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

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

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_ CHAPTER XVI. Conception and Perpetration of a Diabolical Plot against Fenton

Sir Thomas Gourlay was a man prompt and inexorable in following up his resolutions. On the night of Lucy's flight from Red Hall, he had concocted a plan which it was not his intention to put in execution for a day or two, as he had by no means made up his mind in what manner to proceed with it. On turning over the matter, however, a second time in his thoughts, and comparing the information which he had received from Crackenfudge respecting the stranger, and the allusion to the toothpick manufacturer, he felt morally certain that Fenton was his brother's son, and that by some means or other unknown to him he had escaped from the asylum in which he had been placed, and by some unaccountable fatality located himself in the town of Ballytrain, which, in fact, was a portion of his inheritance.

"I am wrong," thought he, "in deferring this project. There is not a moment to be lost. Some chance incident, some early recollection, even a sight of myself--for he saw me once or twice, to his cost--may awaken feelings which, by some unlucky association, might lead to a discovery. Curse on the cowardly scoundrel, Corbet, that did not take my hint, and put him at once and forever out of my path, sight, and hearing. But he had scruples, forsooth; and here now is the serpent unconsciously crossing my path. This is the third time he has escaped and broken out of bounds. Upon the two former I managed him myself, without a single witness; and, but that I had lost my own child--and there is a mystery I cannot penetrate--I would have--"

Here he rang the bell, and a servant entered.

"Send up Gillespie."

The servant, as usual, bowed, and Gillespie entered.

"Gillespie, there is a young fellow in Ballytrain, named--Fenton, I think?"

"Yes, your honor; he is half-mad, or whole mad, as a good many people think."

"I am told he is fond of liquor."

"He is seldom sober, Sir Thomas."

"Will you go into Ballytrain, and try to see him? But first see the butler, and desire him, by my orders, to give you a bottle of whiskey. I don't mean this moment, sirra," he said, for Gillespie was proceeding to take him instantly at his word.

"Listen, sir. See Fenton--lure him as quietly and secretly as you can out of town--bring him into some remote nook--"

"Sir Thomas, I beg your pardon," exclaimed Gillespie, getting pale; "if you mean that I should--"

"Silence, sir," replied the baronet, in his sternest and deepest voice; "hear me; bring him, if you can, to some quiet place, where you will both be free from observation; then produce your bottle and glass, and ply him with liquor until you have him drunk."

"It's very likely that I'll find him drunk as it is, sir; he is seldom otherwise."

"So much the better; you will have the less trouble. Well, when you have him sufficiently drunk, bring him to the back gate of the garden, which you will find unlocked; lodge him in the tool-house, ply him with more liquor, until he becomes helpless. In the meantime, lock the back gate after you--here is the key, which you can keep in your pocket. Having left him in the tool-house--in a sufficiently helpless state, mark--lock him in, put that key in your pocket, also; then get my travelling carriage ready, put to the horses, and when all this is done, come to me here; I shall then instruct you how and where to proceed. I shall also accompany you myself to the town of ------, after which you shall take a post-chaise, and proceed with this person to the place of his destination. Let none of the servants see you; and remember we are not to start from the garden gate until about twelve o'clock, or later."

Gillespie promised compliance, and, in fact, undertook the business with the greater alacrity, on hearing that there was to be a bottle of whiskey in the case. As he was leaving the room, however, Sir Thomas called him back, and said, with a frown which nobody could misunderstand, "Harkee, Gillespie, keep yourself strictly sober, and--oh yes, I had nearly forgotten it--try if there is a hard scar, as if left by a wound, under his chin, to the left side; and if you find none, have nothing to do with him. You understand, now, all I require of you?"

"Perfectly, your honor. But I may not be able to find this Fenton."

"That won't be your own fault, you must only try another time, when you may have better success. Observe, however, that if there is no scar under the left side of his chin, you are to let him pass--he is not the person in whom I feel interested, and whom I am determined to serve, if I can--even against his wishes. He is, I believe, the son of an old friend, and I will endeavor to have him restored to the perfect use of his reason, if human skill can effect it."

"That's very kind of you, Sir Thomas, and very few would do it," replied Gillespie, as he left the apartment, to fulfil his execrable mission.

Gillespie having put the bottle of strong spirits into his pocket, wrapped a great coat about him, and, by a subsequent hint from Sir Thomas, tied a large handkerchief across his face, in order the better to conceal his features, and set out on his way to Ballytrain.

It may be remarked with truth, that the projects of crime are frequently aided by those melancholy but felicitous contingencies, which, though unexpected and unlooked for, are calculated to enable the criminal to effect his wicked purposes with more facility and less risk. Gillespie, on the occasion in question, not only met Fenton within a short distance of the town, and in a lonely place, but also found him far advanced in a state of intoxication.

"Is this Mr. Fenton?" said he. "How do you do, Mr. Fenton? A beautiful night, sir."

"Yes, sir," replied the unfortunate young man; "it is Mr. Fenton, and you are a gentleman. Some folks now take the liberty of calling me Fenton, which is not only impudently familiar and ridiculous, but a proof that they do not know how to address a gentleman."

"You are leaving the town, it seems, Mr. Fenton?"

"Yes, there's a wake down in Killyfaddy, where there will be a superfluity, sir, of fun; and I like to see fun and sorrow associated. They harmonize, my friend--they concatenate."

"Mr. Fenton," proceeded Gillespie, "you are a young gentleman--"

"Yes, sir, that's the term. I am a gentleman. What can I do for you? I have rare interest among the great and powerful."

"I don't at all doubt it," replied Gillespie; "but I was go in' to say, sir, that you are a young gentleman that I have always respected very highly."

"Thanks, my friend, thanks."

"If it wouldn't be takin' a liberty, I'd ask a favor of you."

"Sir, you are a gentleman, and it should be granted. Name it."

"The night, sir, although a fine enough night, is a little sharp, for all that. Now, I happen to have a sup of as good liquor in my pocket as ever went down the red lane, and if we could only get a quiet sheltering spot, behind one of these ditches, we could try its pulse between us."

"The project is good and hospitable," replied poor Fenton, "and has my full concurrence."

"Well, then, sir," said the other, "will you be so good as to come along with me, and we'll make out some snug spot where I'll have the pleasure of drinkin' your honor's health."

"Good again," replied the unlucky dupe; "upon my soul you're an excellent fellow; Proceed, I attend you. The liquor's good, you say?"

"Betther was never drank, your honor."

"Very well, sir, I believe you. We shall soon, however, put the truth of that magnificent assertion to the test; and besides, sir, it will be an honor for you to share your bottle with a gentleman."

In a few minutes they reached a quiet little dell, by which there led a private pathway, open only to the inmates of Red Hall when passing to or from the town, and which formed an agreeable and easy shortcut when any hurried message was necessary. This path came out upon an old road which ran behind the garden, and joined the larger thoroughfare, about a quarter of a mile beyond it.

In a sheltered little cul de sac, between two white-thorn hedges, they took their seats; and Gillespie having pulled out his bottle and glass, began to ply the luckless young man with the strong liquor. And an easy task he found it; for Fenton resembled thousands, who, when the bounds of moderation are once passed, know not when to restrain themselves. It would be both painful and disagreeable to dwell upon the hellish iniquity of this merciless and moral murder; it is enough to say that, having reduced the young man to the precise condition which was necessary for his purpose, this slavish and unprincipled ruffian, as Delahunt did with his innocent victim, deliberately put his hand to his throat, or, rather, to the left side of his neck, and there found beyond all doubt a large welt, or cicatrice, precisely as had been described by Sir Thomas. After the space of about two hours--for Gillespie was anxious to prolong the time as much as possible--he assisted Fenton, now unable to walk without support, and completely paralyzed in his organs of speech, along the short and solitary path to the back gate of the garden.. He opened it, dragged Fenton in like a dog whom he was about to hang, but still the latter seemed disposed to make some unconscious and instinctive resistance. It was to no purpose, however. The poor young man was incapable of resistance, either by word or deed. In a short time they reached the tool-house, where he threw Fenton on a heap of apples, like a bag, and left him to lie in cold and darkness, as if he were some noxious animal, whom it would be dangerous to set at large. He then locked the door, put the key in his pocket, and went to acquaint the baronet with the success of his mission.

The latter, on understanding from Gillespie that Fenton was not only secured, but that his suspicions as to his identity were correct, desired him to have the carriage ready in the course of about an hour. He had already written a letter, containing a liberal enclosure, to the person into whose merciless hands he was about to commit him. In the meantime, it is impossible to describe the confused character of his feelings--the tempest, the tornado of passions, that swept through his dark and ambitious spirit.

"This is the third time," he thought to himself, as he paced the room in such a state of stormy agitation as reacted upon himself, and tilled him with temporary alarm. His heart beat powerfully, his pulsations were strong and rapid, and his brain felt burning and tumultuous. Occasional giddiness also seized him, accompanied by weakness about the knee-joints, and hoarseness in the throat. In fact, once or twice he felt as if he were about to fall. In this state he hastily gulped down two or three large glasses of Madeira, which was his favorite wine, and he felt his system more intensely strung.

"That woman," said he, alluding to Lady Gourlay, "has taken her revenge by destroying my son. There can be no doubt of that. And what now prevents me from crushing this viper forever? If my daughter were not with me, it should be done; yes, I would do it silently and secretly, ay, and surely, with my own hand. I would have blood for blood. What, however, if the mur--if the act came to light! Then I must suffer; my daughter is involved in my infamy, and all my dreams for her aggrandizement come to worse than nothing. But I know not how it is, I fear that girl. Her moral ascendency, as they call it, is so dreadful to me, that I often feel as if I hated her. What right has she to subjugate a spirit like mine, by the influence of her sense of honor and her virtuous principles? or to school me to my face by her example? I am not a man disposed to brook inferiority, yet she sometimes makes me feel as if I were a monster. However, she is a fool, and talks of happiness as if it were anything but a chimera or a dream. Is she herself happy? I would be glad to see the mortal that is. Do her virtues make her happy? No. Then where is the use of this boasted virtue, if it will not procure that happiness after which all are so eager in pursuit, but which none has ever yet attained? Was Christ, who is said to have been spotless, happy? No; he was a man of sorrows. Away, then, with this cant of virtue. It is a shadow, a deception; a thing, like religion, that has no existence, but takes our senses, our interests, and our passions, and works with them under its own mask. Yet why am I afraid of my daughter? and why do I, in my heart, reverence her as a being so far superior to myself? Why is it that I could murder--ay, murder--this worthless object that thrust himself, or would thrust himself, or might thrust himself, between me and the hereditary honors of my name, were it not that her very presence, if I did it, would, I feel, overpower and paralyze me with a sense of my guilt? Yet I struck her--I struck her; but her spirit trampled mine in the dust--she humiliated me. Away! I am not like other men. Yet for her sake this miserable wretch shall live. I will not imbrue my hands in his blood, but shall place him where he will never cross me more. It is one satisfaction to me, and security besides, that he knows neither his real name nor lineage; and now he shall enter this establishment under a new one. As for Lucy, she shall be Countess of Cullamore, if she or I should die for it."

He then swallowed another glass of wine, and was about to proceed to the stables, when a gentle tap came to the door, and Gillespie presented himself.

"All's ready, your honor."

"Very well, Gillespie. I shall go with you to see that all is right, In the course of a few minutes will you bring the carriage round to the back gate? The horses are steady, and will remain there while we conduct him down to it. Have you a dark lantern?"

"I have, your honor."

Both then proceeded toward the stables. The baronet perceived that everything was correct; and having seen Gillespie, who was his coachman, mount the seat, he got into the carriage, and got out again at the door of the tool-house, where poor Fenton lay. After unlocking the door, for he had got the key from Gillespie, he entered, and cautiously turning the light of the lantern in the proper direction, discovered his unhappy victim, stretched cold and apparently lifeless.

Alas, what a melancholy picture lay before him! Stretched upon some apples that were scattered over the floor, he found the unhappy young man in a sleep that for the moment resembled the slumber of the dead. His hat had fallen off, and on his pale and emaciated temples seemed indeed to dwell the sharp impress of approaching death. It appeared, nevertheless, that his rest had not been by any means unbroken, nor so placid as it then appeared to be; for the baronet could observe that he must have been weeping in his sleep, as his eyelids were surcharged with tears that had not yet had time to dry. The veins in his temples were blue, and as fine as silk; and over his whole countenance was spread an expression of such hopeless sorrow and misery as was sufficient to soften the hardest heart that ever beat in human bosom. One touch of nature came over even that of the baronet. "No," said he, "I could not take his life. The family likeness is obvious, and the resemblance to his cousin Lucy is too strong to permit me to shed his blood; but I will secure him so that he shall never cross my path again. He will not, however, cross it long," he added to himself, after another pause, "for the stamp of death is upon his face."

Gillespie now entered, and seizing Fenton, dragged him up upon his legs, the baronet in the meantime turning the light of |the lantern aside. The poor fellow, being properly neither asleep nor awake, made no resistance, and without any trouble they brought him down to the back gate, putting him into the coach, Sir Thomas entering with him, and immediately drove off, about half-past twelve at night, their victim having fallen asleep again almost as soon as he entered the carriage.

The warmth of the carriage, and the comfort of its cushioned sides and seat occasioned his sleep to become more natural and refreshing. The consequence was, that he soon began to exhibit symptoms of awakening. At first he groaned deeply, as if under the influence of physical pain, or probably from the consciousness of some apprehension arising from the experience of what he had already suffered. By and by the groan subsided to a sigh, whose expression was so replete with misery and dread, that it might well have touched and softened any heart. As yet, however, the fumes of intoxication had not departed, and his language was so mingled with the feeble delirium resulting from it, and the terrors arising from the situation in which he felt himself placed, that it was not only wild and melancholy by turns, but often scarcely intelligible. Still it was evident that one great apprehension absorbed all his other thoughts and sensations, and seemed, whilst it lasted, to bury him in the darkness of despair.

"Hold!" he exclaimed; "where am I?--what is this? Let me see, or, rather, let me feel where I am, for that is the more appropriate expression, considering that I am in utter obscurity. What is this, I ask again? Is my hospitable friend with me? he with whom I partook of that delicious liquor under 'the greenwood-tree'?"

He then searched about, and in doing so his hands came necessarily in contact with the bulky person of the baronet. "What!" he proceeded, supposing still that it was Gillespie, "is this you, my friend?--but I take that fact for granted. Sir, you are a gentleman, and know how to address a gentleman with proper respect; but how is this, you have on your hat? Sir, you forget yourself--uncover, and remember you are in my presence."

As he uttered the words, he seized the baronet's hat, tore it forcibly off, and, in doing so, accidentally removed a mask which that worthy gentleman had taken the precaution to assume, in order to prevent himself from being recognized.

"Ha!" exclaimed Fenton, with something like a shriek--"a mask! Oh, my God! This mysterious enemy is upon me! I am once more caught in his toils! What have I done to deserve this persecution? I am innocent of all offence--all guilt. My life has been one of horror and of suffering indescribable, but not of crime; and although they say I am insane, I know there is a God above who will render me justice, and my oppressor justice, and who knows that I have given offence to none.

There is a bird that sings alone--heigh ho!
And every note is but a tone of woe.
Heigh ho!"

The baronet grasped his wrist tightly with one hand--and both feeble and attenuated was that poor wrist--the baronet, we say, grasped it, and in an instant had regained possession of the mask, which he deliberately replaced on his face, after which he seized the unfortunate young man by the neck, and pressed it with such force as almost to occasion suffocation. Still he (Sir Thomas) uttered not a syllable, a circumstance which in the terrified mind of his unhappy victim caused his position as well as that of his companion to assume a darker, and consequently a more terrible mystery.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, in a low and trembling voice, "I know you now. You are the stranger who came to stop in the 'Mitre.' Yes, you came down to stop in the 'Mitre.' I know you by your strong grasp. I care not, however, for your attempt to strangle me. I forgive you--I pardon you; and I will tell you why--treat me as violently as you may--I feel that there is goodness in your face, and mercy in your heart. But I did see a face, one day, in the inn," he added, in a voice that gradually became quite frantic--"a face that was dark, damnable, and demoniac--oh, oh! may God of heaven ever preserve me from seeing that face again!" he exclaimed, shuddering wildly. "Open me up the shrouded graves, my friend; I will call you so notwithstanding what has happened, for I still think you are a gentleman; open me up, I say, the shrouded graves--set me among the hideous dead, in all their ghastly and loathsome putrefaction--lay me side by side with the sweltering carcass of the gibbeted murderer--give me such a vision, and expose me to the anger of the Almighty when raging in his vengeance; or, if there be a pitch of horror still beyond this, then I say--mark me, my friend--then I say, open me up all hell at full work--hissing, boiling, bubbling, scalding, roasting, frying, scorching, blazing, burning, but ever-consuming hell, sir, I say, in full operation--the whole dark and penal machinery in full play--open it up--there they are--the yell, the scream, the blasphemy, the shout, the torture, the laughter of despair--with the pleasing consciousness that all this is to be eternal; hark ye, sir, open me up a view of this aforesaid spectacle upon the very brow of perdition, and having allowed me time to console myself by a contemplation of it, fling me, soul and body, into the uttermost depths of its howling tortures; do any or all of these things, sooner than let me have a sight of that face again--it bears such a terrible resemblance to that which blighted me."

He then paused for a little, and seemed as if about to sink into a calmer and more thoughtful mood--at least the baronet inferred as much from his silence. The latter still declined to speak, for he felt perfectly aware, from this incoherent outburst, that although Fenton had seen him only two or three times, many years ago, when the unfortunate young man was scarcely a boy, yet he had often heard his voice, and he consequently avoided every possibility of giving the former a clew to his identity. At length Fenton broke silence.

"What was I saying?" he asked. "Did I talk of that multitudinous limbo called hell? Well, who knows, perhaps there may be a general jail delivery there yet; but talking of the thing, I assure you, sir, I feel a portion of its tortures. Like Dives--no, not like the rich and hardened glutton--I resemble him in nothing but my sufferings. Oh! a drink, a drink--water, water--my tongue, my mouth, my throat, my blood, my brain, are all on fire?"

Oh, false ambition, to what mean and despicable resources, to what low and unscrupulous precautions dost thou stoop in order to accomplish thy selfish, dishonest, and heartless designs! The very gratification of this expected thirst had been provided for and anticipated. As Fenton spoke, the baronet took from one of the coach pockets a large flask of spirits and water, which he instantly, but without speaking, placed in the scorching wretch's hands, who without a moment's hesitation, put it to his lips and emptied it at one long, luxurious draught.

"Thanks, friend," he then exclaimed; "I have been agreeably mistaken in you, I find. You are--you must be--no other than my worthy host of the 'Hedge.' Poor Dives! D--n the glutton; after all, I pity him, and would fain hope that he has got relief by this time. As for Lazarus, I fear that his condition in life was no better than it deserved. If he had been a trump, now, and anxious to render good for evil, he would have dropped a bottle of aquapura to the suffering glutton, for if worthy Dives did nothing else, he fed the dogs that licked the old fellow's sores. Fie, for shame, old Lazarus, d--n me, if I had you back again, but we'd teach you sympathy for Dives; and how so, my friend of the hawthorn--why, we'd send him to the poor-house,* or if that wouldn't do, to the mad-house--to the mad-house. Oh, my God--my God! what is this? Where are you bringing me, sir? but I know--I feel it--this destiny that's over me!"

* It is to be presumed, that Fenton speaks here from his English experience. We find no poor-houses at the time.

He again became silent for a time, but during the pause, we need scarcely say, that the pernicious draught began to operate with the desired effect.

"That mask," he then added, as if speaking to himself, "bodes me nothing but terror and persecution, and all this in a Christian country, where there are religion and laws--at least, they say so--as for raypart, I could never discover them. However, it matters not, let us clap a stout heart to a steep brae, and we may jink them and blink them yet; that's all.

There was a little bird, a very little bird,
And a very little bird was he;
And he sang his little song all the summer day long,
On a branch of the fair green-wood tree.
Heigh ho!"

This little touch of melody, which he sang to a sweet and plaintive air, seemed to produce a feeling of mournfulness and sorrow in his spirit, for although the draught he had taken was progressing fast in its operations upon his intellect, still it only assumed a new and more affecting shape, and occasioned that singular form and ease of expression which may be observed in many under the influence of similar stimulants.

"Well," he proceeded, "I will soon go home; that is one consolation! There is a sickness, my friend, whoever you are, at my heart here, and in what does that sickness consist? I will tell you--in the memory of some beautiful dreams that I had when a child or little-boy: I remember something about green fields, groves, dark mountains, and summer rivers flowing sweetly by. This now, to be sure, is a feeling which but few can understand. It is called homesickness, and assumes different aspects, my worthy friend. Sometimes it is a yearning after immortality, which absorbs and consumes the spirit, and then we die and go to enjoy that which we have pined for. Now, my worthy mute friend, mark me, in my case the malady is not so exalted. I only want my green fields, my dark mountains, my early rivers, with liberty to tread them for a brief space. There lies over them in my imagination--there does, my worthy and most taciturn friend, upon my soul there does--a golden light so clear, so pure, so full of happiness, that I question whether that of heaven itself will surpass it in radiance. But now I am caged once more, and will never see anything even like them again."

The poor young man then wept for a couple of minutes, after which he added, "Yes, sir, this is at once my malady and my hope. You see, then, I am not worth a plot, nor would it be a high-minded or honorable act for any gentleman to conspire against one who is nobody's enemy, but appears to have all the world against him. Yes, and they thought when I used to get into my silent moods that I was mad. No, but I was in heaven, enjoying, as I said, my mountains, my rivers, and my green fields. I was in heaven, I say, and walked in the light of heaven, for I was a little boy once more, and saw its radiance upon them, as I used to do long ago. But do you know what occurs to me this moment, most taciturn?" He added, after a short pause, being moved, probably, by one of those quick and capricious changes to which both the intoxicated and insane are proverbially liable: "It strikes me, that you probably are descended from the man in the iron mask--ha--ha--ha! Or stay, was there ever such a thing in this benevolent and humane world of ours as a man with an iron heart? If so, who knows, then, but you may date your ancestry from him? Ay, right enough; we are in a coach, I think, and going--going--going to--to--to--ah, where to? I know--oh, my God--we are going to--to--to----" and here poor Fenton once more fell asleep, as was evident by his deep but oppressive breathing.

Now the baronet, although he maintained a strict silence during their journey, a silence which it was not his intention to break, made up for this cautious taciturnity by thought and those reflections which originated from his designs upon Fenton. He felt astonished, in the first place, at the measures, whatever they might have been, by which the other must have obtained means of escaping from the asylum to which he had been committed with such strict injunctions as to his secure custody. It occurred to him, therefore, that by an examination of his pockets he might possibly ascertain some clew to this circumstance, and as the man was not overburdened with much conscience or delicacy, he came to the determination, as Fenton was once more dead asleep, to search for and examine whatever papers he should find about him, if any. For this purpose he ignited a match--such as they had in those days--and with this match lit up a small dark lantern, the same to which we have already alluded. Aided by its light, he examined the sleeping young man's pockets, in which he felt very little, in the shape of either money or papers, that could compensate him for this act of larceny. In a breast-pocket, however, inside his waistcoat, he found pinned to the lining a note--a pound note--on the back of which was jotted a brief memorandum of the day on which it was written, and the person from whom he had received it. To this was added a second memorandum, in the following words: "Mem. This note may yet be useful to myself if I could get a sincere friend that would find out the man whose name--Thomas Skipton--is written here upon it. He is the man I want, for I know his signature."

No sooner had the baronet read these lines, than he examined the several names on the note, and on coming to one which was underlined evidently by the same ink that was used by Fenton in the memoranda, his eyes gleamed with delight, and he waved it to and fro with a grim and hideous triumph, such as the lurid light of his foul principles flashing through such eyes, and animating such features as his, could only express.

"Unhappy wretch," thought he, looking upon his unconscious victim, "it is evident that you are doomed; this man is the only individual living over whom I have no control, that could give any trace of you; neither of the other two, for their own sakes, dare speak. Even fate is against you; that fate which has consigned this beggarly representative of wealth to my hands, through your own instrumentality. I now feel confident; nay, I am certain that my projects will and must succeed. The affairs of this world are regulated unquestionably by the immutable decrees of destiny. What is to be will be; and I, in putting this wretched, drunken, mad, and besotted being out of my way, am only an instrument in the hands of that destiny myself. The blame then is not mine, but that of the law which constrains--forces me to act the part I am acting, a part which was allotted to me from the beginning; and this reflection fills me with consolation."

He then re-examined the note, put it into a particular fold of his pocket-book which had before been empty, in order to keep it distinct, and once more thrusting it into his pocket, buttoned it carefully up, extinguished the lantern, and laid himself back in the corner of the carriage, in which position he reclined, meditating upon the kind partiality of destiny in his favor, the virtuous tendencies of his own ambition, and the admirable, because successful, means by which he was bringing them about.

In this manner they proceeded until they reached the entrance of the next town, when the baronet desired Gillespie to stop. "Go forward," said he, "and order a chaise and pair without delay. I think, however, you will find them ready for you; and if Corbet is there, desire him to return with you. He has already had his instructions. I am sick of this work, Gillespie; and I assure you it is not for the son of a common friend that I would forego my necessary rest, to sit at such an hour with a person who is both mad and drunk. What is friendship, however, if we neglect its duties? Care and medical skill may enable this unfortunate young man to recover his reason, and take a respectable position in the world yet. Go now and make no delay. I shall take charge of this poor fellow and the horses until you return. But, mark me, my name is not to be breathed to mortal, under a penalty that you will find a dreadful one, should you incur it."

"Never fear, your honor," replied Gillespie; "I am not the man to betray trust; and indeed, few gentlemen of your rank, as I said, would go so far for the son of an auld friend. I'll lose no time, Sir Thomas." Sir Thomas, we have had occasion to say more than once, was quick and energetic in all his resolutions, and beyond doubt, the fact that Gillespie found Corbet ready and expecting him on this occasion, fully corroborates our opinion.

Indeed, it was his invariable habit, whenever he found that more than one agent or instrument was necessary, to employ them, as far as was possible, independently of each other. For instance, he had not at all communicated to Gillespie the fact of his having engaged Corbet in the matter, nor had the former any suspicion of it until he now received the first hint from Sir Thomas himself. A chaise and pair in less than five minutes drove gently, but with steady pace, back to the spot where the baronet stood at the head of his horses, watching the doors of the carriage on each side every quarter of a minute, lest by any possible chance his victim might escape him. Of this, however, there was not the slightest danger; poor Fenton's sleep, like that of almost all drunken men, having had in it more of stupor than of ordinary and healthful repose.

We have informed our readers that the baronet was not without a strong tinge of superstition, notwithstanding his religious infidelity, and his belief in the doctrine of fate and necessity. On finding himself alone at that dead and dreary hour of the night--half-past two--standing under a shady range of tall trees that met across the road, and gave a character of extraordinary gloom and solitude to the place, he began to experience that vague and undefined terror which steals over the mind from an involuntary apprehension of the supernatural. A singular degree of uneasiness came over him: he coughed, he hemmed, in order to break the death-like stillness in which he stood. He patted the horses, he rubbed his hand down their backs, but felt considerable surprise and terror on finding that they both trembled, and seemed by their snorting and tremors to partake of his own sensations. Under such terrors there is nothing that extinguishes a man's courage so much as the review of an ill-spent life, or the reproaches of an evil conscience. Sir Thomas Gourlay could not see and feel, for the moment, the criminal iniquity of his black and ungodly ambition, and the crimes into which it involved him. Still, the consciousness of the flagitious project in which he was engaged against the unoffending son of his brother, the influence of the hour, and the solitude in which he stood, together with the operation upon his mind of some unaccountable fear apart from that of personal violence--all, when united, threw him into a commotion that resulted from such a dread as intimated that something supernatural must be near him. He was seized by a violent shaking of the limbs, the perspiration burst from every pore; and as he patted the horses a second time for relief, he again perceived that their terrors were increasing and keeping pace with his own. At length, his hair fairly stood, and his excitement was nearly as high as excitement of such a merely ideal character could go, when he thought he heard a step--a heavy, solemn, unearthly step--that sounded as if there was something denouncing and judicial in the terrible emphasis with which it went to his heart, or rather to his conscience. Without having the power to restrain himself, he followed with his eyes this symbolical tread as it seemed to approach the coach door on the side at which he stood. This was the more surprising and frightful, as, although he heard the tramp, yet he could for the moment see nothing in the shape of either figure or form, from which he could resolve what he had heard into a natural sound. At length, as he stood almost dissolved in terror, he thought that an indistinct, or rather an unsubstantial figure stood at the carriage-door, looked in for a moment, and then bent his glance at him, with a severe and stem expression; after which, it began to rub out or efface a certain portion of the armorial bearings, which he had added to his heraldic coat in right of his wife. The noise of the chaise approaching now reached his ears, and he turned as a relief to ascertain if Gillespie and Corbet were near him. As far as he could judge, they were about a couple of hundred yards off, and this discovery recalled his departed courage; he turned his eyes once more to the carriage-door, but to his infinite relief could perceive nothing. A soft, solemn, mournful blast, however, somewhat like a low moan, amounting almost to a wail, crept through the trees under which he stood; and after it had subsided--whether it was fact or fancy cannot now be known--he thought he heard the same step slowly, and, as it were with a kind of sorrowful anger, retreating in the distance.

"If mortal spirit," he exclaimed as they approached, "ever was permitted to return to this earth, that form was the spirit of my mortal brother. This, however," he added, but only in thought, when they came up to him, and after he had regained his confidence by their presence, "this is all stuff--nothing but solitude and its associations acting upon the nerves; thus enabling us, as we think, to see the very forms created only by our fears, and which, apart from them, have no existence."

The men and the chaise were now with him--Gillespie on horseback, that is to say, he was to bring back the same animal on which Sir Thomas had secretly despatched Corbet from Red Hall to the town of ------, for the purpose of having the chaise ready, and conducting Fenton to his ultimate destination. The poor young man's transfer from the carriage to the chaise was quickly and easily effected. Several large flasks of strong spirits and water were also transferred along with him.

"Now, Corbet," observed Sir Thomas apart to him, "you have full instructions how to act; and see that you carry them out to the letter. You will find no difficulty in keeping this person in a state of intoxication all the way. Go back to ------, engage old Bradbury to drive the chaise, for, although deaf and stupid, he is an excellent driver. Change the chaise and horses, however, as often as you can, so as that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to trace the route you take. Give Benson, who, after all, is the prince of mad doctors, the enclosure which you have in the blank cover; and tell him, he shall have an annuity to the same amount, whether this fellow lives or dies. Mark me, Corbet--whether his charge lives or dies. Repeat these words to him twice, as I have done to you. Above all things, let him keep him safe--safe--safe. Remember, Corbet, that our family have been kind friends to yours. I, therefore, have trusted you all along in this matter, and calculate upon your confidence as a grateful and honest man, as well as upon your implicit obedience to every order I have given you. I myself shall drive home the carriage; and when we get near Red Hall, Gillespie can ride forward, have his horse put up, and the stable and coachhouse doors open, so that everything tomorrow morning may look as if no such expedition had taken place."

They then separated; Corbet to conduct poor Fenton to his dreary cell in a mad-house, and Sir Thomas to seek that upon which, despite his most ambitious projects, he had been doomed all his life to seek after in vain--rest on an uneasy pillow. _

Read next: Chapter 17. A Scene In Jemmy Trailcudgel's

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

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