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

Chapter 36. Contains A Variety Of Matters

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_ CHAPTER XXXVI. Contains a Variety of Matters

--Some to Laugh and some to Weep at.

Our readers may have observed that Sir Thomas Gourlay led a secluded life ever since the commencement of our narrative. The fact was, and he felt it deeply, that he had long been an unpopular man. That he was a bad, overbearing husband, too, had been well known, for such was the violence of his temper, and the unvaried harshness of his disposition toward his wife, that the general tenor of his conduct, so far even as she was concerned, could not be concealed. His observations on life and personal character were also so cynical and severe, not to say unjust, that his society was absolutely avoided, unless by some few of his own disposition. And yet nothing could be more remarkable than the contrast that existed between his principles and conduct in many points, thus affording, as they did, an involuntary acknowledgment of his moral errors.

He would not, for instance, admit his sceptical friends, who laughed at the existence of virtue and religion, to the society of his daughter, with the exception of Lord Dunroe, to whose vices his unaccountable ambition for her elevation completely blinded him. Neither did he wish her to mingle much with the world, from a latent apprehension that she might tind it a different thing from what he himself represented it to be; and perhaps might learn there the low estimate which it had formed of her future husband. Like most misanthropical men, therefore, whose hatred of life is derived principally from that uneasiness of conscience which proceeds from their own vices, he kept aloof from society as far as the necessities of his position allowed him.

Mrs. Mainwaring had called upon him several times with an intention of making some communication which she trusted would have had the effect of opening his eyes to the danger into which he was about to precipitate his daughter by her contemplated! marriage with Dunroe. He uniformly refused, however, to see her, or to allow her any opportunity of introducing the subject. Finding herself deliberately and studiously repulsed, this good lady, who still occasionally corresponded with Lucy, came to the resolution of writing to him on the subject, and, accordingly, Gibson, one morning, with his usual cool and deferential manner, presented him with the following letter:


"Sir,--I should feel myself utterly unworthy of the good opinion which I trust I am honored with by your admirable daughter, were I any longer to remain silent upon a subject of the deepest importance to her future happiness. I understand that she is almost immediately about to become the wife of Lord Dunroe. Now, sir, I entreat your most serious attention; and I am certain, if you will only bestow it upon the few words I am about to write, that you, and especially Miss Gourlay, will live to thank God that I interposed to prevent this unhallowed union. I say then, emphatically, as I shall be able to prove most distinctly, that if you permit Miss Gourlay to become the wife of this young nobleman you will seal her ruin--defeat the chief object which you cherish, for her in life, and live to curse the day on which you urged it on. The communications which I have to make are of too much importance to be committed to paper; but if you will only allow me, and I once more implore it for the sake of your child, as well as for your own future ease of mind, the privilege of a short interview, I shall completely satisfy you as to the truth of what I state.

"I have the honor to be, sir,

"Your obliged and obedient servant,

"Martha Mainwaring."

Having perused the first sentence of this earnest and friendly letter, Sir Thomas indignantly flung it into a drawer where he kept all communications to which it did not please him at the moment to pay particular attention.

Lucy's health in the meantime was fast breaking: but so delicate and true was her sense of honor and duty that she would have looked upon any clandestine communication with her lover as an infraction of the solemn engagement into which she had entered for her father's sake,--and by which, even at the expense of her own happiness, she considered herself bound. Still, she felt that a communication on the subject was due to him, and her principal hope now was that her father would allow her to make it. If he, however, refused this sanction to an act of common justice, then she resolved to write to him openly, and make the wretched circumstances in which she was involved, and the eternal barrier that had been placed between them, known to him at once.

Her father, however, now found, to his utter mortification, that he was driving matters somewhat too fast, and that his daughter's health must unquestionably be restored before he could think of outraging humanity and public decency by forcing her from the sick bed to the altar.

After leaving her brother on the occasion of their last remarkable interview, she retired to her room so full of wretchedness, indignation, and despair of all human aid or sympathy, that she scarcely knew whether their conversation was a dream or a reality. Above all things, the shock she received through her whole moral system, delicately and finely tempered as it was, so completely prostrated her physical strength, and estranged all the virtuous instincts of her noble nature, that it was with difficulty she reached her own room. When there, she immediately rang for her maid, who at once perceived by the indignant sparkle of her eye, the heightened color of her cheek, and the energetic agitation of her voice, that something exceedingly unpleasant had occurred.

"My gracious, miss," she exclaimed, "what has happened? You look so disturbed! Something, or somebody, has offended you."

"I am disturbed, Alice," she replied, "I am disturbed; come and lend me your arm; my knees are trembling so that I cannot walk without assistance; but must sit down for a moment. Indeed, I feel that my strength is fast departing from me. I scarcely know what I am thinking. I am all confused, agitated, shocked. Gracious heaven! Come, my dear Alice, help your mistress; you, Alice, are the only friend I have left now. Are you not my friend, Alice?"

She was sitting on a lounger as she spoke, and the poor affectionate girl, who loved her as she did her life, threw herself over, and leaning her head upon her mistress's knees wept bitterly.

"Sit beside me, Alice," said she; "whatever distance social distinctions may have placed between us, I feel that the truth and sincerity of those tears justify me in placing you near my heart. Sit beside me, but compose yourself; and then you must assist me to bed."

"They are killing you," said Alley, still weeping. "What devil can tempt them to act as they do? As for me, miss, it's breaking my heart, that I see what you are suffering, and can't assist you."

"But I have your love and sympathy, your fidelity, too, my dear Alice; and that now is all I believe the world has left me."

"No, miss," replied her maid, wiping her eyes, and striving to compose herself, "no, indeed; there is another--another gentleman, I mean--as well as myself, that feels deeply for your situation."

Had Lucy's spirit been such as they were wont to be, she could have enjoyed this little blunder of Alice's; but now her heart, like some precious jewel that lies too deep in the bosom of the ocean for the sun's strongest beams to reach, had sunk beneath the influence of either cheerfulness or mirth.

"There is indeed, miss," continued Alice,

"And pray, Alice," asked her mistress, "how do you know that?"

"Why, miss," replied the girl, "I am told that of late he is looking very ill, too. They say he has lost his spirits all to pieces, and seldom laughs--the Lord save us!"

"They say!--who say, Alice?"

"Why," replied Alice, with a perceptible heightening of her color, "ahem! ahem! why, Dandy Dulcimer, miss."

"And where have you seen him? Dulcimer, I mean. He, I suppose, who used occasionally to play upon the instrument of that name in the Hall?"

"Yes, ma'am, the same. Don't you remember how beautiful he played it the night we came in the coach to town?"

"I remember there was something very-unpleasant between him and a farmer, I believe; but I did not pay much attention to it at the time."

"I am sorry for that, miss, for I declare to goodness, Dandy's dulcimer isn't such an unpleasant instrument as you think; and, besides, he has got a new one the other day that plays lovely."

Lucy felt a good deal anxious to hear some further information from Alley upon the subject she had introduced, but saw that Dandy and his dulcimer were likely to be substituted for it, all unconscious as the poor girl was of the preference of the man to the master.

"He looks ill, you say, Alice?"

"Never seen him look so rosy in my life, miss, nor in such spirits."

Lucy looked into her face, and for a moment's space one slight and feeble gleam, which no suffering could prevent, passed over it, at this intimation of the object which Alley's fancy then dwelt upon.

"He danced a hornpipe, miss, to the tune of the Swaggerin' Jig, upon the kitchen table," she proceeded; "and, sorra be off me, but it would do your heart good to see the springs he would give--every one o' them a yard high--and to hear how he'd crack his fingers as loud as the shot of a pistol."

A slight gloom overclouded Lucy's face; but, on looking at the artless transition from the honest sympathy which Alley had just felt for her to a sense of happiness which it was almost a crime to disturb, it almost instantly disappeared.

"I must not be angry with her," she said to herself; "this feeling, after all, is only natural, and such as God. in his goodness bestows upon every heart as the greatest gift of life, when not abused. I cannot be displeased at the naivete with which she has forgotten my lover for her own; for such I perceive this person she speaks of evidently is."

She looked once more at her maid, whose eyes, with true Celtic feeling, were now dancing with delight, whilst yet red with tears. "Alice," said she, in a voice of indulgent reproof, "who are you thinking of?"

"Why, of Dandy, miss," replied Alley; but in an instant the force of the reproof as well as of the indulgence was felt, and sho acknowledged her error by a blush.

"I beg your pardon, miss," she said; "I'm a thoughtless creature. What can you care about what I was sayin'? But--hem--well, about him--sure enough, poor Dandy told me that everything is going wrong with him. He doesn't, as I said, speak or smile as he used to do."

"Do you know," asked her mistress, "whether he goes out much?"

"Not much, miss, I think; he goes sometimes to Lady Gourlay's and to Dean Palmer's. But do you know what I heard, miss I hope you won't grow jealous, though?"

Lucy gave a faint smile. "I hope not, Alice. What is it?" But here, on recollecting again the scene she had just closed below stairs, she shuddered, and could not help exclaiming, "Oh, gracious heaven!" Then suddenly throwing off, as it were, all thought and reflection connected with it, she looked again at her maid, and repeated the question, "What is it, Alice?"

"Why, miss, have you ever seen Lord Dunroe's sister?"

"Yes, in London; but she was only a girl, though a lovely girl."

"Well, miss, do you know what? She's in love with some one."

"Poor girl!" exclaimed, Lucy, "I trust the course of her love may run smoother than mine; but who is she supposed to be in love with?" she asked, not, however, without a blush, which, with all her virtues, was, as woman, out of her power to suppress.

"Oh," replied Alley, "not with him--and dear knows it would be no disgrace to her, but the contrary, to fall in love with such a gentleman--no; but with a young officer of the Thirty-third, who they say is lovely."

"What is his name, do you not know, Alice?"

"Roberts, I think. They met at Dean Palmer's and Lady Gourlay's; for it seems that Colonel Dundas was an old brother officer of Sir Edward's, when he was young and in the army."

"I have met that young officer, Alice," replied Lucy, "and I know not how it was, but I felt an--a--a--in fact, I cannot describe it. Those who were present observed that he and I resembled each other very much, and indeed the resemblance struck myself very forcibly."

"Troth, and if he resembled you, miss, I'm not surprised that Lady Emily fell in love with him."

"But how did you come to hear all this, Alice?" asked Lucy with a good deal of anxiety.

"Why, miss, there's a cousin of my own maid to Mrs. Palmer, and you may remember the evenin' you gave me lave to spend with her. She gave a party on the same evenin' and Dandy was there. I think I never looked better; I had on my new stays, and my hair was done up Grecian. Any way, I wasn't the worst of them."

"I am fatigued, Alice," said Lucy; "make your narrative as short as you can."

"I haven't much to add to it now, miss," she replied. "It was observed that Lady Emily's eyes and his were never off one another. She refused, it seems, to dance with some major that's a great lord in the regiment, and danced with Mr. Roberts afterwards. He brought her down to supper, too, and sat beside her, and you know what that looks like."

Lucy paused, and seemed as if anxious about something, but at length asked,

"Do you know, Alice, was he there?"

"No, miss," replied the maid; "Dandy tells me he goes to no great parties at all, he only dines where there's a few. But, indeed, by all accounts he's very unhappy."

"What do you mean by all accounts," asked Lucy, a little startled.

"Why, Dandy, miss; so he tells me."

"Poor Alice!" exclaimed Lucy, looking benignantly upon her. "I did not think, Alice, that any conversation could have for a moment won me from the painful state of mind in which I entered the room. Aid me me now to my bedchamber. I must lie down, for I feel that I should endeavor to recruit my strength some way. If I could sleep, I should be probably the better for it; but, alas, Alice, you need not be told that misery and despair are wretched bedfellows."

"Don't say despair," replied Alice; "remember there's a good God above us, who can do better for us than ever we can for ourselves. Trust in him. Who knows but he's only trying you; and severely tried you are, my darlin' mistress."

Whilst uttering the last words, the affectionate creature's eyes filled with tears. She rose, however, and having assisted Lucy to her sleeping-room, helped to undress her, then fixed her with tender assiduity in her bed, where, in a few minutes, exhaustion and anxiety of mind were for the time forgotten, and she fell asleep.

The penetration of servants, in tracing, at fashionable parties, the emotions of love through all its various garbs and disguises, constitutes a principal and not the least disagreeable portion of their duty. The history of Lady Emily's attachment to Ensign Roberts, though a profound secret to the world, in the opinion of the parties themselves, and only hoped for and suspected by each, was nevertheless perfectly well known by a good number of the quality below stairs. The circumstance, at all events, as detailed by Alley, was one which in this instance justified their sagacity. Roberts and she had met, precisely as Alley said, three or four times at Lady Gourlay's and the Dean's, where their several attractions were, in fact, the theme of some observation. Those long, conscious glances, however, which, on the subject of love are such traitors to the heart, by disclosing its most secret operations, had sufficiently well told them the state of everything within that mysterious little garrison, and the natural result was that Lady Emily seldom thought of any one or anything but Ensign Roberts and the aforesaid glances, nor Mr. Roberts of anything but hers; for it so happened, that, with the peculiar oversight in so many things by which the passion is characterized, Lady Emily forgot that she had herself been glancing at the ensign, or she could never have observed and interpreted his looks. With a similar neglect of his own offences, in the same way must we charge Mr. Roberts, who in his imagination saw nothing but the blushing glances of this fair patrician.

Time went on, however, and Lucy, so far from recovering, was nearly one-half of the week confined to her bed, or her apartment. Sometimes, by way of varying the scene, and, if possible, enlivening her spirits, she had forced herself to go down to the drawing-room, and occasionally to take an airing in the carriage. A fortnight had elapsed, and yet neither Norton nor his fellow-traveler had returned from France. Neither had Mr. Birney; and our friend the stranger had failed to get any possible intelligence of unfortunate Fenton, whom he now believed to have perished, either by foul practices or the influence of some intoxicating debauch. Thanks to Dandy Dulcimer, however, as well as to Alley Mahon, he was not without information concerning Lucy's state of health; and, unfortunately, all that he could hear about it was only calculated to depress and distract him.

Dandy came to him one morning, about this period, and after rubbing his head slightly with the tips of his fingers, said,

"Bedad, sir, I was very near havin' cotch the right Mrs. Norton yestherday--I mane, I thought I was."

"How was that?" asked his master. "Why, sir, I heard there was a fine, good-looking widow of that name, livin' in Meeklenburgh street, where she keeps a dairy; and sure enough there I found her. Do you undherstand, sir?"

"Why should I not, sirra? What mystery is there in it that I should not?"

"Deuce a sich a blazer of a widow I seen this seven years. I went early to her place, and the first thing I saw was a lump of a six-year-ould--a son of hers--playin' the Pandean pipes upon a whack o' bread and butther that he had aiten at the top into canes. Somehow, although I can't tell exactly why, I tuck a fancy to become acquainted with her, and proposed, if she had no objection, to take a cup o' tay with her yestherday evenin', statin' at the time that I had something to say that might turn out to her advantage."

"But what mystery is there in all this?" said his master.

"Mysthery, sir--why, where was there ever a widow since the creation of Peter White, that hadn't more or less of mysthery about her?"

"Well, but what was the mystery here?" asked the other. "I do not perceive any, so far."

"Take your time, sir," replied Dandy; "it's comin'. The young performer on the Pandeans that I tould you of wasn't more than five or six at the most, but a woman over the way, that I made inquiries of, tould me the length o' time the husband was dead. Do you undherstand the mysthery now, sir?"

"Go on," replied the other; "I am amused by you; but I don't see the mystery, notwithstanding. What was the result?"

"I tell you the truth--she was a fine, comely, fiaghoola woman; and as I heard she had the shiners, I began to think I might do worse."

"I thought the girl called Alley Mahon was your favorite?"

"So she is, sir--that is, she's one o' them: but, talkin' o' favorites, I am seldom without half-a-dozen."

"Very liberal, indeed, Dandy; but I wish to hear the upshot."

"Why, sir, we had a cup o' tay together yestherday evenin', and, between you and me, I began, as it might be, to get fond of her. She's very pretty, sir; but I must say, that the man who marries her will get a mouth, plaise goodness, that he must kiss by instalments. Faith, if it could be called property, he might boast that his is extensive; and divil a mistake in it."

"She has a large mouth, then?"

"Upon my soul, sir, if you stood at the one side of it you'd require a smart telescope to see to the other. No man at one attempt could ever kiss her. I began, sir, at the left side--that's always the right side to kiss at and went on successfully enough till I got half way through; but you see, sir, the evenin's is but short yet, and as I had no time to finish, I'm to go back this evenin' to get to the other side.

"Still I'm at a loss, Dandy," replied his master, not knowing whether to smile or get angry; "finish it without going about in this manner."

"Faith, sir, and that's more than I could do in kissing the widow. Divil such a circumbendibus ever a man had as I had in gettin' as far as the nose, where I had to give up until this evenin' as I said. Now, sir, whether to consider that an advantage or disadvantage is another mysthery to me. There's some women, and they have such a small, rosy, little mouth, that a man must gather up his lips into a bird's bill to kiss them. Now, there's Miss Gour--"

A look of fury from his master divided the word in his mouth, and he paused from terror. His master became more composed, however, and said, "To what purpose have you told me all this?"

"Gad, sir to tell you the truth, I saw you were low-spirited, and wanted something to rouse you. It's truth for all that."

"Is this Mrs. Norton, however, the woman whom we are seeking?"

"Well, well," exclaimed Dandy, casting down his hand, with vexatious, vehemence, against the open air; "by the piper o' Moses, I'm the stupidest man that ever peeled a phatie. Troth, I was so engaged, sir, that I forgot it; but I'll remember it to-night, plaise goodness."

"Ah, Dandy," exclaimed his master, smiling, "I fear you are a faithless swain. I thought Alley Mahon was at least the first on the list."

"Troth, sir," replied Dandy, "I believe she is, too. Poor Alley! By the way, sir, I beg your pardon, but I have news for you that I fear will give you a heavy heart."

"How," exclaimed his master, "how--what is it? Tell me instantly."

"Miss Gourlay is ill, sir. She was goin' to be married to this lord; her father, I believe, had the day appointed, and she had given her consent."

His master seized him by the collar with both hands, and peering into his eyes, whilst his own blazed with actual fire, he held him for a moment as if in a vise, exclaiming, "Her consent, you villain!" But, as if recollecting himself, he suddenly let him go, and said, calmly, "Go on with what you were about to say."

"I have very little more to say, sir," replied Dandy; "herself and Lord Dunroe is only waitin' till she gets well and then they're to be married?"

"You said she gave her consent, did you not!"

"No doubt of it, sir, and that, I believe, is what's breakin' her heart. However, it's not my affair to direct any one; still, if I was in somebody's shoes, I know the tune I'd sing."

"And what tune would you sing?" asked his master.

Dandy sung the following stave, and, as he did it, he threw his comic eye upon his master with such humorous significance that the latter, although wrapped in deep reflection at the moment, on suddenly observing! it, could not avoid smiling:

"Will you list, and come with me, fair maid?
Will you list, and come with me, fair maid?
Will you list, and come with me, fair maid?
And folly the lad with the white cockade?"

"If you haven't a good voice, sir, you could whisper the words into her ear, and as you're so near the mouth--hem--a word to the wise--then point to the chaise that you'll have standin' outside, and my life for you, there's an end to the fees o' the docther."

His master, who had relapsed into thought before he concluded his advice, looked at him without seeming to have heard it. He then traversed the room several times, his chin supported by his finger and thumb, after which he seemed to have formed a resolution.

"Go, sir," said he, "and put that letter to Father M'Mahon in the post-office. I shall not want you for some time."

"Will I ordher a chaise, sir?" replied Dandy, with a serio-comic face.

One look from his master, however, sent him about his business; but the latter could hear him lilting the "White Cockade," as he went down stairs.

"Now," said he, when Dandy was gone, "can it be possible that she has at length given her consent to this marriage? Never voluntarily. It has been extorted by foul deceit and threatening, by some base fraud practised upon her generous and unsuspecting nature. I am culpable to stand tamely by and allow this great and glorious creature to be sacrificed to a bad ambition, and a worse man, without coming to the rescue. But, in the meantime, is this information true? Alas, I fear it is; for I know the unscrupulous spirit the dear girl has, alone and unassisted, to contend with. Yet if it be true, oh, why should she not have written to me? Why not have enabled me to come to her defence? I know not what to think. At all events, I shall, as a last resource, call upon her father. I shall explain to him the risk he runs in marrying his daughter to this man who is at once a fool and a scoundrel. But how can I do so? Birney has not yet returned from France, and I have no proofs on which to rest such serious allegations; nothing at present but bare assertions, which her father, in the heat and fury of his ambition, might not only disbelieve, but misinterpret. Be it so; I shall at least warn him, take it as he will; and if all else should fail, I will disclose to him my name and family, in order that he may know, at all events, that I am no impostor. My present remonstrance may so far alarm him as to cause the persecution against Lucy to be suspended for a time, and on' Birney's return, we shall, I trust, be able to speak more emphatically."

He accordingly sent for a chaise, into which he stepped and ordered the driver to leave him at Sir Thomas Gourlay's and to wait there for him.

Lord Dunroe was at this period perfectly well aware that Birney's visit to France was occasioned by purposes that boded nothing favorable to his interests; and were it not for Lucy's illness, there is little doubt that the marriage would, ere now, have taken place. A fortnight had elapsed, and every day so completely filled him with alarm, that he proposed to Sir Thomas Gourlay the expediency of getting the license at once, and having the ceremony performed privately in her father's house. To this the father would have assented, were it not that he had taken it into his head that Lucy was rallying, and would soon be in a condition to go through it, in the parish church, at least. A few days, he hoped, would enable her to bear it; but if not, he was willing to make every concession to his lordship's wishes. Her delicate health, he said, would be a sufficient justification. At all events, both agreed that there could be no harm in having the license provided: and, accordingly, upon the morning of the stranger's visit, Sir Thomas and Lord Dunroe had just left the house of the former for the Ecclesiastical Court, in Henrietta street, a few minutes before his arrival. Sir Thomas was mistaken, however, in imagining that his daughter's health was improving, The doctor, indeed, had ordered carriage exercise essentially necessary; and Lucy being none of those weak and foolish girls, who sink under illness and calamity by an apathetic neglect of their health, or a criminal indifference to the means of guarding and prolonging the existence into which God has called them, left nothing undone on her part to second the efforts of the physician. Accordingly, whenever she was able to be up, or the weather permitted it, she sat in the carriage for an hour or two as it drove through some of the beautiful suburban scenery by which our city is surrounded.

The stranger, on the door being opened, was told by a servant, through mistake, that Sir Thomas Gourlay was within. The man then showed him to the drawing-room, where he said there was none but Miss Gourlay, he believed, who was waiting for the carriage to take her airing.

On hearing this piece of intelligence the stranger's heart began to palpitate, and his whole system, physical and spiritual, was disturbed by a general commotion that mounted to pain, and almost banished his presence of mind for the moment. He tapped at the drawing-room door, and a low, melancholy voice, that penetrated his heart, said, "Come in." He entered, and there on a sofa sat Lucy before him. He did not bow--his heart was too deeply interested in her fate to remember the formalities of ceremony--but he stood, and fixed his eyes upon her with a long and anxious gaze. There she sat; but, oh! how much changed in appearance from what he had known her on every previous interview. Not that the change, whilst it spoke of sorrow and suffering, was one which diminished her beauty; on the contrary, it had only changed its character to something far more touching and impressive than health itself with all its blooming hues could have bestowed. Her features were certainly thinner, but there was visible in them a serene but mournful spirit--a voluptuous languor, heightened and spiritualized by purity and intellect into an expression that realized our notions rather of angelic beauty than of the loveliness of mere woman. To all this, sorrow had added a dignity so full of melancholy and commanding grace--a seriousness indicative of such truth and honor--as to make the heart of the spectator wonder, and the eye almost to weep on witnessing an association so strange and incomprehensible, as that of such beauty and evident goodness with sufferings that seem rather like crimes against purity and innocence, and almost tempt the weak heart to revolt against the dispensations of Providence.

When their eyes rested on each other, is it necessary to say that the melancholy position of Lucy was soon read in those large orbs that seemed about to dissolve into tears? The shock of the stranger's sudden and unexpected appearance, when taken in connection with the loss of him forever, and the sacrifice of her love and happiness, which, to save her father's life, she had so heroically and nobly made, was so strong, she felt unable to rise. He approached her, struck deeply by the dignified entreaty for sympathy and pardon that was in her looks.

"I am not well able to rise, dear Charles," she said, breaking the short silence which had occurred, and extending her hand; "and I suppose you have come to reproach me. As for me, I have nothing to ask you for now--nothing to hope for but pardon, and that you will forget me henceforth. Will you be noble enough to forgive her who was once your Lucy, but who can never be so more?"

The dreadful solemnity, together with the pathetic spirit of tenderness and despair that breathed in these words, caused a pulsation in his heart and a sense of suffocation about his throat that for the moment prevented him from speaking. He seized her hand, which was placed passively in his, and as he put it to his lips, Lucy felt a warm tear or two fall upon it. At length he spoke:

"Oh, why is this, Lucy?" he said; "your appearance has unmanned me; but I see it and feel it all. I have been sacrificed to ambition, yet I blame you not."

"No, dear Charles," she replied; look upon me and then ask yourself who is the victim."

"But what has happened?" he asked;

"What machinery of hell has been at work to reduce you to this? Fraud, deceit, treachery have done it. But, for the sake of God, let me know, as I said, what has occurred since our last interview to occasion this deplorable change--this rooted sorrow--this awful spirit of despair that I read in your face?

"Not despair, Charles, for I will never yield to that; but it is enough to say, that a barrier deep as the grave, and which only that can remove, is between us forever in this life."

"You mean to say, then, that you never can be mine?"

"That, alas, is what I mean to say--what I must say."

"But why, Lucy--why, dearest Lucy--for still I must call you so; what has occasioned this? I cannot understand it."

She then related to him, briefly, but feelingly, the solemn promise, which, as our readers are aware of, she had given her father, and under what circumstances she had given it, together with his determination, unchanged and irrevocable, to force her to its fulfilment. Having heard it he paused for some time, whilst Lucy's eyes were fixed upon him, as if she expected a verdict of life or death from his lips.

"Alas, my dear Lucy," he said; "noble girl! how can I quarrel with your virtues? You did it to save a father's life, and have left me nothing to reproach you with; but in increasing my admiration of you, my heart is doubly struck with anguish at the thought that I must lose you."

"All, yes," she replied; "but you must take comfort from the difference in our fates. You merely have to endure the pain of loss; but I--oh, dear Charles--what have I to encounter? You are not forced into a marriage with one who possesses not a single sentiment or principle of virtue or honor in common with yourself. No; you are merely--I deprived of a woman whom you love; but you are not forced into marriage with a woman, abandoned and unprincipled, whom you hate. Yes, Charles, you must take comfort, as I said, from the difference of our fates."

"What, Lucy! do you mean to say I can take comfort from your misery? Am I so selfish or ungenerous as to thank God that you, whose happiness I prefer a thousand times to my own, are more miserable than I am? I thought you knew me better."

"Alas, Charles," she replied, "have compassion on me. The expression of these generous sentiments almost kills me. Assume some moral error--some semblance of the least odious vice--some startling blemish of character--some weakness that may enable me to feel that in losing you I have not so much to lose as I thought; something that may make the contrast between the wretch to whom I am devoted and yourself less repulsive."

"Oh, I assure you, my dear Lucy," he replied, with a melancholy smile, "that I have my errors, my weaknesses, my frailties, if that will comfort you; so many, indeed, that my greatest virtue, and that of which I am most proud, is my love for you."

"Ah, Charles, you reason badly," she replied, "for you prove yourself to be capable of that noble affection which never yet existed in a vicious heart. As for me, I know not on what hand to turn. It is said that when a person hanging by some weak branch from the brow of a precipice finds it beginning to give way, and that the plunge below is unavoidable, a certain courage, gained from despair, not only diminishes the terror of the fall, but relieves the heart by a bold and terrible feeling that for the moment banishes fear, and reconciles him to his fate."

"It is a dreadful analogy, my dear Lucy; but you must take comfort. Who knows what a day may bring forth? You are not yet hanging upon the precipice of life."

"I feel that I am,--Charles; and what is more, I see the depth to which I must be precipitated; but, alas, I possess none of that fearful courage that is said to reconcile one to the fall."

"Lucy," he replied, "into this gulf of destruction you shall never fall. Believe me, there is an invisible hand that will support you when you least expect it; a power that shapes our purposes, roughhew them as we will. I came to request an interview with your father upon this very subject. Have courage, dearest girl; friends are at work who I trust will ere long be enabled to place documents in his hands that will soon change his purposes. I grant that it is possible these documents may fail, or may not be procured; and in that case I know not how we are to act. I mention the probability of failure lest a future disappointment occasion such a shock as in your present state you may be incapable of sustaining; but still have hope, for the probability is in our favor."

She shook her head incredulously, and replied, "You do not know the inflexible determination of my father on this point; neither can I conceive what documents you could place before him that would change his purpose."

"I do not conceive that I am at liberty even to you, Lucy, to mention circumstances that may cast a stain upon high integrity and spotless innocence, so long as it is possible the proofs I speak of may fail. In the latter case, so far at least as the world is concerned, justice would degenerate into scandal, whilst great evil and little good must be the consequence. I think I am bound in honor not to place old age, venerable and virtuous, on the one hand, and unsuspecting innocence on the other, in a contingency that may cause them irreparable injury. I will now say, that if your happiness were not involved in the success or failure of our proceedings, I should have ceased to be a party in the steps we are taking until the grave had closed upon one individual at least, while unconscious of the shame that was to fall upon his family."

Lucy looked upon him with a feeling of admiration which could not be misunderstood. "Dear Charles," she exclaimed; "ever honorable--ever generous--ever considerate and unselfish; I do not of course understand your allusions; but I am confident that whatever you do will be done in a spirit worthy of yourself."

The look of admiration, and why should we not add love, which Lucy had bestowed upon him was observed and felt deeply. Their eyes met, and, seizing her hand again, he whispered, in that low and tender voice which breathes the softest and most contagious emotion of the heart, "Alas, Lucy, you could not even dream how inexpressibly dear you are to me. Without you, life to me will possess no blessing. All that I ever conceived of its purest and most exalted enjoyments were centred in you, and in that sweet communion which I thought we were destined to hold together; but now, now--oh, my God, what a blank will my whole future existence be without you!"

"Charles--Charles," she replied, but at the same time her eyes were swimming in tears, "spare me this; do not overload my heart with such an excess of sorrow; have compassion on me, for I am already too sensible of my own misery--too sensible of the happiness I have lost. I am here isolated and alone, with no kind voice to whisper one word of consolation to my unhappy heart, my poor maid only excepted; and I am often forced, in order to escape the pain of present reflections, to make a melancholy struggle once more to entrance myself in the innocent dreams of my early life. Yes, and I will confess it, to call back if I can those visions that gave the delicious hues of hope and happiness to the love which bound your heart and mine together. The illusion, however, is too feeble to struggle successfully with the abiding consciousness of my wretchedness, and I awake to a bitterness of anguish that is drinking up the fountains of my life, out of which life I feel, if this state continues, I shall soon pass away."

On concluding, she wiped away the tears that were fast falling; and her lover was so deeply moved that he could scarcely restrain his own.

"There is one word, dearest Lucy," he replied, "but though short it is full of comfort--hope."

"Alas! Charles, I feel that it has been blotted out of the destiny of my life. I look for it; I search for it, but in vain. In this life I cannot find it; I say in this, because it is now, when all about me is darkness, and pain, and suffering, that I feel the consolation which arises from our trust in another. This consolation, however, though true, is sad, and the very joy it gives is melancholy, because it arises from that mysterious change which withdraws us from existence; and when it leads us to happiness we cannot forget that it is through the gate of the grave. But still it is a consolation, and a great one--to a sufferer like me, the only one--we must all die."

Like a strain of soft but solemn music, these mournful words proceeded from her lips, from which they seemed to catch the touching sweetness which characterized them.

"I ought not to shed these tears," she added; "nor ought you, dear Charles, to feel so deeply what I say as I perceive you do; but I know not how it is, I am impressed with a presentiment that this is probably our last meeting; and I confess that I am filled with a mournful satisfaction in speaking to you--in looking upon you--yes, I confess it; and I feel all the springs of tenderness opened, as it were, in my unhappy heart. In a short time,"--she added, and here she almost sobbed, "it will be a crime to think of you--to allow my very imagination to turn to your image; and I shall be called upon to banish that image forever from my heart, which I must strive to do, for to cherish it there will be wrong; but I shall struggle, for"--she added, proudly --"whatever my duty may be, I shall leave nothing undone to preserve my conscience free from its own reproaches."

"Take comfort, Lucy," he replied; "this will not--shall not be our last meeting. It is utterly impossible that such a creature as you are should be doomed to a fate so wretched. Do not allow them to hurry you into this odious marriage. Gain time, and we shall yet triumph."

"Yes, Charles," she replied; "but, then, misery often grows apathetic, and the will, wearied down and weakened, loses the power of resistance. I have more than once felt attacks of this kind, and I know that if they should observe it, I am lost. Oh, how little is the love of woman understood! And how little of life is known except through those false appearances that are certain to deceive all who look upon them as realities! Here am I, surrounded by every luxury that this world, can present, and how many thousands imagine me happy! What is there within the range of fashion and the compass of wealth that I cannot command? and yet amidst all this dazzle of grandeur I am more wretched than the beggar whom a morsel of food will make contented."

"Resist this marriage, Lucy, for a time, that is all I ask," replied her lover; "be firm, and, above all things, hope. You may ere long understand the force and meaning of my words. At present you cannot, nor is it in my power, with honor, to speak more plainly."

"My father," replied this high-minded and sensitive creature, "said some time ago, 'Is not my daughter a woman of honor?' Yes, Charles, I must be a woman of honor. But it is time you should go; only before you do, hear me. Henceforth we have each of us one great mutual task imposed upon us--a task the fulfilment of which is dictated alike by honor, virtue, and religion."

"Alas, Lucy, what is that?"

"To forget each other. From the moment I become," she sobbed aloud--"you know," she added, "what I would say, but what I cannot--from that moment memory becomes a crime."

"But an involuntary crime, my ever dear Lucy. As for my part," he replied, vehemently, and with something akin to distraction, "I feel that is impossible, and that even were it possible, I would no more attempt to banish your image from my heart than I would to deliberately still its pulses. Never, never--such an attempt, such an act, if successful, would be a murder of the affections. No. Lucy, whilst one spark of mortal life is alive in my body, whilst memory can remember the dreams of only the preceding moment, whilst a single faculty of heart or intellect remains by which your image can be preserved, I shall cling to that image as the shipwrecked sailor would to the plank that bears him through the midnight storm--as a despairing soul would to the only good act of a wicked life that he could plead for his salvation."

Whilst he spoke, Lucy kept her eyes fixed upon his noble features, now wrought up into an earnest but melancholy animation, and when he had concluded, she exclaimed, "And this is the man of whose love they would deprive me, whose very acknowledgment of it comes upon my spirit like an anthem of the heart; and I know not what I have done to be so tried; yet, as it is the will of God, I receive it for the best. Dear Charles, you must go; but you spoke of remonstrating with my father. Do not so; an interview would only aggravate him. And as you admit that certain documents are wanted to produce a change in his opinions, you may see clearly that until you produce them an expostulation would be worse than useless. On the contrary, it might precipitate matters and ruin all. Now go."

"Perhaps you are right," he replied, "as you always are; how can I go? How can I tear myself from you? Dearest, dearest Lucy, what a love is mine! But that is not surprising--who could love you with an ordinary passion?"

Apprehensive that her father might return, she rose up, but so completely had she been exhausted by the excitement of this interview that he was obliged to assist her.

"I hear the carriage," said she; "it is at the door: will you ring for my maid? And now, Charles, as it is possible that we must meet no more, say, before you go, that you forgive me."

"There is everything in your conduct to be admired and loyed, my dearest Lucy; but nothing to be forgiven."

"Is it possible," she said, as if in communion with herself, "that we shall never meet, never speak, never, probably, look upon each other more?"

Her lover observed that her face became suddenly pale, and she staggered a little, after which she sank and would have fallen had he not supported her in his arms. He had already rung for Alley Mahon, and there was nothing for it but to place Lucy once more upon the sofa, whither he was obliged to carry her, for she had fainted. Having placed her there, it became necessary to support her head upon his bosom, and in doing so--is it in human nature to be severe upon him?--he rapturously kissed her lips, and pressed her to his heart in a long, tender, and melancholy embrace. The appearance of her maid, however, who always accompanied her in the carriage, terminated this pardonable theft, and after a few words of ordinary conversation they separated. _

Read next: Chapter 37. Dandy's Visit To Summerfield Cottage

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

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