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

Chapter 11. The Stranger's Visit To Father Macmalum

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_ CHAPTER XI. The Stranger's Visit to Father MacMalum

The stranger, after Fenton had gone, began to feel that it was impossible either to wheedle or extort any information whatsoever, whether of importance or otherwise, from that extraordinary and not very sane individual. That, however, there was a deep mystery about him, be it what it might, he could not, for a moment, doubt; and, for this reason, he resolved by no means to relax his exertions, or suffer Fenton, if he could fairly prevent it, to slip through his fingers. His unaccountable conduct and terror, during, as well as after, his own angry altercation with the baronet, went, in his opinion, strongly to connect him, in some manner, with that unscrupulous man. But how to develop the nature of this connection constituted the very difficulty which not only disappointed but mortified him.

"I will call upon Birney," thought he; "he is acute and sensible, and probably, from his greater experience of life, will be able to throw out some hint that may be valuable, and enable me to proceed with more effect."

We have already said, that it was somewhat difficult to commonplace observers to determine his (the stranger's) exact position in society by a first glance at his dress. This ambiguity of appearance, if, after all, it could properly be called so, was assumed for the express purpose of avoiding observation as much as possible. The fact, however, of finding that his desire to remain unnoticed had been not merely observed and commented on, but imputed to him almost as a crime, determined him no longer to lie perdu in his inn, but to go abroad, and appear in public like another; whilst, at the same time, his resolution remained fixed as ever, for various reasons, to conceal his name. The moment, therefore, he had made up his mind to this course, that assumed restraint of manner and consciousness of not being what we appear to be were completely thrown aside, and the transition which ensued was indeed extraordinary. His general deportment became at once that of a perfect gentleman, easy, elegant, if not absolutely aristocratic; but without the slightest evidence of anything that could be considered supercilious or offensive. His dress was tastefully within the fashion, but not in its extreme, and his admirable figure thus displayed to the best advantage; whilst his whole person was utterly free from every symptom of affectation or foppery. Nor was the change in the tone of his features less striking. Their style of beauty was at once manly and intellectual, combining, as they did, an expression of great sweetness, obvious good sense, and remarkable determination. He bore, in fact, the aspect of a man who could play with a child on the green, or beard a lion in his lair.

The sagacity of the Irish people, in the estimate they form of personal appearance and character, is, indeed, very extraordinary. Our friend, the stranger, when casting his eye over the town of Ballytrain, on his way to have an interview with Birney, who, we may as well observe, was in his confidence, perceived that it was market-day. As he went out upon the street, a crowd of persons were standing opposite the inn door, where an extensive yarn market, in these good old times, was always held; and we need scarcely say that his gentlemanly and noble figure, and the striking elegance of his manner, at once attracted their attention.

"Well," said one of them, "there goes a real gintleman, begad, at any rate."

"Divil a lie in that," added another; "there's no mistakin' the true blood."

"Who is he," asked a third--"Does nobody know him?"

"Troth," said the other, "it doesn't signify a traneen who or what he is; whether he's gentle or simple, I say that the whole country ought to put their heads under his feet."

"Why so, Jemmy Trailcudgel," asked a fourth; "what did he do for the counthry?"

"I'll tell you that, Micky," replied the other--"The Black Baronet, bad luck to him, came to the inn where he stops, and insisted, right or wrong, on knowing who and what he was."

"I wouldn't put it past him, the turk o' blazes! Well, an' what happened?"

"Why, the gintleman got up, and tuck a hoult o' the black villain by the nose, led him to the head of the stairs, then turned him down before him, and made his feet right and left play against the barrow knight, like the tucks of a cloth mill, until he thrundled him clane--I'm not so sure of that, though--out o' the hall door."

"An' for that same, God prosper him! Begad, he's a bully gentleman," observed a stout, frieze-coated fellow, with a large bunch of green linen yarn on his lusty arm--"he is, and it's in him, and upon him, as every one that has eyes to see may know."

The object of their praise, on entering the office of his friend Birney, found him at his desk, with professional papers and documents before him. After the ordinary greetings of the day, and an accurate account of the baronet's interview with him, the stranger introduced the topic in which he felt so deep an interest.

"I am unfortunate, Mr. Birney," said he; "Fenton, notwithstanding his eccentricity, insanity, or whatever it may be termed, seems to suspect my design, and evades, with singular address, every attempt, on my part, to get anything out of him. Is he absolutely deranged, think you? For, I assure you, I have just now had a scene with him, in which his conduct and language could proceed from nothing short of actual insanity. A little affected with liquor he unquestionably was, when he came in first. The appearance, however, of Sir Thomas not only reduced him to a state of sobriety, but seemed to strike him with a degree of terror altogether inexplicable."

"How was that," asked Birney.

The stranger accordingly described the scene between himself and Fenton, with which the reader is acquainted.

"He is not a madman, certainly, in the ordinary sense of the word," replied Birney, after a pause; "but, I think, he may be called a kind of lunatic, certainly. My own opinion is, that, whatever insanity he may be occasionally afflicted with results more from an excessive indulgence in liquor than from any other cause. Be that, however, as it may, there is no question but that he is occasionally seized with fits of mental aberration. From what you tell me, and his exaggerated suspicions of a plot between you and Sir Thomas Gourlay, I think it most probable that he is your man still."

"I, too, think it probable," replied the stranger; "but, alas, I think it possible he may not. On comparing his features with the miniature, I confess I cannot now trace the resemblance which my sanguine imagination--and that only, I fear--first discovered."

"But, consider, sir, that that miniature was taken when the original of it was only five or six years of age; and you will also recollect that growth, age, education, and peculiar habits of life, effect the most extraordinary changes in the features of the same individual. No, sir, I would not advise you to feel disheartened by this."

"But, can you fall upon no hint or principle, Mr. Birney, by which I might succeed in unlocking the secret which this young man evidently possesses?"

"All I can recommend to you, sir, is comprised within one word--patience. Mark him well; ingratiate yourself with him; treat him with kindness; supply his wants; and I have no doubt but you may ultimately win upon his confidence."

"Is there no sagacious old person in the neighborhood, no senachie or genealogist, to whom you could refer me, and from whose memory of past events in this part of the country I might be able to gain something to guide me?"

"There is one woman," replied Birney, "who, were she tractable as to the past as she is communicative of the future, could furnish you more details of family history and hereditary scandal than any one else I can think of just now. Some of her predictions--for she is a fortune-teller--have certainly been amazing."

"The result, I have no doubt," replied the other, "of personal acquaintance with private occurrences, rendered incredible under ordinary circumstances, in consequence of her rapid transitions from place to place. I shall certainly not put myself under the guidance of an impostor, Mr. Birney."

"In this case, sir, I think you are right; for it has been generally observed that, in no instance, has she ever been known to make any reference to the past in her character of fortune-teller. She affects to hold intercourse with the fairies, or good people, as we term them, and insists that it is from them that she derives the faculty of a prophetess. She also works extraordinary cures by similar aid, as she asserts. The common impression is, that her mind is burdened with some secret guilt, and that it relieves her to contemplate the future, as it regards temporal fate, but that she dares not look back into the past. I know there is nothing more certain than that, when asked to do so, in peculiar moods of mind, she manifests quite as much of the maniac as poor Fenton."

"Away with the old impostress!" exclaimed the stranger; "I will have none of her! Can you think of no one else?"

"Of course, you have not had time to become acquainted with our parish priest?" replied Birney. "Since 'Aroint thee, witch,' is your creed, I think you had better try him."

"Not an unnatural transition," replied the stranger, smiling; "but what is he like? Give me an outline."

"He is named the Rev. Peter M'Mahon,and I forewarn you, that you are as likely, if he be not in the mood, to get such a reception as you may not relish. He is somewhat eccentric and original, but, at the same time, his secret piety and stolen benevolence are beyond all question. With his limited means, the good he does is incalculable. He is, in fact, simple, kind-hearted, and truly religious. In addition to all, he is a considerable bit of a humorist; when the good man's mind is easy, his humor is kindly, rich, and mellow; but, when any way in dudgeon, it is comically sarcastic."

"I must see this man," said the stranger; "you have excited my curiosity. By all accounts he is worth a visit."

"He is more likely to serve you in this matter than any one I know," said the attorney; "or, if he can't himself, perhaps he may find out those that can. Very little has happened in the parish within the last thirty-five years with which he is not acquainted."

"I like the man," replied the other, "from your description of him."

"At all events, you would if you knew him," replied Birney. "He is both a good priest and a good man."

He then directed him to the worthy clergy-man's residence, which was not more than a mile and a half from the town, and the stranger lost little time in reaching it.

On approaching the house, he was much struck with the extraordinary air of neatness, cleanliness, and comfort, which characterized not only the house itself, but everything about it. A beautiful garden facing the south, stretched down to the left, as you approached the elegant little whitewashed dwelling, which, placed on a green knoll, literally shone for miles over the beautiful and serene country by which it was surrounded. Below it, to the south, between firm green banks and meadows, wound a beautiful river, and to the north rose one of the most picturesque hills, probably, in the kingdom; at the hip of which was a gloomy, precipitous glen, which, for wildness and solitary grandeur, is unrivalled by anything of the kind we have seen. On the top of the hill is a cave, supposed to be Druidical, over which an antiquarian would dream half a life; and, indeed, this is not to be wondered at, inasmuch as he would find there some of the most distinctly traced Ogham characters to be met with in any part of the kingdom.

On entering the house, our nameless friend found the good priest in what a stranger might be apt to consider a towering passion.

"You lazy bosthoon," said he, to a large, in fact to a huge young fellow, a servant, "was it to allow the pigs, the destructive vagabonds, to turn up my beautiful bit of lawn that I undertook to give you house-room, wages, and feeding--eh? and a bitther business to me the same feeding is. If you were a fellow that knew when he had enough, I could bear the calamity of keeping you at all. But that's a subject, God help you, and God help me too that has to suffer for it, on which your ignorance is wonderful. To know when to stop so long as the blessed victuals is before you is a point of polite knowledge you will never reach, you immaculate savage. Not a limb about you but you'd give six holidays to out of the seven, barrin' your walrus teeth, and, if God or man would allow you the fodder, you'd give us an elucidation of the perpetual motion. Be off, and get the strongest set of rings that Jemmy M'Quade can make for those dirty, grubbing bastes of pigs. The Lord knows I don't wondher that the Jews hated the thieves, for sure they are the only blackguard animals that ever committed suicide, and set the other bastes of the earth such an unchristian example. Not that a slice of ham is so bad a thing in itself, especially when it is followed by a single tumbler of poteen punch."

"Troth, masther, I didn't see the pigs, or they'd not have my sanction to go into the lawn."

"Not a thing ever you see, or wish to see, barring your dirty victuals."

"I hope, sir," said the stranger, much amused in the meantime, but with every courtesy of manner, "that my request for a short interview does not come at an unseasonable hour?"

"And, do you hear me, you bosthoon," proceeded his reverence--this, however, he uttered sotto voce, from an apprehension lest the stranger should hear his benevolent purposes--"did you give the half crown to Widow Magowran, whose children, poor creatures, are lying ill of fever?"

Not a word to the stranger, who, however, overheard him.

"I did, plaise your reverence," replied the huge servant.

"What did she say," asked the other, "when you slipped it to her?"

"She said nothing, sir, for a minute or so, but dropped on her knees, and the tears came from her eyes in such a way that I couldn't help letting down one or two myself. 'God spare him,' she then said, 'for his piety and charity makes him a blessin' to the parish.' Throth, I couldn't help lettin' down a tear or two myself."

"You couldn't now." exclaimed the simple-hearted priest; "why, then, I forgive you the pigs, you great, good-natured bosthoon."

The stranger now thought that he might claim some notice from his reverence.

"I fear, sir," said he--

"And whisper, Mat," proceeded the priest--paying not the slightest attention to him, "did you bring the creel of turf to poor Barney Farrell and his family, as I desired you?"

"I did, your reverence, and put a good heap on it for the creatures."

"Well, I forgive you the pigs!" exclaimed the benevolent priest, satisfied that his pious injunctions had been duly observed, and extending a portion of his good feeling to the instrument; "and as for the appetite I spoke of, sure, you good-natured giant you, haven't you health, exercise, and a most destructive set of grinders? and, indeed, the wonder would be if you didn't make the sorrow's havoc at a square of bacon; so for heaping the creel I forgive you the digestion and the pigs both."

"Will you permit me." interposed the stranger, a third time.

"But listen again," proceeded his reverence, "did you bring the bread and broth to the poor Caseys, the creatures?"

"No, sir," replied Mat, licking his lips, as the stranger thought, "it was Kitty Kavanagh brought that; you know you never trust me wid the vittles--ever since--"

"Yes, I ought to have remembered that notorious fact. There's where your weakness is strongest, but, indeed, it is only one of them; for he that would trust you with the carriage of a bottle of whiskey might be said to commit a great oversight of judgment. With regard to the victuals, I once put my trust in God, and dispatched you, after a full meal, with some small relief to a poor family, in the shape of corned beef and greens, and you know the sequel, that's enough. Be off now, and get the rings made as I desired you."

He then turned to the stranger, whom he scanned closely; and we need hardly assure our reader that the other, in his turn, marked the worthy priest's bearing, manner, and conversation with more than usual curiosity. The harmless passion in which he found him--his simple but touching benevolence, added to the genuine benignity with which he relaxed his anger against Mat Euly, the gigantic servant, because he told him that he had put a heap upon the creel of turf which he brought to poor Barney Farrell and his family, not omitting the tears he represented himself to have shed from Christian sympathy with Widow Magowran, both of which acts were inventions of the purest water, resorted to in order to soften the kind-hearted priest; all this, we say, added to what he had heard from Birney, deeply interested the stranger in the character of Father Peter. Nor was he less struck by his appearance. Father MacMahon was a round, tight, rosy-faced little man, with laughing eyes, full of good nature, and a countenance which altogether might be termed a title-page to benevolence. His lips were finely cut, and his well-formed mouth, though full of sweetness, was utterly free from every indication of sensuality or passion. Indeed, it was at all times highly expressive of a disposition the most kind and placable, and not unfrequently of a comical spirit, that blended with his benevolence to a degree that rendered the whole cast of his features, as they varied with and responded to the kindly and natural impulses of his heart, a perfect treat to look upon. That his heart and soul were genuinely Irish, might easily be perceived by the light of humor which beamed with such significant contagion from every feature of his face, as well as by the tear which misery and destitution and sorrow never failed to bring to his cheek, thus overshadowing for a time, if we may say so, the whole sunny horizon of his countenance. But this was not all; you might read there a spirit of kindly sarcasm that was in complete keeping with a disposition always generous and affectionate, mostly blunt and occasionally caustic. Nothing could exceed the extreme neatness with which he attended to his dress and person. In this point he was scrupulously exact and careful; but this attention to the minor morals was the result of anything but personal pride, for we are bound to say, that, with all his amiable eccentricities, more unaffected humility never dwelt in the heart of a Christian minister.

He had, in fact, paid little or no attention to the stranger until Mat Ruly went out; when, on glancing at him with more attention, he perceived at once that he was evidently a person of no ordinary condition in life.

"I have to ask your pardon, sir," said he, "for seeming to neglect you as I did, but the truth is, I was in a white heat of passion with that great good-natured colossus of mine, Mat Ruly, for, indeed, he is good-natured, and that I can tell you makes me overlook many a thing in him that I would not otherwise pass by. Ah, then, sir, did you observe," he added, "how he confessed to heaping the creel of turf for the Farrells, and crying with poor Widow Magowran?"

The stranger could have told him that, if he had seen the comical wink which the aforesaid Mat had given to one of the servant-maids, as he reported his own sympathy and benevolence to his master, he might probably have somewhat restricted his encomium upon him.

"I can't say, sir," he replied, "that I paid particular attention to the dialogue between you."

"Bless me," exclaimed Father Peter, "what am I about? Walk into the parlor, sir. Why should I have kept you standing here so long? Pray, take a seat, sir. You must think me very rude and forgetful of the attention due to a gentleman of your appearance."

"Not at all, sir," replied the other, seating himself--"I rather think you were better engaged and in higher duties than any that are likely to arise from my communication with you."

"Well, sir," replied the priest, smiling, "that you know is yet to be determined on; but in the mane time I'll be happy to hear your business, whatever it is; and, indeed, from your looks, although the Lord knows they're often treacherous, I tell you that if I can stretch a point to sarve you I will; provided always that I can do so with a good conscience, and provided also that I find your character and conduct entitle you to it. So, then, I say, let us have at the business you spake of, and to follow up this proposition with suitable energy, what's your name and occupation? for there's nothing like knowing the ground a man stands on. I know you're a stranger in this neighborhood, for I assure you there is not a face in the parish but I am as well acquainted with as my own, and indeed a great deal betther, in regard that I never shave with a looking-glass. I tried it once or twice and was near committing suicide in the attempt."

There was something so kind, frank, yet withal so eccentric, and, as it would seem, so unconsciously humorous in the worthy father's manner, that the stranger, whilst he felt embarrassed by the good-natured bluntness of his interrogations, could not help experiencing a sensation that was equally novel and delightful, arising as it did from the candor and honesty of purpose that were so evident in all the worthy man did and said.

"I should never have supposed, from the remarkable taste of your dress and your general appearance," he replied, "that you make your toilet without a looking-glass."

"It's a fact, though; neither I nor my worthy father before me ever troubled one; we left them to the girshas and the women; habit is everything, and for that reason I could shave as well at midnight as at the hour of noon. However, let us pass that by, thank God I can go out with as clane a face, and I trust with as clear a conscience, always barring the passions that Mat Euly puts me into, as some of my neighbors; yet, God forgive me, why should I boast? for I know and feel that I fall far short of my duty in every sense, especially when I reflect how much of poverty and destitution are scattered through this apparently wealthy parish. God forgive me, then, for the boast I made, for it was both wrong and sinful!"

A touch of feeling which it would be difficult to describe, but which raised him still more highly in the estimation of the stranger, here passed over his handsome and benevolent features, but after it had passed away he returned at once to the object of the stranger's visit.

"Well," said he, "to pass now from my omissions and deficiencies, let us return to the point we were talking of; you haven't told me your name, or occupation, or profession, or business of any kind--that is, if you have any?"

"I assure you, reverend sir," replied the other, "that I am at the present moment placed in such a position, that I fear it is out of my power to satisfy you in any of these points. Whilst, at the same time, I confess that, nameless and stranger as I am, I feel anxious to receive your advice and assistance upon a matter of considerable--indeed of the deepest--importance to an unfortunate and heart-broken lady, whose only son, when but six years of age, and then heir to a large property, disappeared many years ago in a manner so mysterious, that no trace, until very recently, has ever been found of him. Nor, indeed, has she found any clew to him yet, beyond a single intimation given to her by her house-steward--a man named Corbet--who, on his death-bed, had merely breath to say that 'your son lives, and that Sir Thomas--' These, sir, were the man's last words; for, alas! unhappy for the peace of mind of this excellent lady, he expired before he could complete the sentence, or give her the information for which her heart yearned. Now, reverend sir," he added, "I told you that it is out of my power, for more than one reason, to disclose my name; but, I assure you, that the fact of making this communication to you, which you perceive I do frankly and without hesitation, is placing a confidence in you, though a personal stranger to me, which I am certain you will respect."

"Me a stranger!" exclaimed the priest, "in my own parish where I have lived curate and parish priest for close upon forty years; hut hut! this is a good joke. Why, I tell you, sir, that there is not a dog in the parish but knows me, with the exception of a vile cur belonging to Jemmy M'Gurth, that I have striven to coax and conciliate a hundred ways, and yet I never pass but he's out at me. Indeed, he's an ungrateful creature, and a mane sconce besides; for I tell you, that when leaving home, I have often put bread in my pocket, and on going past his owner's house, I would throw it to him--now not a lie in this--and what do you think the nasty vermin would do? He'd ait the bread, and after he had made short work of it--for he's aquil to Mat Kuly in appetite--he'd attack me as fresh, and indeed a great dale fresher in regard of what he had got; ay, and with more bitterness, if possible, than ever. Now, sir, I remember that greedy and ungrateful scrub of an animal about three years ago; for indeed the ill feeling is going on between us for nearly seven--I say I remember him in the dear year, when he wasn't able to bark at me until he staggered over and put himself against the ditch on the roadside, and then, heaven knows, worse execution of the kind was never heard. However, there's little else than ingratitude in this world, and eaten bread, like hunger, is soon forgotten, though far seldomer by dogs, I am sorry to say, than by man--a circumstance which makes the case I am repeating to you of this cur still worse. But, indeed, he served me right; for bribery, even to a dog, does not deserve to prosper. But I beg your pardon, sir, for obtruding my own little grievances upon a stranger. What is it you expect me to do for you in this business? You allude, I think, to Lady Gourlay; and, in truth, if it was in my power to restore her son to her, that good and charitable lady would not be long without him."

"I do," replied the other--"She is under a strong impression, in consequence of the dying man's allusion to the boy's uncle, Sir Thomas, 'who,' he said, 'knows,' that he is cognizant of the position--whatever it may be--in which her unfortunate son is placed."

"Not unlikely, but still what can I do in this?"

"I am scarcely aware of that myself," replied the other; "but I may say that it was Mr. Birney, who, under the circumstances of peculiar difficulty in which I am placed, suggested to me to see you, and who justified me besides in reposing this important confidence in you."

"I thank Mr. Birney," said Father Peter, "and you may rest assured, that your confidence will not be abused, and that upon a higher principle, I trust, than my friendship for that worthy and estimable gentleman. I wish all in his dirty roguish profession were like him. By the way," he added, as if struck by a sudden thought, "perhaps you are the worthy gentleman who kicked the Black Baronet downstairs in the Mitre inn?"

"No," he replied; "some warm words we had, which indeed for one reason I regret; but that was all. Sir Thomas, sir, I believe, is not popular in the neighborhood?"

"I make it a point, my friend," replied the priest, "never to spake ill of the absent; but perhaps you are aware that his only son disappeared as mysteriously as the other, and that he charges his sister-in-law as the cause of it; so that, in point of fact, their suspicions are mutual."

"I believe so," said the other; "but I wish to direct your attention to another fact, or, rather, to another individual, who seems to me to be involved in considerable mystery."

"And pray, who is that." replied the priest--"Not yourself, I hope; for in truth, by all accounts, you're as mysterious as e'er a one of them."

"My mystery will soon disappear, I trust," said the stranger, smiling--"The young man's name to whom I allude is Fenton; but I appeal to yourself, reverend sir, whether, if Sir Thomas Gourlay were to become aware of the dying man's words, with which I have just made you acquainted, he might not be apt, if it be a fact that he has in safe and secret durance his brother's son, and the heir to the property which he himself now enjoys, whether, I say, he might not take such steps as Would probably render fruitless every search that could be made for him?"

"You needn't fear me, sir," replied his reverence; "if you can keep your own secret as well as I will, it won't travel far, I can tell you. But what about this unfortunate young man, Fenton? I think I certainly heard the people say from time to time that nobody knows anything about him, either as to where he came from or who he is. How is he involved in this affair, though?"

"I cannot speak with any certainty," replied the other; "but, to tell you the truth, I often feel myself impressed with strong suspicions, that he is the very individual we are seeking."

"But upon what reasons do you ground those suspicions." asked his reverence.

The stranger then related to him the circumstances in connection with Fenton's mysterious terror of Sir Thomas Gourlay, precisely as the reader is already acquainted with them.

"But," said the priest, "can you believe now, if Sir Thomas was the kidnapper in this instance, that he would allow unfortunate Fenton, supposing he is his brother's heir, and who, they say, is often non compos, to remain twenty-four hours at large?"

"Probably not; but you know he may be unaware of his residence so near him. Sir Thomas, like too many of his countrymen, has been an absentee for years, and is only a short time in this country, and still a shorter at Red Hall. The young man probably is at large, because he may have escaped. There is evidently some mysterious relation between Fenton and the baronet, but what it is or can be I am utterly unable to trace. Fenton, with all his wild eccentricity or insanity, is cautious, and on his guard against me; and I find it impossible to get anything out of him."

The worthy priest fell into a mood of apparently deep but agreeable reflection, and the stranger felt a hope that he had fallen upon some plan, or, at all events, that he had thought of or recalled to memory some old recollection that might probably be of service to him.

"The poor fellow, sir," said he, addressing the other with singular benignity, "is an orphan; his mother is dead more than twelve years, and his father, the idle and unfortunate man, never has been of the slightest use to him, poor creature."

"What," exclaimed the stranger, with animation, "you, then, know his father!"

"Know him! to be sure I do. He is, or rather he was, a horse-jockey, and I took the poor neglected young lad in because he had no one to look after him. But wasn't it kind-hearted of the creature to heap the creel of turf though, and shed tears for poor Widow Magowran? In truth, I won't forget either of these two acts to him."

"You speak, sir, of your servant, I believe." observed the other, with something like chagrin.

"In truth, there's not a kind-hearted young giant alive this day. Many a little bounty that I, through the piety and liberality of the charitable, am enabled to distribute among my poor, and often send to them with Mat; and I believe there's scarcely an instance of the kind in which he is the bearer of it, that he doesn't shed tears just as he did with Widow Magowran. Sure I have it from his own lips."

"I have little doubt of it," replied the stranger.

"And one day," proceeded the credulous, easy man, "that I was going along the Race-road, I overtook him with a creel of turf, the same way, on his back, and when I looked down from my horse into the creel, I saw with astonishment that it wasn't more than half full. 'Mat,' said I, 'what's the raison of this? Didn't I desire you to fill the creel to the top, and above it?'

"'Troth,' said poor Mat, 'I never carried such a creelful in my life as it was when I left home.'

"'But what has become of the turf, then?' I asked.

"He gave me a look and almost began to cry--'Arra now, your reverence,' he replied, 'how could you expict me to have the heart to refuse a few sods to the great number of poor creatures that axed me for them, to boil their pratees, as I came along? I hope, your reverence, I am not so hard-hearted as all that comes to.'"

"I know," proceeded the priest, "that it was wrong not to bring the turf to its destination; but, you see, sir, it was only an error of judgment--although the head was wrong, the heart was right--and that's a great point."

It was not in human nature, however, to feel annoyed at this characteristic ebullition. The stranger's chagrin at once disappeared, and as he was in no particular hurry, and wished to see as much of the priest as possible, he resolved to give him his own way.

He had not long to wait, however. After about a minute's deep thought, he expressed himself as follows--and it may be observed here, once for all, that on appropriate occasions his conversation could rise and adapt itself to the dignity of the subject, with a great deal of easy power, if not of eloquence--"Now, sir," said he, "you will plaise to pay attention to what I am about to say: Beware of Sir Thomas Gourlay--as a Christian man, it is my duty to put you on your guard; but consider that you ask me to involve myself in a matter of deep family interest and importance, and yet, as I said, you keep yourself wrapped, up in a veil of impenetrable mystery. Pray, allow me to ask, is Mr. Birney acquainted with your name and secret?"

"He is," replied the other, "with both"

"Then, in that case," said the worthy priest, with very commendable prudence, "I will walk over with you to his house, and if he assures me personally that you are a gentleman in whose objects I may and ought to feel an interest, I then say, that I shall do what I can for you, although that may not be much. Perhaps I may put you in a proper train to succeed. I will, with these conditions, give you a letter to an old man in Dublin, who may give you, on this very subject, more information than any other person I know, with one exception."

"My dear sir," replied the stranger, getting on his legs--"I am quite satisfied with that proposal, and I feel that it is very kind of you to make it."

"Yes, but you won't go," said the priest, "till you take some refreshment. It's now past two o'clock."

"I am much obliged to you," replied the other, "but I never lunch."

"Not a foot you'll stir then till you take something--I don't want you to lunch--a bit and a sup just--come, don't refuse now, for I say you must."

The other smiled, and replied--"But, I assure you, my dear sir, I couldn't--I breakfasted late."

"Not a matter for that, you must have something, I say--a drop of dram then--pure poteen--or maybe you'd prefer a glass of wine? say which; for you must taste either the one or the other"--and as he spoke, with a good-humored laugh, he deliberately locked the door, and put the key in his pocket--"It's an old proverb," he added, "that those who won't take are never ready to give, and I'll think you after all but a poor-hearted creature if you refuse it. At any rate, consider yourself a prisoner until you comply."

"Well, then," replied our strange friend, still smiling, "since your hospitality will force me, at the expense of my liberty, I think I must--a glass of sherry then, since you are so kind."

"Ah," replied his reverence, "I see you don't know what's good--that's the stuff," he added, pointing to the poteen, "that would send the radical heat to the very ends of your nails--I never take more than a single tumbler after my dinner, but that's my choice."

The stranger then joined him in a glass of sherry, and they proceeded to Mr. Birney's. _

Read next: Chapter 12. Crackenfudge Outwitted By Fenton

Read previous: Chapter 10. A Family Dialogue--And A Secret Nearly Discovered

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