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

Chapter 14. Crackenfudge Put Upon A Wrong Scent

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_ CHAPTER XIV. Crackenfudge put upon a Wrong Scent

--Miss Gourlay takes Refuge with an Old Friend.

Little did Lucy dream that the fact of their discovery as fellow-travellers would so soon reach her father's ears, and that the provision against that event, and the inferences which calumny might draw from it, as suggested by her prudence and good sense, should render her advice to the stranger so absolutely necessary.

Whilst the brief dialogue which we have recited at the close of the last chapter took place, another, which as a faithful historian we are bound to detail, was proceeding between the redoubtable Crackenfudge and our facetious friend, Dandy Dulcimer. Crackenfudge in following the stranger to the metropolis by the 'Flash of Lightning', in order to watch his movements, was utterly ignorant that Lucy had been that gentleman's fellow-traveller in the Fly. A strong opposition, as we have already said, existed between the two coaches, and so equal was their speed, that in consequence of the mutual delay caused by changing horses, they frequently passed each other on the road, the driver, guard, and outside passengers of both coaches uniformly grimacing at each other amidst a storm of groans, cheers, and banter on both sides. So equal, however, were their relative powers of progress, that no effort on either side was found sufficient to enable any one of them to claim a victory. On the contrary, their contests generally ended in a dead heat, or something very nearly approaching it. On the night in question the 'Fly' had a slight advantage, and but a slight one. Before the coachman had time to descend from his ample seat, the 'Flash of Lightning' came dashing in at a most reckless speed--the unfortunate horses snorting and panting--steaming with smoke, which rose from them in white wreaths, and streaming in such a manner with perspiration that it was painful to look upon them.

Crackenfudge was one of the first out of the 'Flash of Lightning', which, we should say, drew up at a rival establishment, directly opposite that which patronized the 'Fly'. He lost no time in sending in his trunk by "boots," or some other of those harpies that are always connected with large hotels in the metropolis. Having accomplished this, he set himself, but quite in a careless way, to watch the motions of the stranger. For this purpose he availed himself of a position from whence he could see without being himself seen. Judge, then, of his surprise on ascertaining that the female whom he saw with the stranger was no other than Lucy Gourlay, and in conversation with the very individual with whose name, motions, and projects he wished so anxiously to become acquainted. If he watched Miss Gourlay and her companion well however, he himself was undergoing quite as severe a scrutiny. Dandy Dulcimer having observed him, in consequence of some hints that he had already received from a source with which the reader may become ultimately acquainted, approached, and putting his hand to his hat, exclaimed:

"Why, then, Counsellor Crackenfudge, is it here I find your honor?"

"Don't you see a'm here, Dandy, my fine fellow?" and this he uttered in a very agreeable tone, simply because he felt a weak and pitiable ambition to be addressed by the title of "Your honor."

"What does all this mean, Dandy?" asked Crackenfudge; "it looks vary odd to see Miss Gourlay in conversation with an impostor--a' think it's an elopement, Dandy. And pray Dandy, what brought you to town?"

"I think your honor's a friend to Sir Thomas, counsellor?" replied Dandy, answering by another question.

"A' am, Dandy, a stanch friend to Sir Thomas."

"Bekaise I know that if you aren't a friend of his, he is a friend of yours. I was playin' a tune the other day in the hall, and while I was in the very middle of it I heard him say--'We must have Counsellor Crackenfudge on the bench;' and so they had a long palaver about you, and the whole thing ended by Sir Thomas getting the tough old Captain to promise you his support, with some great man that they called custos rascalorum."

"A' am obliged to Sir Thomas," said Crackenfudge, "and a' know he is a true friend of mine."

"Ay, but will you now be a true friend to him, plaise your honor, counsellor?"

"To be sure I will, Dandy, my fine fellow."

"Well, then, listen--Sir Thomas got me put into this strange fellow's sarvice, in ordher to ah--ahem--why, you see in ordher to keep an eye upon him--and, what do you think? but he's jist afther tellin' me that he doesn't think he'll have any further occasion for my sarvices."

"Well, a' think that looks suspicious--it's an elopement, there's no doubt about it."

"I think so, your honor; although I am myself completely in the dark about it, any farther than this, counsellor--listen, now--I know the road they're goin', for I heard it by accident--they'll be off, too, immediately. Now, if your honor is a true friend to Sir Thomas, you'll take a post chaise and start off a little before them upon the Isaas road. You know that by going before them, they never can suspect that you're followin' them. I'll remain here to watch their motions, and while you keep before them, I'll keep after them, so that it will be the very sorra if they escape us both. Whisper, counsellor, your honor--I'm in Sir Thomas's pay. Isn't that enough? but I want assistance, and if you're his friend, as you say, you will be guided by me and sarve him."

Crackenfudge felt elated; he thought of the magistracy, of his privilege to sit on the bench in all the plenitude of official authority; he reflected that he could commit mendicants, impostors, vagrants, and vagabonds of all descriptions, and that he would be entitled to the solemn and reverential designation of "Your worship." Here, then, was an opening. The very object for which he came to town was accomplished--that is to say, the securing to himself the magistracy through the important services rendered to Sir Thomas Gourlay.

It occurred to him, we admit, that as it must have been evidently a case of elopement, it might be his duty to have the parties arrested, until at least the parent of the lady could be apprised of the circumstances. There was, however, about Crackenfudge a wholesome regard for what is termed a whole skin, and as he had been, through the key-hole of the Mitre inn, a witness of certain scintillations and flashes that lit up the eye of this most mysterious stranger, he did not conceive that such steps and his own personal safety were compatible. In the meantime, he saw that there was an air of sincerity and anxiety about Dandy Dulcimer, which he could impute to nothing but a wish, if possible, to make a lasting friend of Sir Thomas, by enabling him to trace his daughter.

Dandy's plea and plan both succeeded, and in the course of a few minutes Crackenfudge was posting at an easy rate toward the town of Naas. Many a look did he give out of the chaise, with a hope of being able to observe the vehicle which contained those for whom he was on the watch, but in vain. Nothing of the kind was visible; but notwithstanding this he drove on to the town, where he ordered breakfast in a private room, with the anxious expectation that they might soon arrive. At length, his patience having become considerably exhausted, he determined to return to Dublin, and provided he met them, with Dandy in pursuit, to wheel about and also to join the musician in the chase. Having settled his bill, which he did not do without half an hour's wrangling with the waiter, he came to the hall door, from which a chaise with close Venetian blinds was about to start, and into which he thought the figure of a man entered, who very much resembled that of Corbet, Sir Thomas's house steward and most confidential servant. Of this, however, he could not feel quite certain, as he had not at all got a glimpse of his face. On inquiring, he found that the chaise contained another man also, who was so ill as not to be able to leave it. One of them, however, drank some spirits in the chaise, and got a bottle of it, together with some provisions, to take along with them.

So far had Crackenfudge been most adroitly thrown off the trace of Miss Gourlay and the stranger; and when Dandy joined his master, who, from principles of delicacy and respect for Lucy, went to the opposite inn, he candidly told him of the hoax he had played off on the embryo magistrate.

"I sent him, your honor, upon what they call a fool's errand, and certain I am, he is the very boy will deliver it--not but that he's the divil's own knave on the other. The truth is, sir, it's just one day a knave and the other a fool with him."

The stranger paid little attention to these observations, but walked up and down the room in a state of sorrow and disappointment, that completely abstracted him from every object around him.

"Good. God!" he exclaimed, "she will not even allow me to know the place of her retreat, and she may stand in need of aid and support, and probably of protection, a thousand ways. Would to heaven I knew how to trace her, and become acquainted with her residence, and that more for her own sake than for mine!"

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Dandy, "I see a cousin o' mine over the way; would your honor give me a couple of hours to spend wid him? I haven't seen him this--God knows how long."

Well might Dandy say so--the cousin alluded to having been only conceived and brought forth from his own own fertile fancy at the moment, or rather, while his master was unconsciously uttering his soliloquy. The truth was, that while the latter spoke, Dandy, whom he had ordered to attend him, without well knowing why, observed a hackney-coach draw up at the door of the opposite hotel; but this fact would not have in any particular way arrested his attention, had he not seen Alley Mahon giving orders to the driver.

"You'll give me a couple of hours, your honor?"

"I'll give you the whole day, Dandy, if you wish. I shall be engaged, and will not require any further services from you until to-morrow."

Dandy looked at him very significantly, and with a degree of assurance, for which we can certainly offer no apology, puckered his naturally comic face into a most mysterious grin, and closing one eye, or in other words, giving his master a knowing wink, said--

"Very well, sir, I know how many banes makes five at any rate--let me alone."

"What do you mean, you varlet," said his master, "by that impudent wink?"

"Wink?" replied Dandy, with a face of admirable composure. "Oh, you observed it, then? Sure, God help me, it's a wakeness I have in one of my eyes ever since I had the small-pock."

"And pray which eye is it in?" asked his master.

"In the left, your honor."

"But, you scoundrel, you winked at me with the right."

"Troth, sir, maybe I did, for it sometimes passes from the one to the other wid me--but not often indeed--it's principally in my left."

"Very well; but in speaking to me, use no such grimaces in future; and now go see your cousin. I shall sleep for a few hours, for I feel somewhat jaded, paid out of order on many accounts. But before you go, listen to me, and mark me well. You saw me in conversation with Miss Gourlay?"

Dandy, whose perception was quick as lightning, had his finger on his lips immediately. "I understand you, sir," said he; "and once for all, sir," he proceeded, "do you listen to me. You may lay it down as one of the ten commandments, that any secret you may plaise to trust me with, will be undher a tombstone. I'm not the stuff that a traitor or villain is made of. So, once for fill, your honor, make your mind aisy on that point."

"It will be your own interest to prove faithful," said his master. "Here is a month's wages for you in advance."

Dandy, having accepted the money, immediately proceeded to the next hackney station, which was in the same street, where he took a coach by the hour; and having got into it, ordered the driver to follow that which he saw waiting at the door of the hotel aforesaid.

"Folly that hackney," said he to the driver, "at what is called a respectful distance, an' you'll be no loser by it."

"Is there a piece of fun in the wind?" asked the driver, with a knowing grin.

"When you go to your Padereens tonight," replied Dandy, "that is, in case you ever trouble them, you may swear it on them."

"Whish! More power--I'm the boy will rowl you on."

"There, they're off," said Dandy; "but don't be in a hurry, for fraid we might seem to folly them--only for your life and sowl, and as you hope to get half-a-dozen gum-ticklers when we come come back--don't let them out o' sight. By the rakes o' Mallow, this jaunt may be the makin' o' you. Says his lordship to me, 'Dandy,' says he, 'find out where she goes to, and you and every one that helps you to do so, is a made man.'"

"Ha, ha!" exclaimed the driver, with glee, "is that it? Come, then--here's at you--they're off."

It was not yet five o'clock, and the stranger requested to be shown to a bedroom, to which he immediately retired, in order to gain a few hours' sleep, after the fatigue of his journey and the agitation which he had Undergone.

In the meantime, as Dandy followed Miss Gourlay, so shall we follow him. The chase, we must admit, was conducted with singular judgment and discretion, the second chaise jogging on--but that, in fact, is not the term--we should rather say flogging on, inasmuch as that which contained the fair fugitives went at a rate of most unusual speed. In this manner they proceeded, until they reached a very pretty cottage, about three quarters of a mile from the town of Wicklow, situated some fifty or sixty yards in from the road side. Here they stopped; but Dandy desired his man to drive slowly on. It was evident that this cottage was the destination of the fugitives. Dandy, having turned a corner of the road, desired the driver to stop and observe whether they entered or not; and the latter having satisfied himself that they did--

"Now," said Dandy, "let us wait where we are till we see whether the chaise returns or not; if it does, all's right, and I know what I know."

In a few minutes the empty chaise started once more for Dublin, followed, as before, by the redoubtable Dulcimer, who entered the city a much more important person than when he left it. Knowledge, as Bacon says, is power.

About two o'clock the stranger was dressed, had breakfasted, and having ordered a car, proceeded to Constitution Hill. As he went up the street, he observed the numbers of the houses as well as he could, for some had numbers and some had not. Among the latter was that he sought for, and he was consequently obliged to inquire. At length he found it, and saw by a glance that it was one of those low lodging-houses to which country folks of humble rank--chapmen, hawkers, pedlers, and others of a, similar character--resort. It was evident, also, that the proprietor dealt in huckstery, as he saw a shop in which there was bacon, meal, oats, eggs, potatoes, bread, and such other articles as are usually to be found in small establishments of the kind. He entered the shop, and found an old man, certainly not less than seventy, but rather beyond it, sitting behind the counter. The appearance of this man was anything but prepossessing. His brows were low and heavy; his mouth close, and remarkably hard for his years; the forehead low and narrow, and singularly deficient in what phrenologists term the moral and intellectual qualities. But the worst feature in the whole face might be read in his small, dark, cunning eyes, which no man of any penetration could look upon without feeling that they were significant of duplicity, cruelty, and fraud. His hair, though long, and falling over his neck, was black as ebony; for although Time had left his impress upon the general features of his face, it had not discolored a single hair upon his head; whilst his whiskers, on the contrary, were like snow--a circumstance which, in connection with his sinister look, gave him a remarkable and startling appearance. His hands were coarse and strong, and the joints of his thick fingers were noded either by age or disease; but, at all events, affording indication of a rude and unfeeling character.

"Pray," said the stranger, "is your name Denis Dunphy?"

The old man fastened his rat-like eyes upon him, compressed his hard, unfeeling lips, and, after surveying him for some time, replied--

"What's your business, sir, with Denis Dunphy?"

"That, my friend, can be mentioned only to himself; are you the man?"

"Well, and what if I be?"

"But I must be certain that you are."

There was another pause, and a second scrutiny, after which he replied,

"May be my name in Denis Dunphy."

"I have no communication to make," said the stranger, "that you may be afraid of; but, such as it is, it can be made to no person but Denis Dunphy himself. I have a letter for him."

"Who does it come from?" asked the cautious Denis Dunphy.

"From the parish priest of Ballytrain," replied the other, "the Rev. Father M'Mahon."

The old man pulled out a large snuff-box, and took a long pinch, which he crammed with his thumb first into one nostril, then into the other, bending his head at the same! time to each side, in order to enjoy it with greater relish, after which he gave a short deliberative cough or two.

"Well," said he, "I am Denis Dunphy."

"In that case, then," replied the other, "I should very much wish to have a short private conversation with you of some importance. But you had better first read the reverend gentleman's letter," he added, "and perhaps we shall then understand each other better;" and as he spoke he handed him the letter.

The man received it, looked at it, and again took a more rapid and less copious pinch, peered keenly at the stranger, and asked--"Pray, sir, do you know the contents of this letter?"

"Not a syllable of it."

He then coughed again, and having opened the document, began deliberately to peruse it.

The stranger, who was disagreeably impressed by his whole manner and appearance, made a point to watch the effect which the contents of the document might have on him. The other, in the meantime, read on, and, as he proceeded, it was obvious that the communication was not only one that gave him no pleasure, but filled him with suspicion and alarm. After about twenty minutes--for it took him at least that length of time to get through it--he raised his head, and fastening his small, piercing eyes upon the stranger, said:

"But how do I know that this letter comes from Father M'Mahon?"

"I'd have you to understand, sir," replied the stranger, nearly losing his temper, "that you are addressing a gentleman and a man of honor."

"Faith," said the other, "I don't know whether I am or not. I have only your word for it--and no man's willin' to give a bad character of himself--but if you will keep the shop here for a minute or two, I'll soon be able to tell whether it's Father M'Mahon'a hand-write or not."

So saying, he deliberately locked both tills of the counter--to wit, those which contained the silver and coppers--then, surveying the stranger with a look of suspicion--a look, by the way, that, after having made his cash safe, had now something of the triumph and confidence of security in it, he withdrew to a little backroom, that was divided from the shop by a partition of boards and a glass door, to which there was a red curtain.

"It is betther," said the impudent old sinner, alluding to the cash in the tills, "to greet over it than greet afther it--just keep the shop for a couple of minutes, and then we'll undherstand one another, may be. There's a great many skamers going in this world."

Having entered the little room in question, he suddenly popped out his head and asked:

"Could you weigh a stone or a half stone of praties, if they were called for? But, never mind--you'd be apt to give down weight--I'll come out and do it myself, if they're wanted;" saying which, he drew the red curtain aside, in order the better, as it would seem, to keep a watchful eye upon the other.

The latter was at first offended, but ultimately began to feel amused by the offensive peculiarities of the old man. He now perceived that he was eccentric and capricious, and that, in order to lure any information out of him, it would be necessary to watch and take advantage of the disagreeable whimsicalities which marked his character. Patience, he saw clearly, was his only remedy.

After remaining in the back parlor for about eight or ten minutes, he put out his thin, sharp face, with a grin upon it, which was intended for a smile--the expression of which, however, was exceedingly disagreeable.

"We will talk this matter over," he said, "by and by. I have compared the hand-write in this letther wid a certificate of Father M'Mahon's, that I have for many years in my possession. Step inside in the meantime; the ould woman will be back in a few minutes, and when she comes we'll go upstairs and speak about it."

The stranger complied with this invitation, and felt highly gratified that matters seemed about to take a more favorable turn.

"I trust," said he, "you are satisfied that I am fully entitled to any confidence you may feel disposed to place in me?"

"The priest speaks well of you," replied Dunphy; "but then, sure I know him; he's so kind-hearted a creature, that any one who speaks him fair, or that he happens to take a fancy to, will be sure to get his good word. It isn't much assistance I can give you, and it's not on account of his letther altogether that I do it; but bekaise I think the time's come, or rather soon will be come. Oh, here," he said, "is the ould woman, and she'll keep the shop. Now, sir, come upstairs, if you plaise, for what we're goin' to talk about is what the very stones oughtn't to hear so long as that man--"

He paused, and instantly checked himself, as if he felt that he had already gone too far.

"Now, sir," he proceeded, "what is it you expect from me? Name it at wanst."

"You are aware," said the stranger, "that the son of the late Sir Edward Gourlay, and the heir of his property, disappeared very mysteriously and suspiciously--"

"And so did the son of the present man," replied Dunphy, eying the stranger keenly.

"It is not of him I am speaking," replied the other; "although at the same time I must say, that if I could find a trace even of him I would leave no stone unturned to recover him."

The old man looked into the floor, and mused for some time.

"It was a strange business," he observed, "that both should go--you may take my word, there has been mischief and revenge, or both, at the bottom of the same business."

"The worthy priest, whose letter I presented to you to-day, led me to suppose, that if any man could put me in a capacity to throw light upon it you could."

"He didn't say, surely, that I could throw light upon it--did he?"

"No, certainly not--but that if any man could, you are that man."

"Ay, ay," replied old Dunphy; "all bekaise he thinks I have a regard for the Gourlays. That's what makes him suppose that I know anything about the business; just as if I was in the saicrets of the family. I may have suspicions like other people; but that's all."

"Can you throw out no hint, or give no clew, that might aid me in the recovery of this unhappy young man, if he be alive?"

"You did well to add that, for who can tell whether he is or not?--maybe it's only thrashing the water you are, after all."

The stranger saw the old fellow had once more grown cautious, and avoided giving a direct reply to him; but on considering the matter, he was, after all, not much surprised at this. The subject involved a black and heinous crime, and if it so happened that Dunphy could in any way have been implicated in or connected with it, even indirectly, it would be almost unreasonable to expect that he should now become his own accuser. Still the stranger could observe that in spite of all his caution, there was a mystery and uneasiness in his manner, when talking of it, which he could not shake off.

When the conversation had reached this point, the old woman called her husband down in a voice that seemed somewhat agitated, but not, as far as he could guess, disagreeably.

"Denis, come down a minute," she said, "come down, will you? here's a stranger that you haven't seen for some time."

"What stranger?" he inquired, peevishly. "Who is it? I wish you wouldn't bother me--I'm talkin' with a gentleman."

"It's Ginty."

"Ginty, is it?" said he, musing. "Well, that's odd, too--to think that she should come at this very moment. Maybe, the hand of G--. I beg your pardon, sir, for a minute or two--I'll be back immediately."

He went down stairs, and found in the back parlor the woman named Ginty Cooper, the same fortune-teller and prophetess whom we have already described to the reader.

The old man seemed to consider her appearance not as an incident that stirred up any natural affection in himself, but as one that he looked upon as extraordinary. Indeed, to tell the truth, he experienced a sensation of surprise, mingled with a superstitious feeling, that startled him considerably, by her unexpected appearance at that particular period. He did not resume his conversation with the stranger for at least twenty minutes; but the latter was perfectly aware, from the earnestness of their voices, although their words were not audible, that he and the new-comer were discussing some topic in which they must have felt a very deep interest. At length he came up and apologized for the delay, adding: "With regard to this business, it's altogether out of my power to give you any assistance. I have nothing but my suspicions, and it wouldn't be the part of a Christian to lay a crime like that to any man's door upon mere guess."

"If you know anything of this dark transaction," replied the stranger, whose earnestness of manner was increased by his disappointment, as well as by an impression that the old man knew more about it than he was disposed to admit, "and will not enable us to render justice to the wronged and defrauded orphan, you will have a heavy reckoning of it--an awful one when you meet your God. By the usual course of nature that is a reckoning that must soon be made. I advise you, therefore, not to tamper with your own conscience, nor, by concealing your knowledge of this great crime to peril your hopes of eternal happiness. Of one thing you may rest assured, that the justice we seek will not stoop to those who have been merely instruments in the hands of others."

"That's all very fine talk," replied Dunphy, uneasily however, "and from the high-flown language you give me, I take you to be a lawyer; but if you were ten times a lawyer, and a judge to the back of that, a man can't tell what he doesn't know."

"Mark me," replied the stranger, assailing him through his cupidity, "I pledge you my solemn word that for any available information you may or can give us you shall be most liberally and amply remunerated."

"I have money enough," replied Dunphy; "that is to say, as much as barely does me, for the wealthiest of us cannot bring it to the grave. I'm thankful to you, but I can give you no assistance."

"Whom do you suspect, then?--whom do you even suspect?"

"Hut!--why, the man that every one suspects--Sir Thomas Gourlay."

"And upon what grounds, may I ask?"

"Why, simply because no other man had any interest in getting the child removed. Every one knows he's a dark, tyrannical, bad man, that wouldn't be apt to scruple at anything. There now," he added, "that is all I know about it; and I suppose it's not more than you knew yourself before."

In order to close the dialogue he stood up, and at once led the way down to the back parlor, where the stranger, on following him, found Ginty Cooper and the old woman in close conversation, which instantly ceased when they made their appearance.

The stranger, chagrined and vexed at his want of success, was about to depart, when Dunphy's wife said:

"Maybe, sir, you'd wish to get your fortune tould? bekaise, if you would, here's a woman that will tell it to you, and you may depend upon it she'll tell you nothing but the truth."

"I am not in a humor for such nonsense, my good woman; I have much more important matters to think of, I assure you; but I suppose the woman wishes to have her hand crossed with silver; well, it shall be done. Here, my good woman," he said offering her money, "accept this, and spare your prophecy."

"I will not have your money, sir," replied the prophetess; "and I say so to let you know that I'm not an impostor. Be advised, and hear me--show me your hand."

The startling and almost supernatural appearance of the woman struck him very forcibly, and with a kind of good-humored impatience, he stretched out his hand to her. "Well," said he, "I will test the truth of what you promise."

She took it into hers, and after examining the lines for a few seconds said, "The lines in your hand, sir, are very legible--so much so that I can read your name in it--and it's a name which very few in this country know."

The stranger started with astonishment, and was about to speak, but she signed to him to be silent.

"You are in love," she continued, "and your sweetheart loves you dearly. You saw her this morning, and you would give a trifle to know where she will be to-morrow. You traveled with her last night and didn't know it--and the business that brought you to town will prosper."

"You say you know my name," replied the stranger, "if so, write it on a slip of paper."

She hesitated a moment.

"Will it do," she asked, "if I give you the initials?"

"No," he replied, "the name in full--and I think you are fairly caught."

She gave no reply, but having got a slip of paper and a pen, went to the wall and knocked three times, repeating some unintelligible words with an appearance of great solemnity and mystery. Having knocked, she applied her ear to the wall three times also, after which she seemed satisfied.

The stranger of course imputed all this to imposture; but when he reflected upon what she had already told him, he felt perfectly confounded with amazement. The prophetess then went to her father's counter and wrote something upon a small fragment of paper, which she handed to him. No earthly language could now express his astonishment, not from any belief he entertained that she possessed supernatural power, but from the almost incredible fact that she could have known so much of a man's affairs who was an utter stranger to her, and to whom she was herself unknown.

"Well, it is odd enough," he added; "but this knocking on the wall and listening was useless jugglery. Did you not say, when first you inspected my hand, that you could read my name in the lines of it? then, of course you knew it before you knocked at the wall--the knocking, therefore, was imposture."

"I knew the name," she replied, "the moment I looked into your hand, but I was obliged to ask permission to reveal it. Your observation, however, was very natural. It may, in the meantime, be a consolation for you to know that I'm not at liberty to mention it to any one but yourself and one other person."

"A man or woman?"

"A woman--she you saw this morning."

"Whether that be true or not," observed the stranger, "the mention of my name at present would place me in both difficulty and danger; so that I hope you'll keep it secret."

She threw the slip of paper into the fire. "There it lies," she replied, "and you might as well read it in those white ashes as extract it from me until the proper time comes. But with respect to it, there is one thing I must tell you before you go."

"What is that, pray?"

"It is a name you will not carry long. Ask me no more questions. I have already said you will succeed in the object of your pursuit, but not without difficulty and danger. Take my advice, and never go anywhere without a case of loaded pistols. I have good reasons for saying so. Now pass on, for I am silent."

There was an air of confidence and superiority about her as she uttered these words--a sense, as it were, of power--of a privilege to command, by which the stranger felt himself involuntarily influenced. He once more offered her money, but, with a motion of her hand, she silently, and somewhat indignantly refused it.

Whilst this singular exhibition took place, the stranger observed the very remarkable and peculiar expression of the old man's countenance. It is indeed very difficult to describe it. He seemed to experience a feeling of satisfaction and triumph at the revelations the woman had made; added to which was something that might be termed shrewd; ironical, and derisive. In fact, his face bore no bad resemblance to that of Mephistopheles, as represented in Retsch's powerful conception and delineation of it in his illustration of Goethe's "Faust," so inimitably translated by our admirable countryman, Anster.

The stranger now looked at his watch, bade them good day, and took his leave. _

Read next: Chapter 15. Interview Between Lady Gourlay And The Stranger

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

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


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