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

Chapter 13. The Stranger's Second Visit To Father M'mahon

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_ CHAPTER XIII. The Stranger's Second Visit to Father M'Mahon

--Something like an Elopement.

On the evening of the same day the stranger desired Paudeen Gair to take a place for him in the "Fly," which was to return to Dublin on that night. He had been furnished with a letter from Father M'Mahon, to whom he had, in Mr. Birney's, fully disclosed his name and objects. He felt anxious, however, to engage some trustworthy servant or attendant, on whose integrity he could fully rely, knowing, or at least apprehending, that he might be placed in circumstances where he could not himself act openly and freely without incurring suspicion or observation. Paudeen, however, or, as we shall call him in future, Pat Sharpe, had promised to procure a person of the strictest honesty, in whom every confidence could be placed. This man's name, or rather his nickname, was Dandy Dulcimer, an epithet bestowed upon him in consequence of the easy and strolling life he led, supporting himself, as he passed from place to place, by his performances upon that simple but pleasing instrument.

"Pat," said the stranger in the course of the evening, "have you succeeded in procuring me this cousin of yours?" for in that relation he stood to Pat.

"I expect him here every minute, sir," replied Pat; "and there's one thing I'll lay down my life on--you may trust him as you would any one of the twelve apostles--barring that blackguard Judas. Take St. Pettier, or St. Paul, or any of the dacent apostles, and the divil a one of them honester than Dandy. Not that he's a saint like them either, or much overburdened with religion, poor fellow; as for honesty and truth--divil a greater liar ever walked in the mane time; but, by truth, I mane truth to you, and to any one that employs him--augh, by my soul, he's the flower of a boy."

"He won't bring his dulcimer with him, I hope."

"Won't he, indeed? Be me sowl, sir, you might as well separate sowl and body, as take Dandy from his dulcimer. Like the two sides of a scissors, the one's of no use widout the other. They must go together, or Dandy could never cut his way through the world by any chance. Hello! here he is. I hear his voice in the hall below."

"Bring him up, Pat," said the stranger; "I must see and speak to him; because if I feel that he won't suit me, I will have nothing to do with him."

Dandy immediately entered, with his dulcimer slung like a peddler's bos at his side, and with a comic movement of respect, which no presence or position could check, he made a bow to the stranger, that forced him to smile in spite of himself.

"You seem a droll fellow," said the stranger. "Are you fond of truth?"

"Hem! Why, yes, sir. I spare it as much as I can. I don't treat it as an everyday concern. We had a neighbor once, a widow M'Cormick, who was rather penurious, and whenever she saw her servants buttering their bread too thickly, she used to whisper to them in a confidential way, 'Ahagur, the thinner you spread it the further it will go.' Hem! However, I must confess that once or twice a year I draw on it by way of novelty, that is, on set days or bonfire nights; and I hope, sir, you'll admit that that's treating it with respect."

"How did you happen to turn musician?" asked the other.

"Why, sir, I was always fond of a jingle; but, to tell you the truth, I would rather have the same jingle in my purse than in my instrument. Divil such an unmusical purse ever a man was cursed with than I have been doomed to carry during my whole life."

"Then it was a natural love of music that sent you abroad as a performer?"

"Partly only, sir; for there were three causes went to it. There is a certain man named Dandy Dulcimer, that I had a very loving regard for, and I thought it against his aise and comfort to ask him to strain his poor bones by hard work. I accordingly substituted pure idleness for it, which is a delightful thing in its way. There, sir, is two of the causes--love of melody and a strong but virtuous disinclination to work. The third--" but here he paused and his face darkened.

"Well," inquired the stranger, "the third? What about the third?"

Dandy significantly pointed back with his thumb over his shoulder, in the direction of Red Hall. "It was him," he said; "the Black Baronet--or rather the incarnate divil."

"That's truth, at all events," observed Pat corroborating the incomplete assertion.

"It was he, sir," continued Dandy, "that thrust us out of our comfortable farm--he best knows why and wherefore--and like a true friend of liberty, he set us at large from our comfortable place, to enjoy it."

"Well," replied the stranger, "if that be true it was hard; but you know every story has two sides; or, as the proverb goes, one story is well until the other is told. Let us dismiss this. If I engage you to attend me, can you be faithful, honest, and cautious?"

"To an honest man, sir, I can; but to no other. I grant I have acted the knave very often, but it was always in self-defence, and toward far greater knaves than myself. An honest man did once ax me to serve him in an honest way; but as I was then in a roguish state of mind I tould him I couldn't conscientiously do it."

"If you were intrusted with a secret, for instance, could you undertake to keep it?"

"I was several times in Dublin, sir, and I saw over the door of some public office a big, brazen fellow, with the world on his back; and you know that from what he seemed to suffer I thought he looked very like a man that was keeping a secret. To tell God's truth, sir, I never like a burden of any kind; and whenever I can get a man that will carry a share of it, I--"

"Tut! your honor, never mind him," said Pat. "What the deuce are you at, Dandy? Do you want to prevent the gintleman from engagin' you? Never mind him, sir; he's as honest as the sun."

"It matters not, Pat," said the stranger; "I like him. Are you willing to take service with me for a short time, my good fellow?"

"If you could get any one to give you a caracther, sir, perhaps I might," replied Dandy.

"How, sirrah! what do you mean?" said the stranger.

"Why, sir, that we humble folks haven't all the dishonesty to ourselves. I think our superiors come in now and then for the lion's share of it. There, now, is the Black Baronet."

"But you are not entering the service of the Black Baronet."

"No; but the ould scoundrel struck his daughter to-day, because she wouldn't consent to marry that young profligate, Lord Dunroe; and has her locked up besides."

The stranger had been standing with his back to the fire, when the Dandy mentioned these revolting circumstances; for the truth was, that Lucy's maid had taken upon her the office of that female virtue called curiosity, and by the aid of her eye, her ear, and an open key-hole was able to communicate to one or two of the other servants, in the strictest confidence of course, all that had occurred during the interview between father and daughter. Now it so happened, that Dandy, who had been more than once, in the course of his visits, to the kitchen, promised, as he said, to metamurphy one of them into Mrs. Dulcimer, alias Murphy--that being his real name--was accidentally in the kitchen while the dialogue lasted, and for some time afterwards; and as the expectant Mrs. Dulcimer was one of the first to whom the secret was solemnly confided, we need scarcely say that it was instantly transferred to Dandy's keeping, who mentioned it more from honest indignation than from any other motive.

It would be difficult to describe the combination of feelings that might be read in the stranger's fine features--distress, anger, compassion, love, and sorrow, all struggled for mastery. He sat down, and there was an instant pause in the conversation; for both Dandy and his relative felt that he was not sufficiently collected to proceed with it. They consequently, after glancing with surprise at each other, remained silent, until the stranger should resume it. At length, after a struggle that was evidently a severe one, he said,

"Now, my good fellow, no more of this buffoonery. Will you take service with me for three months, since I am willing to accept you? Ay or no?"

"As willing as the flowers of May, your honor; and I trust you will never have cause to find fault with me, so far as truth, honesty, and discretion goes. I can see a thing and not see it. I can hear a thing and not hear it. I can do a thing and not do it--but it must be honest. In short, sir, if you have no objection, I'm your man. I like your face, sir; there's something honorable and manly in it."

"Perhaps you would wish to name the amount of the wages you expect. If so, speak."

"Divil a wage or wages I'll name, sir; that's a matter I'll lave to your own generosity."

"Very well, then; I start by the 'Fly' tonight, and you, observe, are to accompany me. The trunk which I shall bring with me is already packed, so that you will have very little trouble."

Dandy and his relative both left him, and he, with a view of allaying the agitation which he felt, walked toward the residence of Father M'Mahon, who had promised, if he could, to furnish him with further instructions ere he should start for the metropolis.

After they had left the room, our friend Crackenfudge peeped out of the back apartment, in order to satisfy himself that the coast was clear; and after stretching his neck over the stairs to ascertain that there was no one in the hall, he tripped down as if he were treading on razors, and with a face brimful of importance made his escape from the inn, for, in truth, the mode of his disappearing could be termed little else.

Now, in the days of which we write, it so happened that there was a vast portion of bitter rivalry between mail coaches and their proprietors. At this time an opposition coach, called "the Flash of Lightning"--to denominate, we presume, the speed at which it went--ran against the "Fly," to the manifest, and frequently to the actual, danger of the then reigning monarch's liege and loyal subjects. To the office of this coach, then, did Crackenfudge repair, with an honorable intention of watching the motions of our friend the stranger, prompted thereto by two motives--first, a curiosity that was naturally prurient and mean; secondly, by an anxious wish to serve Sir Thomas Gourlay, and, if possible, to involve himself in his affairs, thus rendering his interest touching the great object of his ambition--the magistracy--a matter not to be withheld. He instantly took his seat for Dublin--an inside seat--in order to conceal himself as much as possible from observation. Having arranged this affair, he rode home in high spirits, and made preparations for starting, in due time, by "the Flash of Lightning."

The stranger, on his way to Father M'Mahon's, called upon his friend Birney, with whom he had a long confidential conversation. They had already determined, if the unfortunate heir of Red Hall could be traced, and if his disappearance could, be brought home to the baronet, to take such public or rather legal proceedings as they might be advised to by competent professional advice. Our readers may already guess, however, that the stranger was influenced by motives sufficiently strong and decisive to prevent him, above all men, from appearing, publicly or at all, in any proceedings that might be taken against the baronet.

On arriving at Father M'Mahon's, he found that excellent man at home; and it was upon this occasion that he observed with more attention than before the extraordinary neatness of his dwelling-house and premises. The cleanliness, the order, the whiteness, the striking taste displayed, the variety of culinary utensils, not in themselves expensive, but arranged with surprising regularity, constituting a little paradise of convenience and comfort, were all perfectly delightful to contemplate. The hall-door was open, and when the stranger entered, he found no one in the kitchen, for it is necessary to say here that, in this neat but unassuming abode of benevolence and goodness, that which we have termed the hall-door led, in the first instance, to the beautiful little kitchen we have just described. The stranger, having heard voices in conversation with the priest, resolved to wait a little until his visitors should leave him, as he felt reluctant to intrude upon him while engaged with his parishioners. He could not prevent himself, however, from overhearing the following portion of their I conversation.

"And it was yesterday he put in the distraint?"

"It was, your reverence."

"Oh, the dirty Turk; not a landlord at all is half so hard to ourselves as those of our own religion: they'll show some lenity to a Protestant, and I don't blame them for that, but they trample those belonging to their own creed under their inhuman hoofs."

"How much is it, Nogher?"

"Only nine pounds, your reverence."

"Well, then, bring me a stamp in the course of the day, and I'll pass my bill to him for the amount."

"Troth, sir, wid great respect, your reverence will do no such thing. However I may get it settled, I won't lug you in by the head and shoulders. You have done more of that kind of work than you could afford. No, sir; but if you will send Father James up to my poor wife and daughter that's so ill with this faver--that's all I want."

"To be sure he'll go, or rather I'll go myself, for he won't be home till after station. Did this middleman landlord of yours know that there was fever in your family when he; sent in the bailiffs?"

"To do him justice, sir, he did not; but he knows it since the day before yesterday, and yet he won't take them off unless he gets either the rent or security."

"Indeed, and the hard-hearted Turk will have the security;--whisper,--call down tomorrow with a stamp, and I'll put my name on it; and let these men, these keepers, go about their business. My goodness! to think of having two strange fellows night and day in a sick and troubled family! Oh, dear me! one half the world doesn't know how the other lives. If many of the rich and wealthy, Michael, could witness the scenes that I witness, the sight might probably soften their hearts. Is this boy your son, Nogher?"

"He is, sir."

"I hope you are giving him a good education; and I hope, besides, that he is a good boy. Do you attend to your duty regularly, my good lad?"

"I do, plaise your reverence."

"And obey your parents?"

"I hope so, sir."

"Indeed," said his father, "poor Mick doesn't lave us much to complain of in that respect; he's a very good boy in general, your reverence."

"God bless you, my child," said the priest, solemnly, placing his hand upon the boy's head, who was sitting, "and guide your feet in the paths of religion and virtue!"

"Oh, sir," exclaimed the poor affectionate lad, bursting into tears, "I wish you would come to my mother! she is very ill, and so is my sister."

"I will go, my child, in half-an-hour. I see you are a good youth, and full of affection; I will go almost immediately. Here, Mat Ruly," he shouted, raising the parlor window, on seeing that neat boy pass;--"here, you colossus--you gigantic prototype of grace and beauty;--I say, go and saddle Freney the Robber immediately; I must attend a sick call without delay. What do you stare and gape for? shut that fathomless cleft in your face, and be off. Now, Nogher," he said, once more addressing the man, "slip down to-morrow with the stamp; or, stay, why should these fellows be there two hours, and the house and the family as they are? Sit down here for a few minutes, I'll go home with you; we can get the stamp in Ballytrain, on our way,--ay, and draw up the bill there too;--indeed we can and we will too; so not a syllable against it. You know I must have my will, and that I'm a raging lion when opposed."

"God bless your reverence," replied the man, moved almost to tears by his goodness; "many an act of the kind your poor and struggling parishioners has to thank you for."

On looking into the kitchen, for the parlor door was open, he espied the stranger, whom he approached with every mark of the most profound respect, but still with perfect ease and independence.

After the first salutations were over--

"Well, sir," said the priest, "do you hold to your purpose of going to Dublin?"

"I go this night," replied the other; "and, except through the old man to whom you are so kind as to give me the letter, I must confess I have but slight expectations of success. Unless we secure this unfortunate young man, that is, always supposing that he is alive, and are able clearly and without question to identify his person, all we may do must be in vain, and the baronet is firm in both title and estates."

"That is evident," replied the priest. "Could you find the heir alive, and identify his person, of course your battle is won. Well; if there be anything like a thread to guide you through the difficulties of this labyrinth, I have placed it in your hands."

"I am sensible of your good wishes, sir, and I thank you very much for the interest you have so kindly taken in the matter. By the way, I engaged a servant to accompany me--one Dulcimer, Dandy Dulcimer; pray, what kind of moral character does he bear?"

"Dandy Dulcimer!" exclaimed the priest; "why, the thief of the world! is it possible you have engaged him?"

"Why? is he not honest?" asked the other, with surprise.

"Honest!" replied the priest; "the vagabond's as honest a vagabond as ever lived. You may trust him in anything and everything. When I call him a vagabond, I only mean it in a kind and familiar sense; and, by the way, I must give you an explanation upon the subject of my pony. You must have heard me call him 'Freney the Robber' a few minutes ago. Now, not another sense did I give him that name in but in an ironical one, just like lucus a non lucendo, or, in other words, because the poor creature is strictly honest and well tempered. And, indeed, there are some animals much more moral in their disposition than others. Some are kind, affectionate, benevolent, and grateful; and some, on the other hand, are thieving robbers and murderers. No, sir, I admit that I was wrong, and, so to speak, I owe Freney an apology for having given him a bad name; but then again I have made it up to him in other respects. Now, you'll scarcely believe what I am going to tell you, although you may, for not a word of lie in it. When Freney sometimes is turned out into my fields, he never breaks bounds, nor covets, so to speak, his neighbor's property, but confines himself strictly and honestly to his own; and I can tell you it's not every horse would do that, or man either. He knows my voice, too, and, what is more, my very foot, for he will whinny when he hears it, and before he sees me at all."

"Pray," said the stranger, exceedingly amused at this narrative, "how does your huge servant get on?"

"Is it Mat Ruly?--why, sir, the poor boy's as kind-hearted and benevolent, and has as sharp an appetite as ever. He told me that he cried yesterday when bringing a little assistance to a poor family in the neighborhood. But, touching this matter on which you are engaged, will you be good enough to write to me from time to time? for I shall feel anxious to hear how you get on."

The stranger promised to do so, and after having received two letters from him they shook hands and separated.

We have stated before that Dandy Dulcimer had a sweetheart in the service of Sir Thomas Gourlay. Soon after the interview between the stranger and Dandy, and while the former had gone to get the letters from Father M'Mahon, this same sweetheart, by name Alley Mahon, came to have a word or two with Paudeen Gair, or Pat Sharpe. When Paudeen saw her, he imputed the cause of her visit to something connected with Dandy Dulcimer, his cousin; for, as the latter had disclosed to him the revelation which Alley had made, he took it for granted that the Dandy had communicated to her the fact of his being about to accept service with the stranger at the inn, and to proceed with him to Dublin. And, such, indeed, was the actual truth. Paudeen had, on behalf of Dandy, all but arranged the matter with the stranger a couple of days before, Dandy being a consenting party, so that nothing was wanting but an interview between the latter and the stranger, in order to complete the negotiation.

"Pat," said Alley, after he had brought her up to a little back-room on the second story, "I know that your family ever and always has been an honest family, and that a stain of thraichery or disgrace was never upon one of their name."

"Thank God, and you, Alley; I am proud to know that what you say is right and true."

"Well, then," she replied, "it is, and every one knows it. Now, then, can you keep a secret, for the sake of truth and conscience, ay, and religion; and if all will not do, for the sake of her that paid back to your family, out of her own private purse, what her father robbed them of?"

"By all that's lovely," replied Pat, "if there's a livin' bein' I'd sacrifice my life for, it's her."

"Listen; I want you to secure two seats in the 'Fly,' for this night; inside seats, or if you can't get insides, then outsides will do."

"Stop where you are," replied Pat, about to start downstairs; "the thing will be done in five minutes."

"Are you mad, Pat?" said she; "take the money with you before you go."

"Begad," said Pat, "my heart was in my mouth--here, let us have it. And so the darling young lady is forced to fly from the tyrant?"

"Oh, Pat," said Alice, solemnly, "for the sake of the living God, don't breathe that you know anything about it; we're lost if you do."

"If Dandy was here, Alley," he replied, "I'd make him swear it upon your lips; but, hand us the money, for there's little time to be lost; I hope all the seats aren't taken."

He was just in time, however; and in a few minutes returned, having secured for two the only inside seats that were left untaken at the moment, although there were many claimants for them in a few minutes afterwards.

"Now, Alley," said he, after he had returned from the coach-office, which, by the way, was connected with the inn, "what does all this mane? I think I could guess something about it. A runaway, eh?"

"What do you mean by a runaway?" she replied; "of course she is running away from her brute of a father, and I am goin' with her."

"But isn't she goin' wid somebody else?" he inquired.

"No," replied Alley; "I know where she is goin'; but she is goin' wid nobody but myself."

"Ah, Alley," replied Pat, shrewdly, "I see she has kept you in the dark; but I don't blame her. Only, if you can keep a secret, so can I."

"Pat," said she, "desire the coachman to stop at the white gate, where two faymales will be waitin' for it, and let the guard come down and open the door for us; so that we won't have occasion to spake. It's aisy to know one's voice, Pat."

"I'll manage it all," said Pat; "make your mind aisy--and what is more, I'll not breathe a syllable to mortual man, woman, or child about it. That would be an ungrateful return for her kindness to our family. May God bless her, and grant her happiness, and that's the worst I wish her."

The baronet, in the course of that evening, was sitting in his dining-room alone, a bottle of Madeira before him, for indeed it is necessary to say, that although unsocial and inhospitable, he nevertheless indulged pretty freely in wine. He appeared moody, and gulped down the Madeira as a man who wished either to sustain his mind against care, or absolutely to drown memory, and probably the force of conscience. At length, with a flushed face, and a voice made more deep and stern by his potations, and the reflections they excited, he rang the bell, and in a moment the butler appeared.

"Is Gillespie in the house, Gibson?"

"Yes, sir."

"Send him up."

In a few minutes Gillespie entered; and indeed it would be difficult to see a more ferocious-looking ruffian than this scoundrel who was groom to the baronet. Fame, or scandal, or truth, as the case may be, had settled the relations between Sir Thomas and him, not merely as those of master and servant, but as those of father and son. Be this as it may, however, the similarity of figure and feature was so extraordinary, that the inference could be considered by no means surprising.

"Tom," said the baronet, "I suppose there is a Bible in the house?"

"I can't say, sir," replied the ruffian. "I never saw any one in use. O, yes, Miss Gourlay has one."

"Yes," replied the other, with a gloomy reflection, "I forgot; she is, in addition to her other accomplishments, a Bible reader. Well, stay where you are; I shall get it myself."

He accordingly rose and proceeded to Lucy's chamber, where, after having been admitted, he found the book he sought, and such was the absence of mind, occasioned by the apprehensions he felt, that he brought away the book, and forgot to lock the door.

"Now, sir," said the baronet, sternly, when he returned, "do you respect this book? It is the Bible."

"Why, yes, sir. I respect every book that has readin' in it--printed readin'."

"But this is the Bible, on which the Christian religion is founded."

"Well, sir, I don't doubt that," replied the enlightened master of horse; "but I prefer the Seven Champions of Christendom, or the History of Valentine and Orson, or Fortunatus's Purse."

"You don't relish the Bible, then?"

"I don't know, sir; I never read a line of it--although I heard a great deal about! it. Isn't that the book the parsons preach I from?"

"It is," replied the baronet, in his deep voice. "This book is the source and origin and history of the revelation of God's will to man; this is the book on which oaths are taken, and when taken falsely, the falsehood is perjury, and the individual so perjuring himself is transported, either for life or a term of years, while living and when dead, Gillespie--mark me well, sir--when dead, his soul goes to eternal perdition in the flames of hell. Would you now, knowing this--that you would be transported in this world, and damned in the next--would you, I say, take an oath upon this book and break it?"

"No, sir, not after what you said."

"Well, then, I am a magistrate, and I wish to administer an oath to you."

"Very well, sir, I'll swear whatever you like."

"Then listen--take the book in your right hand--you shall swear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God! You swear to execute whatever duty I may happen to require at your hands, and to keep the performance of that duty a secret from every living mortal, and besides to keep secret the fact that I am in any way connected with it--you swear this?"

"I do, sir," replied the other, kissing the book.

The baronet paused a little.

"Very well," he added, "consider yourself solemnly sworn, and pray recollect that if you violate this oath--in other words, if you commit perjury, I shall have you transported as sure as your name is Gillespie."

"But your honor has sworn me to secrecy, and yet I don't know the secret."

"Neither shall you--for twenty-four hours longer. I am not and shall not be in a condition to mention it to you sooner, but I put you under the obligation now, in order that you may have time to reflect upon its importance. You may go."

Gillespie felt exceedingly puzzled as to the nature of the services about to be required at his hands, but as every attempt to solve this difficulty was fruitless, he resolved to await the event in patience, aware that the period between his anxiety on the subject and a knowledge of it was but short.

We need not hesitate to assure our readers, that if Lucy Gourlay had been apprised, or even dreamt for a moment, that the stranger and she were on that night to be fellow-travellers in the same coach, she would unquestionably have deferred her journey to tha metropolis, or, in other words, her escape from the senseless tyranny of her ambitious father. Fate, however, is fate, and it is precisely the occurrence of these seemingly incidental coincidences that in fact, as well as in fiction, constitutes the principal interest of those circumstances which give romance to the events of human life and develop its character.

The "Fly" started from Ballytrain at the usual hour, with only two inside passengers--to wit, our friend the stranger and a wealthy stock-farmer from the same parish. He was a large, big-boned, good-humored fellow, dressed in a strong frieze outside coat or jock, buckskin breeches, top-boots, and a heavy loaded whip, his inseparable companion wherever he went.

The coach, on arriving at the white gate, pulled up, and two females, deeply and closely veiled, took their seats inside. Of course, the natural politeness of the stranger prevented him from obtruding his conversation upon ladies with whom he was not acquainted. The honest farmer, however, felt no such scruples, nor, as it happened, did one at least of the ladies in question.

"This is a nice affair," he observed, "about the Black Baronet's daughter."

"What is a nice affair?" asked our friend Alley, for she it was, as the reader of course is already aware--"What is a nice affair?"

"Why, that Miss Gourlay, they say, fell in love with a buttonmaker's clerk from London, and is goin' to marry him in spite of all opposition."

"Who's your authority for that?" asked Alley; "but whoever is, is a liar, and the truth is not in him--that's what I say."

"Ay, but what do you know about it?" asked the grazier. "You're not in Miss Gourlay's saicrets--and a devilish handsome, gentlemanly lookin' fellow they say the button-maker is. Faith, I can tell you, I give tooth-an-egg-credit. The fellow will get a darlin' at all events--and he'll be very bad indeed, if he's not worth a ship-load of that profligate Lord Dunroe."

"Well," replied Alley, "I agree with you there, at all events; for God sees that the same Lord Dunroe will make the cream of a bad husband to whatsoever poor woman will suffer by him. A bad bargain he will be at best, and in that I agree with you."

"So far, then," replied the grazier, "we do agree; an', dang my buttons, but I'll lave it to this gentleman if it wouldn't be betther for Miss Gourlay to marry a daicent button-maker any day, than such a hurler as Dunroe. What do you say, sir?"

"But who is this button-maker," asked the stranger, "and where is he to be found?"

Lucy, on recognizing his voice, could scarcely prevent her emotion from becoming perceptible; but owing to the darkness of the night, and the folds of her thick veil, her fellow-travellers observed nothing.

"Why," replied the grazier, who had evidently, from a lapse of memory, substituted one species of manufacture for another thing, "they tell me he is stopping in the head inn in Ballytrain; an', dang my buttons, but he must be a fellow of mettle, for sure didn't he kick that tyrannical ould scoundrel, the Black Baronet, down-stairs, and out of the hall-door, when he came to bullyrag over him about his daughter--the darlin'?"

Lucy's distress was here incredible; and had not her self-command and firmness of character been indeed unusual, she would have felt it extremely difficult to keep her agitation within due bounds.

"You labor under a mistake there," replied the stranger; "I happen to know that nothing of the kind occurred. Some warm words passed between them, but no blows. A young person named Fenton, whom I know, was present."

"Why," observed the grazier, "that's the young fellow that goes mad betimes, an' a quare chap he is, by all accounts. They say he went mad for love."

From this it was evident that rumor had, as usual, assigned several causes for Fenton's insanity.

"Yes, I believe so," replied the stranger.

Alley, who thought she had been overlooked in this partial dialogue, determined to sustain her part in the conversation with a dignity becoming her situation, now resolved to flourish in with something like effect.

"They know nothing about it," she said, "that calls Miss Gourlay's sweetheart a button-maker. Miss Gourlay's not the stuff to fall in love wid any button-maker, even if he made buttons of goold; an' sure they say that the king an' queen, and the whole royal family wears golden buttons."

"I think, in spaiking of buttons," observed the grazier, with a grin, "that you might lave the queen out."

"And why should I lave the queen out?" asked Alley, indignantly, and with a towering resolution to defend the privileges of her sex. "Why ought I lave the queen out, I say?"

"Why," replied the grazier, with a still broader grin, "barring she wears the breeches, I don't know what occasion she could have for buttons."

"That only shows your ignorance," said Alley; "don't you know that all ladies wear habit-shirts, and that habit-shirts must have buttons?"

"I never heard of a shirt havin' buttons anywhere but at the neck," replied the grazier, who drew the inference in question from his own, which were made upon a very simple and primitive fashion.

"But you don't know either," responded Alley, launching nobly into the purest fiction, from an impression that the character of her mistress required it for her defence, "you don't know that nobody is allowed to make buttons for the queen but a knight o' the garther."

"Garther!" exclaimed the grazier, with astonishment. "Why what the dickens has garthers to do wid buttons?"

"More than you think," replied the redoubtable Alley. "The queen wears buttons to her garthers, and the knight o' the garther is always obliged to try them on; but always, of course, afore company."

The stranger was exceedingly amused at this bit of by-play between Alley and the honest grazier, and the more so as it drew the conversation from a point of the subject that was painful to him in the last degree, inasmuch as it directly involved the character of Miss Gourlay.

"How do you know, then," proceeded Alley, triumphantly, "but the button-maker that Miss Gourlay has fallen in love with may be a knight o' the garther?"

"Begad, there maybe a great dale in that, too," replied the unsuspicious grazier, who never dreamt that Alley's knowledge of court etiquette might possibly be rather limited, and her accounts of it somewhat apocryphal;--"begad, there may. Well," he added, with an honest and earnest tone of sincerity, "for my part, and from all ever I heard of that darlin' of a beauty, she deserves a knight o' the shire, let alone a knight o' the garther. They say the good she does among the poor and destitute since they came home is un-tellable. God bless her! And that she may live long and die happy is the worst that I or anybody that knows her wishes her. It's well known that she had her goodness from her angel of a mother at all events, for they say that such another woman for charity and kindness to the poor never lived; and by all accounts she led an unhappy and miserable life wid her Turk of a husband, who, they say, broke her heart, and sent her to an early grave."

Alley was about to bear fiery and vehement testimony to the truth of all this; but Lucy, whose bosom heaved up strongly two or three times at these affecting allusions to her beloved mother, and who almost sobbed aloud, not merely from sorrow but distress, arising from the whole tenor of the conversation, whispered a few words into her ear, and she was instantly silent. The farmer seemed somewhat startled; for, in truth, as we have said, he was naturally one of those men who wish to hear themselves talk. In this instance, however, he found, after having made three or four colloquial attacks upon the stranger, but without success, that he must only have recourse either to soliloquy or silence. He accordingly commenced to hum over several old Irish airs, to which he ventured to join the words--at first in a very subdued undertone. Whenever the coach stopped, however, to change horses, which it generally did at some public house or inn, the stranger could observe that the grazier always went out, and on his return appeared to be affected with a still stronger relish for melody. By degrees he proceeded from a tolerably distinct undertone to raise his voice into a bolder key, when, at last, throwing aside all reserve, he commenced the song of Cruiskeen Lawn, which he gave in admirable style and spirit, and with a rich mellow voice, that was calculated to render every justice to that fine old air. In this manner, he literally sang his way until within a few miles of the metropolis. He was not, however, without assistance, during, at least, a portion of the journey. Our friend Dandy, who was on the outside, finding that the coach came to a level space on the road, placed the dulcimer on his knees, and commenced an accompaniment on that instrument, which produced an effect equally comic and agreeable. And what added to the humor of this extraordinary duet--if we can call it so--was the delight with which each intimated his satisfaction at the performance of the other, as well as with the terms in which it was expressed.

"Well done, Dandy! dang my buttons, but you shine upon the wires. Ah, thin, it's you that is and ever was the wiry lad--and sure that was what made you take to the dulcimer of course. Dandy, achora, will you give us, 'Merrily kissed the Quaker?' and I ask it, Dandy, bekaise we are in a religious way, and have a quakers' meetn' in the coach."

"No," replied Dandy; "but I'll give you the 'Bonny brown Girl,' that's worth a thousand of it, you thief."

"Bravo, Dandy, and so it is; and, as far as I can see in the dark, dang my buttons, but I think we have one here, too."

"I thank you for the compliment, sir," said Alley, appropriating it without ceremony to herself. "I feel much obliged to you, sir; but I'm not worthy of it."

"My darling," replied the jolly farmer, "you had betther not take me up till I fall. How do you know it was for you it was intended? You're not the only lady in the coach, avourneen."

"And you're not the only gintleman in the coach, Jemmy Doran," replied Alley, indignantly. "I know you well, man alive--and you picked up your politeness from your cattle, I suppose."

"A better chance of getting it from them than from you," replied, the hasty grazier. "But I tell you at once to take it aisy, achora; don't get on fire, or you'll burn the coach--the compliment was not intended for you, at all events. Come, Dandy, give us the 'Bonny brown Girl,' and I'll help you, as well as I'm able."

In a moment the dulcimer was at work on the top of the coach, and the merry farmer, at the top of his lungs, lending his assistance inside.

When the performance had been concluded, Alley, who was brimful of indignation at the slight which had been put upon her, said, "Many thanks to you, Misther Doran, but if you plaise we'll dispense wid your music for the rest of the journey. Remember you're not among your own bullocks and swine--and that this roaring and grunting is and must be very disagreeable to polite company."

"Troth, whoever you are, you have the advantage of me," replied the good-natured farmer, "and besides I believe you're right--I'm afraid I've given offince; and as we have gone so far--but no, dang my buttons, I won't--I was going to try 'Kiss my Lady,' along wid Dandy, it goes beautiful on the dulcimer--but--but--ah, not half so well as on a purty pair of lips. Alley, darlin'," he proceeded now, evidently in a maudlin state, "I never lave you, but I'm in a hurry home to you, for it's your lips that's--"

"It's false, Mr. Doran," exclaimed Alley; "how dare you, sir, bring my name, or my lips either, into comparishment wid yourself? You want to take away my character, Mr. Doran; but I have friends, and a strong faction at my back, that will make you suffer for this."

The farmer, however, who was elevated into the seventh heaven of domestic affection, paid no earthly attention to her, but turning to the stranger said:

"Sir, I've the best wife that ever faced the sun--"

"I," exclaimed Alley, "am not to be insulted and calumnied, ay, an' backbitten before my own face, Misther Doran, and take my word you'll hear of this to your cost--I've a faction."

"Sir--gintleman--miss, over the way there--for throth, for all so close as you're veiled, you haven't a married look--but as I was sayin', we fell in love wid one another by mistake--for there was an ould matchmaker, by name Biddlety Girtha, a daughter of ould Jemmy Trailcudgel's--God be good to him--father of the present strugglin' poor man of that name--and as I had hard of a celebrated beauty that lived about twelve or fifteen miles down the country that I wished to coort--and she, on the other hand, having hard of a very fine, handsome young fellow in my own neighborhood--what does the ould thief do but brings us together, in the fair of Baltihorum, and palms her off on me as the celebrated beauty, and palms myself on her as the fine, handsome young fellow from the parish of Ballytrain, and, as I said, so we fell in love wid one another by mistake, and didn't discover the imposthure that the ould vagabond had put on us until afther the marriage. However, I'm not sorry for it--she turned out a good wife to me, at all events--for, besides bringin' me a stockin' of guineas, she has brought me twelve of as fine childre' as you'd see in the kingdom of Ireland, ay, or in the kingdom of heaven either. Barrin' that she's a little hasty in the temper--and sometimes--do you persave?--has the use of her--there's five of them on each hand at any rate--do you undherstand--I say, barrin' that, and that she often amuses herself--just when she has nothing else to do--and by way of keepin' her hand in--I say, sir, and you, miss, over the way--she now and then amuses herself by turnin' up the little finger of her right hand--but what matter for all that--there's no one widout their little weeny failin's. My own hair's a little sandy, or so--some people say it's red, but I think myself it's only a little sandy--as I said, sir--so out of love and affection for the best of wives, I'll give you her favorite, the 'Red-haired man's wife.' Dandy, you thief, will you help me to do the 'Red-haired man's wife?'"

"Wid pleasure, Misther Doran," replied Dandy, adjusting his dulcimer. "Come now, start, and I'm wid you."

The performance was scarcely finished, when a sob or two was heard from Alley, who, during this ebullition of the grazier's, had been nursing her wrath to keep it warm, as Burns says.

"I'm not without friends and protectors, Mr. Doran--that won't see me rantinized in a mail-coach, and mocked and made little of--whereof I have a strong back, as you'll soon find, and a faction that will make you sup sorrow yet."

All this virtuous indignation was lost, however, on the honest grazier, who had scarcely concluded the "Red-haired man's wife," ere he fell fast asleep, in which state he remained--having simply changed the style and character of his melody, the execution of the latter being equally masterly--until they reached the hotel at which the coach always stopped in the metropolis.

The weather, for the fortnight preceding, had been genial, mild, and beautiful. For some time before they reached the city, that gradual withdrawing of darkness began to take place, which resembles the disappearance of sorrow from a heavy heart, and harbinges to the world the return of cheerfulness and light. The dim, spectral paleness of the eastern sky by degrees received a clearer and healthier tinge, just as the wan cheek of an invalid assumes slowly, but certainly, the glow of returning health. Early as it was, an odd individual was visible here and there, and it may, be observed, that at a very early hour every person visible in the streets is characterized by a chilly and careworn appearance, looking, with scarcely an exception, both solitary and sad, just as if they had not a single friend on earth, but, on the contrary, were striving to encounter; struggles and difficulties which they were incompetent to meet.

As our travellers entered the city, that bygone class who, as guardians of the night, were appointed to preserve the public peace, every one of them a half felon and whole accomplice, were seen to pace slowly along, their poles under their left arm, their hands mutually thrust into the capacious cuffs of their watchcoats, and each with a frowzy woollen nightcap under his hat. Here and there a staggering toper might be seen on his way home from the tavern brawl or the midnight debauch, advancing, or attempting to advance, as if he wanted to trace Hogarth's line of beauty. From some quarters the wild and reckless shriek of female profligacy might be heard, the tongue, though loaded with blasphemies, nearly paralyzed by intoxication. Nor can we close here. The fashionable carriage made its appearance filled with beauty shorn of its charms by a more refined dissipation--beauty, no longer beautiful, returning with pale cheeks, languid eyes, and exhausted frame--after having breathed a thickened and suffocating atmosphere, calculated to sap the physical health, if not to disturb the pure elements of moral feeling, principle, and delicacy, without which woman becomes only an object of contempt.

Up until the arrival of the "Fly" at the hotel, the gray dusk of morning, together with the thick black veil to which we have alluded, added to that natural politeness which prevents a gentleman from staring at a lady who may wish to avoid observation--owing to these causes, we say, the stranger had neither inclination nor opportunity to recognize the features of Lucy Gourlay. When the coach drew up, however, with that courtesy and attention that are always due to the sex, and, we may add, that are very seldom omitted with a pretty travelling companion, the stranger stepped quickly out of it in order to offer her assistance, which was accepted silently, being acknowledged only by a graceful inclination of the head. When, however, on leaving the darkness of the vehicle he found her hand and arm tremble, and had sufficient light to recognize her through the veil, he uttered an exclamation expressive at once of delight, wonder, and curiosity.

"Good God, my dear Lucy," said he in a low whisper, so as not to let his words reach other ears, "how is this? In heaven's name, how does it happen that you travel by a common night coach, and are here at such an hour?"

She blushed deeply, and as she spoke he observed that her voice was infirm and tremulous: "It is most unfortunate," she replied, "that we should both have travelled in the same conveyance. I request you will instantly leave me."

"What! leave you alone and unattended at this hour?"

"I am not unattended," she replied; "that faithful creature, though somewhat blunt and uncouth in her manners, is all truth and attachment, so far as I at least am concerned. But I beg you will immediately withdraw. If we are seen holding conversation, or for a moment in each other's society, I cannot tell what the consequences may be to my reputation."

"But, my dear Lucy," replied the stranger, "that risk may easily be avoided. This meeting seems providential--I entreat you, let us accept it as such and avail ourselves of it."

"That is," she replied, whilst her glorious dark eye kindled, and her snowy temples got red as fire, "that is, that I should elope with you, I presume? Sir," she added, "you are the last man from whom I should have expected an insult. You forget yourself, and you forget me."

The high sense of honor that flashed from that glorious eye, and which made itself felt through the indignant tones of her voice, rebuked him at once.

"I have erred," said he, "but I have erred from an excess of affection--will you not pardon me?"

She felt the difficulty and singular distress of her position, and in spite of her firmness and the unnatural harshness of her father, she almost regretted the step she had taken. As it was, she made no reply to the stranger, but seemed absorbed in thoughts of bitterness and affliction.

"Let me press you," said the stranger, "to come into the hotel; you require both rest and refreshment--and I entreat and implore you, for the sake both of my happiness and your own, to grant me a quarter of an hour's conversation."

"I have reconsidered our position," she replied. "Alley will fetch in our very slight luggage; she has money, too, to pay the guard and driver--she says it is usual; and I feel that to give you a short explanation now may possibly enable us to avoid much future embarrassment and misunderstanding--Alley, however, must accompany us, and be present in the room. But then," she added, starting, "is it proper?--is it delicate?--no, no, I cannot, I cannot; it might compromise me with the world. Leave me, I entreat, I implore, I command you. I ask it as a proof of your love. We will, I trust, have other opportunities. Let us trust, too, to time--let us trust to God--but I will do nothing wrong, and I feel that this would be unworthy of my mother's daughter."

"Well," replied the stranger, "I shall obey you as a proof of my love for you; but will you not allow me to write to you?--will you not give me your address?"

"No," she returned; "and I enjoin you, as you hope, that we shall ever be happy, not to attempt to trace me. I ask this from you as a man of honor. Of course it may or perhaps it will be discovered that we travelled in the same coach. The accident may be misinterpreted. My father may seek an explanation from you--he may ask if you know where I am. Should I have placed the knowledge of my retreat in your possession, you know that, as a man of honor, you could not tell him a falsehood. Goodby," she added, "we may meet in better times, but I much fear that our destinies will be separated forever--Come, Alley."

Her voice softened as she uttered the last words, and the stranger felt the influence of her ascendency over him too strongly to hesitate in manifesting this proof of his obedience to her wishes. _

Read next: Chapter 14. Crackenfudge Put Upon A Wrong Scent

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