"You will expose me then, and disgrace me forever with this cursed conscientious old blockhead? I tell you that he doubts my assertion as touching your consent, and is coming to hear the truth from your own lips. But hearken, girl, betray me to him, and by heavens you know not the extent to which my vengeance will carry me."
He rose up, and glared at her in a manner that made her apprehensive for her personal safety.
"Father," said she, growing pale, for the dialogue, brief as it was, had brought the color into her cheeks, "will you permit me to withdraw? I am quite unequal to these contests of temper and opinion; permit me, sir, to withdraw. I have already told you, that provided you do not attempt to force me into a marriage contrary to my wishes I shall never marry contrary to yours."
The baronet swore a deep and blasphemous oath that he would enter into no such stipulation. The thing, he said, was an evasion, an act of moral fraud and deceit upon her part, and she should not escape from him.
"You wish to gain time, madam, to work out your own treacherous purposes, and to defeat my intentions with respect to you; but it shall not be. You must see Lord Cullamore; you must corroborate my assertions to him; you must save me from shame and dishonor or dread the consequences. A paltry sacrifice, indeed, to tell a fib to a doting old peer, who thinks no one in the world honest or honorable but himself!"
"Think of the danger of what you ask," she replied; "think of the deep iniquity—the horrible guilt, and the infamy of the crime into which you wish to plunge me. Reflect that you are breaking down the restraints of honor and conscience in iny heart; that you are defiling my soul with falsehood; and that if I yield to you in this, every subsequent temptation will beset me with more success, until my faith, truth, honor, integrity, are gone forever—until I shall be lost. Is there no sense of religion, father? Is there no future life? Is there no God—no judgment? Father, in asking me to abet your falsehood, and sustain you in your deceit, you transgress the limits of parental authority, and the first principles of natural affection. You pervert them, you abuse them; and, I must say, once and for all, that be the weight of your vengeance what it may, I prefer bearing it to enduring the weight of a guilty conscience."
The baronet rose, and rushing at her, raised his open hand and struck her rather severely on the side of the head. She felt, as it were, stunned for a little, but at length she rose up, and said: "Father, this is the insanity of a bad ambition, or perhaps of affection, and you know not what you have done." She then approached him, and throwing her arms about his neck, exclaimed: "Papa, kiss me; and I shall never think of it, nor allude to it;" as she spoke the tears fell in showers from her eyes.
"No, madam," he replied, "I repulse you; I throw you off from me now and forever."
"Be calm, papa; compose yourself, my dear papa. I shall not see Lord Cullamore; it would be now impossible; I could not sustain an interview with him. You, consequently, can have nothing to fear; you can say I am ill, and that will be truth indeed."
"I shall never relax one moment," he replied, "until I either subdue you, or break your obstinate heart. Come, madam," said he, "I will conduct you to your apartment."
She submissively preceded him, until he committed her once more to the surveillance of the maid whom he had engaged and bribed to be her sentinel.
It is unnecessary to say that the visit of the honorable old nobleman ended in nothing. Lucy was not in a condition to see him; and as her father at all risks reiterated his assertions as to her free and hearty consent to the match, Lord Cullamore went away, now perfectly satisfied that if his son had any chance of being reclaimed by the influence of a virtuous wife, it must be by his union with Lucy. The noble qualities and amiable disposition of this excellent young lady were so well known that only one opinion prevailed with respect to her.
Some wondered, indeed, how such a man could be father to such a daughter; but, on the other hand, the virtues of the mother were remembered, and the wonder was one no longer.
CHAPTER XIII. The Stranger's Second Visit to Father M'Mahon
—Something like an Elopement.
On the evening of the same day the stranger desired Paudeen Gair to take a place for him in the "Fly," which was to return to Dublin on that night. He had been furnished with a letter from Father M'Mahon, to whom he had, in Mr. Birney's, fully disclosed his name and objects. He felt anxious, however, to engage some trustworthy servant or attendant, on whose integrity he could fully rely, knowing, or at least apprehending, that he might be placed in circumstances where he could not himself act openly and freely without incurring suspicion or observation. Paudeen, however, or, as we shall call him in future, Pat Sharpe, had promised to procure a person of the strictest honesty, in whom every confidence could be placed. This man's name, or rather his nickname, was Dandy Dulcimer, an epithet bestowed upon him in consequence of the easy and strolling life he led, supporting himself, as he passed from place to place, by his performances upon that simple but pleasing instrument.
"Pat," said the stranger in the course of the evening, "have you succeeded in procuring me this cousin of yours?" for in that relation he stood to Pat.
"I expect him here every minute, sir," replied Pat; "and there's one thing I'll lay down my life on—you may trust him as you would any one of the twelve apostles—barring that blackguard Judas. Take St. Pettier, or St. Paul, or any of the dacent apostles, and the divil a one of them honester than Dandy. Not that he's a saint like them either, or much overburdened with religion, poor fellow; as for honesty and truth—divil a greater liar ever walked in the mane time; but, by truth, I mane truth to you, and to any one that employs him—augh, by my soul, he's the flower of a boy."
"He won't bring his dulcimer with him, I hope."
"Won't he, indeed? Be me sowl, sir, you might as well separate sowl and body, as take Dandy from his dulcimer. Like the two sides of a scissors, the one's of no use widout the other. They must go together, or Dandy could never cut his way through the world by any chance. Hello! here he is. I hear his voice in the hall below."
"Bring him up, Pat," said the stranger; "I must see and speak to him; because if I feel that he won't suit me, I will have nothing to do with him."
Dandy immediately entered, with his dulcimer slung like a peddler's bos at his side, and with a comic movement of respect, which no presence or position could check, he made a bow to the stranger, that forced him to smile in spite of himself.
"You seem a droll fellow," said the stranger. "Are you fond of truth?"
"Hem! Why, yes, sir. I spare it as much as I can. I don't treat it as an everyday concern. We had a neighbor once, a widow M'Cormick, who was rather penurious, and whenever she saw her servants buttering their bread too thickly, she used to whisper to them in a confidential way, 'Ahagur, the thinner you spread it the further it will go.' Hem! However, I must confess that once or twice a year I draw on it by way of novelty, that is, on set days or bonfire nights; and I hope, sir, you'll admit that that's treating it with respect."
"How did you happen to turn musician?" asked the other.
"Why, sir, I was always fond of a jingle; but, to tell you the truth, I would rather have the same jingle in my purse than in my instrument. Divil such an unmusical purse ever a man was cursed with than I have been doomed to carry during my whole life."
"Then it was a natural love of music that sent you abroad as a performer?"
"Partly only, sir; for there were three causes went to it. There is a certain man named Dandy Dulcimer, that I had a very loving regard for, and I thought it against his aise and comfort to ask him to strain his poor bones by hard work. I accordingly substituted pure idleness for it, which is a delightful thing in its way. There, sir, is two of the causes—love of melody and a strong but virtuous disinclination to work. The third—" but here he paused and his face darkened.
"Well," inquired the stranger, "the third? What about the third?"
Dandy significantly pointed back with his thumb over his shoulder, in the direction of Red Hall. "It was him," he said; "the Black Baronet—or rather the incarnate divil."
"That's truth, at all events," observed Pat corroborating the incomplete assertion.
"It was he, sir," continued Dandy, "that thrust us out of our comfortable farm—he best knows why and wherefore—and like a true friend of liberty, he set us at large from our comfortable place, to enjoy it."
"Well," replied the stranger, "if that be true it was hard; but you know every story has two sides; or, as the proverb goes, one story is well until the other is told. Let us dismiss this. If I engage you to attend me, can you be faithful, honest, and cautious?"
"To an honest man, sir, I can; but to no other. I grant I have acted the knave very often, but it was always in self-defence, and toward far greater knaves than myself. An honest man did once ax me to serve him in an honest way; but as I was then in a roguish state of mind I tould him I couldn't conscientiously do it."
"If you were intrusted with a secret, for instance, could you undertake to keep it?"
"I was several times in Dublin, sir, and I saw over the door of some public office a big, brazen fellow, with the world on his back; and you know that from what he seemed to suffer I thought he looked very like a man that was keeping a secret. To tell God's truth, sir, I never like a burden of any kind; and whenever I can get a man that will carry a share of it, I—"
"Tut! your honor, never mind him," said Pat. "What the deuce are you at, Dandy? Do you want to prevent the gintleman from engagin' you? Never mind him, sir; he's as honest as the sun."
"It matters not, Pat," said the stranger; "I like him. Are you willing to take service with me for a short time, my good fellow?"
"If you could get any one to give you a caracther, sir, perhaps I might," replied Dandy.
"How, sirrah! what do you mean?" said the stranger.
"Why, sir, that we humble folks haven't all the dishonesty to ourselves. I think our superiors come in now and then for the lion's share of it. There, now, is the Black Baronet."
"But you are not entering the service of the Black Baronet."
"No; but the ould scoundrel struck his daughter to-day, because she wouldn't consent to marry that young profligate, Lord Dunroe; and has her locked up besides."
The stranger had been standing with his back to the fire, when the Dandy mentioned these revolting circumstances; for the truth was, that Lucy's maid had taken upon her the office of that female virtue called curiosity, and by the aid of her eye, her ear, and an open key-hole was able to communicate to one or two of the other servants, in the strictest confidence of course, all that had occurred during the interview between father and daughter. Now it so happened, that Dandy, who had been more than once, in the course of his visits, to the kitchen, promised, as he said, to metamurphy one of them into Mrs. Dulcimer, alias Murphy—that being his real name—was accidentally in the kitchen while the dialogue lasted, and for some time afterwards; and as the expectant Mrs. Dulcimer was one of the first to whom the secret was solemnly confided, we need scarcely say that it was instantly transferred to Dandy's keeping, who mentioned it more from honest indignation than from any other motive.
It would be difficult to describe the combination of feelings that might be read in the stranger's fine features—distress, anger, compassion, love, and sorrow, all struggled for mastery. He sat down, and there was an instant pause in the conversation; for both Dandy and his relative felt that he was not sufficiently collected to proceed with it. They consequently, after glancing with surprise at each other, remained silent, until the stranger should resume it. At length, after a struggle that was evidently a severe one, he said,
"Now, my good fellow, no more of this buffoonery. Will you take service with me for three months, since I am willing to accept you? Ay or no?"
"As willing as the flowers of May, your honor; and I trust you will never have cause to find fault with me, so far as truth, honesty, and discretion goes. I can see a thing and not see it. I can hear a thing and not hear it. I can do a thing and not do it—but it must be honest. In short, sir, if you have no objection, I'm your man. I like your face, sir; there's something honorable and manly in it."
"Perhaps you would wish to name the amount of the wages you expect. If so, speak."
"Divil a wage or wages I'll name, sir; that's a matter I'll lave to your own generosity."
"Very well, then; I start by the 'Fly' tonight, and you, observe, are to accompany me. The trunk which I shall bring with me is already packed, so that you will have very little trouble."
Dandy and his relative both left him, and he, with a view of allaying the agitation which he felt, walked toward the residence of Father M'Mahon, who had promised, if he could, to furnish him with further instructions ere he should start for the metropolis.
After they had left the room, our friend Crackenfudge peeped out of the back apartment, in order to satisfy himself that the coast was clear; and after stretching his neck over the stairs to ascertain that there was no one in the hall, he tripped down as if he were treading on razors, and with a face brimful of importance made his escape from the inn, for, in truth, the mode of his disappearing could be termed little else.
Now, in the days of which we write, it so happened that there was a vast portion of bitter rivalry between mail coaches and their proprietors. At this time an opposition coach, called "the Flash of Lightning"—to denominate, we presume, the speed at which it went—ran against the "Fly," to the manifest, and frequently to the actual, danger of the then reigning monarch's liege and loyal subjects. To the office of this coach, then, did Crackenfudge repair, with an honorable intention of watching the motions of our friend the stranger, prompted thereto by two motives—first, a curiosity that was naturally prurient and mean; secondly, by an anxious wish to serve Sir Thomas Gourlay, and, if possible, to involve himself in his affairs, thus rendering his interest touching the great object of his ambition—the magistracy—a matter not to be withheld. He instantly took his seat for Dublin—an inside seat—in order to conceal himself as much as possible from observation. Having arranged this affair, he rode home in high spirits, and made preparations for starting, in due time, by "the Flash of Lightning."
The stranger, on his way to Father M'Mahon's, called upon his friend Birney, with whom he had a long confidential conversation. They had already determined, if the unfortunate heir of Red Hall could be traced, and if his disappearance could, be brought home to the baronet, to take such public or rather legal proceedings as they might be advised to by competent professional advice. Our readers may already guess, however, that the stranger was influenced by motives sufficiently strong and decisive to prevent him, above all men, from appearing, publicly or at all, in any proceedings that might be taken against the baronet.
On arriving at Father M'Mahon's, he found that excellent man at home; and it was upon this occasion that he observed with more attention than before the extraordinary neatness of his dwelling-house and premises. The cleanliness, the order, the whiteness, the striking taste displayed, the variety of culinary utensils, not in themselves expensive, but arranged with surprising regularity, constituting a little paradise of convenience and comfort, were all perfectly delightful to contemplate. The hall-door was open, and when the stranger entered, he found no one in the kitchen, for it is necessary to say here that, in this neat but unassuming abode of benevolence and goodness, that which we have termed the hall-door led, in the first instance, to the beautiful little kitchen we have just described. The stranger, having heard voices in conversation with the priest, resolved to wait a little until his visitors should leave him, as he felt reluctant to intrude upon him while engaged with his parishioners. He could not prevent himself, however, from overhearing the following portion of their I conversation.
"And it was yesterday he put in the distraint?"
"It was, your reverence."
"Oh, the dirty Turk; not a landlord at all is half so hard to ourselves as those of our own religion: they'll show some lenity to a Protestant, and I don't blame them for that, but they trample those belonging to their own creed under their inhuman hoofs."
"How much is it, Nogher?"
"Only nine pounds, your reverence."
"Well, then, bring me a stamp in the course of the day, and I'll pass my bill to him for the amount."
"Troth, sir, wid great respect, your reverence will do no such thing. However I may get it settled, I won't lug you in by the head and shoulders. You have done more of that kind of work than you could afford. No, sir; but if you will send Father James up to my poor wife and daughter that's so ill with this faver—that's all I want."
"To be sure he'll go, or rather I'll go myself, for he won't be home till after station. Did this middleman landlord of yours know that there was fever in your family when he; sent in the bailiffs?"
"To do him justice, sir, he did not; but he knows it since the day before yesterday, and yet he won't take them off unless he gets either the rent or security."
"Indeed, and the hard-hearted Turk will have the security;—whisper,—call down tomorrow with a stamp, and I'll put my name on it; and let these men, these keepers, go about their business. My goodness! to think of having two strange fellows night and day in a sick and troubled family! Oh, dear me! one half the world doesn't know how the other lives. If many of the rich and wealthy, Michael, could witness the scenes that I witness, the sight might probably soften their hearts. Is this boy your son, Nogher?"
"He is, sir."
"I hope you are giving him a good education; and I hope, besides, that he is a good boy. Do you attend to your duty regularly, my good lad?"
"I do, plaise your reverence."
"And obey your parents?"
"I hope so, sir."
"Indeed," said his father, "poor Mick doesn't lave us much to complain of in that respect; he's a very good boy in general, your reverence."
"God bless you, my child," said the priest, solemnly, placing his hand upon the boy's head, who was sitting, "and guide your feet in the paths of religion and virtue!"
"Oh, sir," exclaimed the poor affectionate lad, bursting into tears, "I wish you would come to my mother! she is very ill, and so is my sister."
"I will go, my child, in half-an-hour. I see you are a good youth, and full of affection; I will go almost immediately. Here, Mat Ruly," he shouted, raising the parlor window, on seeing that neat boy pass;—"here, you colossus—you gigantic prototype of grace and beauty;—I say, go and saddle Freney the Robber immediately; I must attend a sick call without delay. What do you stare and gape for? shut that fathomless cleft in your face, and be off. Now, Nogher," he said, once more addressing the man, "slip down to-morrow with the stamp; or, stay, why should these fellows be there two hours, and the house and the family as they are? Sit down here for a few minutes, I'll go home with you; we can get the stamp in Ballytrain, on our way,—ay, and draw up the bill there too;—indeed we can and we will too; so not a syllable against it. You know I must have my will, and that I'm a raging lion when opposed."
"God bless your reverence," replied the man, moved almost to tears by his goodness; "many an act of the kind your poor and struggling parishioners has to thank you for."
On looking into the kitchen, for the parlor door was open, he espied the stranger, whom he approached with every mark of the most profound respect, but still with perfect ease and independence.
After the first salutations were over—
"Well, sir," said the priest, "do you hold to your purpose of going to Dublin?"
"I go this night," replied the other; "and, except through the old man to whom you are so kind as to give me the letter, I must confess I have but slight expectations of success. Unless we secure this unfortunate young man, that is, always supposing that he is alive, and are able clearly and without question to identify his person, all we may do must be in vain, and the baronet is firm in both title and estates."
"That is evident," replied the priest. "Could you find the heir alive, and identify his person, of course your battle is won. Well; if there be anything like a thread to guide you through the difficulties of this labyrinth, I have placed it in your hands."
"I am sensible of your good wishes, sir, and I thank you very much for the interest you have so kindly taken in the matter. By the way, I engaged a servant to accompany me—one Dulcimer, Dandy Dulcimer; pray, what kind of moral character does he bear?"
"Dandy Dulcimer!" exclaimed the priest; "why, the thief of the world! is it possible you have engaged him?"
"Why? is he not honest?" asked the other, with surprise.
"Honest!" replied the priest; "the vagabond's as honest a vagabond as ever lived. You may trust him in anything and everything. When I call him a vagabond, I only mean it in a kind and familiar sense; and, by the way, I must give you an explanation upon the subject of my pony. You must have heard me call him 'Freney the Robber' a few minutes ago. Now, not another sense did I give him that name in but in an ironical one, just like lucus a non lucendo, or, in other words, because the poor creature is strictly honest and well tempered. And, indeed, there are some animals much more moral in their disposition than others. Some are kind, affectionate, benevolent, and grateful; and some, on the other hand, are thieving robbers and murderers. No, sir, I admit that I was wrong, and, so to speak, I owe Freney an apology for having given him a bad name; but then again I have made it up to him in other respects. Now, you'll scarcely believe what I am going to tell you, although you may, for not a word of lie in it. When Freney sometimes is turned out into my fields, he never breaks bounds, nor covets, so to speak, his neighbor's property, but confines himself strictly and honestly to his own; and I can tell you it's not every horse would do that, or man either. He knows my voice, too, and, what is more, my very foot, for he will whinny when he hears it, and before he sees me at all."
"Pray," said the stranger, exceedingly amused at this narrative, "how does your huge servant get on?"
"Is it Mat Ruly?—why, sir, the poor boy's as kind-hearted and benevolent, and has as sharp an appetite as ever. He told me that he cried yesterday when bringing a little assistance to a poor family in the neighborhood. But, touching this matter on which you are engaged, will you be good enough to write to me from time to time? for I shall feel anxious to hear how you get on."
The stranger promised to do so, and after having received two letters from him they shook hands and separated.
We have stated before that Dandy Dulcimer had a sweetheart in the service of Sir Thomas Gourlay. Soon after the interview between the stranger and Dandy, and while the former had gone to get the letters from Father M'Mahon, this same sweetheart, by name Alley Mahon, came to have a word or two with Paudeen Gair, or Pat Sharpe. When Paudeen saw her, he imputed the cause of her visit to something connected with Dandy Dulcimer, his cousin; for, as the latter had disclosed to him the revelation which Alley had made, he took it for granted that the Dandy had communicated to her the fact of his being about to accept service with the stranger at the inn, and to proceed with him to Dublin. And, such, indeed, was the actual truth. Paudeen had, on behalf of Dandy, all but arranged the matter with the stranger a couple of days before, Dandy being a consenting party, so that nothing was wanting but an interview between the latter and the stranger, in order to complete the negotiation.
"Pat," said Alley, after he had brought her up to a little back-room on the second story, "I know that your family ever and always has been an honest family, and that a stain of thraichery or disgrace was never upon one of their name."
"Thank God, and you, Alley; I am proud to know that what you say is right and true."
"Well, then," she replied, "it is, and every one knows it. Now, then, can you keep a secret, for the sake of truth and conscience, ay, and religion; and if all will not do, for the sake of her that paid back to your family, out of her own private purse, what her father robbed them of?"
"By all that's lovely," replied Pat, "if there's a livin' bein' I'd sacrifice my life for, it's her."
"Listen; I want you to secure two seats in the 'Fly,' for this night; inside seats, or if you can't get insides, then outsides will do."
"Stop where you are," replied Pat, about to start downstairs; "the thing will be done in five minutes."
"Are you mad, Pat?" said she; "take the money with you before you go."
"Begad," said Pat, "my heart was in my mouth—here, let us have it. And so the darling young lady is forced to fly from the tyrant?"
"Oh, Pat," said Alice, solemnly, "for the sake of the living God, don't breathe that you know anything about it; we're lost if you do."
"If Dandy was here, Alley," he replied, "I'd make him swear it upon your lips; but, hand us the money, for there's little time to be lost; I hope all the seats aren't taken."
He was just in time, however; and in a few minutes returned, having secured for two the only inside seats that were left untaken at the moment, although there were many claimants for them in a few minutes afterwards.
"Now, Alley," said he, after he had returned from the coach-office, which, by the way, was connected with the inn, "what does all this mane? I think I could guess something about it. A runaway, eh?"
"What do you mean by a runaway?" she replied; "of course she is running away from her brute of a father, and I am goin' with her."
"But isn't she goin' wid somebody else?" he inquired.
"No," replied Alley; "I know where she is goin'; but she is goin' wid nobody but myself."
"Ah, Alley," replied Pat, shrewdly, "I see she has kept you in the dark; but I don't blame her. Only, if you can keep a secret, so can I."
"Pat," said she, "desire the coachman to stop at the white gate, where two faymales will be waitin' for it, and let the guard come down and open the door for us; so that we won't have occasion to spake. It's aisy to know one's voice, Pat."
"I'll manage it all," said Pat; "make your mind aisy—and what is more, I'll not breathe a syllable to mortual man, woman, or child about it. That would be an ungrateful return for her kindness to our family. May God bless her, and grant her happiness, and that's the worst I wish her."
The baronet, in the course of that evening, was sitting in his dining-room alone, a bottle of Madeira before him, for indeed it is necessary to say, that although unsocial and inhospitable, he nevertheless indulged pretty freely in wine. He appeared moody, and gulped down the Madeira as a man who wished either to sustain his mind against care, or absolutely to drown memory, and probably the force of conscience. At length, with a flushed face, and a voice made more deep and stern by his potations, and the reflections they excited, he rang the bell, and in a moment the butler appeared.
"Is Gillespie in the house, Gibson?"
"Send him up."
In a few minutes Gillespie entered; and indeed it would be difficult to see a more ferocious-looking ruffian than this scoundrel who was groom to the baronet. Fame, or scandal, or truth, as the case may be, had settled the relations between Sir Thomas and him, not merely as those of master and servant, but as those of father and son. Be this as it may, however, the similarity of figure and feature was so extraordinary, that the inference could be considered by no means surprising.
"Tom," said the baronet, "I suppose there is a Bible in the house?"
"I can't say, sir," replied the ruffian. "I never saw any one in use. O, yes, Miss Gourlay has one."
"Yes," replied the other, with a gloomy reflection, "I forgot; she is, in addition to her other accomplishments, a Bible reader. Well, stay where you are; I shall get it myself."
He accordingly rose and proceeded to Lucy's chamber, where, after having been admitted, he found the book he sought, and such was the absence of mind, occasioned by the apprehensions he felt, that he brought away the book, and forgot to lock the door.
"Now, sir," said the baronet, sternly, when he returned, "do you respect this book? It is the Bible."
"Why, yes, sir. I respect every book that has readin' in it—printed readin'."
"But this is the Bible, on which the Christian religion is founded."
"Well, sir, I don't doubt that," replied the enlightened master of horse; "but I prefer the Seven Champions of Christendom, or the History of Valentine and Orson, or Fortunatus's Purse."
"You don't relish the Bible, then?"
"I don't know, sir; I never read a line of it—although I heard a great deal about! it. Isn't that the book the parsons preach I from?"
"It is," replied the baronet, in his deep voice. "This book is the source and origin and history of the revelation of God's will to man; this is the book on which oaths are taken, and when taken falsely, the falsehood is perjury, and the individual so perjuring himself is transported, either for life or a term of years, while living and when dead, Gillespie—mark me well, sir—when dead, his soul goes to eternal perdition in the flames of hell. Would you now, knowing this—that you would be transported in this world, and damned in the next—would you, I say, take an oath upon this book and break it?"
"No, sir, not after what you said."
"Well, then, I am a magistrate, and I wish to administer an oath to you."
"Very well, sir, I'll swear whatever you like."
"Then listen—take the book in your right hand—you shall swear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God! You swear to execute whatever duty I may happen to require at your hands, and to keep the performance of that duty a secret from every living mortal, and besides to keep secret the fact that I am in any way connected with it—you swear this?"
"I do, sir," replied the other, kissing the book.
The baronet paused a little.
"Very well," he added, "consider yourself solemnly sworn, and pray recollect that if you violate this oath—in other words, if you commit perjury, I shall have you transported as sure as your name is Gillespie."
"But your honor has sworn me to secrecy, and yet I don't know the secret."
"Neither shall you—for twenty-four hours longer. I am not and shall not be in a condition to mention it to you sooner, but I put you under the obligation now, in order that you may have time to reflect upon its importance. You may go."
Gillespie felt exceedingly puzzled as to the nature of the services about to be required at his hands, but as every attempt to solve this difficulty was fruitless, he resolved to await the event in patience, aware that the period between his anxiety on the subject and a knowledge of it was but short.
We need not hesitate to assure our readers, that if Lucy Gourlay had been apprised, or even dreamt for a moment, that the stranger and she were on that night to be fellow-travellers in the same coach, she would unquestionably have deferred her journey to tha metropolis, or, in other words, her escape from the senseless tyranny of her ambitious father. Fate, however, is fate, and it is precisely the occurrence of these seemingly incidental coincidences that in fact, as well as in fiction, constitutes the principal interest of those circumstances which give romance to the events of human life and develop its character.
The "Fly" started from Ballytrain at the usual hour, with only two inside passengers—to wit, our friend the stranger and a wealthy stock-farmer from the same parish. He was a large, big-boned, good-humored fellow, dressed in a strong frieze outside coat or jock, buckskin breeches, top-boots, and a heavy loaded whip, his inseparable companion wherever he went.
The coach, on arriving at the white gate, pulled up, and two females, deeply and closely veiled, took their seats inside. Of course, the natural politeness of the stranger prevented him from obtruding his conversation upon ladies with whom he was not acquainted. The honest farmer, however, felt no such scruples, nor, as it happened, did one at least of the ladies in question.
"This is a nice affair," he observed, "about the Black Baronet's daughter."
"What is a nice affair?" asked our friend Alley, for she it was, as the reader of course is already aware—"What is a nice affair?"
"Why, that Miss Gourlay, they say, fell in love with a buttonmaker's clerk from London, and is goin' to marry him in spite of all opposition."
"Who's your authority for that?" asked Alley; "but whoever is, is a liar, and the truth is not in him—that's what I say."
"Ay, but what do you know about it?" asked the grazier. "You're not in Miss Gourlay's saicrets—and a devilish handsome, gentlemanly lookin' fellow they say the button-maker is. Faith, I can tell you, I give tooth-an-egg-credit. The fellow will get a darlin' at all events—and he'll be very bad indeed, if he's not worth a ship-load of that profligate Lord Dunroe."
"Well," replied Alley, "I agree with you there, at all events; for God sees that the same Lord Dunroe will make the cream of a bad husband to whatsoever poor woman will suffer by him. A bad bargain he will be at best, and in that I agree with you."
"So far, then," replied the grazier, "we do agree; an', dang my buttons, but I'll lave it to this gentleman if it wouldn't be betther for Miss Gourlay to marry a daicent button-maker any day, than such a hurler as Dunroe. What do you say, sir?"
"But who is this button-maker," asked the stranger, "and where is he to be found?"
Lucy, on recognizing his voice, could scarcely prevent her emotion from becoming perceptible; but owing to the darkness of the night, and the folds of her thick veil, her fellow-travellers observed nothing.
"Why," replied the grazier, who had evidently, from a lapse of memory, substituted one species of manufacture for another thing, "they tell me he is stopping in the head inn in Ballytrain; an', dang my buttons, but he must be a fellow of mettle, for sure didn't he kick that tyrannical ould scoundrel, the Black Baronet, down-stairs, and out of the hall-door, when he came to bullyrag over him about his daughter—the darlin'?"
Lucy's distress was here incredible; and had not her self-command and firmness of character been indeed unusual, she would have felt it extremely difficult to keep her agitation within due bounds.
"You labor under a mistake there," replied the stranger; "I happen to know that nothing of the kind occurred. Some warm words passed between them, but no blows. A young person named Fenton, whom I know, was present."
"Why," observed the grazier, "that's the young fellow that goes mad betimes, an' a quare chap he is, by all accounts. They say he went mad for love."
From this it was evident that rumor had, as usual, assigned several causes for Fenton's insanity.
"Yes, I believe so," replied the stranger.
Alley, who thought she had been overlooked in this partial dialogue, determined to sustain her part in the conversation with a dignity becoming her situation, now resolved to flourish in with something like effect.
"They know nothing about it," she said, "that calls Miss Gourlay's sweetheart a button-maker. Miss Gourlay's not the stuff to fall in love wid any button-maker, even if he made buttons of goold; an' sure they say that the king an' queen, and the whole royal family wears golden buttons."
"I think, in spaiking of buttons," observed the grazier, with a grin, "that you might lave the queen out."
"And why should I lave the queen out?" asked Alley, indignantly, and with a towering resolution to defend the privileges of her sex. "Why ought I lave the queen out, I say?"
"Why," replied the grazier, with a still broader grin, "barring she wears the breeches, I don't know what occasion she could have for buttons."
"That only shows your ignorance," said Alley; "don't you know that all ladies wear habit-shirts, and that habit-shirts must have buttons?"
"I never heard of a shirt havin' buttons anywhere but at the neck," replied the grazier, who drew the inference in question from his own, which were made upon a very simple and primitive fashion.
"But you don't know either," responded Alley, launching nobly into the purest fiction, from an impression that the character of her mistress required it for her defence, "you don't know that nobody is allowed to make buttons for the queen but a knight o' the garther."
"Garther!" exclaimed the grazier, with astonishment. "Why what the dickens has garthers to do wid buttons?"
"More than you think," replied the redoubtable Alley. "The queen wears buttons to her garthers, and the knight o' the garther is always obliged to try them on; but always, of course, afore company."
The stranger was exceedingly amused at this bit of by-play between Alley and the honest grazier, and the more so as it drew the conversation from a point of the subject that was painful to him in the last degree, inasmuch as it directly involved the character of Miss Gourlay.
"How do you know, then," proceeded Alley, triumphantly, "but the button-maker that Miss Gourlay has fallen in love with may be a knight o' the garther?"
"Begad, there maybe a great dale in that, too," replied the unsuspicious grazier, who never dreamt that Alley's knowledge of court etiquette might possibly be rather limited, and her accounts of it somewhat apocryphal;—"begad, there may. Well," he added, with an honest and earnest tone of sincerity, "for my part, and from all ever I heard of that darlin' of a beauty, she deserves a knight o' the shire, let alone a knight o' the garther. They say the good she does among the poor and destitute since they came home is un-tellable. God bless her! And that she may live long and die happy is the worst that I or anybody that knows her wishes her. It's well known that she had her goodness from her angel of a mother at all events, for they say that such another woman for charity and kindness to the poor never lived; and by all accounts she led an unhappy and miserable life wid her Turk of a husband, who, they say, broke her heart, and sent her to an early grave."
Alley was about to bear fiery and vehement testimony to the truth of all this; but Lucy, whose bosom heaved up strongly two or three times at these affecting allusions to her beloved mother, and who almost sobbed aloud, not merely from sorrow but distress, arising from the whole tenor of the conversation, whispered a few words into her ear, and she was instantly silent. The farmer seemed somewhat startled; for, in truth, as we have said, he was naturally one of those men who wish to hear themselves talk. In this instance, however, he found, after having made three or four colloquial attacks upon the stranger, but without success, that he must only have recourse either to soliloquy or silence. He accordingly commenced to hum over several old Irish airs, to which he ventured to join the words—at first in a very subdued undertone. Whenever the coach stopped, however, to change horses, which it generally did at some public house or inn, the stranger could observe that the grazier always went out, and on his return appeared to be affected with a still stronger relish for melody. By degrees he proceeded from a tolerably distinct undertone to raise his voice into a bolder key, when, at last, throwing aside all reserve, he commenced the song of Cruiskeen Lawn, which he gave in admirable style and spirit, and with a rich mellow voice, that was calculated to render every justice to that fine old air. In this manner, he literally sang his way until within a few miles of the metropolis. He was not, however, without assistance, during, at least, a portion of the journey. Our friend Dandy, who was on the outside, finding that the coach came to a level space on the road, placed the dulcimer on his knees, and commenced an accompaniment on that instrument, which produced an effect equally comic and agreeable. And what added to the humor of this extraordinary duet—if we can call it so—was the delight with which each intimated his satisfaction at the performance of the other, as well as with the terms in which it was expressed.
"Well done, Dandy! dang my buttons, but you shine upon the wires. Ah, thin, it's you that is and ever was the wiry lad—and sure that was what made you take to the dulcimer of course. Dandy, achora, will you give us, 'Merrily kissed the Quaker?' and I ask it, Dandy, bekaise we are in a religious way, and have a quakers' meetn' in the coach."
"No," replied Dandy; "but I'll give you the 'Bonny brown Girl,' that's worth a thousand of it, you thief."
"Bravo, Dandy, and so it is; and, as far as I can see in the dark, dang my buttons, but I think we have one here, too."
"I thank you for the compliment, sir," said Alley, appropriating it without ceremony to herself. "I feel much obliged to you, sir; but I'm not worthy of it."
"My darling," replied the jolly farmer, "you had betther not take me up till I fall. How do you know it was for you it was intended? You're not the only lady in the coach, avourneen."
"And you're not the only gintleman in the coach, Jemmy Doran," replied Alley, indignantly. "I know you well, man alive—and you picked up your politeness from your cattle, I suppose."
"A better chance of getting it from them than from you," replied, the hasty grazier. "But I tell you at once to take it aisy, achora; don't get on fire, or you'll burn the coach—the compliment was not intended for you, at all events. Come, Dandy, give us the 'Bonny brown Girl,' and I'll help you, as well as I'm able."
In a moment the dulcimer was at work on the top of the coach, and the merry farmer, at the top of his lungs, lending his assistance inside.
When the performance had been concluded, Alley, who was brimful of indignation at the slight which had been put upon her, said, "Many thanks to you, Misther Doran, but if you plaise we'll dispense wid your music for the rest of the journey. Remember you're not among your own bullocks and swine—and that this roaring and grunting is and must be very disagreeable to polite company."
"Troth, whoever you are, you have the advantage of me," replied the good-natured farmer, "and besides I believe you're right—I'm afraid I've given offince; and as we have gone so far—but no, dang my buttons, I won't—I was going to try 'Kiss my Lady,' along wid Dandy, it goes beautiful on the dulcimer—but—but—ah, not half so well as on a purty pair of lips. Alley, darlin'," he proceeded now, evidently in a maudlin state, "I never lave you, but I'm in a hurry home to you, for it's your lips that's—"
"It's false, Mr. Doran," exclaimed Alley; "how dare you, sir, bring my name, or my lips either, into comparishment wid yourself? You want to take away my character, Mr. Doran; but I have friends, and a strong faction at my back, that will make you suffer for this."
The farmer, however, who was elevated into the seventh heaven of domestic affection, paid no earthly attention to her, but turning to the stranger said:
"Sir, I've the best wife that ever faced the sun—"
"I," exclaimed Alley, "am not to be insulted and calumnied, ay, an' backbitten before my own face, Misther Doran, and take my word you'll hear of this to your cost—I've a faction."
"Sir—gintleman—miss, over the way there—for throth, for all so close as you're veiled, you haven't a married look—but as I was sayin', we fell in love wid one another by mistake—for there was an ould matchmaker, by name Biddlety Girtha, a daughter of ould Jemmy Trailcudgel's—God be good to him—father of the present strugglin' poor man of that name—and as I had hard of a celebrated beauty that lived about twelve or fifteen miles down the country that I wished to coort—and she, on the other hand, having hard of a very fine, handsome young fellow in my own neighborhood—what does the ould thief do but brings us together, in the fair of Baltihorum, and palms her off on me as the celebrated beauty, and palms myself on her as the fine, handsome young fellow from the parish of Ballytrain, and, as I said, so we fell in love wid one another by mistake, and didn't discover the imposthure that the ould vagabond had put on us until afther the marriage. However, I'm not sorry for it—she turned out a good wife to me, at all events—for, besides bringin' me a stockin' of guineas, she has brought me twelve of as fine childre' as you'd see in the kingdom of Ireland, ay, or in the kingdom of heaven either. Barrin' that she's a little hasty in the temper—and sometimes—do you persave?—has the use of her—there's five of them on each hand at any rate—do you undherstand—I say, barrin' that, and that she often amuses herself—just when she has nothing else to do—and by way of keepin' her hand in—I say, sir, and you, miss, over the way—she now and then amuses herself by turnin' up the little finger of her right hand—but what matter for all that—there's no one widout their little weeny failin's. My own hair's a little sandy, or so—some people say it's red, but I think myself it's only a little sandy—as I said, sir—so out of love and affection for the best of wives, I'll give you her favorite, the 'Red-haired man's wife.' Dandy, you thief, will you help me to do the 'Red-haired man's wife?'"
"Wid pleasure, Misther Doran," replied Dandy, adjusting his dulcimer. "Come now, start, and I'm wid you."
The performance was scarcely finished, when a sob or two was heard from Alley, who, during this ebullition of the grazier's, had been nursing her wrath to keep it warm, as Burns says.
"I'm not without friends and protectors, Mr. Doran—that won't see me rantinized in a mail-coach, and mocked and made little of—whereof I have a strong back, as you'll soon find, and a faction that will make you sup sorrow yet."
All this virtuous indignation was lost, however, on the honest grazier, who had scarcely concluded the "Red-haired man's wife," ere he fell fast asleep, in which state he remained—having simply changed the style and character of his melody, the execution of the latter being equally masterly—until they reached the hotel at which the coach always stopped in the metropolis.
The weather, for the fortnight preceding, had been genial, mild, and beautiful. For some time before they reached the city, that gradual withdrawing of darkness began to take place, which resembles the disappearance of sorrow from a heavy heart, and harbinges to the world the return of cheerfulness and light. The dim, spectral paleness of the eastern sky by degrees received a clearer and healthier tinge, just as the wan cheek of an invalid assumes slowly, but certainly, the glow of returning health. Early as it was, an odd individual was visible here and there, and it may, be observed, that at a very early hour every person visible in the streets is characterized by a chilly and careworn appearance, looking, with scarcely an exception, both solitary and sad, just as if they had not a single friend on earth, but, on the contrary, were striving to encounter; struggles and difficulties which they were incompetent to meet.
As our travellers entered the city, that bygone class who, as guardians of the night, were appointed to preserve the public peace, every one of them a half felon and whole accomplice, were seen to pace slowly along, their poles under their left arm, their hands mutually thrust into the capacious cuffs of their watchcoats, and each with a frowzy woollen nightcap under his hat. Here and there a staggering toper might be seen on his way home from the tavern brawl or the midnight debauch, advancing, or attempting to advance, as if he wanted to trace Hogarth's line of beauty. From some quarters the wild and reckless shriek of female profligacy might be heard, the tongue, though loaded with blasphemies, nearly paralyzed by intoxication. Nor can we close here. The fashionable carriage made its appearance filled with beauty shorn of its charms by a more refined dissipation—beauty, no longer beautiful, returning with pale cheeks, languid eyes, and exhausted frame—after having breathed a thickened and suffocating atmosphere, calculated to sap the physical health, if not to disturb the pure elements of moral feeling, principle, and delicacy, without which woman becomes only an object of contempt.
Up until the arrival of the "Fly" at the hotel, the gray dusk of morning, together with the thick black veil to which we have alluded, added to that natural politeness which prevents a gentleman from staring at a lady who may wish to avoid observation—owing to these causes, we say, the stranger had neither inclination nor opportunity to recognize the features of Lucy Gourlay. When the coach drew up, however, with that courtesy and attention that are always due to the sex, and, we may add, that are very seldom omitted with a pretty travelling companion, the stranger stepped quickly out of it in order to offer her assistance, which was accepted silently, being acknowledged only by a graceful inclination of the head. When, however, on leaving the darkness of the vehicle he found her hand and arm tremble, and had sufficient light to recognize her through the veil, he uttered an exclamation expressive at once of delight, wonder, and curiosity.
"Good God, my dear Lucy," said he in a low whisper, so as not to let his words reach other ears, "how is this? In heaven's name, how does it happen that you travel by a common night coach, and are here at such an hour?"
She blushed deeply, and as she spoke he observed that her voice was infirm and tremulous: "It is most unfortunate," she replied, "that we should both have travelled in the same conveyance. I request you will instantly leave me."
"What! leave you alone and unattended at this hour?"
"I am not unattended," she replied; "that faithful creature, though somewhat blunt and uncouth in her manners, is all truth and attachment, so far as I at least am concerned. But I beg you will immediately withdraw. If we are seen holding conversation, or for a moment in each other's society, I cannot tell what the consequences may be to my reputation."
"But, my dear Lucy," replied the stranger, "that risk may easily be avoided. This meeting seems providential—I entreat you, let us accept it as such and avail ourselves of it."
"That is," she replied, whilst her glorious dark eye kindled, and her snowy temples got red as fire, "that is, that I should elope with you, I presume? Sir," she added, "you are the last man from whom I should have expected an insult. You forget yourself, and you forget me."
The high sense of honor that flashed from that glorious eye, and which made itself felt through the indignant tones of her voice, rebuked him at once.
"I have erred," said he, "but I have erred from an excess of affection—will you not pardon me?"
She felt the difficulty and singular distress of her position, and in spite of her firmness and the unnatural harshness of her father, she almost regretted the step she had taken. As it was, she made no reply to the stranger, but seemed absorbed in thoughts of bitterness and affliction.
"Let me press you," said the stranger, "to come into the hotel; you require both rest and refreshment—and I entreat and implore you, for the sake both of my happiness and your own, to grant me a quarter of an hour's conversation."
"I have reconsidered our position," she replied. "Alley will fetch in our very slight luggage; she has money, too, to pay the guard and driver—she says it is usual; and I feel that to give you a short explanation now may possibly enable us to avoid much future embarrassment and misunderstanding—Alley, however, must accompany us, and be present in the room. But then," she added, starting, "is it proper?—is it delicate?—no, no, I cannot, I cannot; it might compromise me with the world. Leave me, I entreat, I implore, I command you. I ask it as a proof of your love. We will, I trust, have other opportunities. Let us trust, too, to time—let us trust to God—but I will do nothing wrong, and I feel that this would be unworthy of my mother's daughter."
"Well," replied the stranger, "I shall obey you as a proof of my love for you; but will you not allow me to write to you?—will you not give me your address?"
"No," she returned; "and I enjoin you, as you hope, that we shall ever be happy, not to attempt to trace me. I ask this from you as a man of honor. Of course it may or perhaps it will be discovered that we travelled in the same coach. The accident may be misinterpreted. My father may seek an explanation from you—he may ask if you know where I am. Should I have placed the knowledge of my retreat in your possession, you know that, as a man of honor, you could not tell him a falsehood. Goodby," she added, "we may meet in better times, but I much fear that our destinies will be separated forever—Come, Alley."
Her voice softened as she uttered the last words, and the stranger felt the influence of her ascendency over him too strongly to hesitate in manifesting this proof of his obedience to her wishes.
CHAPTER XIV. Crackenfudge put upon a Wrong Scent
—Miss Gourlay takes Refuge with an Old Friend.
Little did Lucy dream that the fact of their discovery as fellow-travellers would so soon reach her father's ears, and that the provision against that event, and the inferences which calumny might draw from it, as suggested by her prudence and good sense, should render her advice to the stranger so absolutely necessary.
Whilst the brief dialogue which we have recited at the close of the last chapter took place, another, which as a faithful historian we are bound to detail, was proceeding between the redoubtable Crackenfudge and our facetious friend, Dandy Dulcimer. Crackenfudge in following the stranger to the metropolis by the 'Flash of Lightning', in order to watch his movements, was utterly ignorant that Lucy had been that gentleman's fellow-traveller in the Fly. A strong opposition, as we have already said, existed between the two coaches, and so equal was their speed, that in consequence of the mutual delay caused by changing horses, they frequently passed each other on the road, the driver, guard, and outside passengers of both coaches uniformly grimacing at each other amidst a storm of groans, cheers, and banter on both sides. So equal, however, were their relative powers of progress, that no effort on either side was found sufficient to enable any one of them to claim a victory. On the contrary, their contests generally ended in a dead heat, or something very nearly approaching it. On the night in question the 'Fly' had a slight advantage, and but a slight one. Before the coachman had time to descend from his ample seat, the 'Flash of Lightning' came dashing in at a most reckless speed—the unfortunate horses snorting and panting—steaming with smoke, which rose from them in white wreaths, and streaming in such a manner with perspiration that it was painful to look upon them.
Crackenfudge was one of the first out of the 'Flash of Lightning', which, we should say, drew up at a rival establishment, directly opposite that which patronized the 'Fly'. He lost no time in sending in his trunk by "boots," or some other of those harpies that are always connected with large hotels in the metropolis. Having accomplished this, he set himself, but quite in a careless way, to watch the motions of the stranger. For this purpose he availed himself of a position from whence he could see without being himself seen. Judge, then, of his surprise on ascertaining that the female whom he saw with the stranger was no other than Lucy Gourlay, and in conversation with the very individual with whose name, motions, and projects he wished so anxiously to become acquainted. If he watched Miss Gourlay and her companion well however, he himself was undergoing quite as severe a scrutiny. Dandy Dulcimer having observed him, in consequence of some hints that he had already received from a source with which the reader may become ultimately acquainted, approached, and putting his hand to his hat, exclaimed:
"Why, then, Counsellor Crackenfudge, is it here I find your honor?"
"Don't you see a'm here, Dandy, my fine fellow?" and this he uttered in a very agreeable tone, simply because he felt a weak and pitiable ambition to be addressed by the title of "Your honor."
"What does all this mean, Dandy?" asked Crackenfudge; "it looks vary odd to see Miss Gourlay in conversation with an impostor—a' think it's an elopement, Dandy. And pray Dandy, what brought you to town?"
"I think your honor's a friend to Sir Thomas, counsellor?" replied Dandy, answering by another question.
"A' am, Dandy, a stanch friend to Sir Thomas."
"Bekaise I know that if you aren't a friend of his, he is a friend of yours. I was playin' a tune the other day in the hall, and while I was in the very middle of it I heard him say—'We must have Counsellor Crackenfudge on the bench;' and so they had a long palaver about you, and the whole thing ended by Sir Thomas getting the tough old Captain to promise you his support, with some great man that they called custos rascalorum."
"A' am obliged to Sir Thomas," said Crackenfudge, "and a' know he is a true friend of mine."
"Ay, but will you now be a true friend to him, plaise your honor, counsellor?"
"To be sure I will, Dandy, my fine fellow."
"Well, then, listen—Sir Thomas got me put into this strange fellow's sarvice, in ordher to ah—ahem—why, you see in ordher to keep an eye upon him—and, what do you think? but he's jist afther tellin' me that he doesn't think he'll have any further occasion for my sarvices."
"Well, a' think that looks suspicious—it's an elopement, there's no doubt about it."
"I think so, your honor; although I am myself completely in the dark about it, any farther than this, counsellor—listen, now—I know the road they're goin', for I heard it by accident—they'll be off, too, immediately. Now, if your honor is a true friend to Sir Thomas, you'll take a post chaise and start off a little before them upon the Isaas road. You know that by going before them, they never can suspect that you're followin' them. I'll remain here to watch their motions, and while you keep before them, I'll keep after them, so that it will be the very sorra if they escape us both. Whisper, counsellor, your honor—I'm in Sir Thomas's pay. Isn't that enough? but I want assistance, and if you're his friend, as you say, you will be guided by me and sarve him."
Crackenfudge felt elated; he thought of the magistracy, of his privilege to sit on the bench in all the plenitude of official authority; he reflected that he could commit mendicants, impostors, vagrants, and vagabonds of all descriptions, and that he would be entitled to the solemn and reverential designation of "Your worship." Here, then, was an opening. The very object for which he came to town was accomplished—that is to say, the securing to himself the magistracy through the important services rendered to Sir Thomas Gourlay.
It occurred to him, we admit, that as it must have been evidently a case of elopement, it might be his duty to have the parties arrested, until at least the parent of the lady could be apprised of the circumstances. There was, however, about Crackenfudge a wholesome regard for what is termed a whole skin, and as he had been, through the key-hole of the Mitre inn, a witness of certain scintillations and flashes that lit up the eye of this most mysterious stranger, he did not conceive that such steps and his own personal safety were compatible. In the meantime, he saw that there was an air of sincerity and anxiety about Dandy Dulcimer, which he could impute to nothing but a wish, if possible, to make a lasting friend of Sir Thomas, by enabling him to trace his daughter.
Dandy's plea and plan both succeeded, and in the course of a few minutes Crackenfudge was posting at an easy rate toward the town of Naas. Many a look did he give out of the chaise, with a hope of being able to observe the vehicle which contained those for whom he was on the watch, but in vain. Nothing of the kind was visible; but notwithstanding this he drove on to the town, where he ordered breakfast in a private room, with the anxious expectation that they might soon arrive. At length, his patience having become considerably exhausted, he determined to return to Dublin, and provided he met them, with Dandy in pursuit, to wheel about and also to join the musician in the chase. Having settled his bill, which he did not do without half an hour's wrangling with the waiter, he came to the hall door, from which a chaise with close Venetian blinds was about to start, and into which he thought the figure of a man entered, who very much resembled that of Corbet, Sir Thomas's house steward and most confidential servant. Of this, however, he could not feel quite certain, as he had not at all got a glimpse of his face. On inquiring, he found that the chaise contained another man also, who was so ill as not to be able to leave it. One of them, however, drank some spirits in the chaise, and got a bottle of it, together with some provisions, to take along with them.
So far had Crackenfudge been most adroitly thrown off the trace of Miss Gourlay and the stranger; and when Dandy joined his master, who, from principles of delicacy and respect for Lucy, went to the opposite inn, he candidly told him of the hoax he had played off on the embryo magistrate.
"I sent him, your honor, upon what they call a fool's errand, and certain I am, he is the very boy will deliver it—not but that he's the divil's own knave on the other. The truth is, sir, it's just one day a knave and the other a fool with him."
The stranger paid little attention to these observations, but walked up and down the room in a state of sorrow and disappointment, that completely abstracted him from every object around him.
"Good. God!" he exclaimed, "she will not even allow me to know the place of her retreat, and she may stand in need of aid and support, and probably of protection, a thousand ways. Would to heaven I knew how to trace her, and become acquainted with her residence, and that more for her own sake than for mine!"
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Dandy, "I see a cousin o' mine over the way; would your honor give me a couple of hours to spend wid him? I haven't seen him this—God knows how long."
Well might Dandy say so—the cousin alluded to having been only conceived and brought forth from his own own fertile fancy at the moment, or rather, while his master was unconsciously uttering his soliloquy. The truth was, that while the latter spoke, Dandy, whom he had ordered to attend him, without well knowing why, observed a hackney-coach draw up at the door of the opposite hotel; but this fact would not have in any particular way arrested his attention, had he not seen Alley Mahon giving orders to the driver.
"You'll give me a couple of hours, your honor?"
"I'll give you the whole day, Dandy, if you wish. I shall be engaged, and will not require any further services from you until to-morrow."
Dandy looked at him very significantly, and with a degree of assurance, for which we can certainly offer no apology, puckered his naturally comic face into a most mysterious grin, and closing one eye, or in other words, giving his master a knowing wink, said—
"Very well, sir, I know how many banes makes five at any rate—let me alone."
"What do you mean, you varlet," said his master, "by that impudent wink?"
"Wink?" replied Dandy, with a face of admirable composure. "Oh, you observed it, then? Sure, God help me, it's a wakeness I have in one of my eyes ever since I had the small-pock."
"And pray which eye is it in?" asked his master.
"In the left, your honor."
"But, you scoundrel, you winked at me with the right."
"Troth, sir, maybe I did, for it sometimes passes from the one to the other wid me—but not often indeed—it's principally in my left."
"Very well; but in speaking to me, use no such grimaces in future; and now go see your cousin. I shall sleep for a few hours, for I feel somewhat jaded, paid out of order on many accounts. But before you go, listen to me, and mark me well. You saw me in conversation with Miss Gourlay?"
Dandy, whose perception was quick as lightning, had his finger on his lips immediately. "I understand you, sir," said he; "and once for all, sir," he proceeded, "do you listen to me. You may lay it down as one of the ten commandments, that any secret you may plaise to trust me with, will be undher a tombstone. I'm not the stuff that a traitor or villain is made of. So, once for fill, your honor, make your mind aisy on that point."
"It will be your own interest to prove faithful," said his master. "Here is a month's wages for you in advance."
Dandy, having accepted the money, immediately proceeded to the next hackney station, which was in the same street, where he took a coach by the hour; and having got into it, ordered the driver to follow that which he saw waiting at the door of the hotel aforesaid.
"Folly that hackney," said he to the driver, "at what is called a respectful distance, an' you'll be no loser by it."
"Is there a piece of fun in the wind?" asked the driver, with a knowing grin.
"When you go to your Padereens tonight," replied Dandy, "that is, in case you ever trouble them, you may swear it on them."
"Whish! More power—I'm the boy will rowl you on."
"There, they're off," said Dandy; "but don't be in a hurry, for fraid we might seem to folly them—only for your life and sowl, and as you hope to get half-a-dozen gum-ticklers when we come come back—don't let them out o' sight. By the rakes o' Mallow, this jaunt may be the makin' o' you. Says his lordship to me, 'Dandy,' says he, 'find out where she goes to, and you and every one that helps you to do so, is a made man.'"
"Ha, ha!" exclaimed the driver, with glee, "is that it? Come, then—here's at you—they're off."
It was not yet five o'clock, and the stranger requested to be shown to a bedroom, to which he immediately retired, in order to gain a few hours' sleep, after the fatigue of his journey and the agitation which he had Undergone.
In the meantime, as Dandy followed Miss Gourlay, so shall we follow him. The chase, we must admit, was conducted with singular judgment and discretion, the second chaise jogging on—but that, in fact, is not the term—we should rather say flogging on, inasmuch as that which contained the fair fugitives went at a rate of most unusual speed. In this manner they proceeded, until they reached a very pretty cottage, about three quarters of a mile from the town of Wicklow, situated some fifty or sixty yards in from the road side. Here they stopped; but Dandy desired his man to drive slowly on. It was evident that this cottage was the destination of the fugitives. Dandy, having turned a corner of the road, desired the driver to stop and observe whether they entered or not; and the latter having satisfied himself that they did—
"Now," said Dandy, "let us wait where we are till we see whether the chaise returns or not; if it does, all's right, and I know what I know."
In a few minutes the empty chaise started once more for Dublin, followed, as before, by the redoubtable Dulcimer, who entered the city a much more important person than when he left it. Knowledge, as Bacon says, is power.
About two o'clock the stranger was dressed, had breakfasted, and having ordered a car, proceeded to Constitution Hill. As he went up the street, he observed the numbers of the houses as well as he could, for some had numbers and some had not. Among the latter was that he sought for, and he was consequently obliged to inquire. At length he found it, and saw by a glance that it was one of those low lodging-houses to which country folks of humble rank—chapmen, hawkers, pedlers, and others of a, similar character—resort. It was evident, also, that the proprietor dealt in huckstery, as he saw a shop in which there was bacon, meal, oats, eggs, potatoes, bread, and such other articles as are usually to be found in small establishments of the kind. He entered the shop, and found an old man, certainly not less than seventy, but rather beyond it, sitting behind the counter. The appearance of this man was anything but prepossessing. His brows were low and heavy; his mouth close, and remarkably hard for his years; the forehead low and narrow, and singularly deficient in what phrenologists term the moral and intellectual qualities. But the worst feature in the whole face might be read in his small, dark, cunning eyes, which no man of any penetration could look upon without feeling that they were significant of duplicity, cruelty, and fraud. His hair, though long, and falling over his neck, was black as ebony; for although Time had left his impress upon the general features of his face, it had not discolored a single hair upon his head; whilst his whiskers, on the contrary, were like snow—a circumstance which, in connection with his sinister look, gave him a remarkable and startling appearance. His hands were coarse and strong, and the joints of his thick fingers were noded either by age or disease; but, at all events, affording indication of a rude and unfeeling character.
"Pray," said the stranger, "is your name Denis Dunphy?"
The old man fastened his rat-like eyes upon him, compressed his hard, unfeeling lips, and, after surveying him for some time, replied—
"What's your business, sir, with Denis Dunphy?"
"That, my friend, can be mentioned only to himself; are you the man?"
"Well, and what if I be?"
"But I must be certain that you are."
There was another pause, and a second scrutiny, after which he replied,
"May be my name in Denis Dunphy."
"I have no communication to make," said the stranger, "that you may be afraid of; but, such as it is, it can be made to no person but Denis Dunphy himself. I have a letter for him."
"Who does it come from?" asked the cautious Denis Dunphy.
"From the parish priest of Ballytrain," replied the other, "the Rev. Father M'Mahon."
The old man pulled out a large snuff-box, and took a long pinch, which he crammed with his thumb first into one nostril, then into the other, bending his head at the same! time to each side, in order to enjoy it with greater relish, after which he gave a short deliberative cough or two.
"Well," said he, "I am Denis Dunphy."
"In that case, then," replied the other, "I should very much wish to have a short private conversation with you of some importance. But you had better first read the reverend gentleman's letter," he added, "and perhaps we shall then understand each other better;" and as he spoke he handed him the letter.
The man received it, looked at it, and again took a more rapid and less copious pinch, peered keenly at the stranger, and asked—"Pray, sir, do you know the contents of this letter?"
"Not a syllable of it."
He then coughed again, and having opened the document, began deliberately to peruse it.
The stranger, who was disagreeably impressed by his whole manner and appearance, made a point to watch the effect which the contents of the document might have on him. The other, in the meantime, read on, and, as he proceeded, it was obvious that the communication was not only one that gave him no pleasure, but filled him with suspicion and alarm. After about twenty minutes—for it took him at least that length of time to get through it—he raised his head, and fastening his small, piercing eyes upon the stranger, said:
"But how do I know that this letter comes from Father M'Mahon?"
"I'd have you to understand, sir," replied the stranger, nearly losing his temper, "that you are addressing a gentleman and a man of honor."
"Faith," said the other, "I don't know whether I am or not. I have only your word for it—and no man's willin' to give a bad character of himself—but if you will keep the shop here for a minute or two, I'll soon be able to tell whether it's Father M'Mahon'a hand-write or not."
So saying, he deliberately locked both tills of the counter—to wit, those which contained the silver and coppers—then, surveying the stranger with a look of suspicion—a look, by the way, that, after having made his cash safe, had now something of the triumph and confidence of security in it, he withdrew to a little backroom, that was divided from the shop by a partition of boards and a glass door, to which there was a red curtain.
"It is betther," said the impudent old sinner, alluding to the cash in the tills, "to greet over it than greet afther it—just keep the shop for a couple of minutes, and then we'll undherstand one another, may be. There's a great many skamers going in this world."
Having entered the little room in question, he suddenly popped out his head and asked:
"Could you weigh a stone or a half stone of praties, if they were called for? But, never mind—you'd be apt to give down weight—I'll come out and do it myself, if they're wanted;" saying which, he drew the red curtain aside, in order the better, as it would seem, to keep a watchful eye upon the other.
The latter was at first offended, but ultimately began to feel amused by the offensive peculiarities of the old man. He now perceived that he was eccentric and capricious, and that, in order to lure any information out of him, it would be necessary to watch and take advantage of the disagreeable whimsicalities which marked his character. Patience, he saw clearly, was his only remedy.
After remaining in the back parlor for about eight or ten minutes, he put out his thin, sharp face, with a grin upon it, which was intended for a smile—the expression of which, however, was exceedingly disagreeable.
"We will talk this matter over," he said, "by and by. I have compared the hand-write in this letther wid a certificate of Father M'Mahon's, that I have for many years in my possession. Step inside in the meantime; the ould woman will be back in a few minutes, and when she comes we'll go upstairs and speak about it."
The stranger complied with this invitation, and felt highly gratified that matters seemed about to take a more favorable turn.
"I trust," said he, "you are satisfied that I am fully entitled to any confidence you may feel disposed to place in me?"
"The priest speaks well of you," replied Dunphy; "but then, sure I know him; he's so kind-hearted a creature, that any one who speaks him fair, or that he happens to take a fancy to, will be sure to get his good word. It isn't much assistance I can give you, and it's not on account of his letther altogether that I do it; but bekaise I think the time's come, or rather soon will be come. Oh, here," he said, "is the ould woman, and she'll keep the shop. Now, sir, come upstairs, if you plaise, for what we're goin' to talk about is what the very stones oughtn't to hear so long as that man—"
He paused, and instantly checked himself, as if he felt that he had already gone too far.
"Now, sir," he proceeded, "what is it you expect from me? Name it at wanst."
"You are aware," said the stranger, "that the son of the late Sir Edward Gourlay, and the heir of his property, disappeared very mysteriously and suspiciously—"
"And so did the son of the present man," replied Dunphy, eying the stranger keenly.
"It is not of him I am speaking," replied the other; "although at the same time I must say, that if I could find a trace even of him I would leave no stone unturned to recover him."
The old man looked into the floor, and mused for some time.
"It was a strange business," he observed, "that both should go—you may take my word, there has been mischief and revenge, or both, at the bottom of the same business."
"The worthy priest, whose letter I presented to you to-day, led me to suppose, that if any man could put me in a capacity to throw light upon it you could."
"He didn't say, surely, that I could throw light upon it—did he?"
"No, certainly not—but that if any man could, you are that man."
"Ay, ay," replied old Dunphy; "all bekaise he thinks I have a regard for the Gourlays. That's what makes him suppose that I know anything about the business; just as if I was in the saicrets of the family. I may have suspicions like other people; but that's all."
"Can you throw out no hint, or give no clew, that might aid me in the recovery of this unhappy young man, if he be alive?"
"You did well to add that, for who can tell whether he is or not?—maybe it's only thrashing the water you are, after all."
The stranger saw the old fellow had once more grown cautious, and avoided giving a direct reply to him; but on considering the matter, he was, after all, not much surprised at this. The subject involved a black and heinous crime, and if it so happened that Dunphy could in any way have been implicated in or connected with it, even indirectly, it would be almost unreasonable to expect that he should now become his own accuser. Still the stranger could observe that in spite of all his caution, there was a mystery and uneasiness in his manner, when talking of it, which he could not shake off.
When the conversation had reached this point, the old woman called her husband down in a voice that seemed somewhat agitated, but not, as far as he could guess, disagreeably.
"Denis, come down a minute," she said, "come down, will you? here's a stranger that you haven't seen for some time."
"What stranger?" he inquired, peevishly. "Who is it? I wish you wouldn't bother me—I'm talkin' with a gentleman."
"Ginty, is it?" said he, musing. "Well, that's odd, too—to think that she should come at this very moment. Maybe, the hand of G—. I beg your pardon, sir, for a minute or two—I'll be back immediately."
He went down stairs, and found in the back parlor the woman named Ginty Cooper, the same fortune-teller and prophetess whom we have already described to the reader.
The old man seemed to consider her appearance not as an incident that stirred up any natural affection in himself, but as one that he looked upon as extraordinary. Indeed, to tell the truth, he experienced a sensation of surprise, mingled with a superstitious feeling, that startled him considerably, by her unexpected appearance at that particular period. He did not resume his conversation with the stranger for at least twenty minutes; but the latter was perfectly aware, from the earnestness of their voices, although their words were not audible, that he and the new-comer were discussing some topic in which they must have felt a very deep interest. At length he came up and apologized for the delay, adding: "With regard to this business, it's altogether out of my power to give you any assistance. I have nothing but my suspicions, and it wouldn't be the part of a Christian to lay a crime like that to any man's door upon mere guess."
"If you know anything of this dark transaction," replied the stranger, whose earnestness of manner was increased by his disappointment, as well as by an impression that the old man knew more about it than he was disposed to admit, "and will not enable us to render justice to the wronged and defrauded orphan, you will have a heavy reckoning of it—an awful one when you meet your God. By the usual course of nature that is a reckoning that must soon be made. I advise you, therefore, not to tamper with your own conscience, nor, by concealing your knowledge of this great crime to peril your hopes of eternal happiness. Of one thing you may rest assured, that the justice we seek will not stoop to those who have been merely instruments in the hands of others."
"That's all very fine talk," replied Dunphy, uneasily however, "and from the high-flown language you give me, I take you to be a lawyer; but if you were ten times a lawyer, and a judge to the back of that, a man can't tell what he doesn't know."
"Mark me," replied the stranger, assailing him through his cupidity, "I pledge you my solemn word that for any available information you may or can give us you shall be most liberally and amply remunerated."
"I have money enough," replied Dunphy; "that is to say, as much as barely does me, for the wealthiest of us cannot bring it to the grave. I'm thankful to you, but I can give you no assistance."
"Whom do you suspect, then?—whom do you even suspect?"
"Hut!—why, the man that every one suspects—Sir Thomas Gourlay."
"And upon what grounds, may I ask?"
"Why, simply because no other man had any interest in getting the child removed. Every one knows he's a dark, tyrannical, bad man, that wouldn't be apt to scruple at anything. There now," he added, "that is all I know about it; and I suppose it's not more than you knew yourself before."
In order to close the dialogue he stood up, and at once led the way down to the back parlor, where the stranger, on following him, found Ginty Cooper and the old woman in close conversation, which instantly ceased when they made their appearance.
The stranger, chagrined and vexed at his want of success, was about to depart, when Dunphy's wife said:
"Maybe, sir, you'd wish to get your fortune tould? bekaise, if you would, here's a woman that will tell it to you, and you may depend upon it she'll tell you nothing but the truth."
"I am not in a humor for such nonsense, my good woman; I have much more important matters to think of, I assure you; but I suppose the woman wishes to have her hand crossed with silver; well, it shall be done. Here, my good woman," he said offering her money, "accept this, and spare your prophecy."
"I will not have your money, sir," replied the prophetess; "and I say so to let you know that I'm not an impostor. Be advised, and hear me—show me your hand."
The startling and almost supernatural appearance of the woman struck him very forcibly, and with a kind of good-humored impatience, he stretched out his hand to her. "Well," said he, "I will test the truth of what you promise."
She took it into hers, and after examining the lines for a few seconds said, "The lines in your hand, sir, are very legible—so much so that I can read your name in it—and it's a name which very few in this country know."
The stranger started with astonishment, and was about to speak, but she signed to him to be silent.
"You are in love," she continued, "and your sweetheart loves you dearly. You saw her this morning, and you would give a trifle to know where she will be to-morrow. You traveled with her last night and didn't know it—and the business that brought you to town will prosper."
"You say you know my name," replied the stranger, "if so, write it on a slip of paper."
She hesitated a moment.
"Will it do," she asked, "if I give you the initials?"
"No," he replied, "the name in full—and I think you are fairly caught."
She gave no reply, but having got a slip of paper and a pen, went to the wall and knocked three times, repeating some unintelligible words with an appearance of great solemnity and mystery. Having knocked, she applied her ear to the wall three times also, after which she seemed satisfied.
The stranger of course imputed all this to imposture; but when he reflected upon what she had already told him, he felt perfectly confounded with amazement. The prophetess then went to her father's counter and wrote something upon a small fragment of paper, which she handed to him. No earthly language could now express his astonishment, not from any belief he entertained that she possessed supernatural power, but from the almost incredible fact that she could have known so much of a man's affairs who was an utter stranger to her, and to whom she was herself unknown.
"Well, it is odd enough," he added; "but this knocking on the wall and listening was useless jugglery. Did you not say, when first you inspected my hand, that you could read my name in the lines of it? then, of course you knew it before you knocked at the wall—the knocking, therefore, was imposture."
"I knew the name," she replied, "the moment I looked into your hand, but I was obliged to ask permission to reveal it. Your observation, however, was very natural. It may, in the meantime, be a consolation for you to know that I'm not at liberty to mention it to any one but yourself and one other person."
"A man or woman?"
"A woman—she you saw this morning."
"Whether that be true or not," observed the stranger, "the mention of my name at present would place me in both difficulty and danger; so that I hope you'll keep it secret."
She threw the slip of paper into the fire. "There it lies," she replied, "and you might as well read it in those white ashes as extract it from me until the proper time comes. But with respect to it, there is one thing I must tell you before you go."
"What is that, pray?"
"It is a name you will not carry long. Ask me no more questions. I have already said you will succeed in the object of your pursuit, but not without difficulty and danger. Take my advice, and never go anywhere without a case of loaded pistols. I have good reasons for saying so. Now pass on, for I am silent."
There was an air of confidence and superiority about her as she uttered these words—a sense, as it were, of power—of a privilege to command, by which the stranger felt himself involuntarily influenced. He once more offered her money, but, with a motion of her hand, she silently, and somewhat indignantly refused it.
Whilst this singular exhibition took place, the stranger observed the very remarkable and peculiar expression of the old man's countenance. It is indeed very difficult to describe it. He seemed to experience a feeling of satisfaction and triumph at the revelations the woman had made; added to which was something that might be termed shrewd; ironical, and derisive. In fact, his face bore no bad resemblance to that of Mephistopheles, as represented in Retsch's powerful conception and delineation of it in his illustration of Goethe's "Faust," so inimitably translated by our admirable countryman, Anster.