Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > William Carleton > Black Baronet; or, The Chronicles Of Ballytrain > This page

The Black Baronet; or, The Chronicles Of Ballytrain, a novel by William Carleton

Chapter 7. The Baronet Attempts By Falsehood

< Previous
Table of content
Next >
_ CHAPTER VII. The Baronet attempts by Falsehood

The Baronet attempts by Falsehood to urge his Daughter into an Avowal of her Lover's Name.

Sir Thomas Gourlay, after his unpleasant interview with the stranger, rode easily home, meditating upon some feasible plan by which he hoped to succeed in entrapping his daughter into the avowal of her lover's name, for he had no doubt whatsoever that the gentleman at the inn and he were one and the same individual. For this purpose, he determined to put on a cheerful face, and assume, as far as in him lay, an air of uncommon satisfaction. Now this was a task of no ordinary difficulty for Sir Thomas to encounter. The expression of all the fiercer and darker passions was natural to such a countenance as his; but even to imagine such a one lit up with mirth, was to conceive an image so grotesque and ridiculous, that the firmest gravity must give way before it. His frown was a thing perfectly intelligible, but to witness his smile, or rather his effort at one, was to witness an unnatural phenomenon of the most awful kind, and little short of a prodigy. If one could suppose the sun giving a melancholy and lugubrious grin through the darkness of a total eclipse, they might form some conception of the jocular solemnity which threw its deep but comic shadow over his visage. One might expect the whole machinery of the face, with as much probability as that of a mill, to change its habitual motions, and turn in an opposite direction. It seemed, in fact, as if a general breaking up of the countenance was about to take place, and that the several features, like a crew of thieves and vagabonds flying from the officers of justice, were all determined to provide for themselves.

Lucy saw at a glance that her father was about to get into one of those tender and complacent moods which were few and far between, and, made wise by experience, she very properly conjectured, from his appearance, that some deep design was concealed under it. Anxious, therefore, to avoid a prolonged dialogue, and feeling, besides, her natural candor and invincible love of truth to a certain extent outraged by this treacherous assumption of cordiality, she resolved to commence the conversation.

"Has anything agreeable happened; papa?"

"Agreeable, Lucy, ahem!--why, yes--something agreeable has happened. Now, Lucy, poor foolish girl, would it not have been better to have placed confidence in me with respect to this lover of yours? Who can feel the same interest in your happiness that I do?"

"None, certainly, sir; unless some one whose happiness may probably depend on mine."

"Yes, your lover--well, that now is a natural enough distinction; but still, you foolish, naughty girl, don't you know that you are to inherit my wealth and property, and that they will make you happy? You silly thing, there's a truth for you."

"Were you yourself happy, papa, when we separated this morning? Are you happy this moment? Are you generally happy? Is there no rankling anxiety--no project of ambition--no bitter recollection corroding your heart? Does the untimely loss of my young brother, who would have represented and sustained your name, never press heavily upon it? I ask again, Papa, are you generally happy? Yet you are in possession of all the wealth and property you speak of."

"Tut, nonsense, silly child! Nothing is more ridiculous than to hear a girl like you, that ought to have no will but mine, reasoning like a philosopher."

"But, dear papa," proceeded Lucy, "if you should persist in marrying me to a profligate, merely because he is a nobleman--oh, how often is that honorable name prostituted!--and could give me a title, don't you see how wretched I should be, and how completely your wealth and property would fail to secure my happiness?"

"Very well argued, Lucy, only that you go upon wrong principles. To be sure, I know that young ladies--that is, very young and inexperienced ladies, somewhat like yourself, Lucy--have, or pretend to have--poor fools--a horror of marrying those they don't love; and I am aware, besides, that a man might as well attempt to make a stream run up hill as combat them upon this topic. As for me, in spite of all my wealth and property--I say this in deference to you--I am really very happy this moment."

"I am delighted to hear it, papa. May I ask, what has contributed to make you so?"

"I shall mention that presently; but, in the mean time, my theory on this subject is, that, instead of marrying for love, I would recommend only such persons to contract matrimony as entertain a kind of lurking aversion for each other. Let the parties commence with, say, a tolerably strong stock of honest hatred on both sides. Very well; they, are united. At first, there is a great deal of heroic grief, and much exquisite martyrdom on the part of the lady, whilst the gentleman is at once, if I may say so, indifferent and indignant. By and by, however, they become tired of this. The husband, who, as well as the wife, we shall suppose, has a strong spice of the devil in him, begins to entertain a kind of diabolical sympathy for the fire and temper she displays; while she, on the other hand, comes by degrees to admire in him that which she is conscious of possessing herself, that is to say, a sharp tongue and an energetic temperament. In this way, Lucy, they go on, until habit has become a second nature to them. The appetite for strife has been happily created. At length, they find themselves so completely captivated by it that it becomes the charm of their existence. Thenceforth a bewitching and discordant harmony prevails between them, and they entertain a kind of hostile affection for each other that is desperately delightful."

"Why, you are quite a painter, papa; your picture is admirable; all it wants is truth and nature."

"Thank you, Lucy; you are quite complimentary, and have made an artist of me, as artists now go. But is not this much more agreeable and animated than the sweet dalliance of a sugar-plum life, or the dull, monotonous existence resembling a Dutch canal, which we term connubial happiness?"

"Well, now, papa, suppose you were to hear me through?"

"Very well," he replied; "I will."

"I do not believe, sir, that life can present us with anything more beautiful and delightful than the union of two hearts, two minds, two souls, in pure and mutual affection, when that affection is founded upon something more durable than mere beauty or personal attraction--that is, when it is based upon esteem, and a thorough knowledge of the object we love."

"Yes, Lucy; but remember there are such things as deceit, dissimulation, and hypocrisy in the world."

"Yes, and goodness, and candor, and honor, and truth, and fidelity, papa; do you remember that? When two beings, conscious, I say, of each other's virtues--each other's failings, if you will--are united in the bonds of true and pure affection, how could it happen that marriage, which is only the baptism of love upon the altar of the heart, should take away any of the tenderness of this attachment, especially when we reflect that its very emotions are happiness? Granting that love, in its romantic and ideal sense, may disappear after marriage, I have heard, and I believe, that it assumes a holier and still more tender spirit, and reappears under the sweeter and more beautiful form of domestic affection. The very consciousness, I should suppose, that our destinies, our hopes, our objects, our cares--in short, our joys and sorrows, are identical and mutual, to be shared with and by each other, and that all those delightful interchanges of a thousand nameless offices of tenderness that spring up from the on-going business of our own peculiar life--these alone, I can very well imagine, would constitute an enjoyment far higher, purer, holier, than mere romantic love. Then, papa, surely we are not to live solely for ourselves. There are the miseries and wants of others to be lessened or relieved, calamity to be mitigated, the pale and throbbing brow of sickness to be cooled, the heart of the poor and neglected to be sustained and cheered, and the limbs of the weary to be clothed and rested. Why, papa," she proceeded, her, dark eye kindling at the noble picture of human duty she had drawn, "when we take into contemplation the delightful impression of two persons going thus, hand in hand, through life, joining in the discharge of their necessary duties, assisting their fellow-creatures, and diffusing good wherever they go--each strengthening and reflecting the virtues of the other, may we not well ask how they could look upon each other without feeling the highest and noblest spirit of tenderness, affection, and esteem?"

"O yes, I was right, Lucy; all romances, all imagination, all honeypot, with a streak of treacle here and there for the shading," and, as he spoke, he committed another felony in the disguise of a horse-laugh, which, however, came only from the jaws out.

"But, papa," she proceeded, anxious to change the subject and curtail the interview, "as I said, I trust something agreeable has happened; you seem in unusually good spirits."

"Why, yes, Lucy," he replied, setting his eyes upon her with an expression of good-humor that made her tremble--"yes, I was in Ballytrain, and had an interview with a friend of yours, who is stopping in the 'Mitre.' But, my dear, surely that is no reason why you should all at once grow so pale! I almost think that you have contracted a habit of becoming pale. I observed it this morning--I observe it now; but, after all, perhaps it is only a new method of blushing--the blush reversed--that is to say, blushing backwards. Come, you foolish girl, don't be alarmed; your lover had more sense than you have, and knew when and where to place confidence."

He rose up now, and having taken a turn or two across the room, approached her, and in deep, earnest, and what he intended to be, and was, an impressive and startling voice, added:

"Yes, Miss Gourlay, he has told me all."

Lucy looked at him, unmoved as to the information, for she knew it was false; but she left him nothing to complain of with--regard to her paleness now. In fact, she blushed deeply at the falsehood he attempted to impose upon her. The whole tenor and spirit of the conversation was instantly changed, and assumed for a moment a painful and disagreeable formality.

"To whom do you allude, sir." she asked.

"To the gentleman, madam, to whom you bowed so graciously, and, let me add, significantly, to-day."

"And may I beg to know, sir, what he has told you?"

"Have I not already said that he has told me all? Yes, madam, I have said so, I think. But come, Lucy," he added, affecting to relax, "be a good girl; as you said, yourself, it should not be sir and madam between you and me. You are all I have in the world--my only child, and if I appear harsh to you, it is only because I love and am anxious to make you happy. Come, my dear child, put confidence in me, and rely upon my affection and generosity."

Lucy was staggered for a moment, but only for a moment, for she thoroughly understood him.

"But, papa, if the gentleman you allude to has told you all, what is there left for me to confide to you?"

"Why, the truth is, Lucy, I was anxious to test his sincerity, and to have your version as well as his. He appears, certainly, to be a gentleman and a man of honor."

"And if he be a man of honor, papa, how can you require such a test?"

"I said, observe, that he appears to be such; but, you know, a man may be mistaken in the estimate he forms of another in a first interview. Come, Lucy, do something to make me your friend."

"My friend!" she replied, whilst the tears rose to her eyes. "Alas, papa, must I hear such language as this from a father's lips? Should anything be necessary to make that father the friend of his only child? I know not how to reply to you, sir; you have placed me in a position of almost unexampled distress and pain. I cannot, without an apparent want of respect and duty, give expression to what I know and feel."

"Why not, you foolish girl, especially when you see me in such good-humor? Take courage. You will find me more indulgent than you imagine. Imitate your lover yonder."

She looked at him, and her eyes sparkled through her tears with shame, but not merely with shame, for her heart was filled with such an indignant and oppressive sense of his falsehood as caused her to weep and sob aloud for two or three minutes.

"Come, my dear child, I repeat--imitate your lover yonder. Confess; but don't weep thus. Surely I am not harsh to you now?"

"Papa," she replied, wiping her eyes, "the confidence which you solicit, it is not in my power to bestow. Do not, therefore, press me on this subject. It is enough that I have already confessed to you that my affections are engaged. I will now add what perhaps I ought to have added before, that this was with the sanction of my dear mamma. Indeed, I would have said so, but that I was reluctant to occasion reflections from you incompatible with my affection for her memory."

"Your mother, madam," he added, his face blackening into the hue of his natural temper, "was always a poor, weak-minded woman. She was foolish, madam, and indiscreet, and has made you wicked--trained you up to hypocrisy, falsehood, and disobedience. Yes, madam, and in every instance where you go contrary to my will, you act upon her principles. Why do you not respect truth, Miss Gourlay?"

"Alas, sir!" she replied, stung and shocked by his unmanly reflections upon the memory of her mother, whilst her tears burst out afresh, "I am this moment weeping for my father's disregard of it."

"How, madam! I am a liar, am I? Oh, dutiful daughter!"

"Mamma, sir, was all truth, all goodness, all affection. She was at once an angel and a martyr, and I will not hear her blessed memory insulted by the very man who, above all others, ought to protect and revere it. I am not, papa, to be intimidated by looks. If it be our duty to defend the absent, is it not ten thousand times more so to defend the dead? Shall a daughter hear with acquiescence the memory of a mother, who would have died for her, loaded with obloquy and falsehood? No, sir! Menace and abuse myself as much as you wish, but I tell you, that while I have life and the power of speech, I will fling back, even into a father's face, the falsehoods--the gross and unmanly falsehoods--with which he insults her tomb, and calumniates her memory and her virtues. Do not blame me, sir, for this language; I would be glad to honor you if I could; I beseech you, my father, enable me to do so."

"I see you take a peculiar--a wanton pleasure in calling me a liar."

"No, sir, I do not call you a liar; but I know you regard truth no farther than it serves your own purposes. Have you not told me just now, that the gentleman in the Mitre Inn has made certain disclosures to you concerning himself and me? And now, father, I ask you, is there one word of truth in this assertion? You know there is not. Have you not sought my confidence by a series of false pretences, and a relation of circumstances that were utterly without foundation? All this, however, though inexpressibly painful to me as your daughter, I could overlook without one word of reply; but I never will allow you to cast foul and cowardly reproach upon the memory of the best of mothers--upon the memory of a wife of whom, father, you were unworthy, and whom, to my own knowledge, your harshness and severity hurried into a premature grave. Oh, never did woman pay so dreadful a penalty for suffering herself to be forced into marriage with a man she could not love, and who was unworthy of her affection! That, sir, was the only action of her life in which her daughter cannot, will not, imitate her."

She rose to retire, but her father, now having relapsed into all his dark vehemence of temper, exclaimed--

"Now mark me, madam, before you go. I say you shall sleep under lock and key this night. I tell you that I shall use the most rigorous measures with you, the severest, the harshest, that I can devise, or I shall I break that stubborn will of yours. Do not imagine for one moment that you shall overcome me, or triumph in your disobedience. No, sooner than you should, I would break your spirit--I would break your heart"

"Be it so, sir. I am ready to suffer anything, provided only you will forbear to insult the memory of my mother."

With these words she sought her own room, where she indulged in a long fit of bitter grief.

Sir Thomas Gourlay, in these painful contests of temper with his candid and high-minded daughter, was by no means so cool and able as when engaged in similar exercitations with strangers. The disadvantage against him in his broils with Lucy, arose from the fact that he had nothing in this respect to conceal from her. He felt that his natural temper and disposition were known, and that the assumption of any and every false aspect of character, must necessarily be seen through by her, and his hypocrisy detected and understood. Not so, however, with strangers. When manoeuvring with them, he could play, if not a deeper, at least a safer game; and of this he himself was perfectly conscious. Had his heart been capable of any noble or dignified emotion, he must necessarily have admired the greatness of his daughter's mind, her indomitable love of truth, and the beautiful and undying tenderness with which her affection brooded over the memory of her mother. Selfishness, however, and that low ambition which places human happiness in the enjoyment of wealth, and honors, and empty titles, had so completely blinded him to the virtues of his daughter, and to the sacred character of his own duties as a father, bound by the first principles of nature to promote her happiness, without corrupting her virtues, or weakening her moral impressions--we say these things had so blinded him, and hardened his heart against all the purer duties and responsibilities of life, that he looked upon his daughter as a hardened, disobedient girl, dead to the influence of his own good--the ambition of the world--and insensible to the dignified position which awaited her among the votaries of rank and fashion. But, alas, poor man! how little did he know of the healthy and substantial virtues which confer upon those whose station lies in middle and in humble life, a benevolent and hearty consciousness of pure enjoyment, immeasurably superior to the hollow forms of life and conduct in aristocratic circles, which, like the tempting fruit of the Dead Sea, seem beautiful to the eye, but are nothing more, when tested by the common process of humanity, than ashes and bitterness to the taste. We do not now speak of a whole class, for wherever human nature is, it will have its virtues as well as its vices; But we talk of the system, which cannot be one of much happiness or generous feeling, so long as it separates itself from the general sympathies of mankind. _

Read next: Chapter 8. The Fortune-Teller--An Equivocal Prediction

Read previous: Chapter 6. Extraordinary Scene Between Fenton And The Stranger

Table of content of Black Baronet; or, The Chronicles Of Ballytrain


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book