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

Chapter 29. Lord Dunroe's Affection For His Father

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_ CHAPTER XXIX. Lord Dunroe's Affection for his Father

--Glimpse of a new Character--Lord Gullamore's Rebuke to his Son, who greatly refuses to give up his Friend.

A considerable period now elapsed, during which there was little done that could contribute to the progress of our narrative. Summer had set in, and the Cullamore family, owing to the failing health of the old nobleman, had returned to his Dublin residence, with an intention of removing to Glenshee, as soon he should receive the advice of his physician. From the day on which his brother's letter reached him, his lordship seemed to fall into a more than ordinary despondency of mind. His health for years had been very infirm, but from whatsoever cause it proceeded, he now appeared to labor under some secret presentiment of calamity, against which he struggled in vain. So at least he himself admitted. It is true that age and a constitution enfeebled by delicate health might alone, in a disposition naturally hypochondriac, occasion such anxiety; as we know they frequently do even in the youthful. Be this as it may, one thing was evident, his lordship began to sink more rapidly than he had ever done before; and like most invalids of his class, he became wilful and obstinate in his own opinions. His doctor, for instance, advised him to remove to the delightful air of Glenshee Castle; but this, for some reason or other, he peremptorily refused to do, and so long as he chose to remain in town, so long were Lady Emily and her aunt resolved to stay with him. Dunroe, also, was pretty regular in inquiries after his health; but whether from a principle of filial affection, or a more flagitious motive, will appear from the following conversation, which took place one morning after breakfast, between himself and Norton.

"How is your father this morning, my lord?" inquired that worthy gentleman. "I hope he is better."

"A lie, Norton," replied his lordship--"a lie, as usual. You hope no such thing. The agency which is to follow on the respectable old peer's demise bars that--eh?"

"I give you my honor, my lord, you do me injustice. I am in no hurry with him on that account; it would be unfeeling,and selfish."

"Now, Tom," replied the other, in that kind of contemptuous familiarity which slavish minions or adroit knaves like Norton must always put up with from such men, "now, Tom, my good fellow, you know the case is this--you get the agency to the Cullamore property the moment my right honorable dad makes his exit. If he should delay that exit for seven years to come, then you will be exactly seven years short of the period in which you will fleece me and my tenants, and put the wool on yourself."

"Only your tenants, my lord, if you please. I may shear them, a little, I trust; but you can't suppose me capable of shearing--"

"My lordship. No, no, you are too honest; only you will allow me to insinuate, in the meantime, that I believe you have fleeced me to some purpose already. I do not allude to your gambling debts, which, with my own, I have been obliged to pay; but to other opportunities which have come in your way. It doesn't matter, however; you are a pleasant and a useful fellow, and I believe that although you clip me yourself a little, you would permit no one else to do so. And, by the way, talking of the respectable old peer, he is anything but a friend of yours, and urged me strongly to send you to the devil, as a cheat and impostor."

"How is that, my lord?" asked Norton, with an interest which he could scarcely disguise.

"Why, he mentioned something of a conversation you had, in which you told him, you impudent dog--and coolly to his face, too--that you patronized his son while in France, and introduced him to several distinguished French noblemen, not one of whom, he had reason to believe, ever existed except in your own fertile and lying imagination."

"And was that all?" asked Norton, who I began to entertain apprehensions of Morty O'Flaherty; "did he mention nothing else?"

"No," replied Dunroe; "and you scoundrel, was not that a d--d deal too much?"

Norton, now feeling that he was safe from Morty, laughed very heartily, and replied,

"It's a fact, sure enough; but then, wasn't it on your lordship's account I bounced? The lie, in point of fact, if it can be called one, was, therefore, more your lordship's lie than mine."

"How do you mean by 'if it can be called one'?"

"Why, if I did not introduce you to real noblemen, I did to some spurious specimens, gentlemen who taught you all the arts and etiquette of the gaming-table, of which, you know very well, my lord, you were then so shamefully ignorant, as to be quite unfit for the society of gentlemen, especially on the continent."

"Yes, Tom, and the state of my property now tells me at what cost you taught me. You see these tenants say they have not money, plead hard times, failure of crops, and depreciation of property."

"Ay, and so they will plead, until I take them in hand."

"And, upon my soul, I don't care how soon that may be."

"Monster of disobedience," said Norton, ironically, "is it thus you speak of a beloved parent, and that parent a respectable old peer? In other words, you wish him in kingdom come. Repent, my lord--retract those words, or dread 'the raven of the valley'."

"Faith, Tom, there's no use in concealing it. It's not that I wish him gone; but that I long as much to touch the property at large, as you the agency. It's a devilish tough affair, this illness of his."

"Patience, my lord, and filial affection."

"I wish he would either live or die; for, in the first case, I could marry this brave and wealthy wench of the baronet's, which I can't do now, and he in such a state of health. If I could once touch the Gourlay cash, I were satisfied. The Gourlay estates will come to me, too, because there is no heir, and they go with this wench, who is a brave wench, for that reason."

"So she has consented to have you at last?"

"Do you think, Tom, she ever had any serious intention of declining the coronet? No, no; she wouldn't be her father's daughter if she had."

"Yes; but your lordship suspected that the fellow who shot you had made an impression in that quarter."

"I did for a time--that is, I was fool enough to think so; she is, however, a true woman, and only played him off against me."

"But why does she refuse to see you?"

"She hasn't refused, man; her health, they tell me, is not good of late; of course, she is only waiting to gain strength for the interview, that is all. Ah, Tom, my dear fellow, I understand women a devilish deal better than you do."

"So you ought; you have had greater experience, and paid more for it. What will you do with the fair blonde, though. I suppose the matrimonial compact will send her adrift."

"Suppose no such thing, then. I had her before matrimony, and I will have her after it. No, Tom, I am not ungrateful; fore or aft, she shall be retained. She shall never say that I acted unhandsomely by her, especially as she has become a good girl and repented. I know I did her injustice about the player-man. On that point she has thoroughly satisfied me, and I was wrong."

Norton gave him a peculiar look, one of those looks which an adept in the ways of life, in its crooked paths and unprincipled impostures, not unfrequently bestows upon the poor aristocratic dolt whom he is plundering to his face. The look we speak of might be mistaken for surprise--it might be mistaken for pity--but it was meant for contempt.

"Of course," said he, "you are too well versed in the ways of the world, my lord, and especially in those of the fair sex, to be imposed upon. If ever I met an individual who can read a man's thoughts by looking into his face, your lordship is the man. By the way, when did you see your father-in-law that is to be?"

"A couple of days ago. He, too, has been ill, and looks somewhat shaken. It is true, I don't like the man, and I believe nobody does; but I like very well to hear him talk of deeds, settlements, and marriage articles. He begged of me, however, not to insist on seeing his daughter until she is fully recovered, which he expects will be very soon; and the moment she is prepared for an interview, he is to let me know. But, harkee, Tom, what can the old earl want with me this morning, think you?"

"I cannot even guess," replied the other, "unless it be to prepare you for--"

"For what?"

"Why, it is said that the fair lady with whom you are about to commit the crime of matrimony is virtuous and religious, as well as beautiful and so forth; and, in that case, perhaps he is about to prepare you for the expected conference. I cannot guess anything else, unless, perhaps, it may be the avarice of age about to rebuke the profusion and generosity of youth. In that case, my lord, keep your temper, and don't compromise your friends."

"Never fear, Tom; I have already fought more battles on your account than you could dream of. Perhaps, after all, it is nothing. Of late he has sent for me occasionally, as if to speak upon some matter of importance, when, after chatting upon the news of the day or lecturing me for supporting an impostor--meaning you--he has said he would defer the subject on which he wished to speak, until another opportunity. Whatever it is, he seems afraid of it, or perhaps the respectable old peer is doting."

"I dare say, my lord, it is very natural he should at these years; but if he," proceeded Norton, laughing, "is doting now, what will you be at his years? Here, however, is his confidential man, Morty O'Flaherty."

O'Flaherty now entered, and after making a bow that still smacked strongly of Tipperary, delivered his message.

"My masther, Lord Cullamore, wishes to see you, my lord. He has come down stairs, and is facing the sun, the Lord be praised, in the back drawin'-room."

"Go, my lord," said Norton; "perhaps he wishes you to make a third luminary. Go and help him to face the sun."

"Be my sowl, Mr. Norton, if I'm not much mistaken, it's the father he'll have to face. I may as well give you the hard word, my lord--troth, I think you had better be on your edge; he's as dark as midnight, although the sun is in his face."

His lordship went out, after having given two or three yawns, stretched himself, and shrugged his shoulders, like a man who was about to enter upon some unpleasant business with manifest reluctance.

"Ah," exclaimed Morty, looking after him, "there goes a cute boy--at last, God forgive him, he's of that opinion himself. What a pity there's not more o' the family; they'd ornament the counthry."

"Say, rather, Morty, that there's one too many."

"Faith, and I'm sure, Barney, you oughtn't to think so. Beg pardon--Mr. Norton."

"Morty, curse you, will you be cautious? But why should I not think so?"

"For sound raisons, that no man knows better than yourself."

"I'm not the only person that thinks there's one too many of the family, Morty. In that opinion I am ably supported by his lordship, just gone out there."

"Where! Ay, I see whereabouts you are now. One too many--faith, so the blessed pair of you think, no doubt."

"Eight, Morty; if the devil had the agency of the ancient earl's soul, I would soon get that of his ancient property; but whilst he lives it can't be accomplished. What do you imagine the old bawble wants with the young one?"

"Well, I don't know; I'm hammerin' upon that for some time past, and can't come at it."

"Come, then, let us get the materials first, and then put them on the anvil of my imagination. Imprimis--which means, Morty, in the first place, have you heard anything?"

"No; nothing to speak of."

"Well, in the second place, have you seen or observed anything?"

"Why, no; not much."

"Which means--both your answers included--that you have both heard and seen--so I interpret 'nothing to speak of,' on the one hand, and your 'not much,' on the other. Out with it; two heads are better than one: what you miss, I may hit."

"The devil's no match for you, Bar--Mr. Norton, and it's hard to expect Dunroe should. I'll tell you, then--for, in troth, I'm as anxious to come at the meanin' of it myself as you can be for the life of you. Some few months ago, when we were in London, there came a man to me."

"Name him, Morty."

"His name was M'Bride."


"His name was M'Bride. His face was tanned into mahogany, just as every man's is that has lived long in a hot country. 'Your name,' says he, 'is O'Flaherty, I understand?'"

"'Morty O'Flaherty, at your sarvice,' says I, 'and how are you, sir? I'm happy to see you; only in the mane time you have the advantage of me.'"

"'Many thanks to you,' said he, 'for your kind inquiries; as to the advantage, I won't keep it long; only you don't seem to know your relations.'"

"'Maybe not,' says I, 'they say it's a wise man that does. Are you one o' them?'"

"'I'm one o' them, did you ever hear of ould Kid Flaherty?'"

"'Well, no; but I did of Buck Flaherty, that always went in boots and buckskin breeches, and wore two watches and a silver-mounted whip.'"

"'Well, you must know that Kid was a son'--and here he pointed his thumb over his left shoulder wid a knowin' grin upon him--'was a son of the ould Buck's. The ould Buck's wife was a Murtagh; now she again had a cousin named M'Shaughran, who was married upon a man by name M'Faddle. M'Faddle had but one sisther, and she was cousin to Frank M'Fud, that suffered for--but no matther--the M'Swiggins and the M'Fuds were cleaveens to the third cousins of Kid Flaherty's first wife's sister-in-law, and she again was married in upon the M'Brides of Newton Nowhere--so that you see you and I are thirty-second cousins at all events.'"

"'Well, anyway he made out some relationship between us, or at least I thought he did--and maybe that was as good--and faith may be a great deal better, for if ever a man had the look of a schemer about him the same customer had. At any rate we had some drink together, and went on very well till we got befuddled, which, it seems, is his besetting sin. It was clearly his intention, I could see, to make me tipsy, and I dare say he might a done so, only for a slight mistake he made in first getting tipsy himself."

"Well, but I'm not much the wiser of this," observed Norton. "What are you at?"

"Neither am I," replied Morty; "and as to what I'm at--I dunna what the devil I'm at. That's just what I want to know."

"Go on," said the other, "we must have patience. Who did this fellow turn out to be?"

"He insisted he was a relation of my own, as I tould you."

"Who the devil cares whether he was or not! What was he, then?"

"Ay; what was he?--that's what I'm askin' you."

"Proceed," said Norton; "tell it your own way."

"He said he came from the Aist Indies beyant; that he knew some members of his lordship's family there; that he had been in Paris, and that while he was there he larned to take French lave of his masther."

"But who was his master?"

"That he would not tell me. However, he said he had been in Ireland for some time before, where he saw an aunt of his, that was half mad; and then he went on to tell me that he had been once at sarvice wid my masther, and that if he liked he could tell him a secret; but then, he said, it wouldn't be worth his while, for that he would soon know it."

"Very clear, perfectly transparent, nothing can be plainer. What a Tipperary sphinx you are; an enigma, half man, half beast, although there is little enigma in that, it is plain enough. In the meantime, you bog-trotting oracle, say whether you are humbugging me or not."

"Devil a bit I'm humbuggin' you; but proud as you sit there, you have trotted more bogs and horses than ever I did."

"Well, never mind that, Morty. What did this end in?"

"End in!--why upon my conscience I don't think it's properly begun yet."

"Good-by," exclaimed Norton, rising to go, or at least pretending to do so. "Many thanks in the meantime for your information--it is precious, invaluable."

"Well, now, wait a minute. A few days ago I seen the same schemer skulkin' about the house as if he was afeared o' bein' seen; and that beef and mutton may be my poison, wid health to use them, but I seen him stealin' out of his lordship's own room. So, now make money o' that; only when you do, don't be puttin' it in circulation."

"No danger of that, Morty, in any sense. At all events, I don't deal in base coin."

"Don't you, faith. I wondher what do you call imposin' Barney Bryan, the horse-jockey, on his lordship, for Tom Norton, the gentleman? However, no matther--that's your own affair; and so long as you let the good ould lord alone among you--keep your secret--I'm not goin' to interfere wid you. None of your travellers' tricks upon him, though."

"No, not on him, Morty; but concerning this forthcoming marriage, if it takes place, I dare say I must travel; I can't depend upon Dunroe's word."

"Why, unlikelier things has happened, Mr. Norton. I think you'll be forced to set out."

"Well, I only say that if Mr. Norton can prevent it, it won't happen. I can wind this puppy of a lord, who has no more will of his own than a goose, nor half so much; I say I can wind him round my finger; and if I don't get him to make himself, in any interview he may have with her, so egregiously ridiculous, as to disgust her thoroughly, my name's not Norton--hem--ha, ha, ha!"

"Well, your name's not Norton--very good. In the mane time more power to you in that; for by all accounts it's a sin and a shame to throw away such a girl upon him."

Norton now having gained all he could from his old acquaintance, got up, and was about to leave the room, when Morty, looking at him significantly, asked,

"Where are you bound for now, if it's a fair question?"

"I will tell you, then, Morty--upon an affair that's anything but pleasant to me, and withal a little dangerous: to buy a horse for Dunroe."

"Troth, you may well say so; in God's name keep away from horses and. jockeys, or you'll be found out; but, above all things, don't show your face on the Curragh."

"Well, I don't know. I believe, after all, there's no such vast distinction there between the jockeys and the gentlemen. Sometimes the jockey swindles himself up into a gentleman, and sometimes the gentleman swindles himself down to a jockey. So far there would be no great mistake; the only thing to be dreaded is, discovery, so far as it affects the history which I gave of myself to Dunroe and his father. Then there is the sale of some races against me on that most elastic sod; and I fear they are not yet forgotten. Yes, I shall avoid the Curragh; but you know, a fit of illness will easily manage that. However, pass that by; I wish I knew what the old peer and the young one are discussing."

"What now," said Norton to himself, after Morty had gone, "can this M'Bride be scheming about in the family? There's a secret here, I'm certain. Something troubles the old peer of late, whatever it is. Well, let me see; I'll throw myself in the way of this same M'Bride, and it will go hard with me or I'll worm it out of him. The knowledge of it may serve me. It's a good thing to know family secrets, especially for a hanger-on like myself. One good effect it may produce, and that is, throw worthy Lord Dunroe more into my power. Yes, I will see this M'Bride, and then let me alone for playing my card to some purpose."

Dunroe found his father much as Morty had described him--enjoying the fresh breeze and blessed light of heaven, as both came in upon him through the open window at which he sat.

The appearance of the good old man was much changed for the worse. His face was paler and more emaciated than when we last described it. His chin almost rested on his breast, and his aged-looking hands were worn away to skin and bone. Still there was the same dignity about him as ever, only that the traces of age and illness gave to it something that was still more venerable and impressive. Like some portrait, by an old master, time, whilst it mellowed and softened the colors, added that depth and truthfulness of character by which the value I is at once known. He was sitting in an arm-chair, with a pillow for his head to rest upon when he wished it; and on his son's entrance he asked him to wheel it round nearer the centre of the room, and let down the window.

"I hope you are better this morning, my lord?" inquired Dunroe.

"John," said he in reply, "I cannot say that I am better, but I can that I am worse."

"I am sorry to hear that, my lord," replied the other, "the season is remarkably fine, and the air mild and cheerful."

"I would much rather the cheerfulness were here," replied his father, putting his wasted hand upon his heart; "but I did not ask you here to talk about myself on this occasion, or about my feelings. Miss Gourlay has consented to marry you, I know."

"She has, my lord."

"Well, I must confess I did her father injustice for a time. I ascribed his extraordinary anxiety for this match less to any predilection of hers--for I thought it was otherwise--than to his ambition. I am glad, however, that it is to be a marriage, although I feel you are utterly unworthy of her; and if I did not hope that her influence may in time, and in a short time, too, succeed in bringing about a wholesome reformation in your life and morals, I would oppose it still as far as lay in my power. It is upon this subject I wish to speak with you."

Lord Dunroe bowed with an appearance of all due respect, but at the same time wished in his heart that Norton could be present to hear the lecture which he had so correctly prognosticated, and to witness the ability with which he should bamboozle the old peer.

"I assure you, my lord," he replied, "I am very willing and anxious to hear and be guided by everything you shall say. I know I have been wild--indeed, I am very sorry for it; and if it will satisfy you, my lord, I will add, without hesitation, that it is time I should turn over a new leaf--hem!"

"You have, John, been not merely wild--for wildness I could overlook without much severity--but you have been profligate in morals, profligate in expenditure, and profligate in your dealings with those who trusted in your integrity. You have been intemperate; you have been licentious; you have been dishonest; and as you have not yet abandoned any one of these frightful vices, I look upon your union with Miss Gourlay as an association between pollution and purity."

"You are very severe, my lord."

"I meant to be so; but am I unjust? Ah, John, let your own conscience answer that question."

"Well, my lord, I trust you will be gratified to hear that I am perfectly sensible of the life I have led--ahem?"

"And what is that but admitting that you know the full extent of your vices?--unless, indeed, you have made a firm resolution to give them up."

"I have made such a resolution, my lord, and it is my intention to keep it. I know I can do little of myself, but I trust that where there is a sincere disposition, all will go on swimmingly, as the Bible says--ahem!"

"Where does the Bible say that all will go on swimmingly?"

"I don't remember the exact chapter and verse, my lord," he replied, affecting a very grave aspect, "but I know it is somewhere in the Book of Solomon--ahem!--ahem! Either in Solomon or Exodus the Prophet, I am not certain which. Oh, no, by the by, I believe it is in the dialogue that occurs between Jonah and the whale."

His father looked at him as if to ascertain whether his worthy son were abandoned enough to tamper, in the first place, with a subject so solemn, and, in the next, with the anxiety of his own parent, while laboring, under age and infirmity, to wean him from a course of dissipation and vice. Little indeed did he suspect that his virtuous offspring was absolutely enacting his part, for the purpose of having a good jest to regale Norton with in the course of their evening's potations.

Let it not be supposed that we are overstepping the modesty of nature in this scene. There is scarcely any one acquainted with life who does not know that there are hundreds, thousands, of hardened profligates, who would take delight, under similar circumstances, to quiz the governor--as a parent is denominated by this class--even at the risk of incurring his lasting displeasure, or of altogether forfeiting his affection, rather than lose the opportunity of having a good joke to tell their licentious companions, when they meet. The present age has as much of this, perhaps, as any of its predecessors, if not more. But to return.

"I know not," observed Lord Cullamore, "whether this is an ironical affectation of ignorance, or ignorance itself; but on whichever horn of the dilemma I hang you, Dunroe, you are equally contemptible and guilty. A heart must be deeply corrupted, indeed, that can tempt its owner to profane sacred things, and cast an aged and afflicted parent into ridicule. You are not aware, unfortunate young man, of the precipice on which you stand, or the dismay with which I could fill your hardened heart, by two or three words speaking. And only that I was not a conscious party in circumstances which may operate terribly against us both, I would mention them to you, and make you shudder at the fate that is probably before you."

"I really think," replied his son, now considerably alarmed by what he had heard, "that you are dealing too severely with me. I am not, so far as I know, profaning anything sacred; much less would I attempt to ridicule your lordship. But the truth is, I know little or nothing of the Bible, and consequently any mistaken references to it that I may sincerely make, ought not to be uncharitably misinterpreted--ahem! 'We are going on swimmingly' as Jonah said to the whale, or the whale to Jonah, I cannot say which, is an expression which I have frequently heard, and I took it for granted that it was a scriptural quotation. Your lordship is not aware, besides, that I am afflicted with a very bad memory."

"Perfectly aware of it, Dunroe: since I have been forced to observe that you forget every duty of life. What is there honorable to yourself or your position in the world, that you ever have remembered? And supposing now, on the one hand, that you may for the present only affect a temporary reformation, and put in practice that worst of vices, a moral expediency, and taking it for granted, on the other, that your resolution to amend is sincere, by what act am I to test that sincerity?"

"I will begin and read the Bible, my lord, and engage a parson to instruct me in virtue. Isn't that generally the first step?"

"I do not forbid you the Bible, nor the instructions of a pious clergyman; but I beg to propose a test that will much more satisfactorily establish that sincerity. First, give up your dissipated and immoral habits; contract your expenditure within reasonable limits; pay your just debts, by which I mean your debts of honesty, not of honor--unless they have been lost to a man of honor, and not to notorious swindlers; forbear to associate any longer with sharpers and blacklegs, whether aristocratic or plebeian; and as a first proof of the sincerity you claim, dismiss forever from your society that fellow, Norton, who is, I am sorry to say, your bosom friend and boon companion."

"With every condition you have proposed, my lord, I am willing and ready to comply, the last only excepted. I am sorry to find that you have conceived so strong and unfounded a prejudice against Mr. Norton. You do not know his value to me, my lord. He has been a Mentor to me--saved me thousands by his ability and devotion to my interests. The fact is, he is my friend. Now I am not prepared to give up and abandon my friend without a just cause; and I regret that any persuasion to such an act should proceed from you, my lord. In all your other propositions I shall obey you implicitly; but in this your lordship must excuse me. I cannot do it with honor, and therefore cannot do it at all."

"Ah, I see, Dunroe, and I bitterly regret to see it--this fellow, this Norton, has succeeded in gaining over you that iniquitous ascendancy which the talented knave gains over the weak and unsuspicious fool. Pardon me, for I speak plainly. He has studied your disposition and habits; he has catered for your enjoyments; he has availed himself of your weaknesses; he has flattered your vanity; he has mixed himself up in the management of your affairs; and, in fine, made himself necessary to your existence; yet you will not give him up?"

"My lord, I reply to you in one word--he IS MY FRIEND."

A shade of bitterness passed over the old man's face as he turned a melancholy look upon Dunroe.

"May you never live, Dunroe," he said, "to see your only son refuse to comply with your dying request, or to listen with an obedient I spirit to your parting admonition. It is true, I am not, I trust, immediately dying, and yet why should I regret it? But, at the same time, I feel that my steps are upon the very threshold of death--a consideration which ought to insure obedience to my wishes in any heart not made callous by the worst experiences of life."

"I would comply with your wishes, my lord," replied Dunroe, "with the sincerest pleasure, and deny myself anything to oblige you; but in what you ask there is a principle involved, which I cannot, as a man of honor, violate. And, besides, I really could not afford to part with him now. My affairs are in such a state, and he is so well acquainted with them, that to do so would ruin me."

His father, who seemed wrapt in some painful reflection, paid no attention to this reply, which, in point of fact, contained, so far as Norton was concerned, a confirmation of the old man's worst suspicions. His chin had sunk on his breast, and looking into the palms of his hands as he held them clasped together, he could not prevent the tears from rolling slowly down his furrowed cheeks. At length he exclaimed:

"My child, Emily, my child! how will I look upon thee! My innocent, my affectionate angel; what, what, oh what will become of thee? But it cannot be. My guilt was not premeditated. What I did I did in ignorance; and why should we suffer through the arts of others? I shall oppose them step by step should they proceed. I shall leave no earthly resource untried to frustrate their designs; and if they are successful, the cruel sentence may be pronounced, but it will be over my grave. I could never live to witness the sufferings of my darling and innocent child. My lamp of life is already all but exhausted--this would extinguish it forever."

He then raised his head, and after wiping away the tears, spoke to his son as follows:

"Dunroe, be advised by me; reform your life; set your house in order, for you know not, you see not, the cloud which is likely to burst over our heads."

"I don't understand you, my lord."

"I know you do not, nor is it my intention that you should for the present; but if you are wise, you will be guided by my instructions and follow my advice."

When Dunroe left him, which he did after some formal words of encouragement and comfort, to which the old man paid little attention, turning toward the door, which his son on going out had shut, he looked as if his eye followed him beyond the limits of the room, and exclaimed:

"Alas! why was I not born above the ordinary range of the domestic affections? Yet so long as I have my darling child--who is all affection--why should I complain on this account? Alas, my Maria, it is now that thou art avenged for the neglect you experienced at my hands, and for the ambition that occasioned it. Cursed ambition! Did the coronet I gained by my neglect of you, beloved object of my first and only affection, console my heart under the cries of conscience, or stifle the grief which returned for you, when that ambition was gratified? Ah, that false and precipitate step! How much misery has it not occasioned me since I awoke from my dream! Your gentle spirit seemed to haunt me through life, but ever with that melancholy smile of tender and affectionate reproach with which your eye always encountered mine while living. And thou, wicked woman, what has thy act accomplished, if it should be successful? What has thy fraudulent contrivance effected? Sorrow to one who was ever thy friend--grief, shame, and degradation to the innocent!"

Whilst the old man indulged in these painful and melancholy reflections, his son, on the other hand, was not without his own speculations. On retiring to his dressing-room, he began to ponder over the admonitory if not prophetic words of his father.

"What the deuce can the matter be?" he exclaimed, surveying himself in the glass; "a good style of face that, in the meantime. Gad, I knew she would surrender in form, and I was right. Something is wrong with--that gold button--yes, it looks better plain--the old gentleman--something's in the wind--in the meantime I'll raise this window--or why should he talk so lugubriously as he does? Upon my soul it was the most painful interview I ever had. There is nothing on earth so stupid as the twaddle of a sick old lord, especially when repenting for his sins. Repentance! I can't at all understand that word; but I think the style of the thing in the old fellow's hands was decidedly bad--inartistic, as they say, and without taste; a man, at all events, should repent like a gentleman. As far as I can guess at it, I think there ought to be considerable elegance of manner in repentance--a kind of genteel ambiguity, that should seem to puzzle the world as to whether you weep for or against the sin; or perhaps repentance should say--as I suppose it often does--'D--n me, this is no humbug; this, look you, is a grand process--I know what I'm about; let the world look on; I have committed a great many naughty things during my past life; I am now able to commit no more; the power of doing so has abandoned me; and I call gods and men to witness that I am very sorry for it.'--Now, that, in my opinion, would be a good style of thing. Let me see, however, what the venerable earl can mean. I am threatened, am I? Well, but nothing can affect the title; of that I'm sure when the cue, 'exit old peer,' comes; then, as to the property; why, he is one of the wealthiest men in the Irish peerage, although he is an English one also. Then, what the deuce can his threats mean? I don't know--perhaps he does not know himself; but, in any event, and to guard against all accidents, I'll push on this marriage as fast as possible; for, in case anything unexpected and disagreeable should happen, it will be a good move to have something handsome--something certain, to fall back upon."

Having dressed, he ordered his horse, and rode out to the Phoenix Park, accompanied by his shadow, Norton, who had returned, and heard with much mirth a full history of the interview, with a glowing description of the stand which Dunroe made for himself. _

Read next: Chapter 30. A Courtship On Novel Principles

Read previous: Chapter 28. Innocence And Affection Overcome By Fraud And Hypocrisy

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