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

Chapter 23. A Lunch In Summerfield Cottage

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_ CHAPTER XXIII. A Lunch in Summerfield Cottage

The little spot they strolled in was beautiful, from the natural simplicity of the sweet but humble scenery around them. They traversed it in every direction; sat on the sunny side of grassy eminences, gathered wild flowers, threw pebbles into the little prattling stream that ran over its stony bed before them; listened to and talked of and enjoyed the music of the birds as they turned the very air and hedges into harmony. Lucy thought how happy she could be in such a calm and delightful retreat, with the society of the man she loved, far from the intrigue, and pride, and vanity, and ambition of life; and she could scarcely help shuddering when she reflected upon the track of criminal ambition and profligacy into which, for the sake of an empty and perhaps a painful title, her father wished to drag her.

This train of thought, however, was dissipated by the appearance of Mr. Mainwaring, who had returned from his stroll, and came out to seek for them, accompanied by a young officer of very elegant and gentlemanly appearance, whom he introduced as Captain Roberts, of the 33d, then quartered in Dublin.

As an apology for the fact of Mr. Mainwaring having introduced a stranger to Lucy, under circumstances where privacy was so desirable, it may be necessary to say here, that Mrs. Mainwaring, out of delicacy to Lucy, forbore to acquaint him even with a hint at the cause of her visit, so far as Lucy, on the morning of her arrival, had hastily and briefly communicated it to her. This she was resolved not to do without her express permission.

"Allow me, ladies, to present to you my friend, Captain Roberts, of the 33d--or, as another older friend of mine, his excellent father, terms it, the three times eleven--by the way, not a bad paraphrase, and worthy of a retired school-master like myself. It is turning the multiplication table into a vocabulary and making it perform military duty."

After the usual formalities had been gone through, Mr. Mainwaring, who was in peculiarly excellent spirits, proceeded:

"Of course you know, every officer when introduced or travelling is a captain--CAPTAIN--a good travelling name!--Vide the play-books, passim. My young friend, however, is at the present--you remember as in pasenti, Edward--only an ensign, but, please God, old as some of us are, Mrs. M. to wit--ahem! we will live to shake hands with him as captain yet."

"You mean, of course, my dear," said his wife, "that I will live to do so; the youngest, as the proverb has it, lives longest. No man, Mr. Roberts, will more regret the improbability of verifying his own wishes than Mr. Mainwaring."

"Ah, Martha! you're always too hard for me," he replied, laughing. "But you must know that this young officer, of whom I feel so proud, is an old pupil of mine, and received his education at my feet. I consequently feel a more than usual interest in him. But come, we lose-time. It is now past two o'clock, and, if I don't mistake, there's a bit of cold ham and chicken to be had, and my walk has prepared me for lunch, as it usually does, and besides, Martha, there's an old friend of mine, his father, waiting for our return, to whom I must introduce you both, ladies, as a sample of the fine old soldier, who is a capital version of human nature."

On reaching the cottage they found our worthy friend, old Sam Roberts, in the garden, throwing crumbs of bread to a busy little flock of sparrows, behind one of the back windows that opened into it. His honest but manly face was lit up with all the eager and boisterous enjoyment of a child whilst observing with simple delight the fierce and angry quarrels of the parents, as they fought on behalf of their young, for the good things so providentially cast in their way.

"Come, now," said Sam, "I'm commissary-general for this day, and, for a miracle, an honest one--fight fair, you wretches--but I don't wonder at the spunk you show, for the rations, I can tell you, are better, poor things, than you are accustomed to. Hello, there! you, sir--you big fellow--you hulk of a cock--what business have you here? This is a quarrel among the ladies, sirrah, who are mothers, and it is for their young ones--on behalf of their children--they are showing fight; and you, sir, you overgrown glutton, are stuffing yourself, like many another 'foul bird' before you, with the public property. Shame, you little vulture! Don't you see they fly away when they have gotten' an allowance, and give it to their starving children? D---- your principle, sir, it's a bad one. You think the strongest ought to take most, do you? Bravo! Well done, my little woman. Go on, you have right and nature on your side--that's it, peck the glutton--he's a rascal--a public officer--a commissary-general that--lay on him--well done--never mind military discipline--he's none of your officer--he's a robber--a bandit--and neither a soldier nor a gentleman--by fife and drum, that's well done. But it's all nature--all the heart of man."

"Well, old friend," said he, "and so this is your good lady. How do you do, ma'am? By fife and drum, Mr. Mainwaring, but it's a good match. You were made for one another. And this young lady your daughter, ma'am? How do you do, Miss Mainwaring?"

"My dear Mr. Roberts," said Mainwaring, "we are not so happy as to claim this young lady as a daughter. She is Miss Gourlay, daughter to Sir Thomas Gourlay, of Red Hall, now here upon a visit for the good of her health."

"How do you do, Miss Gourlay? I am happy to say that I have seen a young lady that I have heard so much of--so much, I ought to say, that was good of."

Lucy, as she replied, blushed deeply at this unintentional mention of her name, and Mrs. Mainwaring, signing to her husband, by putting her finger on her lips, hinted to him that he had done wrong.

Old Sam, however, on receiving this intelligence, looked occasionally, with a great deal of interest, from Lucy to the young officer, and again from the young officer to Lucy; and as he did it, he uttered a series of ejaculations to himself, which were for the most part inaudible to the rest. "Ha!--dear me!--God bless me!--very strange!--right, old Corbet--right for a thousand--nature will prove it--not a doubt of it--God bless me!--how very like they are!--perfect brother and sister!--bless me--it's extraordinary--not a doubt of it. Bravo, Ned!"

"Come, ladies," said Mr. Mainwaring; "come, my friend, old Sam, as you like to be called, and you, Edward, come one, come all, till we try the cold ham and chicken. Miss Gou--ehem--come, Lucy, my dear, the short cut through the window; you see it open, and now, Martha, your hand; but there is old Sam's. Well done, Sam; your soldier's ever gallant. Help Miss--help the young lady up the steps, Edward. Good! he has anticipated me."

In a few minutes they were enjoying their lunch, during which the conversation became very agreeable, and even animated. Young Roberts had nothing of the military puppy about him whatsoever. On the contrary, his deportment was modest, manly, and unassuming. Sensible of his father's humble, but yet respectable position, he neither attempted to swagger himself into importance by an affectation of superior breeding or contempt for his parent, nor did he manifest any of that sullen taciturnity which is frequently preserved, as a proof of superiority, or a mask for conscious ignorance and bad breeding; the fact being generally forgotten that it is an exponent of both.

"So, Edward, you like the army, then?" inquired Mr. Mainwaring.

"I do, sir," replied young Roberts; "it's a noble profession."

"Eight, Ned--a noble profession--that's the word," said old Sam; "and so it is, my boy, and a brave and a generous one."

Lucy Gourlay and the young soldier had occasionally glanced at each other; and it might have been observed, that whenever they did so, each seemed surprised, if not actually confused.

"Is it difficult, Edward," asked Mainwaring, after they had taken wine together, "to purchase a commission at present?"

"It is not very easy to procure commissions just now," replied the other; "but you know, Mr. Mainwaring, that I had the honor to be raised from the ranks."

"Bravo, Ned!" exclaimed old Sam, slapping him him on the back; "I am glad to see that you take that honor in its true light. Thousands may have money to buy a commission, but give me the man that has merit to deserve it; especially, Ned, at so young an age as yours."

"You must have distinguished yourself, sir," observed Lucy, "otherwise it is quite unusual, I think, to witness the promotion from the ranks of so young a man."

"I only endeavored to do my duty, madam," replied Roberts, bowing modestly, whilst something like a blush came over his cheeks.

"Never mind him, Miss Gourlay," exclaimed Sam--"never mind; he did distinguish himself, and on more than one occasion, too, and well deserved his promotion. When one of the British flags was seized upon and borne off, after the brave fellow whose duty it was to defend it with his life had done so, and was cut down by three French soldiers, our gentleman here, for all so modest as he looks, pursued them, fought single-handed against the three, rescued the flag, and, on his way back, met the general, who chanced to be a spectator of the exploit; when passing near him, bleeding, for he had been smartly wounded, the general rides over to him. 'Is the officer who bore that flag killed?' he asked. 'He is, general,' replied Ned.--'You have rescued it?'--'I have, sir.'--'What is your name?'--He told him.--'Have you received an education?'--'A good education, general'--'Very good,' proceeded the general. 'You have recovered the flag, you say?'--'I considered it my duty either to die or to do so, general,' replied Ned.--'Well said, soldier,' returned the general, 'and well done, too: as for the flag itself, you must only keep it for your pains. Your commission, young man, shall be made out. I will take charge of that myself.'--There, now, is the history of his promotion for you."

"It is highly honorable to him in every sense," observed Lucy. "But it was an awful risk of life for one man to pursue three."

"A soldier, madam," replied Roberts, bowing to her for the compliment, "in the moment of danger, or when the flag of his sovereign is likely to be sullied, should never remember that he has a life; or remember it only that it may be devoted to the glory of his country and the maintenance of her freedom."

"That's well said, Edward," observed Mr. Mainwaring; "very well expressed indeed. The clauses of that sentence all follow in a neat, consecutive order. It is, indeed, all well put together as if it were an exercise."

Edward could not help smiling at this unconscious trait of the old school-master peeping out.

"That general is a fine old fellow," said Sam, "and knew how to reward true courage. But you see, Mr. Mainwaring and ladies, it's all natural, all the heart of man."

"There's Mr. Mitchell, our clergyman," observed Mrs. Mainwaring, looking out of the window; "I wish he would come in. Shall I call him, dear?"

"Never mind now, my love," replied her husband. "I like the man well enough; he is religious, they say, and charitable, but his early education unfortunately was neglected. His sermons never hang well together; he frequently omits the exordium, and often winds them up without the peroration at all. Then he mispronounces shockingly, and is full of false quantities. It was only on last Sunday that he laid the accent on i in Dalilah. Such a man's sermons, I am sorry to say, can do any educated man little good. Her's a note, my love, from Mrs. Fletcher. I met the servant coming over with it, and took it from him. She wishes to hear from you in an hour or two: it's a party, I think."

He threw the note over to his wife, who, after apologizing to the company, opened, and began to read it.

Honest old Mainwaring was an excellent man, and did a great deal of good in a quiet way, considering his sphere of life. In attending to the sermon, however, when at church, he laid himself back in his pew, shut his eyes, put the end of his gold-headed cane to his lips, and set a criticising. If all the rhetorical rules were duly observed, the language clear, and the parts of the sermon well arranged, and if, besides, there was neither false accent, nor false quantity, nor any bad grammar, he pronounced it admirable, and praised the preacher to the skies. Anything short of this, however, he looked upon not only as a failure, but entertained strong doubts of the man's orthodoxy, as well as of the purity of his doctrine.

"Yes, my dear," replied Mrs. Mainwaring, after having glanced over the note, "you are right; it is a party; and we are both asked; but I wonder, above all things, that Miss Fletcher should never cross her t's; then the tails of her letters are so long that they go into the line below them, which looks so slovenly, and shows that her writing must have bean very much neglected. I also know another fair neighbor of ours who actually puts 'for' before the infinitive mood, and flourishes her large letters like copperplate capitals that are only fit to appear in a merchant's books."

"But you know, my dear," said her husband, "that she is a grocer's widow, and, it is said, used to keep his accounts."

"That is very obvious, my dear; for, indeed, most of her invitations to tea are more like bills duly furnished than anything else. I remember one of them that ran to the following effect:

"'Mrs. Allspice presents compliments to Messrs. Mainwaring &, Co.--to wit, Miss Norton '--this was my daughter--' begs to be favored, per return of post, as to whether it will suit convenience for to come on next Tuesday evening, half-past seven, to take a cup of the best flavored souchong, 7s. 6d. per lb., and white lump, Jamaica, Is. per ditto, with a nice assortment of cakes, manufactured by ourselves. Punctuality to appointment expected.'"

"Well, for my part," said Sam, "I must say it's the entertainment I'd look to both with her and the parson, and neither the language nor the writing. Mrs. Mainwaring, will you allow me to propose a toast ma'am? It's for a fine creature, in her way; a lily, a jewel."

"With pleasure, Mr. Roberts," said that lady, smiling, for she knew old Sam must always have his own way.

"Well, then, fill, fill, each of you. Come, Miss Gourlay, if only for the novelty of the thing; for I dare say you never drank a toast before. Ned, fill for her. You're an excellent woman, Mrs. Mainwaring: and he was a lucky old boy that got you to smooth down the close of his respectable and useful life--at least, it was once useful--but we can't be useful always--well, of his harmless life--ay, that is nearer the thing. Yes, Mrs. Mainwaring, by all accounts you are a most excellent and invaluable woman, and deserve all honor."

Mrs. Mainwaring sat with a comely simper upon her good-natured face, looking down with a peculiar and modest appreciation of the forthcoming compliment to herself.

"Come now," Sam went on, "to your legs. You all, I suppose, know who I mean. Stand, if you please, Miss Gourlay. Head well up, and shoulders a little more squared, Mainwaring. Here now, are you all ready?"

"All ready," responded the gentlemen, highly amused.

"Well, then, here's my Beck's health! and long life to her! She's the pearl of wives, and deserves to live forever!"

A fit of good-humored laughter followed old Sam's toast, in which Mrs. Mainwaring not only came in for an ample share, but joined very heartily herself; that worthy lady taking it for granted that old Sam was about to propose the health of the hostess, sat still, while the rest rose; even Lucy stood up, with her usual grace and good-nature, and put the glass to her lips; and as it was the impression that the compliment was meant for Mrs. Mainwaring, the thing seemed very like what is vulgarly called a bite, upon the part of old Sam, who in the meantime, had no earthly conception of anything else than that they all thoroughly understood him, and were aware of the health he was about to give.

"What!" exclaimed Sam, on witnessing their mirth; "by fife and drum, I see nothing to laugh at in anything connected with my Beck. I always make it a point to drink the old girl's health when I'm from home; for I don't know how it happens, but I think I'm never half so fond of her as when we're separated."

"But, Mr. Eoberts," said Mrs. Mainwaring, laughing, "I assure you, from the compliments you paid me, I took it for granted that it was my health you were about to propose."

"Ay, but the compliments I paid you, ma'am, were all in compliment to old Beck; but next to her, by fife and drum, you deserve a bumper. Come, Mainwaring, get to legs, and let us have her health. Attention, now; head well up, sir; shoulders square; eye on your wife."

"It shall be done," replied Mainwaring, entering into the spirit of the joke. "If it were ambrosia, she is worthy of a brimmer. Come, then, fill your glasses. Edward, attend to Miss Gourlay. Sam, help Mrs. Mainwaring. Here, then, my dear Martha; like two winter apples, time has only mellowed us. We have both run parallel courses in life; you, in instructing the softer and more yielding sex; I, the nobler and more manly."

"Keep strictly to the toast, Matthew," she replied, "or I shall rise to defend our sex. You yielded first, you know. Ha, ha, ha!"

"As the stronger yields to the weaker, from courtesy and compassion. However, to proceed. We have both conjugated amo before we ever saw each other, so that our recurrence to the good old verb seemed somewhat like a Saturday's repetition. As for doceo, we have been both engaged in enforcing it, and successfully, Martha"--here he shook his purse--"during the best portion of our lives; for which we have made some of the most brilliant members of society our debtors. Lego is now one of our principal enjoyments; sometimes under the shadow of a spreading tree in the orchard, during the serene effulgence of a summer's eve; or, what is still more comfortable, before the cheering blaze of the winter's fire, the blinds down, the shutters closed, the arm-chair beside the table--on that table an open book and a warm tumbler--and Martha, the best of wives--

"Attention, Mainwaring; my Beck's excepted."

"Martha, the best of wives--old Sam's Beck always excepted--sitting at my side. As for audio, the truth is, I have been forced to experience the din and racket of that same verb during the greater portion of my life, in more senses than I am willing to describe. I did not imagine, in my bachelor days, that the fermenting tumult of the school-room could be surpassed by a single instrument; but, alas!--well, it matters not now; all I can say is, that I never saw her--heard I mean, for I am on audio--that the performance of that same single instrument did not furnish me with a painful praxis of the nine parts of speech all going together; for I do believe that nine tongues all at work could not have matched her. But peace be with her! she is silent at last, and cannot hear me now. I thought I myself possessed an extensive knowledge of the languages, but, alas I was nothing; as a linguist she was without a rival. However, I pass that over, and return to the subject of my toast. Now, my dear Martha, since heaven gifted me with you--"

"Attention, Mainwaring! Eyes up to the ceiling, sir, and thank God!"

Mainwaring did so; but for the life of him could not help throwing a little comic spirit into the action, adding in an undertone that he wished to be heard. "Ah, my dear Sam, how glad I am that you did not bid me go farther. However, to proceed--No, my dear Martha, ever since our most felicitous conjugation, I hardly know what the exemplary verb audio means. I could scarcely translate it. Ours is a truly grammatical union. Not the nominative case with verb--not the relative with the antecedent--not the adjective with the substantive--affords a more appropriate illustration of conjugal harmony, than does our matrimonial existence. Peace and quietness, however, are on your tongue--affection and charity in your heart--benevolence in your hand, which is seldom extended empty to the pool--and, altogether, you are worthy of the high honor to which,"--this he added with a bit of good-natured irony--"partly from motives of condescension, and partly, as I said, from motives of compassion, I have, in the fulness of a benevolent heart, exalted you." The toast was then drank.

"Attention, ladies!" said Sam, who had been looking, as before, from the young officer to Lucy, and vice versa--"Mainwaring, attention! Look upon these two--upon Miss Gourlay, here, and upon Ned Roberts--and tell me if you don't think there's a strong likeness."

The attention of the others was instantly directed to an examination of the parties in question, and most certainly they were struck with the extraordinary resemblance.

"It is very remarkable, indeed, Mr. Roberts," observed their hostess, looking at them again; "and what confirms it is the fact, that I noticed the circumstance almost as soon as Mr. Roberts joined us. It is certainly very strange to find such a resemblance in persons not at all related."

Lucy, on finding the eyes of her friends upon her, could not avoid blushing; nor was the young officer's complexion without a somewhat deeper tinge.

"Now," said Mrs. Mainwaring, smiling, "the question is, which we are to consider complimented by this extraordinary likeness."

"The gentleman, of course, Mrs. Mainwaring," replied Sam.

"Unquestionably," said Edward, bowing to Lucy; "I never felt so much flattered in my life before, nor ever can again, unless by a similar comparison with the same fair object."

Another blush on the part of Lucy followed this delicate compliment, and old Sam exclaimed:

"Attention, Mainwaring! and you, ma'am,"--addressing Mrs. Mainwaring. "Now did you ever see brother and sister more like? eh!"

"Very seldom ever saw brother and sister so like," replied Mainwaring. "Indeed, it is most extraordinary."

"Wonderful! upon my word," exclaimed his wife.

"Hum!--Well," proceeded Sam, "it is, I believe, very odd--very--and may be not, either--may be not so odd. Ahem!--and yet, still--however, no matter, it's all natural; all the heart of man--eh! Mainwaring?"

"I suppose so, Mr. Roberts; I suppose so."

After old Sam and his son had taken their departure, Lucy once more adverted to the duty as well as the necessity of acquainting her father with her safety, and thus relieving his mind of much anxiety and trouble. To this her friend at once consented. The baronet, in the meantime, felt considerably the worse for those dreadful conflicts which had swept down and annihilated all that ever had any tendency to humanity or goodness in his heart. He felt unwell--that is to say, he experienced none of those symptoms of illness which at once determine the nature of any specific malady. The sensation, however, was that of a strong man, who finds his frame, as it were, shaken--who is aware that something of a nameless apprehension connected with his health hangs over him, and whose mind is filled with a sense of gloomy depression and restlessness, for which he neither can account nor refer to any particular source of anxiety, although such in reality may exist. It appeared to be some terrible and gigantic hypochondriasis--some waking nightmare--coming over him like the shadow of his disappointed ambition, blighting his strength, and warning him, that when the heart is made the battle-field of the passions for too long a period, the physical powers will ultimately suffer, until the body becomes the victim of the spirit.

Yet, notwithstanding this feeling, Sir Thomas's mind was considerably relieved. Lucy had not eloped; but then, the rumor of her elopement had gone abroad. This, indeed, was bitter; but, on the other hand, time--circumstances--the reappearance of this most mysterious stranger--and most of all, Lucy's high character for all that was great and good, delicate and honorable, would ere long, set her right with the world. Nothing, he felt, however, would so quickly and decidedly effect this as her return to her father's roof; for this necessary step would at once give the lie to calumny.

In order, therefore, to ascertain, if possible, the place of her present concealment, he resolved to remove to his metropolitan residence, having taken it for granted that she had sought shelter there with some of her friends. Anxious, nervous, and gloomy, he ordered his carriage, and in due time arrived in Dublin.

Thither the stranger had preceded him. The latter, finding that Ballytrain could no longer be the scene of his operations, also sought the metropolis. Fenton had disappeared--Lucy was no longer there. His friend Birney was also in town, and as in town his business now lay, to town therefore he went.

In the meantime, we must turn a little to our friend Crackenfudge, who, after the rough handling he had received from the baronet, went home, if not a sadder and a wiser, at least a much sorer man. The unfortunate wretch was sadly basted. The furious baronet, knowing the creature he was, had pitched into him in awful style. He felt, however, when cooled down, that he had gone too far; and that, for the sake of Lucy, and in order to tie up the miserable wretch's babbling tongue, it was necessary that he should make some apology for such an unjustifiable outrage. He accordingly wrote him the following letter before he went to town:

"DEAR SIR,--The nature of the communication which, I am sure from kind feelings, you made to me the other day, had such an effect upon a temper naturally choleric, that I fear I have been guilty of some violence toward you. I am, unfortunately, subject to paroxysms of this sort, and while under their influence feel utterly unconscious of what I do or say. In your case, will you be good enough to let me know--whether I treated you kindly or otherwise; for the fact is, the paroxysm I speak of assumes an affectionate character as well as a violent one. Of what I did or said on the occasion in question I have no earthly recollection. In the meantime, I have the satisfaction to assure you that Miss Gourlay has not eloped, but is residing with a friend, in the metropolis. I have seen the gentleman to whom you alluded, and am satisfied that their journey to town was purely accidental. He knows not even where she is; but I do, and am quite easy on the subject. Have the kindness to mention this to all your friends, and to contradict the report of her elopement wherever and whenever you hear it.

"Truly yours,

"Thomas Gourlay.

"Periwinkle Crackenfudge, Esq.

"P. S.--In the meantime, will you oblige me by sending up to my address in town a list of your claims for a seat on the magisterial bench. Let it be as clear and well worded as you can make it, and as authentic. You may color a little, I suppose, but let the groundwork be truth--if you can; if not truth--then that which comes as near it as possible. Truth, you know, is always better than a lie, unless where a lie happens to be better than truth.

"T. G."

To this characteristic epistle our bedrubbed friend sent the following reply:

"My dear Sir Thomas,--A' would give more than all mention to be gifted with your want of memory respecting what occurred the other day. Never man had such a memory of that dreadful transaction as a' have; from head to heel a'm all memory; from heel to head a'm all memory--up and down --round--about--across--here and there, and everywhere--a'm all memory; but in one particular place, Sir Thomas--ah! there's where a' suffer--however, it doesn't make no matter; a' only say that you taught me the luxury of an easy chair and a. soft cushion ever since, Sir Thomas.

"Your letter, Sir Thomas, has given me great comfort, and has made me rejoice, although it is with groans a' do it, at the whole transaction. If you succeed in getting me the magistracy, Sir Thomas, it will be the most blessed and delightful basting that ever a lucky man got. If a' succeed in being turned into a bony fidy live magistrate, to be called 'your worship,' and am to have the right of fining and flogging and committing the people, as a' wish and hope to do, then all say that the hand of Providence was in it, as well as your foot, Sir Thomas. Now, that you have explained the circumstance, a' feel very much honored by the drubbing a' got, Sir Thomas; and, indeed, a' don't doubt, after all, but it was meant in kindness, as you say, Sir Thomas; and a'm sure besides, Sir Thomas, that it's not every one you'd condescend to drub, and that the man you would drub, Sir Thomas, must be a person of some consequence. A' will send you up my claims as a magistrate some of these days--that is, as soon as a' can get some long-headed fellow to make them out for me.

"And have the honor to be, my dear Sir Thomas, your much obliged and favored humble servant.

"Periwinkle Crackenfudge.

"Sir Thomas Gourlay, Bart."


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