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

Chapter 28. Innocence And Affection Overcome By Fraud And Hypocrisy

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_ CHAPTER XXVIII. Innocence and Affection overcome by Fraud and Hypocrisy

--Lucy yields at Last.

Not many minutes after Mrs. Mainwaring's interview with the baronet, Gibson entered the library, and handed him a letter on which was stamped the Ballytrain postmark. On looking at it, he paused for a moment:

"Who the d------ can this come from?" he said. "I am not aware of having any particular correspondence at present, in or about Ballytrain. Here, however, is a seal; let me see what it is. What the d------, again? are these a pair of asses' ears or wings? Certainly, if the impression be correct, the former; and what is here? A fox. Very good, perfectly intelligible; a fox, with a pair of asses' ears upon him! intimating a combination of knavery and folly. 'Gad, this must be from Crackenfudge, of whom it is the type and exponent. For a thousand, it contains a list of his qualifications for the magisterial honors for which he is so ambitious. Well, well; I believe every man has an ambition for something. Mine is to see my daughter a countess, that she may trample with velvet slippers on the necks of those who would trample on hers if she were beneath them. This fellow, now, who is both slave and tyrant, will play all sorts of oppressive pranks upon the poor, by whom he knows that he is despised; and for that very reason, along with others, will he punish them. That, however, is, after all, but natural; and on this very account, curse me, but I shall try and shove the beggarly scoundrel up to the point of his paltry ambition. I like ambition. The man who has no object of ambition of any kind is unfit for life. Come, then, wax, deliver up thy trust.'"

With a dark grin of contempt, and a kind of sarcastic gratification, he perused the document, which ran as follows:

"My dear Sir Tomas,--In a letter, which a' had the honer of receiving from you, in consequence of your very great kindness in condescending to kick me out of your house, on the occasion of my last visit to Red Hall, you were pleased to express a wish that a' would send you up as arthentic a list as a' could conveniently make up of my qualifications for the magistracey. Deed, a'm sore yet, Sir Tomas, and wouldn't it be a good joke, as my friend Dr. Twig says, if the soreness should remain until it is cured by the Komission, which he thinks would wipe out all recollection of the pain and the punishment. And he says, too, that this application of it would be putting it to a most proper and legutimate use; the only use, he insists, to which it ought to be put. But a' don't go that far, because a' think it would be an honerable dockiment, not only to my posterity, meaning my legutimate progenitors, if a' should happen to have any; but, also and moreover, to the good taste and judgment, and respect for the honer and integrity of the Bench, manifested by those who attributed to place me on it.

"A' now come to Klaim No. I, for the magistracey: In the first place a'm not without expeyrience, having been in the habit of acting as a magistrate in a private way, and upon my own responsibility, for several years. A' established a kourt in a little vilage, which--and this is a strong point in my feavor now-a-days--which a' meself have depopilated; and a' trust that the depopilation won't be ovelueked. To this kourt a' com-peled all me taunts to atend. They were obliged to summon one another as often as they kould, and much oftener than they wished, and for the slightest kauses. A' presided in it purseondlly; and a'll tell you why. My system was a fine system, indeed. That is to say, a' fined them ether on the one side or the tother, but most generally on both, and then a' put the fines into my own pocet. My tenints a' know didn't like this kind of law very much--but if they didn't a' did; and a' made them feel that a' was their landlord. No man was a faverite with me that didn't frequent my kourt, and for this resin, in order to stand well with me, they fought like kat and dog. Now, you know, it was my bisness to enkorage this, for the more they fought and disputed, the more a' fined them.

"In fact, a' done everything in my power, to enlitin my tenints. For instance, a' taught them the doktrine of trespiss. If a' found that a stranger tuck the sheltry side of my hedge, to blow his nose, I fined him half-a-crown, as can be proved by proper and undeniable testomony. A' mention all these matters to satisfy you that a' have practis as a magistrate, and won't have my duties to lern when a'm called upon to discharge them.

"Klaim No. II. is as follows: A'm very unpopilar with the people, which is a great thing in itself, as a' think no man ought to be risen to the bench that's not unpopilar; because, when popilar, he's likely to feavor them, and symperthize with them--wherein his first duty is always to konsider them in the rong. Nether am a' popilar with the gentry and magistrates of the kountry, because they despise me, and say that a'm this, that and tother; that a'm mean and tyrannical; that a' changed my name from pride, and that a'm overbearing and ignorant. Now this last charge of ignorance brings me to Klaim No. III.

"Be it nown to you, then, Sir Tomas, that a' received a chollege eddycation, which is an anser in full to the play of ignorance. In fact, a' devoted meself to eddycation till my very brain began to go round like a whurli-gig; and many people say, that a' never rekovered the proper use of it since. Hundres will tell you that they would shed their blood upon the truth of it; but let any one that thinks so transact bisness with me, or bekome a tenint of mine, and he'll find that a' can make him bleed in proving the reverse.

"A' could prove many other klaims equally strong, but a' hope it's not necessary to seduce any more. A' do think, if the Lord Chanceseller knew of my qualifications, a' wouldn't be long off the bench. If, then, Sir Tomas, you, who have so much influence, would write on my behalf, and rekomend me to the custus rascalorum as a proper kandi-date, I could not fail to sukceed in reaching the great point of my ambition, which is, to be accommodated with a seat--anything would satisfy me--even a close-stool--upon the magisterial bench. Amen, Sir Tomas.

"And have the honer to be,

"Your obedient and much obliged, and very thankful servant for what a' got, as well as for what a' expect, Sir Tomas,

"Periwinkle Crackenfudge."

Sir Thomas--having perused this precious document, which, by the way, contains no single fact that could not be substantiated by the clearest testimony, so little are they at head-quarters acquainted with the pranks that are played off on the unfortunate people by multitudes of petty tyrants in remote districts of the country--Sir Thomas, we say, having perused the aforesaid document, grinned--almost laughed--with a satirical enjoyment of its contents.

"Very good," said he; "excellent: confound me, but Crackenfudge must get to the bench, if it were only for the novelty of the thing. I will this moment recommend him to Lord Cullamore, who is custos rotulorum for the county, and who would as soon, by the way, cut his right hand off as recommend him to the Chancellor, if he knew the extent of his 'klaims,' as the miserable devil spells it. Yes, I will recommend him, if it were only to vex my brother baronet, Sir James B-----, who is humane, and kind, and popular, forsooth, and a staunch advocate for purity of the bench, and justice to the people! No doubt of it; I shall recommend you, Crackenfudge, and cheek by jowl with the best among them, upon the same magistorial bench, shall the doughty Crackenfudge sit."

He instantly sat down to his writing-desk, and penned as strong a recommendation as he could possibly compose to Lord Cullamore, after which he threw himself again upon the sofa, and exclaimed:

"Well, that act is done, and an iniquitous one it is; but no matter, it is gone off to the post, and I'm rid of him.' Now for Lucy, and my ambition; she is unquestionably with that shameless old woman who could think of marrying at such an age. She is with her; she will hear of my illness, and as certain as life is life, and death death, she will be here soon."

In this he calculated aright, and he felt that he did so. Mrs. Mainwaring, on the evening of their visit to the city, considered it her duty to disclose, fully and candidly, to Lucy, the state of her father's health, that is, as it appeared to her on their interview. Lucy, who knew that he was subject to sudden attacks upon occasions of less moment, not only became alarmed, but experienced a feeling like remorse for having, as she said, abandoned him so undutifully.

"I will return immediately," she said, weeping; "he is ill: you say he speaks of me tenderly and affectionately--oh, what have I done! Should this illness prove serious--fatal--my piece of mind were gone forever. I should consider myself as a parricide--as the direct cause of his death. My God! perhaps even now I am miserable for life--forever--forever!"

Mrs. Mainwaring soothed her as well as she could, but she refused to hear comfort, and having desired Alley Mahon to prepare their slight luggage, she took an affectionate and tearful leave of Mrs. Mainwaring, bade adieu to her husband, and was about to get into the chaise, which had been ordered from the inn in Wicklow, when Mrs. Mainwaring said:

"Now, my dear Lucy, if your father should recover, and have recourse to any abuse of his authority, by attempting again to force your inclinations and consummate your misery, remember that my door, my arms, my heart, shall ever be open to you. I do not, you will observe, suggest any act of disobedience on your part; on the contrary, I am of opinion that you should suffer everything short of the last resort, by which I mean this hateful marriage with Dunroe, sooner than abandon your father's roof. This union is a subject on which I must see him again. Poor Lord Cullamore I respect and venerate, for I have reason to believe that he has, for one contemplated error, had an unhappy if not a remorseful life. In the meantime, even in opposition to your father's wishes, I say it, and in confirmation of your strongest prejudices------"

"It amounts to antipathy, Mrs. Mainwaring--to hatred, to abhorrence."

"Well, my dear child, in confirmation of them all, I implore, I entreat, I conjure, and if I had authority, I would say, I command you not to unite your fate with that young profligate."

"Do not fear me, Mrs. Mainwaring; but at present I can think of nothing but poor papa and his illness; I tremble, indeed, to think how I shall find him; and, my God, to reflect that I am the guilty cause of all this!"

They then separated, and Lucy, accompanied by Alley, proceeded to town at a pace as rapid as the animals that bore them could possibly accomplish.

On arriving in town, she was about rushing upstairs to throw herself in her father's arms, when Gibson, who observed her, approached respectfully, and said:

"This haste to see your father, Miss Gourlay, is very natural; but perhaps you will be good enough to wait a few moments, until he is prepared to receive you. The doctor has left strict orders that he shall not see any person; but, above all things, without being announced."

"But, Gibson--first, how is he? Is he very ill?"

Gibson assumed a melancholy and very solemn look, as he replied, "He is, indeed, ill, Miss Gourlay; but it would not become me to distress you--especially as I hope your presence will comfort him; he is perpetually calling for you."

"Go, Gibson, go," she exclaimed, whilst tears, which she could not restrain, gushed to her eyes. "Go, be quick; tell him I am here."

"I will break it to him, madam, as gently as possible," replied this sedate and oily gentleman; "for, if made acquainted with it too suddenly, the unexpected joy might injure him."

"Do not injure him, then," she exclaimed, earnestly; "oh, do not injure him--but go; I leave it to your own discretion."

Lucy immediately proceeded to her own room, and Gibson to the library, where he found the baronet in his nightcap and morning gown, reading a newspaper.

"I have the paragraph drawn up, Gibson," said he, with a grim smile, "stating that I am dangerously ill; take and copy it, and see that it be inserted in to-morrow's publication."

"It will not be necessary, sir," replied the footman; "Miss Gourlay is here, and impatient to see you."

"Here!" exclaimed her father with a start; "you do not say she is in the house?"

"She has just arrived, sir, and is now in her own room."

"Leave me, Gibson," said the baronet, "and attend promptly when I ring;" and Gibson withdrew. "Why," thought he to himself, "why, do I feel as I do? Glad that I have her once more in my power, and this is only natural; but why this kind of terror--this awe of that extraordinary girl? I dismissed that prying scoundrel of a footman, because I could not bear that he should observe and sneer at this hypocrisy, although I know he is aware of it. What can this uncomfortable sensation which checks my joy at her return mean? Is it that involuntary homage which they say vice is compelled to pay to purity, truth, and virtue? I know not; but I feel disturbed, humbled with an impression like that of guilt--an impression which makes me feel as if there actually were such a thing as conscience. As my objects, however, are for the foolish girl's advancement, I am determined to play the game out, and for that purpose, as I know now by experience that neither harshness nor violence will do, I shall have recourse to tenderness and affection. I must touch her heart, excite her sympathy, and throw myself altogether upon her generosity. Come then--and now for the assumption of a new character."

Having concluded this train of meditation, he rang for Gibson, who appeared.

"Gibson, let Miss Gourlay know that, ill as I am, I shall try to see her: be precise in the message, sir; use my own words."

"Certainly, Sir Thomas," replied the footman, who immediately withdrew to deliver it.

The baronet, when Gibson went out again, took a pair of pillows, with which the sofa was latterly furnished, in order to maintain the appearance of illness, whenever it might be necessary, and having placed them under his head, laid himself down, pulled the nightcap over his brows, and affected all the symptoms of a man who was attempting to struggle against some serious and severe attack.

In this state he lay, when Lucy entering the room, approached, in a flood of tears, exclaiming, as she knelt by the sofa, "Oh, papa--dear papa, forgive me;" and as she spoke, she put her arms round his neck, and kissed him affectionately. "Dear papa," she proceeded, "you are ill--very ill, I fear; but will you not forgive your poor child for having abandoned you as she did? I have returned, however, to stay with you, to tend you, to soothe and console you as far as any and every effort of mine can. You shall have no nurse but me, papa. All that human hands can do to give you ease--all that the sincerest affection can do to sustain and cheer you, your own Lucy will do. But speak to me, papa; am I not your own Lucy still?"

Her father turned round, as if by a painful effort, and having looked upon her for some time, replied, feebly, "Yes, you are--you are my own Lucy still."

This admission brought a fresh gush of tears from the affectionate girl, who again exclaimed, "Ah, papa, I fear you are very ill; but those words are to me the sweetest that ever proceeded from your lips. Are you glad to see me, papa?--but I forget myself; perhaps I am disturbing you. Only say how you feel, and if it will not injure you, what your complaint is."

"My complaint, dear Lucy, most affectionate child--for I see you are so still, notwithstanding reports and appearances--"

"Oh, indeed, I am, papa--indeed I am."

"My complaint was brought on by anxiety and distress of mind--I will not say why--I did, I know, I admit, wish to see you in a position of life equal to your merits; but I cannot talk of that--it would disturb me; it is a subject on which, alas! I am without hope. I am threatened with apoplexy or paralysis, Lucy, the doctor cannot say which; but the danger, he says, proceeds altogether from the state of my mind, acting, it is true, upon a plethoric system of body; but I care not, dear Lucy--I care not, now; I am indifferent to life. All my expectations --all a father's brilliant plans for his child, are now over. The doctor says that ease of mind might restore, but I doubt it now; I fear it is too late. I only wish I was better prepared for the change which I know I shall soon be forced to make. Yet I feel, Lucy, as if I never loved you until now--I feel how dear you are to me now that I know I must part with you so soon."

Lucy was utterly incapable of resisting this tenderness, as the unsuspecting girl believed it to be. She again threw her arms around him, and wept as if her very heart would break.

"This agitation, my darling," he added, "is too much for us both. My head is easily disturbed; but--but--send for Lucy," he exclaimed, as if touched by a passing delirium, "send for my daughter. I must have Lucy. I have been harsh to her, and I cannot die without her forgiveness."

"Here, papa--dearest papa! Recollect yourself; Lucy is with you; not to forgive you for anything, but to ask; to implore to be forgiven."

"Ha!" he said, raising his head a little, and looking round like a man awakening from sleep. "I fear I am beginning to wander. Dear Lucy--yes, it is you. Oh, I recollect. Withdraw, my darling; the sight of you--the joy of your very appearance--eh--eh--yes, let me see. Oh, yes; withdraw, my darling; this interview has been too much for me--I fear it has--but rest and silence will restore me, I hope. I hope so--I hope so."

Lucy, who feared that a continuance of this interview might very much aggravate his illness, immediately took her leave, and retired to her own room, whither she summoned Alley Mahon. This blunt but faithful attendant felt no surprise in witnessing her grief; for indeed she had done little else than weep, ever since she heard of her father's illness.

"Now don't cry so much, miss," she said; "didn't I tell you that your grief will do neither you nor him any good? Keep yourself cool and quiet, and spake to him like a raisonable crayture, what you are not, ever since you herd of his being sick. It isn't by shedding tears that you can expect to comfort him, as you intend to do, but by being calm, and considerate, and attentive to him, and not allowin' him to see what you suffer."

"That is very true, Alice, I admit," replied Lucy; but when I consider that it was my undutiful flight from him that occasioned this attack, how can I free myself from blame? My heart, Alice, is divided between a feeling of remorse for having deserted him without sufficient cause, and grief for his illness, and in that is involved the apprehension of his loss. After all, Alice, you must admit that I have no friend in the world but my father. How, then, can I think of losing him?"

"And even if God took him," replied Alley, "which I hope after all isn't so likely--"

"What do you mean, girl?" asked Lucy, ignorant that Alley only used a form of speech peculiar to the people, "what language is this of my father?"

"Why, I hope it's but the truth, miss," replied the maid; "for if God was to call him to-morrow--which may God forbid! you'd find friends that would take care of you and protect you."

"Yes; but, Alice, if papa died, I should have to reproach myself with his death; and that consideration would drive me distracted or kill me. I am beginning to think that obedience to the will of a parent is, under all circumstances, the first duty of a child. A parent knows better what is for our good than we can be supposed to do. At all events, whatever exceptions there may be to this rule, I care not. It is enough, and too much, for me to reflect that my conduct has been the cause of papa's illness. His great object in life was to promote my happiness. Now this was affection for me. I grant he may have been mistaken, but still it was affection; and consequently I cannot help admitting that even his harshness, and certainly all that he suffered through the very violence of his own passions, arose from the same source--affection for me."

"Ah," replied Alley, "it's aisy seen that your heart is softened now; but in truth, miss, it was quare affection that would make his daughter miserable, bekase he wanted her to become a great lady. If he was a kind and raisonable father, he would not force you to be unhappy. An affectionate father would give up the point rather than make you so; but no; the truth is simply this, he wanted to gratify himself more than he did you, or why would he act as he did?"

"Alice," replied Lucy, "remember that I will not suffer you to speak of my father with disrespect. You forget yourself, girl, and learn from me now, that in order to restore him to peace of mind and health, in order to rescue him from death, and oh," she exclaimed involuntarily, "above all things from a death, for which, perhaps, he is not sufficiently prepared--as who, alas, is for that terrible event!--yes in order to do this, I am ready to yield an implicit obedience to his wishes: and I pray heaven that this act on my part may not be too late to restore him to his health, and relieve his mind from the load of care which presses it down upon my account."

"Good Lord, Miss Gourlay," exclaimed poor Alley, absolutely frightened by the determined and vehement spirit in which these words were uttered, "surely you wouldn't think of makin' a saickerfice of yourself that way?"

"That may be the word, Alice, or it may not; but if it be a sacrifice, and if the sacrifice is necessary, it shall be made--I shall make it. My disobedience shall never break my father's heart."

"I don't wish to speak disrespectfully of your father, miss; but I think he's an ambitious man."

"And perhaps the ambition which he feels is a virtue, and one in which I am deficient. You and I, Alice, know but little of life and the maxims by which its great social principles are regulated."

"Faith, spake for yourself, miss; as for me, I'm the very girl that has had my experience. No less than three did I manfully refuse, in spite of both father and mother. First there was big Bob Broghan, a giant of a fellow, with a head and pluck upon him that would fill a mess-pot. He had a chape farm, and could afford to wallow like a swine in filth and laziness. And well becomes the old couple, I must marry him, whether I would or not. Be aisy, said I, it's no go; when I marry a man, it'll be one that'll know the use of soap and wather, at all events. Well, but I must; I did not know what was for my own good; he was rich, and I'd lead a fine life with him. Scrape and clane him for somebody else, says I; no such walkin' dungheap for me. Then they came to the cudgel, and flaked me; but it was in a good cause, and I tould them that if I must die a marthyr to cleanliness, I must; and at last they dropped it, and so I got free of Bob Broghan.

"The next was a little fellow that kept a small shop of hucksthery, and some groceries, and the like o' that. He was a near, penurious devil, hard and scraggy lookin', with hunger in his face and in his heart, too; ay, and besides, he had the name of not bein' honest. But then his shop was gettin' bigger and bigger, and himself richer and richer every day. Here's your man, says the old couple. Maybe not, says I. No shingawn that deals in light weights and short measures for me. My husband must be an honest man, and not a keen shaving rogue like Barney Buckley. Well, miss, out came the cudgel again, and out came I with the same answer. Lay on, says I; if I must die a marthyr to honesty, why I must; and may God have mercy on me for the same, as he will. Then they saw that I was a rock, and so there was an end of Barney Buckley, as well as Bob Broghan.

"Well and good; then came number three, a fine handsome young man, by name Con Coghlan. At first I didn't much like him, bekase he had the name of being too fond of money, and it was well known that he had disappointed three or four girls that couldn't show guinea for guinea with him. The sleeveen gained upon me, however, and I did get fond of him, and tould him to speak to my father, and so he did, and they met once or twice to make the match; but, ah, miss, every one has their troubles. On the last meetin', when he found that my fortune wasn't what he expected, he shogged off wid himself; and, mother o' mercy, did ever I think it would come to that?" Here she wiped her eyes, and then with fresh spirit proceeded, "He jilted me, Miss--the desateful villain jilted me; but if he did, I had my revenge. In less than a year he came sneakin' back, and tould my father that as he couldn't get me out of his head, he would take me with whatever portion they could give me. The fellow was rich, Miss, and so the ould couple, ready to bounce at him, came out again. Come, Alley, here's Con Coghlan back. Well, then, says I, he knows the road home again, and let him take it. One good turn desarves another. When he could get me he wouldn't take me, and now when he would take me, he won't get me; so I think we're even.

"Out once more came the cudgel, and on they laid; but now I wasn't common stone but whitestone. Lay on, say I; I see, or rather I feel, that the crown is before me. If I must die a marthyr to a dacent spirit, why I must; and so God's blessing be with you all. I'll shine in heaven for this yet.

"I think now, Miss, you'll grant that I know something about life."

"Alice," replied Lucy, "I have often heard it said, that the humblest weeds which grow contain virtues that are valuable, if they were only known. Your experience is not without a moral, and your last lover was the worst, because he was mean; but when I think of him--the delicate, the generous, the disinterested, the faithful, the noble-hearted--alas, Alice!" she exclaimed, throwing herself in a fresh paroxysm of grief upon the bosom of her maid, "you know not the incredible pain--the hopeless agony--of the sacrifice I am about to make. My father, however, is the author of my being, and as his very life depends upon my strength of mind now, I shall, rather than see him die whilst I selfishly gratify my own will--yes, Alice, I shall--I shall--and may heaven give me strength for it!--I shall sacrifice love to duty, and save him; that is, if it be not already too late."

"And if he does recover," replied Alice, whose tears flowed along with those of her mistress, but whose pretty eye began to brighten with indignant energy as she spoke, "if he does recover, and if ever he turns a cold look, or uses a harsh word to you, may I die for heaven if he oughtn't to be put in the public stocks and made an example of to the world."

"The scene, however, will be changed then, Alice; for the subject matter of all our misunderstandings will have been removed. Yet, Alice, amidst all the darkness and suffering that lie before me, there is one consolation"--and as she uttered these words, there breathed throughout her beautiful features a spirit of sorrow, so deep, so mournful, so resigned, and so touching, that Alley in turn laid her head on her bosom, exclaiming, as she looked up into her eyes, "Oh, may the God of mercy have pity on you, my darling mistress! what wouldn't your faithful Alley do to give you relief? and she can't;" and then the affectionate creature wept bitterly. "But what is the consolation?" she asked, hoping to extract from the melancholy girl some thought or view of her position that might inspire them with hope or comfort.

"The consolation I allude to, Alice, is the well-known fact that a broken heart cannot long be the subject of sorrow; and, besides, my farewell of life will not be painful; for then I shall be able to reflect with peace that, difficult as was the duty imposed upon me, I shall have performed it. Now, dear Alice, withdraw; I wish to be alone for some time, that I may reflect as I ought, and endeavor to gain strength for the sacrifice that is before me."

Her eye as she looked upon Alley was, though filled with a melancholy lustre, expressive at the same time of a spirit so lofty, calm, and determined, that its whole character partook of absolute sublimity. Alley, in obedience to her words, withdrew; but not without an anxious and earnest effort at imparting comfort.

When her maid had retired, Lucy began once more to examine her position, in all its dark and painful aspects, and to reflect upon the destiny which awaited her, fraught with unexampled misery as it was. Though well aware, from former experience, of her father's hypocritical disguises, she was too full of generosity and candor to allow her heart to entertain suspicion. Her nature was one of great simplicity, artlessness, and truth. Truth, above all things, was her predominant virtue; and we need not say, that wherever it resides it is certain to become a guarantee for the possession of all the rest. Her cruel-hearted father, himself false and deceitful, dreaded her for this love of truth, and was so well acquainted with her utter want of suspicion, that he never scrupled, though frequently detected, to impose upon her, when it suited his purpose. This, indeed, was not difficult; for such was his daughter's natural candor and truthfulness, that if he deceived her by a falsehood to-day, she was as ready to believe him to-morrow as ever. His last heartless act of hypocrisy, therefore, was such a deliberate violation of truth as amounted to a species of sacrilege; for it robbed the pure shrine of his own daughter's heart of her whole happiness. Nay, when we consider the relations in which they stood, it might be termed, as is beautifully said in Scripture, "a seething of the kid in the mother's milk."

As it was, however, her father's illness disarmed her generous and forgiving spirit of every argument that stood in the way of the determination she had made. His conduct she felt might, indeed, be the result of one of those great social errors that create so much misery in life; that, for instance, of supposing that one must ascend through certain orders of society, and reach a particular elevation before they can enjoy happiness. This notion, so much at variance with the goodness and mercy of God, who has not confined happiness to any particular class, she herself rejected; but, at the same time, the modest estimate which she formed of her own capacity to reason upon or analyze all speculative opinions, led her to suppose that she might be wrong, and her father right, in the inferences which they respectively drew. Perhaps she thought her reluctance to see this individual case through his medium, arose from some peculiar idiosyncrasy of intellect or temperament not common to others, and that she was setting a particular instance against a universal truth.

That, however, which most severely tested her fortitude and noble sense of what we owe a parent, resulted from no moral or metaphysical distinctions of human duty, but simply and directly from what she must suffer by the contemplated sacrifice. She was born in a position of life sufficiently dignified for ordinary ambition. She was surrounded by luxury--had received an enlightened education--had a heart formed for love--for that pure and exalted passion, which comprehends and brings into action all the higher qualities of our being, and enlarges all our capacities for happiness. God and nature, so to speak, had gifted her mind with extraordinary feeling and intellect, and her person with unusual grace and beauty; yet, here, by this act of self-devotion to her father, she renounced all that the human heart with such strong claims upon the legitimate enjoyments of life could expect, and voluntarily entered into a destiny of suffering and misery. She reflected upon and felt the bitterness of all this; but, on the other hand, the contemplation of a father dying in consequence of her disobedience--dying, too, probably in an unprepared state--whose heart was now full of love and tenderness for her; who, in fact, was in grief and sorrow in consequence of what he had caused her to suffer. We say she contemplated all this, and her great heart felt that this was the moment of mercy.

"It is resolved!" she exclaimed; "I will disturb him for a little. There is no time now for meanly wrestling it out, for ungenerous hesitation and delay. Suspense may kill him; and whilst I deliberate, he may be lost. Father, I come, Never again shall you reproach me with disobedience. Though your ambition may be wrong, yet who else than I should become the victim of an error which originates in affection for myself? I yield at last, as is my duty; now your situation makes it so; and my heart, though crushed and broken, shall be an offering of peace between us. Farewell, now, to love--to love legitimate, pure, and holy!--farewell to all the divine charities and tendernesses of life which follow it--farewell to peace of! heart--to the wife's pride of eye, to the husband's tender glance--farewell--farewell to everything in this wretched life but the hopes of heaven! I come, my father--I come. But I had forgotten," she said, "I must not see him without permission, nor unannounced, as Gibson said. Stay, I shall ring for Gibson."

"Gibson," said she, when he had made his appearance, "try if your master could see me for a moment; say I request it particularly, and that I shall scarcely disturb him. Ask it as a favor, unless he be very ill indeed--and even then do so."

Whilst Gibson went with this message, Lucy, feeling that it might be dangerous to agitate her father by the exhibition of emotion, endeavored to compose herself as much as she could, so that by the time of Gibson's return, her appearance was calm, noble, and majestic. In fact, the greatness--the heroic spirit--of the coming sacrifice emanated like a beautiful but solemn light from her countenance, and on being desired to go in, she appeared full of unusual beauty and composure.

On entering, she found her father much in the same position: his head, as before, upon the pillows, and the nightcap drawn over his heavy brows.

"You wished to see me, my dear Lucy. Have you any favor to ask, my child? If so, ask whilst I have recollection and consciousness to grant it. I can refuse you nothing now, Lucy. I was wrong ever to struggle with you. It was too much for me, for I am now the victim; but even that is well, for I am glad it is not you."

When he mentioned the word victim, Lucy felt as if a poniard had gone through her heart; but she had already resolved that what must be done should be done generously, consequently, without any ostentation of feeling, and with as little appearance of self-sacrifice as possible.

It is not for us, she said to herself, to exaggerate the value of the gift which we bestow, but rather to depreciate it, for it is never generous to magnify an obligation.

"I have a favor to ask, papa," said the generous and considerate girl.

"It is granted, my darling Lucy, before I hear it," he replied. "What is it? Oh how happy I feel that you have returned to me; I shall not now pass away my last moments on a solitary deathbed. But what is your request, my love?"

"You have to-day, papa, told me that the danger of your present attack proceeds from the anxious state of your mind. Now, my request is, that I may be permitted to make that state easier; to remove that anxiety, and, if possible, all other anxiety and care that press upon you. You know, papa, the topic upon which we have always differed; now, rather than any distress of feeling connected with it should stand in the way of your recovery, I wish to say that you may I count upon my most perfect obedience."

"You mean the Dunroe business, dear Lucy?"

"I mean the Dunroe business, papa."

"And do you mean to say that you are willing and ready to marry him?"

The reply to this was indeed the coming away of the branch by which she had hung on the precipice of life. On hearing the question, therefore, she paused a little; but the pause did not proceed from any indisposition to answer it, but simply from what seemed to be the refusal of her natural powers to enable her to do so. When about to speak, she felt as if all her physical strength had abandoned her; as if her will, previously schooled to the task, had become recusant. She experienced a general chill and coldness of her whole body; a cessation for a moment or two of the action of the heart, whilst her very sight became dim and indistinct. She thought, however, in this unutterable moment of agony and despair, that she must act; and without feeling able to analyze either her thoughts or sensations, in this terrible tumult of her spirit, she heard herself repeat the reply, "I am, papa."

For a moment her father forgot his part, and started up into a sitting posture with as much apparent energy as ever. Another moment, however, was sufficient to make him feel his error.

"Oh," said he, "what have I done? Let me pause a little, my dear Lucy; that effort to express the joy you have poured into my heart was nearly too much for me. You make this promise, Lucy, not with a view merely to ease my mind and contribute to my recovery; but, should I get well, with a firm intention to carry it actually into execution?"

"Such, papa, is my intention--my fixed determination, I should say; but I ought to add, that it is altogether for your sake, dear papa, that I make it. Now let your mind feel tranquillity and ease; dismiss every anxiety that distresses you, papa; for you may believe your daughter, that there is no earthly sacrifice compatible with her duties as a Christian which she would not make for your recovery. This interview is now, perhaps, as much as your state of health can bear. Think, then, of what I have said, papa; let it console and strengthen; and then it will, I trust, help at least to bring about your recovery. Now, permit me to withdraw."

"Wait a moment, my child. It is right that you should know the effect of your goodness before you go. I feel already as if a mountain were removed from my heart--even now I am better. God bless you, my own dearest Lucy; you have saved your father. Let this consideration comfort you and sustain you. Now you may go, my love."

When Lucy withdrew, which she did with a tottering step, she proceeded to her own chamber, which, now that the energy necessary for the struggle had abandoned her, she entered almost unconsciously, and with a feeling of rapidly-increasing weakness. She approached the bell to ring for her maid, which she was able to do with difficulty; and having done so, she attempted to reach the sofa; but exhausted and overwrought nature gave way, and she fell just sufficiently near it to have her fall broken and her head supported by it, as she lay there apparently lifeless. In this state Alley Mahon found her; but instead of ringing an alarm, or attempting to collect a crowd of the servants to witness a scene, and being besides a stout as well as a discreet and sensible girl, she was able to raise her up, place her on a sofa, until, by the assistance of cold water and some patience, she succeeded in restoring her to life and consciousness.

"On opening her eyes she looked about, and Alley observed that her lips were parched and dry.

"Here, my darling mistress," said the affectionate girl, who now wept bitterly, "here, swallow a little cold water; it will moisten your lips, and do you good."

She attempted to do so, but Ally saw that her hand trembled too much to bring the water to her own lips. On swallowing it, it seemed to relieve her a little; she then looked up into Alley's face, with a smile of thanks so unutterably sweet and sorrowful, that the poor girl's tears gushed out afresh.

"Take courage, my darling mistress," she replied; "I know that something painful has happened; but for Christ's blessed sake, don't look so sorrowful and broken-hearted, or you will--"

"Alice," said she, interrupting her, in a calm, soft voice, like low music, "open my bosom--open my bosom, Alice; you will find a miniature there; take it out; I wish to look upon it."

"O thin," said the girl, as she proceeded to obey her, "happy is he that rests so near that pure and innocent and sorrowful heart; and great and good must he be that is worthy of it."

There was in the look which Lucy cast upon her when she had uttered these words a spirit of gentle but affectionate reproof; but she spoke it not.

"Give it to me, Alice," she said; "but unlock it first; I feel that my hands are too feeble to do so."

Alice unlocked the miniature, and Lucy then taking it from her, looked upon it for a moment, and then pressing it to her lips with a calm emotion, in which grief and despair seemed to mingle, she exclaimed,

"Alas! mamma, how much do I now stand in need of your advice and consolation! The shrine in which your affection and memory dwelt, and against whose troubled pulses your sweet and serene image lay, is now broken. There, dearest mamma, you will find nothing in future but affliction and despair. It has been said, that I have inherited your graces and your virtues, most beloved parent; and if so, alas! in how remote a degree, for who could equal you? But how would it have wining your gentle and loving heart to know that I should have inherited your secret griefs and sufferings? Yes, mamma, both are painted on that serene brow; for no art of the limner could conceal their mournful traces, nor remove the veil of sorrow which an unhappy destiny threw over your beauty. There, in that clear and gentle eye, is still the image of your love and sympathy--there is that smile so full of sweetness and suffering. Alas, alas! how closely do we resemble each other in all things. Sweet and blessed saint, if it be permitted, descend and let your spirit be with me--to guide, to soothe, and to support me; your task will not be a long one, beloved parent. From this day forth my only hope will be to join you. Life has nothing now but solitude and sorrow. There is no heart with which I can hold communion; for my grief, and the act of duty which occasions it, must be held sacred from all."

She kissed the miniature once more, but without tears, and after a little, she made Alley place it where she had ever kept it--next her heart.

"Alice," said she, "I trust I will soon be with mamma."

"My dear mistress," replied Alice, "don't spake so. I hope there's many a happy and pleasant day before you, in spite of all that has come and gone, yet."

She turned upon the maid a look of incredulity so hopeless, that Alley felt both alarmed and depressed.

"You do not know what I suffer, Alice," she replied, "but I know it. This miniature of mamma I got painted unknown to--unknown to--" (here we need not say that she meant her father) "--any one except mamma, the artist, and myself. It has laid next my heart ever since; but since her death it has been the dearest thing to me on earth--one only other object perhaps excepted. Yes," she added, with a deep sigh, "I hope I shall soon be with you, mamma, and then we shall never be separated any more!"

Alley regretted to perceive that her grief now had settled down into the most wasting and dangerous of all; for it was of that dry and silent kind which so soon consumes the lamp of life, and dries up the strength of those who unhappily fall under its malignant blight.

Lucy's journey, however, from Wicklow, the two interviews with her father, the sacrifice she had so nobly made, and the consequent agitation, all overcame her, and after a painful struggle between the alternations of forgetfulness and memory, she at length fell into a troubled slumber. _

Read next: Chapter 29. Lord Dunroe's Affection For His Father

Read previous: Chapter 27. Lucy Calls Upon Lady Gourlay, Where She Meets Her Lover

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