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

Chapter 18. Dunphy Visits The County Wicklow

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_ CHAPTER XVIII. Dunphy visits the County Wicklow

--Old Sam and his Wife.

It was about a week subsequent to the interview which the stranger had with old Dunphy, unsuccessful as our readers know it to have been, that the latter and his wife were sitting in the back parlor one night after their little shop had been closed, when the following dialogue took place between them:

"Well, at all events," observed the old man, "he was the best of them, and to my own knowledge that same saicret lay hot and heavy on his conscience, especially to so good a master and mistress as they were to him. The truth is, Polly, I'll do it."

"But why didn't he do it himself?" asked his wife.

"Why?--why?" he replied, looking at her with his keen ferret eyes--"why, don't you know what a weak-minded, timorsome creature he was, ever since the height o' my knee?"

"Oh, ay," she returned; "and I hard something about an oath, I think, that they made him take."

"You did," said her husband; "and it was true, too. They swore him never to breathe a syllable of it until his dying day--an' although they meant by that that he should never reveal it at all, yet he always was of opinion that he might tell it on that day, but on no other one. And it was his intention to do so."

"Wasn't it an unlucky thing that she happened to be out when he could do it with a safe conscience?" observed his wife.

"They almost threatened the life out of the poor creature," pursued her husband, "for Tom threatened to murder him if he betrayed them; and Ginty to poison him, if Tom didn't keep his word--and I believe in my sowl that the same devil's pair would a' done either the one or the other, if he had broken his oath. Of the two, however, Ginty's the worst, I think; and I often believe, myself, that she deals with the devil; but that, I suppose, is bekaise she's sometimes not right in her head still."

"If she doesn't dale with the devil, the devil dales with her at any rate," replied the other. "They'll be apt to gain their point, Tom and she."

"Tom, I know, is just as bitther as she is," observed the old man, "and Ginty, by her promises as to what she'll do for him, has turned his heart altogether to stone; and yet I know a man that's bittherer against the black fellow than either o' them. She only thinks of the luck that's before her; but, afther all, Tom acts more from hatred to him than from Ginty's promises. He has no bad feelin' against the young man himself; but it's the others he's bent on punishing. God direct myself, I wish at any rate that I never had act or hand in it. As for your time o' life and mine, Polly, you know that age puts it out of our power ever to be much the betther one way or the other, even if Ginty does succeed in her devilry. Very few years now will see us both in our graves, and I don't know but it's safer to lave this world with an aisy conscience, than to face God with the guilt of sich a black saicret as that upon us."

"Well, but haven't you promised them not to tell?"

"I have--an' only that I take sich delight in waitin' to see the black scoundrel punished till his heart 'll burst--I think I'd come out with it. That's one raison; and the other is, that I'm afraid of the consequences. The law's a dangerous customer to get one in its crushes, an' who can tell how we'd be dealt with?"

"Troth, an' that's true enough," she replied.

"And when I promised poor Edward on his death-bed," proceeded the old man, "I made him give me a sartin time; an' I did this in ordher to allow Ginty an opportunity of tryin' her luck. If she does not manage her point within that time, I'll fulfil my promise to the dyin' man."

"But, why," she asked, "did he make you promise to do it when he could--ay, but I forgot. It was jist, I suppose, in case he might be taken short as he was, and that you wor to do it for him if he hadn't an opportunity? But, sure, if Ginty succeeds, there's an end to your promise."

"Well, I believe so," said the old man; "but if she does succeed, why, all I'll wondher at will be that God would allow it. At any rate she's the first of the family that ever brought shame an' disgrace upon the name. Not but she felt her misfortune keen enough at the time, since it turned her brain almost ever since. And him, the villain--but no matter--he, must be punished."

"But," replied the wife, "wont Ginty be punishin' him?"

"Ah, Polly, you know little of the plans--the deep plans an' plots that he's surrounded by. We know ourselves that there's not such a plotter in existence as he is, barin' them that's plottin' aginst him. Lord bless us! but it's a quare world--here is both parties schamin' an' plottin' away--all bent on risin' themselves higher in it by pride and dishonesty. There's the high rogue and the low rogue--the great villain and the little villain--musha! Polly, which do you think is worst, eh?"

"Faith, I think it's six o' one and half-a-dozen of the other with them. Still, a body would suppose that the high rogue ought to rest contented; but it's a hard thing they say to satisfy the cravin's of man's heart when pride, an' love of wealth an' power, get into it."

"I'm not at all happy in my mind, Polly," observed her husband, meditatively; "I'm not at aise--and I won't bear this state of mind much longer. But, then, again, there's my pension; and that I'll lose if I spake out. I sometimes think I'll go to the country some o' these days, and see an ould friend."

"An where to, if it's a fair question?"

"Why," he replied, "maybe it's a fair-question to ask, but not so fair to answer. Ay! I'll go to the country--I'll start in a few days--in a few days! No, savin' to me, but I'll start to-morrow. Polly, I could tell you something if I wished--I say I have a secret that none o' them knows--ay, have I. Oh, God pardon me! The d----d thieves, to make me, me above all men, do the blackest part of the business--an' to think o' the way they misled Edward, too--who, after all, would be desavin' poor Lady Gourlay, if he had tould her all as he thought, although he did not know that he would be misleadin' her. Yes, faith, I'll start for the country tomorrow, plaise God; but listen, Polly, do you know who's in town?"

"Arra, no!--how could I?"

"Kate M'Bride, so Ginty tells me; she's livin' with her."

"And why didn't she call to see you?" asked his wife. "And yet God knows it's no great loss; but if ever woman was cursed wid a step-daughter, I was wid her."

"Don't you know very well that we never spoke since her runaway match with M'Bride. If she had married Cummins, I'd a' given her a purty penny to help him on; but instead o' that she cuts off with a sojer, bekaise he was well faced, and starts with him to the Aist Indies. No; I wouldn't spake to her then, and I'm not sure I'll spake to her now either; and yet I'd like to see her--the unfortunate woman. However, I'll think of it; but in the mane time, as I said, I'll start for the country in the mornin'."

And to the country he did start the next morning; and if, kind reader, it so happen that you feel your curiosity in any degree excited, all you have to do is to take a seat in your own imagination, whether outside or in, matters not, the fare is the same, and thus you will, at no great cost, be able to accompany him. But before we proceed further we shall, in the first place, convey you in ours to the ultimate point of his journey.

There was, in one of the mountain districts of the county Wicklow, that paradise of our country, a small white cottage, with a neat flower plot before, and a small orchard and garden behind. It stood on a little eminence, at the foot of one of those mountains, which, in some instances, abut from higher ranges. It was then bare and barren; but at present presents a very different aspect, a considerable portion of it having been since reclaimed and planted. Scattered around this rough district were a number of houses that could be classed with neither farm-house nor cabin, but as humble little buildings that possessed a feature of each. Those who; dwelt in them held in general four or five acres of rough land, some more, but very few less; and we allude to these small tenements, because, as our readers are aware, the wives of their proprietors were in the habit of eking out the means of subsistence, and paying their rents, by nursing illegitimate children or foundlings, which upon a proper understanding, and in accordance with the usual arrangements, were either transmitted to them from the hospital of that name in Dublin, or taken charge of by these women, and conveyed home from that establishment itself. The children thus nurtured were universally termed parisheens, because it was found more convenient and less expensive to send a country foundling to the hospital in Dublin, than to burden the inhabitants of the parish with its maintenance. A small sum, entitling it to be received in the hospital, was remitted, and as this sum, in most instances, was levied off the parish, these wretched creatures were therefore called parisheens, that is, creatures! aided by parish allowance.

The very handsome little cottage into which we are about to give the reader admittance, commanded a singularly beautiful and picturesque view. From the little elevation on which it stood could be seen the entrancing vale of Ovoca, winding in its inexpressible loveliness toward Arklow, and diversified with green meadows, orchard gardens, elegant villas, and what was sweeter! than all, warm and comfortable homesteads, more than realizing our conceptions of Arcadian happiness and beauty. Its precipitous sides were clothed with the most enchanting variety of plantation; whilst, like a stream of liquid light, the silver Ovoca shone sparkling to the sun, as it followed, by the harmonious law of nature, that graceful line of beauty which characterizes the windings of this unrivalled valley. The cottage which commanded this rich prospect we have partially described. It was white as snow, and had about it all those traits of neatness and good taste which are, we regret! to say, so rare among, and so badly understood by, our humbler countrymen. The front walls were covered by honeysuckles, rose trees, and wild brier, and the flower plot in front was so well stocked, that its summer bloom would have done credit to the skill of an ordinary florist. The inside of this cottage was equally neat, clean, and cheerful. The floor, an unusual thing then, was tiled, which gave it a look of agreeable warmth; the wooden vessels in the kitchen were white with incessant scouring, whilst the pewter, brass, and tin, shone in becoming rivalry. The room you entered was the kitchen, off which was a parlor and two bedrooms, besides one for the servant.

As may be inferred from what we have said, the dresser was a perfect treat to look at, and as the owners kept a cow, we need hardly add that the delightful fragrance of milk which characterizes every well-kept dairy, was perfectly ambrosial here. The chairs were of oak, so were the tables; and a large arm-chair, with a semicircular back, stood at one side of the clean hearth, whilst over the chimney-piece hung a portrait of General Wolfe, with an engraving of the siege of Quebec. A series of four silver medals, enclosed in red morocco cases, having the surface of each protected by a glass cover, hung from a liliputian rack made of mahogany, at once bearing testimony to the enterprise and gallantry of the owner, as well as to the manly pride with which he took such especial pains to preserve these proud rewards of his courage, and the ability with which he must have discharged his duty as a soldier. On the table lay a large Bible, a Prayer-book, and the "Whole Duty of Man," all neatly and firmly, but not ostentatiously bound. Some works of a military character lay upon a little hanging shelf beside the dresser. Over this shelf hung a fishing-rod, unscrewed and neatly tied up; and upon the top of the other books lay one bound with red cloth, in which he kept his flies. On one side of the window sills lay a backgammon box, with which his wife and himself amused themselves for an hour or two every evening; and fixed in recesses intended for the purpose, Sam Roberts, for such was his name, having built the house himself, were comfortable cupboards filled with a variety of delft, several curious and foreign ornaments, an ostrich's egg, a drinking cup made of the polished shell of a cocoanut, whilst crossed saltier-wise over a portrait of himself and of his wife, were placed two feathers of the bird of paradise, constituting, one might imagine, emblems significant of the happy life they led. But we cannot close our description here. Upon the good woman's bosom, fastened to her kerchief, was a locket which contained a portion of beautiful brown hair, taken from the youthful head of a deceased son, a manly and promising boy, who died at the age of seventeen, and whose death, although it did not and could not throw a permanent gloom over two lives so innocent and happy, occasioned, nevertheless, periodical recollections of profound and bitter sorrow. Old Sam had his locket also, but it was invisible; its position being on that heart whose affections more resembled the enthusiasm of idolatry than the love of a parent. His wife was a placid, contented looking old woman, with a complexion exceedingly hale and fresh for her years; a shrewd, clear, benevolent eye, and a general air which never fails to mark that ease and superiority of manner to be found only in those who have had an enlarged experience in life, and seen much of the world. There she sits by the clear fire and clean, comfortable hearth, knitting a pair of stockings for her husband, who has gone to Dublin. She is tidily and even, for a woman of her age, tastefully dressed, but still with a sober decency that showed her good sense. Her cap is as white as snow, with which a well-fitting brown stuff gown, that gave her a highly respectable appearance, admirably contrasted. She wore an apron of somewhat coarse muslin, that seemed, as it always did, fresh from the iron, and her hands were covered with a pair of thread mittens that only came half-way down the fingers. Hanging at one side was a three-cornered pincushion of green silk, a proof at once of a character remarkable for thrift, neatness, and industry. Whilst thus employed, she looks from time to time through a window that commanded a prospect of the road, and seems affected by that complacent expression of uneasiness which, whilst it overshadows the features, never disturbs their benignity. At length, a good-looking, neat girl, their servant, enters the cottage with a can of new milk, for she had been to the fields a-milking; her name is Molly Byrne.

"Molly," said her mistress, "I wonder the master has not come yet. I am getting uneasy. The coach has gone past, and I see no appearance of him."

"I suppose, then, he didn't come by the coach, ma'am."

"Yes, but he said he would."

"Well, ma'am, something must 'a prevented him."

"Molly," said her mistress, smiling, "you are a good hand at telling us John Thompson's news; that is, any thing we know ourselves."

"Well, ma'am, but you know many a time he goes to Dublin, an' doesn't come home by the coach."

"Yes, whenever he visits Rilmainham Hospital, and gets into conversation with some of his old comrades; however, that's natural, and I hope he's safe."

"Well, ma'am," replied Molly, looking out, "I have betther news for you than Jenny Thompson's now."

"Attention, Molly; John Thompson's the word," said her mistress, with the slightest conceivable air of professional form; for if she had a foible at all, it was that she gave all her orders and exacted all obedience from her servant in a spirit of military discipline, which she, had unconsciously borrowed from her husband, whom she imitated as far as she could. "Where, Molly? Fall back, I say, till I get a peep at dear old Sam."

"There he is, ma'am," continued Molly, at the same time obeying her orders, "and some other person along with him."

"Yes, sure enough; thank God, thank God!" she exclaimed. "But who can the other person be, do you think?"

"I don't know, ma'am," replied Molly. "I only got a glimpse of them, but I knew the master at once. I would know him round a corner."

"Advance, then, girl; take another look; reconnoitre, Molly, as Sam says, and see if you can make out who it is."

"I see him now well enough, ma'am," replied the girl, "but I don't know him; he's a stranger. What can bring a stranger here, ma'am, do you think?" she inquired.

"Why your kind master, of course, girl; isn't that sufficient? Whoever comes with my dear old Sam is welcome, to be sure."

Her clear, cloudless face was now lit up with a multiplicity of kind and hospitable thoughts, for dear old Sam and his friend were not more than three or four perches from the house, and she could perceive that her husband was in an extraordinary state of good humor.

"I know, Molly, who the strange man is now," she said. "He's an old friend of my husband's, named Dunphy; he was once in the same regiment with him; and I know, besides, our own good man has heard some news that has delighted him very much."

She had scarcely uttered the words when Sam and old Dunphy entered.

"Beck, my girl, here I am, safe and sound, and here's an old friend come to see us, and you know how much we are both indebted to him; I felt, Beck, and so did you, old girl, that we must have something to love and provide for, and to keep the heart moving, but that's natural, you know--quite natural--it's all the heart of man."

"Mr. Dunphy," said Beck--a curtailment of Rebecca--"I am glad to see you; take a seat; how is the old woman?"

"As tough as ever, Mrs. Roberts. 'Deed I had thought last winter that she might lave me a loose leg once more; but I don't know how it is, she's gatherin' strength on my hands, an' a young wife, I'm afraid, isn't on the cards--ha--ha--ha! And how are you yourself, Mrs. Roberts?--but, indeed, one may tell with half an eye--fresh and well you look, thank God!"

"Doesn't she, man?" exclaimed Sam, slapping him with delight on the shoulder; "a woman that travelled half the world, and improved in every climate. Molly, attention!--let us turn in to mess as soon as possible. Good news, Beck--good news, but not till after mess; double-quick, Molly."

"Come, Molly, double-quick," added her mistress; "the master and his friend must be hungry by this time."

Owing to the expeditious habits to which Mrs. Roberts had disciplined Molly, a smoking Irish stew, hot and savory, was before them in a few minutes, which the two old fellows attacked with powers of demolition that would have shamed younger men. There was for some time a very significant lull in the conversation, during which Molly, by a hint from her mistress, put down the kettle, an act which, on being observed by Dunphy, made his keen old eye sparkle with the expectation of what it suggested. Shovelful after shovelful passed from dish to plate, until a very relaxed action on the part of each was evident.

"Dunphy," said Sam, "I, believe our fire is beginning to slacken; but come, let us give the enemy another round, the citadel is nearly won--is on the point of surrender."

"Begad," replied Dunphy, who was well acquainted with his friend's phraseology, and had seen some service, as already intimated, in the same regiment, some fifty years before. "I must lay down my arms for the present."

"No matter, friend Dunphy, we'll renew the attack at supper; an easy mind brings a good appetite, which is but natural; it's all the heart of man."

"Well, I don't know that," said Dunphy, replying to, the first of the axioms; "I have often aiten a hearty dinner enough when my mind was, God knows, anything but aisy."

"Well, then," rejoined Sam, "when the heart's down, a glass of old stingo, mixed stiff, will give it a lift; so, my old fellow, if there's anything wrong with you, we'll soon set it to rights."

The table was now cleared, and the word "Hot wate-r-r," was given, as if Molly had been on drill, as in fact, she may be considered to have been every day in the week; then the sugar and whiskey in the same tone. But whilst she is preparing and producing the materials, as they have been since termed, we shall endeavor to give an outline of old Sam.

Old Sam, then, was an erect, square-built, fine-looking old fellow, with firm, massive, but benevolent features; not, however, without a dash of determination in them that added very considerably to their interest. His eyes were gray, kind, and lively; his eyebrows rather large, but their expression was either stern or complacent, according to the mood of the moment. That of complacency, however, was their general character. Upon the front part of his head he had received a severe wound, which extended an inch or so down the side of his forehead, he had also lost the two last fingers of his left hand, and received several other wounds that were severe and dangerous when inflicted, but as their scars were covered by his dress, they were consequently invisible. Sam was at this time close upon seventy, but so regular had been his habits of life, so cheerful and kind his disposition, and so excellent his constitution, that he did not look more than fifty-five. It was utterly impossible not to read the fine old soldier in every one of his free, but well-disciplined, movements. The black stock, the bold, erect head, the firm but measured step, and the existence of something like military ardor in the eye and whole bearing; or it might be the proud consciousness of having bravely and faithfully discharged his duty to his king and his country; all this, we say, marked the man with an impress of such honest pride and frank military spirit, as, taken into consideration with his fine figure, gave the very beau ideal of an old soldier.

When each had mixed his tumbler, Sam, brimful of the good news to which he had alluded, filled a small glass, as was his wont, and placing it before Beck, said:

"Come, Beck, attention!--'The king, God bless him!' Attention, Dunphy!--off with it."

"The king, God bless him!" having been duly honored, Sam proceeded:

"Beck, my old partner, I said I had good news for you. Our son and his regiment--three times eleven, eleven times three--the gallant thirty-third, are in Dublin."

Beck laid down her stocking, and her eyes sparkled with delight.

"But that's not all, old girl, he has risen from the ranks--his commission has been just made out, and he is now a commissioned officer in his majesty's service. But I knew it would come to that. Didn't I say so, old comrade, eh?"

"Indeed you did, Sam," replied his wife; "and I thought as much myself. There was something about that boy beyond the common."

"Ay, you may say that, girl; but who found it out first? Why, I did; but the thing was natural; it's all the heart of man--when that's in the right place nothing will go wrong. What do you say, friend Dunphy? Did you think it would ever come to this?"

"Troth, I did not, Mr. Roberts; but it's you he may thank for it."

"God Almighty first, Dunphy, and me afterwards. Well, he shan't want a father, at all events; and so long as I have a few shiners to spare, he shan't want the means of supporting his rank as a British officer and gentleman should. There's news for you, Dunphy. Do you hear that, you old dog--eh?"

"It's all the heart of man, Sam," observed his wife, eying him with affectionate admiration. "When the heart's in the right place, nothing will go wrong."

Now, nothing gratified Sam so much as to hear his own apothegms honored by repetition.

"Eight, girl," he replied; "shake hands for that. Dunphy, mark the truth of that. Isn't she worth gold, you sinner?"

"Troth she is, Mr. Roberts, and silver to the back o' that."

"What?" said Sam, looking at him with comic surprise. "What do you mean by that, you ferret? Why don't you add, and 'brass to the back of that?' By fife and drum, I won't stand this to Beck. Apologize instantly, sir." Then breaking into a hearty laugh--"he meant no offence, Beck," he added; "he respects and loves you--I know he does--as who doesn't that knows you, my girl?"

"What I meant to say, Mr. Roberts--"

"Mrs. Roberts, sir; direct the apology to herself."

"Well, then, what I wanted to say, Mrs. Roberts, was, that all the gold, silver, and brass in his majesty's dominions--(God bless him! parenthetice, from Sam)--couldn't purchase you, an' would fall far short of your value."

"Well done--thank you, Dunphy--thank you, honest old Dunphy; shake hands. He's a fine old fellow, Beck, isn't he, eh?"

"I'm very much obliged to you, Mr. Dunphy; but you overrate me a great deal too much," replied Mrs. Roberts.

"No such thing, Beck; you're wrong there, for once; the thing couldn't be done--by fife and drum! it couldn't; and no man has a better right to know that than myself--and I say it."

Sam, like all truly brave men, never boasted of his military exploits, although he might well have done so. On the contrary, it was a subject which he studiously avoided, and on which those who knew his modesty as well as his pride never ventured. He usually cut short such as referred to it, with:

"Never mind that, my friend; I did my duty, and that was all; and so did every man in the British army, or I wouldn't be here to say so. Pass the subject."

Sam and Dunphy, at all events, spent a pleasant evening; at least, beyond question, Sam did. As for Dunphy, he seemed occasionally relieved by hearing Sam's warm and affectionate allusions to his son; and, on the other hand, he appeared, from time to time, to fall into a mood that indicated a state of feeling between gloom and reflection.

"It's extraordinary, Mr. Roberts," he observed, after awakening from one of these reveries; "it looks as if Providence was in it."

"God Almighty's in it, sir,--didn't I say so? and under him, Sam Roberts. Sir, I observed that boy closely from the beginning. He reminded me, and you too, Beck, didn't he, of him that--that--we lost"--here he paused a moment, and placed his hand upon his heart, as if to feel for something there that awoke touching and melancholy remembrances; whilst his wife, on the other hand, unpinned the locket, and having kissed it, quietly let fall a few tears; after which she restored it to its former position. Sam cleared his voice a little, and then proceeded:

"Yes; I could never look at the one without thinking of the other; but 'twas all the heart of man. In a week's time he could fish as well as myself, and in a short time began to teach me. 'Gad! he used to take the rod out of my hand with so much kindness, so gently and respectfully--for, I mark me, Dunphy, he respected me from the beginning--didn't lie, Beck?"

"He did, indeed, Sam."

"Thank you, Beck; you're a good creature. So gently and respectfully, as I was saying, and showed me in his sweet words, and with his smiling eyes--yes, and his hair, too, was the very color of his brother's--I was afraid I might forget that. Well--yes, with such smiling eyes that it was impossible not to love him--I couldn't but love him--but, sure, it was only natural--all the heart of man, Dunphy. 'Ned,' said I to him one day, 'would you like to become a soldier--a soldier, Ned?'" And as the old man repeated the word "soldier" his voice became full and impressive, his eyes sparkled with pride, and his very form seemed to dilate at the exulting reminiscences and heroic associations connected with it.

"Above all things in this life," replied the boy; "but you know I'm too young."

"'Never mind, my boy,' said I, 'that's a fault that every day will mend; you'll never grow less;' so I consulted with Beck there, and with you, Dunphy, didn't I?"

"You did, indeed, Mr. Roberts, and wouldn't do anything till you had spoken to me on the subject."

"Eight, Dunphy, right--well, you know the rest. 'Education's the point,' said I to Beck--ignorance is a bad inheritance. What would I be to-day if I didn't write a good hand, and was a keen accountant! But no matter, off he went with a decent outfit to honest Mainwairing--thirty pounds a-year--five years--lost no time--was steady, but always showed a spirit. Couldn't get him a commission then, for I hadn't come in for my Uncle's legacy, which I got the other day.--dashed him into the ranks though--and here he is--a commissioned officer--eh, old Dunphy! Well, isn't that natural? but it's all the heart of man."

"It's wonderful," observed Dunphy, ruminating, "it's wonderful indeed. Well, now, Mr. Roberts, it really is wonderful. I came down here to spake to you about that very boy, and see the news I have before me. Indeed, it is wonderful, and the hand o' God is surely in it."

"Right, Dunphy, that's the word; and under him, in the capacity of agent in the business, book down Sam Roberts, who's deeply thankful to God for making him, if I may say so, his adjutant in advancing the boy's fortunes."

"Did you see him to-day, Sam?" asked Mrs. Roberts.

"No," replied Sam, "he wasn't in the barracks, but I'll engage we'll both see him tomorrow, if he has life, that is, unless he should happen to be on duty. If he doesn't come to-morrow, however, I'll start the day after for Dublin."

"Well, now, Mr. Roberts," said Dunphy, "if you have no objection, I didn't care if I turned into bed; I'm not accustomed to travelin', and I'm a thrifle fatigued; only tomorrow morning, plaise God, I have something to say to you about that boy that may surprise you."

"Not a syllable, Dunphy, nothing about him that could surprise me."

"Well," replied the hesitating and cautious old man, "maybe I will surprise you for all that."

This he said whilst Mrs. Roberts and Molly Byrne were preparing his bed in one of the neat sleeping rooms which stood off the pleasant kitchen where they sat; "and listen, Mr. Roberts, before I tell it, you must pledge your honor as a soldier, that until I give you lave, you'll never breathe a syllable of what I have to mention to any one, not even to Mrs. Roberts."

"What's that? Keep a secret from Beck? Come, Dunphy, that's what I never did, unless the word and countersign when on duty, and, by fife and drum, I never will keep your secret then; I don't want it, for as sure as I hear it, so shall she. And is it afraid of old Beck you are? By fife and drum, sir, old Beck has more honor than either of us, and would as soon take a fancy to a coward as betray a secret. You don't know her, old Dunphy, you don't know her, or you wouldn't spake as if you feared that she's not truth and honesty to the backbone."

"I believe it, Mr. Roberts, but they say, afther all, that once a woman gets a secret, she thinks herself in a sartin way, until she's delivered of it'."

Sam, who liked a joke very well, laughed heartily at this, bad as it was, or rather he laughed at the shrewd, ludicrous, but satirical grin with which old Dunphy's face was puckered whilst he uttered it.

"But, sir," said he, resuming his gravity, "Beck, I'd have you to know, is not like other women, by which I mean that no other woman could be compared to her. Beck's the queen of women, upon my soul she is; and all I have to say is, that if you tell me the secret, in half an hour's time she'll be as well acquainted with it as either of us. I have no notion, Dunphy, at this time of life, to separate my mind from Beck's; my conscience, sir, is my store-room; she has a key for it, and, by fife and drum, I'm not going to take it from her now. Do you think Beck would treat old Sam so? No. And my rule is, and ever has been, treat your wife with confidence if you respect her, and expect confidence in your turn. No, no; poor Beck must have it if I have it. The truth is, I have no secrets, and never had. I keep none, Dunphy, and that's but natural; however, it's all the heart of man."

The next morning the two men took an early walk, for both were in the habit of rising betimes. Dunphy, it would appear, was one of those individuals, who, if they ever perform a praiseworthy act, do it rather from weakness of character and fear, than from a principle of conscientious rectitude. After having gone to bed the previous night he lay awake for a considerable time debating with himself the purport of his visit, pro and con, without after all, being able to accomplish a determination on the subject. He was timid, cunning, shrewd, avaricious, and possessed, besides, a large portion of that peculiar superstition which does not restrain from iniquity, although it renders the mind anxious and apprehensive of the consequences. Now the honest fellow with whom he had to deal was the reverse of all this in every possible phase of his character, being candid, conscientious, fearless, and straightforward. Whatever he felt to be his duty, that he did, regardless of all opinion and all consequences. He was, in fact, an independent man, because he always acted from right principles, or rather from right impulses; the truth being, that the virtuous action was performed before he had allowed himself time to reason upon it. Every one must have observed that there is a rare class of men whose feelings, always on the right side, are too quick for their reason, which they generously anticipate, and have the proposed virtue completed before either reason or prudence have had time to argue either for or against the act. Old Sam was one of the latter, and our readers may easily perceive the contrast which the two individuals presented.

After about an hour's walk both returned to breakfast, and whatever may have been the conversation that took place between them, or whatever extent of confidence Dunphy reposed in old Sam, there can be little doubt that his glee this morning was infinitely greater than on the preceding-evening, although, at Dunphy's earnest request, considerably more subdued. Nay, the latter had so far succeeded with old Sam as to induce him to promise, that for the present at least, he would forbear to communicate it to his wife. Sam, however, would under no circumstances promise this until he should first hear the nature of it, upon which, he said, he would then judge for himself. After hearing it, however, he said that on Dunphy's own account he would not breathe it even to her without his permission.

"Mind," said Dunphy, at the conclusion of their dialogue, and with his usual caution, "I am not sartin of what I have mentioned; but I hope, plaise God, in a short time to be able to prove it; and, if not, as nobody knows it but yourself an' me, why there's no harm done. Dear knows, I have a strong reason for lettin' the matter lie as it is, even if my suspicions are true; but my conscience isn't aisy, Mr. Eoberts, an' for that raison' I came to spake to you, to consult with you, and to have your advice."

"And my advice to you is, Dunphy, not to attack the enemy until your plans are properly laid, and all your forces in a good position. The thing can't be proved now, you say; very well; you'd be only a fool for attempting to prove it."

"I'm not sayin'," said the cautious old sinner again, "that it can be proved at any time, or proved at all--that is, for a sartinty; but I think, afther a time, it may. There's a person not now in the country, that will be back shortly, I hope; and if any one can prove what I mentioned to you, that person can. I know we'd make a powerful friend by it, but--"

Here he squirted his thin tobacco spittle "out owre his beard," but added nothing further.

"Dunphy, my fine old fellow," said Sam, "it was very kind of you to come to me upon this point. You know the affection I have for the young man; thank you, Dunphy; but it's natural--it's all the heart of man. Dunphy, how long is it, now, since you and I messed together in the gallant eleven times three? Fifty years, I think, Dunphy, or more. You were a smart fellow then, and became servant, I think, to a young captain--what's this his name was? oh! I remember--Gourlay; for, Dunphy, I remember the name of every officer in our regiment, since I entered it; when they joined, when they exchanged, sold out, or died like brave men in the field of battle. It's upwards of fifty. By the way, he left us--sold out immediately after his father's death."

"Ay, ould Sir Edward--a good man; but he had a woman to his wife, and if ever there was a divil--Lord bless us!--in any woman, there was one, and a choice bad one, too, in her. The present barrownight, Sir Thomas, is as like her as if she had spat him out of her mouth. The poor ould man, Sir Edward, had no rest night or day, because he wouldn't get himself made into a lord, or a peer, or some high-flown title of the kind; and all that she herself might rank as a nobleman's lady, although she was a 'lady,' by title, as it was, which, God knows, was more than she desarved, the thief."

"Ah, she was different from Beck, Dunphy. Talking of wives, have I not a right to feel thankful that God in his goodness gifted me with such a blessing? You don't know what I owe to her, Dunphy. When I was sick and wounded--I bear the marks of fifteen severe wounds upon me--when I was in fever, in ague, in jaundice, and several other complaints belonging to the different countries we were in, there she was--there she was, Dunphy; but enough said; ay, and in the field of battle, too," he added, immediately forgetting himself, "lying like a log, my tongue black and burning. Oh, yes, Beck's a great creature; that's all, now--that's all. Come in to breakfast, and now you shall know what a fresh egg means, for we have lots of poultry."

"Many thanks to you, Mr. Roberts, I and my ould woman know that."

"Tut--nonsense, man; lots of poultry, I say--always a pig or two, and never without a ham or a flitch, you old dog. Except the welfare of that boy, we have nothing on earth, thank God, to trouble us; but that's natural--it's all the heart of man, Dunphy"

After having made a luxurious breakfast, Dunphy, who felt that he could not readily remain away from his little shop, bade this most affectionate and worthy couple good-by and proceeded on his way home.

This hesitating old man felt anything but comfortable since the partial confidence he had placed in old Sam. It is true, he stated the purport of his disclosure to him as a contingency that might or might not happen; thus, as he imagined, keeping himself on the safe side. But in the meantime, he felt anxious, apprehensive and alarmed, even at the lengths to which his superstitious fears had driven him; for he felt now that one class of terrors had only superinduced another, without destroying the first. But so must it ever be with those timid and pusillanimous villains who strive to impose upon their consciences, and hesitate between right and wrong.

On his way home, however, he determined to visit the barracks in which the thirty-third regiment lay, in order, if possible, to get a furtive glance at the young ensign. In this he was successful. On entering the barrack, square, he saw a group of officers chatting together on the north side, and after inquiring from a soldier if Ensign Roberts was among them, he was answered in the affirmative.

"There he is," said the man, "standing with a whip in his hand--that tall, handsome young fellow."

Dunphy, who was sufficiently near to get a clear view of him, was instantly struck by his surprising resemblance to Miss Gourlay, whom he had often seen in town. _

Read next: Chapter 19. Interview Between Trailcudgel And The Stranger

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

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