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

Chapter 37. Dandy's Visit To Summerfield Cottage

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_ CHAPTER XXXVII. Dandy's Visit to Summerfield Cottage

--Where he Makes a most Ungallant Mistake--Returns with Tidings of both Mrs. Norton and Fenton--and Generously Patronizes his Master

On the morning after this interview the stranger was waited on by Birney, who had returned from France late on the preceding night.

"Well, my friend," said he, after they had shaken hands, "I hope you are the bearer of welcome intelligence!"

The gloom and disappointment that were legible in this man's round, rosy, and generally good-humored countenance were observed, however, by the stranger at a second glance.

"But how is this?" he added; "you are silent, and I fear, now that I look at you a second time, that matters have not gone well with you. For God's sake, however, let me know; for I am impatient to hear the result."

"All is lost," replied Birney; "and I fear we have been outgeneralled. The clergyman is dead, and the book in which the record of her death was registered has disappeared, no one knows how. I strongly suspect, however, that your opponent is at the bottom of it."

"You mean Dunroe?"

"I do; that scoundrel Norton, at once his master and his slave, accompanied by a suspicious-looking fellow, whose name I discovered to be Mulholland, were there before us, and I fear, carried their point by securing the register, which I have no doubt has been by this time reduced to ashes."

"In that case, then," replied the stranger, despondingly, "it's all up with us."

"Unless," observed Birney, "you have been more successful at home than I have been abroad. Any trace of Mrs. Norton?"

"None whatsoever. But, my dear Birney, what you tell me is surprisingly mysterious. How could Dunroe become aware of the existence of these documents? or, indeed, of our proceedings at all? And who is this Mulholland you speak of that accompanied him?"

"I know nothing whatever about him," replied Birney, "except that he is a fellow of dissolute appearance, with sandy hair, not ill-looking, setting aside what is called a battered look, and a face of the most consummate effrontery."

"I see it all," replied the other. "That drunken scoundrel M'Bride has betrayed us, as far, at least, as he could. The fellow, while his conduct continued good, was in my confidence, as far as a servant ought to be. In this matter, however, he did not know all, unless, indeed, by inference from the nature of the document itself, and from knowing the name of the family whose position it affected. How it might have affected them, however, I don't think he knew."

"But how do you know that this Mulholland is that man?"

"From your description of him I am confident there can be no mistake about it--not the slightest; he must have changed his name purposely on this occasion; and, I dare say, Dunroe has liberally paid him for his treachery."

"But what is to be done now?" asked Birney; "here we are fairly at fault."

"I have seen Miss Gourlay," replied the other, "and if it were only from motives of humanity, we must try, by every means consistent with honor, to stop or retard her marriage with Dunroe."

"But how are we to do so?"

"I know not at present; but I shall think of it. This is most unfortunate. I declare solemnly that it was only in so far as the facts we were so anxious to establish might have enabled us to prevent this accursed union, that I myself felt an interest in our success. Miss Gourlay's happiness was my sole motive of action."

"I believe you, sir," replied Birney; "but in the meantime we are completely at a stand. Chance, it is true, may throw something in our way; but, in the present position of circumstances, chance, nay, all the chances are against us."

"It is unfortunately too true," replied the stranger; "there is not a single opening left for us; we are, on the contrary, shut out completely in every direction. I shall write, however, to a lady who possesses much influence with Miss Gourlay; but, alas, to what purpose? Miss Gourlay herself has no influence whatever; and, as to her father, he does not live who could divert him from his object. His vile ambition only in the matter of his daughter could influence him, and it will do so to her destruction, for she cannot survive this marriage long."

"You look thin, and a good deal careworn," observed Birney, "which, indeed, I am sorry to see. Constant anxiety, however, and perpetual agitation of spirits will wear any man down. Well, I must bid you good morning; but I had almost forgotten to inquire about poor Fenton. Any trace of him during my absence?"

"Not the slightest. In fact, every point is against us. Lady Gourlay has relapsed into her original hopelessness, or nearly so, and I myself am now more depressed than I have ever been. Parish register, documents, corrupt knaves, and ungrateful traitors--perish all the machinery of justice on the one hand, and of villainy on the other; only let us succeed in securing Miss Gourlay's happiness, and I am contented. That, now and henceforth, is the absorbing object of my life. Let her be happy; let her be but happy--and this can only be done by preventing her union with this heartless young man, whose principal motive to it is her property."

Birney then took his departure, leaving his friend in such a state of distress, and almost of despair, on Lucy's account, as we presume our readers can very sufficiently understand, without any further assistance from us. He could not, however, help congratulating himself on his prudence in withholding from Miss Gourlay the sanguine expectations which he himself had entertained upon the result of Birney's journey to France. Had he not done so, he knew that she would have participated in his hopes, and, as a natural consequence, she must now have had to bear this deadly blow of disappointment, probably the last cherished hope of her heart; and under such circumstances, it is difficult to say what its effect upon her might have been. This was now his only satisfaction, to which we may add the consciousness that he had not, by making premature disclosures, been the means of compromising the innocent.

After much thought and reflection upon the gloomy position in which both he himself and especially Lucy were placed, he resolved to write to Mrs. Mainwaring upon the subject; although at the moment he scarcely knew in what terms to address her, or what steps he could suggest to her, as one feeling a deep interest in Miss Gourlay's happiness. At length, after much anxious rumination, he wrote the following short letter, or rather note, more with a view of alarming Mrs. Mainwaring into activity, than of dictating to her any line of action as peculiarly suited to the circumstances.

"Madam,--The fact of Miss Gourlay having taken refuge with you as her friend, upon a certain occasion that was, I believe, very painful to that young lady, I think sufficiently justifies me in supposing that you feel a warm interest in her fate. For this reason, therefore, I have taken the liberty of addressing you with reference to her present situation. If ever a human being required the aid and consolation of friendship, Miss Gourlay now does; and I will not suppose that a lady whom she honored with her esteem and affection, could be capable of withholding from her such aid and such consolation, in a crisis so deplorable. You are probably aware, madam, that she is on the point of being sacrificed, by a forced and hated union, to the ambitious views of her father; but you could form a very slight conception indeed of the horror with which she approaches the gulf that is before her. Could there be no means devised by which this unhappy young lady might be enabled with honor to extricate herself from the wretchedness with which she is encompassed? I beg of you, madam, to think of this; there is little time to be lost. A few days may seal her misery forever. Her health and spirits are fast sinking, and she is beginning to entertain apprehensions that that apathy which proceeds from the united influence of exhaustion and misery, may, in some unhappy moment, deprive her of the power of resistance, even for a time. Madam, I entreat that you will either write to her or see her; that you will sustain and console her as far as in you lies, and endeavor, if possible, to throw some obstruction in the way of this accursed marriage; whether through your influence with herself, or her father, matters not. I beg, madam, to apologize for the liberty I have taken in addressing you upon this painful but deeply important subject, and I appeal to yourself whether it is possible to know Miss Gourlay, and not to feel the deepest interest in everything that involves her happiness or misery.

"I have the honor to be, madam,

"Your obedient, faithful servant, and Her Sincere Friend.

"P. S.--I send this letter by my servant, as I am anxious that it should reach no hands, and be subjected to no eyes, but your own; and I refer you to Miss Gourlay herself, who will satisfy you as to the honor and purity of my motives in writing it."

Having sealed this communication, the stranger rang for Dulcimer, who made his appearance accordingly, and received his instructions for its safe delivery.

"You must deliver this note, Dandy," said he, "to the lady to whom Miss Gourlay and her maid drove, the morning you took the unwarrantable liberty of following them there."

"And for all that," replied Dandy, "it happens very luckily that I chance, for that very raison, to know now where to find her."

"It does so, certainly," replied his master. "Here is money for you--take a car, or whatever kind of vehicle you prefer. Give this note into her own hand, and make as little delay as you can."

"Do you expect an answer, sir?" replied Dandy; "and am I to wait for one, or ask for one?"

"I am not quite certain of that," said the other; "it is altogether discretionary with her. But there can be no harm in asking the question, at all events. Any other Mrs. Norton in the way, Dandy?"

"Deuce a once, sir. I have sifted the whole city, and, barrin' the three dozen I made out already, I can't find hilt or hair of another. Faith, sir, she ought to be worth something when she's got, for I may fairly say she has cost me trouble enough at any rate, the skulkin' thief, whoever she is; and me to lose my hundre' pounds into the bargain--bad scran to her!"

"Only find me the true Mrs. Norton," said his master, "and the hundred pounds are yours, and for Fenton fifty. Be off, now, lose no time, and bring me her answer if she sends any."

Dandy's motions were all remarkably rapid, and we need not say that he allowed no grass to grow under his feet while getting over his journey. On arriving at Summerfield Cottage, he learned that Mrs. Mainwaring was in the garden; and on stating that he had a letter to deliver into her own hands, that lady desired him to be brought in, as she was then in conversation with her daughter, who had been compelled at length to fly from the brutality of her husband, and return once more to the protection of her mother's roof. On opening the letter and looking at it, she started, and turning to her daughter said,

"You must excuse me, my dear Maria, for a few moments, but don't forget to finish what you were telling me about this unfortunate young man, Fenton, as he, you say, calls himself, from Ballytrain."

"Hello!" thought Dandy, "here's a discovery. By the elevens, I'll hould goold to silver that this is poor Fenton that disappeared so suddenly."

"I beg your pardon, miss," said he, addressing Mrs. Scarman as an unmarried lady, as he perceived that she was the person from whom he could receive the best intelligence on the subject; "I hope it's no offence, miss, to ax a question?"

"None, certainly, my good man," replied her mother, "provided it be a proper one."

"I think, miss," he continued, "that you were mentioning something to this lady about a young man named Fenton, from Ballytrain?"

"I was," replied Mrs. Scarman, "certainly; but what interest can you have in him?"

"If he's the young man I mane," continued Dandy, "he's not quite steady in the head sometimes."

"If he were, he would not be in his present abode," replied the lady.

"And pray, miss--beg pardon again," said Dandy, with the best bow and scrape he could manage; "pray, miss, might I be so bould as to ask where that is?"

Mrs. Scarman looked at her mother. "Mamma," said she, "but, bless me! what is the matter? you are in tears."

"I will tell you by and by, my dear Maria," replied her mother; "but you were going to ask me something--what was it?"

"This man," replied her daughter, "wishes to know the abode of the person I was speaking about."

"Pray, what is his motive? What is your motive, my good man, for asking such a question?"

"Bekaise, ma'am," replied Dandy, "I happen to know a gentleman who has been for some time on the lookout for him, and wishes very much to find where he is. If it be the young man I spake of, he disappeared some three or four months ago from the town of Ballytrain."

"Well," replied Mrs. Mainwaring, with her usual good-sense and sagacity, "as I know not what your motive for asking such a question is, I do not think this lady ought to answer it; but if the gentleman himself is anxious to know, let him see her; and upon giving satisfactory reasons for the interest he takes in him, he shall be informed of his present abode. You must rest satisfied with this. Go to the kitchen and say to the servant that I desired her to give you refreshment."

"Thank you, ma'am," replied Dandy; "faith, that's a lively message, anyhow, and one that I feel great pleasure in deliverin'. This Wicklow air's a regular cutler; it has sharpened my teeth all to pieces; and if the cook 'ithin shows me good feedin' I'll show her something in the shape of good atin'. I'm a regular man of talent at my victuals, ma'am, an' was often tould I might live to die an alderman yet, plaise God; many thanks agin, ma'am." So saying, Dandy proceeded at a brisk pace to the kitchen.

"That communication, mamma," said Mrs. Scarman, after Dandy had left them, "has distressed you."

"It has, my child. Poor Miss Gourlay is in a most wretched state. This I know is, from her lover. In fact, they will be the death--absolutely and beyond a doubt--the death of this admirable and most lovely creature. But what can I do? Her father will not permit me to visit her, neither will he permit her to correspond with me, I have already written to him on the risk to which he submits his daughter in this ominous marriage, but I received neither notice of, nor reply to my letter. Oh, no; the dear girl is unquestionably doomed. I thinks however, I shall write a few lines in reply to this," she added, "but, alas the day! they cannot speak of comfort."

Whilst she is thus engaged, we will take, a peep at the on-goings of Dandy and Nancy Gallaher, in the kitchen, where, in pursuance of his message our bashful valet was corroborating, by very able practice, the account which he had given of the talents he had eulogized so justly.

"Well, in troth," said he, "but, first and foremost, I haven't the pleasure of knowin' yer name."

"Nancy Gallaher's my name, then," she replied.

"Ah," said Dandy, suspending the fork and an immense piece of ham on the top of it at the Charybdis which he had opened to an unusual extent to receive it; "ah, ma'am, it wasn't always that, I'll go bail. My counthrymen knows the value of such a purty woman not to stamp some of their names upon her. Not that you have a married look, either, any more than myself; you're too fresh for that, now that I look at you again."

A certain cloud, which, as Dandy could perceive, was beginning to darken her countenance, suggested the quick turn of his last observation. The countenance, however, cleared again, and she replied, "It is my name, and what is more, I never changed it. I was hard to plaise--and I am hard to plaise, and ever an' always had a dread of gettin' into bad company, especially when I knew that the same bad company was to last for life."

"An ould maid, by the Rock of Cashel," said Dandy, to himself.

"Blood alive, I wondher has she money; but here goes to thry. Ah, Nancy," he proceeded, "you wor too hard to plaise; and now, that you have got money like myself, nothing but a steady man, and a full purse, will shoot your convanience--isn't that pure gospel, now, you good lookin' thief?"

Nancy's face was now like a cloudless sky. "Well," she replied, "maybe there's truth in that, and maybe there's not; but I hope you are takin' care of yourself? That's what I always did and ever will, plaise God. How do you like the ham?"

"Divil a so well dressed a bit o' ham ever I ett--it melts into one's mouth like a kiss from a purty woman. Troth, Nancy, I think I'm kissing you ever since I began to ait it."

"Get out," said Nancy, laughing; "troth, you're a quare one; but you know our Wickla' hams is famous."

"And so is your Wicklow girls," replied Dandy; "but for my part, I'd sooner taste their lips than the best hams that ever were ett any day."

"Well, but," said Nancy, "did you ever taste our bacon? bekaise, if you didn't, lave off what you're at, and in three skips I'll get you a rasher and eggs that'll make you look nine ways at once. Here, throw that by, it's could, and I'll get you something hot and comfortable."

"Go on," replied Dandy; "I hate idleness. Get the eggs and rasher you spake of, and while you're doin' it I'll thry and amuse myself wid what's before me. Industhry's the first of virtues, Nancy, and next to that comes perseverance; I defy you in the mane time to do a rasher as well as you did this ham--hoeh--och--och. God bless me, a bit was near stickin' in my throat. Is your wather good here? and the raison why I ax you is, that I'm the devil to plaise in wather; and on that account I seldom take it without a sup o' spirits to dilute it, as the docthors say, for, indeed, that's the way it agrees with me best. It's a kind of family failin' with us--devil a one o' my blood ever could look a glass of mere wather in the face without blushin'."

Dandy was now upon what they call the simplicity dodge; that is to say, he affected that character of wisdom for which certain individuals, whose knowledge of life no earthly experience ever can improve, are so extremely anxious to get credit. Every word he uttered was accompanied by an oafish grin, so ludicrously balanced between simplicity and cunning, that Nancy, who had been half her life on the lookout for such a man, and who knew that this indecision of expression was the characteristic of the tribe with which she classed him, now saw before her the great dream of her heart realized.

"Well, in troth," she replied, "you are a quare man; but still it would be too bad to make you blush for no stronger raison than mere wather. So, in the name o' goodness, here's a tumbler of grog," she added, filling him out one on the instant, "and as you're so modest, you must only drink it and keep your countenance; it'll prepare you, besides, for the rasher and eggs; and, by the same token, here's an ould candle-box that's here the Lord knows how long; but, faix, now it must help to do the rasher. Come then; if you are stronger than I am, show your strength, and pull it to pieces, for you see I can't."

It was one of those flat little candle-boxes made of deal, with which every one in the habit of burning moulds is acquainted. Dandy took it up, and whilst about to pull it to pieces, observed written on a paper label, in a large hand, something between writing and print, "Mrs. Norton, Summerfield Cottage, Wicklow."

"What is this?" said he; "what name is this upon it? Let us see, 'Mrs. Norton, Summerfield Cottage, Wicklow!' Who the dickens is Mrs. Norton?"

"Why, my present mistress," replied Nancy; "Mr. Mainwaring is her second husband, and her name was Mrs. Norton before she married him."

"Norton," said Dandy, whose heart was going at full speed, with a hope that he had at length got into the right track, "it's a purty name in troth. Arra, Nancy, do you know was your misthress ever in France?"

"Ay, was she," replied Nancy. "Many a year maid to--let me see--what's this the name is? Ay! Cullamore. Maid to the wife of Lord Cullamore. So I was tould by Alley Mahon, a young woman that was here on a visit to me."

Dandy put the glass of grog to his mouth, and having emptied it, sprung to his feet, commenced an Irish jig through the kitchen, in a spirit so outrageously whimsical--buoyant, mad, hugging the box all the time in his arms, that poor Nancy looked at him with a degree of alarm and then of jealousy which she could not conceal.

"In the name of all that's wonderful," she exclaimed, "what's wrong--what's the matter? What's the value of that blackguard box that you make the mistake about in huggin' it that way? Upon my conscience, one would think you're in a desolate island. Remember, man alive, that you're among flesh and blood like your own, and that you have friends, although the acquaintance isn't very long, I grant, that wishes you betther than to see you makin' a sweetheart of a tallow-box. What the sorra is that worth?"

"A hundred pounds, my darlin'--a hundred pounds--bravo, Dandy--well done, brave Dulcimer--wealthy Nancy. Faith, you may swear upon the frying-pan there that I've the cash, and sure 'tis yourself I was lookin' out for."

"I don't think, then, that ever I resembled a candle-box in my life," she replied, rather annoyed that the article in question came in for such a prodigality of his hugs, kisses, and embraces, of all shapes and characters.

"Well, Nancy," said he, "charming Nancy, you're my fancy, but in the meantime I have the honor and pleasure to bid you a good day."

"Why, where are you goin'?" asked the woman. "Won't you wait for the rasher?"

"Keep it hot, charming Nancy, till I come back; I'm just goin' to take a constitutional walk." So saying, Dandy, with the candle-box under his arm, darted out of the kitchen, and without waiting to know whether there was an answer to be brought back or not, mounted his jarvey, and desiring the man to drive as if the devil and all his imps were at their heels, set off at full speed for the city.

"Bad luck to you for a scamp," exclaimed the indignant cook, shouting after him; "is that the way you trate a decent woman after gettin' your skinful of the best? Wait till you put your nose in this kitchen again, an' it'a different fare you'll get."

On reaching his master's hotel, Dandy went upstairs, where he found him preparing to go out. He had just sealed a note, and leaning himself back on the chair, looked at his servant with a good deal of surprise, in consequence of the singularity of Ms manner. Dandy, on the other hand, took the candle-box from under his arm, and putting it flat on the table, with the label downwards, placed his two hands upon it, and looked the other right in the face; after which he closed one eye, and gave him a very knowing wink.

"What do you mean, you scoundrel, by this impudence?" exclaimed his master, although at the same time he could not avoid laughing; for, in truth, he felt a kind of presentiment, grounded upon Dandy's very assurance, that he was the bearer of some agreeable intelligence. "What do you mean, sirra? You're drunk, I think."

"Hi tell you what, sir," replied Dandy, "from this day out, upon my soul, I'll patronize you like a man as I am; that is to say, provided you continue to deserve it."

"Come, sirra, you're at your buffoonery again, or else you're drunk, as I said. Did the lady send any reply?"

"Have you any cash to spare?" replied Dandy. "I want to invest a thrifle in the funds."

"What can this impudence mean, sirra?" asked the other, sadly puzzled to understand his conduct. "Why do you not reply to me? Did the lady send an answer?"

"Most fortunate of all masthers," replied Dandy, "in havin' such a servant; the lady did send an answer."

"And where is it, sirra?"

"There it is!" replied the other, shoving the candle-box triumphantly over to him, The stranger looked steadily at him, and was beginning to lose his temper, for he took it now for granted that his servant was drunk.

"I shall dismiss you instantly, sirra," he said, "if you don't come to your senses."

"I suppose so," replied the other, still maintaining his cool, unabashed effrontery. "I dare say you will, just after I've made a man of you--changed you from nothing to something, or, rather, from nobody--for devil a much more you were up to the present time yet--to somebody. In the meantime, read the lady's answer, if you plaise."

"Where is it, you impudent knave? I see no note--no answer."

"Troth, sir, I am afeared many a time you were ornamented with the dunce's cap in your school-days, and well, I'll be bound, you became it. Don't I say the answer's before you, there?"

"There is nothing here, you scoundrel, but a deal box."

"Eight, sir; and a deal of intelligence can it give you, if you have the sense to find it out. Now, listen, sir. So long as you live, ever and always examine both sides of every subject that comes before you, even if it was an ould deal box."

His master took the hint, and instantly turning the box, read to his astonishment, Mrs. Norton, Summerfield pottage, Wicklow, and then looked at Dandy for an explanation. The latter nodded with his usual easy confidence, and proceeded, "It's all right, sir--she was in France--own maid to Lady Cullamore--came home and got married--first to a Mr. Norton, and next to a person named Mainwarin': and there she is, the true Mrs. Norton, safe and sound for you, in Summerfield Cottage, under the name of Mrs. Mainwarin'."

"Dandy," said his master, starting to his feet, "I forgive you a thousand times. Throw that letter in the post-office. You shall have the money, Dandy, more, perhaps, than I promised, provided this is the lady; but I cannot doubt it. I am now going to Mr. Birney; but, stay, let us be certain. How did you become acquainted with these circumstances?"

Dandy gave him his authority; after which his master put on his hat, and was about proceeding out, when the former exclaimed, "Hello-sir, where are you goin'?"

"To see Birney, I have already told you."

"Come, come," replied his man, "take your time--be steady, now--be cool--and listen to what your friend has to say to you."

"Don't trifle with me now, Dandy; I really can't bear it."

"Faith, but you must, though. There's one act I patronized you in; now, how do you know, as I'm actin' the great man, but I can pathronize you in another?"

"How is that? For heaven's sake, don't trifle with me; every day, every hour, every moment, is precious, and may involve the happiness of--"

"I see, sir," replied this extraordinary valet, with an intelligent nod, "but, still, fair and aisy goes far in a day. There's no danger of her, you know--don't be unaisy. Fenton, sir--ehem--Fenton, I say--Fenton and fifty I say."

"Fenton and a hundred, Dandy, if there's an available trace of him."

"I don't know what you call an available trace," replied Dandy, "but I can send you to a lady who knows where he is, and where you can find him."

The stranger returned from the door, and sitting down again covered his face with his hands, as if to collect himself; at length he said, "This is most extraordinary; tell me all about it."

Dandy related that with which the reader is already acquainted, and did so with such an air of comic gravity and pompous superiority, that his master, now in the best possible spirits, was exceedingly amused.

"Well, Dandy," said he, "if your information respecting Fenton prove correct, reckon upon another hundred, instead of the fifty I mentioned. I suppose I may go now?" he added, smiling.

Dandy, still maintaining his gravity, waved his hand with an air of suitable authority, intimating that the other had permission to depart. On going out, however, he said, "I beg your pardon, sir, but while you're abroad, I'd take it as a favor if you'd find out the state o' the funds. Of course, I'll be investin'; and a man may as well do things with his eyes open--may as well examine both sides o' the candle-box, you know. You may go, sir."

"Well," thought the stranger to himself, as he literally went on his way rejoicing toward Birney's office, "no man in this life should ever yield to despair. Here was I this morning encompassed by doubt and darkness, and I may almost say by despair itself. Yet see how easily and naturally the hand of Providence, for it is nothing less, has changed the whole tenor of my existence. Everything is beginning not only to brighten, but to present an appearance of order, by which we shall, I trust, be enabled to guide ourselves through the maze of difficulty that lies, or that did lie, at all events, before us. Alas, if the wretched suicide, who can see nothing but cause of despondency about him and before him, were to reflect upon the possibility of what only one day might evolve from the ongoing circumstances of life, how many would that wholesome reflection prevent from the awful crime of impatience at the wisdom of God, and a want of confidence in his government! I remember the case of an unhappy young man who plunged into a future life, as it were, to-day, who, had he maintained his part until the next, would have found himself master of thousands. No; I shall never despair. I will in this, as in every other virtue, imitate my beloved Lucy, who said, that to whatever depths of wretchedness life might bring her, she would never yield to that."

"Good news, Birney!" he exclaimed, on entering that gentleman's office; "charming intelligence! Both are found at last."

"Explain yourself, my dear sir," replied the other; "how is it? What has happened? Both of whom?"

"Mrs. Norton and Fenton."

He then explained the circumstances as they had been explained to himself by Dandy; and Birney seemed gratified certainly, but not so much as the stranger thought he ought to have been.

"How is this?" he asked; "this discovery, this double discovery, does not seem to give you the satisfaction which I had expected, it would?"

"Perhaps not," replied the steady man of law, "but I am highly gratified, notwithstanding, provided everything you tell me turns out to be correct. But even then, I apprehend that the testimony of this Mrs. Norton, unsupported as it is by documentary evidence, will not be: sufficient for our purpose. It will require corroboration, and how are we to corroborate it?"

"If it will enable us to prevent the marriage," replied the other, "I am satisfied."

"That is very generous and disinterested, I grant," said Birney, "and what few are capable of; but still there are forms of law and principles of common justice to be observed and complied with; and these, at present, stand in our way for want of the documentary evidence I speak of."

"What then ought our next step to be?--but I suppose I can anticipate you--to see Mrs. Norton."

"Of course, to see Mrs. Norton; and I propose that we start immediately. There is no time to be lost about it. I shall get on my boots, and change my dress a little, and, with this man of yours to guide us, we shall be on the way to Summerfield Cottage in half-an-hour."

"Should I not communicate this intelligence to Lady Gourlay?" said the stranger. "It will restore her to life; and surely the removal of only one day's sorrow such as lies at her heart becomes a duty."

"But suppose our information should prove incorrect, into what a dreadful relapse would you plunge her then!"

"On, very true--very true, indeed: that is well thought of; let us first see that there is no mistake, and afterwards we can proceed with confidence."

Poor Lucy, unconscious that the events we have related had taken place, was passing an existence of which every day brought round to her nothing but anguish and misery. She now not only refused to see her brother on any occasion, or under any circumstances, but requested an interview with her father, in order to make him acquainted with the abominable principles, by the inculcation of which, as a rule of life and conduct, he had attempted to corrupt her. Her father having heard this portion of her complaint, diminished in its heinousness as it necessarily was by her natural modesty, appeared very angry, and swore roundly at the young scapegrace, as he called him.

"But the truth is, Lucy," he added, "that however wrong and wicked he may have been, and was, yet we cannot be over severe on him. He has had no opportunities of knowing better, and of course he will mend. I intend to lecture him severely for uttering such principles to you; but, on the other hand, I know him to be a shrewd, keen young fellow, who promises well, notwithstanding. In truth, I like him, scamp as he is; and I believe that whatever is bad in him--"

"Whatever is bad in him! Why, papa, there is nothing good in him."

"Tut, Lucy; I believe, I say, that whatever is bad in him he has picked up from the kind of society he mixed with."

"Papa," she replied, "it grieves me to hear you, sir, palliate the conduct of such a person--to become almost the apologist of principles so utterly fiendish. You know that I am not and never have been in the habit of using ungenerous language against the absent. So far as I am concerned, he has violated all the claims of a brother--has foregone all title to a sister's love; but that is not all--I believe him to be so essentially corrupt and vicious in heart and soul, so thoroughly and blackly diabolical in his principles--moral I cannot call them--that I would stake my existence he is some base and plotting impostor, in whose veins there flows not one single drop of my pure-hearted mother's blood. I therefore warn you, sir, that he is an impostor, with, perhaps, a dishonorable title to your name, but none at all to your property."

"Nonsense, you foolish girl. Is he not my image?"

"I admit he resembles you, sir, very much, and I do not deny that he may be"--she paused, and alternately became pale and red by turns--"what I mean to say, sir, is what I have already said, that he is not my mother's son, and that although he may be privileged to bear your name, he has no claim on either your property or title. Does it not strike you, sir, that it might be to make way for this person that my legitimate brother was removed long ago? And I have also heard yourself say frequently, while talking of my brother, how extremely like mamma and me he was."

"There is no doubt he was," replied her father, somewhat struck by the force of her observations; "and I was myself a good deal surprised at the change which must have taken place in him since his childhood. However, you know he accounted for this himself very fairly and very naturally."

"Very ingeniously, at least," she replied; "with more of ingenuity, I fear, than truth. Now, sir, hear me further. You are aware that I never liked those Corbets, who have been always so deeply, and, excuse me, sir, so mysteriously in your confidence."

"Yes, Lucy, I know you never did; but that is a prejudice you inherited from your mother."

"I appeal to your own conscience, sir, whether mamma's prejudice against them was not just and well founded. Yet it was not so much prejudice as the antipathy which good bears to evil, honesty to fraud, and truth to darkness, dissimulation, and falsehood. I entreat you, then, to investigate this matter, papa; for as sure as I have life, so certainly was my dear brother removed, in order, at the proper time, to make way for this impostor. You know not, sir, but there may be a base and inhuman murder involved in this matter--nay, a double murder--that of my cousin, too; yes, and the worst of all murders, the murder of the innocent and defenceless. As a man, as a magistrate, but, above all, a thousand times, as a father--as the father and uncle of the very two children that have disappeared, it becomes your duty to examine into this dark business thoroughly."

"I have no reason to suspect the Corbets, Lucy. I have ever found them faithful to me and to my interests."

"I know, sir, you have ever found them obsequious and slavish and ready to abet you in many acts which I regret that you ever committed. There is the case of that unfortunate man, Trailcudgel, and many similar ones; were they not as active and cheerful! in bearing out your very harsh orders against him and others of your tenantry, as if they I had been advancing the cause of humanity?"

"Say the cause of justice, if you please, Lucy--the rights of a landlord."

"But, papa, if the unfortunate tenantry by whose toil and labor we live in affluence and; luxury do not find a friend in their landlord, who is, by his relation to them, their natural protector, to whom else in the wide world can they turn? This, however, is not the subject on which I wish to speak. I do believe that Thomas Corbet is deep, designing, and vindictive. He was always a close, dark man, without either cheerfulness or candor. Beware, therefore, of him and of his family. Nay, he has a capacity for being dangerous; for it strikes me, sir, that his intellect is as far above his position in life as his principles are beneath it."

There was much in what Lucy said that forced itself upon her father's reflection, much that startled him, and a good deal that gave him pain. He paused for a considerable time after she had ceased to speak, and said,

"I will think of these matters, Lucy. I will probably do more; and if I find that they have played me foul by imposing upon me--" He paused abruptly, and seemed embarrassed, the truth being that he knew and felt how completely he was in their power.

"Now, papa," said Lucy, "after having heard my opinion of this young man--after the wanton outrage upon all female delicacy and virtue of which he has been guilty, I trust you will not in future attempt to obtrude him upon me. I will not see him, speak to him, nor acknowledge him; and such, let what may happen, is my final determination."

"So far, Lucy, I will accede to your wishes. I shall take care that he troubles you with no more wicked exhortations."

"Thank you, dear papa; this is kind, and I feel it so."

"Now," said her father, after she had withdrawn, "how am I to act? It is not impossible but there may be much truth in what she says. I remember, however, the death of the only son that could possibly be imposed on me in the sense alluded to her. He surely does not live; or if he does, the far-sighted sagacity which made the account of his death a fraud upon my credulity, for such selfish and treacherous purposes, is worthy of being concocted in the deepest pit of hell. Yet that some one of them has betrayed me, is evident from the charges brought against me by this stranger to whom Lucy is so devotedly attached, and which charges Thomas Corbet could not clear up. If one of these base but dexterous villains, or if the whole gang were to outwit me, positively I could almost blow my very brains out, for allowing myself, after all, to become their dupe and plaything. I will think of it, however. And again, there is the likeness; there does seem to be a difficulty in that; for, beyond all doubt, my legitimate child, up until his disappearance, did not bear in his countenance a single feature of mine but bore a strong resemblance to his mother; whereas this Tom is my born image! Yet I like him. He has all my points; knows the world, and despises it as much as I do. He did not know Lucy, however, or he would have kept his worldly opinions to himself. It is true he said very little but what we see about us as the regulating principles of life every day; but Lucy, on the other hand, is no every-day girl, and will not receive such doctrines, and I am glad of it They may do very well in a son; but somehow one shudders at the contemplation of their existence in the heart and principles of a daughter. Unfortunately, however I am in the power of these Corbets, and I feel that exposure at this period, the crisis of my daughter's marriage, would not only frustrate my ambition for her, but occasion my very death, I fear. I know not how it is, but I think if I were to live my life over again, I would try a different course." _

Read next: Chapter 38. An Unpleasant Disclosure To Dunroe

Read previous: Chapter 36. Contains A Variety Of Matters

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