In the meantime, whilst the four other dogs were fighting furiously in the water, Shawn, having felt exhausted, was obliged to lie on his back and float, in order to regain his strength.
A little before this contest commenced, the black mask and a number of the pursuing party were standing on the edge of the lake looking on, conscious of the impossibility of their interference.
"Is there no stout man and good swimmer present," exclaimed the mask, "who will earn the fifty pounds I have offered for the capture of that man?"
"Here am I," said a powerful young fellow, the best swimmer, with the exception of Shawn-na-Middogue, in the province. "I am like a duck in the water; but upon my sowl, so is he. If I take him, you will give me the fifty pounds?"
"Unquestionably; but you know you will have the government reward besides."
"Well, then, here goes. I cannot bring my carbine with me; but even so—we will have a tug for it with my skean."
He threw off his coat and barrad, and immediately plunged in and swam with astonishing rapidity towards the spot where Shawn and the dogs—the latter still engaged in their ferocious contest—were in the lake. Shawn now had regained considerable strength, and was about to despatch the enemies of his brave defenders, when, on looking back to the spot on the margin of the lake where his pursuers stood, he saw the powerful young swimmer within a few yards of him. It was well for him that he had regained his strength, and such was his natural courage that he felt rather gratified at the appearance of only a single individual. "Shawn-na-Middogue," said the young fellow, "I come to make you a prisoner. Will you fight me fairly in the water?"
"I am a hunted outlaw—a tory," replied Shawn, "and will fight you the best way I can. If we were on firm earth I would fight you on your own terms. If there is to be a fight between us, remember that you are fighting for the government reward, and I for my life."
"Will you fight me," said the man, "without using your middogue?"
"I saw you take a skean from between your teeth as I turned round," replied Shawn, "and I know now that you are a villain and a treacherous ruffian, who would take a cowardly advantage of me if you could."
The fellow made a plunge at Shawn, who was somewhat taken by surprise. They met and grappled in the water, and the contest between them was, probably, one of the fiercest and most original that ever occurred between man and man. It was distinctly visible to the spectators on the shore, and the interest which it excited in them can scarcely be described. A terrible grapple ensued, but as neither of them wished to die by drowning, or, in fact, to die under such peculiar circumstances at all, there was a degree of caution in the contest which required great skill and power on both sides. Notwithstanding this caution, however, still, when we consider the unsubstantial element on which the battle between them raged—for rage it did—there were frightful alternatives of plunging and sinking between them.
Shawn's opponent was the stronger of the two, but Shawn possessed in activity what the other possessed in strength. The waters of the lake were agitated by their struggles and foamed white about them, whilst, at the same time, the four bloodhounds tearing each other beside them added to the agitation. Shawn and his opponent clasped each other and frequently disappeared for a very brief space, but the necessity to breathe and rise to the air forced them to relax the grasps and seek the surface of the water; so was it with the dogs. At length, Shawn, feeling that his middogue had got entangled in his dress, which the water had closely contracted about it, rendering it difficult, distracted as he was by the contest, to extricate it, turned round and swam several strokes from his enemy, who, however, pursued him with the ferocity of one of the bloodhounds beside them. This ruse was to enable Shawn to disengage his middogue, which he did. In the meantime this expedient of Shawn's afforded his opponent time to bring out his skean,—two weapons which differed very little except in name. They once more approached one another, each with the armed hand up,—the left,—and a fiercer and more terrible contest was renewed. The instability of the element, however, on which they fought, prevented them from using their weapons with effect. At all events they played about each other, offering and warding off the blows, when Shawn exclaimed,—having grasped his opponent with his right arm,—
"I am tired of this; it must be now sink or swim between us. To die here is better than to die on the gallows."
As he spoke both sank, and for about half a minute became invisible. The spectators from the shore now gave them both over for lost; one of them only emerged with the fatal middogue in his hand, but his opponent appeared not, and for the best reason in the world: he was on his way to the bottom of the lake. Shawn's exhaustion after such a struggle now rendered his situation hopeless. He was on the point of going down when he exclaimed:
"It is all in vain now; I am sinking, and me so near the only slip that is in the lake. Finn and Oonah, save me; I am drowning."
The words were scarcely out of his lips when he felt the two faithful, powerful, and noble animals, one at each side of him—seeing as they did, his sinking state—seizing him by his dress, and dragging him forward to the slip we have mentioned. With great difficulty he got upon land, but, having done so, he sat down; and when his dogs, in the gambols of their joy at his safety, caressed him, he wept like an infant—this proscribed outlaw and tory. He was now safe, however, and his pursuers returned in a spirit of sullen and bitter disappointment, finding that it was useless to continue the hunt any longer.
CHAPTER XIX. Plans and Negotiations.
We have already said that Woodward was a man of personal courage, and without fear of anything either living or dead, yet, notwithstanding all this, he felt a terror of Shawn-na-Middogue which he could not I overcome. The escape—the extraordinary escape of that celebrated young tory—depressed and vexed him to the heart. He was conscious, however, of his own villany and of his conduct to Grace Davoren, whom Shawn had loved, and, as Shakespeare says, "conscience makes cowards of us all." One thing, however, afforded him some consolation, which was that his disguise prevented him from from being known as the principal person engaged in the attempt to hunt down the outlaw. He knew that after the solemn promise he had given Miss Riddle, any knowledge on her part of his participation in the pursuit of that generous but unfortunate young man would have so completely sunk him in her opinion, as an individual professing to be a man of honor, that she would have treated his proposals with contempt, and rejected him with disdain. At all events, his chief object now was to lose no time in prosecuting his suit with her. For this purpose he urged his mother to pay Lord Cockletown another visit, in order to make a formal proposal for the hand of his niece in his name, with a view of bringing the matter to an issue with as little delay as might be. His brother, who had relapsed, was in a very precarious condition, but still slightly on the recovery, a circumstance which filled him with alarm. He only went out at night occasionally, but still he went out, and, as before, did not return until about twelve, but much more frequently one, two, and sometimes three o'clock. Nobody in the house could understand the mystery of these midnight excursions, and the servants of the family, who were well aware of them, began to look on him with a certain undefined terror as a man whose unaccountable movements were associated with something that was evil and supernatural. They felt occasionally that the power of his eye was dreadful; and as it began to be whispered about that it was by its evil influence he had brought Alice Goodwin to the very verge of the grave for the purpose of getting at the property, which was to revert to him in case she should die without issue, there was not one of them who, on meeting him, either in or about the house, would run the risk of looking him in the face. In fact, they experienced that kind of fear of him which a person might be supposed to feel in the case of a spirit; and this is not surprising when we consider the period in which they lived.
Be this as it may, his mother got up the old carriage once more and set out on her journey to Cockle Hall—her head filled with many an iniquitous design, and her heart with fraud and deceit. On reaching Cockle Hall she was ushered to the withdrawing-room, where she found his lordship in the self-same costume which we have already described. Miss Eiddle was in her own room, so that she had the coast clear—which was precisely what she wanted.
"Well, Mrs. Lindsay, I'm glad to see you. How do you do, madam? Is your son with you?" he added, shaking hands with her.
"No, my lord."
"O! an embassadress, then?"
"Something in that capacity, my lord."
"Then I must be on my sharps, for I am told you are a keen one. But tell me—do you sleep with one eye open, as I do?"
"Indeed, my lord," she replied, laughing, "I sleep as other people do, with both eyes shut."
"Well, then, what's your proposal?—and, mark me, I'm wide awake."
"By all accounts, my lord, you have seldom been otherwise. How could you have played your cards so well and so succassfully if you had not?"
"Come, that's not bad—just what I expected, and I like to deal with clever people. Did you put yourself on the whetstone before you came here? I'll go bail you did."
"If I did not I would have little chance in dealing with your lordship," replied Mrs, Lindsay.
"Come, I like that, too;—well said, and nothing but the truth. In fact it will be diamond cut diamond between us—eh?"
"Precisely, my lord. You will find me as sharp as your lordship, for the life of you."
"Come, confound me, I like that best of all—a touch of my own candor;—we're kindred spirits, Mrs. Lindsay."
"I think so, my lord. We should have been man and wife."
"Egad, if we had I shouldn't have played second fiddle, as I'm told poor Lindsay does; however, no matter about that—even a good second is not so bad. But now about the negotiations—come, give a specimen of your talents. Let us come to the point."
"Well, then, I am here, my lord, to propose, in the name of my son Woodward, for the hand of Miss Riddle, your niece."
"I see; no regard for the property she is to have, eh?"
"Do you think me a fool, my lord? Do you imagine that any one of common sense would or should overlook such an element between parties who propose to marry? Whatever my son may do—who is deeply attached to Miss Riddle—I am sure I do not, nor will not, overlook it; you may rest assured of that, my lord."
Old Cockletown looked keenly at her, and their eyes met; but, after a long and steady gaze, the eyes of the old peer quailed, and he felt, when put to an encounter with hers, that to which was attributed such extraordinary influence. There sparkled in her steady black orb a venomous exultation, mingled with a spirit of strong and contemptuous derision, which made the eccentric old nobleman feel rather uncomfortable. His eye fell, and, considering his age, it was decidedly a keen one. He fidgeted upon the chair—he coughed, hemmed, then looked about the room, and at length exclaimed, rather in a soliloquy,—
"Second fiddle! egad, I'm afraid had we been man and wife I should never have got beyond it. Poor Lindsay! It's confoundedly odd, though."
"Well, Mrs. Lindsay—ahem—pray proceed, madam; let us come to the property. How does your son stand in that respect?"
"He will have twelve hundred a year, my lord."
"I told you before, Mrs. Lindsay, that I—don't like the future tense—the present for me. What has he?"
"It can scarcely be called the future tense, my lord, which you seem to abhor so much. Nothing stands between him and it but a dying girl."
"How is that, madam?"
"Why, my lord, his Uncle Hamilton, my brother, had a daughter, an only child, who died of decline, as her mother before her did. This foolish child was inveigled into an unaccountable affection for the daughter of Mr. Goodwin—a deep, designing, artful girl—who contrived to gain a complete ascendency over both father and daughter. For months before my niece's death this cunning girl, prompted by her designing family, remained at her sick bed, tended her, nursed her, and would scarcely allow a single individual to approach her except herself. In short, she gained such an undue and iniquitous influence over both parent and child, that her diabolical object was accomplished."
"Diabolical! Well, I can see nothing diabolical in it, for so far. Affection and sympathy on the one hand, and gratitude on the other—that seems much more like the thing. But proceed, madam."
"Why, my poor brother, who became silly and enfeebled in intellect by the loss of his child, was prevailed on by Miss Goodwin and her family to adopt her as his daughter, and by a series of the most artful and selfish manoeuvres they succeeded in getting the poor imbecile and besotted old man to make a will in her favor; and the consequence was that he left her twelve hundred a year, both to her and her issue, should she marry and have any; but in case she should have no issue, then, after her death, it was to revert to my son Woodward for whom it was originally intended by my brother. It was a most unprincipled and shameful transaction on the part of these Goodwins. Providence, however, would seem to have punished them for their iniquity, for Miss Goodwin is dying—at least, beyond all hope. The property, of course, will soon be in my son's possession, where it ought to have been ever since his uncle's death. Am I not right, then, in calculating on that property as his?"
"Why, the circumstances you speak of are recent; I remember them well enough. There was a lawsuit about the will?"
"There was, my lord."
"And the instrument was proved strictly legal and valid?"
"The suit was certainly determined against us."
"I'll tell you what, Mrs. Lindsay; I am certain that I myself would have acted precisely as your brother did. I know the Goodwins, too, and I know, besides, that they are incapable of reverting to either fraud or undue influence of any kind. All that you have told me, then, is, with great respect to you, nothing but mere rigmarole. I am sorry, however, to hear that the daughter, poor girl, is dying. I hope in God she will recover."
"There is no earthly probability—nay, possibility of it—which is a stronger word—I know, my lord, she will die, and that very soon."
"You know, madam! How the deuce can you know? It is all in the hands of God. I hope she will live to enjoy her property."
"My lord, I visited the girl in her illness, and life was barely in her; I have, besides, the opinion of the physician who attended her, and of another who was called in to consult upon her state, and both have informed me that her recovery is hopeless."
"And what opinion does your son, Woodward, entertain upon the subject?"
"One, my lord, in complete keeping with his generous character. He is as anxious for her recovery as your lordship."
"Well, I like that, at all events; it is a good point in him. Yes, I like that—but, in the meantime, here are you calculating upon a contingency that may never happen. The calculation is, I grant, not overburdened with delicacy of feeling; but still it may proceed from anxiety for the settlement and welfare of your son. Not an improbable thing on the part of a mother, I grant that."
"Well, then, my lord," asked Mrs. Lindsay, "what is to be done? Come to the point, as you very properly say yourself."
"In the first place bring me the written opinions of those two doctors. They ought to know her state of health best, and whether she is likely to recover or not. I know I am an old scoundrel in entering into a matrimonial negotiation upon a principle so inhuman as the poor lady's death; but still, if her demise is a certain thing, I don't see why men of the world should not avail themselves of I such a circumstance. Now, I wish to see poor Tom settled before I die; and, above all things, united to a gentleman. Your son Woodward, Mrs. Lindsay, is a gentleman, and what is more, I have reason to believe Tommy likes him. She speaks well of him, and there is a great deal in that; because I know that if she disliked him she would not conceal the fact. She has, occasionally, much of her old uncle's bluntness about her, and will not say one thing and think another; unless, indeed, when she has a design in it, and then she is inscrutable."
"My own opinion is this, my lord: let my son wait upon Miss Riddle—let him propose for her—and if she consents, why the marriage settlements may be drawn up—at once and the ceremony performed."
"Let me see," he replied. "That won't do. I will never marry off poor Tommy upon a speculation which may never after all be realized. No, no—I'm awake there; but I'll tell you what—produce me those letters from the physician or physicians who attended her; then, should Tom give her consent, the settlements may be drawn up, and they can lie unsigned until the girl dies—and then let them be married. Curse me, I'm an old scoundrel again, however, as to that the whole world is nothing but one great and universal scoundrel, and it is nothing but to see Tom the wife of a gentleman in feeling, manners, and bearing, that I consent even to this conditional arrangement."
"Well," replied the lady, "be it so; it is as much as either of us can do under the circumstances."
Ay, and more than we ought to do. I never was without a conscience; but of all the poor pitiful scoundrels of a conscience that ever existed, it was the greatest. But why should I blame it? It loved me too well; for, after some gentle rebukes when I was about to do a rascally act, it quietly withdrew all opposition and left me to my own will."
"Ah, we all know you too well, my lord, to take your own report of your own character. However, I am glad that matters have proceeded so far. I shall do what your lordship wishes as to the opinions of the medical men. The lawyers, with our assistance, will manage the settlements."
"Yes; but this arrangement must be kept a secret from Tom, because if she knew of it she would knock up the whole project."
"She shall not from me, my lord."
"Nor from me, I promise you that. But now for another topic. I am glad your son had nothing to do with the dreadful chase of that unfortunate Shawn-na-Middogue; he pledged his honor to Tom that he would rather protect than injure him."
"So, my lord, he would, ever since his conversation with Miss Riddle on the subject."
This, indeed, was very honestly said, inasmuch as it was she herself who had furnished him with the mask and other of the disguises.
"Well, I think so; and I believe him to be a gentleman, certainly. This unfortunate tory saved Tom's life and mine the other night; but, independently of that, Mrs. Lindsay, no son of yours should have anything to do in his pursuit or capture. You understand me. It is my intention to try what I can do to get him a pardon from government, and rescue him from the wild and lawless life he is leading."
Mrs. Lindsay merely said,—"If my son Woodward could render you any assistance, I am sure he would feel great pleasure in doing so, notwithstanding that it was this same Shawn-na-Middogue who, perhaps, has murdered his brother, for he is by no means out of danger."
"What—he? Shawn-na-Middogue! Have you any proof of that?"
"Not positive or legal proof, my lord, but! at least a strong moral certainty. However, it is a subject on which I do not wish to speak."
"By the way, I am very stupid; but no wonder. When a man approaches seventy he can't be expected to remember everything. You will excuse me for not inquiring after your son's health; how is he?"
"Indeed, my lord, we know not what to say; neither does the doctor who attends him—the same, by the way, who attended Miss Goodwin. At present he can say neither yes or no to his recovery."
"No, nor will not as long as he can; I know those gentry well. Curse the thing on earth frightens one of them so much as any appearance of convalescence in a patient. I had during my life about half a dozen fits of illness, and whenever they found that I was on the recovery, they always contrived to throw me back with their damned nostrums, for a month or six weeks together, that they might squeeze all they could out of me. O, devilish rogues! devilish rogues!"
Mrs. Lindsay now asked to see his niece, and the peer said he would send her down, after which he shook hands with her, and once more cautioned her against alluding to the arrangement into which they had entered touching the matrimonial affairs already discussed. It is not our intention to give the conversation between the two ladies, which was, indeed, not one of long duration. Mrs. Lindsay simply stated that she had been deputed by her son, Woodward, to have the honor of making a proposal in his name to her uncle, in which proposal she, Miss Riddle, was deeply concerned, but that her son himself would soon have the greater honor of pleading his own cause with the fair object of his most enthusiastic affection. To this Miss Riddle said neither yes nor no; and, after a further chat upon indifferent topics, the matron took her departure, much satisfied, however, with the apparent suavity of the worthy peer's fair niece.
It matters not how hard and iniquitous the hearts of mothers may be, it is a difficult thing to extinguish in them the sacred principle of maternal affection. Mrs. Lindsay, during her son Charles's illness, and whilst laboring under the apprehension that she was about to lose him, went to his sick room after her return from Lord Coccletown's, and, finding he was but slightly improving,—if improving at all,—she felt herself much moved, and asked him how he felt.
"Indeed, my dear mother," he replied, "I can scarcely say; I hardly know whether I am better or worse."
Harry was in the room at the time, having gone up to ascertain his condition.
"O, come, Charles," said she, "you were always an affectionate son, and you must strive and recover. If it may give you strength and hope, I now tell you that the property which I intended to leave to Harry here, I shall leave to you. Harry will not require it; he will be well off—much better than you imagine. He will have back that twelve hundred a year when that puny girl dies. She is, probably, dead by this time, and he will, besides, become a wealthy man by marriage."
"But I think, my dear mother, that Harry has the best claim to it; he is your firstborn, and your eldest son."
"He will not require it," replied his mother; "he is about to be married to Miss Riddle, the niece of Lord Cockle town."
"Are you quite sure of that, mother?" asked Harry, with a brow as black as midnight.
"There is an arrangement made," she replied; "the marriage settlements are to be drawn up, but left unsigned until the death of Alice Goodwin."
Charles here gave a groan of agony, which, for the life of him, he could not suppress.
"She will not die, I hope," said he; "and, mother, as for the property, leave it to Harry. I don't think you ought to change your contemplated arrangements on my account, even should I recover."
"Yes, Charles, but I will—only contrive and live; you are my son, and as sure as I have life you will be heir to my property."
"But Maria, mother," replied the generous young man; "Maria—" and he looked imploringly and affectionately into her face.
"Maria will have an ample portion; I have taken care of that. I will not leave my property to those who are strangers to my blood, as a son-in-law must be. No, Charles, you shall have my property. As for Harry, as I said before, he won't stand in need of it."
"Of course you saw Miss Riddle to-day, mother?" asked. Harry.
"Of course, too, you mentioned the matter to her?"
"To be sure I did."
"And what did she say?"
"Why, I think she acted just as every delicate-minded girl ought. I told her you would have the honor of proposing to herself in person. She heard me, and did not utter a syllable either for or against you. What else should any lady do? You would not have her jump at you, would you? Nothing, however, could be kinder or more gracious than the reception she gave me."
"Certainly not, mother; to give her consent before she was solicited would not be exactly the thing; but the uncle is willing?"
"Upon the conditions I said; but his niece is to know nothing of these conditions: so be cautious when you see her."
"I don't know how it is," replied Harry; "I have been thinking our last interview over; but it strikes me there is, notwithstanding her courtesy of manner, a hard, dry air about her which it is difficult to penetrate. It seems to me as if it were no easy task to ascertain whether she is in jest or earnest. Her eye is too calm and reflecting for my taste."
"But," replied his mother, "those, surely, are two good qualities in any woman, especially in her whom you expect to become your wife."
"Perhaps so," said he;'"but she is not my wife yet, my dear mother."
"I wish she was, Harry," observed his brother, "for by all accounts she is an excellent girl, and remarkable for her charity and humanity to the poor."
His mother and Harry then left the room, and both went to her own apartment, where the following conversation took place between them:
"Harry," said she, "I hope you are not angry at the determination I expressed to leave my property to Charles should he recover?"
"Why should I, my dear mother?" he replied; "your property is your own, and of course you may leave it to whomsoever you wish. At all events, it will remain in your own family, and won't go to strangers, like that of my scoundrel old uncle."
"Don't speak so, Harry, of my brother; silly, besotted, and overreached he was when he acted as he did; but he never was a scoundrel, Harry."
"Well, well, let that pass," replied her son; "but the question now is, What am I to do? What step should I first take?"
"I don't understand you."
"Why, I mean whether should I start directly for Ballyspellan and put this puling girl out of pain, or go in a day or two and put the question at once to Miss Riddle, against whom, somehow, I feel a strong antipathy."
"Ah, Harry, that's your grandfather all over; but, indeed, our family were full of strong antipathies and bitter resentments. Why do you feel an antipathy against the girl?"
"Who can account for antipathies, mother? I cannot account for this."
"And perhaps on her part the poor girl is attached to you."
"Well, but you have not answered my question. How am I to act? Which step should I take first—the quietus, of 'curds-and-whey,' or the courtship? The sooner matters come to a conclusion the better. I wish, if possible, to know what is before me: I cannot bear uncertainty in this or anything else."
"I scarcely know how to advise you," she replied; "both steps are of the deepest importance, but certainly which to take first is a necessary consideration. I am of opinion that our best plan is simply to take a day or two to think it over, after which we will compare notes and come to a conclusion." And so it was determined.
We need scarcely assure our readers that honest and affectionate Barney Casey felt a deep interest in the recovery of the generous and kind-hearted Charles Lindsay, nor that he allowed a single day to pass without going, at least two or three times, to ascertain whether there was any appearance of his convalescence. On the day following that on which Mrs. Lindsay had declared the future disposition of her property he went to see Charles as usual, when the latter, after having stated to him that he felt much better, and the fever abating, he said,—
"Casey, I have rather strange news for you."
"Be it good, bad, or indifferent, sir," replied Barney, "you could tell me no news that would plaise me half so much as that there is a certainty of your gettin' well again."
"Well, I think there is, Barney. I feel much better to-day than I have done for a long while—but the news, are you not anxious to hear it?"
"Why, I hope I'll hear it soon, Masther Charles, especially if it's good; but if it's not good I'm jack-indifferent about it."
"It is good, Barney, to me at least, but not so to my brother Woodward."
Barney's ears, if possible, opened and expanded themselves on hearing this. To him it was a double gratification: first, because it was favorable to the invalid, to whom he was so sincerely attached; and secondly, because it was not so to Woodward, whom he detested.
"My mother yesterday told me that she has made up her mind to leave me all her property if I recover, instead of to Harry, for whom she had originally intended it."
Barney, on hearing this intelligence, was commencing to dance an Irish jig to his own music, and would have done so were it not that the delicate state of the patient prevented him.
"Blood alive, Masther Charles!" he exclaimed, snapping his fingers in a kind of wild triumph, "what are you lying there for? Bounce to your feet like a two-year ould. O, holy Moses, and Melchisedek the divine, ay, and Solomon, the son of St. Pettier, in all his glory, but that is news!"
"She told my brother Woodward, face to face, that such was her fixed determination."
"Good again; and what did he say?"
"Nothing particular, but that he was glad it was to stay in the family, and not go to strangers, like our uncle's—alluding, of course, to his will in favor of dear Alice Goodwin."
"Ay, but how did he look?" asked Barney.
"I didn't observe, I was rather in pain at the time; but, from a passing glimpse I got, I thought his countenance darkened a little; but I may be mistaken."
"Well, I hope so," said Barney. "I hope so—but—well, I am glad to find you are betther, Masther Charles, and to hear the good piece of fortune you have mentioned. I trust in God your mother will keep her word—that's all."
"As for myself," said Charles, "I am indifferent about the property; all that presses upon my heart is my anxiety for Miss Goodwin's recovery."
"Don't be alarmed on that account," said Casey! "they say the waters of Ballyspellan would bring the dead to life. Now, good-by, Masther Charles; don't be cast down—keep up your spirits, for something tells me that's there's luck before you, and good luck, too."
After leaving him Barney began to ruminate. He had remarked an extraordinary change in the countenance and deportment of Harry Woodward during the evening before and the earlier part of that day. The plausible serenity of his manner was replaced by unusual gloom, and that abstraction which is produced by deep and absorbing thought. He seemed so completely wrapped up in constant meditation upon some particular subject, that he absolutely forgot to guard himself against observation or remark, by his usual artifice of manner. He walked alone in the garden, a thing he was not accustomed to do; and during these walks he would stop and pause, then go on slowly and musingly, and stop and pause again. Barney, as we have said before, was a keen observer, and having watched him from a remote corner of the garden in which he was temporarily engaged among some flowers, he came at once to the conclusion that Woodward's mind was burdened with something which heavily depressed his spirits, and occupied his whole attention.
"Ah," exclaimed Barney, "the villain is brewing mischief for some one, but I will watch his motions if I should pass sleepless nights for it. He requires a sharp eye after him, and it will go hard with me or I shall know what his midnight wanderings mean; but in the meantime I must keep calm and quiet, and not seem to watch him."
Whilst Barney, who was unseen by Woodward, having been separated from him by a fruit hedge over which he occasionally peeped, indulged in this soliloquy, the latter, in the same deep and moody meditation, extended his walk, his brows contracted, and dark as midnight.
"The damned hag," said he, speaking unconsciously aloud, "is this the affection which she professed to bear me? Is this the proof she gives of the preference which she often expressed for her favorite son? To leave her property to that miserable milksop, my half-brother! What devil could have tempted her to this? Not Lindsay, certainly, for I know he would scorn to exercise any control over her in the disposition of her property, and as for Maria, I know she would not. It must then have been the milksop himself in some puling fit of pain or illness; and ably must the beggarly knave have managed it when he succeeded in changing the stern and flinty heart of such a she-devil. Yes, unquestionably that must be the true meaning of it; but, be it so for the present; the future is a different question. My plans are laid, and I will put them into operation according as circumstances may guide me."
Whatever those plans were, he seemed to have completed them in his own mind. The darkness departed from his brow; his face assumed its usual expression; and, having satisfied himself by the contemplation of his future course of action, he walked at his usual pace out of the garden.
"Egad," thought Barney, "I'm half a prophet, but I can say no more than I've said. There's mischief in the wind; but whether against Masther Charles or his mother, is a puzzle to me. What a dutiful son, too! A she-devil! Well, upon my sowl, if he weren't her son I could forgive him for that, because it hits her off to a hair—but from the lips of a son! O, the blasted scoundrel! Well, no matther, there's a sharp pair of eyes upon him; and that's all I can say at present."
When the medical attendant called that day to see his patient he found, on examining Charles, and feeling his pulse, that he was decidedly and rapidly on the recovery. On his way down stairs he was met by Woodward, who said,
"Well, doctor, is there any chance of my dear brother's recovery?"
"It is beyond a chance now, Mr. Wood-ward; he is out of danger; and although his convalescence will be slow, it will be sure."
"Thank God," said the cold-blooded hypocrite; "I have never heard intelligence more gratifying. My mother is in the withdrawing-room, and desired me to say that she wishes to speak with you. Of course it is about my brother; and I am glad that you can make so favorable a report of him."
On going down he found Mrs. Lindsay alone, and having taken a seat and made his daily report, she addressed him as follows:
"Doctor, you have taken a great weight off my mind by your account of my son's certain recovery."
"I can say with confidence, as I have already said to his anxious brother, madam, that it is certain, although it will be slow. He is out of danger at last. The wound is beginning to cicatrize, and generates laudable pus. His fever, too, is gone; but he is very weak still,—quite emaciated,—and it will require time to place him once more on his legs. Still, the great fact is, that his recovery is certain. Nothing unless agitation of mind can retard it; and I do not see anything which can occasion that."
"Nothing, indeed, doctor; but, doctor, I wish to speak to you on another subject. You have been attending Miss Goodwin during her very strange and severe illness. You have visited her, too, at Ballyspellan."
"I have, madam. She went there by my directions."
"How long is it since you have seen her?"
"I saw her three days ago."
"And how was she?"
"I am afraid beyond hope, madam. She is certainly not better, and I can scarcely say she is worse, because worse she cannot be. The complaint is on her mind; and in that case we all know how difficult it is for a physician to minister to a mind diseased."
"You think, then, she is past recovery?"
"Indeed, madam, I am certain of it, and I deeply regret it, not only for her own sake, but for that of her heart-broken parents."
"My dear doctor—O, by the way, here is your fee; do not be surprised at its amount, for, although your fees have been regularly paid—"
"And liberally, madam."
"Well, in consequence of the favorable and gratifying report which you have this day made, you must pardon an affectionate mother for the compensation which she now offers you. It is far beneath the value of your skill, your anxiety for my son's recovery, and the punctuality of your attendance."
"What! fifty pounds, madam! I cannot accept it," said he, exhibiting it in his hand as he spoke.
"O, but you must, my dear doctor; nor shall the liberality of the mother rest here. Come, doctor, no remonstrance; put it in your pocket, and now hear me. You say Miss Goodwin is past all hope. Would you have any objection to write me a short note stating that fact?"
"How could I, madam?" replied the good-natured, easy man, who, of course, could never dream of her design in asking him the question. Still, it seemed singular and unusual, and quite out of the range of his experience. This consideration startled him into reflection, and something like a curiosity to ascertain why she, who, he felt aware, was of late at bitter feud with Miss Goodwin and her family—the cause of which was well known throughout the country—should wish to obtain such a document from him.
"Pardon me, madam; pray, may I inquire for what purpose you ask me to furnish such a document?"
"Why, the truth is, doctor, that there are secrets in all families, and, although this is not, strictly speaking, a secret, yet it is a thing that I should not wish to be mentioned out of doors."
"Madam, you cannot for a moment do me such injustice as to imagine that I am capable of violating professional confidence. I consider the confidence you now repose in me, in the capacity of your family physician, as coming under that head."
"You will have no objection, then, to write the note I ask of you?"
"Certainly not, madam."
"But there is Dr. Lendrum, who joined you in consultation in my son's case, as well I believe, as in Miss Goodwin's. Do you think you could get him to write a note to me in accordance with yours? Speak to him, and tell him that I don't think he has been sufficiently remunerated for his trouble in the consultations you have had with him here."
"I shall do so, madam, and I think he will do himself the pleasure of seeing you in the course of to-morrow."
Both doctors could, with a very good conscience, furnish Mrs. Lindsay with the opinions which she required. She saw the other medical gentleman on the following day, and, after handing him a handsome douceur, he felt no hesitation in corroborating the opinion of his brother physician.
Having procured the documents in question, she transmitted them, enclosed in a letter, to Lord Cockletown, stating that her son Woodward, who had been seized by a pleuritic attack, would not be able, she feared, to pay his intended visit to Miss Biddle so soon as he had expected; but, in the meantime, she had the honor of enclosing him the documents she alluded to on the occasion of her last visit. And this she did with the hope of satisfying his lordship on the subject they had been discussing, and with a further hope that he might become an advocate for her son, at least until he should be able to plead his own cause with the lady herself, which nothing but indisposition prevented him from doing. The doctor, she added, had advised him to try the waters of the Spa of Ballyspellan for a short time, as he had little doubt that they would restore him to perfect health. She sent her love to dear Miss Riddle, and hoped ere long to have the pleasure of clasping her to her heart as a daughter.
CHAPTER XX. Woodward's Visit to Ballyspellan.
After a consultation with his mother our worthy hero prepared for his journey to this once celebrated Spa, which possessed even then a certain local celebrity, that subsequently widened to an ampler range. The little village was filled with invalids of all classes; and even the farmers' houses in the vicinity were occupied with individuals in quest of health. The family of the Goodwins, however, were still in deep affliction, although Alice, for the last few days, was progressing favorably. Still, such was her weakness, that she was unable to walk unless supported by two persons, usually her maid and her mother or her father. The terrible influence of the Evil Eye had made too deep and deadly an impression ever, she feared, to be effaced; for, although removed from Woodward's blighting gaze, that eye was perpetually upon her, through the medium of her strong but diseased imagination. And who is there who does not know how strongly the force of imagination acts? On this subject she had now become a perfect hypochondriac. She could not shake it off, it haunted her night and day; and even the influence of society could scarcely banish the dread image of that mysterious and fearful look for a moment.
The society at Ballyspellan was, as the society in such places usually is, very much mixed and heterogeneous. Many gentry were there—gentlemen attempting to repair constitutions broken down by dissipation and profligacy; and ladies afflicted with a disease peculiar, in those days, to both sexes, called the spleen—a malady which, under that name, has long since disappeared, and is now known by the title of nervous affection. There was a large public room, in imitation of the more celebrated English watering-places, where the more respectable portion of the company met and became acquainted, and where, also, balls and dinners were occasionally held. Not a wreck of this edifice is now standing, although, down to the days of Swift and Delany, it possessed considerable celebrity, as is evident from the ingenious verses written by his friend to the Dean upon this subject.
The principal individuals assembled at it on this occasion were Squire Manifold, whose complaint, as was evident by his three chins, consisted in a rapid tendency to obesity, which his physician had told him might be checked, if he could prevail on himself to eat and drink with a less gluttonous appetite, and take more exercise. He had already had a fit of apoplexy, and it was the apprehension of another, with which he was threatened, that brought him to the Spa. The next was Parson Topertoe, whose great enemy was the gout, brought on, of course, by an ascetic and apostolic life. The third was Captain Culverin, whose constitution had suffered severely in the wars, but which he attempted to reinvigorate by a course of hard drinking, in which he found, to his cost, that the remedy was worse than the disease. There were also a great variety of others, among whom were several widows whose healthy complexions were anything but a justification for their presence there, especially in the character of invalids. Mr. Goodwin, his wife, and daughter, we need not enumerate. They lodged in the house of a respectable farmer, who lived convenient to the village, where they found themselves exceedingly snug and comfortable. In the next house to them lodged a Father Mulrenin, a friar, who, although he attended the room and drank the waters, was an admirable specimen of comic humor and robust health. There was also a Miss Rosebud, accompanied by her mother, a blooming widow, who had married old Rosebud, a wealthy bachelor, when he was near sixty. The mother's complaint was also the spleen, or vapors; indeed, to tell the truth, she was moved by an unconquerable and heroic determination to replace poor old Rosebud by a second husband. The last whom we shall enumerate, although not the least, was a very remarkable character of that day, being no other than Cooke, the Pythagorean, from the county of Waterford. He held, of course, the doctrines of Pythagoras, and believed in the transmigration of souls. He lived upon a vegetable diet, and wore no clothing which had been taken or made from the wool or skins of animals, because he knew that they! must have been killed before these exuviae could be applied to human use. His dress, consequently, during the inclemency of winter and the heats of summer, consisted altogether of linen, and even his shoes were of vegetable fabric. Our readers, consequently, need not feel surprised at the complaint of the philosopher, which was a chronic and most excruciating rheumatism that racked every bone in his Pythagorean body. He was, however, like a certain distinguished teetotaler and peace preserver of our own city and our own day, a mild and benevolent man, whose monomania affected nobody but himself, and him it did affect through every bone of his body. He was attended by his own servants, especially by his own cook—for he was a man of wealth and considerable rank in the country—in order that he could rely upon their fidelity in seeing that nothing contrary to his principles might be foisted upon him. He had his carriage, in which he drove out every day, and into which and out of which his servants assisted him. We need scarcely assure our readers that he was the lion of the place, or that no individual there excited either so much interest or curiosity. Of the many others of various, but subordinate classes we shall not speak. Wealthy farmers, professional men, among whom, however, we cannot omit Counsellor Puzzlewell, who, by the way, had one eye upon Miss Rosebud and another upon the comely-widow herself, together with several minor grades down to the very paupers of society, were all there.
About this period it was resolved to have a dinner, to be followed by a ball in the latter part of the evening. This was the project of Squire Manifold, whose physician attended him like, or very unlike, his shadow, for he was a small thin man, with sharp eyes and keen features, and so slight that if put into the scale against the shadow he would scarcely weigh it up. The squire's wife, who was a cripple, insisted that he should accompany her husband, in order to see that he might not gorge himself into the apoplectic fit with which he was threatened. His first had a peculiar and melancholy, though, to spectators, a ludicrous effect upon him. He was now so stupid, and made such blunders in conversation, that the comic effect of them was irresistible; especially to to those who were not aware of the cause of it, but looked upon the whole thing as his natural manner. He had been, ever since his arrival at the accursed Spa, kept by Doctor Doolittle upon short commons, both as to food and drink; and what with the effect of the waters, and severe purgatives administered by the doctor, he felt himself in a state little short of purgatory itself. The meagre regimen to which he was so mercilessly subjected gave him the appetite of a shark, Indeed, the bill of fare prescribed for him was scarcely sufficient to sustain a boy of twelve years of age. In consequence of this he had got it into his head that the season was a season of famine, and on this calamitous dispensation of Providence he kept harping from morning to night. The idea of the dinner, however, was hailed by them all as a very agreeable project, for which the squire, who only thought of the opportunity it would give himself to enjoy a surfeit, was highly complimented. It was to be in the shape of a modern table d'hote: every gentleman was to pay for himself and such of his party as accompanied him to it. Even the Pythagorean relished the proposal, for although peculiar in his opinions, he was sufficiently liberal, and too much of a gentleman, to quarrel with those who differed from him. Mr. Goodwin, too, was a consenting party, and mentioned the subject to Alice in a cheerful spirit, and with a hope that she might be able to rally and attend it. She promised to do so if she could; but said it chiefly depended on the state of health in which she might find herself. Indeed, if ever a beautiful and interesting girl was to be pitied, she, most unquestionably, was an object of the deepest compassion.
It was not merely what she had to suffer from the Evil Eye of the demon Woodward, but from the fact which had reached her ears of what she considered the profligate conduct of his brother Charles, once her betrothed lover. This latter reflection, associated with the probability of his death, when joined to the terrible malady which Woodward had inflicted on her, may enable our readers to perceive what the poor girl had to suffer. Still she told her father that she would be present if her health permitted her, "especially," she added, "as there was no possibility of Woodward being among the guests."
"Why, my dear child," said her father, "what could put such an absurd apprehension into your head?"
"Because, papa, I don't think he will ever let me out of his power until he kills me. I don't think he will come here; but I dread to return home, because I fear that if I do he will obtrude himself on me; and I feel that another gaze of his eye would occasion my death."
"I would call him out," replied the father, "and shoot him like a dog, to which honest and faithful animal it is a sin to compare the villain."
"And then I might be left fatherless!" she exclaimed. "O, papa, promise me that you never will have recourse to that dreadful alternative."
"But my darling, I only said so upon the supposition of your death by him."
"Come, come, Alice, get up your spirits, and be able to attend this dinner. It will cheer you and do you good. We have been discussing soap bubbles. Give up thinking of the scoundrel, and you will soon feel yourself well enough. In about another month we will start for Killarney, and see the lakes and the magnificent scenery by which they are surrounded."
"Well, dear papa, I shall go to this dinner if I am at all able; but indeed I do not expect to be able."
In the meantime every preparation was made for the forthcoming banquet. It was to be on a large scale, and many of the neighboring gentry and their families were asked to it, The knowledge that Cooke, the Pythagorean, was at the Well had taken wind, and a strong curiosity had gone abroad to see him. This eccentric gentleman's appearance was exceedingly original, if not startling. He was, at least, six feet two, but so thin, fleshless, and attenuated, that he resembled a living skeleton. This was the more strange, inasmuch as in his earlier days he had been robust and stout, approaching even to corpulency. His dress was as remarkable as his person, if not more so. It consisted of bleached linen, and was exceedingly white; and so particular was he in point of cleanliness, that he put on a fresh dress every day. He wore a pair of long pantaloons that, unfortunately for his symmetry, adhered to his legs and thighs as closely as the skin; and as the aforesaid legs and thighs were skeletonic, nothing could be more ludicrous than his appearance in them. His vest was equally close; and as the hanging cloak which he wore over it did not reach far enough down his back, it was impossible to view him behind without convulsive laughter. His shoes were made of some description of foreign bark, which had by some chemical process been tanned into toughness, and on his head he wore a turban of linen, made of the same material which furnished his other garments. Altogether, a more ludicrous figure could not be seen, especially if a person happened to stand behind him when he bowed. Notwithstanding all this, however, he possessed the manners and bearing of a gentleman; the only thing remarkable about him, beyond what we have described, being a peculiar wildness of the eyes, accompanied, however, by an unquestionable expression of great benignity.
We leave the company at the Well preparing for the forthcoming dinner and return to Rathfillan House, where Harry Woodward is making arrangements for his journey to Ballyspellan, which now we believe goes by the name of Johnstown. Under every circumstance of his life he was a plotter and a planner, and had at all times some private speculation in view. On the present occasion, in addition to his murderous design upon Miss Goodwin, he resolved to become a wife-hunter, for, being well acquainted, as he was, with the tone and temper of English society at its most celebrated watering places, and. the matrimonial projects and intrigues which abound at them, he took it for granted that he might stand a chance of making a successful hit with a view to matrimony. One thing struck him, however, which was, that he had no horse, and could not go there mounted, as a gentleman ought. It is true his step-father had several horses, but not one of them beyond the character of a common hack. He resolved, therefore, to purchase a becoming nag for his journey, and with this object he called upon a neighboring farmer, named Murray, who possessed a very beautiful animal, rising four, and which he learned was to be disposed of.
"Mr. Murray," said he, "I understand you have a young horse for sale."
"I have, sir," replied Murray; "and a better piece of flesh is not in the country he stands in."
"Could I see him?"
"Certainly, sir, and try him, too. He is not flesh and bone at all, sir—devil a thing he is but quicksilver. Here, Paudeen, saddle Brien Boro for this gentleman. You won't require wings, Mr. Woodward; Brien Boro will show you how to fly without them."
"Well," replied Woodward, "trial's all; but at any rate, I'm willing to prefer good flesh and bone to quicksilver."
In a few minutes the horse was brought out, saddled and bridled, and Woodward, who certainly was an excellent horseman, mounted him and tried his paces.
"Well, sir," said Murray, "how do you like him?"
"I like him well," said Woodward. "His temper is good, I know, by his docility to the bit."
"Yes, but you haven't tried him at a ditch; follow me and I'll show you as pretty a one as ever a horse crossed, and you may take my word it isn't every horse could cross it. You have a good firm seat, sir; and I know you will both do it in sportsman-like style."
Having reached the ditch, which certainly was a rasper, Woodward reined round the animal, who crossed it like a swallow.
"Now," said Murray, "unless you wish to ride half a mile in order to get back, you must cross it again."
This was accordingly done in admirable style, both by man and horse; and Woodward, having ridden him back to the farmyard, dismounted, highly satisfied with the animal's action and powers.
"Now, Mr. Murray," said he, "what's his price?"
"Fifty guineas, sir; neither more nor less."
"Say thirty and we'll deal."
"I don't want money, sir," replied the sturdy farmer, "and I won't part with the horse under his value. I will get what I ask for him."
"Not a cross under the round half hundred; and I'm glad it is not your mother that is buying him."
"Why so?" asked Woodward; and his eye darkly sparkled with its malignant influence.
"Why, sir, because if I didn't sell him to her at her own terms, he would be worth very little in a few days afterwards."
The observation was certainly an offensive one, especially when made to her son.
"Will you take forty for him?" asked Woodward, coolly.
"Not a penny, sir, under what I said. You are clearly a good judge of a horse, Mr. Woodward, and I wonder that a gentleman like you would offer me less than I ask, because you cannot but know that it is under his value."
"I will give no more," replied Woodward; "so there is an end to it. Let me see the horse's eyes."
He placed himself before the animal, and looked steadily into his eyes for about five minutes, after which he said,—
"I think, Mr. Murray, you would have acted more prudently had you taken my offer. I bade you full value for the horse."
To Murray's astonishment the animal began to tremble excessively; the perspiration was seen to flow from him in torrents; he appeared feeble and collapsed; and seemed scarcely able to stand on his limbs, which were shaking as if with terror under him.
"Why, Mr. Murray," said Woodward, "I am very glad I did not buy him; the beast is ill, and will be for the dogs of the neighborhood in three days' time."
"Until the last five minutes, sir, there wasn't a sounder horse in Europe."
"Look at him now, then," said Woodward; "do you call that a sound horse? Take him into the stable; before the expiration of three days you will be flaying him."
His words were prophetic. In three days' time the fine and healthy animal was a carcass.
"Ah!" said the farmer, when he saw the horse lying dead before him, "this fellow is his mother's son. From the time he looked into the horse's eyes the poor beast sank so rapidly that he didn't pass the third day alive. And there are fifty guineas out of my pocket. The curse of God on him wherever he goes!"
Woodward provided himself, however, with another horse, and in due time set out for the Spa at Ballyspellan.
The dinner was now fixed for a certain day, and Squire Manifold felt himself in high spirits as often as he could recollect the circumstance—which, indeed, was but rarely, the worthy epicure's memory having nearly abandoned him. Topertoe, of the gout, and he were old acquaintances and companions, and had spent many a merry night together—both, as the proverb has it, being tarred with the same stick. Topertoe was as great a glutton as the other, but without his desperate voracity in food, whilst in drink he equalled if he did not surpass him. Manifold would have forgotten every thing about the dinner had he not from time to time been reminded of it by his companion.
"Manifold, we will have a great day on Thursday."
"Great!" exclaimed Manifold, who in addition to his other stupidities, was as deaf as a post; "great—eh? What size will it be?"
"What size will it be? Why, confound it, man, don't you know what I'm saying?"
"No, I don't—yes, I do—you are talking about something great. O, I know now—your toe you mean—where the gout lies. They say, it begins at the great toe, and goes up to the stomach. I suppose Alexander the Great was gouty and got his name from that."
"I'm talking of the great dinner we're I to have on Thursday," shouted Topertoe. "We'll have a splendid feed then, my famous old trencherman, and I'll take care that Doctor Doolittle shall not stint you."
"There won't be any toast and water—eh?"
"Devil a mouthful; and we are to have the celebrated Cooke, the Pythagorean."
"Ay, but is he a good cook?"
"He's the celebrated Pythagorean, I tell you."
"Pythagorean—what's that? I thought you said he was a cook. Does he understand venison properly? O, good Lord! what a life I'm leading! Toast and water—toast and water. But it's all the result of this famine. And yet they know I'm wealthy. I say, what's this your name is?"
"Never mind that—an old acquaintance. Hell and torments! what's this? O!"
"The weather's pleasant, Topertoe. I say, Topertoe, what's this your name is?"
"O! O!" exclaimed Topertoe, who felt one or two desperate twinges of his prevailing malady; "curse me, Manifold, but I think I would exchange with you; your complaint is an easy one compared to mine. You are a mere block, and will pop off without pain, instead of being racked like a soul in perdition as I am."
"Your soul in perdition—well I suppose it will. But don't groan and scream so—you I are not there yet; when you are you will have plenty of time to groan and scream. As for myself, I will be likely to sleep it out there. I think, by the way, I had the pleasure of knowing you before; your face is familiar to me. What's this you call the man that attends sick people?"
"A doctor. O! O! Hell and torments! what is this? Yes, a doctor. O! O!"
"Ay, a doctor. Confound me, but I think my head's going around like a top. Yes, a—a—a—a doctor. Well, the doctor says that I and Parson Topertoe led a nice life of it—one a glutton and the other a drunkard. Do you know Topertoe? Because if you don't I do. He is a damned scoundrel, and squeezed his tithes out of the people with pincers of blood."
"Manifold, your gluttony has brought you to a fine pass. Are you alive or not?"
"Eh? Curse all dry toast and water! But it's all the consequence of this year of famine. Pray, sir, what do you eat?"
"Beef, mutton, venison, fowl, ham, turbot, salmon, black sole, with all the proper and corresponding sauces and condiments."
"O Lord! and no toast and water, beef tea, and oatmeal gruel? Heavens! how I wish this year of famine was past. It will be the death of me. I say, what's this your name is? Your face is familiar to me somehow. Could you aid me in poisoning the—the—what you call him—ay, the doctor?"
"Nothing more easily done, my dear Manifold. Contrive to let him take one of his own doses, and he's done for."
"Wouldn't ratsbane do? I often think he's a rat."
"In face and eyes he certainly looks very like one."
"Are you aware, sir, that my wife's a cripple? She's paralyzed in her lower limbs."
"I am perfectly aware of that melancholy fact."
"Are you aware that she's jealous of me?"
"No, not that she's jealous of you now; but perfectly aware that she had good cause to be so."
"Ay, but the devil of it is that the paralysis you speak of never reached her tongue."
"I speak of—'twas yourself spoke of it."
"She sent me here because it happens to be a year of famine—what is commonly called a hard season—and she stitched the little blasted doctor to me that I might die legitimately under medical advice. Isn't that very like murder—isn't it?"
"Ah, my dear friend, thank God that you are not a parson, having a handsome wife and a handsome curate, with the gout to support you and keep you comfortable. You would then feel that there are other twinges worse than those of the gout."
"Ay, but is there anything wrong about your head?"
"Heaven knows. About a twelvemonth ago I felt as if there were two sprouts budding out of my forehead, but on putting up my hand I could feel nothing. It was as smooth as ever. It must have been hypochondriasis. The curate, though, is a handsome dog, and, like yourself, it was my wife sent me here."
"Is your wife a cripple?"
"Faith, anything but that."
"How is her tongue? No paralysis in that quarter?"
"On the contrary, she is calm and soft-spoken, and perfectly sweet and angelic in her manner."
"But was it in consequence of the famine she sent you here? Toast and water!—toast and water! O Lord!"
This dialogue took place in Manifold's lodgings, where Topertoe, aided by a crutch and his servant, was in the habit of visiting him. To Manifold, indeed, this was a penal settlement, in consequence of the reasons which we have already stated.
The Pythagorean, as well as Topertoe, was also occasionally forced to the use of crutches; and it was certainly a strange and remarkable thing to witness two men, each at the extreme point of social indulgence, and each departing from reason and common-sense, suffering from the consequences of their respective errors; Manifold, a most voracious fellow, knocked on the head by an attack of apoplexy, and Cooke, the philosopher, suffering the tortures of the damned from a most violent rheumatism, produced by a monomania which compelled him to decline the simple enjoyment of reasonable food and dress. Cooke's monomania, however, was a rare one. In Blackwood's Magazine there appeared, several years ago, an admirable writer, whose name we now forget, under the title of a modern Pythagorean; but that was merely a nom de guerre, adopted, probably, to excite a stronger interest in the perusal of his productions. Here, however, was a man in whom the principle existed upon what he considered rational and philosophic grounds. He had gotten the philosophical blockhead's crotchet into his head, and carried the principle, in a practical point of view, much further than ever the old fool himself did in his life.
CHAPTER XXI. The Dinner at Ballyspellan
—The Appearance Woodward.—Valentine Greatrakes.
The Thursday appointed for the dinner at length arrived. The little village was all alive with stir and bustle, inasmuch as for several months no such important event had taken place. It was, in fact, a gala day; and the poorer inhabitants crowded about the inn to watch the guests arriving, and the paupers to solicit their alms. Twelve or one was then the usual hour for dinner, but in consequence of the large scale on which it was to take place and the unusual preparations necessary, it was not until the hour of two that the guests sat down to table. Some of the principal names we have already mentioned—all the males, of course, invalids—but, as we have said, there were a good number of the surrounding gentry, their wives and daughters, so that the fete was expected to come off with great eclat. Topertoe was dressed, as was then the custom, in full canonical costume, with, his silk cassock and bands, for he was a doctor of divinity; and Manifold was habited in the usual dress of the day—his falling collar exhibiting a neck whose thickness took away all surprise as to his tendency to apoplexy. The lengthy figure of the unsubstantial Pythagorean was cased in linen garments, almost snow-white, through which his anatomy might be read as distinctly as if his living skeleton was naked before them. Mrs. Rosebud was blooming and expanded into full flower, whilst Miss Rosebud was just in that interesting state when the leaves are apparently in the act of bursting out and bestowing their beauty and fragrance on the gratified senses of the beholder. Dr. Doolittle, who was a regular wag—indeed too much so ever to succeed in his profession—entered the room with his three-cocked hat under his arm, and the usual gold-headed cane in his hand; and, after saluting the company, looked about after Manifold, his patient. He saluted the Pythagorean, and complimented him upon his philosophy, and the healthful habits engendered by a vegetable diet, and so primitive a linen dress—a dress, he said, which, in addition to its other advantages, ought to be generally adopted, if only for the sake of its capacity for showing off the symmetry of the figure. He was himself a warm admirer of the principle, and begged to have the honor of shaking hands with the gentleman who had the courage to carry it out against all the prejudices of a besotted world. He accordingly seized the philosopher's hand, which was then in a desperately rheumatic state, as the little scoundrel well knew, and gave it such a squeeze of respect and admiration that the Pythagorean emitted a yell which astonished and alarmed the whole room.
"Death and torture, sir—why did you squeeze my rheumatic hand in such a manner?"
"Pardon me, Mr. Cooke—respect and admiration for your principles."
"Well, sir, I will thank you to express what you may feel in plain language, but not in such damnable squeezes as that."
"Pardon me, again, sir; I was ignorant that the rheumatism was in your hand; you know I am not your physician; perhaps if I were you could bear a friendly shake of it without all that agony. I very much regret the pain I unconsciously, and from motives of the highest respect, have put you to."
"It is gone—do not mention it," said the benevolent philosopher. "Perhaps I may try your skill some of these days."
"I assure you, sir," said Doolittle, "that I am forcing Mr. Manifold here to avail himself of your system—a simple vegetable diet."
"O Lord!" exclaimed Manifold, in a soliloquy—for he was perfectly unconscious of what was going on—"toast and water, toast and water! That and a season of famine—what a prospect is before me! Doolittle is a rat, and I will hire somebody to give him ratsbane. Nothing but a vegetable diet, and be hanged to him! What's ratsbane an ounce?"
"You hear, sir," said Doolittle, addressing the Pythagorean; "you perceive that I am adopting your system?"
"Mr. Doolittle," replied Cooke, "from this day forth you are my physician—I intrust you with the management of my rheumatism; but, in the meantime, I think the room is devilishly cold."
Captain Culverin now entered, swathed up, and, as was evident, somewhat tipsy.
"Eh! confound me, philosopher, your hand," he exclaimed, putting out his own to shake hands with him.
"I can't, sir," replied Cooke; "I am afflicted with rheumatism. You seem unwell, captain; but if you gave up spirituous liquors—such as wine and usquebaugh—you would find yourself the better for it."
"What does all this mean?" asked Manifold. "At all events Doolittle's a rat. A vegetable diet, a year of famine, toast, and water—O Lord!"
Dinner, however, came, and the little waggish doctor could not, for the life of him, avoid his jokes. Cooke's dish of vegetables was placed for him at a particular part of the table; but the doctor, taking Manifold by the hand, placed him in the philosopher's seat, whom he afterwards set before a magnificent sirloin of beef—for, truth to speak, the little man acted as a kind of master of the ceremonies to the company at Ballyspellan.
"What's this?" exclaimed Manifold. "Perdition! here is nothing but a dish of asparagus before me! What kind of treatment is this? Were we not to have a great dinner, Topertoe? Alexander the Great!"
"And who placed me before a sirloin of beef?" asked the philosopher; "I, who follow the principles of the Great Pythagorean. I am nearly sick already with the fume of it. Good heavens! a sirloin of beef before a vegetarian."
Of course Manifold and the philosopher exchanged places, and the dinner proceeded. Mr. and. Mrs. Goodwin were present, but Alice was unable to come, although anxious to do so in order to oblige her parents. It is unnecessary to describe the gastric feats of Manifold and Topertoe. The voracity of the former was astonishing, nor was that of the latter much less; and when the dishes were removed and the tables cleared for their compotations, the faces of both gentlemen appeared as if they were about to explode. The table was now supplied with every variety of liquor, and the conversation began to assume that convivial tone peculiar to such assemblies. The little doctor was placed between Manifold and the Pythagorean, who, by the way, was exceedingly short-sighted; and on the other side of him sat Parson Topertoe, who seemed to feel something like a reprieve from his gout. When the liquor was placed on the table, after dinner, the Pythagorean got to his feet, filled a large glass of water, and taking a gulp of it, leaving it about half full, he proceeded as follows:
"Gentlemen: considering the state of morals in our unfortunate country, arising as it does from the use of intoxicating liquors and the flesh of animals, I feel myself called upon to impress upon the consciences of this respectable auditory the necessity of studying the admirable principles of the great philosopher whose simplicity of life in food and drink I humbly endeavor to imitate. Modern society, my friends, is all wrong, and, of course, is proceeding upon an erroneous and pernicious system—that of eating the flesh of animals and indulging in the use, or rather the abuse, of liquors, that heat the blood and intoxicate the brain into the indulgence of passion and the commission of crime."
Here the little doctor threw a glass of usquebaugh—now called whiskey—into the half-emptied cup which stood before Cooke.
"A vegetable diet, gentlemen, is that which was appointed for us by Providence, and water like this our drink. And, indeed, water like this is delicious drink. The Spa of Ballyspellan stands unrivalled for strength and flavor, and its capacity of exhilarating the animal spirits is extraordinary. You see, gentlemen, how copiously I drink it; servant, fill my glass again—thank you."
In the meantime, and before he touched it, the doctor whipped another glass of whiskey into it—an act which the Pythagorean, who was, as we have said, unusually tall, and kept his eye upon the company, could neither suspect nor see.
"It has been ignorantly said that the structure of the human mouth is an argument against me as to the quality of our food, and that the growth of grapes is a proof that wine was ordained to be drank by men. It is perfectly well known that a man may eat a bushel of grapes without getting drunk; because the pure vegetable possesses no intoxicating power any more than the water which I am now drinking—and delicious water it is!"
Here the doctor dug his elbow into the fat ribs of Topertoe, whose face, in the meantime, seemed in a blaze of indignation.
"I tell you what, philosopher, curse me, but you are an infidel."
"I have the honor, sir," he replied, "to be an infidel—as every philosopher is. The truth of what I am stating to you has been tested by philosophers, and it has been ascertained, that no quantity of grapes eaten by an individual could make him drunk."
The doctor gave the parson another dig, and winked at him to keep quiet.
"Sir," said the parson, unable, however, to restrain himself, "confound me if ever I heard such infidel opinions expressed in my life. Damn your philosophy; it is cursed nonsense, and nothing else."
"A vegetable diet," proceeded Cooke, "is a guarantee for health and long life—O Lord!" he exclaimed, "this accursed rheumatism will be the death of me."
"What is he saying?" asked Manifold.
"He is talking philosophy," replied the doctor, with a comic grin, "and recommending a vegetable diet and pure water."
"A devilish scoundrel," said Manifold. "He's a rat, too. Doolittle's a rat; but I'll poison him; yes, I'll dose him with ratsbane, and then I can eat, drink, and swill away. Is the philosopher's wife a cripple?"
"He has no wife," replied Doolittle.
"And what the devil, then, is he a philosopher for? What on earth challenges philosophy in a husband so much as a wife,—especially if she's a cripple and has the use of her tongue?"
"Not being a married man myself," replied the doctor, "I can give you no information on the subject; or rather I could if I would; but it would not be for your comfort:—ask Manifold."
"Ay; but he says there's something wrong about his head—sprouts pressing up, or something that way. Ask Mrs. Rosebud will she hob or nob with me. Mrs. Rosebud," he proceeded, addressing the widow, "hob or nob?"
Mrs. Rosebud, knowing that he was nothing more nor less than a gouty old parson, bowed to him very coldly, but accepted his challenge, notwithstanding.
"Mrs. Rosebud," he added, "what kind of a man was old Rosebud?"
"His family name," replied the widow, "was not Rosebud but Yellowboy; and, indeed, to speak the truth, my dear old Rosebud had all the marks and tokens of the original family name upon him, for he was as thin as the philosopher there, and as yellow as saffron. His mother, however, the night before he was born, dreamed that she was presented with a rosebud, and the name, being somewhat poetical, was adopted by himself and the family as a kind of set-off against the duck-foot color of the ancestral skin."
The philosopher, in the meantime, finding himself interrupted, stood, with a complacent countenance, awaiting a pause in which he might proceed. At length he got an opportunity of resuming.
"The world," he added, "knows but little of the great founder of so many systems and theories connected with human life and philosophy. It was he who invented the multiplication table, and solved the forty-seventh proposition of the first book of Euclid. It was he who, from his profound knowledge of music, first discovered the music of the spheres—a divine harmony, which, from its unbroken continuity, and incessant play in the heavenly bodies, we are incapable of hearing."
"Where the deuce, then, is the use of it?" cried Captain Culverin; "it must be a very odd kind of music which we cannot hear."
"The great Samian, sir, could hear it; but only in his heart and intellect, and after he had discovered the truthful doctrine of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls."
"The transmigration of soles; why, my dear sir, doesn't every fishwoman understand that?" observed the captain. "Was the fellow a fisherman?"
"His great discovery, however, if mankind would only adopt it, was the healthful one of a vegetable diet, carried out by a fixed determination not to wear any dress made up from the skins or fleeces of animals that have been slain by man, but philosophically to confine himself to plain linen as I do. O Lord! this rheumatism will be the death of me. Pythagoras was one of the greatest philosophers."
Here the doctor threw another glass of usquebaugh into the cup which stood before the Pythagorean, which act, in consequence of his great height and short sight, he did not perceive, but imagined that he was drinking the well water.
"Philosopher," said Captain Culverin, "hob or nob, a glass with you."
"With pleasure, captain," said the Pythagorean, "only I wish you would adopt my principles—a vegetable diet and aqua pura.
"Upon my credit," observed Father Mulrenin, "I think the aqua pura is the best of it. It is blessed water, this well water, and it ought to be so, because the parson consecrated it. Hob or nob with me, Mr. Cooke."
"With pleasure, sir," replied Mr. Cooke, again; "and I do assure you, Father Mulrenin, that I think the parson's consecration has improved the water."
"Sorra doubt of it," replied the friar; "and I am sure the doctor there will support me in the article of the parson's consecration."
"The great Samian," proceeded Cooke, "the great Samian—"
"My dear philosopher," said the facetious friar, "never mind your great Samian, but follow up your principles and drink your water."
The mischievous doctor had thrown another glass into his cup: "Drink your water, and set us all a philosophical example of sobriety."
"That I always do," said the philosopher, staggering a little; "that I always do: the water is delicious, and I think my rheumatism has departed from me. Mr. Manifold, hob or nob!"
"No," replied Manifold, "confound me if I will. You are the fellow that eats nothing but vegetables, and drinks nothing but water. Do you think I will hob or nob with a water-drinking rascal like you? Do you think I will put my wine against your paltry water?"
"Don't call it paltry," replied the Pythagorean; "it is delicious. You know not how it elevates the spirits and, so to speak, philosophizes the whole system of man. I am beginning to feel extremely happy."
"I think so," replied the friar; "but wasn't it a fact, as a proof of your metempsychosis, that the great author of your doctrine was at the siege of Troy some centuries before he came into the world as the philosopher Pythagoras?"
"Yes, sir," replied his follower, "he fought for the Greeks in the character of Euphorbus, in the Trojan war, was Hermatynus, and afterwards a fisherman; his next transformation having been into the body of Pythagoras."
"What an extraordinary memory he must have had," said the friar. "Now, can you yourself remember all the bodies your soul has passed through?—but before I expect you to answer me,—hob or nob again,—this is famous water, my dear philosopher."
"It is famous water, Father Mulrenin; and the parson's consecration has given it a power of exhilaration which is astonishing." The doctor had thrown another glass of usquebaugh into his cup, of course unobserved.
"Why," said the friar, "if I'm not much mistaken, you will feel the benefit of it. It is purely philosophical water, and fit for a philosopher like you to drink."
The company now were divided into little knots, and the worthy philosopher found it necessary to take his seat. He felt himself in a state of mind which he could not understand; but the delicious flavor of the water still clung to him, and, owing to his shortness of sight, and the doctor's wicked wit,—if wit it could be called,—he continued drinking spirits and water until he became perfectly—or, in the ordinary phrase—blind drunk, and was obliged to be carried to bed.
In the meantime, a new individual had arrived; and, having ascertained from the servants that there was a great dinner on that day, he inquired if Mr. Goodwin and his family were present at it. He was informed that Mr. Goodwin and Mrs. Goodwin were there, but that Miss Goodwin was unable to come. He asked where Mr. Goodwin and Mrs. Goodwin resided, and, having been informed on this point, he immediately passed to the farmer's house where they lodged.
Now, it so happened that there was a neat garden attached to the house, in which was an arbor of willows where Miss Goodwin was in the habit of sitting, and amusing herself by the perusal of a book. It contained an arm-chair, in which she frequently reclined, sometimes after the slight exertion of walking; it also happened that she occasionally fell asleep. There were two modes of approach to the farmer's house—one by the ordinary pathway, and another much shorter, which led by a gate that opened into the garden. By this last the guide who pointed out the house to Woodward directed him to proceed, and he did so. On passing through, his eye caught the summer house, and he saw at a glance that Alice Goodwin was there, and asleep. She was, indeed, asleep, but it was a troubled sleep, for the demon gaze of the terrible eye which she dreaded, and which had almost blasted her out of life, she imagined was one more fixed upon her. Woodward approached with a stealthy step, and saw that, even although asleep, she was deeply agitated, as was evident by her moanings. He contemplated her features for a brief space.
"Ah," he said to himself, "I have done my work. Although beautiful, the stamp of death is upon her. One last gaze and it will all be over. I am before her in her dream. My eye is upon her in her morbid and diseased imagination, but what will the consequence be when she awakens and finds it upon her in reality?"
As those thoughts passed through his mind, she gave a scream, and exclaimed,—
"O, take him away! take him away! he is killing me!" and as she uttered the words she awoke.
Now, thought he, to secure my twelve hundred a year; now, for one glance, with the power of hell in its blighting influence, and all is over; my twelve hundred is safe to me and mine forever.
On awakening from her terrible dream, the first object that presented itself to her was the fixed gaze of that terrific eye. It was now wrought up to such a concentration of malignity as surpassed all that even her imagination had ever formed of it. Fixed—diabolical in its aspect, and steady as fate itself—it poured upon the weak and alarmed girl such a flood of venomous and prostrating influence that her shrieks were too feeble to reach the house when calling for assistance. She seemed to have been fascinated to her own destruction. There the eye was fastened upon her, and she felt herself deprived of the power of removing her own from his.
"O my God!" she exclaimed, "I am lost—help, help; the murderous eye is upon me!"
"It is enough," said Woodward; "good by, Miss Goodwin. I was simply contemplating your beauty, and I am sorry to see that you are in so weak a state. Present my compliments to your father and mother; and I think of me as a man whose affection you have indignantly spurned—a man, however, I whose eye, whatever his heart may be, is not to be trifled with."
He then made her a low bow, and took his departure back through the garden.
"It is over," said he; "finitum est, the property is mine; she cannot be saved now; I have taken her life; but no one can say that I have shed her blood. My precious mother will be delighted to hear this. Now, we will be free to act with old Cockletown and his niece; and if she does not turn out a good wife—if she crosses me in my amours—-for amours I will have,—I shall let her, too, feel what my eye can do."
Alice's screams, after his departure from the garden, brought out Sarah Sullivan, who, aided by another servant, assisted her between them to reach the house, where she was put to bed in such a state of weakness, alarm, and terror as cannot be described. Her father and mother were immediately sent for, and, on arriving at her bedside, found her apparently in a dying state. All she could find voice to utter was,—
"He was here—his eye was upon me in the summer house. I feel I am dying."
Doctor Doolittle and Father Mulrenin were both sent for, but she had fallen into an exhausted slumber, and it was deemed better not to disturb her until she might gain some strength by sleep. Her parents, who felt so anxious about her health, and the faint hopes of her recovery, now made fainter by the incident which had just occurred, did not return to the assembly, and the consequence was that Woodward and they did not meet.
When the hour for the dance, however, arrived, the tables for refreshments were placed in other and smaller rooms, and the larger one in which they had dined was cleared out for the ball. The simple-hearted Pythagorean had slept himself sober, without being aware of the cause of his break-down at the dinner, and he now appeared among them in a gala dress of snow-white linen. He was no enemy to healthy amusements, for he could not forget that the great philosopher whom he followed had won public prizes at the Olympic games. He consequently frisked about in the dance with an awkwardness and a disregard of the graces of motion, which, especially in the jigs, convulsed the whole assembly, nor did any one among them laugh more loudly than he did himself. He especially addressed himself too, and danced with, Mrs. Rosebud, who, as she was short, fat, and plump, exhibited as ludicrous a contrast with the almost naked anatomical structure which frisked before her as the imagination could conceive.
"Upon my credit," observed the Mar, "I see that extremes may meet. Look at the philosopher, how he trebles and capers it before the widow. Faith, I should not feel surprised if he made Mrs. Pythagoras of her before long."
This, however, was not the worst of it, for what or who but the devil himself should tempt the parson, with his gout strong upon him, to select Miss Rosebud for a dance, whilst the philosophic rheumatist was frisking it as well as he could with her mother? The room was in an uproar. Miss Rosebud, who possessed much wicked humor, having, as the lady always has, the privilege, called for one of the liveliest tunes then known. The parson's attempt to keep time made the uproar still greater; but at length it ceased, for neither the philosopher nor the parson could hold out any longer, and each retired in a state of torture to his seat. The mirth having now subsided, a gentleman entered the room, admirably dressed, on whom the attention of the whole company was turned, He was tall, elegantly formed, and at a first glance was handsome. The expression of his eyes, however, was striking—startling. It was good—brilliant; it was bad and strange, and, to those who examined it closely, such as they had never witnessed before. Still he was evidently a gentleman: there could be no mistake about that. His manner, his dress, and his whole bearing, made them all feel that he was entitled to respect and courtesy. Little did they imagine that he was a murderer, and that he entered the room under the gratifying impression of his having killed Alice Goodwin. It was Harry Woodward. The evening was now advanced, but, after his introduction to the company, he joined in their amusements, and had the pleasure of dancing with both Mrs. Rosebud and her daughter; and after having concluded his dance with the latter, some tidings reached the room, which struck the whole company with a feeling of awe. It was at first whispered about, but it at length became the general topic of conversation. Alice Goodwin was dying, and her parents were in a state of distraction. Nobody could tell why, but it appeared she was at the last gasp, and that there was some mystery in her malady. Many speculations were broached upon the subject. Woodward preserved silence for a time, but just as he was about to make some observations with reference to her illness, a tall, handsome gentleman entered the room and bowed with much grace to the company.
Father Mulrenin started up, and, shaking hands with him, said,—
"I know now, sir, that you have got my letter."
"I have got it," replied the other, "and I am here accordingly."
As he spoke, his eye glanced around the room, the most distinguished figure in which, beyond comparison, was that of Woodward, who instantly recognized him as the gentleman whom he had met on the morning of his departure from the hospitable roof of Mr. Goodwin, on his return home, and, we may add, between whom and himself that extraordinary trial of the power of will, as manifested by the power of the eye, took place so completely to his own discomfiture. They were both gentlemen, and bowed to each other very courteously, after which they approached and shook hands, and whilst the stranger held Woodward's hand in his during their short but friendly chat, it was observed that Woodward's face got as pale as death, and he almost immediately tottered towards a seat from weakness.
"Don't be alarmed," said the stranger; "you now feel that the principle of good is always able to overcome the principle of evil."
"Who or what are you?" asked Woodward, faintly.
"I am a plain country gentleman, sir; and something more, a man of wealth and distinction; but who, unlike my friend Cooke here, do not make myself ridiculous by absurd eccentricities, and the adoption of the nonsensical doctrines of Pythagoras, so utterly at variance with reason and Christian truth. You know, my dear Cooke, I could have cured you of your rheumatism had you possessed common-sense; but who could cure any man who guards his person against the elements by such a ludicrous and unsubstantial dress as yours?"
"I am in torture," replied Cooke; "I was tempted to dance with a pretty woman, and now I am suffering for it."
"As for me," exclaimed Topertoe, "I am a match, and more than a match, for you in suffering. O, this accursed gout!"
"I suppose you brought it on by hard drinking, sir," said the stranger. "If that be so, I shall not undertake to cure you unless you give up hard drinking."
"I will do anything," replied Topertoe, "provided you can allay my pain. I also was tempted to dance as well as the philosopher; and now the Christian parson and the pagan Pythagorean are both suffering for it."
"What is all this about?" exclaimed Manifold. "O Lord! is he going to put them on a vegetable diet, relieved by toast and water—toast and water?"
The stranger paid but little attention to Manifold, because he saw by his face and the number of his chins that he was past hope; but turning towards Topertoe and the Pythagorean, he requested them both to sit beside each other before him. He then asked Topertoe where his gout affected him, and having been informed that it was principally in his great toe and right foot, he deliberately stripped the foot, and having pressed his hands upon it for about the space of ten minutes, he desired his patient to rise up and walk. This he did, and to his utter astonishment, without the slightest symptom or sensation of pain.
"Why, bless my soul!" exclaimed the parson, "I am cured; the pain is altogether gone. Let me have a bumper of claret."
"That will do," observed the stranger. "You are incurable. You will plunge once more into a life of intemperance and luxury, and once more your complaint, from which you are now free, will return to you. You will not deny yourself the gratification of your irrational and senseless indulgences, and yet you expect to be cured. As for me, I can only remove the malady of such persons as you for the present, or time being; but, so long as you return to the exciting cause of it, no earthly skill or power in man can effect a permanent cure. Now, Cooke, I will relieve you of your rheumatism; but unless you exchange this flimsy stuff for apparel suited to your climate and condition, I feel that I am incapable of rendering you anything but a temporary relief."