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

Chapter 32. Discovery Of The Baronet's Son

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_ CHAPTER XXXII. Discovery of the Baronet's Son

--Who, however, is Shelved for a Time.

Lord Dunroe, as had already been agreed upon between him and her father, went directly to that worthy gentleman, that he might make a faithful report of the interview.

"Well, Dunroe," said the baronet, "what's the news? How did it go off?"

"Just as we expected," replied the other. "Vapors, entreaties, and indignation. I give you my honor, she asked me to become her advocate with you, in order to get released from the engagement. That was rather cool, wasn't it?"

"And what did you say?"

"Why, the truth is, I conducted the affair altogether on a new principle. I maintained that love should not be a necessary element in marriage; vindicated the rights of honest indifference, and said that it was against my system to marry any woman who was attached to me."

"Why, I remember preaching some such doctrine, in a bantering way, to her myself."

"Guided by this theory, I met her at every turn; but, nevertheless, there was a good deal of animated expostulation, tears, solicitations, and all that."

"I fear you have mismanaged the matter some way; if you have followed my advice, and done it with an appearance of common sense, so much the better. This would have required much tact, for Lucy is a girl very difficult to be imposed upon by appearances. I am the only person who can do so, but! that is because I approach her aided by my knowledge of her filial affection. As it is, however, these things are quite common. My own wife felt much the same way with myself, and yet we lived as happily as most people. Every young baggage must have her scenes and her sacrifices. Ah! what a knack they have got at magnifying everything! How do you do, my Lady Dunroe? half a dozen times repeated, however, will awaken her vanity, and banish all this girlish rodomontade."

"'Room for the Countess of Cullamore,' will soon follow," replied his lordship, laughing, "and that will be still better. The old peer, as Norton and I call him, is near the end of his journey, and will make his parting bow to us some of these days."

"Did she actually consent, though?" asked the father, somewhat doubtfully.

"Positively, Sir Thomas; make your mind easy upon that point. To be sure, there were protestations and entreaties, and God knows what; but still the consent was given."

"Exactly, exactly," replied her father; "I knew it would be so. Well, now, let us not lose much time about it. I told those lawyers to wait a little for further instructions, because I was anxious to hear how this interview would end, feeling some apprehension that she might relapse into obstinacy; but now that she has consented, we shall go on. They may meet to-morrow, and get the necessary writings drawn up; and then for the wedding."

"Will not my father's illness stand a little in the way?" asked Dunroe.

"Not a bit; why should it? But he really is not ill, only getting feeble and obstinate. The man is in his dotage. I saw him yesterday, and he refused, most perversely, to sanction the marriage until some facts shall come to his knowledge, of which he is not quite certain at present. I told him the young people would not wait; and he replied, that if I give you my daughter now, I shall do so at my peril; and that I may consider myself forewarned. I know he is thinking of your peccadilloes, my lord, for he nearly told me as much before. I think, indeed, he is certainly doting, otherwise there is no understanding him."

"You are light, Sir Thomas; the fuss he makes about morality and religion is a proof that he is. In the meantime, I agree with you that there is little time to be lost. The lawyers must set to work immediately; and the sooner the better, for I am naturally impatient."

They then shook hands very cordially, and Dunroe took his leave.

The reader may have observed that in this conversation the latter reduced his account of the interview to mere generalities, a mode of reporting it which was agreeable to both, as it spared each of them some feeling. Dunroe, for instance, never mentioned a syllable of Lucy's having frankly avowed her passion for another; neither did Sir Thomas make the slightest allusion to the settled disinclination to marry him which he knew she all along felt. Indifferent, however, as Dunroe naturally was to high-minded feeling or principle, he could not summon courage to dwell upon this attachment of Lucy to another. A consciousness of his utter meanness and degradation of spirit in consenting to marry any woman under such circumstances, filled him with shame even to glance at it. He feared, besides, that if her knavish father had heard it, he would at once have attributed his conduct to its proper motives--that is to say, an eagerness to get into the possession and enjoyment of the large fortune to which she was entitled. He himself, in his conversations with the baronet, never alluded to the subject of dowry, but placed his anxiety for the match altogether to the account of love. So far, then, each was acting a fraudulent part toward the other.

The next morning, about the hour of eleven o'clock, Thomas Corbet--foster-brother to the baronet, though a much younger man--sent word that he wished to see him on particular business. This was quite sufficient; for, as Corbet was known to be more deeply in his confidence than any other man living, he was instantly admitted.

"Well, Corbet," said his master, "I hope there is nothing wrong."

"Sir Thomas," replied the other, "you have a right to be a happy and a thankful man this morning; and although I cannot mention the joyful intelligence with which I am commissioned, without grief and shame for the conduct of a near relation of my own, yet I feel this to be the happiest day of my life."

"What the deuce!" exclaimed the baronet, starting to his feet--"how is this? What is the intelligence?"

"Rejoice, Sir Thomas--rejoice and be thankful; but, in the meantime, pray sit down, if you please, and don't be too much agitated. I know how evil news, or anything that goes in opposition to your will, affects you: the two escapes, for instance, of that boy."

"Ha! I understand you now," exclaimed the baronet, whilst the very eyes danced in his head with a savage delight that was frightful, and, for the sake of human nature, painful to look upon, "I understand you now, Corbet--he is dead! eh? Is it not so? Yes, yes--it is--it is true. Well, you shall have a present of one hundred pounds for the intelligence. You shall, and that in the course of five minutes."

"Sir Thomas," replied Corbet, calmly, "have patience; the person, Fenton, you speak about, is still alive; but to all intents and purposes, dead to you and for you. This, however, is another and a far different affair. Your son has been found!"

The baronet's brow fell: he looked grave, and more like a man disappointed than anything else. In fact, the feeling associated with the recovery of his son was not strong enough to balance or counteract that which he experienced in connection with the hoped-for death of the other. He recovered himself, however, and exclaimed,

"Found! Tom found!--little Tom found! My God! When--where--how?"

"Have the goodness to sit down, sir," replied Corbet, "and I will tell you."

The baronet took a seat, but the feeling of disappointment, although checked by the intelligence of his son, was not extinguished, and could still be read in his countenance. He turned his eyes upon Corbet and said,

"Well, Corbet, go on; he is not dead, though?"

"No, sir; thank God, he is not."

"Who--who--are you speaking of? Oh, I forgot--proceed. Yes, Corbet, you are right; I am very much disturbed. Well, speak about my son. Where is he? In what condition of life? Is he a gentleman--a beggar--a profligate--what?"

"You remember, Sir Thomas--hem--you remember that unfortunate affair with my sister?"

Corbet's face became deadly pale as he spoke, and his voice grew, by degrees, hollow and husky; yet he was both calm and cool, as far, at least, as human observation could form a conjecture.

"Of course I do; it was a painful business; but the girl was a fool for losing her senses."

"Hear me, Sir Thomas. When her child died, you may remember my father sent me to you, as its parent, for the means of giving it decent interment. You cannot forget your words to me on that occasion. I confess I felt them myself as very offensive. What, then, must his mother have suffered--wild, unsettled, and laboring, as she was, under a desperate sense of the injury she had experienced at your hands?"

"But why have mentioned it to her?"

"I confess I was wrong there; but I did so to make her feel more severely the consequences of her own conduct. I did it more in anger to her than to you. My words, however, instead of producing violence or outrage on my sister, seemed to make her settle down into a fearful silence, which none of us could get her out of for several days. It struck us that her unfortunate malady had taken a new turn, and so it did."

"Well? Well? Well?"

"Soon after that, your son, Master Thomas, disappeared. You may understand me now: it was she who took him."

"Ah! the vindictive vagabond!" exclaimed the baronet.

"Have patience, Sir Thomas. She took your little boy with no kind intention toward him: her object was to leave you without a son; her object, in fact, was, at first, to murder him, in consequence of your want, as she thought, of all paternal affection for him she had just lost, and, in short, of your whole conduct toward her. The mother's instinct, however, proved stronger than her revenge. She could not take away the child's life for the thought of her own; but she privately placed him with an uncle of ours, a classical hedge-school-master, in a remote part of the kingdom, with whom he lived under a feigned name, and from whom he received a good education."

"But where is he now?" asked the other. "How does he live? Why not bring him here?"

"He must first wait your pleasure, you know, Sir Thomas. He's in town, and has been in town for some time, a student in college."

"That's very good, indeed; we must have him out of college, though. Poor Lucy will go distracted with joy, to know that she has now a brother. Bring him here, Corbet; but stop, stay--his appearance now--let me see--caution, Corbet--caution. We must look before us. Miss Gourlay, you know, is about to be married. Dunroe, I understand; he cares little or nothing personally about the girl--it is her fortune, but principally her inheritance, he loves. It is true, he doesn't think that I even suspect this, much less feel certain of it. How does the young fellow look, though? Good looking--eh?"

"Exceedingly like his father, sir; as you will admit on seeing him."

"He must have changed considerably, then; for I remember he was supposed to bear a nearer resemblance to his mother and her family, the only thing which took him down a little in my affection. But hold; hang it, I am disturbed more than I have been this long time. What was I speaking of, Corbet? I forgot--by the way, I hope this is not a bad sign of my health."

"You were talking of Dunroe, sir, and Miss Gourlay's marriage."

"Oh, yes, so I was. Well--yes--here it is, Corbet--is it not possible that the appearance of this young man at this particular crisis--stepping in, as he does, between Dunroe and the very property his heart is set upon--might knock the thing to pieces? and there is all that I have had my heart set upon for years--that grand project of ambition for my daughter--gone to the winds, and she must put up with some rascally commoner, after all."

"It is certainly possible, sir; and, besides, every one knows that Lord Dunroe is needy, and wants money at present very much."

"In any event, Corbet, it is our best policy to keep this discovery a profound secret till after the marriage, when it can't affect Miss Gourlay, or Lady Dunroe as she will then be."

"Indeed, I agree with you, Sir Thomas; but, in the meantime, you had better see your son; he is impatient to come to you and his sister. It was only last night that the secret of his birth was made known to him."

"By what name does he go?"

"By the name of Ambrose Gray, sir; but I cannot tell you why my sister gave him such a name, nor where she got it. She was at the time very unsettled. Of late her reason has returned to her very much, thank God, although she has still touches of her unfortunate complaint; but they are slight, and are getting more so every time they come. I trust she will soon be quite well."

The baronet fixed his eye upon the speaker with peculiar steadiness.

"Corbet," said he, "you know you have lost a great deal of my confidence of late. The knowledge of certain transactions which reached that strange fellow who stopped in the Mitre, you were never able to account for."

"And never will, sir, I fear; I can make nothing of that."

"It must be between you and your father, then; and if I thought so--"

He paused, however, but feared to proceed with anything in the shape of a threat, feeling that, so far as the fate of poor Fenton was concerned, he still lay at their mercy.

"It may have been my father, Sir Thomas, and I am inclined to think it must, too, as there was no one else could. Our best plan, however, is to keep quiet and not provoke him. A very short time will put us out of his power. Fenton's account with this world is nearly settled."

"I wish, with all my heart, it was closed," observed the other; "it's a dreadful thing to feel that you are liable to every accident, and never beyond the reach of exposure. To me such a thing would be death."

"You need entertain no apprehension, Sir Thomas. The young man is safe, at last; he will never come to light, you may rest assured. But about your son--will you not see him?"

"Certainly; order the carriage, and fetch; him--quietly and as secretly as you can, observe--his sister must see him, too; and in order to prepare her, I must first see her. Go now, and lose no time about it."

"There is no necessity for a carriage, Sir Thomas; I can have him here in a quarter of an hour."

Sir Thomas went to the drawing-room with the expectation of finding Lucy there--a proof that the discovery of his son affected him very much, and deeply; for, in general his habit when he wanted to speak with her was to have her brought to the library, which was his favorite apartment. She was not there, however, and without ringing, or making any further inquiries, he proceeded to an elegant little boudoir, formerly occupied by her mother and herself, before this insane persecution had rendered her life so wretched. The chief desire of her heart now was to look at and examine and contemplate every object that belonged to that mother, or in which she ever took an interest. On this account, she had of late selected this boudoir as her favorite apartment; and here, lying asleep upon a sofa, her cheek resting upon one arm, the baronet found her. He approached calmly, and with a more extraordinary combination of feelings than perhaps he had ever experienced in his life, looked upon her; and whether it was the unprotected helplessness of sleep, or the mournful impress of suffering and sorrow, that gave such a touching charm to her beauty, or whether it was the united influence of both, it is difficult to say; but the fact was, that for an instant he felt one touch of pity at his heart.

"She is evidently unhappy," thought he, as he contemplated her; "and that face, lovely as it is, has become the exponent of misery and distress. Goodness me! how wan she is! how pale! and how distinctly do those beautiful blue veins run through her white and death-like temples! Perhaps, after all, I am wrong in urging on this marriage. But what can I do? I have no fixed principle from any source sufficiently authentic to guide me; no creed which I can believe. This life is everything to us; for what do we know, what can we know, of another? And yet, could it be that for my indifference to what is termed revealed truth, God Almighty is now making me the instrument of my own punishment? But how can I receive this doctrine? for here, before my eyes, is not the innocent suffering as much, if not more, than the guilty, even granting that I am so? And if I am perversely incredulous, is not here my son restored to me, as if to reward my unbelief? It is a mysterious maze, and I shall never get out of it; a curse to know that the most we can ever know is, that we know--nothing. Yet I will go on with this marriage. Pale as that brow is, I must see it encircled by the coronet of a countess; I must see her, as she ought to be, high in rank as she is in truth, in virtue, in true dignity. I shall force the world to make obeisance to her; and I shall teach her afterwards to despise it. She once said to me, 'And is it to gain the applause of a world you hate and despise, that you wish to exalt me to such a bawble?'--meaning the coronet. I replied, 'Yes, and for that very reason.' I shall not now disturb her."

He was about to leave the room, when he! noticed that her bosom began suddenly and rapidly to heave, as if by some strong and fearful agitation; and a series of close, pain-fed sobbings proceeded from her half-closed lips. This tumult went on for a little, when at length it was terminated by one long, wild scream, that might be supposed to proceed from the very agony of despair itself; and opening her eyes, she started up, her! face, if possible, paler than before, and her eyes filled as if with the terror of some horrible vision.

"No," she said, "the sacrifice is complete--I am your wife; but there is henceforth an eternal gulf between us, across which you shall never drag me."

On gazing about her with wild and disturbed looks, she paused for moment, and, seeing her father, she rose up, and with a countenance changed from its wildness to one in which was depicted an expression so woe-begone, so deplorable, so full of sorrow, that it was scarcely in human nature, hardened into the induration of the world's worst spirit, not to feel its irresistible influence. She then threw her arms imploringly and tenderly about his neck, and looking into his eyes as if she were supplicating for immortal salvation at his hands, she said, "Oh, papa, have compassion on me."

"What's the matter, Lucy? what's the matter, my love?"

But she only repeated the words, "Oh, papa, have pity on me! have mercy on me, papa! Save me from destruction--from despair--from madness!"

"You don't answer me, child. You have been dreaming, and are not properly awake."

Still, however, the arms--the beautiful arms--clung around his neck; and still the mournful supplication was repeated.

"Oh, papa, have pity upon me! Look at me! Am I not your daughter? Have mercy upon your daughter, papa!" And still she clung to him; and still those eyes, from which the tears now flowed in torrents, were imploring him, and gazing through his into the very soul within him; then she kissed his lips, and hung upon him as upon her last stay; and the soft but melting accents were again breathed mournfully and imploringly as before. "Oh, have pity upon me, beloved papa--have pity upon your child!"

"What do you mean, Lucy? what are you asking, my dear girl? I am willing to do anything I can to promote your happiness. What is it you want?"

"I fear to tell you, papa; but surely you understand me. Oh, relent! as you hope for heaven's mercy, pity me. I have, for your sake, undertaken too much. I have not strength to fulfil the task I imposed on myself. I will die; you will see me dead at your feet, and then your last one will be gone. You will be alone; and I should wish to live for your sake, papa. Look upon me! I am your only child--your only child--your last, as I said; and do not make your last and only one miserable--miserable--mad! Only have compassion on me, and release me from this engagement."

The baronet's eye brightened at the last two or three allusions, and he looked upon her with a benignity that filled her unhappy heart with hope.

"Oh, speak, papa," she exclaimed, "speak. I see, I feel that you are about to give me comfort--to fill my heart with joy."

"I am, indeed, Lucy. Listen to me, and restrain yourself. You are not my only child!"

"What!" she exclaimed. "What do you mean, papa? What is it?"

"Have strength and courage, Lucy; and, mark me, no noise nor rout about what I am going to say. Your brother is found--my son Thomas is found--and you will soon see him; he will be here presently. Get rid of this foolish dream you've had, and prepare to receive him!"

"My brother!" she exclaimed, "my brother! and have I a brother? Then God has not deserted me; I shall now have a friend. My brother!--my brother! But is it possible, or am I dreaming still? Oh, where is he, papa? Bring me to him!--is he in the house? Or where is he? Let the carriage be ordered, and we will both go to him. Alas, what may not the poor boy have suffered! What privations, what necessities, what distress and destitution may he not have suffered! But that matters little; come to him. In want, in rags, in misery, he is welcome--yes, welcome; and, oh, how much more if he has suffered."

"Have patience, child; he will be here by and by. You cannot long to see him more than I do. But, Lucy, listen to me; for the present we must keep his discovery and restoration to us a profound secret."

"A profound secret! and why so, papa? Why should we keep it secret? Is it not a circumstance which we should publish to the world with delight and gratitude? Surely you will not bring him into this house like a criminal, in secrecy and silence? Should the lawful heir of your name and property be suffered to enter otherwise than as becomes him? Oh, that I could see him! Will he soon be here?"

"How your tongue runs on, you foolish girl, without knowing what you say."

"I know what I say, papa. I know--I feel--that he will be a friend to me--that he will share with me in my sorrows."

"Yes, the sorrows of being made a countess."

"And a wretched woman, papa. Yes, he will sympathize with, sustain, and console me. Dear, dear brother, how I wish to see you, to press you to my heart, and to give you a sister's tenderest welcome!"

"Will you hear me, madam?" said he, sternly; "I desire you to do so."

"Yes, papa; excuse me. My head is in a tumult of joy and sorrow; but for the present I will forget myself. Yes, papa, speak on; I hear you."

"In the first place, then, it is absolutely necessary, for reasons which I am not yet at liberty to disclose to you, that the discovery of this boy should be kept strictly secret for a time."

"For a time, papa, but not long, I hope. How proud I shall feel to go out with him. We shall be inseparable; and if he wants instructions, I shall teach him everything I know."

"Arrange all that between you as you may, only observe me, I repeat. None in this house knows of his restoration but I, yourself, and Corbet. He must not live here; but he shall want neither the comforts nor the elegancies of life, at all events. This is enough for the present, so mark my words, and abide by them."

He then left her, and retired to his private room, where he unlocked a cabinet, from which he took out some papers, and having added to them two or three paragraphs, he read the whole over, from beginning to end, then locked them up again, and returned to the library.

The reader may perceive that this unexpected discovery enabled the baronet to extricate himself from a situation of much difficulty with respect to Lucy; nor did he omit to avail himself of it, in order to give a new turn to her feelings. The affectionate girl's heart was now in a tumult of delight, checked, however, so obviously by the gloomy retrospection of the obligation she had imposed upon herself, that from time to time she could not repress those short sobs by which recent grief, as in the case of children who are soothed after crying, is frequently indicated. Next to the hated marriage, however, that which pressed most severely upon her was the recollection of the manly and admirable qualities of him whom she had now forever lost, especially as contrasted with those of Dunroe. The former, for some time past, has been much engaged in attempting to trace Fenton, as well as in business connected with his own fortunes; and yet so high was his feeling of generosity and honor, that, if left to the freedom of his own will, he would have postponed every exertion for the establishment of his just rights until death should have prevented at least one honored individual from experiencing the force of the blow which must necessarily be inflicted on him by his proceedings.

At the moment when the baronet was giving such an adroit turn to the distracted state of his daughter's mind, the stranger resolved to see Birney, who was then preparing to visit France, as agent in his affairs, he himself having preferred staying near Lucy, from an apprehension that his absence might induce Sir Thomas Gourlay to force on her marriage. On passing through the hall of his hotel, he met his friend Father M'Mahon, who, much to his surprise, looked careworn and perplexed, having lost, since he saw him last, much of his natural cheerfulness and easy simplicity of character. He looked travel-stained, too, and altogether had the appearance of a man on whose kind heart something unpleasant was pressing.

"My excellent friend," said he, "I am heartily glad to see you. But how is this? you look as if something was wrong, and you have been travelling. Come upstairs; and if you have any lengthened stay to make in town, consider yourself my guest. Nay, as it is, you must stop with me. Here, Dandy--here, you Dulcimer, bring in this gentleman's luggage, and attend him punctually."

Dandy, who had been coming from the kitchen at the time, was about to comply with his orders, when he was prevented by the priest.

"Stop, Dandy, you thief. My luggage, sir! In truth, the only luggage I have is this bundle under my arm. As to my time in town, sir, I hope it won't be long; but, long or short, I must stop at my ould place, the Brazen Head, for not an hour's comfort I could have in any other place, many thanks to you. I'm now on my way to it; but I thought I'd give you a call when passing."

They then proceeded upstairs to the stranger's room, where breakfast was soon provided for the priest, who expressed an anxiety to know how the stranger's affairs proceeded, and whether any satisfactory trace of poor Fenton had been obtained.

"Nothing satisfactory has turned up in either case," replied the stranger. "No additional clew to the poor young fellow has been got, and still my own affairs are far from being complete. The loss of important documents obtained by myself in France will render it necessary for Birney to proceed to that country, in order to procure fresh copies. I had intended to accompany him myself; but I have changed my mind on that point, and prefer remaining where I am. A servant in whom I had every confidence, but who, unfortunately, took to drink, and worse vices, robbed me of them, and has fled to America, with a pretty Frenchwoman, after having abandoned his wife."

"Ay, ay," replied the priest, "that is the old story; first drink, and after that wickedness of every description. Ah, sir, it's a poor wretched world; but at the same time it is as God made it; and it becomes our duty to act an honest and a useful part in it, at all events."

"You seemed depressed, sir, I think," observed the stranger; "I hope there is nothing wrong. If there is, command my services, my friendship, my purse; in each, in all, command me."

"Many thanks, many thanks," returned the other, seizing him warmly by the hand, whilst the tears fell from his eyes. "I wish there were more in the world like you. There is nothing wrong with me, however, but what I will be able, I hope, to set right soon."

"I trust you will not allow any false delicacy to stand in your way, so far as I am concerned," said the stranger. "I possess not only the wish but the ability to serve you; and if--"

"Not now," replied the priest; "nothing to signify is wrong with me. God bless you, though, and he will, too, and prosper your honorable endeavors. I must go now: I have to call on old Corbet, and if I can influence him to assist you in tracing that poor young man, I will do it. He is hard and cunning, I know; but then he is not insensible to the fear of death, which, indeed, is the only argument likely to prevail with him."

"You should dine with me to-day," said his friend, "but that I am myself engaged to dine with Dean Palmer, where I am to meet the colonel of the Thirty-third, and some of the officers. It is the first time I have dined out since I came to the country. The colonel is an old friend of mine, and can be depended on."

"The dean is a brother-in-law of Lady Gourlay's, is he not?"

"He is."

"Yes, and what is better still, he is an excellent man, and a good Christian. I wish there were more like him in the country. I know the good done by him in my own neighborhood, where he has established, by his individual exertions, two admirable institutions for the poor--a savings' bank and a loan fund--to the manifest, relief of every struggling man who is known to be industrious and honest; and see the consequences--he is loved and honored by all who know him, for he is perpetually doing good."

"Your own bishop is not behindhand in offices of benevolence and charity, any more than Dean Palmer," observed the stranger.

"In truth, you may say so," replied, the other. "With the piety and humility of an apostle, he possesses the most childlike simplicity of heart; to which I may add, learning the most profound and extensive. His private charity to the poor will always cause himself to be ranked among their number. I wish every dean and bishop in the two churches resembled the Christian men we speak of; it would be well for the country."

"Mr. Birney, I know, stands well with you. I believe, and I take it for granted, that he does also with the people."

"You may be certain of that, my dear sir. He is one of the few attorneys who is not a rogue, but, what is still more extraordinary, an honest man and an excellent landlord. I will tell you, now, what he did some time ago. He has property, you know, in my parish. On that property an arrear of upwards of eight hundred pounds had accumulated. Now, this arrear, in consideration of the general depression in the value of agricultural produce, he not only wiped off, but abated the rents ten per cent. Again, when a certain impost, which shall be nameless (tithe), became a settled charge upon the lands, under a composition act, instead of charging it against the tenants, he paid it himself, never calling upon a tenant to pay one farthing of it. Now, I mention these things as an example to be held up and imitated by those who hold landed property in general, many of whom, the Lord knows, require such an example badly; but I must not stop here. Our friend Birney has done more than this.

"For the last fifteen years he has purchased for and supplied his tenants with flaxseed, and for which, at the subsequent gale time, in October, they merely repay him the cost price, without interest or any other charge save that of carriage.

"He also gives his tenantry, free of all charges, as much turf-bog as is necessary for the abundant supply of their own fuel.

"He has all along paid the poor-rates, without charging one farthing to the tenant.

"During a season of potato blight, he forgave every tenant paying under ten pounds, half a year's rent; under twenty, a quarter's rent; and over it, twenty per cent. Now, it is such landlords as this that are the best benefactors to the people, to the country, and ultimately to themselves; but, unfortunately, we cannot get them to think so; and I fear that nothing but the iron scourge of necessity will ever teach them their duty, and then, like most other knowledge derived from the same painful source, it will probably come too late. One would imagine a landlord ought to know without teaching, that, when he presses his tenantry until they fall, he must himself fall with them. In truth, I must be off now."

"Well, then, promise to dine with me tomorrow."

"If I can I will, then, with pleasure; but still it may be out of my power. I'll try, however. What's your hour?"

"Suit your own convenience: name it yourself."

"Good honest old five o'clock, then; that is, if I can come at all, but if I cannot, don't be disappointed. The Lord knows I'll do everything in my power to come, at any rate; and if I fail, it won't be my heart that will hinder me."

When he had gone, the stranger, after a pause, rang his bell, and in a few moments Dandy Dulcimer made his appearance.

"Dandy," said his master, "I fear we are never likely to trace this woman, Mrs. Norton, whom I am so anxious to find."

"Begad, plaise your honor, and it isn't but there's enough of them to be had. Sure it's a levy I'm houldin' every day in the week wid them, and only that I'm engaged, as they say, I'd be apt to turn some o' them into Mrs. Dulcimer."

"How is that, Dandy?"

"Why, sir, I gave out that you're young and handsome, God pardon me."

"How, sirra," said his master, laughing, "do you mean to say that I am not?"

"Well, sir, wait till you hear, and then you may answer yourself; as for me, afther what I've seen, I'll not undertake to give an opinion on the subject. I suppose I'm an ugly fellow myself, and yet I know a sartin fair one that's not of that opinion--ahem!"

"Make yourself intelligible in the meantime," said his master: "I don't properly understand you."

"That's just what the Mrs. Nortons say, your honor. 'I don't understand you, sir;' and that is bekaise you keep me in the dark, and that I can't explain to them properly what you want; divil a thing but an oracle you've made of me. But as to beauty--only listen, sir. This mornin' there came a woman to me wid a thin, sharp face, a fiery eye that looked as if she had a drop in it, or was goin' to fight a north-wester, and a thin, red nose that was nothing else than a stunner. She was, moreover, a good deal of the gentleman on the upper lip--not to mention two or three separate plantations of the same growth on different parts of the chin. Altogether, I was very much struck with her appearance."

"You are too descriptive, Dandy," said his master, after enjoying the description, however; "come to the point."

"Ay, that's just what she said," replied Dandy, "coaxing the point of her nose wid her finger and thumb: 'Come to the point,' said she; 'mention the services your master requires from me.'

"'From you,' says I, lookin' astonished, as you may suppose--'from you, ma'am?'

"'Yes, my good man, from me; I'm Mrs. Norton.'

"'Are you indeed, ma'am?' says I; 'I hope you're well, Mrs. Norton. My master will be delighted to see you.'

"'What kind of a man is he?' she asked.

"'Young and handsome, ma'am,' says I; 'quite a janious in beauty.'

"'Well,' says my lady, 'so far so good; I'm young and handsome myself, as you see, and I dare say we'll live happily enough together;' and as she spoke, she pushed up an old bodice that was tied round something that resembled a dried skeleton, which it only touched at points, like a reel in a bottle, strivin', of course, to show off a good figure; she then winked both eyes, as if she was meetin' a cloud o' dust, and agin shuttin' one, as if she was coverin' me wid a rifle, whispered, 'You'll find me generous maybe, if you desarve it. I'll increase your allowances afther our marriage.'

"'Thanks, ma'am,' says I, 'but my masther isn't a marryin' man--unfortunately, he is married; still,' says I, recoverin' myself--for it struck me that she might be the right woman, afther all--'although he's married, his wife's an invalid; so that it likely you may be the lady still. Were you ever in France, ma'am?'

"'No,' says she, tossing up the stunner I spoke of, 'I never was in Prance; but I was in Tipperary, if that would sarve him.'

"I shook my head, your honor, as much as to say--'It's no go this time.'

"'Ma'am,' says I, 'that's unfortunate--my masther, when he gets a loose leg, will never marry any woman that has not been in France, and can dance the fandango like a Frenchman.'

"'I am sorry for his taste,' says she, 'and for yours, too; but at all events, you had better go up and tell him that I'll walk down the opposite side of the street, and then he can see what he has lost, and feel what France has cost him.'

"She then walked, sir, or rather sailed, down the other side of the street, holdin' up her clothes behind, to show a pair of legs like telescopes, with her head to it's full height, and one eye squintin' to the hotel, like a crow lookin' into a marrow bone."

"Well," said his master, "but I don't see the object of all this."

"Why, the object, sir, is to show you that it's not so aisy to know whether a person's young and handsome or not. You, sir, think yourself both; and so did the old skeleton I'm spakin' of."

"I see your moral, Dandy," replied his master, laughing; "at all events, make every possible inquiry, but, at the same time, in a quiet way. More depends upon it than you can imagine. Not," he added, in a kind of half soliloquy, "that I am acting in this affair from motives of a mere personal nature; I am now only the representative of another's wishes, and on that account, more than from any result affecting myself, do I proceed in it."

"I wish I knew, sir," said Dandy, "what kind of a woman this Mrs. Norton is; whether she's old or young, handsome or otherwise. At all events, I think I may confine myself to them that's young and handsome. It's always pleasanter, sir, and more agreeable to deal with a hands--"

"Confine yourself to truth, sir," replied his master, sharply; "make prudent inquiries, and in doing so act like a man of sense and discretion, and don't attempt to indulge in your buffoonery at my expense. No woman named Norton can be the individual I want to find, who has not lived for some years in France. That is a sufficient test; and if you should come in the way of the woman I am seeking, who alone can answer this description, I shall make it worth your while to have succeeded." _

Read next: Chapter 33. The Priest Asks For A Loan Of Fifty Guineas

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