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

Chapter 17. A Scene In Jemmy Trailcudgel's

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_ CHAPTER XVII. A Scene in Jemmy Trailcudgel's

--Retributive Justice, or the Robber robbed.

In the days of which we write, travelling was a very different process from what it is at present. Mail-coaches and chaises were the only vehicles then in requisition, with the exception of the awkward gingles, buggies, and other gear of that nondescript class which were peculiar to the times, and principally confined to the metropolis. The result of this was, that travellers, in consequence of the slow jog-trot motion of those curious and inconvenient machines, were obliged, in order to transact their business with something like due dispatch, to travel both by night and day. In this case, as in others, the cause produced the effect; or rather, we should say, the temptation occasioned the crime. Highway-robbery was frequent; and many a worthy man--fat farmer and wealthy commoner--was eased of his purse in despite of all his armed precautions and the most sturdy resistance. The poorer classes, in every part of the country, were, with scarcely an exception, the friends of those depredators; by whom, it is true, they were aided against oppression, and assisted in their destitution, as a compensation for connivance and shelter whenever the executive authorities were in pursuit of them. Most of these robberies, it is true, were the result of a loose and disorganized state of society, and had their direct origin from oppressive and unequal laws, badly or partially administered. Robbery, therefore, in its general character, was caused, not so much by poverty, as from a desperate hatred of those penal statutes which operated for punishment but not for protection. Our readers may not feel surprised, then, when we assure them that the burgler and highway-robber looked upon this infamous habit as a kind of patriotic and political profession, rather than a crime; and it is well known that within the last century the sons of even decent farmers were bound apprentices to this flagitious craft, especially to that of horse stealing, which was then reduced to a system of most extraordinary ingenuity and address. Still, there were many poor wretches who, sunk in the deepest destitution, and contaminated by a habit which familiarity had deprived in their eyes of much of its inherent enormity, scrupled not to relieve their distresses by having recourse to the prevalent usage of the country.

Having thrown out these few preparatory observations, we request our readers to follow us to the wretched cabin of a man whose nom de guerre was that of Jemmy Trailcudgel--a name that was applied to him, as the reader may see, in consequence of the peculiar manner in which he carried the weapon aforesaid. Trailcudgel was a man of enormous personal strength and surprising courage, and had distinguished himself as the leader of many a party and faction fight in the neighboring fairs and markets. He had been, not many years before, in tolerably good circumstances, as a tenant under Sir Thomas Gourlay; and as that gentleman had taken it into his head that his tenantry were bound, as firmly as if there had been a clause to that effect in their leases, to bear patiently and in respectful silence, the imperious and ribald scurrility which in a state of resentment, he was in the habit of pouring upon them, so did he lose few opportunities of making them feel, for the most-trivial causes, all the irresponsible insolence of the strong and vindictive tyrant. Now, Jemmy Trailcudgel was an honest man, whom every one liked; but he was also a man of spirit, whom, in another sense, most people feared. Among his family he was a perfect child in affection and tenderness--loving, playful, and simple as one of themselves. Yet this man, affectionate, brave, and honest, because he could not submit in silence and without vindication, to the wanton and overbearing violence of his landlord, was harassed by a series of persecutions, under the pretended authority of law, until he and his unhappy family were driven to beggary--almost to despair.

"Trailcudgel," said Sir Thomas to him one day that he had sent for him in a fury, "by what right and authority, sirra, did you dare to cut turf on that part of the bog called Berwick's Bank?"

"Upon the right and authority of my lease, Sir Thomas," replied Trailcudgel; "and with great respect, sir, you had neither right nor authority for settin' my bog, that I'm payin' you rent for, to another tenant."

The baronet grew black in the face, as he always did when in a passion, and especially when replied to.

"You are a lying scoundrel, sirra," continued the other; "the bog does not belong to you, and I will set it to the devil if I like."

"I know nobody so fit to be your tenant," replied Trailcudgel. "But I am no scoundrel, Sir Thomas," added the independent fellow, "and there's very few dare tell me so but yourself."

"What, you villain! do you contradict me? do you bandy words and looks with me?" asked the baronet, his rage deepening at Trailcudgel's audacity in having replied at all.

"Villain!" returned his gigantic tenant, in a voice of thunder. "You called me a scoundrel, sirra, and you have called me a villain, sirra, now I tell you to your teeth, you're a liar--I am neither villain nor scoundrel; but you're both; and if I hear another word of insolence out of your foul and lying mouth, I'll thrash you as I would a shafe of whate or oats."

The black hue of the baronet's rage changed to a much modester tint; he looked upon the face of the sturdy yeoman, now flushed with honest resentment; he looked upon the eye that was kindled at once into an expression of resolution and disdain; and turning on his toe, proceeded at a pace by no means funereal to the steps of the hall-door, and having ascended them, he turned round and said, in a very mild and quite a gentlemanly tone,

"Oh, very well, Mr. Trailcudgel; very well, indeed. I have a memory, Mr. Trailcudgel--I have a memory. Good morning!"

"Betther for you to have a heart," replied Trailcudgel; "what you never had."

Having uttered these words he departed, conscious at the same time, from his knowledge of his landlord's unrelenting malignity, that his own fate was sealed, and his ruin accomplished. And he was right. In the course of four years after their quarrel, Trailcudgel found himself, and his numerous family, in the scene of destitution to which we are about to conduct the indulgent reader.

We pray you, therefore, gentle reader, to imagine yourself in a small cabin, where there are two beds--that is to say, two scanty portions of damp straw, spread out thinly upon a still damper foot of earth, in a portion of which the foot sinks when walking over it. The two beds--each what is termed a shake down--have barely covering enough to preserve the purposes of decency, but not to communicate the usual and necessary warmth. In consequence of the limited area of the cabin floor they are not far removed from each other. Upon a little three-legged stool, between them, burns a dim rush candle, whose light is so exceedingly feeble that it casts ghastly and death-like shadows over the whole inside of the cabin. That family consists of nine persons, of whom five are lying ill of fever, as the reader, from the nature of their bedding, may have already anticipated--for we must observe here, that the epidemic was rife at the time. Food of any description has not been under that roof for more than twenty-four hours. They are all in bed but one. A low murmur, that went to the heart of that one, with a noise which seemed to it louder and more terrible than the deepest peal that ever thundered through the firmament of heaven--a low murmur, we say, of this description, arose from the beds, composed of those wailing sounds that mingle together as they proceed from the lips of weakness, pain, and famine, until they form that many-toned, incessant, and horrible voice of multiplied misery, which falls upon the ear with the echoes of the grave, and upon the heart as something wonderful in the accents of God, or, as we may suppose the voice of the accusing angel to be, whilst recording before His throne the official inhumanity of councils and senates, who harden their hearts and shut their ears to "the cry of the poor."

Seated upon a second little stool was a man of huge stature, clothed, if we can say I so, with rags, contemplating the misery around him, and having no sounds to listen to but the low, ceaseless wail of pain and suffering which we have described. His features, once manly and handsome, are now sharp and hollow; his beard is grown; his lips are white; and his eyes without I speculation, unless when lit up into an occasional blaze of fire, that seemed to proceed as much from the paroxysms of approaching insanity as from the terrible scene which surrounds him, as well as from his own I wolfish desire for food. His cheek bones project fearfully, and his large temples seem, by the ghastly skin which is drawn tight about them, to remind one of those of a skeleton, were it not that the image is made still more appalling by the existence of life. Whilst in this position, motionless as a statue, a voice from one of the beds called out "Jemmy," with a tone so low and feeble that to other ears it would probably not have been distinctly audible. He went to the bedside, and taking the candle in his hand, said, in a voice that had lost its strength but not its tenderness:

"Well, Mary dear?"

"Jemmy," said she, for it was his wife who had called him, "my time has come. I must lave you and them at last."

"Thanks be to the Almighty," he exclaimed, fervently; "and don't be surprised, darlin' of my life, that I spake as I do. Ah, Mary dear," he proceeded, with, a wild and bitter manner, "I never thought that my love for you would make me say such words, or wish to feel you torn out of my breakin' heart; but I know how happy the change will be for you, as well as the sufferers you are lavin' behind you. Death now is our only consolation."

"It cannot be that God, who knows the kind and affectionate heart you have, an' ever had," replied his dying wife, "will neglect you and them long,"--but she answered with difficulty. "We were very happy," she proceeded, slowly, however, and with pain; "for, hard as the world was of late upon us, still we had love and affection among ourselves; and that, Jemmy, God in his goodness left us, blessed be his--his--holy name--an' sure it was betther than all he took from us. I hope poor Alley will recover; she's now nearly a girl, an' will be able to take care of you and be a mother to the rest. I feel that my tongue's gettin' wake; God bless you and them, an', above all, her--for she was our darlin' an' our life, especially yours. Raise me up a little," she added, "till I take a last look at them before I go." He did so, and after casting her languid eyes mournfully over the wretched sleepers, she added: "Well, God is good, but this is a bitther sight for a mother's heart. Jemmy," she proceeded, "I won't be long by myself in heaven; some of them will be with me soon--an' oh, what a joyful meeting will that be. But it's you I feel for most--it's you I'm loath to lave, light of my heart. Howsomever, God's will be done still. He sees we can't live here, an' He's takin' us to himself. Don't, darlin', don't kiss me, for fraid you might catch this fav----"

She held his hand in hers during this brief and tender dialogue, but on attempting to utter the last word he felt a gentle pressure, then a slight relaxation, and on holding the candle closer to her emaciated face--which still bore those dim traces of former beauty, that, in many instances, neither sickness nor death can altogether obliterate--he stooped and wildly kissed her now passive lips, exclaiming, in words purposely low, that the other inmates of the cabin might not hear them:

"A million favers, my darlin' Mary, would not prevent me from kissin' your lips, that will never more be opened with words of love and kindness to my heart. Oh, Mary, Mary! little did I drame that it would be in such a place, and in such a way, that you'd lave me and them."

He had hardly spoken, when one of the little ones, awaking, said:

"Daddy, come here, an' see what ails Alley; she won't spake to me."

"She's asleep, darlin', I suppose," he replied; "don't spake so loud, or you'll waken her."

"Ay, but she's as could as any tiling," continued the little one; "an'I can't rise her arm to put it about me the way it used to be."

Her father went over, and placing' the dim light close to her face, as he had done to that of her mother, perceived at a glance, that when the spirit of that affectionate mother--of that faithful wife--went to happiness, she had one kindred soul there to welcome her.

The man, whom we need not name to the reader, now stood in the centre of his "desolate hearth," and it was indeed a fearful thing to contemplate the change which the last few minutes had produced on his appearance. His countenance ceased to manifest any expression of either grief or sorrow; his brows became knit, and fell with savage and determined gloom, not unmingled with fury, over his eyes, that now blazed like coals of lire. His lips, too, became tight and firm, and were pressed closely together, unconsciously and without effort. In this mood, we say, he gazed about him, his heart smote with sorrow and affliction, whilst it boiled with indignation and fury. "Thomas Gourlay," he exclaimed--"villain--oppressor--murdherer--devil--this is your work! but I here entreat the Almighty God "--he droppe'd on his knees as he spoke--"never to suffer you to lave this world till he taches you that he can take vengeance for the poor." Looking around him once more, he lit a longer rushlight, and placed it in the little wooden candlestick, which had a slit at the top, into which the rush was pressed. Proceeding then to the lower corner of the cabin, he put up his hand to the top of the side wall, from which he took down a large stick, or cudgel, having a strong leathern thong in the upper part, within about six inches of the top. Into this thong he thrust his hand, and twisting it round his wrist, in order that no accident or chance blow might cause him to lose his grip of it, he once more looked upon this scene of unexampled wretchedness and sorrow, and pulling his old caubeen over his brow, left the cabin.

It is altogether impossible to describe the storm of conflicting passions and emotions that raged and jostled against each other within him. Sorrow--a sense of relief--on behalf of those so dear to him, who had been rescued from such misery; the love which he bore them now awakened into tenfold affection and tenderness by their loss; the uncertain fate of his other little brood, who were ill, but still living; then the destitution--the want of all that could nourish or sustain them--the furious ravenings of famine, which he himself felt--and the black, hopeless, impenetrable future--all crowded, upon his heart, swept through his frantic imagination, and produced those maddening but unconscious impulses, under the influence of which great crimes are frequently committed, almost before their perpetrator is aware of his having committed them.

Trailcudgel, on leaving his cabin, cared not whither he went; but, by one of those instincts which direct the savage to the peculiar haunts where its prey may be expected, and guides the stupid drunkard to his own particular dwelling, though unconscious even of his very existence at the time--like either, or both, of these, he went on at as rapid a pace as his weakness would permit, being quite ignorant of his whereabouts until he felt himself on the great highway. He looked at the sky now with an interest he had never felt before. The night was exceedingly dark, but calm and warm. An odd star here and there presented itself, and he felt glad at this, for it removed the monotony of the darkness.

"There," said he to himself, "is the place where Mary and Alley live now. Up there, in heaven. I am glad of it; but still, how will I enther the cabin, and not hear their voices? But the other poor creatures! musn't I do something for them, or they will go too? Yes, yes,--but whisht! what noise is that? Ha! a coach. Now for it. May God support me! Here comes the battle for the little ones--for the poor weak hand that's not able to carry the drink to its lips. Poor darlins! Yes, darlins, your father is now goin' to fight your battle--to put himself, for your sakes, against the laws of man, but not against the laws of nature that God has put into my heart for my dying childre. Either the one funeral will carry three corpses to the grave, or I will bring yez relief. It's comin' near, and I'll stand undher this tree."

In accordance with this resolution, he planted himself under a large clump of trees where, like the famished tiger, he awaited the arrival of the carriage. And, indeed, it is obvious that despair, and hunger, and sorrow, had brought him down to the first elements of mere animal life; and finding not by any process of reasoning or inference, but by the agonizing pressure of stern reality, that the institutions of social civilization were closed against him and his, he acted precisely as a man would act in a natural and savage state, and who had never been admitted to a participation in the common rights of humanity--we mean, the right to live honestly, when willing and able to contribute his share of labor and industry to the common stock.

Let not our readers mistake us. We are not defending the crime of robbery, neither would we rashly palliate it, although there are instances of it which deserve not only palliation, but pardon. We are only describing the principles upon which this man acted, and, considering his motives, we question whether this peculiar act, originating as it did in the noblest virtues and affections of our nature, was not rather an act of heroism than of robbery. This point, however, we leave to metaphysicians, and return to our narrative.

The night, as we said, was dark, and the carriage in question was proceeding at that slow and steady pace which was necessary to insure safety. Sir Thomas, for it was he, sat on the dickey; Gillespie having proceeded in advance of him, in order to get horses, carriage, and everything safely put to rights without the possibility of observation.

We may as well mention here that his anxiety to keep the events of the night secret had overcome his apprehensions of the supernatural, and indeed, it may not be impossible that he made acquaintance with one of the flasks that had been destined for poor Fenton. Of this, however, we are by no means certain; we only throw it out, therefore, as a probability.

It is well known that the stronger and more insupportable passions sharpen not only the physical but the mental faculties in an extraordinary degree. The eye of the bird of prey, which is mostly directed by the savage instincts of hunger, can view its quarry at an incredible distance; and, instigated by vengeance, the American Indian will trace his enemy by marks which the utmost ingenuity of civilized man would never enable him to discover. Quickened by something of the kind, Trailcudgel instantly recognized his bitter and implacable foe, and in a moment an unusual portion of his former strength returned, with the impetuous and energetic resentment which the appearance of the baronet, at that peculiar crisis, had awakened. When the carriage came nearly opposite where he stood, the frantic and unhappy man was in an instant at the heads of the horses, and, seizing the reins, brought them to a stand-still.

"What's the matter there?" exclaimed the baronet, who, however, began to feel very serious alarm. "Why do you stop the horses, my friend? All's right, and I'm much obliged--pray let them go."

"All's wrong," shouted the other in a voice so deep, hoarse, and terrible in the wildness of its intonations, that no human being could recognize it as that of Trailcudgel; "all's wrong," he shouted; "I demand your money! your life or your money--quick!"

"This is highway-robbery," replied Sir Thomas, in a voice of expostulation, "think of what you are about, my friend."

But, as he spoke, Trailcudgel could observe that he put his hand behind him as if with the intent of taking fire-arms out of his pocket. Like lightning was the blow which tumbled him from his seat upon the two horses, and a fortunate circumstance it proved, for there is little doubt that his neck would have been broken, or the fall proved otherwise fatal to so heavy a man, had he been precipitated directly, and from such a height, upon the hard road. As it was, he found himself instantly in the ferocious clutches of Trailcudgel, who dragged him from the horses, as a tiger would a bull, and ere he could use hand or word in his own defence, he felt the muzzle of one of his own pistols pressed against his head.

"Easy, mfriend!" he exclaimed, in a voice that was rendered infirm by terror; "do not take my life--don't murder me--you shall have my money."

"Murdher!" shouted the other. "Ah, you black dog of hell, it is on your red sowl that many a murdher lies. Murdher!" he exclaimed, in words that were thick, vehement, and almost unintelligible with rage. "Ay, murdher is it? It was a just God that put the words into your guilty heart--and wicked lips--prepare, your last moment's come--your doom is sealed--are you ready to die, villain?"

The whole black and fearful tenor of the baronet's life came like a vision of hell itself over his conscience, now fearfully awakened to the terrible position in which he felt himself placed.

"Oh, no!" he replied, in a voice whose tremulous tones betrayed the full extent of his agony and terrors. "Oh, no!" he exclaimed. "Spare me, whoever you are--spare my life, and if you will come to mo to-morrow, I promise, in the presence of God, to make you independent as long as you live. Oh, spare me, for the sake of the living God--for I am not fit to die. If you kill me now, you will have the perdition of my soul to answer for at the bar of judgment. If you spare me, I will reform my life--I will become a virtuous man."

"Well," replied the other, relaxing--"for the sake of the name you have used, and in the hope that this may be a warnin' to you for your good, I will leave your wicked and worthless life with you. No, I'll not be the man that will hurl you into perdition--but it is on one condition--you must hand me out your money before I have time to count ten. Listen now--if I haven't every farthing that's about you before that reckonin's made, the bullet that's in this pistol will be through your brain."

The expedition of the baronet was amazing, for as Jemmy went on with this disastrous enumeration, steadily and distinctly, but not quickly, he had only time to get as far as eight when he found himself in possession of the baronet's purse.

"Is it all here?" he asked. "No tricks--no lyin'--the truth? for I'll search you."

"You may," replied the other, with confidence; "and you may shoot me, too, if you find another farthing in my possession."

"Now, then," said Trailcudgel, "get home as well as you can, and reform your life as you promised--as for me, I'll keep the pistols; indeed, for my own sake, for I have no notion of putting them into your hands at present."

He then disappeared, and the baronet, having with considerable difficulty gained the box-seat, reached home somewhat lighter in pocket than he had left it, convinced besides that an unexpected visit from a natural apparition is frequently much more to be dreaded than one from the supernatural.

The baronet was in the general affairs of life, penurious in money matters, but on those occasions where money was necessary to enable him to advance or mature his plans, conceal his proceedings, or reward his instruments, he was by no means illiberal. This, however, was mere selfishness, or rather, we should say, self-preservation, inasmuch as his success and reputation depended in a great degree upon the liberality of his corruption. On the present occasion he regretted, no doubt, the loss of the money, but we are bound to say, that he would have given its amount fifteen times repeated, to get once more into his hands the single pound-note of which he had treacherously and like a coward robbed Fenton while asleep in the carriage. This loss, in connection With the robbery which occasioned it, forced him to retrace to a considerable extent the process of ratiocination on the subject of fate and destiny, in which he had so complacently indulged not long before.

No matter how deep and hardened any villain may be, the most reckless and unscrupulous of the class possess some conscious principle within, that tells them of their misdeeds, and acquaints them with the fact that a point in the moral government of life has most certainly been made against them. So was it now with the baronet. He laid himself upon his gorgeous bed a desponding, and, for the present, a discomfited man; nor could he for the life of him, much as he pretended to disregard the operations of a Divine Providence, avoid coming to the conclusion that the highway robbery committed on him looked surprisingly like an act of retributive justice. He consoled himself, it is true, with the reflection, that it was not for the value of the note that he had committed the crime upon Fenton, for to him the note, except for its mere amount, was in other respects valueless. But what galled him to the soul, was the bitter reflection that he did not, on perceiving its advantage to Fenton, at once destroy it--tear it up--eat it--swallow it--and thus render it utterly impossible to ever contravene his ambition or his crimes. In the meantime slumber stole upon him, but it was neither deep nor refreshing. His mind was a chaos of dark projects and frightful images. Fenton--the ragged and gigantic robber, who was so much changed by famine and misery that he did not know him--the stranger--his daughter--Ginty Cooper, the fortune-teller--Lord Cullamore--the terrible pistol at his brain--Dunroe--and all those who were more or less concerned in or affected by his schemes, flitted through his disturbed fancy like the figures in a magic lantern, rendering his sleep feverish, disturbed, and by many degrees more painful than his waking reflections.

It has been frequently observed, that violence and tyranny overshoot their mark; and we may add, that no craft, however secret its operations, or rather however secret they are designed to be, can cope with the consequences of even the simplest accident. A short, feverish attack of illness having seized Mrs. Morgan, the housekeeper, on the night of Fenton's removal, she persuaded one of the maids to sit up with her, in order to provide her with whey and nitre, which she took from time to time, for the purpose of relieving her by cooling the system. The attack though short was a sharp one, and the poor woman was really very ill. In the course of the night, this girl was somewhat surprised by hearing noises in and about the stables, and as she began to entertain apprehension from robbers, she considered it her duty to consult the sick woman as to the steps she ought to take.

"Take no steps," replied the prudent housekeeper, "till we know, if we can, what the noise proceeds from. Go into that closet, but don't take the candle, lest the light of it might alarm them--it overlooks the stable-yard--open the window gently; you know it turns upon hinges--and look out cautiously. If Sir Thomas is disturbed by a false alarm, you might fly at once; for somehow of late he has lost all command of his temper."

"But we know the reason of that, Mrs. Morgan," replied the girl. "It's because Miss Gourlay refuses to marry Lord Dunroe, and because he's afraid that she'll run away with a very handsome gentleman that stops in the Mitre. That's what made him lock her up."

"Don't you breathe a syllable of that," said the cautious Mrs. Morgan, "for fear you might get locked up yourself. You know, nothing that happens in this family is ever to be spoken of to any one, on pain of Sir Thomas's severest displeasure; and you have not come to this time of day without understanding what what means. But don't talk to me, or rather, don't expect me to talk to you. My head is very ill, and my pulse going at a rapid rate. Another drink of that whey, Nancy; then see, if you can, what that noise means."

Nancy, having handed her the whey, went to the closet window to reconnoitre; but the reader may judge of her surprise on seeing Sir Thomas himself moving about with a dark lantern, and giving directions to Gillespie, who was putting the horses to the carriage. She returned to the housekeeper on tip-toe, her face brimful of mystery and delight.

"What do you think, Mrs. Morgan? If there isn't Sir Thomas himself walking about with a little lantern, and giving orders to Gillespie, who is yoking the coach."

Mrs. Morgan could not refrain from smiling at this comical expression of yoking the coach; but her face soon became serious, and she said, with a sigh, "I hope in God this is no further act of violence against his angel of a daughter. What else could he mean by getting out a carriage at this hour of the night? Go and look again, Nancy, and see whether you may not also get a glimpse of Miss Gourlay."

Nancy, however, arrived at the window only in time to see her master enter the carriage, and the carriage disappear out of the yard; but whether Miss Gourlay was in it along with him, the darkness of the night prevented her from ascertaining. After some time, however, she threw out a suggestion, on which, with the consent of the patient, she immediately acted. This was to discover, if possible, whether Miss Gourlay with her maid was in her own room or not. She accordingly went with a light and stealthy pace to the door; and as she knew that its fair occupant always slept with a night-light in her chamber, she put her pretty eye to the keyhole, in order to satisfy herself on this point. All, however, so far as both sight and hearing could inform her, was both dark and silent. This was odd; nay, not only odd, but unusual. She now felt her heart palpitate; she was excited, alarmed. What was to be done? She would take a bold step--she would knock--she would whisper through the key-hole, and set down the interruption to anxiety to mention Mrs. Morgan's sudden and violent illness. Well, all these remedies for curiosity were tried, all these, steps taken, and, to a certain extent, they were successful; for there could indeed be little doubt that Miss Gourlay and her maid were not in the apartment. Everything now pertaining to the mysterious motions of Sir Thomas and his coachman was as clear as crystal. He had spirited her away somewhere--"placed her, the old brute, under some she-dragon or other, who would make her feed on raw flesh and cobwebs, with a view of reducing her strength and breaking her spirit."

Mrs. Morgan, however, with her usual good sense and prudence, recommended the lively girl to preserve the strictest silence on what she had seen, and to allow the other servants to find the secret out for themselves if they could. To-morrow might disclose more, but as at present they had nothing stronger than suspicion, it would be wrong to speak of it, and might, besides, be prejudicial to Miss Gourlay's reputation. Such was the love and respect which all the family felt for the kind-hearted and amiable Lucy, who was the general advocate with her father when any of them had incurred his displeasure, that on her account alone, even if dread of Sir Thomas did not loom like a gathering storm in the background, not one of them ever seemed to notice her absence, nor did the baronet himself until days had elapsed. On the morning of the third day he began to think, that perhaps confinement might have tamed her down into somewhat of a more amenable spirit; and as he had in the interval taken all necessary steps to secure the person of the man who robbed him, and offered a large reward for his apprehension, he felt somewhat satisfied that he had done all that could be done, and was consequently more at leisure, and also more anxious to ascertain the temper of mind in which he should find her.

In the meantime, the delicious scandal of the supposed elopement was beginning to creep abroad, and, in fact, was pretty generally rumored throughout the redoubtable town of Ballytrain on the morning of the third or fourth day. Of course, we need scarcely assure our intelligent readers, that the friends of the parties are the very last to whom such a scandal would be mentioned, not only because such an office is always painful, but because every one takes it for granted that they are already aware of it themselves. In the case before us, such was the general opinion, and Sir Thomas's silence on the subject was imputed by some to the natural delicacy of a father in alluding to a subject so distressing, and by others to a calm, quiet spirit of vengeance, which he only restrained until circumstances should place him in a condition to crush the man who had entailed shame and disgrace upon his name and family.

Such was the state of circumstances upon the third or fourth morning after Lucy's disappearance, when Sir Thomas called the footman, and desired him to send Miss Gourlay's maid to him; he wished to speak with her.

By this, time it was known through the whole establishment that Lucy and she had both disappeared, and, thanks to Nancy--to pretty Nancy--"that her own father, the hard-hearted old wretch, had forced her off--God knows where--in the dead of night."

The footman, who had taken Nancy's secret for granted; and, to tell the truth, he had it in the most agreeable and authentic shape--to wit, from her own sweet lips--and who could be base enough to doubt any communication so delightfully conveyed?--the footman, we say, on hearing this command from his master, started a little, and in the confusion or forgetfulness of the moment, almost stared at him.

"What, sirrah," exclaimed the latter; "did you hear what I said?"

"I did, sir," replied the man, still more confused; "but, I thought, your honor, that--"

"You despicable scoundrel!" said his master, stamping, "what means this? You thought! What right, sir, have you to think, or to do anything but obey your orders from me. It was not to think, sir, I brought you here, but to do your duty as footman. Fetch Miss Gourlay's maid, sir, immediately. Say I desire to speak with her."

"She is not within, sir," replied the man trembling.

"Then where is she, sir? Why is she absent from her charge?"

"I cannot tell, sir. We thought, sir--"

"Thinking again, you scoundrel!--speak out, however."

"Why, the truth is, your honor, that neither Miss Gourlay nor she has been here since Tuesday night last."

The baronet had been walking to and fro, as was his wont, but this information paralyzed him, as if by a physical blow on the brain. He now went, or rather tottered over, to his arm-chair, into which he dropped rather than sat, and stared at Gibson the footman as if he had forgotten the intelligence just conveyed to him. In fact, his confusion was such--so stunning was the blow--that it is possible he did forget it.

"What is that, Gibson?" said he; "tell me; repeat what you said."

"Why, your honor," replied Gibson, "since last Tuesday night neither Miss Gourlay nor her maid has been in this house."

"Was there no letter left, nor any verbal information that might satisfy us as to where they have gone?"

"Not any, sir, that I am aware of."

"Was her room examined?"

"I cannot say, sir. You know, sir, I never enter it unless when I am rung for by Miss Gourlay; and that is very rarely."

"Do you think, Gibson, that there is any one in the house that knows more of this matter than you do?"

Gibson shook his head, and replied, "As to that, Sir Thomas, I cannot say."

The baronet was not now in a rage. The thing was impossible; not within the energies of nature. He was stunned, stupefied, rendered helpless.

"I think," he proceeded, "I observed a girl named Nancy--I forget what else, Nancy something--that Miss Gourlay seemed to like a good deal. Send her here. But before you do so, may I beg to know why her father, her natural guardian and protector, was kept so long in ignorance of her extraordinary disappearance? Pray, Mr. Gibson, satisfy me on that head?"

"I think, sir," replied Gibson, most un-gallantly shifting the danger of the explanation from his own shoulders to the pretty ones of Nancy Forbes--"I think, sir, Nancy Forbes, the girl you speak of, may know more about the last matter than I do."

"What do you mean by the last matter?"

"Why, sir, the reason why we did not tell your honor of it sooner--"

Sir Thomas waved his hand. "Go," he added, "send her here."

"D--n the old scoundrel," thought Gibson to himself; "but that's a fine piece of acting. Why, if he hadn't been aware of it all along he would have thrown me clean out of the window, even as the messenger of such tidings. However, he is not so deep as he thinks himself. We know him--see through him--on this subject at least."

When Nancy entered, her master gave her one of those stern, searching looks which often made his unfortunate menials tremble before him.

"What's your name, my good girl?"

"Nancy Forbes, sir."

"How long have you been in this family?"

"I'm in the first month of my second quarter, your honor," with a courtesy.

"You are a pretty girl."

Nancy, with another courtesy, and a simper, which vanity, for the life of her, could not suppress, "Oh la, sir, how could your honor say such a thing of a humble girl like me? You that sees so many handsome great ladies."

"Have you a sweetheart?"

Nancy fairly tittered. "Is it me, sir--why, who would think of the like of me? Not one, sir, ever I had."

"Because, if you have," he proceeded, "and that I approve of him, I wouldn't scruple much to give you something that might enable you and your husband to begin the world with comfort."

"I'm sure it's very kind, your honor, but I never did anything to desarve so much goodness at your honor's hands."

"The old villain wants to bribe me for something," thought Nancy.

"Well, but you may, my good girl. I think you are a favorite with Miss Gourlay?"

"Ha, ha!" thought Nancy, "I am sure of it now."

"That's more than I know, sir," she replied. "Miss Gourlay--God bless and protect her--was kind to every one; and not more so to me than to the other servants."

"I have just been informed by Gibson, that she and her maid left the Hall on Tuesday night last. Now, answer me truly, and you shall be the better for it. Have you any conception, any suspicion, let us say, where they have gone to?"

"La, sir, sure your honor ought to know that better than me."

"How so, my pretty girl? How should I know it? She told me nothing about it."

"Why, wasn't it your honor and Tom Gillespie that took her away in the carriage on that very night?"

Here now was wit against wit, or at least cunning against cunning. Nancy, the adroit, hazarded an assertion of which she was not certain, in order to probe the baronet, and place him in a position by which she might be able by his conduct and manner to satisfy herself whether her suspicions were well-founded or not.

"But how do you know, my good girl, that I and Gillespie were out that night?"

It is unnecessary to repeat here circumstances with which the reader is already acquainted. Nancy gave him the history of Mrs. Morgan's sudden illness, and all the other facts already mentioned.

"But there is one thing that I still cannot understand," replied the baronet, "which is, that the disappearance of Miss Gourlay was never mentioned to me until I inquired for her maid, whom I wished to speak with."

"But sure that's very natural, sir," replied Nancy; "the reason we didn't speak to you upon the subject was because we thought that it was your honor who brought her away; and that as you took such a late hour in the night for it, you didn't wish that we should know anything about it."

The baronet's eye fell upon her severely, as if he doubted the truth of what she said. Nancy's eye, however, neither avoided his nor quailed before it. She now spoke the truth, and she did so, in order to prevent herself and the other servants from incurring his resentment by their silence.

"Very well," observed Sir Thomas, calmly, but sternly. "I think you have spoken what you believe to be the truth, and what, for all you know, may be the truth. But observe my words: let this subject be never breathed nor uttered by any domestic in my establishment. Tell your fellow-servants that such are my orders; for I swear, if I find that any one of you shall speak of it, my utmost vengeance shall pursue him or her to death itself. That will do." And he signed to her to retire. _

Read next: Chapter 18. Dunphy Visits The County Wicklow

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