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

Chapter 15. Interview Between Lady Gourlay And The Stranger

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_ CHAPTER XV. Interview between Lady Gourlay and the Stranger

--Dandy Dulcimer makes a Discovery--The Stranger receives Mysterious Communications.

From Constitution Hill our friend drove directly to Merrion square, the residence of Lady Gourlay, whom he found alone in the drawing-room. She welcomed him with a courtesy that was expressive at once of anxiety, sorrow, and hope. She extended her hand to him and said, after the usual greetings were over:

"I fear to ask what the result of your journey has been--for I cannot, alas! read any expression of success in your countenance."

"As yet," replied the stranger, "I have not been successful, madam; but I do not despair. I am, and have been, acting under an impression, that we shall ultimately succeed; and although I can hold out to your ladyship but very slender hopes, if any, still I would say, do not despair."

Lady Gourlay was about forty-eight, and although sorrow, and the bitter calamity with which the reader is already acquainted, had left their severe traces upon her constitution and features, still she was a woman on whom no one could look without deep I interest and sympathy. Even at that age, her fine form and extraordinary beauty bore up in a most surprising manner against her sufferings. Her figure was tall--its proportions admirable; and her beauty, faded it is true, still made the spectator feel, with a kind of wonder, what it must have been when she was in the prime of youth and untouched by affliction. She possessed that sober elegance of manner that was in melancholy accordance with her fate; and evinced in every movement a natural dignity that excited more than ordinary respect and sympathy for her character and the sorrows she had suffered. Her face was oval, and had been always of that healthy paleness than which, when associated with symmetry and expression--as was the case with her--there is nothing more lovely among women. Her eyes, which were a dark brown, had lost, it is true, much of the lustre and sparkle of early life; but this was succeeded by a mild and mellow light to which an abiding sorrow had imparted an expression that was full of melancholy beauty.

For many years past, indeed, ever since the disappearance of her only child, she had led a secluded life, and devoted herself to the Christian virtues of charity and benevolence; but in such a way as to avoid anything like ostentatious display. Still, such is the structure of society, that it is impossible to carry the virtues for which she was remarkable to any practical extent, without the world by degrees becoming cognizant of the secret. The very recipients themselves, in the fulness of their heart, will commit a grateful breach of confidence with which it is impossible to quarrel.

Consoled, as far as any consolation could reach her, by the consciousness of doing good, as well as by a strong sense of religion, she led a life which we regret so few in her social position are disposed to imitate. For many years before the period at which our narrative commences, she had given up all hope of ever recovering her child, if indeed he was alive. Whether he had perished by an accidental death in some place where his body could not be discovered--whether he had been murdered, or kidnapped, were dreadful contingencies that wrung the mother's soul with agony. But as habits of endurance give to the body stronger powers of resistance, so does time by degrees strengthen the mind against the influence of sorrow. A blameless life, therefore, varied only by its unobtrusive charities, together with a firm trust in the goodness of God, took much of the sting from affliction, but could not wholly eradicate it. Had her child died in her arms--had she closed its innocent eyes with her own hands, and given the mother's last kiss to those pale lips on which the smile of affection was never more to sit--had she been able to go, and, in the fulness of her childless heart, pour her sorrow over his grave--she would have felt that his death, compared with the darkness and uncertainty by which she was enveloped, would have been comparatively a mitigated dispensation, for which the heart ought to feel almost thankful.

The death of Corbet, her steward, found her in that mournful apathy under which she had labored for year's. Indeed she resembled a certain class of invalids who are afflicted with some secret ailment, which is not much felt unless when an unexpected pressure, or sudden change of posture, causes them to feel the pang which it inflicts. From the moment that the words of the dying man shed the serenity of hope over her mind, and revived in her heart all those tender aspirations of maternal affection which, as associated with the recovery of her child, had nearly perished out of it--from that moment, we say, the extreme bitterness of her affliction had departed.

She had already suffered too much, however, to allow herself to be carried beyond unreasonable bounds by sanguine and imprudent expectations. Her rule of heart and of conduct was simple, but true--she trusted in God and in the justice of his providence.

On hearing the stranger's want of success, she felt more affected by that than by the faint consolation which he endeavored to hold out to her, and a few bitter tears ran slowly down her cheeks.

"Hope had altogether gone," said she, "and with hope that power in the heart to cherish the sorrow which it sustains; and the certainty of his death had thrown me into that apathy, which qualifies but cannot destroy the painful consequences of reflection. That which presses upon me now, is the fear that although he may still live, as unquestionably Corbet on his death-bed had assured me, yet it is possible we may never recover him. In that case he is dead to me--lost forever."

"I will not attempt to offer your ladyship consolation," replied the stranger; "but I would suggest simply, that the dying words of your steward, perhaps, may be looked upon as the first opening--the dawn of a hopeful issue. I think we may fairly and reasonably calculate that your son lives. Take courage, madam. In our efforts to trace him, remember that we have only commenced operations. Every day and every successive attempt to penetrate this painful mystery will, I trust, furnish us with additional materials for success."

"May God grant it!" replied her ladyship; "for if we fail, my wounds will have been again torn open in vain. Better a thousand times that that hope had never reached me."

"True, indeed, madam," replied the stranger; "but still take what comfort you can. Think of your brother-in-law; he also has lost his child, and bears it well."

"Ah, yes," she replied, "but you forget that he has one still left, and that I am childless. If there be a solitary being on earth, it is a childless and a widowed mother--a widow who has known a mother's love--a wife who has experienced the tender and manly affection of a devoted husband."

"I grant," he replied, "that it is, indeed, a bitter fate."

"As for my brother-in-law," she proceeded, "the child which God, in his love, has spared to him is a compensation almost for any loss. I trust he loves and cherishes her as he ought, and as I am told she deserves. There has been no communication between us ever since my marriage. Edward and he, though brothers, were as different as day and night. Unless once or twice, I never even saw my niece, and only then at a distance; nor has a word ever passed between us. They tell me she is an angel in goodness, as well as in beauty, and that her accomplishments are extraordinary--but--I, alas!--am alone and childless."

The stranger's heart palpitated; and had Lady Gourlay entertained any suspicion of his attachment, she might have perceived his agitation. He also felt deep sympathy with Lady Gourlay.

"Do not say childless, madam," he replied. "Your ladyship must hope for the best."

"But what have you done?" she asked. "Did you see the young man?"

"I saw him, madam; but it is impossible to get anything out of him. That he is wrapped in some deep mystery is unquestionable. I got a letter, however, from an amiable Roman Catholic clergyman, the parish priest of Ballytrain, to a man named Dunphy, who lives in a street called Constitution Hill, on the north side of the city."

"He is a relation, I understand, of Edward Corbet, who died in my service," replied her ladyship, with an interest that seemed instantly to awaken her. "Well," said she, eagerly, "what was the result? Did you present the letter?"

"I presented the letter, my lady; and had at first strong hopes--no, not at first--but in the course of our conversation. He dropped unconscious hints that induce me to suspect he knows more about the fate of your son than he wishes to acknowledge. It struck me that he might have been an agent in this black business, and, on that account, that he is afraid to criminate himself. I have, besides," he added, smilingly, "had the gratification to have heard a prophecy uttered, by which I was assured of ultimate success in my efforts to trace out your son;--a prophecy uttered under and accompanied by circumstances so extraordinary and incomprehensible as to confound and amaze me."

He then detailed to her the conversation he had had with old Dunphy and the fortune-teller, suppressing all allusion to what tha latter had said concerning Lucy and himself. After which, Lady Gourlay paused for some time, and seemed at a loss what construction to put upon it.

"It is very strange," she at length observed; "that woman has been here, I think, several times, visiting her late brother, who left her some money at his death. Is she not extremely pale and wild-looking?"

"So much so, madam, that there is something awful and almost supernatural-looking in the expression of her eyes and features. I have certainly never seen such a face before on a denizen of this life."

"It is strange," replied her ladyship, "that she should have taken upon her the odious character of a fortune-teller. I was not aware of that. Corbet, I know, had a sister, who was deranged for some time; perhaps this is she, and that the gift of fortune-telling to which she pretends may be a monomania or some other delusion that her unhappy malady has left behind it."

"Very likely, my lady," replied the other; "nothing more probable. The fact you mention accounts both for her strange appearance and conduct. Still I must say, that so far as I had an opportunity of observing, there did not appear to be any obvious trace of insanity about her."

"Well," she exclaimed, "we know to foretell future events is not now one of the privileges accorded to mortals. I will place my assurance in the justice of God's goodness and providence, and not in the delusions of a poor maniac, or, perhaps, of an impostor. What course do you propose taking now?"

"I have not yet determined, madam. I think I will see this old Dunphy again. He told me that he certainly suspected your brother-in-law, but assured me that he had no specific grounds for his suspicions--beyond the simple fact, that Sir Thomas would be the principal gainer by the child's removal. At all events, I shall see him once more to-morrow."

"What stay will you make in town?"

"I cannot at the present moment say, my lady. I have other matters, of which your ladyship is aware, to look after. My own rights must be vindicated; and I dare say you will not regret to hear that everything is in a proper train. We want only one link of the chain. An important document is wanting; but I think it will soon be in our hands. Who knows," he added, smiling, "but your ladyship and I may ere long be able to congratulate each other upon our mutual success? And now, madam, permit me to take my leave. I am not without hope on your account; but of this you may rest assured, that my most strenuous exertions shall be devoted to the object nearest your heart."

"Alas," she replied, as she stood up, "it is neither title nor wealth that I covet. Give me my child--restore me my child--and I shall be happy. That is the simple ambition of his mother's heart. I wish Sir Thomas to understand that I shall allow him to enjoy both title and estates during his life, if, knowing where my child is, he will restore him to my heart. I will bind, myself by the most solemn forms and engagements to this. Perhaps that might satisfy him."

They then shook hands and separated, the stranger involuntarily influenced by the confident predictions of Ginty Cooper, although he was really afraid to say so; whilst Lady Gourlay felt her heart at one time elevated by the dawn of hope that had arisen, and again depressed by the darkness which hung over the fate of her son.

His next visit was to his attorney, Birney, who had been a day or two in town, and whom he found in his office in Gloucester street.

"Well, Mr. Birney," he inquired, "what advance are you making?"

"Why," replied Birney, "the state of our case is this: if Mrs. Norton could be traced we might manage without the documents you have lost;--by the way, have you any notion where the scoundrel might be whom you suspect of having taken them?"

"What! M'Bride? I was told, as I mentioned before, that he and the Frenchwoman went to America, leaving his unfortunate wife behind him. I could easily forgive the rascal for the money he took; but the misfortune was, that the documents and the money were both in the same pocket-book. He knew their value, however, for unfortunately he was fully in my confidence. The fellow was insane about the girl, and I think it was love more than dishonesty that tempted him to the act. I have little doubt that he would return me the papers if he knew where to send them."

"Have you any notion where the wife is?"

"None in the world, unless that she is somewhere in this country, having set out for it a fortnight before I left Paris."

"As the matter stands, then," replied Birney, "we shall be obliged, to go to France in order to get a fresh copy of the death and the marriage properly attested--or, I should rather say, of the marriage and the death. This will complete our documentary evidence; but, unfortunately, Mrs. Norton, who was her maid at the time, and a witness of both the death and marriage, cannot be found, although she was seen in Dublin about three months ago. I have advertised several times for her in the papers, but to no purpose. I cannot find her whereabouts at all. I fear, however, and so does the Attorney-General, that we shall not be able to accomplish our purpose without her."

"That is unfortunate," replied the stranger. "Let us continue the advertisements; perhaps she may turn up yet. As to the other pursuit, touching the lost child, I know not what to say. There are but slight grounds for hope, and yet I am not at all disposed to despair, although I cannot tell why."

"It cannot be possible," observed Bimey, "that that wicked old baronet could ultimately prosper in his villainy. I speak, of course, upon the supposition that he is, or was, the bottom of the business. Your, safest and best plan is to find out his agents in the business, if it can be done."

"I shall leave nothing unattempted," replied the other; "and if we fail, we shall at least have the satisfaction of having done our duty. The lapse of time, however, is against us;--perhaps the agents are dead."

"If this man is guilty," said the attorney, "he is nothing more nor less than a modern Macbeth. However, go on, and keep up your resolution; effort will do much. I hope in this case--in both cases--it will do all."

After some further conversation upon the matter in question, which it is not our intention to detail here, the stranger made an excursion to the country, and returned about six o'clock to his hotel. Here he found Dandy Dulcimer before him, evidently brimful of some important information on which he (Dandy) seemed to place a high value, and which gave to his naturally droll countenance such an expression of mock gravity as was ludicrous in the extreme.

"What is the matter, sir?" asked his master; "you look very big and important just now. I hope you have not been drinking."

Dandy compressed his lips as if his master's fate depended upon his words, and pointing with his forefinger in the direction of Wicklow, replied:

"The deed is done, sir--the deed is done."

"What deed, sirra?"

"Weren't you tould the stuff that was in me?" he replied. "But God has gifted me, and sure that's one comfort, glory be to his name. Weren't--"

"Explain yourself, sir!" said his master, authoritatively. "What do you mean by the deed is done?' You haven't got married, I hope. Perhaps the cousin you went to see was your sweetheart?"

"No, sir, I haven't got married. God keep me a little while longer from sich a calamity? But I have put you in the way of being so."

"How, sirra--put me into a state of calamity? Do you call that a service?"

"A state of repentance, sir, they say, is a state of grace; an' when one's in a state of grace they can make their soul; and anything, you know, that enables one to make his soul, is surely for his good."

"Why, then, say 'God forbid,' when I suppose you had yourself got married?"

"Bekaise I'm a sinner, sir,--a good deal hardened or so,--and haven't the grace even to wish for such a state of grace."

"Well, but what deed is this you have done? and no more of your gesticulations."

"Don't you undherstand, sir!" he replied, extending the digit once more in the same direction, and with the same comic significance.

"She's safe, sir. Miss Gourlay--I have her."

"How, you impudent scoundrel, what kind of language is this to apply to Miss Gourlay?"

"Troth, an' I have her safe," replied the pertinacious Dandy. "Safe as a hare in her form; but it is for your honor I have her. Cousin! oh, the divil a cousin has Dandy widin the four walls of Dublin town; but well becomes me, I took a post-chaise, no less, and followed her hot foot--never lost sight of her, even while you'd wink, till I seen her housed."

"Explain yourself, sirra."

"Faith, sir, all the explanation I have to give you've got, barrin' where she lives."

The stranger instantly thought of Lucy's caution, and for the present determined not to embarrass himself with a knowledge of her residence; "lest," as she said, "her father might demand from him whether he was aware of it." In that case he felt fully the truth and justness of her injunctions. Should Sir Thomas put the question to him he could not betray her, nor could he, on the other hand, stain his conscience by a deliberate falsehood; for, in truth, he was the soul of honor itself.

"Harkee, Dandy," said he, not in the slightest degree displeased with him, although he affected to be so, "if you wish to remain in my service keep the secret of Miss Gourlay's residence--a secret not only from me, but from every human being that lives. You have taken a most unwarrantable and impudent liberty in following her as you did. You know not, sirra, how you may have implicated both her and me by such conduct, especially the young lady. You are known to be in my service; although, for certain reasons, I do not intend, for the present at least, to put you into livery; and you ought to know, sir, also, that it will be taken for granted that you acted by my orders. Now, sir, keep that secret to yourself, and let it not pass your lips until I may think proper to ask you for it."

One evening, on the second day after this, he reached his hotel at six o'clock, and was about to enter, when a young lad, dancing up to him, asked in a whisper if that was for him, at the same time presenting a note. The other, looking at it, saw that it was addressed to him only by his initials.

"I think it is, my boy," said he; "from whom did it come, do you know?"

The lad, instead of giving him any reply, took instantly to his heels, as if he had been pursued for life and death, without even waiting to solicit the gratuity which is usually expected on such occasions. Our friend took it for granted that it had come from the fortune-teller, Ginty Cooper; but on opening it he perceived at a glance that he must have been mistaken, as the writing most certainty was not that of this extraordinary sibyl. The hand in which she had written his name was precisely such as one would expect from such a woman--rude and vulgar --whereas, on the contrary, that in the note was elegant and lady-like. The contents were as follows:

"Sir,--On receipt of this you will, if you wish to prosper in that which you have undertaken to accomplish, hasten to Ballytrain, and secure the person of a young man named Fenton, who lives in or about the town. You will claim him as the lawful heir of the title and property of Red Hall, for such in fact he is. Go then to Sir Thomas Gourlay, and ask him the following questions:

"1st. Did he not one night, about sixteen years ago, engage a man who was so ingeniously masked that the child neither perceived the mask, nor knew the man's person, to lure, him from Red Hall, under the pretence of bringing him to see a puppet show?

"2d. Did not Sir Thomas give instructions to this man to take him out of his path, out of his sight, and out of his hearing?

"3d. Was not this man well rewarded by Sir Thomas for that act?

"There are other questions in connection with the affair that could he put, but at present they would be unseasonable. The curtain of this dark drama is beginning to rise; truth will, ere long, be vindicated, justice rendered to the defrauded orphan, and guilt punished.

"A Lover of Justice."

It is very difficult to describe the feelings with which the stranger perused this welcome but mysterious document. To him, it was one of great pleasure, and also of exceedingly great pain. Here was something like a clew, to the discovery which he was so deeply interested in making. But, then, at whose expense was this discovery to be made? He was betrothed to Lucy Gourlay, and here he was compelled by a sense of justice to drag her father forth to public exposure, as a criminal of the deepest dye. What would Lucy say to this? What would she say to the man who should entail the heavy ignominy with which a discovery of this atrocious crime must blacken her father's name. He knew the high and proud principles by which she was actuated, and he knew how deeply the disgrace of a guilty parent would affect her sensitive spirit. Yet what was he to do? Was the iniquity of this ambitious and bad man to deprive the virtuous and benevolent woman--the friend of the poor and destitute, the loving mother, the affectionate wife who had enshrined her departed husband in the sorrowful recesses of her pure and virtuous heart, was this coldblooded and cruel tyrant to work out his diabolical purposes without any effort being made to check him in his career of guilt, or to justify her pious trust in that God to whom she looked for protection and justice? No, he knew Lucy too well; he knew that her extraordinary sense of truth and honor would justify him in the steps he might be forced to take, and that whatever might be the result, he at least was the last man whom she could blame for rendering justice to the widow of her father's brother. But, then again, what reliance could be placed upon anonymous information--information which, after all, was but limited and obscure? Yet it was evident that the writer--a female beyond question--whoever she was, must be perfectly conversant with his motives and his objects. And if in volunteering him directions how to proceed, she had any purpose adversative to his, her note was without meaning. Besides, she only reawakened the suspicion which he himself had entertained with respect to Fenton. At all events, to act upon the hints contained in the note, might lead to something capable of breaking the hitherto impenetrable cloud under which this melancholy transaction lay; and if it failed to do this, he (the stranger) could not possibly stand worse in the estimation of Sir Thomas Gourlay than he did already. In God's name, then, he would make the experiment; and in order to avoid mail-coach adventures in future, he would post it back to Ballytrain as quietly, and with as little observation as possible.

He accordingly ordered Dandy to make such slight preparations as were necessary for their return to that town, and in the meantime he determined to pay another visit to old Dunphy of Constitution Hill.

On arriving at the huckster's, he found him in the backroom, or parlor, to which we have before alluded. The old man's manner was, he thought, considerably changed for the better. He received him with more complacency, and seemed as if he felt something like regret for the harshness of his manner toward him during his first visit.

"Well, sir," said he, "is it fair to ask you, how you have got on in ferritin' out this black business?"

There are some words so completely low and offensive in their own nature, that no matter how kind and honest the intention of the speaker may be, they are certain to vex and annoy those to whom they are applied.

"Ferreting out!" thought the stranger--"what does the old scoundrel mean?" Yet, on second consideration, he could not for the soul of him avoid admitting that, considering the nature of the task he was engaged in, it was by no means an inappropriate illustration.

"No," said he, "we have made no progress, but we still trust that you will enable us to advance a step. I have already told you that we only wish to come at the principals. Their mere instruments we overlook. You seem to be a poor man--but listen to me--if you can give us any assistance in this affair, you shall be an independent one during the remainder of your life. Provided murder has not been committed I guarantee perfect safety to any person who may have only acted under the orders of a superior."

"Take your time," replied the old man, with a peculiar expression. "Did you ever see a river?"

"Of course," replied the other; "why do you ask?"

"Well, now, could you, or any livin' man, make the strame of that river flow faster than its natural course?"

"Certainly not," replied the stranger.

"Well, then--I'm an ould man and be advised by me--don't attempt to hurry the course o' the river. Take things as they come. If there's a man on this earth that's a livin' divil in flesh and blood, it's Sir Thomas Gourlay, the Black Barrownight; and if there's a man livin' that would go half way into hell to punish him, I'm that man. Now, sir, you said, the last day you were here, that you were a gentleman and a man of honor, and I believe you. So these words that have spoken to you about him you will never mention them--you promise that?"

"Of course I can, and do. To what purpose should I mention them?"

"For your own sake, or, I should say, for the sake of the cause you are engaged in, don't do it."

The bitterness of expression which darkened the old man's features, while he spoke of the Baronet, was perfectly diabolical, and threw him back from the good opinion which the stranger was about to form of him, notwithstanding his conduct on the previous day's visit.

"You don't appear to like Sir Thomas," he said. "He is certainly no favorite of yours."

"Like him," replied the old man, bitterly. "He is supposed to be the best friend I have; but little you know the punishment he will get in his heart, sowl, and spirit--little you know what he will be made to suffer yet. Of course now you undherstand, that if I could help you, as you say, to advance a single step in finding the right heir of this property I would do it. As matthers stand now, however, I can do nothing--but I'll tell you what I will do--I'll be on the lookout--I'll ask, seek, and inquire from them that have been about him at the time of the child's disappearance, and if I can get a single particle worth mentionin' to you, you shall have it, if I could only know where a letther would find you."

The cunning, the sagacity, the indefinable twinkle that scintillated from the small, piercing eyes, were too obvious to be overlooked. The stranger instantly felt himself placed, as it were, upon his guard, and he replied,

"It is possible that I may not be in town, and my address is uncertain; but the moment you are in a capacity to communicate any information that may be useful, go to the proper quarter--to Lady Gourlay herself. I understand that a relation of yours lived and died in her service?"

"That's true," said the man, "and a betther mistress never did God put breath in, nor a betther masther than Sir Edward. Well, I will follow your advice, but as for Sir Thomas--no matther, the time's comin'--the river's flowin--and if there's a God in heaven, he will be punished for all his misdeeds--for other things as well as takin' away the child--that is, if he has taken him away. Now, sir, that's all I can say to you at present--for I know nothing about this business. Who can tell, however, but I may ferret out something? It won't be my heart, at any rate, that will hinder me."

There was nothing further now to detain the stranger in town. He accordingly posted it at a rapid rate to Ballytrain, accompanied by Dandy and his dulcimer, who, except during the evenings among the servants in the hotel, had very little opportunity of creating a sensation, as he thought he would have done as an amateur musician in the metropolis.

"Musha, you're welcome back, sir," said Pat Sharpe, on seeing the stranger enter the Mitre; "troth, we were longin' for you, sir. And where is herself, your honor?"

"Whom do you mean, Pat?" said the stranger, sharply.

Pat pointed with his thumb over his shoulder toward Red Hall. "Ah!" he exclaimed, with a laugh, "by my soul I knew you'd manage it well. And troth, I'll drink long life an' happiness an' a sweet honeymoon to yez both, this very night, till the eyes stand in my head. Ah, thin, but she is the darlin', God bless her!"

If a thunderbolt had fallen at his feet, the stranger could not have felt more astonishment; but that is not the word--sorrow--agony--indignation.

"Gracious heaven!" he exclaimed, "what is this? what villanous calumny has gone abroad?"

Here Dandy saw clearly that his master was in distress, and generously resolved to step in to his assistance.

"Paudeen," said he, "you know nothing about this business, my hurler. You're a day before the fair. They're not married yet--but it's as good--so hould your prate about it till the knot's tied--then trumpet it through the town if you like."

The stranger felt that to enter into an altercation with two such persons would be perfect madness, and only make what now appeared to be already too bad, much worse. He therefore said, very calmly,

"Pat, I assure you, that my journey to Dublin had nothing whatsoever to do with Miss Gourlay's. The whole matter was accidental. I know nothing about her; and if any unfortunate reports have gone abroad they are unfounded, and do equal injustice to that lady and to me."

"Divil a thing else, now, Paudeen," said Dandy, with a face full of most villanous mystery--that had runaway and elopement in every line of it--and a tone of voice that would have shamed a couple-beggar--"bad scran to the ha'p'orth happened. So don't be puttin' bad constructions on things too soon. However, there's a good time comin', plaise God--so now, Paudeen, behave yourself, can't you, and don't be vexin' the masther."

"Pat," said the stranger, feeling that the best way to put an end to this most painful conversation was to start a fresh topic, "will you send for Fenton, and say I wish to see him?"

"Fenton, sir!--why, poor Mr. Fenton has been missed out of the town and neighborhood ever since the night you and Miss Gour--I beg pardon--"

"Upon my soul, Paudeen," said Dandy, "I'll knock you down if you say that agin now, afther what the masther an' I said to you. Hang it, can't you have discretion, and keep your tongue widin your teeth, on this business at any rate?"

"Is not Fenton in town?" asked the stranger.

"No, sir; he has neither been seen nor heard of since that night, and the people's beginin' to wonder what has become of him."

Here was a disappointment; just at the moment when he had determined, by seizing upon Fenton, with a view to claim him as the son of the late Sir Edward Gourlay, and the legitimate heir of Red Hall, in order, if it were legally possible, to bring about an investigation into the justice of those claims, it turned out that, as if in anticipation of his designs, the young man either voluntarily disappeared, or else was spirited forcibly away. How to act now he felt himself completely at a loss, but as two heads he knew were better than one, he resolved to see Father M'Mahon, and ask his opinion and advice upon this strange and mysterious occurrence. In the mean time, while he is on the way to visit that amiable and benevolent priest, we shall so far gratify the reader as to throw some light upon the unaccountable disappearance of the unfortunate Fenton. _

Read next: Chapter 16. Conception And Perpetration Of A Diabolical Plot Against Fenton

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

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