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

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

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_ CHAPTER XXXV. Lucy's Vain but Affecting Expostulation with her Father

--Her Terrible Denunciation of Ambrose Gray.

The next morning, after breakfast, Lord Dunroe found Norton and M'Bride in the stable yard, when the following conversation took place.

"Norton," said his lordship, "I can't understand what they mean by the postponement of this trial about the mare. I fear they will beat us, and in that case it is better, perhaps, to compromise it. You know that that attorney fellow Birney is engaged against us, and by all accounts he has his wits about him."

"Yes, my lord; but Birney is leaving home, going to France, and they have succeeded in getting it postponed until the next term. My lord, this is the man, M'Bride, that I told you of this morning. M'Bride, have you brought those documents with you? I wish to show them to his lordship, who, I think, you will find a more liberal purchaser than his father."

"What's that you said, sir," asked M'Bride, with an appearance of deep interest, "about Mr. Birney going to France?"

"This is no place to talk about these matters," said his lordship; "bring the man up to your own room, Norton, and I will join you there. The thing, however, is a mere farce, and my father a fool, or he would not give himself any concern about it. Bring him to your room, where I will join you presently. But, observe me, Norton, none of these tricks upon me in future. You said you got only twenty-five for the mare, and now it appears you got exactly double the sum. Now, upon my honor, I won't stand any more of this."

"But, my lord," replied Norton, laughing, "don't you see how badly you reason? I got fifty for the mare; of this I gave your lordship twenty-five--the balance I kept myself. Of course, then, you can fairly say, or swear, if you like, that she brought you in nothing but the fair value. In fact, I kept you completely out of the transaction; but, after all, I only paid myself for the twenty-five I won off you."

Dunroe was by no means in anything like good-humor this morning. The hints which Norton had communicated to him at breakfast, respecting the subject of M'Bride's private interviews with his father, had filled him with more alarm than he wished to acknowledge. Neither, on the other hand, had he any serious apprehensions, for, unhappily for himself, he was one of those easy and unreflecting men who seldom look beyond the present moment, and can never be brought to a reasonable consideration of their own interests, until, perhaps, it is too late to secure them.

All we can communicate to the reader with respect to the conference between these three redoubtable individuals is simply its results. On that evening Norton and M'Bride started for France, with what object will be seen hereafter, Birney having followed on the same route the morning but one afterwards, for the purpose of securing the documents in question.

Dunroe now more than ever felt the necessity of urging his marriage with Lucy. He knew his father's honorable spirit too well to believe that he would for one moment yield his consent to it under the circumstances which were now pending. With the full knowledge of these circumstances he was not acquainted. M'Bride had somewhat overstated the share of confidence to which in this matter he had been admitted by his master. His information, therefore, on the subject, was not so accurate as he wished, although, from motives of dishonesty and a desire to sell his documents to the best advantage, he made the most of the knowledge he possessed. Be this as it may, Dunroe determined, as we said, to bring about the nuptials without delay, and in this he was seconded by Sir Thomas Gourlay himself, who also had his own motives for hastening them. In fact, here were two men, each deliberately attempting to impose upon the other, and neither possessed of one spark of honor or truth, although the transaction between them was one of the most solemn importance that can occur in the great business of life. The world, however, is filled with similar characters; and not all the misery and calamity that ensue from such fraudulent and dishonest practices will, we fear, ever prevent the selfish and ambitious from pursuing the same courses.

"Sir Thomas," said Dunroe, in a conversation with the baronet held on the very day after Norton and M'Bride had set out on their secret expedition, "this marriage is unnecessarily delayed. I am anxious that it should take place as soon as it possibly can."

"But," replied the baronet, "I have not been able to see your father on the subject, in consequence of his illness."

"It is not necessary," replied his lordship. "You know what kind of a man he is. In fact, I fear he is very nearly non compos as it is. He has got so confoundedly crotchety of late, that I should not feel surprised if, under some whim or other, he set his face-against it altogether. In fact, it is useless, and worse than useless, to consult him at all about it. I move, therefore, that we go on without him."

"I think you are right," returned the other; "and I have not the slightest objection: name the day. The contract is drawn up, and only requires to be signed."

"I should say, on Monday next," replied his lordship; "but I fear we will have objections and protestations from Miss Gourlay; and if so, how are we to manage?"

"Leave the management of Miss Gourlay to me, my lord," replied her father. "I have managed her before and shall manage her now."

His lordship had scarcely gone, when Lucy was immediately sent for, and as usual found her father in the library.

"Lucy," said he, with as much blandness of manner as he could assume, "I have sent for you to say that you are called upon to make your father happy at last."

"And myself wretched forever, papa."

"But your word, Lucy--your promise--your honor: remember that promise so solemnly given; remember, too, your duty of obedience as a daughter."

"Alas! I remember everything, papa; too keenly, too bitterly do I remember all."

"You will be prepared to marry Dunroe on Monday next. The affair will be comparatively private. That is to say, we will ask nobody--no dejeuner--no nonsense. The fewer the better at these matters. Would you wish to see your brother--hem--I mean Mr. Gray?"

Lucy had been standing while he spoke; but she now staggered over to a seat, on which she fell rather than sat. Her large, lucid eyes lost their lustre; her frame quivered; her face became of an ashy paleness; but still those eyes were bent upon her father.

"Papa," she said, at length, in a low voice that breathed of horror, "do not kill me."

"Kill you, foolish girl! Now really, Lucy, this is extremely ridiculous and vexatious too. Is not my daughter a woman of honor?"

"Papa," she said, solemnly, going down upon her two knees, and joining her lovely and snowy hands together, in an attitude of the most earnest and heart-rending supplication; "papa, hear me. You have said that I saved your life; be now as generous as I was--save mine."

"Lucy," he replied, "this looks like want of principle. You would violate your promise. I should not wish Dunroe to hear this, or to know it. He might begin to reason upon it, and to say that the woman who could deliberately break a solemn promise might not hesitate at the marriage vow. I do not apply this reasoning to you, but he or others might. Of course, I expect that, as a woman of honor, you will keep your word with me, and marry Dunroe on Monday. You will have no trouble--everything shall be managed by them; a brilliant trousseau can be provided as well afterwards as before."

Lucy rose up; and as she did, the blood, which seemed to have previously gathered, to her heart, now returned to her cheek, and began to mantle upon it, whilst her figure, before submissive and imploring, dilated to its full size.

"Father," said she, "since you will not hear the voice of supplication, hear that of reason and truth. Do not entertain a doubt, no, not for a moment, that if I am urged--driven--to this marriage, hateful and utterly detestable to me as it is, I shall hesitate to marry this man. I say this, however, because I tell you that I am about to appeal to your interest in my true happiness for the last time. Is it, then, kind; is it fatherly in you, sir, to exact from me the fulfilment of a promise given under circumstances that ought to touch your heart into a generous perception of the sacrifice which in giving it I made for your sake alone? You were ill, and laboring under the apprehension of sudden death, principally, you said, in consequence of my refusal to become the wife of that man. I saw this; and although the effort was infinitely worse than death to me, I did not hesitate one moment in yielding up what is at any time dearer to me than life--my happiness--that you might be spared. Alas, my dear father, if you knew how painful it is to me to be forced to plead all this in my own defence, you would, you must, pity me. A generous heart, almost under any circumstances, scorns to plead its own acts, especially when they are on the side of virtue. But I, alas, am forced to it; am forced to do that which I would otherwise scorn and blush to do."

"Lucy," replied her father, who felt in his ambitious and tyrannical soul the full force, not only of what she said, but of the fraud he had practised on her, but which she never suspected: "Lucy, my child, you will drive me mad. Perhaps I am wrong; but at the same time my heart is so completely fixed upon this marriage, that if it be not brought about I feel I shall go insane. The value of life would be lost to me, and most probably I shall die the dishonorable death of a suicide."

"And have you no fear for me, my father--no apprehension that I may escape from this my wretched destiny to the peace of the grave? But you need not. Thank God, I trust and feel that my regard for His precepts, and my perceptions of His providence, are too clear and too firm ever to suffer me to fly like a coward from the post in life which He has assigned me. But why, dear father, should you make me the miserable victim of your ambition?--I am not ambitious."

"I know you are not: I never could get an honorable ambition instilled into you."

"I am not mean, however--nay, I trust that I possess all that honest and honorable pride which would prevent me from doing an unworthy act, or one unbecoming either my sex or my position."

"You would not break your word, for instance, nor render your father wretched, insane, mad, or, perhaps, cause his dreadful malady to return. No--no--but yet fine talking is a fine thing. Madam, cease to plead your virtues to me, unless you prove that you possess them by keeping your honorable engagement made to Lord Dunroe, through the sacred medium of your own father. Whatever you may do, don't attempt to involve me in your disgrace."

"I am exhausted," she said, "and cannot speak any longer; but I will not despair of you, father. No, my dear papa," she said, throwing her arms about his neck, laying her head upon his bosom, and bursting into tears, "I will not think that you could sacrifice your daughter. You will relent for Lucy as Lucy did for you--but I feel weak. You know, papa, how this fever on my spirits has worn me down; and, after all, the day might come--and come with bitterness and remorse to your heart--when you may be forced to feel that although you made your Lucy a countess she did not remain a countess long."

"What do you mean now?"

"Don't you see, papa, that my heart is breaking fast? If you will not hear my words--if they cannot successfully plead for me--let my declining health--let my pale and wasted cheek--let my want of spirits, my want of appetite--and, above all, let that which you cannot see nor feel--the sickness of my unhappy heart--plead for me. Permit me to go, dear papa; and will you allow me to lean upon you to my own room?--for, alas! I am not, after this painful excitement, able to go there myself. Thank you, papa, thank you."

He was thus compelled to give her his arm, and, in doing so, was surprised to feel the extraordinary tremor by which her frame was shaken. On reaching her room, she turned round, and laying her head, with an affectionate and supplicating confidence, once more upon his breast, she whispered with streaming eyes, "Alas! my dear papa, you forget, in urging me to marry this hateful profligate, that my heart, my affections, my love--in the fullest, and purest, and most disinterested sense--are irrevocably fixed upon another; and Dunroe, all mean and unmanly as he is, knows this."

"He knows that--there, sit down--why do you tremble so?--Yes, but he knows that what you consider an attachment is a mere girlish fancy, a whimsical predilection that your own good-sense will show you the folly of at a future time."

"Recollect, papa, that he has been extravagant, and is said to be embarrassed; the truth is, sir, that the man values not your daughter, but the property to which he thinks he will become entitled, and which I have no doubt will be very welcome to his necessities. I feel that I speak truth, and as a test of his selfishness, it will be only necessary to acquaint him with the reappearance of my brother--your son and heir--and you will be no further troubled by his importunities."

"Troubled by his importunity! Why, girl, it's I that am troubled with apprehension lest he might discover the existence of your brother, and draw off."

One broad gaze of wonder and dismay she turned upon him, and her face became crimsoned with shame. She then covered it with her open hands, and, turning round, placed her head upon the end of the sofa, and moaned with a deep and bursting anguish, on hearing this acknowledgment of deliberate baseness from his own lips.

The baronet understood her feelings, and regretted the words he had uttered, but he resolved to bear the matter out.

"Don't be surprised, Lucy," he added, "nor alarmed at these sentiments; for I tell you, that rather than be defeated in the object I propose for your elevation in life, I would trample a thousand times upon all the moral obligations that ever bound man. Put it down to what you like--insanity--monomania, if you will--but so it is with me: I shall work my purpose out, or either of us shall die for it; and from this you may perceive how likely your resistance and obduracy are to become available against the determination of such a man as I am. Compose yourself, girl, and don't be a fool. The only way to get properly through life is to accommodate ourselves to its necessities, or, in other words, to have shrewdness and common sense, and foil the world, if we can, at its own weapons. Give up your fine sentiment, I desire you, and go down to the drawing-room, to receive your brother; hem will be here very soon. I am going to the assizes, and shall not return till about four o'clock. Come, come, all will end better than you imagine."

The mention of her brother was anything but a comfort to Lucy. Her father at first entertained apprehensions, as we have already said, that this promising youth might support his sister in her aversion against the marriage. Two or three conversations on the subject soon undeceived him, however, in the view he had taken of his character; and Lucy herself now dreaded him, on this subject, almost as much as she did her father.

With respect to this same brother, it is scarcely necessary now to say, that Lucy's feelings had undergone a very considerable change. On hearing that he not only was in existence, but that she would soon actually behold him, her impassioned imagination painted him as she wished and hoped he might prove to be--that is, in the first place--tall, elegant, handsome, and with a strong likeness to the mother whom he had been said so much to resemble; and, in the next--oh, how her trembling heart yearned to find him affectionate, tender, generous, and full of all those noble and manly virtues on which might rest a delightful sympathy, a pure and generous affection, and a tender and trusting confidence between them. On casting her eyes upon him for the first time, however, she felt at the moment like one disenchanted, or awakening from some delightful illusion to a reality so much at variance with the beau ideal of her imagination, as to occasion a feeling of disappointment that amounted almost to pain. There stood before her a young man, with a countenance so like her father's, that the fact startled her. Still there was a difference, for--whether from the consciousness of birth, or authority, or position in life--there was something in her father's features that redeemed them from absolute vulgarity. Here, however, although the resemblance was extraordinary, and every feature almost identical, there might be read in the countenance of her brother a low, commonplace expression, that looked as if it were composed of effrontery, cunning, and profligacy. Lucy for a moment shrank back from such a countenance, and the shock of disappointment chilled the warmth with which she had been prepared to receive him. But, then, her generous heart told her that she might probably be prejudging the innocent--that neglect, want of education, the influence of the world, and, worst of all, distress and suffering, might have caused the stronger, more vulgar, and exceedingly disagreeable expression which she saw before her; and the reader is already aware of the consequences which these struggles, at their first interview, had upon her. Subsequently to that, however, Mr. Ambrose, in supporting his father's views, advanced principles in such complete accordance with them, as to excite in his sister's breast, first a deep regret that she could not love him as she had hoped to do; then a feeling stronger than indifference itself, and ultimately one little short of aversion. Her father had been now gone about half an hour, and she hoped that her brother might not come, when a servant came to say that Mr. Gray was in the drawing-room, and requested to see her.

She felt that the interview would be a painful one to her; but still he was her brother, and she knew she could not avoid seeing him.

After the first salutations were over,

"What is the matter with you, Lucy?" he asked; "you look ill and distressed. I suppose the old subject of the marriage--eh?"

"I trust it is one which you will not renew, Thomas. I entreat you to spare me on it."

"I am too much your friend to do so, Lucy. It is really inconceivable to me why you should oppose it as you do. But the truth is, you don't know the world, or you would think and act very differently."

"Thomas," she replied, whilst her eyes filled with tears, "I am almost weary of life. There is not one living individual to whom I can turn for sympathy or comfort. Papa has forbidden me to visit Lady Gourlay or Mrs. Mainwaring; and I am now utterly friendless, with the exception of God alone. But I will not despair--so long, at least, as reason is left to me."

"I assure you, Lucy, you astonish me. To you, whose imagination is heated with a foolish passion for an adventurer whom no one knows, all this suffering may seem very distressing and romantic; but to me, to my father, and to the world, it looks like great folly--excuse me, Lucy--or rather like great weakness of character, grounded upon strong obstinacy of disposition. Believe me, if the world were to know this you would be laughed at; and there is scarcely a mother or daughter, from the cottage to the castle, that would not say, 'Lucy Gourlay is a poor, inexperienced fool, who thinks she can find a world of angels, and paragons, and purity to live in.'"

"But I care not for the world, Thomas; it is not my idol--I do not worship it, nor shall I ever do so. I wish to guide myself by the voice of my own conscience, by a sense of what is right and proper, and by the principles of Christian truth."

"These doctrines, Lucy, are very well for the closet; but they will neyer do in life, for which they are little short of a disqualification. Where, for instance, will you find them acted on? Not by people of sense, I assure you. Now listen to me."

"Spare me, if you please, Thomas, the advocacy of such principles. You occasion me great pain--not so much on my own account as on yours--you alarm me."

"Don't be alarmed, I tell you; but listen to me, as I said. Here, now, is this marriage: you don't love this Dunroe--you dislike, you detest him. Very well. What the deuce has that to do with the prospects of your own elevation in life? Think for yourself--become the centre of your own world; make this Dunroe your footstool--put him under your foot, I say, and mount by him; get a position in the world--play your game in it as you see others do; and--"

"Pray, sir," said Lucy, scarcely restraining her indignation, "where, or when, or how did you come by these odious and detestable doctrines?"

"Faith, Lucy, from honest nature--from experience and observation. Is there any man with a third idea, or that has the use of his eyes, who does not know and see that this is the game of life? Dunroe, I dare say, deserves your contempt; report goes, certainly, that he is a profligate; but what ought especially to reconcile him to you is this simple fact--that the man's a fool. Egad, I think that ought to satisfy you."

Lucy rose up and went to the window, where she stood for some moments, her eyes sparkling and scintillating, and her bosom heaving with a tide of feelings which were repressed by a strong and exceedingly difficult effort. She then returned to the sofa, her cheeks and temples in a blaze, whilst ever and anon she eyed her brother as if from a new point of view, or as if something sudden and exceedingly disagreeable had struck her.

"You look at me very closely, Lucy," said he, with a confident grin.

"I do," she replied. "Proceed, sir."

"I will. Well, as I was saying, you will find it remarkably comfortable and convenient in many ways to be married to a fool: he will give you very little trouble; fools are never suspicious, but, on the contrary, distinguished for an almost sublime credulity. Then, again, you love this other gentleman; and, with a fool for your husband, and the example of the world before you, what the deuce difficulty can you see in the match?"

Lucy rose up, and for a few moments the very force of her indignation kept her silent; at length she spoke.

"Villain--impostor--cheat! you stand there convicted of an infamous attempt to impose yourself on me as my legitimate brother--on my father as his legitimate son; but know that I disclaim you, sir. What! the fine and gentle blood of my blessed mother to flow in the veins of the profligate monster who could give utterance to principles worthy of hell itself, and attempt to pour them into the ears and heart of his own sister! Sir, I feel, and I thank God for it, that you are not the son of my blessed mother--no; but you stand there a false and spurious knave, the dishonest instrument of some fraudulent conspiracy, concocted for the purpose of putting you into a position of inheriting a name and property to which you have no claim. I ought, on the moment I first saw you, to have been guided by the instincts of my own heart, which prompted me to recoil from and disclaim you. I know not, nor do I wish to know, in what low haunts of vice and infamy you have been bred; but one thing is certain, that, if it be within the limits of my power, you shall be traced and unmasked. I now remember me that--that--there existed an early scandal--yes, sir, I remember it, but I cannot even repeat it; be assured, however, that this inhuman and devilish attempt to poison my principles will prove the source of a retributive judgment on your head. Begone, sir, and leave the house!"

The pallor of detected guilt, the consciousness that in this iniquitous lecture he had overshot the mark, and made a grievous miscalculation in pushing his detestable argument too far--but, above all, the startling suspicions so boldly and energetically expressed by Lucy, the truth of which, as well as the apprehensions that filled him of their discovery, all united, made him feel as if he stood on the brink of a mine to which the train had been already applied. And yet, notwithstanding all this, such was the natural force of his effrontery--such the vulgar insolence and bitter disposition of his nature, that, instead of soothing her insulted feelings, or offering either explanation or apology, he could not restrain an impudent exhibition of ill-temper.

"You forget yourself, Lucy," he replied; "you have no authority to order me out of this house, in which I stand much firmer than yourself. Neither do I comprehend your allusions, nor regard your threats. The proofs of my identity and legitimacy are abundant and irresistible. As to the advice I gave you, I gave it like one who knows the world--"

"No, sir," she replied, indignantly; "you gave it like a man who knows only its vices. It is sickening to hear every profligate quote his own experience of life, as if it were composed of nothing but crimes and vices, simply because they constitute the guilty phase of it with which he is acquainted. But the world, sir, is not the scene of general depravity which these persons would present it. No: it is full of great virtues, noble actions, high principles; and, what is better still, of true religion and elevated humanity. What right, then, sir, have you to libel a world which you do not understand? You are merely a portion of its dregs, and I would as soon receive lessons in honesty from a thief as principles for my guidance in it from you. As for me, I shall disregard the proofs of your identity and legitimacy, which, however, must be produced and investigated; for, from this moment, establish them as you may, I shall never recognize you as a brother, as an acquaintance, as a man, nor as anything but a selfish and abandoned villain, who would have corrupted the principles of his sister."

Without another word, or the slightest token of respect or courtesy, she deliberately, and with an air of indignant scorn, walked out of the drawing-room, leaving Mr. Ambrose Gray in a position which we dare say nobody will envy him. _

Read next: Chapter 36. Contains A Variety Of Matters

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