat into public life. I also prevailed upon her to give up her situation, and furnished her with money for Maria, to whom I sent her, with an assurance that my house should ever be her home, and that it was contrary to my wishes ever to hear my wife's sister becoming a governess; and this indeed was true. I also wrote to my wife, to the effect that the pressure of my parliamentary duties would prevent me from seeing her for a couple of months.
"In this position matters were for about a fortnight or three weeks, when, at last, a letter reached me from my sister-in-law, giving a detailed account of my wife's death, and stating that she and Miss Norton were about to make a tour to Italy, for the purpose of acquiring the language. This letter was a diabolical falsehood, Sir Edward; but it accomplished its purpose. She had gleaned enough of intelligence in the family, by observation and otherwise, to believe that my wife's death alone would enable me, in a short time, to become united to Lady Emily; and that if my marriage with her took place whilst her sister lived, I believing her to be dead, she would punish me for what she considered my neglect of her, and my unjustifiable attachment to another woman during Maria's life. All communication ceased between us. My wife was unable to write; but from what her sister stated to her, probably with exaggerations, her pride prevented her from holding any correspondence with a husband who refused to acknowledge his marriage with her, and whose affections had been transferred to another. At all events, the blow took effect. Believing her dead, and deeming myself at liberty, I married Lady Emily, after a lapse of six months, exactly as many weeks before the death of my first wife. Of course you perceive now, my friend, that my last marriage was null and void; and that, hurried on by the eager impulses of love and ambition, I did, without knowing it, an act which has made my children illegitimate. It is true, my union with Lady Emily was productive to me of great results. I was created an Irish peer, in consequence of the support I gave to my wife's connections. The next step was an earldom, with an English peerage, together with such an accession of property in right of my wife, as made me rich beyond my wishes. So far, you may say, I was a successful man; but the world cannot judge of the heart, and its recollections. My second wife was a virtuous woman, high, haughty, and correct; but notwithstanding our early enthusiastic affection, the experiences of domestic life soon taught us to feel, that, after all, our dispositions and tastes were unsuitable. She was fond of show, of equipage, of fashionable amusements, and that empty dissipation which constitutes, the substance of aristocratic existence. I, on the contrary, when not engaged in public life, with which I soon grew fatigued, was devoted to retirement, to domestic enjoyment, and to the duties which devolved upon me as a parent. I loved my children with the greatest tenderness, and applied myself to the cultivation of their principles, and the progress of their education. All, however, would not do. I was unhappy; unhappy, not only in my present wife, but in the recollection of the gentle and affectionate Maria. I now felt the full enormity of my crime against that patient and angelic being. Her memory began to haunt me—her virtues were ever in my thoughts; her quiet, uncomplaining submission, her love, devotion, tenderness, all rose up in fearful array against me, until I felt that the abiding principle of my existence was a deep remorse, that ate its way into my happiness day by day, and has never left me through my whole subsequent life. This, however, was attended with some good, as it recalled me, in an especial manner, to the nobler duties of humanity. I felt now that truth, and a high sense of honor, could alone enable me to redeem the past, and atone for my conduct with respect to Maria. But, above all, I felt that independence of mind, self-restraint, and firmness of character, were virtues, principles, what you will, without which man is but a cipher, a tool of others, or the sport of circumstances.
"My second wife died of a cold, caught by going rather thinly dressed to a fashionable party too soon after the birth of Emily; and my son, having become the pet and spoiled child of his mother and her relatives, soon became imbued with fashionable follies, which, despite of all my care and vigilance, I am grieved to say, have degenerated into worse and more indefensible principles. He had not reached the period of manhood when he altogether threw off all regard for my control over him as a father, and led a life since of which the less that is said the better.
"The facts connected with my second marriage have been so clearly established that defence is hopeless. The registry of our marriage, and of my first wife's death, have been laid before me, and Mrs. Mainwaring, herself, was ready to substantiate and prove them by her personal testimony. My own counsel, able and eminent men as they are, have dissuaded me from bringing the matter to a trial, and thus making public the disgrace which must attach to my children. You now understand, Sir Edward, the full extent of your generosity in proposing for my daughter's hand, and you also understand the nature of my private communication yesterday with your uncle."
"But, my lord, how did your brother become aware of the circumstances you have just mentioned?"
"Through Mrs. Mainwaring, who thought it unjust that a profligate should inherit so much property, with so bad a title to it, whilst there were virtuous and honorable men to claim it justly; such are the words of a note on the subject which I have received from her this very morning. Thus it is that vice often punishes itself. Now, Sir Edward, I am ready to hear you."
"My lord," replied Sir Edward, "the case is so peculiar, so completely out of the common course, that, morally speaking, I cannot look upon your children as illegitimate. I have besides great doubts whether the prejudice of the world, or its pride, which visits upon the head of the innocent child the error, or crime if you will, of the guilty parent, ought to be admitted as a principle of action in life."
"Yes," replied the earl; "but on the other hand, to forbid it altogether might tend to relax some of the best principles in man and woman. Vice must frequently be followed up for punishment even to its consequences as well as its immediate acts, otherwise virtue were little better than a name. For this, however, there is a remedy—an act of parliament must be procured to legitimatize my children. I shall take care of that, although I may not live to see it," *
* This was done, and the circumstance is still remembered by many persons in the north of Ireland.
"Be that as it may, my lord, I cannot but think that in the eye of religion and morality your children are certainly legitimate; all that is against them being a point of law. For my part, I earnestly beg to renew my proposal for the hand of Lady Emily."
"Then, Sir Edward, you do not feel yourself deterred by anything I have stated?"
"My lord, I love Lady Emily for her own sake—and for her own sake only."
"Then," replied her father, "bring her here. I feel very weak—I am getting heavy. Yesterday's disclosures gave me a shock which I fear will—but I trust I am prepared—go—remember, however, that my darling child knows nothing of what I have mentioned to you—Dunroe does. I had not courage to tell her that she has been placed by her father's pride, by his ambition, and by his want of moral restraint, out of the pale of life. Go, and fetch her here."
That they approached him with exulting hearts—that he joined their hands, and blessed them—is all that is necessary to be mentioned now.
In the course of that evening, a reverend dignitary of the church, Dean Palmer, whom we have mentioned occasionally in this narrative, and a very different man indeed from our friend Dr. Sombre, called at Sir Thomas Goulray's to inquire after his health, and to see Miss Gourlay. He was shown up to the drawing room, where Lucy, very weak, but still relieved from the great evil which she had dreaded so much, soon joined him.
"Miss Gourlay," said he, "I trust your father is better?"
"He is better, sir, in mere bodily health. The cupping, and blistering, and loss of blood from the arms, have relieved him, and his delirium has nearly passed away; but, then, he is silent and gloomy, and depressed, it would seem, beyond the reach of hope or consolation."
"Do you think he would see me?"
"No, sir, he would not," she replied. "Two or three clergymen have called for that purpose; but the very mention of them threw him into a state almost bordering on frenzy."
"Under these circumstances," replied the good Dean, "it would be wrong to press him. When he has somewhat recovered, I hope he may be prevailed on to raise his thoughts to a better life than this. And now, my dear young lady, I have a favor to request at your hands."
"At mine, sir! If there is any thing within my power—"
"This is, I assure you."
"Pray, what is it, sir?"
"Would you so far oblige me as to receive a visit from Lord Dunroe?"
"In any other thing within the limits of my power, sir—in anything that ought to be asked of me—I would feel great pleasure in obliging you; but in this you must excuse me."
"I saw Lord Cullamore in the early part of the day," replied Dean Palmer, "and he told me to say, that it was his wish you should see him; he added, that he felt it was a last request."
"I shall see him," replied the generous girl, "instantly; for his lordship's sake I shall see him, although I cannot conceive for what purpose Lord Dunroe can wish it."
"It is sufficient, Miss Gourlay, that you consent to see him. He is below in my carriage; shall I bring him up?"
"Do so, sir. I am going to prevail, if I can, on papa, to take a composing draught, which the doctors have ordered him. I shall return again in a few minutes."
Sir Thomas Gourlay had got up some hours before, and was seated in an armchair as she entered.
"How do you feel now, papa?" she asked, with the utmost affection and tenderness; "oh, do not be depressed; through all changes of life your Lucy's affections will be with you."
"Lucy," said he, "come and kiss me."
In a moment her arms were about his neck, and she whispered encouragingly, whilst caressing him, "Papa, now that I have not been thrust down that fearful abyss, believe me, we shall be very happy yet."
He gave her a long look; then shook his head, but did not speak.
"Endeavor to keep up your spirits, dearest papa; you seem depressed, but that is natural after what you have suffered. Will you take the composing draught? It will relieve you."
"I believe it will, but I cannot take it from your hand; and he kept his eyes fixed upon her with a melancholy gaze as he spoke.
"And why not from mine, papa? Surely you would not change your mind now. You have taken all your medicine from me, up to this moment."
"I will take it myself, presently, Lucy."
"Will you promise me, papa?" she said, endeavoring to smile.
"Yes, Lucy, I promise you."
"But, papa, I had forgotten to say that Lord Dunroe has called to ask an interview with me. He and Dean Palmer are now in the drawing-room."
"Have you seen him?" asked her father.
"Not yet, papa."
"Will you see him?"
"Lord Cullamore sent the Dean to me to say, that it was his earnest request I should—his last."
"His last! Lucy. Well, then, see him—there is a great deal due to a last request."
"Oh, yes, I shall see him. Well, good-by, papa. Remember now that you take the composing draught; I shall return to you after I have seen Lord Dunroe."
She was closing the door, when he recalled her. "Lucy," said he, "come here."
"Well, papa; well, dearest papa?"
"Kiss me again," said he.
She stooped as before, and putting her arms about his neck, kissed him like a child. He took her hand in his, and looked on her with the same long earnest look, and putting it to his lips, kissed it; and as he did, Lucy felt a tear fall upon it. "Lucy," said he, "I have one word to say to you."
Lucy was already in tears; that one little drop—the symptom of an emotion she had never witnessed before—and she trusted the forerunner of a softened and repentant heart, had already melted hers.
"Lucy," he said, "forgive me."
The floodgates of her heart and of her eyes were opened at once. She threw herself on his bosom; she kissed him, and wept long and loudly.
He, in the meantime, had regained the dread composure, that death-like calmness, into which he had passed from his frenzy.
"Forgive you, papa? I do—I do, a thousand times; but I have nothing to forgive. Do I not know that all your plans and purposes were for my advancement, and, as you hoped, for my happiness?"
"Lucy," said he, "disgrace is hard to bear; but still I would have borne it had my great object in that advancement been accomplished; but now, here is the disgrace, yet the object lost forever. Then, my son, Lucy—I am his murderer; but I knew it not; and even that I could get over; but you, that is what prostrates me. And, again, to have been the puppet of that old villain! Even that, however, I could bear; yes, everything but you!—that was the great cast on which my whole heart was set; but now, mocked, despised, detested, baffled, detected, defeated. However, it is all over, like a troubled dream. Dry your eyes now," he added, "and see Dunroe."
"Would you wish to see Dean Palmer, papa?"
"No, no, Lucy; not at all; he could do me no good. Go, now, and see Dunroe, and do not let me be disturbed for an hour or two. You know I have seen the body of my son to-day, and I wish I had not."
"I am sorry you did, papa; it has depressed you very much."
"Go, Lucy, go. In a couple of hours I—Go, dear; don't keep his lordship waiting."
Poor Lucy's heart was in a tumult of delight as she went down stairs. In the whole course of her life she had never witnessed in her father anything of tender emotion until then, and the tear that fell upon her hand she knew was the only one she ever saw him shed.
"I have hope for papa yet," she said to herself, as she was about to enter the drawing-room; "I never thought I loved him so much as I find I do now."
On advancing into the room, for an instant's time she seemed confused; her confusion, however, soon became surprise—amazement, when Dean Palmer, taking our friend the stranger by the hand, led him toward her, exclaiming, "Allow me, Miss Gourlay, to have the honor of presenting to you Lord Dunroe."
"Lord Dunroe!" exclaimed Lucy, in her turn, looking aghast with astonishment. "What is this, sir—what means this, gentlemen? This house, pray recollect, is a house of death and of suffering."
"It is the truth, Miss Gourlay," replied the Dean. "Here stands the veritable Lord Dunroe, whose father is now the earl of Cullamore."
"But, sir, I don't understand this."
"It is very easily understood, however, Miss Gourlay. This gentleman's father was the late Earl's brother; and he being now dead, his son here inherits the title of Lord Dunroe."
"But the late Earl's son?"
"Has no claim to the title, Miss Gourlay. His lordship here will give you the particulars at leisure, and on a more befitting occasion. I saw the late Earl to-day, not long before his death. He was calm, resigned, and full of that Christian hope which makes the death of the righteous so beautiful. He was not, indeed, without sorrow; but it was soothed by his confidence in the mercy of God, and his belief in the necessity and wisdom of sorrow and affliction to purify and exalt the heart."
"And now, Lucy," said the stranger—for so we shall call him still—taking her hand in his, "I trust that all obstacles between our union are removed at last. Our love has been strongly tested, and you especially have suffered much. Your trust in Providence, however, like that of Lady Gourlay, has not been in vain; and as for me, I learned much, and I hope to learn more, from your great and noble example. I concealed my name for many reasons: partly from delicacy to my uncle, the late Earl, and his family; and I was partly forced to do it, in consequence of an apprehension that I had killed a nobleman in a hasty duel. He was not killed, however, thank God; nor was his wound so dangerous as it looked at first; neither was I aware until afterwards that the individual who forced me into it was my own cousin Dunroe. It would have been very inconvenient to me to have been apprehended and probably cast into prison at a time when I had so many interests to look after; and, indeed, not the least of my motives was the fear of precipitating your father's enmity against Lady Gourlay's son, by discovering that I, who am her nephew, should have been seen about the town of Ballytrain, where, when a boy, I had spent a good deal of my early life. Had he known my name, he would have easily suspected my object. Your mother was aware of my design in coming to Ireland; but as I knew the risk of involving my uncle's children, and the good old man's reputation besides, in a mesh of public scandal at a time when I did not feel certain of being able to establish my claims, or rather my father's, for I myself was indifferent to them, I resolved to keep as quiet as possible, and not to disclose myself even to you until necessity should compel me."
Much more conversation ensued in connection with matters in which our lovers felt more or less interest. At length the gentlemen rose to go away, when Gillespie thrust a face of horror into the door, and exclaimed, bolting, as he spoke, behind the Dean, "O, gentlemen, for God's sake, save me! I'll confess and acknowledge everything."
"What's the matter, Sir?" asked the Dean.
"The dead man, sir; he's sitting up in the bed; and I know what he's come back for. You're a parson, sir, and, for heaven's sake, stand between him and me."
On proceeding to the room where the baronet's son had been laid out, they found him sitting, certainly, on the bedside, wondering at the habiliments of death which were about him. That which all had supposed to have been death, was only a fit of catalepsy, brought on him by the appearance of his father, who had, on more than one occasion, left a terrible impress of himself upon his mind, and who, he had been informed some years before, was the cause of all his sufferings. Even at the sight of Lucy herself, he had been deeply agitated, although he could not tell why. He was immediately attended to, a physician sent for, and poor Lucy felt an elevation of heart and spirits which she had not experienced for many a long day.
"Oh, do not go," she said to her lover and the Dean, "until I communicate to papa this twofold intelligence of delight; your strange good fortune, and the resurrection, I may term it, of my brother. The very object—the great engrossing object of papa's life and ambition gained in so wonderful a way! Do, pray, gentlemen, remain for a few minutes until I see him. O, what delight, what ecstasy will it not give him!"
She accordingly went up stairs, slowly it is true, for she was weak; and nothing further was heard except one wild and fearful scream, whose sharp tones penetrated through the whole house.
"Ha!" exclaimed Lord Dunroe, "here is evil. Goodness me!—it is Miss Gourlay's voice; I know it. Let us go up; I fear something is wrong with her father."
They accordingly sought the baronet's apartment, attended by the servants, whom Lucy's wild scream had alarmed, and brought also toward the same direction. On entering the room, the body of Lucy was found lying beside, or rather across that of her father, whom, on removing her, they found to be dead. Beside him lay a little phial, on which there was no label, but the small portion of liquid that was found in it was clear and colorless as water. It was prussic acid. Lucy was immediately removed, and committed to the care of Alley Mahon and some of the other females, and the body of the baronet was raised and placed upon his own bed. The Dean and Lord Dunroe looked upon his lifeless but stern features with a feeling of awe.
"Alas!" exclaimed the good Dean, "and is it thus he has gone to his great account? We shall not follow his spirit into another life; but it is miserable to reflect that one hour's patience might have saved him to the world and to God, and showed him, after all, that the great object of his life had been accomplished. Blind and impatient reasoner!—what has he done?"
"Yes," replied Dunroe, looking on him with a feeling of profound melancholy; "there he lies—quiet enough now—the tumults of his strong spirit are over forever. That terrible heart is still at last—that fiery pulse will beat no more!"
We have now very little to state which our readers may not anticipate. Lucy and Lady Emily, each made happy in the great object of woman's heart—love, only exchanged residences.
Lucy's life was a long and bountiful blessing to her fellow-creatures. Her feelings were never contracted within the narrow circle of her own class, but embraced the great one of general humanity. She acted upon the noble principle of receiving from God the ample gifts of wealth and position, not for the purpose of wasting them in expensive and selfish enjoyments, but for that of causing them to diffuse among her fellow-creatures the greatest possible portion of happiness. This she considered her high destination, and well and nobly she fulfilled it in this, the great and true purpose of life, her husband and she went heart-in-heart, hand-in-hand; nor were Sir Edward Gourlay, and his kind and gentle Emily, far behind them in all their good-will and good works.
Lord Dunroe, having no strength of character to check his profligate impulses, was, in the course of some years, thrown off by all his high connections, and reduced to great indigence. Norton's notion of his character was correct. The society of that treacherous sharper was necessary to him, and in some time after they were reconciled. Norton ultimately became driver of a celebrated mail-coach on the great York road, and the other, its guard; thus resolving, as it would seem, to keep the whip-hand of the weak and foolish nobleman in every position of life. Several of our English readers may remember them, for they were both remarkable characters, and great favorites with the public.
Dandy Dulcimer and Alley followed the example of their master and mistress, and were amply provided for by their friends, with whom they lived in confidential intimacy for the greater portion of their lives.
Thomas Corbet, his sister, and her son, disappeared; and it was supposed that they went to America.
M'Bride, in a short time after the close of our narrative, took a relish for foreign travel, and resolved to visit a certain bay of botanical celebrity not far from the antipodes. That he might accomplish this point with as little difficulty as possible, he asked a gentleman one evening for the loan of his watch and purse; a circumstance which so much tickled the fancy of a certain facetious judge of witty memory, that, on hearing a full account of the transaction, he so far and successfully interfered with the government as to get his expenses during the journey defrayed by his Majesty himself. His last place of residence in this country was a very magnificent one near Kilmainham, where he led a private and secluded life, occasionally devoting' himself to the progress of machinery in his hours of recreation, but uniformly declining to take country exercise.
Poor Trailcudgel was restored to his farm; and Lucy's brother lived with her for many years, won back by her affection and kindness to the perfect use of his reason; and it was well known that her children, boys and girls, were all very fond of Uncle Thomas.
Old Corbet took to devotion, became very religious, and lost in temper, which was never good, as much as he seemed to gain by penitence. He died suddenly from a fit of paralysis, brought on by the loss of a thirty shilling note, which was stolen from his till by Mrs. M'Bride.
On the occasion of Lucy's marriage with her lover, Father M'Mahon, who was invited to a double wedding—both Sir Edward and Dunroe being married on the same day—rode all the way to Dublin upon Freney the Robber, in order that his friend might see the new saddle upon Freney, and the priest himself upon the new saddle. Mr. Briney was also of the party, and never was his round rosy face and comic rolling eye more replete with humor and enjoyment; and as a reward for his integrity, as well as for the ability with which he assisted the stranger, we may as well mention that he was made Law Agent to both properties—a recompense which he well deserved. We need scarcely say that old Sam and Beck were also there; that their healths were drunk, and that old Sam told them how there was nothing more plain than that there never was such a wife in existence as his Beck, and that Providence all through intended Ned to be restored to his own—he, old Sam, always acting in this instance as Adjutant under Providence. It was clear, he said—quite evident—everything the work of Providence on the one hand, and on the other, "all the heart of man!"