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

Chapter 34. Young Gourlay's Affectionate Interview With His Father

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_ CHAPTER XXXIV. Young Gourlay's Affectionate Interview with His Father

--Risk of Strangulation--Movements of M'Bride.

It is not necessary here to suggest to the reader that Tom Corbet, who knew the baronet's secrets and habits of life so thoroughly, had prepared Mr. Ambrose Gray, by frequent rehearsals, for the more adroit performance of the task that was before him.

At length a knock, modest but yet indicative of something like authority, was heard at the hall-door, and the baronet immediately descended to the dining-room, where he knew he could see his son with less risk of interruption. He had already intimated to Lucy that she should not make her appearance until summoned for that purpose.

At length Mr. Gray was shown into the dining-room, and the baronet, who, as usual, was pacing it to and fro, suddenly turned round, and without any motion to approach his son, who stood with a dutiful look, as if to await his will, he fixed his eyes upon him with a long, steady, and scrutinizing gaze. There they stood, contemplating each other with earnestness, and so striking, so extraordinary was the similarity between their respective features, that, in everything but years, they appeared more like two counterparts than father and son. Each, on looking at the other, felt, in fact, the truth of this unusual resemblance, and the baronet at once acknowledged its influence.

"Yes," he exclaimed, approaching Mr. Gray, "yes, there is no mistake here; he is my son. I acknowledge him." He extended his hand, and shook that of the other, then seized both with a good deal of warmth, and welcomed him. Ambrose, however, was not satisfied with this, but, extricating his hands, he threw his arms round the baronet's neck, and exclaimed in the words of an old play, in which he had been studying a similar scene for the present occasion, "My father! my dear father! Oh, and have I a father! Oh, let me press him to my heart!" And as he spoke he contrived to execute half a dozen dry sobs (for he could not accomplish the tears), that would have done credit to the best actor of the day.

The baronet, who never relished any exhibition of emotion or tenderness, began to have misgivings as to his character, and consequently suffered these dutiful embraces instead of returning them.

"There, Tom," he exclaimed, laughing, "that will do. There, man," he repeated, for he felt that Tom was about recommencing another rather vigorous attack, whilst the sobs were deafening, "there, I say; don't throttle me; that will do, sirrah; there now. On this occasion it is natural; but in general I detest snivelling--it's unmanly."

Tom at once took the hint, wiped his eyes, a work in this instance of the purest supererogation, and replied, "So do I, father; it's decidedly the province of an old woman when she is past everything else. But on such an occasion I should be either more or less than man not to feel as I ought."

"Come, that is very well said. I hope you are not a fool like your--Corbet, go out. I shall send for you when we want you. I hope," he repeated, after Corbet had disappeared, "I hope you are not a fool, like your sister. Not that I can call her a fool, either; but she is obstinate and self-willed."

"I am sorry to hear this, sir. My sister ought to have no will but yours."

"Why, that is better," replied the baronet, rubbing his hands cheerfully. "Hang it, how like?" he exclaimed, looking at him once more. "You resemble me confoundedly, Tom--at least in person; and if you do in mind and purpose, we'll harmonize perfectly. Well, then, I have a thousand questions to ask you, but I will have time enough for that again; in the meantime, Tom, what's your opinion of life--of the world--of man, Tom, and of woman? I wish to know what kind of stuff you're made of."

"Of life, sir--why, that we are to take the most we can out of it. Of the world--that I despise it. Of man--that every one is a rogue when he's found out, and that if he suffers himself to be found out he's a fool; so that the fools and the rogues have it between them."

"And where do you leave the honest men, Tom?"

"The what, sir?"

"The honest men."

"I'm not acquainted, sir, nor have I ever met a man who was, with any animal of that class. The world, sir, is a moral fiction; a mere term in language that represents negation."

"Well, but woman?"

"Born to administer to our pleasure, our interest, or our ambition, with no other purpose in life. Have I answered my catechism like a good boy, sir?"

"Very well, indeed, Tom. Why, in your notions of life and the world, you seem to be quite an adept."

"I am glad, sir, that you approve of them. So far we are likely to agree. I feel quite proud, sir, that my sentiments are in unison with yours. But where is my sister, sir? I am quite impatient to see her."

"I will send for her immediately. And now that I have an opportunity, let me guard you against her influence. I am anxious to bring about a marriage between her and a young nobleman--Lord Dunroe--who will soon be the Earl of Cullamore, for his old father is dying, or near it, and then Lucy will be a countess. To effect this has been the great ambition of my life. Now, you must not only prevent Lucy from gaining you over to her interests, for she would nearly as soon die as marry him."


"What do you pshaw for, Tom?"

"All nonsense, sir. She doesn't know her own mind; or, rather, she ought to have no mind on the subject."

"Perfectly right; my identical sentiments. Lucy, however, detests this lord, notwithstanding--ay, worse than she does the deuce himself. You must, therefore, not permit yourself to be changed or swayed by her influence, but support me by every argument and means in your power."

"Don't fear me, sir. Your interests, or rather the girl's own, if she only knows them, shall have my most strenuous support."

"Thank you, Tom. I see that you and I are likely to agree thoroughly. I shall now send for her. She is a superb creature, and less than a countess I shall not have her."

Lucy, when the servant announced her father's wish to see her, was engaged in picturing to herself the subject of her brother's personal appearance. She had always heard that he resembled her mother, and on this account alone she felt how very dear he should be to her. With a flushing, joyful, but palpitating heart, she descended the stairs, and with a trembling hand knocked at the door. On entering, she was about to rush into her newly-found relative's arms, but, on casting her eyes around, she perceived her father and him standing side by side, so startlingly alike in feature, expression, and personal figure, that her heart, until then bounding with rapture, sank at once, and almost became still. The quick but delicate instincts of her nature took the alarm, and a sudden weakness seized her whole frame. "In this young man," she said to herself, "I have found a brother, but not a friend; not a feature of my dear mother in that face."

This change, and this rush of reflection, took place almost in a moment, and ere she had time to speak she found herself in Mr. Ambrose Gray's arms. The tears at once rushed to her eyes, but they were not such tears as she expected to have shed. Joy there was, but, alas, how much mitigated was its fervency! And when her brother spoke, the strong, deep, harsh tones of his voice so completely startled her, that she almost believed she was on the breast of her father. Her tears flowed; but they were mingled with a sense of disappointment that amounted almost to bitterness.

Tom on this occasion forebore to enact the rehearsal scene, as he had done in the case of his father. His sister's beauty, at once melancholy but commanding, her wonderful grace, her dignity of manner, added to the influence of her tall, elegant figure, awed him so completely, that he felt himself incapable of aiming at anything like dramatic effect. Nay, as her warm tears fell upon his face, he experienced a softening influence that resembled emotion, but, like his father, he annexed associations to it that were selfish, and full of low, ungenerous caution.

"My father's right," thought he; "I must be both cool and firm here, otherwise it will be difficult not to support her."

"Well, Lucy," said her father, with unusual cheerfulness, after Tom had handed her to a seat, "I hope you like your brother. Is he not a fine, manly young fellow?"

"Is he not my brother, papa?" she replied, "restored to us after so many years; restored when hope had deserted us--when we had given him up for lost."

As she uttered the words her voice quivered; a generous reaction had taken place in her breast; she blamed herself for having withheld from him, on account of a circumstance over which he had no control, that fulness of affection, with which she had prepared herself to welcome him. A sentiment, first of compassion, then of self-reproach, and ultimately of awakened affection, arose in her mind, associated with and made still more tender by the melancholy memory of her departed mother. She again took his hand, on which the tears now fell in showers, and after a slight pause said,

"I hope, my dear Thomas, you have not suffered, nor been subject to the wants and privations which usually attend the path of the young and friendless in this unhappy world? Alas, there is one voice--but is now forever still--that would, oh, how rapturously! have welcomed you to a longing and a loving heart."

The noble sincerity of her present emotion was not without its effect upon her brother. His eyes, in spite of the hardness of his nature, swam in something like moisture, and he gazed upon her with wonder and pride, that he actually was the brother of so divine a creature; and a certain description of affection, such as he had never before felt, for it was pure, warm, and unselfish.

"Oh, how I do long to hear the history of your past life!" she exclaimed. "I dare say you had many an early struggle to encounter; many a privation to suffer; and in sickness, with none but the cold hand of the stranger about you; but still it seems that God has not deserted you. Is it not a consolation, papa, to think that he returns to us in a condition of life so gratifying?"

"Gratifying it unquestionably is, Lucy. He is well educated; and will soon be fit to take his proper position in society."

"Soon! I trust immediately, papa; I hope you will not allow him to remain a moment longer in obscurity; compensate him at least for his sufferings. But, my dear Thomas," she proceeded, turning to him, "let me ask, do you remember mamma? If she were now here, how her affectionate heart would rejoice! Do you remember her my dear Thomas?"

"Not distinctly," he replied; "something of a pale, handsome woman comes occasionally like a dream of my childhood to my imagination--a graceful woman, with auburn hair, and a melancholy look, I think."

"You--do," replied Lucy, as her eyes sparkled, "you do remember her; that is exactly a sketch of her--gentle, benignant, and affectionate, with a fixed sorrow mingled with resignation in her face. Yes, you remember her!"

"Now, Lucy," said her father, who never could bear any particular allusion to his wife; "now that you have seen your brother, I think you may withdraw, at least for the present. He and I have matters of importance to talk of; and you know you will have enough of him again--plenty of time to hear his past history, which, by the way, I am as anxious to hear as you are. You may now withdraw, my love."

"Oh, not so soon, father, if you please," said Thomas; "allow us a little more time together."

"Well, then, a few minutes only, for I myself must take an airing in the carriage, and I must also call upon old Cullamore."

"Papa," said Lucy, "I am about to disclose a little secret to you which I hesitated to do before, but this certainly is a proper occasion for doing it; the secret I speak of will disclose itself. Here is where it lay both day and night since mamma's death," she added, putting her hand upon her heart; "it is a miniature portrait of her which I myself got done."

She immediately drew it up by a black silk ribbon, and after contemplating it with tears, she placed it in the hands of her brother.

This act of Lucy's placed him in a position of great pain and embarrassment. His pretended recollection of Lady Gourlay was, as the reader already guesses, nothing more than the description of her which he had received from Corbet, that he might be able to play his part with an appearance of more natural effect. With the baronet, the task of deception was by no means difficult; but with Lucy, the case was altogether one of a different complexion. His father's principles, as expounded by his illegitimate son's worthy uncle, were not only almost familiar to him, but also in complete accordance with his own. With him, therefore, the deception consisted in little else than keeping his own secret, and satisfying his father that their moral views of life were the same. He was not prepared, however, for the effect which Lucy's noble qualities produced upon him so soon. To him who had never met with or known any other female, combining in her own person such extraordinary beauty and dignity--such obvious candor of heart--such graceful and irresistible simplicity, or who was encompassed by an atmosphere of such truth and purity--the effect was such as absolutely confounded himself, and taught him to feel how far they go in purifying, elevating, and refining those who come within the sphere of their influence. This young man, for instance, was touched, softened, and awed into such an involuntary respect for her character and virtues, that he felt himself almost unable to sustain the part he had undertaken to play, so far at least as she was concerned. In fact, he felt himself changed for the better, and was forced, as it were, to look in upon his own heart, and contemplate its deformity by the light that emanated from her character. Nor was this singular but natural influence unperceived by her father, who began to fear that if they were to be much together, he must ultimately lose the connivance and support of his son.

Thomas took the portrait from her hand, and, after contemplating it for some time, felt himself bound to kiss it, which he did, with a momentary consciousness of his hypocrisy that felt like guilt.

"It is most interesting," said he; "there is goodness, indeed, and benignity, as you say, in every line of that placid but sorrowful face. Here," said he, "take it back, my dear sister; I feel that it is painful to me to look upon it."

"It has been my secret companion," said Lucy, gazing at it with deep emotion, "and my silent monitress ever since poor mamma's death. It seemed to say to me with those sweet lips that will never more move: Be patient, my child, and put your firm trust in the hopes of a better life, for this world is one of trial and suffering."

"That is all very fine, Lucy," said her father, somewhat fretfully; "but it would have been as well if she had preached a lesson of obedience at the same time. However, you had better withdraw, my dear; as I told you, Thomas and I have many important matters to talk over."

"I am ready to go, papa," she replied; "but, by the way, my dear Thomas, I had always heard that you resembled her very much; instead of that, you are papa's very image."

"A circumstance which will take from his favor with you, Lucy, I fear," observed her father; "but, indeed, I myself am surprised at the change that has come over you, Thomas; for, unquestionably, when young you were very like her."

"These changes are not at all unfrequent, I believe," replied his son. "I have myself known instances where the individual when young resembled one parent, and yet, in the course of time, became as it were the very image and reflex of the other."

"You are perfectly right, Tom," said his father; "every family is aware of the fact, and you yourself are a remarkable illustration of it."

"I am not sorry for resembling my dear father, Lucy," observed her brother; "and I know I shall lose nothing in your good will on that account, but rather gain by it."

Lucy's eyes were already filled with tears at the ungenerous and unfeeling insinuation of her father.

"You shall not, indeed, Thomas," she replied; "and you, papa, are scarcely just to me in saying so. I judge no person by their external appearance, nor do I suffer myself to be prejudiced by looks, although I grant that the face is very often, but by no means always, an index to the character. I judge my friends by my experience of their conduct--by their heart--their principles--their honor. Good-by, now, my dear brother; I am quite impatient to hear your history, and I am sure you will gratify me as soon as you can."

She took his hand and kissed it, but, in the act of doing so, observed under every nail a semicircular line of black drift that jarred very painfully on her feelings. Tom then imprinted a kiss upon her forehead, and she withdrew.

When she had gone out, the baronet bent his eyes upon her brother with a look that seemed to enter into his very soul--a look which his son, from his frequent teachings, very well understood.

"Now, Tom," said he, "that you have seen your sister, what do you think of her? Is it not a pity that she should ever move under the rank of a countess?"

"Under the rank of a queen, sir. She would grace the throne of an empress."

"And yet she has all the simplicity of a child; but I can't get her to feel ambition. Now, mark me, Tom; I have seen enough in this short interview to convince me that if you are not as firm as a rock, she will gain you over."

"Impossible, sir; I love her too well to lend myself to her prejudices against her interests. Her objections to this marriage must proceed solely from inexperience. It is true, Lord Dunroe bears a very indifferent character, and if you could get any other nobleman with a better one as a husband for her, it would certainly be more agreeable."

"It might, Tom; but I cannot. The truth is, I am an unpopular man among even the fashionable circles, and the consequence is, that I do not mingle much with them. The disappearance of my brother's heir has attached suspicions to me which your discovery will not tend to remove. Then there is Lucy's approaching marriage, which your turning up at this particular juncture may upset. Dunroe, I am aware, is incapable of appreciating such a girl as Lucy."

"Then why, sir, does he marry her?"

"In consequence of her property. You perceive, then, that unless you lie by until after this marriage, my whole schemes for this girl may be destroyed."

"But how, sir, could my appearance or reappearance effect such a catastrophe?"

"Simply because you come at the most unlucky moment."

"Unlucky, sir!" exclaimed the youth, with much affected astonishment, for he had now relapsed into his original character, and felt himself completely in his element.

"Don't misunderstand me," said his father; "I will explain myself. Had you never appeared, Lucy would have inherited the family estates, which, in right of his wife, would have passed into the possession of Dunroe. Your appearance, however, if made known, will prevent that, and probably cause Dunroe to get out of it; and it is for this reason that I wish to keep your very existence a secret until the marriage is over."

"I am willing to do anything, sir," replied worthy Tom, with a very dutiful face, "anything to oblige you, and to fall in with your purposes, provided my own rights are not compromised. I trust you will not blame me, sir, for looking to them, and for a natural anxiety to sustain the honor and prolong the name of my family."

"Blame you, sirrah!" said his father, laughing. "Confound me, but you're a trump, and I am proud to hear you express such sentiments. How the deuce did you get such a shrewd notion of the world? But, no matter, attend to me. Your rights shall not be compromised. A clause shall be inserted in the marriage articles to the effect that in case of your recovery and restoration, the estates shall revert to you, as the legitimate heir. Are you satisfied?"

"Perfectly, sir," replied Thomas, "perfectly; on the understanding that these provisions are duly and properly carried out."

"Undoubtedly they shall; and besides," replied his father with a grin of triumph, "it will be only giving Dunroe a quid pro quo, for, as I told you, he is marrying your sister merely for the property, out of which you cut him."

"Of course, my dear father," replied the other, "I am in your hands; but, in the meantime, how and where am I to dispose of myself?"

"In the first place, keep your own secret--that is the principal point--in which case you may live wherever you wish; I will give you a liberal allowance until you can make your appearance with safety to Lucy's prosperity. The marriage will take place very soon; after which you can come and claim your own, when it will be too late for Dunroe to retract. Here, for the present, is a check for two hundred and fifty; but, Tom, you must be frugal and cautious in its expenditure. Don't suffer yourself to break out: always keep a firm hold of the helm. Get a book in which you will mark down your expenses; for, mark me, you must render a strict account of this money. On the day after to-morrow you must dine with Lucy and me; but, if you take my advice, you will see her as seldom as possible until after her marriage. She wishes me to release her from her engagement, and she will attempt to seduce you to her side; but I warn you that this would be a useless step for you to take, as my mind is immovable on the subject."

They then separated, each, but especially Mr. Ambrose Gray, as we must again call him, feeling very well satisfied with the result of the interview.

"Now," said the baronet, as he paced the floor, after his son had gone, "am I not right, after all, in the views which I entertain of life? I have sometimes been induced to fear that Providence has placed in human society a moral machinery which acts with retributive effect upon those who, in the practice of their lives, depart from what are considered his laws. And yet here am I, whose whole life has been at variance with and disregarded them--here I am, I say, with an easier heart than I've had for many a day: my son restored to me--my daughter upon the point of being married according to my highest wishes--all my projects prospering; and there is my brother's wife--wretched Lady Gourlay--who, forsooth, is religious, benevolent, humane, and charitable--ay, and if report speak true, who loves her fellow-creatures as much as I scorn and detest them. Yes--and what is the upshot? Why, that all these virtues have not made her one whit happier than another, nor so happy as one in ten thousand. Cui bono, then I ask--where is this moral machinery which I sometimes dreaded? I cannot perceive its operations. It has no existence; it is a mere chimera; like many another bugbear, the foul offspring of credulity and fear on the one side--of superstition and hypocrisy on the other. No; life is merely a thing of chances, and its incidents the mere combinations that result from its evolutions, just like the bits of glass in the kaleidoscope, which, when viewed naked, have neither order nor beauty, but when seen through our own mistaken impressions, appear to have properties which they do not possess, and to produce results that are deceptive, and which would mislead us if we drew any absolute inference from them. Here the priest advances, kaleidoscope in hand, and desires you to look at his tinsel and observe its order. Well, you do so, and imagine that the beauty and order you see lie in the things themselves, and not in the prism through which you view them. But you are not satisfied--you must examine. You take the kaleidoscope to pieces, and where then are the order and beauty to be found? Away! I am right still. The doctrine of life is a doctrine of chances; and there is nothing certain but death--death, the gloomy and terrible uncreator--heigho!"

Whilst the unbelieving baronet was congratulating himself upon the truth of his principles and the success of his plans, matters were about to take place that were soon to subject them to a still more efficient test than the accommodating but deceptive spirit of his own scepticism. Lord Cullamore's mind was gradually sinking under some secret sorrow or calamity, which he refused to disclose even to his son or Lady Emily. M'Bride's visit had produced a most melancholy effect upon him; indeed, so deeply was he weighed down by it, that he was almost incapable of seeing any one, with the exception of his daughter, whom he caressed and wept over as one would over some beloved being whom death was about to snatch from the heart and eyes forever.

Sir Thomas Gourlay, since the discovery of his son, called every day for a week, but the reply was, "His lordship is unable to see any one."

One evening, about that time, Ginty Cooper had been to see her brother, Tom Corbet, at the baronet's, and was on her way home, when she accidentally spied M'Bride in conversation with Norton, at Lord Cullamore's hall-door, which, on her way to Sir Thomas's, she necessarily passed. It was just about dusk, or, as they call it in the country, between the two lights, and as the darkness was every moment deepening, she resolved to watch them, for the purpose of tracing M'Bride home to his lodgings. They, in the meantime, proceeded to a public-house in the vicinity, into which both entered, and having ensconced themselves in a little back closet off the common tap-room, took their seats at a small round table, Norton having previously ordered some punch. Giuty felt rather disappointed at this caution, but in a few minutes a red-faced girl, with a blowzy head of hair strong as wire, and crisped into small obstinate undulations of surface which neither comb nor coaxing could smooth away, soon followed them with the punch and a candle. By the light of the latter, Ginty perceived that there was nothing between them but a thin partition of boards, through the slits of which she could, by applying her eye or ear, as the case might be, both see and hear them. The tap-room at the time was empty, and Ginty, lest her voice might be heard, went to the bar, from whence she herself brought in a glass of porter, and having taken her seat close to the partition, overheard the following conversation:

"In half an hour he's to see you, then?" said Norton, repeating the words with a face of inquiry.

"Yes, sir; in half an hour."

"Well, now," he continued, "I assure you I'm neither curious nor inquisitive; yet, unless it be a very profound secret indeed, I give my honor I should wish to hear it."

"There's others in your family would be glad to hear it as well as you," replied M'Bride.

"The earl has seen you once or twice before on the subject, I think?"

"He has, sir?"

"And this is the third time, I believe?"

"It will be the third time, at all events."

"Come, man," said Norton, "take your punch; put yourself in spirits for the interview. It requires a man to pluck up to be able to speak to a nobleman."

"I have spoken to as good as ever he was; not that I say anything to his lordship's disparagement," replied M'Bride; "but I'll take the punch for a better reason--because I I have a fellow feeling for it. And yet it was my destruction, too; however, it can't be helped. Yes, faith, it made me an ungrateful scoundrel; but, no matter!--sir, here's your health! I must only, as they say, make the best of a bad bargain--must bring my cattle to the best market."

"Ay," said Norton, dryly and significantly; "and so you think the old earl, the respectable old nobleman, is your best chapman? Am I right?"

"I may go that far, any way," replied the fellow, with a knowing grin; "but I don't lave you much the wiser."

"No, faith, you don't," replied Norton, grinning in his turn. "However, listen to me. Do you not think, now, that if you placed your case in the hands of some one that stands well with his lordship, and who could use his influence in your behalf, you might have better success?"

"I'm the best judge of that myself," replied M'Bride. "As it is, I have, or can have, two strings to my bow. I have only to go to a certain person, and say I'm sorry for what I've done, and I've no doubt but I'd come well off."

"Well, and why don't you? If I were in your case, I'd consider myself first, though."

"I don't know," replied the other, as if undecided. "I think, afther all, I'm in better hands. Unless Lord Cullamore is doting, I'm sure of that fact. I don't intend to remain in this counthry. I'll go back to France or to America; I can't yet say which."

"Take your punch in the meantime; take off your liquor, I say, and it'll clear your head. Come, off with it. I don't know why, but I have taken a fancy to you. Your face is an honest one, and if I knew what your business with his lordship is, I'd give you a lift."

"Thank you, sir," replied the other; "but the truth is, I'm afeard to take much till after I see him. I must have all my wits about me, and keep myself steady."

"Do put it in my power to serve you. Tell me what your business is, and, by the honor of my name, I'll assist you."

"At present," replied M'Bride, "I can't; but if I could meet you after I see his lordship, I don't say but we might talk more about it."

"Very well," replied Norton; "you won't regret it. In the course of a short time I shall have the complete management of the whole Cullamore property; and who can say that, if you put confidence in me now, I may not have it in my power to employ you beneficially for yourself?"

"Come then, sir," replied M'Bride, "let me have another tumbler, on the head of it. I think one more will do me no harm; as you say, sir, it'll clear my head."

This was accordingly produced, and M'Bride began to become, if not more communicative, at least more loquacious, and seemed disposed to place confidence in Norton, to whom, however, he communicated nothing of substantial importance.

"I think," said the latter, "if I don't mistake, that I am acquainted with some of your relations."

"That may easily be," replied the other; "and it has struck me two or three times that I have seen your face before, but I can't tell where."

"Very likely," replied Norton; "but 111 tell you what, we must get better acquainted. Are you in any employment at present?"

"I'm doing nothing," said the other; "and the few pounds I had are now gone to a few shillings; so that by to-morrow or next day, I'll be forced to give my teeth a holiday."

"Poor fellow," replied Norton, "that's too bad. Here's a pound note for you, at all events. Not a word now; if we can understand each other you sha'n't want; and I'll tell you what you'll do. After leaving his lordship you must come to my room, where you can have punch to the eyes, and there will be no interruption to our chat. You can then tell me anything you like; but it must come willingly, for I'd scorn to force a secret from any man--that is, if it is a secret. Do you agree to this?"

"I agree to it, and many thanks, worthy sir," replied M'Bride, putting the pound note in his pocket; after which they chatted upon indifferent matters until the period for his interview with Lord Cullamore had arrived.

Ginty, who had not lost a syllable of this dialogue, to whom, as the reader perhaps may suspect, it was no novelty, followed them at a safe distance, until she saw them enter the house. The interest, however, which she felt in M'Bride's movements, prevented her from going home, or allowing him to slip through her finger without accomplishing a project that she had for some time before meditated, but had hitherto found no opportunity to execute.

Lord Cullamore, on M'Bride's entrance, was in much the same state which we have already described, except that in bodily appearance he was somewhat more emaciated and feeble. There was, however, visible in his features a tone of solemn feeling, elevated but sorrowful, that seemed to bespeak a heart at once resigned and suffering, and disposed to receive the dispensations of life as a man would whose philosophy was softened by a Christian spirit. In the general plan of life he clearly recognized the wisdom which, for the example and the benefit of all, runs with singular beauty through the infinite combinations of human action, verifying the very theory which the baronet saw dimly, but doubted; we mean that harmonious adaptation of moral justice to those actions by which the original principles that diffuse happiness through social life are disregarded and violated. The very order that characterizes all creation, taught him that we are not here without a purpose, and when human nature failed to satisfy him upon the mystery of life, he went to revelation, and found the problem solved. The consequence was, that whilst he felt as a man, he endured as a Christian--aware that this life is, for purposes which we cannot question, chequered with evils that teach us the absolute necessity of another, and make us, in the meantime, docile and submissive to the will of him who called us into being.

His lordship had been reading the Bible as M'Bride entered, and, after having closed it, and placed his spectacles between the leaves as a mark, he motioned the man to come forward.

"Well," said he, "have you brought those documents with you?"

"I have, my lord."

"Pray," said he, "allow me to see them."

M'Bride hesitated; being a knave himself, he naturally suspected every other man of trick and dishonesty; and yet, when he looked upon the mild but dignified countenance of the old man, made reverend by age and suffering, he had not the courage to give any intimation of the base suspicions he entertained.

"Place the papers before me, sir," said his lordship, somewhat sharply. "What opinion can I form of their value without having first inspected and examined them?"

As he spoke he took the spectacles from out the Bible, and settled them on his face.

"I know, my lord," replied M'Bride, taking them out of a pocket-book rather the worse for wear, "that I am placing them in the hands of an honorable man."

His lordship took them without seeming to have heard this observation; and as he held them up, M'Bride could perceive that a painful change came over him. He became ghastly pale, and his hands trembled so violently, that he was unable to read their contents until he placed them flat upon the table before him. At length, after having read and examined them closely, and evidently so as to satisfy himself of their authenticity, he turned round to M'Bride, and said, "Is any person aware that you are in possession of these documents?"

"Aha," thought the fellow, "there's an old knave for you. He would give a round sum that they were in ashes, I'll engage; but I'll make him shell out for all that.--I don't think there is, my lord, unless the gentleman--your lordship knows who I mean--that I took them from."

"Did you take them deliberately from him?"

The man stood uncertain for a moment, and thought that the best thing he could do was to make a merit of the affair, by affecting a strong disposition to serve his lordship.

"The truth is, my lord, I was in his confidence, and as I heard how matters stood, I thought it a pity that your lordship should be annoyed at your time of life, and I took it into my head to place them in your lordship's hands."

"These are genuine documents," observed his lordship, looking at them again. "I remember the handwriting distinctly, and have in my possession some letters written by the same individual. Was your master a kind one?"

"Both kind and generous, my lord; and I have no doubt at all but he'd forgive me everything, and advance a large sum besides, in order to get these two little papers back. Your lordship knows he can do nothing against you without them; and I hope you'll consider that, my lord."

"Did he voluntarily, that is, willingly, and of his own accord, admit you to his confidence? and, if so, upon what grounds?"

"Why, my lord, my wife and I were servants to his father for years, and he, when a slip of a boy, was very fond of me. When he came over here, my lord, it was rather against his will, and not at all for his own sake. So, as he knew that he'd require some one in this country that could act prudently for him, he made up his mind to take me with him, especially as my wife and myself were both anxious to come back to our own country. 'I must trust some one, M'Bride,' said he, 'and I will trust you'; and then he tould me the raison of his journey here."

"Well," replied his lordship, "proceed; have you anything more to add!"

"Nothing, my lord, but what I've tould you. I thought it a pitiful case to see a nobleman at your time of life afflicted by the steps he was about to take, and I brought these papers accordingly to your lordship. I hope you'll not forget that, my lord."

"What value do you place on these two documents?"

"Why, I think a thousand pounds, my lord."

"Well, sir, your estimate is a very low one--ten thousand would come somewhat nearer the thing."

"My lord, I can only say," said M'Bride, "that I'm willin' to take a thousand; but, if your lordship, knowin' the value of the papers as you do, chooses to add anything more, I'll be very happy to accept it."

"I have another question to ask you, sir," said his lordship, "which I do with great pain, as I do assure you that this is as painful a dialogue as I ever held in my life. Do you think now, that, provided you had not taken--that is, stolen-these papers from your master, he would, upon the success of the steps he is taking, have given you a thousand pounds?"

The man hesitated, as if he had caught a glimpse of the old man's object in putting the question. "Why--hem--no; I don't think I could expect that, my lord; but a handsome present, I dare say, I might come in for."

Lord Cullamore raised himself in his chair, and after looking at the treacherous villain with a calm feeling of scorn and indignation, to which his illness imparted a solemn and lofty severity, that made M'Bride feel as if he wished to sink through the floor,

"Go," said he, looking at him with an eye that was kindled into something of its former fire. "Begone, sir: take away your papers; I will not--I cannot enter into any compact with an ungrateful and perfidious villain like you. These papers have come into your hands by robbery or theft--that is sufficient; there they are, sir--take them away. I shall defend myself and my rights upon principles of justice, but never shall stoop to support them by dishonor."

On concluding, he flung them across the table with a degree of energy that surprised M'Bride, whilst his color,hitherto so pale, was heightened by a flash of that high feeling and untarnished integrity which are seldom so beautifully impressive as when exhibited in the honorable indignation of old age. It might have been compared to that pale but angry red of the winter sky which flashes so transiently over the snow-clad earth, when the sun, after the fatigues of his short but chilly journey, is about to sink from our sight at the close of day.

M'Bride slunk out of the room crestfallen, disappointed, and abashed; but on reaching the outside of the door he found Norton awaiting him. This worthy gentleman, after beckoning to him to follow, having been striving, with his whole soul centred in the key-hole, to hear the purport of their conference, now proceeded to his own room, accompanied by M'Bride, where we shall leave them without interruption to their conversation and enjoyment, and return once more to Ginty Cooper.

Until the hour of half-past twelve that night Ginty most religiously kept her watch convenient to the door. Just then it opened very quietly, and a man staggered down the hall steps, and bent his course toward the northern part of the city suburbs. A female might be observed to follow him at a distance, and ever as he began to mutter his drunken meditations to himself, she approached him more closely behind, in order, if possible, to lose nothing of what he said.

"An ould fool," he hiccupped, "to throw them back to me--hie--an' the other a kna-a-ve to want to--to look at them; but I was up--up; if the young-oung L-lor-ord will buy them, he mu-must-ust pay for them, for I hav-ave them safe. Hang it, my head's turn-turn-turnin' about like the--"

At this portion of his reflections he turned into a low, dark line of cabins, some inhabited, and others ruined and waste, followed by the female in question; and if the reader cannot ascertain her object in dogging him, he must expect no assistance in guessing it from us. _

Read next: Chapter 35. Lucy's Vain But Affecting Expostulation With Her Father

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

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