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Title: The Cock and Anchor
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cock and Anchor" ***

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)



  [Illustration: "'Farewell, my lord!' said Swift, abruptly."
                  _Frontispiece_.]


The Cock And Anchor


By

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu


Illustrated by
Brinsley Le Fanu


Downey & Co.
12 York St.
Covent Garden.

(1895)



NOTE.


"THE COCK AND ANCHOR: a Chronicle of Old Dublin City," was first
published in Dublin in three volumes in 1845, with the joint imprints
of William Curry, Junior, & Co., Dublin; Longman, Brown, Green &
Longmans, London; and Fraser & Co., Edinburgh. There is no author's
name on the title-page of the original edition. The work has not since
been reprinted under the title of "The Cock and Anchor;" but some years
after its first appearance my father made several alterations (most of
which are adhered to in the present edition) in the story, and it was
re-issued in the Select Library of Fiction under the title of "Morley
Court."

The novel has been out of print for a long period, and I have decided
to republish it now under its original and proper title. I have made
no changes in such dates as are mentioned here and there in the course
of the narrative, but the reader should bear in mind that this
"Chronicle of Old Dublin City" was written fifty years ago.

BRINSLEY SHERIDAN LE FANU.

_London, July, 1895._



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER                                                    PAGE

      I.--THE "COCK AND ANCHOR"                               1

     II.--A BED IN THE "COCK AND ANCHOR"                      6

    III.--THE LITTLE MAN                                     10

     IV.--A SCARLET HOOD                                     14

      V.--O'CONNOR'S MOONLIGHT WALK                          23

     VI.--THE SOLDIER                                        28

    VII.--THREE GRIM FIGURES                                 36

   VIII.--THE WARNING                                        40

     IX.--THE "BLEEDING HORSE"                               44

      X.--THE MASTER OF MORLEY COURT                         51

     XI.--THE OLD BEECH TREE WALK                            62

    XII.--THE APPOINTED HOUR                                 72

   XIII.--THE INTERVIEW                                      75

    XIV.--ABOUT A CERTAIN GARDEN AND A DAMSEL                83

     XV.--THE TRAITOR                                        88

    XVI.--SIGNOR PARUCCI ALONE                               92

   XVII.--DUBLIN CASTLE BY NIGHT                             99

  XVIII.--THE TWO COUSINS                                   106

    XIX.--THE THEATRE                                       110

     XX.--THE LODGING                                       116

    XXI.--WHO APPEARED TO MARY ASHWOODE                     122

   XXII.--THE SPINET                                        125

  XXIII.--THE DARK ROOM                                     131

   XXIV.--A CRITIC                                          135

    XXV.--THE COMBAT AND ITS ISSUE                          140

   XXVI.--THE HELL                                          143

  XXVII.--THE DEPARTURE OF THE PEER                         151

 XXVIII.--THE THUNDER-STORM                                 154

   XXIX.--THE CRONES                                        157

    XXX.--SKY-COPPER COURT                                  163

   XXXI.--THE USURER AND THE OAKEN BOX                      168

  XXXII.--THE DIABOLIC WHISPER                              171

 XXXIII.--HOW SIR HENRY ASHWOODE PLAYED AND PLOTTED         174

  XXXIV.--THE "OLD ST. COLUMBKIL"                           178

   XXXV.--THE COUSIN AND THE BLACK CABINET                  184

  XXXVI.--JEWELS, PLATE, HORSES, DOGS                       189

 XXXVII.--THE RECKONING                                     191

XXXVIII.--STRANGE GUESTS AT THE MANOR                       196

  XXXIX.--THE BARGAIN                                       199

     XL.--DREAMS                                            204

    XLI.--A CERTAIN TRAVELLING ECCLESIASTIC                 208

   XLII.--THE SQUIRES                                       212

  XLIII.--THE WILD WOOD                                     217

   XLIV.--THE DOOM                                          222

    XLV.--THE MAN IN THE CLOAK                              226

   XLVI.--THE DOUBLE CONFERENCE                             231

  XLVII.--THE "JOLLY BOWLERS"                               236

 XLVIII.--THE STAINED RUFFLES                               241

   XLIX.--OLD SONGS                                         246

      L.--THE PRESS IN THE WALL                             252

     LI.--FLORA GUY                                         259

    LII.--MARY ASHWOODE'S WALK                              262

   LIII.--THE DOUBLE FAREWELL                               266

    LIV.--THE TWO CHANCES                                   273

     LV.--THE FEARFUL VISITANT                              277

    LVI.--EBENEZER SHYCOCK                                  280

   LVII.--THE CHAPLAIN'S ARRIVAL AT MORLEY COURT            284

  LVIII.--THE SIGNAL                                        290

    LIX.--HASTE AND PERIL                                   296

     LX.--THE UNTREASURED CHAMBER                           299

    LXI.--THE CART AND THE STRAW                            302

   LXII.--THE COUNCIL                                       308

  LXIII.--PARTING                                           311

   LXIV.--MISTRESS MARTHA AND BLACK M'GUINNESS              315

    LXV.--THE CONFERENCE                                    319

   LXVI.--THE BED-CHAMBER                                   322

  LXVII.--THE EXPULSION                                     327

 LXVIII.--THE FRAY                                          332

   LXIX.--THE BOLTED WINDOW                                 337

    LXX.--THE BARONET'S ROOM                                341

   LXXI.--THE FAREWELL                                      345

  LXXII.--THE ROPE AND THE RIOT                             349

 LXXIII.--THE LAST LOOK                                     354

          CONCLUSION                                        357



LIST OF FULL PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS.


"Farewell, my lord," said Swift, abruptly         _Frontispiece_

Threw himself luxuriously into a capacious
  leather-bottomed chair                       _to face page_ 4

Again the conqueror crowed the shrill
  note of victory                                 "          34

Parucci approached the prostrate figure           "         156

"Painted! varnished!" she screamed hysterically   "         188

He made his way to the aperture                   "         223

Glide noiselessly behind Chancey                  "         293

Driven to bay ... he drew his sword               "         338

His horse, snorting loudly, checked his pace      "         354



THE "COCK AND ANCHOR."



CHAPTER I.

THE "COCK AND ANCHOR"--TWO HORSEMEN--AND A SUPPER BY THE INN FIRE.


Some time within the first ten years of the last century, there stood
in the fair city of Dublin, and in one of those sinuous and narrow
streets which lay in the immediate vicinity of the Castle, a goodly and
capacious hostelry, snug and sound, and withal carrying in its aspect
something staid and aristocratic, and perhaps in nowise the less
comfortable that it was rated, in point of fashion, somewhat obsolete.
Its structure was quaint and antique; so much so, that had its
counterpart presented itself within the precincts of "the Borough," it
might fairly have passed itself off for the genuine old Tabard of
Geoffry Chaucer.

The front of the building, facing the street, rested upon a row of
massive wooden blocks, set endwise, at intervals of some six or eight
feet, and running parallel at about the same distance, to the wall of
the lower story of the house, thus forming a kind of rude cloister or
open corridor, running the whole length of the building.

The spaces between these rude pillars were, by a light frame-work of
timber, converted into a succession of arches; and by an application of
the same ornamental process, the ceiling of this extended porch was
made to carry a clumsy but not unpicturesque imitation of groining.
Upon this open-work of timber, as we have already said, rested the
second story of the building; protruding beyond which again, and
supported upon beams whose projecting ends were carved into the
semblance of heads hideous as the fantastic monsters of heraldry, arose
the third story, presenting a series of tall and fancifully-shaped
gables, decorated, like the rest of the building, with an abundance of
grotesque timber-work. A wide passage, opening under the corridor which
we have described, gave admission into the inn-yard, surrounded partly
by the building itself, and partly by the stables and other offices
connected with it. Viewed from a little distance, the old fabric
presented by no means an unsightly or ungraceful aspect: on the
contrary, its very irregularities and antiquity, however in reality
objectionable, gave to it an air of comfort and almost of dignity to
which many of its more pretending and modern competitors might in vain
have aspired. Whether it was, that from the first the substantial
fabric had asserted a conscious superiority over all the minor
tenements which surrounded it, or that they in modest deference had
gradually conceded to it the prominence which it deserved--whether, in
short, it had always stood foremost, or that the street had slightly
altered its course and gradually receded, leaving it behind, an
immemorial and immovable landmark by which to measure the encroachments
of ages--certain it is, that at the time we speak of, the sturdy
hostelry stood many feet in advance of the line of houses which flanked
it on either side, narrowing the street with a most aristocratic
indifference to the comforts of the pedestrian public, thus forced to
shift for life and limb, as best they might, among the vehicles and
horses which then thronged the city streets--no doubt, too, often by
the very difficulties which it presented, entrapping the over-cautious
passenger, who preferred entering the harbour which its hospitable and
capacious doorway offered, to encountering all the perils involved in
doubling the point.

Such as we have attempted to describe it, the old building stood more
than a century since; and when the level sunbeams at eventide glinted
brightly on its thousand miniature window panes, and upon the broad
hanging panel, which bore, in the brightest hues and richest gilding,
the portraiture of a Cock and Anchor; and when the warm, discoloured
glow of sunset touched the time-worn front of the old building with a
rich and cheery blush, even the most fastidious would have allowed that
the object was no unpleasing one.

A dark autumnal night had closed over the old city of Dublin, and the
wind was blustering in hoarse gusts through the crowded
chimney-stacks--careening desolately through the dim streets, and
occasionally whirling some loose tile or fragment of plaster from the
house tops. The streets were silent and deserted, except when
occasionally traversed by some great man's carriage, thundering and
clattering along the broken pavement, and by its passing glare and
rattle making the succeeding darkness and silence but the more dreary.
None stirred abroad who could avoid it; and with the exception of such
rare interruptions as we have mentioned, the storm and darkness held
undisputed possession of the city. Upon this ungenial night, and
somewhat past the hour of ten, a well-mounted traveller rode into the
narrow and sheltered yard of the "Cock and Anchor;" and having bestowed
upon the groom who took the bridle of his steed such minute and anxious
directions as betokened a kind and knightly tenderness for the comforts
of his good beast, he forthwith entered the public room of the inn--a
large and comfortable chamber, having at the far end a huge hearth
overspanned by a broad and lofty mantelpiece of stone, and now sending
forth a warm and ruddy glow, which penetrated in genial streams to
every recess and corner of the room, tinging the dark wainscoting of
the walls, glinting red and brightly upon the burnished tankards and
flagons with which the cupboard was laden, and playing cheerily over
the massive beams which traversed the ceiling. Groups of men, variously
occupied and variously composed, embracing all the usual company of a
well frequented city tavern--from the staid and sober man of business,
who smokes his pipe in peace, to the loud disputatious, half-tipsy town
idler, who calls for more flagons than he can well reckon, and then
quarrels with mine host about the shot--were disposed, some singly,
others in social clusters, in cosy and luxurious ease at the stout oak
tables which occupied the expansive chamber. Among these the stranger
passed leisurely to a vacant table in the neighbourhood of the good
fire, and seating himself thereat, doffed his hat and cloak, thereby
exhibiting a finely proportioned and graceful figure, and a face of
singular nobleness and beauty. He might have seen some thirty
summers--perhaps less--but his dark and expressive features bore a
character of resolution and melancholy which seemed to tell of more
griefs and perils overpast than men so young in the world can generally
count.

The new-comer, having thrown his hat and gloves upon the table at which
he had placed himself, stretched his stalwart limbs toward the fire in
the full enjoyment of its genial influence, and advancing the heels of
his huge jack boots nearly to the bars, he seemed for a time wholly
lost in the comfortable contemplation of the red embers which
flickered, glowed, and shifted before his eyes. From his quiet reverie
he was soon recalled by mine host in person, who, with all courtesy,
desired to know "whether his honour wished supper and a bed?" Both
questions were promptly answered in the affirmative: and before many
minutes the young horseman was deep in the discussion of a glorious
pasty, flanked by a flagon of claret, such as he had seldom tasted
before. He had scarcely concluded his meal, when another traveller,
cloaked, booted, and spurred, and carrying under his arm a pair of long
horse-pistols, and a heavy whip, entered the apartment, walked straight
up to the fire-place, and having obtained permission of the cavalier
already established there to take share of his table, he deposited
thereon the formidable weapons which he carried, cast his hat, gloves,
and cloak upon the floor, and threw himself luxuriously into a
capacious leather-bottomed chair which confronted the cheery fire.

  [Illustration: "Threw himself luxuriously into a capacious,
                  leather-bottomed chair."
                 _To face page 4._]

"A bleak night, sir, and a dark, for a ride of twenty miles," observed
the stranger, addressing the younger guest.

"I can the more readily agree with you, sir," replied the latter,
"seeing that I myself have ridden nigh forty, and am but just arrived."

"Whew! that beats me hollow," cried the other, with a kind of
self-congratulatory shrug. "You see, sir, we never know how to thank
our stars for the luck we _have_ until we come to learn what luck we
might have had. I rode from Wicklow--pray, sir, if it be not too bold a
question, what line did you travel?"

"The Cork road."

"Ha! that's an ugly line they say to travel by night. You met with no
interruption?"

"Troth, but I _did_, sir," replied the young man, "and none of the
pleasantest either. I was stopped, and put in no small peril, too."

"How! stopped--stopped on the highway! By the mass, you outdo me in
every point! Would you, sir, please to favour me, if 'twere not too
much trouble, with the facts of the adventure--the particulars?"

"Faith, sir," rejoined the young man, "as far as my knowledge serves
me, you are welcome to them all. When I was still about twelve miles
from this, I was joined from a by-road by a well mounted, and (as far
as I could discern) a respectable-looking traveller, who told me he
rode for Dublin, and asked to join company by the way. I assented; and
we jogged on pleasantly enough for some two or three miles. It was very
dark----"

"As pitch," ejaculated the stranger, parenthetically.

"And what little scope of vision I might have had," continued the
younger traveller, "was well nigh altogether obstructed by the constant
flapping of my cloak, blown by the storm over my face and eyes. I
suddenly became conscious that we had been joined by a third horseman,
who, in total silence, rode at my other side."

"How and when did _he_ come up with you?"

"I can't say," replied the narrator--"nor did his presence give me the
smallest uneasiness. He who had joined me first, all at once called out
that his stirrup strap was broken, and halloo'd to me to rein in until
he should repair the accident. This I had hardly done, when some
fellow, whom I had not seen, sprang from behind upon my horse, and
clasped my arms so tightly to my body, that so far from making use of
them, I could hardly breathe. The scoundrel who had dismounted caught
my horse by the head and held him firmly, while my hitherto silent
companion clapped a pistol to my ear."

"The devil!" exclaimed the elder man, "that was checkmate with a
vengeance."

"Why, in truth, so it turned out," rejoined his companion; "though I
confess my first impulse was to balk the gentlemen of the road at any
hazard; and with this view I plied my spurs rowel deep, but the rascal
who held the bridle was too old a hand to be shaken off by a plunge or
two. He swung with his whole weight to the bit, and literally brought
poor Rowley's nose within an inch of the road. Finding that resistance
was utterly vain, and not caring to squander what little brains I have
upon so paltry an adventure, I acknowledged the jurisdiction of the
gentleman's pistol, and replied to his questions."

"You proved your sound sense by so doing," observed the other. "But
what was their purpose?"

"As far as I could gather," replied the younger man, "they were upon
the look-out for some particular person, I cannot say whom; for, either
satisfied by my answers, or having otherwise discovered their mistake,
they released me without taking anything from me but my sword, which,
however, I regret much, for it was my father's; and having blown the
priming from my pistols, they wished me the best of good luck, and so
we parted, without the smallest desire on my part to renew the
intimacy. And now, sir, you know just as much of the matter as I do
myself."

"And a very serious matter it is, too," observed the stranger, with an
emphatic nod. "Landlord! a pint of mulled claret--and spice it as I
taught you--d'ye mind? A very grave matter--do you think you could
possibly identify those men?"

"Identify them! how the devil could I?--it was dark as pitch--a cat
could not have seen them."

"But was there no mark--no peculiarity discernible, even in the dense
obscurity--nothing about any of them, such as you might know again?"

"Nothing--the very outline was indistinct. I could merely pee that they
were shaped like men."

"Truly, truly, that is much to be lamented," said the elder gentleman;
"though fifty to one," he added, devoutly, "they'll hang one day or
another--let that console us. Meantime, here comes the claret."

So saying, the new-comer rose from his seat, coolly removed his black
matted peruke from his shorn head, and replaced it by a dark velvet
cap, which he drew from some mysterious nook in his breeches pocket;
then, hanging the wig upon the back of his chair, he wheeled the seat
round to the table, and for the first time offered to his companion an
opportunity of looking him fairly in the face. If he were a believer in
the influence of first impressions, he had certainly acted wisely in
deferring the exhibition until the acquaintance had made some progress,
for his countenance was, in sober truth, anything but attractive--a
pair of grizzled brows overshadowed eyes of quick and piercing black,
rather small, and unusually restless and vivid--the mouth was wide, and
the jaw so much underhung as to amount almost to a deformity, giving to
the lower part of the face a character of resolute ferocity which was
not at all softened by the keen fiery glance of his eye; a massive
projecting forehead, marked over the brow with a deep scar, and
furrowed by years and thought, added not a little to the stern and
commanding expression of the face. The complexion was swarthy; and
altogether the countenance was one of that sinister and unpleasant kind
which the imagination associates with scenes of cruelty and terror, and
which might appropriately take a prominent place in the foreground of a
feverish dream. The young traveller had seen too many ugly sights, in
the course of a roving life of danger and adventure, to remember for a
moment the impression which his new companion's visage was calculated
to produce. They chatted together freely; and the elder (who, by the
way, exhibited no very strong Irish peculiarities of accent or idiom,
any more than did the other) when he bid his companion good-night, left
him under the impression that, however forbidding his aspect might be,
his physical disadvantages were more than counterbalanced by the
shrewd, quick sagacity, correct judgment, and wide range of experience
of which he appeared possessed.



CHAPTER II.

A BED IN THE "COCK AND ANCHOR"--A LANTERN AND AN UGLY VISITOR BY THE
BEDSIDE.


Leaving the public room to such as chose to push their revels beyond
the modesty of midnight, our young friend betook himself to his
chamber; where, snugly deposited in one of the snuggest beds which the
"Cock and Anchor" afforded, with the ample tapestry curtains drawn from
post to post, while the rude wind buffeted the casements and moaned
through the antique chimney-tops, he was soon locked in the deep,
dreamless slumber of fatigue.

How long this sweet oblivion may have lasted it was not easy to say;
some hours, however, had no doubt intervened, when the sleeper was
startled from his repose by a noise at his chamber door. The latch was
raised, and someone bearing a shaded light entered the room and
cautiously closed the door again. In the belief that the intruder was
some guest or domestic of the inn who either mistook the room or was
not aware of its occupation, the young man coughed once or twice
slightly in token of his presence, and observing that his signal had
not the desired effect, he inquired rather sharply,--

"Who is there?"

The only answer returned was a long "Hist!" and forthwith the steps of
the unseasonable visitor were directed to the bedside. The person thus
disturbed had hardly time to raise himself half upright when the
curtains at one side were drawn apart, and by the imperfect light which
forced its way through the horn enclosure of a lantern, he beheld the
bronzed and sinister features of his fireside companion of the previous
evening. The stranger was arrayed for the road, with his cloak and
cocked hat on. Both parties, the visited and the visitor, for a time
remained silent and in the same fixed attitude.

"Pray, sir," at length inquired the person thus abruptly intruded upon,
"to what special good fortune do I owe this most unlooked-for visit?"

The elder man made no reply; but deliberately planted the large dingy
lantern which he carried upon the bed in which the young man lay.

"You have tarried somewhat too long over the wine-cup," continued he,
not a little provoked at the coolness of the intruder. "This, sir, is
not your chamber; seek it elsewhere. I am in no mood to bandy jests.
You will consult your own ease as well as mine by quitting this room
with all dispatch."

"Young gentleman," replied the elder man in a low, firm tone, "I have
used short ceremony in disturbing you thus. To judge from your face you
are no less frank than hardy. You will not require apologies when you
have heard me. When I last night sate with you I observed about you a
token long since familiar to me as the light--you wear it on your
finger--it is a diamond ring. That ring belonged to a dear friend of
mine--an old comrade and a tried friend in a hundred griefs and perils:
the owner was Richard O'Connor. I have not heard from him for ten years
or more. Can you say how he fares?"

"The brave soldier and good man you have named was my father," replied
the young man, mournfully.

"_Was!_" repeated the stranger. "Is he then no more--is he dead?"

"Even so," replied the young man, sadly.

"I knew it--I felt it. When I saw that jewel last night something smote
at my heart and told me, that the hand that wore it once was cold. Ah,
me! it was a friendly and a brave hand. Through all the wars of King
James" (and so saying he touched his hat) "we were together, companions
in arms and bosom friends. He was a comely man and a strong; no
hardship tired him, no difficulty dismayed him; and the merriest fellow
he was that ever trod on Irish ground. Poor O'Connor! in exile; away,
far away from the country he loved so well; among foreigners too. Well,
well, wheresoever they have laid thee, there moulders not a truer nor a
braver heart in the fields of all the world!"

He paused, sighed deeply, and then continued,--

"Sorely, sorely are thine old comrades put to it, day by day, and night
by night, for comfort and for safety--sorely vexed and pillaged.
Nevertheless--over-ridden, and despised, and scattered as we are,
mercenaries and beggars abroad, and landless at home--still something
whispers in my ear that there will come at last a retribution, and such
a one as will make this perjured, corrupt, and robbing ascendency a
warning and a wonder to all after times. Is it a common thing, think
you, that all the gentlemen, all the chivalry of a whole country--the
natural leaders and protectors of the people--should be stripped of
their birthright, ay, even of the poor privilege of seeing in this
their native country, strangers possessing the inheritances which are
in _all_ right their own; cast abroad upon the world; soldiers of
fortune, selling their blood for a bare subsistence; many of them dying
of want; and all because for honour and conscience sake they refused to
break the oath which bound them to a ruined prince? Is it a slight
thing, think you, to visit with pains and penalties such as these, men
guilty of no crimes beyond those of fidelity and honour?"

The stranger said this with an intensity of passion, to which the low
tone in which he spoke but gave an additional impressiveness. After a
short pause he again spoke,--

"Young gentleman," said he, "you may have heard your father--whom the
saints receive!--speak, when talking over old recollections, of one
Captain O'Hanlon, who shared with him the most eventful scenes of a
perilous time. He may, I say, have spoken of such a one."

"He has spoken of him," replied the young man; "often, and kindly too."

"I am that man," continued the stranger; "your father's old friend and
comrade; and right glad am I, seeing that I can never hope to meet him
more on this side the grave, to renew, after a kind, a friendship which
I much prized, now in the person of his son. Give me your hand, young
gentleman: I pledge you mine in the spirit of a tried and faithful
friendship. I inquire not what has brought you to this unhappy country;
I am sure it can be nothing which lies not within the eye of honour, so
I ask not concerning it; but on the contrary, I will tell you of myself
what may surprise you--what will, at least, show that I am ready to
trust you freely. You were stopped to-night upon the Southern road,
some ten miles from this. It was _I_ who stopped you!"

O'Connor made a sudden but involuntary movement of menace; but without
regarding it, O'Hanlon continued,--

"You are astonished, perhaps shocked--you look so; but mind you, there
is some difference between _stopping_ men on the highway, and _robbing_
them when you have stopped them. I took you for one who we were
informed would pass that way, and about the same hour--one who carried
letters from a pretended friend--one whom I have long suspected, a
half-faced, cold-hearted friend--carried letters, I say, from such a
one to the Castle here; to that malignant, perjured reprobate and
apostate, the so-called Lord Wharton--as meet an ornament for a gibbet
as ever yet made a feast for the ravens. I was mistaken: here is your
sword; and may you long wear it as well as he from whom it was
inherited." Here he raised the weapon, the blade of which he held in
his hand, and the young man saw it and the hilt flash and glitter in
the dusky light. "And take the advice of an old soldier, young friend,"
continued O'Hanlon, "and when you are next, which I hope may not be for
many a long day, overpowered by odds and at their mercy, do not by
fruitless violence tempt them to disable you by a simpler and less
pleasant process than that of merely taking your sword and unpriming
your pistols. Many a good man has thrown away his life by such boyish
foolery. Upon the table by your bed you will in the morning find your
rapier, and God grant that it and you may long prove fortunate
companions!" He was turning to go, but recollecting himself, he added,
"One word before I go. I am known here as Mr. Dwyer--remember the name,
Dwyer--I am generally to be heard of in this place. Should you at any
time during your stay in this city require the assistance of a friend
who has a cheerful willingness to serve you, and who is not perhaps
altogether destitute of power, you have only to leave a billet in the
hand of the keeper of this inn, and if I be above ground it will reach
me--of course address it under the name I have last mentioned--and so,
young gentleman, fare you well." So saying, he grasped the hand of his
new friend, shook it warmly, and then, turning upon his heel, strode
swiftly to the door, and so departed, leaving O'Connor with so much
abruptness as not to allow him time to utter a question or remark on
what had passed.

The excitement of the interview speedily passed away, the fatigues of
the preceding day were persuasively seconded by the soothing sound of
the now abated wind and by the utter darkness of the chamber, and the
young man was soon deep in the forgetfulness of sleep once more. When
the broad, red light of the morning sun broke cheerily into his room,
streaming through the chinks of the old shutters, and penetrating
through the voluminous folds of the vast curtains of rich, faded damask
which surmounted the huge hearse-like bed in which he lay, so as to
make its inmate aware that the hour of repose was past and that of
action come, O'Connor remembered the circumstances of the interview
which had been so strangely intruded upon him but as a dream; nor was
it until he saw the sword which he had believed irrecoverably lost
lying safely upon the table, that he felt assured that the visit and
its purport were not the creation of his slumbering fancy. In reply to
his questions when he descended, he was informed by mine host of the
"Cock and Anchor," that Mr. Dwyer had left the inn-yard upon his stout
hack, a good hour before daybreak.



CHAPTER III.

THE LITTLE MAN IN BLUE AND SILVER.


Among the loungers who loitered at the door of the "Cock and Anchor,"
as the day wore on, there appeared a personage whom it behoves us to
describe. This was a small man, with a very red face and little grey
eyes--he wore a cloth coat of sky blue, with here and there a piece of
silver lace laid upon it without much regard to symmetry; for the
scissors had evidently displaced far the greater part of the original
decorations, whose primitive distribution might be traced by the
greater freshness of the otherwise faded cloth which they had covered,
as well as by some stray threads, which stood like stubbles here and
there to mark the ravages of the sickle. One hand was buried in the
deep flap pocket of a waistcoat of the same hue and material, and
bearing also, in like manner, the evidences of a very decided
retrenchment in the article of silver lace. These symptoms of economy,
however, in no degree abated the evident admiration with which the
wearer every now and then stole a glance on what remained of its
pristine splendours--a glance which descended not ungraciously upon a
leg in whose fascinations its owner reposed an implicit faith. His
right hand held a tobacco-pipe, which, although its contents were not
ignited, he carried with a luxurious nonchalance ever and anon to the
corner of his mouth, where it afforded him sundry imaginary puffs--a
cheap and fanciful luxury, in which my Irish readers need not be told
their humbler countrymen, for lack of better, are wont to indulge. He
leaned against one of the stout wooden pillars on which the front of
the building was reared, and interlarded his economical pantomime of
pipe-smoking with familiar and easy conversation with certain of the
outdoor servants of the inn--a familiarity which argued not any sense
of superiority proportionate to the pretension of his attire.

"And so," said the little man, turning with an aristocratic ease
towards a stout fellow in a jerkin, with bluff visage and folded arms,
who stood beside him, and addressing him in a most melodious
brogue--"and so, for sartain, you have but five single gintlemen in the
house--mind, I say _single_ gintlemen--for, divil carry me if ever I
take up with a _family_ again--it doesn't answer--it don't _shoot_
me--I was never made for a family, nor a family for me--I can't stand
their b----y regularity; and--" with a sigh of profound sentiment, and
lowering his voice, he added--"and, the maid-sarvants--no, devil a
taste--they don't answer--they don't _shoot_. My disposition, Tom, is
tindher--tindher to imbecility--I never see a petticoat but it flutters
my heart--the short and the long of it is, I'm always falling in
love--and sometimes the passion is not retaliated by the object, and
more times it is--but, in both cases, I'm aiqually the victim--for my
intintions is always honourable, and of course nothin' comes of it. My
life was fairly frettin' away in a dhrame of passion among the
housemaids--I felt myself witherin' away like a flower in autumn--I was
losing my relish for everything, from bacon and table-dhrink
upwards--dangers were thickening round me--I had but one way to
execrate myself--I gave notice--I departed, and here I am."

Having wound up the sentence, the speaker leaned forward and spat
passionately on the ground--a pause ensued, which was at length broken
by the same speaker.

"Only two out of the five," said he, reflectively, "only two unprovided
with sarvants."

"And neither of 'em," rejoined Tom, a blunt English groom, "very likely
to want one. The one is a lawyer, with a hack as lean as himself, and
more holes, I warrant, than half-pence in his breeches pocket. He's out
a-looking for lodgings, I take it."

"He's not exactly what I want," rejoined the little man. "What's
th'other like?"

"A gentleman, every inch, or _I'm_ no judge," replied the groom. "He
came last night, and as likely a bit of horseflesh under him as ever my
two hands wisped down. He chucked me a crown-piece this morning, as if
it had been no more nor a cockle shell--he did."

"By gorra, he'll do!" exclaimed the little man energetically. "It's a
bargain--I'm his man."

"Ay, but you mayn't answer, brother; he mayn't take you," observed Tom.

"Wait a bit--_jist_ wait a bit, till he sees me," replied he of the
blue coat.

"Ay, wait a bit," persevered the groom, coolly--"wait a bit, and when
he _does_ see you, it strikes me wery possible he mayn't like your
cut."

"Not like my cut!" exclaimed the little man, as soon as he had
recovered breath; for the bare supposition of such an occurrence
involved in his opinion so utter and astounding a contradiction of all
the laws by which human antipathies and affections are supposed to be
regulated, that he felt for a moment as if his whole previous existence
had been a dream and an illusion. "Not like my _cut_!"

"No," rejoined the groom, with perfect imperturbability.

The little man deigned no other reply than that conveyed in a glance of
the most inexpressible contempt, which, having wandered over the person
and accoutrements of the unconscious Tom, at length settled upon his
own lower extremities, where it gradually softened into a gaze of
melancholy complacency, while he muttered, with a pitying smile, "Not
like my cut--not like it!" and then, turning majestically towards the
groom, he observed, with laconic dignity,--

"I humbly consave the gintleman has an eye in his head."

This rebuke had hardly been administered when the subject of their
conference in person passed from the inn into the street.

"There he goes," observed Tom.

"And here _I_ go after him," added the candidate for a place; and in a
moment he was following O'Connor with rapid steps through the narrow
streets of the town, southward. It occurred to him, as he hurried after
his intended master, that it might not be amiss to defer his interview
until they were out of the streets, and in some more quiet place; nor
in all probability would he have disturbed himself at all to follow the
young gentleman, were it not that even in the transient glimpse which
he had had of the person and features of O'Connor, the little man
thought, and by no means incorrectly, that he recognized the form of
one whom he had often seen before.

"That's Mr. O'Connor, as sure as my name's Larry Toole," muttered the
little man, half out of breath with his exertions--"an' it's himself'll
be proud to get me. I wondher what he's afther now. I'll soon see, at
any rate."

Thus communing within himself, Larry alternately walked and trotted to
keep the chase in view. He might very easily have come up with the
object of his pursuit, for on reaching St. Patrick's Cathedral,
O'Connor paused, and for some minutes contemplated the old building.
Larry, however, did not care to commence his intended negotiation in
the street; he purposed giving him rope enough, having, in truth, no
peculiar object in following him at that precise moment, beyond the
gratification of an idle curiosity; he therefore hung back until
O'Connor was again in motion, when he once more renewed his pursuit.

O'Connor had soon passed the smoky precincts of the town, and was now
walking at a slackened pace among the green fields and the trees, all
clothed in the rich melancholy hues of early autumn. The evening sun
was already throwing its mellow tint on all the landscape, and the
lengthening shadows told how far the day was spent. In the transition
from the bustle of a town to the lonely quiet of the country at
eventide, and especially at that season of the year when decay begins
to sadden the beauties of nature, there is something at once soothing
and unutterably melancholy. Leaving behind the glare, and dust, and
hubbub of the town, who has not felt in his inmost heart the still
appeal of nature? The saddened beauty of sear autumn, enhanced by the
rich and subdued light of gorgeous sunset--the filmy mist--the
stretching shadows--the serene quiet, broken only by rural sounds, more
soothing even than silence--all these, contrasted with the sounds and
sights of the close, restless city, speak tenderly and solemnly to the
heart of man of the beauty of creation, of the goodness of God, and,
along with these, of the mournful condition of all nature--change,
decay, and death. Such thoughts and feelings, stealing in succession
upon the heart, touch, one by one, the springs of all our sublimest
sympathies, and fill the mind with the beautiful sense of brotherhood,
under God, with all nature. Under the not unpleasing influence of such
suggestions, O'Connor slackened his pace to a slow irregular walk,
which sorely tried the patience of honest Larry Toole.

"After all," exclaimed that worthy, "it's nothin' more nor less than an
evening walk he's takin', God bless the mark! What business have I
followin' him? unless--see--sure enough he's takin' the short cut to
the manor. By gorra, this is worth mindin'--I must not folly him,
however--I don't want to meet the family--so here I'll plant myself
until sich times as he's comin' back again."

So saying, Larry Toole clambered to the top of the grassy embankment
which fenced the road, and seating himself between a pair of aged
hawthorn-trees, he watched young O'Connor as he followed the wanderings
of a wild bridle-road until he was at length fairly hidden from view by
the intervening trees and brushwood.



CHAPTER IV.

A SCARLET HOOD AMONG THE OLD TREES--THE MANOR OF MORLEY COURT--AND A
PEEP INTO AN ANTIQUE CHAMBER.


The path which O'Connor followed was one of those quiet and pleasant
by-roads which, in defiance of what are called improvements, are still
to be discovered throughout Ireland here and there, in some unsuspected
region, winding their green and sequestered ways through many a varied
scene of rural beauty; and, unless when explored by some chance
fisherman or tourist, unknown to all except the poor peasant to whose
simple conveniences they minister.

Low and uneven embankments, overgrown by a thousand kinds of weeds and
wild flowers and brushwood, marked the boundaries of this rustic
pathway, but in so friendly a sort, and with so little jealousy or
exclusion, that they seemed designed rather to lend a soft and
sheltered resting-place to the tired traveller than to check the
wayward excursions of the idle rambler into the merry fields and
woodlands through which it wound. On either side the tall, hoary trees,
like time-worn pillars, reared their grey, moss-grown trunks and
arching branches, now but thinly clothed with the discoloured foliage
of autumn, and casting their long shadows in the evening sun far over
the sloping and unequal sward. The scene, the hour, and the loneliness
of the place, would of themselves have been enough to induce a pensive
train of thought; but, beyond the silence and seclusion, and the
falling of the leaves in their eternal farewell, and all the other
touching signs of nature's beautiful decay, there were deep in
O'Connor's breast recollections and passions with which the scene
before him was more nearly associated, than with the ordinary
suggestions of fantastic melancholy.

At some distance from this road, and half hidden among the trees, there
stood an old and extensive building, chiefly of deep red brick,
presenting many and varied fronts and quaint gables, antique-fashioned
casements, and whole groups of fantastic chimneys, sending up their
thin curl of smoke into the still air, and glinting tall and red in the
declining sun; while the dusky hue of the old bricks was every here and
there concealed under rich mantles of dark, luxuriant ivy, which, in
some parts of the structure, had not only mounted to the summits of the
wall, but clambered, in rich profusion, over the steep roof, and even
to the very chimney tops. This antique building--rambling, massive, and
picturesque in no ordinary degree--might well have attracted the
observation of the passer-by, as it presented in succession, through
the irregular vistas of the rich old timber, now one front, now
another, alternately hidden and revealed as the point of observation
was removed. But the eyes of O'Connor sought this ancient mansion, and
dwelt upon its ever-varying aspects, as he pursued his way, with an
interest more deep and absorbing than that of mere curiosity or
admiration; and as he slowly followed the grass-grown road, a thousand
emotions and remembrances came crowding upon his mind, impetuous,
passionate, and wild, but all tinged with a melancholy which even the
strong and sanguine heart of early manhood could not overcome. As the
path proceeded, it became more closely sheltered by the wild bushes and
trees, and its windings grew more wayward and frequent, when on a
sudden, from behind a screen of old thorns which lay a little in
advance, a noble dog, of the true old Irish wolf breed, came bounding
towards him, with every token of joy and welcome.

"Rover, Rover--down, boy, down," said the stranger, as the huge animal,
in his boisterous greeting, leaped upon him again and again, flinging
his massive paws upon his shoulders, and thrusting his cold nose into
his bosom--"down, Rover, down."

The first transport of welcome past, the noble dog waited to receive
from his old friend some marks of recognition in return, and then,
swinging his long tail from side to side, away he sprang, as if to
carry the joyful tidings to the companion of his evening ramble.

O'Connor knew that some of those whom he should not have chosen to meet
just then or there were probably within a stone's throw of the spot
where he now stood, and for a moment he was strongly tempted to turn,
and, if so it might be, unobserved to retrace his steps. The close
screen of wild trees which overshadowed the road would have rendered
this design easy of achievement; but while he was upon the point of
turning to depart, a few notes of some wild and simple Irish melody,
carelessly lilted by a voice of silvery sweetness, floated to his ear.
Every cadence and vibration of _that_ voice was to him enchantment--he
could not choose but pause. The sweet sounds were interrupted by a
rustling among the withered leaves which strewed the ground. Again the
fine old dog made his appearance, dashing joyously along the path
towards him, and following in his wake, with slow and gentle steps,
came a light and graceful female form. On her shoulders rested a short
mantle of scarlet cloth; the hood was thrown partially backward, so as
to leave the rich dark ringlets to float freely in the light breeze of
evening; the faintest flush imaginable tinged the clear paleness of her
cheek, giving to her exquisitely beautiful features a lustre, whose
richness did not, however, subdue their habitual and tender melancholy.
The moment the full dark eyes of the girl encountered O'Connor, the
song died away upon her lips--the colour fled from her cheeks, and as
instantaneously the sudden paleness was succeeded by a blush of such
depth and brilliancy as threw far into shade even the brightest imagery
of poetic fancy.

"Edmond!" she exclaimed, in a tone so faint and low as scarcely to
reach his ear, and which yet thrilled to his very heart.

"Yes, Mary--it is, indeed, Edmond O'Connor," answered he, passionately
and mournfully--"come, after long years of separation, over many a mile
of sea and land--unlooked-for, and, mayhap, unwished-for--come once
more to see you, and, in seeing you, to be happy, were it but for a
moment--come to tell you that he loves you fondly, passionately as
ever--come to ask you, dear, dear Mary, if you, too, are unchanged?"

As he thus spoke, standing by her side, O'Connor gazed on the sad,
sweet face of her he loved so well, and held that little hand, which he
would have given worlds to call his own. The beautiful girl was too
artless to disguise her agitation. She would have spoken, but the
effort was vain--the tears gathered in her dark eyes, and fell faster
and faster, till at length the fruitless struggle ceased, and she wept
long and bitterly.

"Oh! Edmond," said she, at length, raising her eyes sorrowfully and
fondly to O'Connor's face--"what has called you hither? We two should
hardly have met now or thus."

"Dear Mary," answered he, with melancholy fervour, "since last I held
this loved hand, years have passed away--three long years and more--in
which we two have never met--in which you scarce have even heard of me.
Mary, three years bring many changes--changes irreparable. Time--which
has, if it were possible, made you more beautiful even than when I saw
you last--may yet have altered earlier feelings, and turned your heart
from me. Were it so, Mary, I would not seek to blame you. I am not so
vain--your rank--your great attractions--your surpassing beauty, must
have won many admirers--drawn many suitors round you; and I--I, among
all these, may well have been forgotten--I, whose best merit is but in
loving you beyond my life. I will not, then--I will not, Mary, ask if
you love me still: but coming thus unbidden and unlooked-for, am I
forgiven--am I welcome, Mary?"

The artless girl looked up in his face with such a beautiful smile of
trust and love as told more in one brief moment than language could in
volumes.

"Yes, Mary," said O'Connor, reading that smile aright, with swelling
heart and proud devotion; "yes, Mary. I am remembered--you are still my
own--my own: true, faithful, unchanged, in spite of years of time and
leagues of separation; in spite of all!--my true-hearted, my adored, my
own!"

He spoke; and in the fulness of their hearts they were both for a while
silent, each gazing on the other in the rapt tenderness of long-tried
love--in the deep, guileless joy of this chance meeting.

"Hear me," he whispered, lower almost than the murmur of the breeze
through the arching boughs above them, as if fearful that even a breath
would trouble the still enchantment that held them spell-bound: "hear
me, for I have much to tell. The years that have passed since I spoke
to you before have brought to me their store of good and ill, of sorrow
and of hope. I have many things to tell you, Mary; much that gives me
hope--the cheeriest hope--even that of overcoming Sir Richard's
opposition! Ay, Mary, reasonable hope; and why? Because I am no longer
poor: an old friend of my father's, Mr. Audley, has taken me by the
hand, adopted me, made me his heir--the heir to riches and possessions
which even your father will allow to be considerable--which he well may
think enough to engage his prudence in favour of our union. In this
hope, dearest, I am here. I daily expect the arrival of my generous
friend and benefactor; and with him I will go to your father and urge
my suit once more, and with God's blessing at last prevail--but hark!
some one comes."

Even while he spoke, the lovers were startled by the sound of voices in
gay colloquy, approaching along the quiet by-road on which they stood.

"Leave me, Edmond, leave me," said the beautiful girl, with earnest
entreaty; "they must not see you with me now."

"Farewell then, dearest, since it must be so," replied O'Connor, as he
pressed her hand closely in his own; "but meet me to-morrow
evening--meet me by the old gate in the beech-tree walk, at the hour
when you used to walk there. Nay, refuse me not, Mary. Farewell,
farewell till then!" and so saying, before she had time to frame an
answer, he turned from her, and was quickly lost among the trees and
underwood which skirted the pathway.

In the speakers who approached, the young lady at once recognized her
brother, Henry Ashwoode, and Emily Copland, her pretty cousin. The
young man was handsome alike in face and figure, slightly made, and
bearing in his carriage that indescribable air of aristocratic birth
and pretension which sits not ungracefully upon a handsome person; his
countenance, too, bore a striking resemblance to that of his sister,
and, allowing for the difference of sex, resembled it as nearly as any
countenance which had never expressed a passion but such as had its aim
and origin alike in _self_, could do. He was dressed in the extreme of
the prevailing fashion; and altogether his outward man was in all
respects such as to justify his acknowledged pretensions to be
considered one of the prettiest men in the then gay city of Dublin. The
young lady who accompanied him was, in all points except in that of
years, as unlike her cousin, Mary Ashwoode, as one pretty girl could
well be to another. She was very fair; had a quick, clear eye, which
carried in its glance something more than mere mirth or vivacity; an
animated face, with, however, something of a bold, and at times even of
a haughty expression. Laughing and chatting in light, careless gaiety,
the youthful pair approached the spot where Mary Ashwoode stood.

"So, so, fair sister," cried the young man, gaily, "alone and musing,
and doubtless melancholy. Shall we venture to approach her, Emily?"

Women have keener eyes in small matters than men; and Miss Copland at a
glance perceived her fair cousin's flushed cheek and embarrassed
manner.

"Angels and ministers of grace defend us!" cried she; "the girl has
certainly seen a ghost or a dragoon officer."

"Neither, I assure you, cousin," replied Miss Ashwoode, with an effort;
"my evening's ramble has not extended beyond this spot; and as yet I've
seen no monster more alarming than my brother's new periwig."

The young man bowed.

"Nay, nay," cried Miss Copland, "but I must hear it. There certainly is
some awful mystery at the bottom of all these conscious looks; but
_apropos_ of awful mysteries," continued she, turning to young
Ashwoode, half in pity for Mary's increasing embarrassment; "where _is_
Major O'Leary? What has become of your amusing old uncle?"

"That's more than _I_ can tell," replied the young man; "I wash my
hands of the scapegrace. I know nothing of him. I saw him for a moment
in town this morning, and he promised, with a round dozen of oaths, to
be out to dine with us to-day. Thus much _you_ know, and thus much _I_
know; for the rest, having sins enough of my own to carry, as I said
before, I wash my hands of him and his."

"Well, now remember, Henry," continued she, "I make it a point with you
to bring him out here to-morrow. In sober seriousness I can't get on
without him. It is a melancholy and a terrible truth, but still one
which I feel it my duty to speak boldly, that Major O'Leary is the only
gallant and susceptible man in the family."

"Monstrous assertion?" exclaimed the young man; "why, not to mention
myself, the acknowledged pink and perfection of everything that is
irresistible, have you not the perfect command of my worthy cousin,
Arthur Blake?"

"Now don't put me in a passion, Henry," exclaimed the girl. "How dare
you mention that wretch--that irreclaimable, unredeemed fox-hunter. He
never talks, nor thinks, nor dreams of anything but dogs and badgers,
foxes and other vermin. I verily believe he never yet was seen off a
horse's back, except sometimes in a stable--he is an absolute Irish
centaur! And then his odious attempts at finery--his elaborate,
perverse vulgarity--the perpetual pinching and mincing of his words! An
off-hand, shameless brogue I can endure--a brogue that revels and
riots, and defies the world like your uncle O'Leary's, I can respect
and even admire--but a brogue in a strait waistcoat----"

"Well, well," rejoined the young man, laughing, "though you may not
find any sprout of the _family_ tree, excepting Major O'Leary, worthy
to contribute to your laudable requirements; yet surely you have a very
fair catalogue of young and able-bodied gentlemen among our neighbours.
What say you to young Lloyd--he lives within a stone's throw. He is a
most proper, pious, and punctual young gentleman; and would make, I
doubt not, a most devout and exemplary _'Cavalier servente_.'"

"Worse and worse," cried the young lady despondingly; "the most
domestic, stupid, affectionate, invulnerable wretch. He never flirts
out of his own family, and then, for charity I believe, with the oldest
and ugliest. He is the very person for whose special case the rubric
provided that no man shall marry his grandmother."

"My fair cousin," replied the young man, laughing, "I see you are hard
to please. Meanwhile, sweet ladies both, let me remind you that the sun
has just set; we must make our way homeward--at least _I_ must. By the
way, can I do anything in town for you this evening, beyond a tender
message to my reverend uncle?"

"Dear me," exclaimed Miss Copland, "you have not passed an evening at
home this age. What _can_ you want, morning, noon, and night in that
smoky, dirty town?"

"Why, the fact is," replied the young man, "business must be done; I
positively must attend two routs to-night."

"Whose routs--what are they?" inquired the young lady.

"One is Mrs. Tresham's, the other Lady Stukely's."

"I _guessed_ that ugly old kinswoman of mine was at the bottom of it,"
exclaimed the young lady with great vivacity. "Lady Stukely--that
pompous, old, frightful goose!--she has laid herself out to seduce you,
Harry; but don't let that dismay you, for ten to one if you fall,
she'll make an honest man of you in the end and marry you. Only think,
Mary, what a sister you shall have," and the young lady laughed
heartily, and then added, "There are some excellent, worthy, abominable
people, who seem made expressly to put one in a passion--perpetual
appeals to one's virtuous indignation. Now do, Henry, for goodness
sake, if a matrimonial catastrophe must come, choose at least some
nymph with less rouge and wrinkles than poor dear Lady Stukely."

"Kind cousin, thyself shalt choose for me," answered the young man;
"but pray, suffer me to be at large for a year or two more. I would
fain live and breathe a little, before I go down into the matrimonial
pit and be no more seen. But let us mend our pace, the evening turns
chill."

Thus chatting carelessly, they moved towards the large brick building
which we have already described, embowered among the trees; where
arrived, the young man forthwith applied himself to prepare for a night
of dissipation, and the young ladies to get through a dull evening as
best they might.

The two fair cousins sate in a large, old-fashioned drawing-room; the
walls were covered with elaborately-wrought tapestry representing, in a
manner sufficiently grim and alarming, certain scenes from Ovid's
Metamorphoses; a cheerful fire blazed in the capacious hearth; and the
cumbrous mantelpiece was covered with those grotesque and monstrous
china figures, misnamed ornaments, which were then beginning to find
favour in the eyes of fashion. Abundance of richly carved furniture was
disposed variously throughout the room. The young ladies sate by a
small table on which lay some books and materials for work, placed near
the fire. They occupied each one of those huge, high-backed, and
well-stuffed chairs in which it is a mystery how our ancestors could
sit and remain awake. Both were silently occupied with their own busy
reflections; and it was not until the rapid clank of the horse's hoofs
upon the pavement underneath the windows, as young Ashwoode started
upon his night ride to the city, rose sharp and clear, that Miss
Copland, waking from her reverie, exclaimed,--

"Well, sweet coz, were ever so woebegone and desolate a pair of
damsels. The only available male creature in the establishment, with
the exception of Sir Richard, who has actually gone to bed, has fairly
turned his back upon us."

"Dear Emily," replied her cousin, "pray be serious. I wish to tell you
what has passed this evening. You observed my confusion and agitation
when you and Henry overtook me."

"Why, to be sure I did," replied the young lady; "and now, like an
honest coz, you are going to tell me all about it." She drew her chair
nearer as she spoke. "Come, my dear, tell me everything--what was your
discovery? Come, now, there's a good girl, do confess." So saying she
threw one arm round her cousin's neck and laid the other in her lap,
looking curiously into her face the while.

"Oh! Emily, I have seen him!" exclaimed Miss Ashwoode, with an effort.

"Seen _him_!--seen whom?--old Nick, if I may judge from your looks.
Whom _have_ you seen, dear?" eagerly inquired Miss Copland.

"I have seen Edmond O'Connor," answered she.

"Edmond O'Connor!" repeated the girl in unfeigned surprise, "why, I
thought he was in France, eating frogs and dancing cotillons. What has
brought him here?--why, he'll be taken for a spy and executed on the
spot. But seriously, can you conceive anything more rash and ill-judged
than his coming over just now?"

"It is indeed, I greatly fear, very rash," replied the young lady; "he
is resolved to speak with my father once more."

"And your father in such a precious ill-humour just at this precise
moment," exclaimed Miss Copland. "I never _was_ so much afraid of Sir
Richard as I have been for the last two days; he has been a perfect
bruin--begging your pardon, my dear girl--but even _you_ must admit,
let filial piety and all the cardinal virtues say what they will, that
whenever Sir Richard is recovering from a fit of the gout he is nothing
short of a perfect monster. I wager my diamond cross to a thimble, that
he breaks the poor young man's head the moment he comes within reach of
him. But jesting apart, I fear, my dear cousin, that my uncle is in no
mood just now to listen to heroics."

A sharp knocking upon the floor immediately above the chamber in which
the young ladies sate, interrupted the conference at this juncture.

"There is my father's signal--he wants me," exclaimed Miss Ashwoode,
and rising as she spoke, without more ado she ran to render the
required attendance.

"Strange girl," exclaimed Miss Copland, as her cousin's step was heard
ascending the stairs, "strange girl!--she is the veriest simpleton I
ever yet encountered. All this fuss to marry a fellow who is, in plain
words, little better than a beggarman--a good-looking beggarman, to be
sure, but still a beggar. Oh, Mary, simple Mary! I am very much tempted
to despise you--there is certainly something _wrong_ about you! I hate
to see people without ambition enough even to wish to keep their own
natural position. The girl is full of nonsense; but what's that to me?
she'll _un_learn it all one day; but I'm much afraid, simple cousin, a
little too late."

Having thus soliloquized, she called her maid, and retired for the
night to her chamber.



CHAPTER V.

OF O'CONNOR'S MOONLIGHT WALK TO THE "COCK AND ANCHOR," AND WHAT BEFELL
HIM BY THE WAY.


As soon as O'Connor had made some little way from the scene of his
sudden and agitating interview with Miss Ashwoode, he slackened his
pace, and with slow steps began to retrace his way toward the city. So
listless and interrupted was his progress, that the sun had descended,
and twilight was fast melting into darkness before he reached that
point in the road at which diverged the sequestered path which he had
followed. As he approached the spot, he observed a small man, with a
pipe in his mouth, and his person arranged in an attitude of ease and
graceful negligence, admirably calculated to exhibit the symmetry and
perfection of his bodily proportions. This man had planted himself in
the middle of the road, so as completely to command the pass, and, as
our reader need scarcely be informed, was no other than Larry
Toole--the important personage to whom we have already introduced him.

As O'Connor approached, Larry advanced, with a slow and dignified
motion, to receive him: and removing his pipe from his mouth with a
_nonchalant_ air, he compressed the lighted contents of the bowl with
his finger, and then deposited the utensil in his coat pocket, at the
same time, executing, in a very becoming manner, his most courtly bow.
Somewhat surprised, and by no means pleasantly, at an interruption of
so unlooked-for a kind, O'Connor observed, impatiently, "I have neither
time nor temper, friend, to suffer delay or listen to foolery;" and
observing that Larry was preparing to follow him, he added curtly, "I
desire no company, sirrah, and choose to be alone."

"An' it's exactly because you wish to be alone, and likes solitude,"
observed the little man, "that you and me will shoot, being formed by
the bountiful hand iv nature, barrin' a few small exceptions,"--here he
glanced complacently at his right leg, which was a little in advance of
its companion--"as similiar as two eggs."

Being in no mood to tolerate, far less to encourage this annoying
intrusion, O'Connor pursued his way at a quickened pace, and in
obstinate silence, and in a little time exhibited a total and very
mortifying forgetfulness of Mr. Toole's bodily proximity. That
gentleman, however, was not so easily to be shaken off--he
perseveringly followed, keeping a pace or two behind.

"It's parfectly unconthrovertible," pursued that worthy, with
considerable solemnity and emphasis, "and at laste as plain as the nose
on your face, that you haven't the smallest taste of a conciption who
it is you're spakin' too, Mr. O'Connor."

"And pray who may you be, friend?" inquired he, somewhat surprised at
being thus addressed by name.

"Who else would I be, your honour," rejoined the persevering
applicant--"who else _could_ I be, if you had but a glimmer iv light to
contemplate my forrum and fatures, but Laurence Toole--called by the
men for the most part _Misthur_ Toole, and (he added in a softened
tone) by the girls most commonly designated Larry."

"Ha--Larry--Larry Toole!" exclaimed O'Connor, half reconciled to an
intrusion up to that moment so ill endured. "Well, Larry, tell me
briefly how are the family at the manor, yonder?"

"Why, plase your honour," rejoined Larry, promptly, "the ould masthur,
that's Sir Richard, is much oftener gouty than good-humoured, and
more's the pity. I b'lieve he's breaking down very fast, and small
blame to him, for he lived hard, like a rale honourable gentleman. An'
then, the young masthur, that's Masthur Henry--but you didn't know him
so well--he's getting on at the divil's rate--scatt'ring guineas like
small shot. They say he plays away a power of money; and he and the
masthur himself has often hard words enough between them about the way
things is goin' on; but he ates and dhrinks well, an' the health he
gets is as good as he wants for his purposes."

"Well--but your young mistress," suggested O'Connor--"you have not told
me yet how Miss Ashwoode has been ever since. How have her health and
spirits been--has she been well?"

"Mixed middlin', like belly bacon," replied Mr. Toole, with an air of
profound sympathy--"shilly-shally, sir--off an' on, like an April
day--sometimes atin' her victuals, sometimes lavin' them--no sartainty.
I think the ould masthur's gout and crossness, and the young one's
vagaries, is frettin' her; and it's sorry I am to see it. An' there's
Miss Emily--that's Miss Copland--a rale jovial slip iv a young lady. I
think you've seen her once or twice up at the manor; but now, since her
father, the ould General, died, she is stayin' for good with the
family. She's a fine lady, and" (drawing close to O'Connor, and
speaking with very significant emphasis) "she has ten thousand pounds
of her own--do you mind me, ten thousand--it's a good fortune--is not
it, sir?"

He paused for a moment, and receiving no answer, which he interpreted
as a sign that the announcement was operating as it ought, he added
with a confidential wink--

"I thought I might as well put you up to it, you know, for no one knows
where a blessin' may light."

"Larry," said O'Connor, after a considerable silence, somewhat abruptly
and suddenly recollecting the presence of that little person--"if you
have aught to say to me, speak it quickly. What may your business be?"

"Why, sir," replied he, "the long and short of it is, I left Sir
Richard more than a week since. Not that I was turned away--no, Mr.
O'Connor," continued Mr. Toole, with edifying majesty, "no sich thing
at all in the wide world. My resignation, sir, was the fruit of my own
solemn convictions--for the five years I was with the family, I had no
comfort, or aise, or pace. I may as well spake plain to you, sir, for
_you_, like myself, is young"--Mr. Toole was certainly at the wrong
side of fifty--"you can aisily understand me, sir, when I say that I'm
the victim iv romance, bad cess to it--romance, sir; my buzzam, sir,
was always open to tindher impressions--impressions, sir, that came
into it as natural as pigs into a pittaty garden. I could not shut them
out--the short and the long iv it is, I was always fallin' in love,
since I was the size iv a quart pot--eternally fallin' in love." Mr.
Toole sighed, and then resumed. "I done my best to smother my emotions,
but passion, sir, young and ardent passion, is impossible to be
suppressed: you might as well be trying to keep strong beer in starred
bottles durin' the pariod iv the dog days. But I never knew rightly
what love was all out, in rale, terrible perfection, antil Mistress
Betsy came to live in the family. I'll not attempt to describe
her--it's enough to say she fixed my affections, and done for myself.
She is own maid to the young mistress. I need not expectorate upon the
progress iv my courtship--it's quite enough to observe, that for a
considherable time my path was strewed with flowers, antil a young
chap--an English bliggard, one Peter Clout--an' it's many's the clout
he got, the Lord be thanked for that same!--a lump iv a chap ten times
as ugly as the divil, and without more shapes about him than a pound of
cruds--an impittant, ignorant, presumptious, bothered, bosthoon--antil
this gentleman--this Misthur Peter Clout, made his b----y appearance;
then all at once the divil's delight began. Betsy--the lovely Betsy
Carey--the lovely, the vartious, the beautiful, and the exalted--began
to play thricks. I know she was in love with me--over head and ears, as
bad as myself--but woman is a mystarious agent, an' bangs Banagher.
Long as I've been larnin', I never could larn why it is they take
delight in tormentin' the tindher-hearted."

This reflection was uttered in a tone of tender woe, and the speaker
paused for some symptom of assent from his auditor. It is, however,
hardly necessary to say that he paused in vain. O'Connor had enough to
occupy his mind; and so far from listening to his companion's
narrative, he was scarcely conscious that Mr. Toole, in bodily
presence, was walking beside him. That "tindher-hearted" individual
accordingly resumed the thread of his discourse.

"But, at any rate, she laid herself out to make me jealous of Peter
Clout; and, with the blessin' iv the divil, she succeeded complately.
Things were going on this way--she lettin' on to be mighty fond iv
Peter, an' me gettin' angrier an' angrier, and Mr. Clout more an' more
impittent every day, antill I seen there was no use in purtendin'; so
one mornin' when we were both of us--myself and Mr. Peter
Clout--clainin' up the things in the pantry, I thought I might as well
have a bit iv discourse with him--when I seen, do ye mind, there was no
use in mortifyin' the chap with contempt, for I did not spake to him,
good, bad, or indifferent, for more than a fortnight, an' he was so
ignorant and unmannerly he never noticed the differ. When I seen there
was no use in keepin' him at a distance, says I to him one day in the
panthry--'Mr. Clout,' says I, 'your conduct in regard iv some persons
in this house,' says I, 'is iv a description that may be shuitable to
the English spalpeens,' says I, 'but is about as like the conduct of a
gintleman,' says I, 'as blackin' is to plate powder.' So he turns
round, an' he looks at me as if I was a Pollyphamius. 'Mind your work,'
says I, 'young man, an' don't be lookin' at me as if I was a hathian
godess,' says I. 'It's Mr. Toole that's speakin' to you, an' you
betther mind what he says. The long an' the short iv it is, I don't
like you to be hugger-muggering with a sartain delicate famale in this
establishment; an' if I catch you talkin' any more to Misthress Betsy
Carey, I give you fair notice, it's at your own apparel. Beware of
me--for as sure as you don't behave to my likin', you might as well be
in the one panthry with a hyania,' says I, an' it was thrue for me, an'
it was the same way with my father before me, an' all the Tooles up to
the time of Noah's ark. In pace I'm a turtle-dove all out; but once I'm
riz, I'm a rale tarin' vulture."

Here Mr. Toole paused to call up a look, and after a grim shake of the
head, he resumed.

"Things went on aisy enough for a day or two, antill I happened to walk
into the sarvants' hall, an' who should I see but Mr. Clout sittin' on
the same stool with Misthriss Betsy, an' his arm round her waist--so
when I see that, before any iv them could come between us, with the
fair madness I made one jump at him, an' we both had one another by the
windpipe before you'd have time to bless yourself. Well, round an'
round we went, rowlin' with our heads and backs agin the walls, an'
divil a spot of us but was black an' blue, antill we kem to the
chimney; an' sure enough when we did, down we rowled both together,
glory be to God! into the fire, an' upset a kittle iv wather on top iv
us; an' with that there was sich a screechin' among the women, an'
maybe a small taste from ourselves, that the masthur kem in, an' if he
didn't lay on us with his walkin' stick it's no matter; but, at any
rate, as soon as we recovered from the scaldin' an' the bruises. _I_
retired, an' the English chap was turned away; an' that's the whole
story, an' I tuk my oath that I'll never go into sarvice in a _family_
again. I can't make any hand of women--they're made for desthroyin' all
sorts iv pace iv mind--they're etarnally triflin' with the most sarious
and sacred emotions. I'll never sarve any but single gentlemen from
this out, if I was to be sacrificed for it--never a bit, by the hokey!"

So saying, Mr. Toole, having, in the course of his harangue, reproduced
his pipe from his pocket, with a view to flourish it in emphatic
accompaniment with the cadences of his voice, smote the bowl of it upon
the edge of his cocked hat, which he held in his hand, with so much
passion, that the head of the pipe flew across the road, and was for
ever lost among the docks and nettles. One glance he deigned to the
stump which remained in his hand, and then, with an air of romantic
recklessness which laughs at all sacrifices, he flung it disdainfully
from him, clapped his cocked hat upon his head with a vehemence which
brought it nearly to the bridge of his nose, and, planting his hands in
his breeches pockets, he glanced at the stars with a scowl which, if
they take any note of things terrestrial, must have filled them with
alarm.

Suddenly recollecting himself, Mr. Toole perceived that his intended
master, having walked on, had left him considerably behind; he
therefore put himself into an easy amble, which speedily brought him up
with the chase.

"Mr. O'Connor, plase your honour," he exclaimed, "sure it's not
possible it's goin' to lave me behind you are, an' me so proud iv your
company; an', moreover, after axin' you for a situation--that is,
always supposin' you want the sarvices iv a rale dashin' young fellow,
that's up to everything, an' willing to sarve you in any incapacity.
An' by gorra, sir," continued he, pathetically, "it's next door to a
charity to take me, for I've but one crown in the wide world left, an'
I must change it to-night; an' once I change money, the shillin's makes
off with themselves like a hat full of sparrows into the elements, the
Lord knows where."

With a desolate recklessness, he chucked the crown-piece into the air,
caught it in his palm, and walked silently on.

"Well, well," said O'Connor, "if you choose to make so uncertain an
engagement as for the term of my stay in Dublin, you are welcome to be
my servant for so long."

"It's a bargain," shouted Mr. Toole--"a bargain, plase your honour,
done and done on both sides. I'm your man--hurra!"

They had already entered the suburbs, and before many minutes were
involved in the dark and narrow streets, threading their way, as best
they might, toward the genial harbourage of the "Cock and Anchor."



CHAPTER VI.

THE SOLDIER--THE NIGHT RAMBLE--AND THE WINDOW THAT LET IN MORE THAN THE
MOONLIGHT.


Short as had been O'Connor's sojourn, it nevertheless had been
sufficiently long to satisfy mine host of the "Cock and Anchor," an
acute observer in such particulars, that whatever his object might have
been in avoiding the more fashionably frequented inns of the city,
economy at least had no share in his motive. O'Connor, therefore, had
hardly entered the public room of the inn, when a servant respectfully
informed him that a private chamber was prepared for his reception, if
he desired to occupy it. The proposition suited well with his temper at
the minute, and with all alacrity he followed the waiter, who bowed him
upstairs and through a dingy passage into a room whose claims, if not
to elegance, at least to comfort, could hardly have been equalled,
certainly not excelled, by the more luxurious pretensions of most
modern hotels.

It was a large, capacious chamber, nearly square, wainscoted with dark
shining wood, and decorated with certain dingy old pictures, which
might have been, for anything to the contrary, appearing in so
uncertain a light, _chefs d'oeuvre_ of the mighty masters of the olden
time: at all events, they looked as warm and comfortable as if they
were. The hearth was broad, deep, and high enough to stable a Kerry
pony, and was surmounted by a massive stone mantelpiece, rudely but
richly carved--abundance of old furniture--tables, at which the saintly
Cromwell might have smoked and boozed, and chairs old enough to have
supported Sir Walter Raleigh himself, were disposed about the room with
a profuseness which argued no niggard hospitality. A pair of wax-lights
burned cheerily upon a table beside the bright crackling fire which
blazed in the huge cavity of the hearth; and O'Connor threw himself
into one of those cumbrons, tall-backed, and well-stuffed chairs, which
are in themselves more potent invitations to the sweet illusive
visitings from the world of fancy and of dreams than all the drugs or
weeds of eastern climes. Thus suffering all his material nature to rest
in absolute repose, he loosed at once the reins of imagination and
memory, and yielded up his mind luxuriously to their mingled realities
and illusions.

He may have been, perhaps, for two or three hours employed thus
listlessly in chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancy, when his
meditations were interrupted by a brisk step upon the passage leading
to the apartment in which he sate, instantly succeeded by as brisk a
knocking at the chamber door itself.

"Is this Mr. O'Connor's chamber?" inquired a voice of peculiar
richness, intonated not unpleasingly with a certain melodious
modification of the brogue, bespeaking a sort of passionate
_devil-may-carishness_ which they say in the good old times wrought
grievous havoc among womankind. The summons was promptly answered by an
invitation to enter; and forthwith the door opened, and a comely man
stepped into the room. The stranger might have seen some fifty or sixty
summers, or even more; for his was one of those joyous, good-humoured,
rubicund visages, upon which time vainly tries to write a wrinkle. His
frame was robust and upright, his stature tall, and there was in his
carriage something not exactly a swagger (for with all his oddities,
the stranger was evidently a gentleman), but a certain rollicking
carelessness, which irresistibly conveyed the character of a reckless,
head-long good-humour and daring, to which nothing could come amiss. In
the hale and jolly features, which many would have pronounced handsome,
were written, in characters which none could mistake, the prevailing
qualities of the man--a gay and sparkling eye, in which lived the very
soul of convivial jollity, harmonized right pleasantly with a smile, no
less of archness than _bonhomie_, and in the brow there was a certain
indescribable cock, which looked half pugnacious and half comic. On the
whole, the stranger, to judge by his outward man, was precisely the
person to take his share in a spree, be the same in joke or earnest--to
tell a good story--finish a good bottle--share his last guinea with
you--or blow your brains out, as the occasion might require. He was
arrayed in a full suit of regimentals, and taken for all in all, one
need hardly have desired a better sample of the dashing, light-hearted,
daredevil Irish soldier of more than a century since.

"Ah! Major O'Leary," cried O'Connor, starting from his seat, and
grasping the soldier's hand, "I am truly glad to see you; you are the
very man of all others I most require at this moment. I was just about
to have a fit of the blue devils."

"Blue devils!" exclaimed the major; "don't talk to a youngster like me
of any such infernal beings; but tell me how you are, every inch of
you, and what brings you here?"

"I never was better; and as to my business," replied O'Connor, "it is
too long and too dull a story to tell you just now; but in the
meantime, let us have a glass of Burgundy; mine host of the 'Cock and
Anchor' boasts a very peculiar cellar." So saying, O'Connor proceeded
to issue the requisite order.

"That does he, by my soul!" replied the major, with alacrity; "and for
that express reason I invariably make it a point to renew my friendly
intimacy with its contents whenever I visit the metropolis. But I can't
stay more than five minutes, so proceed to operations with all
dispatch."

"And why all this hurry?" inquired O'Connor. "Where need you go at this
hour?"

"Faith, I don't precisely know myself," rejoined the soldier; "but I've
a strong impression that my evil genius has contrived a scheme to
inveigle me into a cock-pit not a hundred miles away."

"I'm sorry for it, with all my heart, Major," replied O'Connor, "since
it robs me of your company."

"Nay, you must positively come along with me," resumed the major; "I
sip my Burgundy on these express conditions. Don't leave me at these
years without a mentor. I rely upon your prudence and experience; if
you turn me loose upon the town to-night, without a moral guide, upon
my conscience, you have a great deal to answer for. I may be fleeced in
a hell, or milled in a row; and if I fall in with female society, by
the powers of celibacy! I can't answer for the consequences."

"Sooth to say, Major," rejoined O'Connor, "I'm in no mood for mirth."

"Come, come! never look so glum," insisted his visitor. "Remember I
have arrived at years of _in_discretion, and must be looked after.
Man's life, my dear fellow, naturally divides itself into three great
stages; the first is that in which the youthful disciple is carefully
instructing his mind, and preparing his moral faculties, in silence,
for all sorts of villainy--this is the season of youth and innocence;
the second is that in which he _practises_ all kinds of rascality--and
this is the flower of manhood, or the prime of life; the third and last
is that in which he strives to make his soul--and this is the period of
dotage. Now, you see, my dear O'Connor, I have unfortunately arrived at
the prime of life, while you are still in the enjoyment of youth and
innocence; I am practising what you are plotting. You are,
unfortunately for yourself, a degree more sober than I; you can
therefore take care that I sin with due discretion--permit me to rob or
murder, without being robbed or murdered in return."

Here the major filled and quaffed another glass, and then continued,--

"In short, I am--to speak in all solemnity and sobriety--so drunk, that
it's a miracle how I mounted these rascally stairs without breaking my
neck. I have no distinct recollection of the passage, except that I
kissed some old hunks instead of the chamber-maid, and pulled his nose
in revenge. I solemnly declare I can neither walk nor think without
assistance; my heels and head are inclined to change places, and I
can't tell the moment the body politic may be capsized. I have no
respect in the world for my intellectual or physical endowments at this
particular crisis; my sight is so infernally acute that I see all
surrounding objects considerably augmented in number; my legs have
asserted their independence, and perform 'Sir Roger de Coverley,'
altogether unsolicited; and my memory and other small mental faculties
have retired for the night. Under those melancholy circumstances, my
dear fellow, you surely won't refuse me the consolation of your
guidance."

"Had not you better, my dear Major," said O'Connor, "remain with me
quietly here for the night, out of the reach of sharks and sharpers,
male and female? You shall have claret or Burgundy, which you
please--enough to fill a skin!"

"I can't hold more than a bottle additional," replied the major,
regretfully, "if I can even do that; so you see I'm bereft of domestic
resources, and must look abroad for occupation. The fact is, I expect
to meet one or two fellows whom I want to see, at the place I've named;
so if you can come along with me, and keep me from falling into the
gutters, or any other indiscretion by the way, upon my conscience, you
will confer a serious obligation on me."

O'Connor plainly perceived that although the major's statement had been
somewhat overcharged, yet that his admissions were not altogether
fanciful; there were in the gallant gentleman's face certain symptoms
of recent conviviality which were not to be mistaken--a perceptible
roll of the eye, and a slight screwing of the lips, which
peculiarities, along with the faintest possible approximation to a
hiccough, and a gentle see-saw vibration of his stalwart person, were
indications highly corroborative of the general veracity of his
confessions. Seeing that, in good earnest, the major was not precisely
in a condition to be trusted with the management of anything pertaining
to himself or others, O'Connor at once resolved to see him, if
possible, safely through his excursion, if after the discussion of the
wine which was now before them, he should persevere in his fancy for a
night ramble. They therefore sate down together in harmonious
fellowship, to discuss the flasks which stood upon the board.

O'Connor was about to fill his guest's glass for the tenth or twelfth
time, when the major suddenly ejaculated,--

"Halt! ground arms! I can no more. Why, you hardened young reprobate,
it's not to make me drunk you're trying? I must keep senses enough to
behave like a Christian at the cock-fight; and, upon my soul! I've very
little rationality to spare at this minute. Put on your hat, and come
without delay, before I'm fairly extinguished."

O'Connor accordingly donned his hat and cloak, and yielding the major
the double support of his arm on the one side, and of the banisters on
the other, he conducted him safely down the stairs, and with wonderful
steadiness, all things considered, they entered the street, whence,
under the major's direction, they pursued their way. After a silence of
a few minutes, that military functionary exclaimed, with much
gravity,--

"I'm a great social philosopher, a great observer, and one who looks
quite through the deeds of men. My dear boy, believe me, this country
is in the process of a great moral reformation; hospitality--which I
take to be the first, and the last, and the only one of all the virtues
of a bishop which is fit for the practice of a gentleman--hospitality,
my dear O'Connor, is rapidly approaching to a climax in this country. I
remember, when I was a little boy, a gentleman might pay a visit of a
week or so to another in the country, and be all the time nothing more
than tipsy--_tipsy_ merely. However, matters gradually improved, and
that stage which philosophers technically term simple drunkenness,
became the standard of hospitality. This passed away, and the sense of
the country, in its silent but irresistible operation, has substituted
_blind_ drunkenness; and in the prophetic spirit of sublime philosophy,
I foresee the arrival of that time when no man can escape the fangs of
hospitality upon any conditions short of brain fever or delirium
tremens."

As the major delivered this philosophic discourse, he led O'Connor
through several obscure streets and narrow lanes, till at length he
paused in one of the very narrowest and darkest before a dingy brick
house, whose lower windows were secured with heavy bars of iron. The
door, which was so incrusted with dirt and dust that the original paint
was hardly anywhere discernible, stood ajar, and within burned a feeble
and ominous light, so faint and murky, that it seemed fearful of
disclosing the deeds and forms which itself was forced to behold. Into
this dim and suspicious-looking place the major walked, closely
followed by O'Connor. In the hall he was encountered by a huge
savage-looking fellow, who raised his squalid form lazily from a bench
which rested against the wall at the further end, and in a low, gruff
voice, like the incipient growl of a roused watch-dog, inquired what
they wanted there.

"Why, Mr. Creigan, don't you know Major O'Leary?" inquired that
gentleman. "I and a friend have business here."

The man muttered something in the way of apology, and opening the dingy
lantern in which burned the wretched tallow candle which half lighted
the place, he snuffed it with his finger and thumb, and while so doing,
desired the major to proceed. Accordingly, with the precision of one
who was familiar with every turn of the place, the gallant officer led
O'Connor through several rooms, lighted in the same dim and shabby way,
into a corridor leading directly to the rearward of the house, and
connecting it with some other detached building. As they threaded this
long passage, the major turned towards O'Connor, who followed him, and
whispered,--

"Did you mark that ill-looking fellow in the hall? Poor Creigan!--a
gentleman!--would you think it?--a _gentleman_ by birth, and with a
snug property, too--four hundred good pounds a year, and more--all
gone, like last year's snow, chiefly here in backing mains of his own!
poor dog! I remember him one of the best dressed men on town, and now
he's fain to pick up a few shillings by the week in the place where he
lost his thousands; this is the state of man!"

As he spoke thus, they had reached the end of the passage. The major
opened the door which terminated the corridor, and thus displayed a
scene which, though commonplace enough in its ingredients, was,
nevertheless, in its _coup d'oeil_, sufficiently striking. In the
centre of a capacious and ill-finished chamber stood a circular
platform, with a high ledge running round it. This arena, some fourteen
feet in diameter, was surrounded by circular benches, which rose one
outside the other, in parallel tiers, to the wall. Upon these seats
were crowded some hundreds of men--a strange mixture; gentlemen of
birth and honour sate side by side with notorious swindlers; noblemen
with coalheavers; simpletons with sharks; the unkempt, greasy locks of
squalid destitution mingled in the curls of the patrician periwig;
aristocratic lace and embroidery were rubbed by the dusty shoulders of
draymen and potboys;--all these gross and glaring contrarieties
reconciled and bound together by one hellish sympathy. All sate locked
in breathless suspense, every countenance fixed in the hard lines of
intense, excited anxiety and vigilance; all leaned forward to gaze upon
the combat whose crisis was on the point of being determined. Those who
occupied the back seats had started up, and pressing forward, almost
crushed those in front of them to death. Every aperture in this living
pile was occupied by some eager, haggard, or ruffian face; and, spite
of all the pushing, and crowding, and bustling, all were silent, as if
the powers of voice and utterance were unknown among them.

The effect of this scene, so suddenly presented--the crowd of
ill-looking and anxious faces, the startling glare of light, and the
unexpected rush of hot air from the place--all so confounded him, that
O'Connor did not for some moments direct his attention to the object
upon which the gaze of the fascinated multitude was concentrated; when
he did so he beheld a spectacle, abstractedly, very disproportioned in
interest to the passionate anxiety of which it was the subject. Two
game cocks, duly trimmed, and having the long and formidable steel
weapons with which the humane ingenuity of "the fancy" supplies the
natural spur of the poor biped, occupied the centre of the circular
stage which we have described; one of the birds lay upon his back,
beneath the other, which had actually sent his spurs through and
through his opponent's neck. In this posture the wounded animal lay,
with his beak open, and the blood trickling copiously through it upon
the board. The victorious bird crowed loud and clear, and a buzz began
to spread through the spectators, as if the battle were already
determined, and suspense at an end. The "law" had just expired, and the
gentlemen whose business it was to _handle_ the birds were preparing to
withdraw them.

"Twenty to one on the grey cock," exclaimed a large, ill-looking
fellow, who sat close to the pit, clutching his arms in his brawny
hands, as if actually hugging himself with glee, while he gazed with an
exulting grin upon the combat, whose issue seemed now beyond the reach
of chance. The challenge was, of course, unaccepted.

"Fifty to one!" exclaimed the same person, still more ecstatically.
"One hundred to one--_two_ hundred to one!"

"I'll give you one guinea to two hundred," exclaimed perhaps the
coolest gambler in that select assembly, young Henry Ashwoode, who sat
also near the front.

"Done, Mr. Ashwoode--done with _you_; it's a bet, sir," said the same
ill-looking fellow.

"Done, sir," replied Ashwoode.

  [Illustration: "Again the conqueror crowed the shrill note of
                  victory."
                 _To face page 34_.]

Again the conqueror crowed the shrill note of victory, and all seemed
over, when, on a sudden, by one of those strange vicissitudes of which
the annals of the cock-pit afford so many examples, the dying bird--it
may be roused by the vaunting challenge of his antagonist--with one
convulsive spasm, struck both his spurs through and through the head of
his opponent, who dropped dead upon the table, while the wounded bird,
springing to his legs, flapped his wings, as if victory had never
hovered, and then as momentarily fell lifeless on the board, by this
last heroic feat winning a main on which many thousands of pounds
depended. A silence for a moment ensued, and then there followed the
loud exulting cheers of some, and the hoarse, bitter blasphemies of
others, clamorous expostulation, hoarse laughter, curses, congratulations,
and invectives--all mingled with the noise occasioned by those who came
in or went out, the shuffling and pounding of feet, in one torrentuous
and stunning volume of sound.

Young Ashwoode having secured and settled all his bets, shouldered his
way through the crowd, and with some difficulty, reached the door at
which Major O'Leary and O'Connor were standing.

"How do you do, uncle? Were you in the room when I took the two hundred
to one?" inquired the young man.

"By my conscience, I was, Hal, and wish you joy with all my heart. It
was a sporting bet on both sides, and as game a fight as the world ever
saw."

"I must be off," continued the young man. "I promised to look in at
Lady Stukely's to-night; but before I go, you must know they are all
affronted with you at the manor. The girls are positively outrageous,
and desired me to command your presence to-morrow on pain of
excommunication."

"Give my tender regards to them both," replied the major, "and assure
them that I will be proud to obey them. But don't you know my friend
O'Connor," he added, in a lower tone, "you are old acquaintances, I
believe?"

"Unless my memory deceives me, I have had the honour of meeting Mr.
O'Connor before," said the young man, with a cold bow, which was
returned by O'Connor with more than equal _hauteur_. "Recollect, uncle,
no excuses," added young Ashwoode, as he retreated from the
chamber--"you have promised to give to-morrow to the girls. Adieu."

"There goes as finished a specimen of a mad-cap, rake-helly young devil
as ever carried the name of Ashwoode or the blood of the O'Leary's,"
observed the uncle; "but come, we must look to the sport."

So saying, the major, exerting his formidable strength, and
accompanying his turbulent progress with a large distribution of
apologetic and complimentary speeches of the most high-flown kind,
shoved and jostled his way to a vacant place near the front of the
benches, and, seating himself there, began to give and take bets to a
large amount upon the next main. Tired of the noise, and nearly stifled
with the heat of the place, O'Connor, seeing that the major was
resolved to act independently of him, thought that he might as well
consult his own convenience as stay there to be stunned and suffocated
without any prospect of expediting the major's retreat; he therefore
turned about and retraced his steps through the passage which we have
mentioned. The grateful coolness of the air, and the lassitude induced
by the scene in which he had taken a part, though no very prominent
one, induced him to pause in the first room to which the passage, as we
have said, gave access; and happening to espy a bench in one of the
recesses of the windows, he threw himself upon it, thoroughly to
receive the visitings of the cool, hovering air. As he lay listless and
silently upon this rude couch, he was suddenly disturbed by a sound of
someone treading the yard beneath. A figure sprang across toward the
window; and almost instantaneously Larry Toole--for the moonlight
clearly revealed the features of the intruder--was presented at the
aperture, and with an energetic spring, accompanied by a no less
energetic, devotional ejaculation, that worthy vaulted into the
chamber, agitated, excited, and apparently at his wits' end.



CHAPTER VII.

THREE GRIM FIGURES IN A LONELY LANE--TWO QUEER GUESTS RIDING TO TONY
BLIGH'S--THE WATCHER IN DANGER--AND THE HIGHWAYMEN.


A liberal and unsolicited attention to the affairs of other people, was
one among the many amiable peculiarities of Mr. Laurence Toole: he had
hardly, therefore, seen the major and O'Connor fairly beyond the
threshold of the "Cock and Anchor," when he donned his cocked hat and
followed their steps, allowing, however, an interval sufficiently long
to secure himself against detection. Larry Toole well knew the purposes
to which the squalid mansion which we have described was dedicated, and
having listened for a few moments at the door, to allow his master and
his companion time to reach the inner sanctuary of vice and brutality,
whither it was the will of Major O'Leary to lead his reluctant friend,
this faithful squire entered at the half-open door, and began to
traverse the passage which we have before mentioned. He was not,
however, permitted long to do so undisturbed. The grim sentinel of
these unhallowed regions on a sudden upreared his towering proportions,
heaving his huge shoulders with a very unpleasant appearance of
preparation for an effort, and with two or three formidable strides,
brought himself up with the presumptuous intruder.

"What do _you_ want here--eh! you d----d scarecrow?" exclaimed the
porter, in a tone which made the very walls to vibrate.

Larry was too much astounded to reply--he therefore remained mute and
motionless.

"See, my good cove," observed the gaunt porter, in the same impressive
accents of admonition--"make yourself scarce, d'ye mind; and if you
want to see the pit, go round--we don't let potboys and pickpockets in
at this side--cut and run, or I'll have to give you a lift."

Larry was no poltroon; but another glance at the colossal frame of the
porter quelled effectually whatever pugnacious movements might have
agitated his soul; and the little man, having deigned one look of
infinite contempt, which told his antagonist, as plainly as any look
could do, that he owed his personal safety solely and exclusively to
the sublime and unmerited pity of Mr. Laurence Toole, that dignified
individual turned on his heel, and withdrew somewhat precipitately
through the door which he had just entered.

The porter grinned, rolled his quid luxuriously till it made the grand
tour of his mouth, shrugged his square shoulders, and burst into a
harsh chuckle. Such triumphs as the one he had just enjoyed, were the
only sweet drops which mingled in the bitter cup of his savage
existence. Meanwhile, our romantic friend, traversing one or two dark
lanes, made his way easily enough to the more public entrance of this
temple of fortune. The door which our friend Larry now approached lay
at the termination of a long and narrow lane, enclosed on each side
with dead walls of brick--at the far end towered the dark outline of
the building, and over the arched doorway burned a faint and dingy
light, without strength enough to illuminate even the bricks against
which it hung, and serving only in nights of extraordinary darkness as
a dim, solitary star, by which the adventurous night rambler might
shape his course. The moon, however, was now shining broad and clear
into the broken lane, revealing every inequality and pile of rubbish
upon its surface, and throwing one side of the enclosure into black,
impenetrable shadow. Without premeditation or choice, it happened that
our friend Larry was walking at the dark side of the lane, and shrouded
in the deep obscurity he advanced leisurely toward the doorway. As he
proceeded, his attention was arrested by a figure which presented
itself at the entrance of the building, accompanied by two others, as
it appeared, about to pass forth into the lane through which he himself
was moving. They were engaged in animated debate as they
approached--the conversation was conducted in low and earnest
tones--their gestures were passionate and sudden--their progress
interrupted by many halts--and the party evinced certain sinister
indications of uneasy vigilance and caution, which impressed our friend
with a dark suspicion of mischief, which was strengthened by his
recognition of two of the persons composing the little group. His
curiosity was irresistibly piqued, and he instinctively paused, lest
the sound of his advancing steps should disturb the conference, and
more than half in the undefined hope that he might catch the substance
of their conversation before his presence should be detected. In this
object he was perfectly successful.

In the form which first offered itself, he instantly detected the
well-known proportions and features of young Ashwoode's groom, who had
attended his master into town; and in company with this fellow stood a
person whom Larry had just as little difficulty in recognizing as a
ruffian who had twice escaped the gallows by the critical interposition
of fortune--once by a flaw in the indictment, and again through lack of
sufficient evidence in law--each time having stood his trial on a
charge of murder. It was not very wonderful, then, that this startling
companionship between his old fellow-servant and Will Harris (or, as he
was popularly termed, "Brimstone Bill") should have piqued the
curiosity of so inquisitive a person as Larry Toole.

In company with these worthies was a third, wrapped in a heavy
riding-coat, and who now and then slightly took part in the
conversation. They all talked in low, earnest whispers, casting many a
stealthy glance backward as they advanced through the dim avenue toward
our curious friend.

As the party approached, Larry ensconced himself in the recess formed
by the projection of two dilapidated brick piers, between which hung a
crazy door, and in whose front there stood a mound of rubbish some
three feet in height. In such a position he not unreasonably thought
himself perfectly secure.

"Why, what the devil ails you now, you cursed cowardly ninny,"
whispered Brimstone Bill, through his set teeth--"what can happen
_you_, win or lose?--turn up black, or turn up red, is it not all one
to you, you _mouth_, you? _Your_ carcase is safe and sound--then what
do you funk for now? Rouse yourself, you d----d idiot, or I'll drive a
brace of lead pellets through your brains--rouse yourself!"

Thus speaking, he shook the groom roughly by the collar.

"Stop, Bill--hands off," muttered the man, sulkily--"I'm not
funking--you know I'm not; but I don't want to see him _finished_--I
don't want to see him murdered when there's no occasion for it--there's
no great harm in that; we want his _ribben_, not his blood; there's no
profit in taking his life."

"Booby! listen to me," replied the ruffian, in the same tone of intense
impatience. "What do _I_ want with his life any more than you do?
Nothing. Do not I wish to do the thing genteelly as much as you? He
shall not lose a drop of blood, nor his skin have a scratch, if he
knows how to behave and be a good boy. Bah! we need but show him the
_lead towels_, and the job's done. Look you, I and Jack will sit in the
private room of the 'Bleeding Horse.' Old Tony's a trump, and asks no
questions; so, as you pass, give the window a skelp of the whip, and
we'll be out in the snapping of a flint. Leave the rest to us. You have
your instructions, you _kedger_, so act up to them, and the devil
himself can't spoil our sport."

"You may look out for us, then," said the servant, "in less than two
hours. He never stays late at Lady Stukely's, and he must be home
before two o'clock."

"Do not forget to grease the hammers," suggested the fellow in the
heavy coat.

"He doesn't carry pistols to-night," replied the attendant.

"So much the better--all _my_ luck," exclaimed Brimstone--"I would not
swap luck with the chancellor."

"The devil's children, they say," observed the gentleman in the large
coat, "have the devil's luck."

These were the last words Larry Toole could distinguish as the party
moved onward. He ventured, however, although with grievous tremors, to
peep out of his berth to ascertain the movements of the party. They all
stopped at a distance of some twenty or thirty yards from the spot
where he crouched, and for a time appeared again absorbed in earnest
debate. On a sudden, however, the fellow in the riding-coat, having
frequently looked suspiciously up the lane in which they stood, stooped
down, and, picking up a large stone, hurled it with his whole force in
the direction of the embrasure in which Larry was lurking. The missile
struck the projecting pier within a yard of that gentleman's head, with
so much force that the stone burst into fragments and descended in a
shower of splinters about his ears. This astounding salute was
instantly followed by an occurrence still more formidable--for the
ruffian, not satisfied with the test already applied, strode up in
person to the doorway in which Larry had placed himself. It was well
for that person that he was sheltered in front by the mass of rubbish
which we have mentioned: at the foot of this he lay coiled, not daring
even to breathe; every moment expecting to feel the cold point of the
villain's sword poking against his ribs, and half inclined to start
upon his feet and shout for help, although conscious that to do so
would scarcely leave him a chance for his life. The suspicions of the
wretch were, fortunately for Larry, ill-directed. He planted one foot
upon the heap of loose materials which, along with the deep shadow,
constituted poor Mr. Toole's only safeguard; and while the stones which
his weight dislodged rolled over that prostrate person, he pushed open
the door and gazed into the yard, lest any inquisitive ear or eye might
have witnessed more than was consistent with the safety of the
confederates of Brimstone Bill. The fellow was satisfied, and returned
whistling, with affected carelessness, towards his comrades.

More dead than alive, Larry remained mute and motionless for many
minutes, not daring to peep forth from his hiding-place; when at length
he mustered courage to do so, he saw the two robbers still together,
and again shrunk back into his retreat. Luckily for the poor wight, the
fellow who had looked into the yard left the door unclosed, which,
after a little time perceiving, Larry glided stealthily in on all
fours, and in a twinkling sprang into the window at which his master
lay, as we have already recorded.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE WARNING--SHOWING HOW LARRY TOOLE FARED--WHOM HE SAW AND WHAT HE
SAID--AND HOW MUCH GOOD AND HOW LITTLE HE DID--AND MOREOVER RELATING
HOW SOMEBODY WAS LAID IN THE MIRE--AND HOW HENRY ASHWOODE PUT HIS FOOT
IN THE STIRRUP.


Flurried and frightened as Larry was, his agitation was not strong
enough to overcome in him the national, instinctive abhorrence of the
character of an informer. To the close interrogatories of his master,
he returned but vague and evasive answers. A few dark hints he threw
out as to the cause of his alarm, but preserved an impenetrable silence
respecting alike its particular nature and the persons of whose
participation in the scheme he was satisfied.

In language incoherent and nearly unintelligible from excitement, he
implored O'Connor to allow him to absent himself for about one hour,
promising the most important results, in case his request was complied
with, and vowing upon his return to tell him everything about the
matter from beginning to end.

Seeing the agonized earnestness of the man, though wholly uninformed of
the cause of his uneasiness, which Larry constantly refused to divulge,
O'Connor granted him the permission which he desired, and both left the
building together. O'Connor pursued his way to the "Cock and Anchor,"
where, restored to his chamber and to solitude, he abandoned himself
once more to the current of his wayward thoughts.

Our friend Larry, however, was no sooner disengaged from his master,
than he began, at his utmost speed, to thread the narrow and
complicated lanes and streets which lay between the haunt of profligacy
which we have just described, and the eastern extremity of the city.
After an interrupted run of nearly half an hour through pitchy dark and
narrow streets, he emerged into Stephen's Green; at the eastern side of
which, among other buildings of lesser note, there then stood, and
perhaps (with a new face, and some slight external changes) still
stands, a large and handsome mansion. Toward this building, conspicuous
in the distance by the red glare of dozens of links and torches which
flared and flashed outside, and by the gay light streaming from its
many windows, Larry made his way. Too eager and hurried to pass along
the sides of the square by the common road, he clambered over the
broken wall which surrounded it, plunged through the broad trench, and
ran among the deep grass and rank weeds, now heavy with the dews of
night; over the broad area he pursued his way, startling the quiet
cattle from their midnight slumbers, and hastening rather than abating
his speed, as he drew near to the termination of his hurried mission.
As he approached, the long dark train of carriages, every here and
there lighted by some flaming link still unextinguished, and surrounded
by crowds of idle footmen, sufficiently indicated the scene of Lady
Stukely's hospitalities. In a moment Larry had again crossed the fences
which enclosed the square, and passing the broad road among the
carriages, chairs, and lackeys, he sprang up the steps of the house,
and thundered lustily at the hall-door. It was opened by a gruff and
corpulent porter with a red face and majestic demeanour, who, having
learned from Larry that he had an important message for Mr. Henry
Ashwoode, desired him, in as few words as possible, to step into the
hall. The official then swung the massive door to, rolled himself into
his well-cushioned throne, and having scanned Larry's proportions for a
minute or two with one eye, which he kept half open for such purposes,
he ejaculated--

"Mr. Finley, I say, Mr. Finley, here's one with a message upwards."
Having thus delivered himself, he shut down his open eye, screwed his
eyebrows, and became absorbed in abstruse meditation. Meanwhile, Mr.
Finley, in person arrayed in a rich livery, advanced languidly toward
Larry Toole, throwing into his face a dreamy and supercilious
expression, while with one hand he faintly fanned himself with a white
pocket handkerchief.

"Your most obedient servant to command," drawled the footman, as he
advanced. "What can I do, my good soul, to _obleege_ you?"

"I only want to see the young master--that's young Mr. Ashwoode,"
replied Larry, "for one minute, and that's all."

The footman gazed upon him for a moment with a languid smile, and
observed in the same sleepy tone, "Absolutely impossible--_amposseeble_,
as they say at the Pallais Royal."

"But, blur an' agers," exclaimed Larry, "it's a matther iv life an'
death, robbery an' murdher."

"Bloody murder!" echoed the man in a sweet, low voice, and with a stare
of fashionable abstraction.

"Well, tear an' 'oun's," cried Larry, almost beside himself with
impatience, "if you won't bring him down to me, will you even as much
as carry him a message?"

"To say the truth, and upon my honour," replied the man, "I can't
engage to climb up stairs just now, they are so devilish fatiguing.
Don't you find them so?"

The question was thrown out in that vacant, inattentive way which seems
to dispense with an answer.

"By my soul!" rejoined Larry, almost crying with vexation, "it's a hard
case. Do you mane to tell me, you'll neither bring him down to me nor
carry him up a message?"

"You have, my excellent fellow," replied the footman, placidly,
"precisely conveyed my meaning."

"By the hokey!" cried Larry, "you're fairly breaking my heart. In the
divil's name, can you as much as let me stop here till he's comin'
down?"

"Absolutely impossible," replied the footman, in the same dulcet and
deliberate tone. "It is indeed _amposseeble_, as the Parisians have it.
You _must_ be aware, my good old soul, that you're in a positive
pickle. You are, pardon me, my excellent friend, very dirty and very
disgusting. You must therefore go out in a few moments into the fresh
air." At any other moment, such a speech would have infallibly provoked
Mr. Toole's righteous and most rigorous vengeance; but he was now too
completely absorbed in the mission which he had undertaken to suffer
personal considerations to have a place in his bosom.

"Will you, then," he ejaculated desperately, "will you as much as give
him a message yourself, when he's comin' down?"

"What message?" drawled the lackey.

"Tell him, for the love of God, to take the _old_ road home, by the
seven sallies," replied Larry. "Will you give him that message, if it
isn't too long?"

"I have a wretched memory for messages," observed the footman, as he
leisurely opened the door--"a perfect sieve: but should he catch my eye
as he passes, I'll endeavour, upon my honour; good night--adieu!"

As he thus spoke, Larry had reached the threshold of the door, which
observing, the polished footman, with a _nonchalant_ and easy air,
slammed the hall-door, thereby administering upon Larry's back,
shoulders, and elbows, such a bang as to cause Mr. Toole to descend the
flight of steps at a pace much more marvellous to the spectators than
agreeable to himself. Muttering a bitter curse upon his exquisite
acquaintance, Larry took his stand among the expectants in the street;
there resolved to wait and watch for young Ashwoode, and to give him
the warning which so nearly concerned his safety.

Meanwhile, Lady Stukely's drawing-rooms were crowded by the gay, the
fashionable, and the frivolous, of all ages. Young Ashwoode stood
behind his wealthy hostess's chair, while she played quadrille, scarce
knowing whether she won or lost, for Henry Ashwoode had never been so
fascinating before. Lady Stukely was a delicate, die-away lady, not
very far from sixty; the natural blush upon her nose outblazoned the
rouge upon her cheeks; several very long teeth--"ivory and ebon
alternately"--peeped roguishly from beneath her upper lip, which her
ladyship had a playful trick of screwing down, to conceal them--a trick
which made her ladyship's smile rather a surprising than an attractive
exhibition. It is but justice, however, to admit that she had a pair of
very tolerable eyes, with which she executed the most masterly
evolutions. For the rest, there having existed a very considerable
disparity in years between herself and her dear deceased, Sir Charles
Stukely, who had expired at the mature age of ninety, more than a year
before, she conceived herself still a very young, artless, and
interesting girl; and under this happy hallucination she was more than
half inclined to return in good earnest the disinterested affection of
Henry Ashwoode.

There, too, was old Lord Aspenly, who had, but two days before,
solicited and received Sir Richard Ashwoode's permission to pay his
court to his beautiful daughter, Mary. There, jerking and shrugging and
grimacing, he hobbled through the rooms, all wrinkles and rappee;
bandying compliments and repartees, flirting and fooling, and beyond
measure enchanted with himself, while every interval in frivolity and
noise was filled up with images of his approaching nuptials and
intended bride, while she, poor girl, happily unconscious of all their
plans, was spared, for that night, the pangs and struggles which were
hereafter but too severely to try her heart.

'Twere needless to enumerate noble peers, whose very titles are now
unknown--poets, who alas! were mortal--men of promise, who performed
nothing--clever young men, who grew into stupid old ones--and
millionaires, whose money perished with them; we shall not, therefore,
weary the reader by describing Lady Stukely's guests; let it suffice to
mention that Henry Ashwoode left the rooms with young Pigwiggynne, of
Bolton's regiment of dragoons, and one of Lord Wharton's aides-de-camp.
This circumstance is here recorded because it had an effect in
producing the occurrences which we have to relate by-and-by; for young
Pigwiggynne having partaken somewhat freely of Lady Stukely's wines,
and being unusually exhilarated, came forth from the hall-door to
assist Ashwoode in procuring a chair, which he did with a good deal
more noise and blasphemy than was strictly necessary. Our friend Larry
Toole, who had patiently waited the egress of his _quondam_ young
master, no sooner beheld him than he hastened to accost him, but
Pigwiggynne being, as we have said, in high spirits and unusual good
humour, cut short poor Larry's address by jocularly knocking him on the
head with a heavy walking-cane--a pleasantry which laid that person
senseless upon the pavement. The humorist passed on with an
exhilarating crow, after the manner of a cock; and had not a
matter-of-fact chairman drawn Mr. Toole from among the coach-wheels
where the joke had happened to lay him, we might have been saved the
trouble of recording the subsequent history of that very active member
of society. Meanwhile, young Ashwoode was conveyed in a chair to a
neighbouring fashionable hotel, where, having changed his suit, and
again equipped himself for the road, he mounted his horse, and followed
by his treacherous groom, set out at a brisk pace upon his hazardous,
and as it turned out, eventful night-ride toward the manor of Morley
Court.



CHAPTER IX.

THE "BLEEDING HORSE"--HOLLANDS AND PIPES FOR TWO--EVERY BULLET HAS ITS
BILLET.


At the time in which the events that we have undertaken to record took
place, there stood at the southern extremity of the city, near the
point at which Camden Street now terminates, a small, old-fashioned
building, something between an ale-house and an inn. It occupied the
roadside by no means unpicturesquely; one gable jutted into the road,
with a projecting window, which stood out from the building like a
glass box held together by a massive frame of wood; and commanded by
this projecting gable, and a few yards in retreat, but facing the road,
was the inn door, over which hung a painted panel, representing a white
horse, out of whose neck there spouted a crimson cascade, and
underneath, in large letters, the traveller was informed that this was
the genuine old "Bleeding Horse." Old enough, in all conscience, it
appeared to be, for the tiled roof, except where the ivy clustered over
it, was crowded with weeds of many kinds, and the boughs of the huge
trees which embowered it had cracked and shattered one of the cumbrous
chimney-stacks, and in many places it was evident that but for the
timely interposition of the saw and the axe, the giant limbs of the old
timber would, in the gradual increase of years, have forced their way
through the roof and the masonry itself--a tendency sufficiently
indicated by sundry indentures and rude repairs in those parts of the
building most exposed to such casualties. Upon the night in which the
events that are recorded in the immediately preceding chapters
occurred, two horsemen rode up to this inn, and leisurely entering the
stable yard, dismounted, and gave their horses in charge to a ragged
boy who acted as hostler, directing him with a few very impressive
figures of rhetoric, on no account to loosen girth or bridle, or to
suffer the beasts to stir one yard from the spot where they stood. This
matter settled, they entered the house. Both were muffled; the one--a
large, shambling fellow--wore a capacious riding-coat; the other--a
small, wiry man--was wrapped in a cloak; both wore their hats pressed
down over their brows, and had drawn their mufflers up, so as to
conceal the lower part of the face. The lesser of the two men, leaving
his companion in the passage, opened a door, within which were a few
fellows drowsily toping, and one or two asleep. In a chair by the fire
sat Tony Bligh, the proprietor of the "Bleeding Horse," a middle-aged
man, rather corpulent, as pale as tallow, and with a sly, ugly squint.
The little man in the cloak merely introduced his head and shoulders,
and beckoned with his thumb. The signal, though scarcely observed by
one other of the occupants of the room, was instantly and in silence
obeyed by the landlord, who, casting one uneasy glance round, glided
across the floor, and was in the passage almost as soon as the
gentleman in the cloak.

"Here, Tony, boy," whispered the man, as the innkeeper approached,
"fetch us a pint of Hollands, a couple of pipes, and a glim; but first
turn the key in this door here, and come yourself, do ye mind?"

Tony squeezed the speaker's arm in token of acquiescence, and turning a
key gently in the lock, he noiselessly opened the door which Brimstone
Bill had indicated, and the two cavaliers strode into the dark and
vacant chamber. Brimstone walked to the window, pushed open the
casement, and leaned out. The beautiful moon was shining above the old
and tufted trees which lined the quiet road; he looked up and down the
shaded avenue, but nothing was moving upon it, save the varying shadows
as the night wind swung the branches to and fro. He listened, but no
sound reached his ears, excepting the rustling and moaning of the
boughs, through which the breeze was fitfully soughing.

Scarcely had he drawn back again into the room, when Tony returned with
the refreshments which the gentleman had ordered, and with a dark
lantern enclosing a lighted candle.

"Right, old cove," said Bill. "I see you hav'n't forgot the trick of
the trade. Who are your _pals_ inside?"

"Three of them sleep here to-night," replied Tony. "They're all quiet
coves enough, such as doesn't hear nor see any more than they ought."

The two fellows filled a pipe each, and lighted them at the lantern.

"What mischief are you after now, Bill?" inquired the host, with a
peculiar leer.

"Why should _I_ be after any mischief," replied Brimstone jocularly,
"any more than a sucking dove, eh? Do I look like mischief to-night,
old tickle-pitcher--do I?"

He accompanied the question with a peculiar grin, which mine host
answered by a prolonged wink of no less peculiar significance.

"Well, Tony boy," rejoined Bill, "maybe I _am_ and maybe I
_ain't_--that's the way: but mind, you did not see a stim of me, nor of
_him_, to-night (glancing at his comrade), nor ever, for that matter.
But you did see two ill-looking fellows not a bit like us; and I have a
notion that these two chaps will manage to get into a sort of shindy
before an hour's over, and then _mizzle_ at once; and if all goes well,
your hand shall be crossed with gold to-night."

"Bill, Bill," said the landlord, with a smile of exquisite relish, and
drawing his hand coaxingly over the man's forehead, so as to smooth the
curls of his periwig nearly into his eyes, "you're just the same old
dodger--you are the devil's own bird--you have not cast a feather."

It is hard to say how long this tender scene might have continued, had
not the other ruffian knocked his knuckles sharply on the table, and
cried--

"Hist! brother--_chise_ it--enough fooling--I hear a horse-shoe on the
road."

All held their breath, and remained motionless for a time. The fellow
was, however, mistaken. Bill again advanced to the window, and gazed
intently through the long vista of trees.

"There's not a bat stirring," said he, returning to the table, and
filling out successively two glasses of spirits, he emptied them both.
"Meanwhile, Tony," continued he, "get back to your company. Some of the
fellows may be poking their noses into this place. If you don't hear
_from_ me, at all events you'll hear of me before an hour. Hop the
twig, boy, and keep all hard in for a bit--skip."

With a roguish grin and a shake of the fist, honest Tony, not caring to
dispute the commands of his friend, of whose temper he happened to know
something, stealthily withdrew from the room, where we, too, shall for
a time leave these worthy gentlemen of the road vigilantly awaiting the
approach of their victim.


Larry Toole had no sooner recovered his senses--which was in less than
a minute--than he at once betook himself to the "Cock and Anchor,"
resolved, as the last resource, to inform O'Connor of the fact that an
attack was meditated. Accordingly, he hastened with very little
ceremony into the presence of his master, told him that young Ashwoode
was to be waylaid upon the road, near the "Bleeding Horse," and
implored him, without the loss of a moment, to ride in that direction,
with a view, if indeed it might not already be too late, to intercept
his passage, and forewarn him of the danger which awaited him.

Without waiting to ask one useless question, O'Connor, before five
minutes were passed, was mounted on his trusty horse, and riding at a
hard pace through the dark streets towards the point of danger.

Meanwhile, young Ashwoode, followed by his mounted attendant, proceeded
at a brisk trot in the direction of the manor; his brain filled with a
thousand busy thoughts and schemes, among which, not the least
important, were sundry floating calculations as to the probable and
possible amount of Lady Stukely's jointure, as well as some conjectures
respecting the _maximum_ duration of her ladyship's life. Involved in
these pleasing ruminations, sometimes crossed by no less agreeable
recollections, in which the triumphs of vanity and the successes of the
gaming-table had their share, he had now reached that shadowy and
silent part of the road at which stood the little inn, embowered in the
great old trees, and peeping forth with a sort of humble and friendly
aspect, but ill-according with the dangerous designs it served to
shelter.

Here the servant, falling somewhat further behind, brought his horse
close under the projecting window of the inn as he passed, and with a
sharp cut of his whip gave the concerted signal. Before sixty seconds
had elapsed, two well-mounted cavaliers were riding at a hard gallop in
their wake. At this headlong pace, the foremost of the two horsemen had
passed Ashwoode by some dozen yards, when, checking his horse so
suddenly as to throw him back upon his haunches, he wheeled him round,
and plunging the spurs deep into his flanks, with two headlong springs,
he dashed him madly upon the young man's steed, hurling the beast and
his rider to the earth. Tremendous as was the fall, young Ashwoode,
remarkable alike for personal courage and activity, was in a moment
upon his feet, with his sword drawn, ready to receive the assault of
the ruffian.

"Let go your skiver--drop it, you greenhorn," cried the fellow,
hoarsely, as he wheeled round his plunging horse, and drew a pistol
from the holster, "or, by the eternal ----, I'll blow your head into
dust!"

Young Ashwoode attempted to seize the reins of the fellow's horse, and
made a desperate pass at the rider.

"Take it, then," cried the fellow, thrusting the muzzle of the pistol
into Ashwoode's face and drawing the trigger. Fortunately for Ashwoode,
the pistol missed fire, and almost at the same moment the rapid clang
of a horse's hoofs, accompanied by the loud shout of menace, broke
startlingly upon his ear. Happy was this interruption for Henry
Ashwoode, for, stunned and dizzy from the shock, he at that moment
tottered, and in the next was prostrate upon the ground. "Blowed, by
----!" cried the villain, furiously, as the unwelcome sounds reached
his ears, and dashing the spurs into his horse, he rode at a furious
gallop down the road towards the country. This scene occupied scarce
six seconds in the acting. Brimstone Bill, who had but a moment before
come up to the succour of his comrade, also heard the rapid approach of
the galloping hoofs upon the road; he knew that before he could count
fifty seconds the new comer would have arrived. A few moments, however,
he thought he could spare--important moments they turned out to be to
one of the party. Bill kept his eye steadily fixed upon the point some
three or four hundred yards distant at which he knew the horseman whose
approach was announced must first appear.

In that brief moment, the cool-headed villain had rapidly calculated
the danger of the groom's committing his accomplices through want of
coolness and presence of mind, should he himself, as was not unlikely,
become suspected. The groom's pistols were still loaded, and he had
taken no part in the conflict. Brimstone Bill fixed a stern glance upon
his companion while all these and other thoughts flashed like lightning
across his brain.

"Darby," said he, hurriedly, to the man who sat half-stupefied in the
saddle close beside him, "blaze off the lead towels--crack them off, I
say."

Bill impatiently leaned forward, and himself drew the pistols from the
groom's saddle-bow; he fired one of them in the air--he cocked the
other. "This dolt will play the devil with us all," thought he, looking
with a peculiar expression at the bewildered servant. With one hand he
grasped him by the collar to steady his aim, and with the other,
suddenly thrusting the pistol to his ear, and drawing the trigger, he
blew the wretched man's head into fragments like a potsherd; and
wheeling his horse's head about, he followed his comrade pell-mell,
beating the sparks in showers from the stony road at every plunge.

All this occurred in fewer moments than it has taken us lines to
describe it; and before our friend Brimstone Bill had secured the odds
which his safety required, O'Connor was thundering at a furious gallop
within less than a hundred yards of him. Bill saw that his pursuer was
better mounted than he--to escape, therefore, by a fair race was out of
the question. His resolution was quickly taken. By a sudden and
powerful effort he reined in his horse at a single pull, and, with one
rearing wheel, brought him round upon his antagonist; at the same time,
drawing one of the large pistols from the saddle-bow, he rested it
deliberately upon his bridle-arm, and fired at his pursuer, now within
twenty yards of him. The ball passed so close to O'Connor's head that
his ear rang shrilly with the sound of it for hours after. They had now
closed; the highwayman drew his second pistol from the holster, and
each fired at the same instant. O'Connor's shot was well directed--it
struck his opponent in the bridle-arm, a little below the shoulder,
shattering the bone to splinters. With a hoarse shriek of agony, the
fellow, scarce knowing what he did, forced the spurs into his horse's
sides; and the animal reared, wheeled, and bore its rider at a reckless
speed in the direction which his companion had followed.

It was well for him that the shot, which at the same moment he had
discharged, had not been altogether misdirected. O'Connor, indeed,
escaped unscathed, but the ball struck his horse between the eyes, and
piercing the brain, the poor beast reared upright and fell dead upon
the road. Extricating himself from the saddle, O'Connor returned to the
spot where young Ashwoode and the servant still lay. Stunned and dizzy
with the fall which he had had, the excitement of actual conflict was
no sooner over, than Ashwoode sank back into a state of insensibility.
In this condition O'Connor found him, pale as death, and apparently
lifeless. Raising him against the grassy bank at the roadside, and
having cast some water from a pool close by into his face, he saw him
speedily recover.

"Mr. O'Connor," said Ashwoode, as soon as he was sufficiently restored,
"you have saved my life--how can I thank you?"

"Spare your thanks, sir," replied O'Connor, haughtily; "for any man I
would have done as much--for anyone bearing your name I would do much
more. Are you hurt, sir?"

"O'Connor, I have done you much injustice," said the young man,
betrayed for the moment into something like genuine feeling. "You must
forget and forgive it--I know your feelings respecting others of my
family--henceforward I will be your friend--do not refuse my hand."

"Henry Ashwoode," replied O'Connor, "I take your hand--gladly
forgetting all past causes of resentment--but I want no vows of
friendship, which to-morrow you may regret. Act with regard to me
henceforward as if this night had not been--for I tell you truly again,
that I would have done as much for the meanest peasant breathing as I
have done to-night for you; and once more I pray you tell me, are you
much hurt?"

"Nothing, nothing," replied Ashwoode--"merely a fall such as I have had
a thousand times after the hounds. It has made my head swim
confoundedly; but I'll soon be steady. What, in the meantime, has
become of honest Darby? If I mistake not, I see his horse browsing
there by the roadside."

A few steps showed them what seemed a bundle of clothes lying heaped
upon the road; they approached it--it was the body of the servant.

"Get up, Darby--get up, man," cried Ashwoode, at the same time pressing
the prostrate figure with his boot. It had been lying with the back
uppermost, and in a half-kneeling attitude; it now, however, rolled
round, and disclosed, in the bright moonlight, the hideous aspect of
the murdered man--the head a mere mass of ragged flesh and bone,
shapeless and blackened, and hollow as a shell. Horror-struck at the
sight, they turned in silence away, and having secured the two horses,
they both mounted and rode together back to the little inn, where,
having procured assistance, the body of the wretched servant was
deposited. Young Ashwoode and O'Connor then parted, each on his
respective way.



CHAPTER X.

THE MASTER OF MORLEY COURT AND THE LITTLE GENTLEMAN IN
BOTTLE-GREEN--THE BARONET'S DAUGHTER--AND THE TWO CONSPIRATORS.


Encounters such as those described in the last chapter were, it is
needless to say, much more common a hundred and thirty years ago than
they are now. In fact, it was unsafe alike in town and country to stir
abroad after dark in any district affording wealth and aristocracy
sufficient to tempt the enterprise of _professional_ gentlemen. If
London and its environs, with all their protective advantages, were,
nevertheless, so infested with desperadoes as to render its very
streets and most frequented ways perilous to pass through during the
hours of night, it is hardly to be wondered at that Dublin, the capital
of a rebellious and semi-barbarous country--haunted by hungry
adventurers, who had lost everything in the revolutionary wars--with a
most notoriously ineffective police, and a rash and dissolute
aristocracy, with a great deal more money and a great deal less caution
than usually fall to the lot of our gentry of the present day--should
have been pre-eminently the scene of midnight violence and adventure.
The continued frequency of such occurrences had habituated men to think
very lightly of them; and the feeble condition of the civil executive
almost uniformly secured the impunity of the criminal. We shall not,
therefore, weary the reader by inviting his attention to the formal
investigation which was forthwith instituted; it is enough for all
purposes to record that, like most other investigations of the kind at
that period, it ended in--just nothing.

Instead, then, of attending inquests and reading depositions, we must
here request the gentle reader to accompany us for a brief space into
the dressing-room of Sir Richard Ashwoode, where, upon the morning
following the events which in our last we have detailed, the
aristocratic invalid lay extended upon a well-cushioned sofa, arrayed
in a flowered silk dressing-gown, lined with crimson, and with a velvet
cap upon his head. He was apparently considerably beyond sixty--a
slightly and rather an elegantly made man, with thin, anxious features,
and a sallow complexion: his head rested upon his hand, and his eyes
wandered with an air of discontented abstraction over the fair
landscape which his window commanded. Before him was placed a small
table, with all the appliances of an elegant breakfast; and two or
three books and pamphlets were laid within reach of his hand. A little
way from him sate his beautiful child, Mary Ashwoode, paler than usual,
though not less lovely--for the past night had been to her one of
fevered excitement, griefs, and fears. There she sate, with her work
before her, and while her small hands plied their appointed task, her
soft, dark eyes wandered often with sweet looks of affection toward the
reclining form of that old haughty and selfish man, her father.

The silence had continued long, for the old man's temper might not,
perhaps, have brooked an interruption of his ruminations, although, if
the sour and spited expression of his face might be trusted, his
thoughts were not the most pleasant in the world. The train of
reflection, whatever it might have been, was interrupted by the
entrance of a servant, bearing in his hand a note, with which he
approached Sir Richard, but with that air of nervous caution with which
one might be supposed to present a sandwich to a tiger.

"Why the devil, sirrah, do you pound the floor so!" cried Sir Richard,
turning shortly upon the man as he advanced, and speaking in sharp and
bitter accents. "What's that you've got?--a note?--take it back, you
blockhead--I'll not touch it--it's some rascally scrap of dunning
paper--get out of my sight, sirrah."

"An it please you, sir," replied the man, deferentially, "it comes from
Lord Aspenly."

"Eh! oh! ah!" exclaimed Sir Richard, raising himself upon the sofa, and
extending his hand with alacrity. "Here, give it to me; so you may go,
sir--but stay, does a messenger wait?--ask particularly from me how his
lordship does, do you mind? and let the man have refreshment; go,
sirrah, go--begone!"

Sir Richard then took the note, broke the seal, and read the contents
through, evidently with considerable satisfaction. Having completed the
perusal of the note twice over, with a smile of unusual gratification,
tinctured, perhaps, with the faintest possible admixture of ridicule,
Sir Richard turned toward his daughter with more real cheerfulness than
she had seen him exhibit for years before.

"Mary, my good child," said he, "this note announces the arrival here,
on to-morrow, of my old, or rather, my most _particular_ friend, Lord
Aspenly; he will pass some days with us--days which we must all
endeavour to make as agreeable to him as possible. You look--you _do_
look extremely well and pretty to-day; come here and kiss me, child."

Overjoyed at this unwonted manifestation of affection, the girl cast
her work away, and with a beating heart and light step, she ran to her
father's side, threw her arms about his neck, and kissed him again and
again, in happy unconsciousness of all that was passing in the mind of
him she so fondly caressed.

The door again opened, and the same servant once more presented
himself.

"What do you come to plague me about _now_?" inquired the master,
sharply; recovering, in an instant, his usual peevish manner--"What's
this you've got?--what _is_ it?"

"A card, sir," replied the man, at the same time advancing the salver
on which it lay within reach of the languid hand of his master.

"Mr. Audley--Mr. Audley," repeated Sir Richard, as he read the card; "I
never heard of the man before, in the course of my life; I know nothing
about him--nothing--and care as little. Pray what is _he_ pestering
about?--what does he want here?"

"He requests permission to see you, sir," replied the man.

"Tell him, with my compliments, to go to hell!" rejoined the
invalid;--"Or, stay," he added, after a moment's pause--"what does he
look like?--is he well or ill-dressed?--old or young?"

"A middle-aged man, sir; rather well-dressed," answered the servant.

"He did not mention his business?" asked Sir Richard.

"No, sir," replied the man; "but he said that it was very important,
and that you would be glad to see him."

"Show him up, then," said Sir Richard, decisively.

The servant accordingly bowed and departed.

"A stranger!--a gentleman!--and come to me upon important and pleasant
business," muttered the baronet, musingly--"important and
pleasant!--Can my old, cross-grained brother-in-law have made a
favourable disposition of his property, and--and--died!--that were,
indeed, news worth hearing; too much luck to happen me, though--no, no,
it can't be--it can't be."

Nevertheless, he thought it _might_ be; and thus believing, he awaited
the entrance of his visitor with extreme impatience. This suspense,
however, was not of long duration; the door opened, and the servant
announced Mr. Audley--a dapper little gentleman, in grave habiliments
of bottle-green cloth; in person somewhat short and stout; and in
countenance rather snub-featured and rubicund, but bearing an
expression in which good-humour was largely blended with
self-importance. This little person strutted briskly into the room.

"Hem!--Sir Richard Ashwoode, I presume?" exclaimed the visitor, with a
profound bow, which threatened to roll his little person up like an
armadillo.

Sir Richard returned the salute by a slight nod and a gracious wave of
the hand.

"You will excuse my not rising to receive you, Mr. Audley," said the
baronet, "when I inform you that I am tied here by the gout; pray, sir,
take a chair. Mary, remove your work to the room underneath, and lay
the ebony wand within my reach; I will tap upon the floor when I want
you."

The girl accordingly glided from the room.

"We are now alone, sir," continued Sir Richard, after a short pause. "I
fear, sir--I know not why--that your business has relation to my
brother; is he--is he _ill_?"

"Faith, sir," replied the little man bluntly, "I never heard of the
gentleman before in my life."

"I breathe again, sir; you have relieved me extremely," said the
baronet, swallowing his disappointment with a ghastly smile; "and now,
sir, that you have thus considerately and expeditiously dispelled what
were, thank heaven! my groundless alarms, may I ask you to what
accident I am indebted for the singular good fortune of making your
acquaintance--in short, sir, I would fain learn the object of your
visit."

"That you shall, sir--that you shall, in a trice," replied the little
gentleman in green. "I'm a plain man, my dear Sir Richard, and love to
come to the point at once--ahem! The story, to be sure, is a long one,
but don't be afraid, I'll abridge it--I'll abridge it." He drew his
watch from his fob, and laying it upon the table before him, he
continued--"It now wants, my dear sir, precisely seven minutes of
eleven, by London time; I shall limit myself to half-an-hour."

"I fear, Mr. Audley, you should find me a very unsatisfactory listener
to a narrative of half-an-hour's length," observed Sir Richard, drily;
"in fact, I am not in a condition to make any such exertion; if you
will obligingly condense what you have to say into a few minutes, you
will confer a favour upon me, and lighten your own task considerably."
Sir Richard then indignantly took a pinch of snuff, and muttered,
almost audibly--"A vulgar, audacious, old boor."

"Well, then, we must try--we must try, my dear sir," replied the little
gentleman, wiping his face with his handkerchief, by way of
preparation--"I'll just sum up the leading points, and leave
particulars for a more favourable opportunity; in fact, I'll hold over
_all_ details to our next merry meeting--our next _tête-à-tête_--when I
hope we shall meet upon a pleasanter _footing_--your gouty toes, you
know--d'ye take me? Ha! ha! excuse the joke--ha! ha! ha!"

Sir Richard elevated his eyebrows, and looked upon the little gentleman
with a gaze of stern and petrifying severity during this burst of
merriment.

"Well, my dear sir," continued Mr. Audley, again wiping his face, "to
proceed to business. You have learned my name from my card, but beyond
my name you know nothing about me."

"_Nothing whatever_, sir," replied Sir Richard, with profound emphasis.

"Just so; well, then, you _shall_," rejoined the little gentleman. "I
have been a long time settled in France--I brought over every penny I
had in the world there--in short, sir, something more than twelve
thousand pounds. Well, sir, what did I do with it? There's the
question. Your gay young fellows would have thrown it away at the
gaming table, or squandered it on gold lace and velvets--or again, your
prudent, plodding fellow would have lived quietly on the interest and
left the principal to vegetate; but what did I do? Why, sir, not caring
for idleness or show, I threw some of it into the wine trade, and with
the rest I kept hammering at the funds, winning twice for every once I
lost. In fact, sir, I prospered--the money rolled in, sir, and in due
course I became rich, sir--rich--_warm_, as the phrase goes."

"Very _warm_, indeed, sir," replied Sir Richard, observing that his
visitor again wiped his face--"but allow me to ask, beyond the general
interest which I may be presumed to feel in the prosperity of the whole
human race, how on earth does all this concern _me_?"

"Ay, ay, there's the question," replied the stranger, looking
unutterably knowing--"that's the puzzle. But all in good time; you
shall hear it in a twinkling. Now, being well to do in the world, you
may ask me, why do not I look out for a wife? I answer you simply, that
having escaped matrimony hitherto, I have no wish to be taken in the
noose at these years; and now, before I go further, what do you take my
age to be--how old do I look?"

The little man squared himself, cocked his head on one side, and looked
inquisitively at Sir Richard from the corner of his eye. The patience
of the baronet was nigh giving way outright.

"Sir," replied he, in no very gracious tones, "you may be the
'Wandering Jew,' for anything I either know or see to the contrary."

"Ha! good," rejoined the little man, with imperturbable good humour, "I
see, Sir Richard, you are a wag--the Wandering Jew--ha, ha! no--not
_that_ quite. The fact is, sir, I am in my sixty-seventh year--you
would not have thought that--eh?"

Sir Richard made no reply whatever.

"You'll acknowledge, sir, that _that_ is not exactly the age at which
to talk of hearts and darts, and gay gold rings," continued the
communicative gentleman in the bottle-green. "I know very well that no
young woman, of her own free choice, could take a liking to _me_."

"Quite impossible," with desperate emphasis, rejoined Sir Richard, upon
whose ear the sentence grated unpleasantly; for Lord Aspenly's letter
(in which "hearts and darts" were profusely noticed) lay before him on
the table; "but once more, sir, may I implore of you to tell me the
drift of all this?"

"The drift of it--to be sure I will--in due time," replied Mr. Audley.
"You see, then, sir, that having no family of my own, and not having any
intention of taking a wife, I have resolved to leave my money to a fine
young fellow, the son of an old friend; his name is O'Connor--Edmond
O'Connor--a fine, handsome, young dog, and worthy to fill any place in
all the world--a high-spirited, good-hearted, dashing young rascal--you
know something of him, Sir Richard?"

The baronet nodded a supercilious assent; his attention was now really
enlisted.

"Well, Sir Richard," continued the visitor, "I have wormed out of
him--for I have a knack of my own of getting at people's secrets, no
matter how close they keep them, d'ye see--that he is over head and
ears in love with your daughter--I believe the young lady who just
left the room on my arrival; and indeed, if such is the case, I
commend the young scoundrel's taste; the lady is truly worthy of all
admiration--and----"

"Pray, sir, proceed as briefly as may be to the object of your
conversation with me," interrupted Sir Richard, drily.

"Well, then, to return--I understand, sir," continued Audley, "that
you, suspecting something of the kind, and believing the young fellow
to be penniless, very naturally, and, indeed, I may say, very
prudently, and very sensibly, opposed yourself to the thing from the
commencement, and obliged the sly young dog to discontinue his
visits;--well, sir, matters stood so, until _I_--cunning little
_I_--step in, and change the whole posture of affairs--and how? Marry,
thus, I come hither and ask your daughter's hand for _him_, upon these
terms following--that I undertake to convey to him, at once, lands to
the value of one thousand pounds a year, and that at my death I will
leave him, with the exception of a few small legacies, sole heir to all
I have; and on his wedding-day give him and his lady their choice of
either of two chateaux, the worst of them a worthy residence for a
nobleman."

"Are these chateaux in Spain?" inquired Sir Richard, sneeringly.

"No, no, sir," replied the little man, with perfect guilelessness;
"both in Flanders."

"Well, sir," said Sir Richard Ashwoode, raising himself almost to a
sitting posture, and preluding his observations with two unusually
large pinches of snuff, "I have heard you very patiently throughout a
statement, all of which was fatiguing, and much of which was positively
disagreeable to me: and I trust that what I have now to say will render
it wholly unnecessary for you and me ever again to converse upon the
same topic. Of Mr. O'Connor, whom, in spite of this strange repetition
of an already rejected application, I believe to be a spirited young
man, I shall say nothing more than that, from the bottom of my heart I
wish him every success of every kind, so long as he confines his
aspirations to what is suitable to his own position in society; and,
consequently, conducive to his own comfort and respectability. With
respect to his very flattering vicarious proposal, I must assure you
that I do not suspect Miss Ashwoode of any inclination to descend from
the station to which her birth and fortune entitle her; and if I did
suspect it, I should feel it to be my imperative duty to resist, by
every means in my power, the indulgence of any such wayward caprice;
but lest, after what I have said, any doubt should rest upon your mind
as to the value of these obstacles, it may not be amiss to add that my
daughter, Miss Ashwoode, is actually promised in marriage to a
gentleman of exalted rank and great fortune, and who is, in all
respects, an unexceptionable connection. I have the honour, sir, to
wish you good-morning."

"The devil!" exclaimed the little gentleman, as soon as his utter
amazement allowed him to take breath. A long pause ensued, during which
he twice inflated his cheeks to their utmost tension, and puffed the
air forth with a prolonged whistle of desolate wonder. Recollecting
himself, however, he hastily arose, wished Sir Richard good-day, and
walked down stairs, and out of the house, all the way muttering, "God
bless my body and soul--a thousand pounds a year--the devil--_can_ it
be?--body o' me--refuse a thousand a year--what the deuce is he looking
for?"--and such other ejaculations; stamping all the while emphatically
upon every stair as he descended, to give vent to his indignation, as
well as impressiveness to his remarks.

Something like a smile for a moment lit up the withered features of the
old baronet; he leaned back luxuriously upon his sofa, and while he
listened with delighted attention to the stormy descent of his visitor,
he administered to its proper receptacle, with prolonged relish, two
several pinches of rappee.

"So, so," murmured he, complacently, "I suspect I have seen the last of
honest Mr. Audley--a little surprised and a little angry he does appear
to be--dear me!--he stamps fearfully--what a very strange creature it
is."

Having made this reflection, Sir Richard continued to listen pleasantly
until the sounds were lost in the distance; he then rang a small
hand-bell which lay upon the table, and a servant entered.

"Tell Mistress Mary," said the baronet, "that I shall not want her just
now, and desire Mr. Henry to come hither instantly--begone, sirrah."

The servant disappeared, and in a few moments young Ashwoode, looking
unusually pale and haggard, and dressed in a morning suit, entered the
chamber. Having saluted his father with the formality which the usages
of the time prescribed, and having surveyed himself for a moment at the
large mirror which stood in the room, and having adjusted thereat the
tie of his lace cravat, he inquired,--

"Pray, sir, who was that piece of 'too, too solid flesh' that passed me
scarce a minute since upon the stairs, pounding all the way with the
emphasis of a battering ram? As far as I could judge, the thing had
just been discharged from your room."

"You have happened, for once in your life, to talk with relation to the
subject to which I would call your attention," said Sir Richard. "The
person whom you describe with your wonted facetiousness, has just been
talking with me; his name is Audley; I never saw him till this morning,
and he came coolly to make proposals, in young O'Connor's name, for
your sister's hand, promising to settle some scurvy chateaux, heaven
knows where, upon the happy pair."

"Well, sir, and what followed?" asked the young man.

"Why simply, sir," replied his father, "that I gave him the answer
which sent him stamping down stairs, as you saw him. I laughed in his
face, and desired him to go about his business."

"Very good, indeed, sir," observed young Ashwoode.

"There is no occasion for commentary, sir," continued Sir Richard.
"Attend to what I have to say: a nobleman of large fortune has
requested my permission to make his suit to your sister--_that_ I have,
of course, granted; he will arrive here to-morrow, to make a stay of
some days. I am resolved the thing _shall_ be concluded. I ought to
mention that the nobleman in question is Lord Aspenly."

The young man looked for a moment or two the very impersonation of
astonishment, and then, burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

"Either be silent, sir, or this moment quit the room," said Sir
Richard, in a tone which few would have liked to disobey--"how dare
you--you--you insolent, dependent coxcomb--how dare you, sir, treat me
with this audacious disrespect?"

The young man hastened to avert the storm, whose violence he had more
than once bitterly felt, by a timely submission.

"I assure you, sir, nothing was further from my intention than to
offend you," said he--"I am fully alive--as a man of the world, I could
not be otherwise--to the immense advantages of the connection; but Lord
Aspenly I have known so long, and always looked upon as a confirmed old
bachelor, that on hearing his name thus suddenly, something of
incongruity, and--and--and I don't exactly know what--struck me so very
forcibly, that I involuntarily and very thoughtlessly began to laugh. I
assure you, sir, I regret it very much, if it has offended you."

"You are a weak fool, sir, I am afraid," replied his father, shortly:
"but that conviction has not come upon me by surprise; you _can_,
however, be of some use in this matter, and I am determined you _shall_
be. Now, sir, mark me: I suspect that this young fellow--this O'Connor,
is not so indifferent to Mary as he should be to a daughter of mine,
and it is more than possible that he may endeavour to maintain his
interest in her affections, imaginary or real, by writing letters,
sending messages, and such manoeuvring. Now, you must call upon the
young man, wherever he is to be found, and either procure from him a
distinct pledge to the effect that he will think no more of her (the
young fellow has a sense of honour, and I would rely upon his promise),
or else you must have him out--in short, make him _fight_ you--you
attend, sir--if _you_ get hurt, we can easily make the country too hot
to hold him; and if, on the other hand, _you_ poke _him_ through the
body, there's an end of the whole difficulty. This step, sir, you
_must_ take--you understand me--I am very much in earnest."

This was delivered with a cold deliberateness, which young Ashwoode
well understood, when his father used it to imply a fixity of purpose,
such as brooked no question, and halted at no obstacle.

"Sir," replied Henry Ashwoode, after an embarrassed pause of a few
minutes, "you are not aware of _one_ particular connected with last
night's affray--you have heard that poor Darby, who rode with me, was
actually brained, and that _I_ escaped a like fate by the interposition
of one who, at his own personal risk, saved my life--that one was the
very Edmond O'Connor of whom we speak."

"What you allude to," observed Sir Richard, with very edifying
coolness, "is, no doubt, very shocking and very horrible. I regret the
destruction of the man, although I neither saw nor knew much about him;
and for your eminently providential escape, I trust I am fully as
thankful as I ought to be; and now, granting all you have said to be
perfectly accurate--which I take it to be--what conclusion do you wish
me to draw from it?"

"Why, sir, without pretending to any very extraordinary proclivity to
gratitude," replied the young man--"for O'Connor told me plainly that
he did not expect any--I must consider what the world will say, if I
return what it will be pleased to regard as an obligation, by
challenging the person who conferred it."

"Good, sir--good," said the baronet, calmly: and gazing upon the
ceiling with elevated eyebrows and a bitter smile, he added,
reflectively, "he's afraid--afraid--afraid--ay, afraid--afraid."

"You wrong me very much, sir," rejoined young Ashwoode, "if you imagine
that fear has anything to do with my reluctance to act as you would
have me; and no less do you wrong me, if you think I would allow any
school-boy sentimentalism to stand in the way of my family's interests.
My _real_ objection to the thing is this--first, that I cannot see any
satisfactory answer to the question, What will the world say of my
conduct, in case I force a duel upon him the day after he has saved my
life?--and again, I think it inevitably damages any young woman in the
matrimonial market, to have low duels fought about her."

Sir Richard screwed his eyebrows reflectively, and remained silent.

"But at the same time, sir," continued his son, "I see as clearly as
you could wish me to do, the importance, under present circumstances--or
rather the absolute necessity--of putting a stop to O'Connor's suit;
and, in short, to all communication between him and my sister, and I
will undertake to do this effectually."

"And how, sir, pray?" inquired the baronet.

"I shall, as a matter of course, wait upon the young man," replied
Henry Ashwoode--"his services of last night demand that I should do so.
I will explain to him, in a friendly way, the hopelessness of his suit.
I should not hesitate either to throw a little colouring of my own over
the matter. If I can induce O'Connor once to regard me as his
friend--and after all, it is but the part of a friend to put a stop to
this foolish affair--I will stake my existence that the matter shall be
broken off for ever and a day. If, however, the young fellow turn out
foolish and pig-headed, I can easily pick a quarrel with him upon some
other subject, and get him out of the way as you propose; but without
mixing up my sister's name in the dispute, or giving occasion for
gossip. However, I half suspect that it will require neither crafty
stratagem nor shrewd blows to bring this absurd business to an end. I
daresay the parties are beginning to tire heartily of waiting, and
perhaps a little even of one another; and, for my part, I really do not
know that the girl ever cared for him, or gave him the smallest
encouragement."

"But _I_ know that she _did_," replied Sir Richard. "Carey has shown me
letters from her to him, and from him to her, not six months since.
Carey is a very useful woman, and may do us important service. I did
not choose to mention that I had seen these letters; but I sounded Mary
somewhat sternly, and left her with a caution which I think must have
produced a salutary effect--in short, I told her plainly, that if I had
reason to suspect any correspondence or understanding between her and
O'Connor, I should not scruple to resort to the sternest and most
rigorous interposition of parental authority, to put an end to it
peremptorily. I confess, however, that I have misgivings about this. I
regard it as a very serious obstacle--one, however, which, so sure as I
live, I will entirely annihilate."

There was a pause for a little while, and Sir Richard continued,--

"There is a good deal of sense in what you have suggested. We will talk
it over and arrange operations systematically this evening. I presume
you intend calling upon the fellow to-day; it might not be amiss if you
had him to dine with you once or twice in town: you must get up a kind
of confidential acquaintance with him, a thing which you can easily
terminate, as soon as its object is answered. He is, I believe, what
they call a frank, honest sort of fellow, and is, of course, very
easily led; and--and, in short--made a _fool_ of: as for the girl, I
think I know something of the sex, and very few of them are so romantic
as not to understand the value of a title and ten thousand a year!
Depend upon it, in spite of all her sighs, and vapours, and romance,
the girl will be dazzled so effectually before three weeks, as to be
blind to every other object in the world; but if not, and should she
dare to oppose my wishes, I'll make her cross-grained folly more
terrible to her than she dreams of--but she knows me too well--she
_dares_ not."

Both parties remained silent and abstracted for a time, and then Sir
Richard, turning sharply to his son, exclaimed, with his usual tart
manner,--

"And now, sir, I must admit that I am a good deal tired of your very
agreeable company. Go about your business, if you please, and be in
this room this evening at half-past six o'clock. You had _better_ not
forget to be punctual; and, for the present, get out of my sight."

With this very affectionate leave-taking, Sir Richard put an end to the
family consultation, and the young man, relieved of the presence of the
only person on earth whom he really feared, gladly closed the door
behind him.



CHAPTER XI.

THE OLD BEECH-TREE WALK AND THE IVY-GROWN GATEWAY--THE TRYSTE AND TUE
CRUTCH-HANDLED CANE.


In the snug old "Cock and Anchor," the morning after the exciting
scenes in which O'Connor had taken so active a part, that gentleman was
pacing the floor of his sitting-room in no small agitation. On the
result of that interview, which he had resolved no longer to postpone,
depended his happiness for years--it might be for life. Again and again
he applied himself to the task of arranging clearly and concisely, and
withal adroitly and with tact, the substance of what he had to say to
Sir Richard Ashwoode. But, spite of all, his mind would wander to the
pleasant hours he had passed with Mary Ashwoode in the quiet green wood
and by the dark well's side, and through the moss-grown rocks, and by
the chiming current of the wayward brook, long before the cold and
worldly had suspected and repulsed that love which he knew could never
die but when his heart had ceased to beat for ever. Again would he,
banishing with a stoical effort these unbidden visions of memory, seek
to accomplish the important task which he had proposed to himself; but
still all in vain. There was she once more--there was the pale,
pensive, lovely face--there the long, dark, silken tresses--there the
deep, beautiful eyes--and there the smile--the artless, melancholy,
enchanting smile.

"It boots not trying," exclaimed O'Connor. "I cannot collect my
thoughts; and yet what use in conning over the order and the words of
what, after all, will be judged merely by its meaning? Perhaps it is
better that I should yield myself wholly up to the impulse of the
moment, and so speak but the more directly and the more boldly. No;
even in such a cause I will not accommodate myself to his cramp and
crooked habits of thought and feeling. If I let him know all, it
matters little how he learns it."

As O'Connor finished this sentence, his meditations were dispelled by
certain sounds, which issued from the passage leading to his room.

"A young man," exclaimed a voice, interrupted by a good deal of puffing
and blowing, probably caused by the steep ascent, "and a good-looking,
eh?--(puff)--dark eyes, eh?--(puff, puff)--black hair and straight
nose, eh?--(puff, puff)--long-limbed, tall, eh?--(puff)."

The answers to these interrogatories, whatever they may have been,
were, where O'Connor stood, wholly inaudible; but the cross-examination
was accompanied throughout by a stout, firm, stumping tread upon the
old floor, which, along with the increasing clearness with which the
noise made its way to O'Connor's door, sufficiently indicated that the
speaker was approaching. The accents were familiar to him. He ran to
his door, opened it; and in an instant Hugh Audley, Esquire, very hot
and very much out of breath, pitched himself, with a good deal of
precision, shoulders foremost, against the pit of the young man's
stomach, and, embracing him a little above the hips, hugged him for
some time in silence, swaying him to and fro with extraordinary energy,
as if preparatory to tripping him up, and taking him off his feet
altogether--then giving him a shove straight from him, and holding him
at arm's length, he looked with brimful eyes, and a countenance beaming
with delight, full in O'Connor's face.

"Confound the dog, how well he looks," exclaimed the old gentleman,
vehemently--"devilish well, curse him!" and he gave O'Connor a shove
with his knuckles, and succeeded in staggering himself--"never saw you
look better in my life, nor anyone else for that matter; and how is
every inch of you, and what have you been doing with yourself? Come,
you young dog, account for yourself."

O'Connor had now, for the first time, an opportunity of bidding the
kind old gentleman welcome, which he did to the full as cordially, if
not so boisterously.

"Let me sit down and rest myself: I must take breath for a minute,"
exclaimed the old gentleman. "Give me a chair, you undutiful rascal.
What a devil of a staircase that is, to be sure. Well, and what do you
intend doing with yourself to-day?"

"To say the truth," said the young man, while a swarthier glow crossed
his dark features. "I was just about to start for Morley Court, to see
Sir Richard Ashwoode."

"About his daughter, I take it?" inquired the old gentleman.

"Just so, sir," replied the younger man.

"Then you may spare yourself the pains," rejoined the old gentleman,
briskly. "You are better at home. You have been forestalled."

"What--how, sir? What do you mean?" asked O'Connor, in great perplexity
and alarm.

"Just what I say, my boy. You have been forestalled."

"By whom, sir?"

"By me."

"By you?"

"Ay."

The old gentleman screwed his brows and pursed up his mouth until it
became a Gordian involution of knots and wrinkles, threw a fierce and
determined expression into his eyes, and wagged his head slightly from
side to side--looking altogether very like a "Cromwell guiltless of his
country's blood." At length he said,--

"I'm an old fellow, and ought to know something by this time--think I
_do_, for that matter; and I say deliberately--cut the whole concern
and blow them all."

Having thus delivered himself, the old gentleman resumed his sternest
expression of countenance, and continued in silence to wag his head
from time to time with an air of infinite defiance, leaving his young
companion, if possible, more perplexed and bewildered than ever.

"And have you, then, seen Sir Richard Ashwoode?" inquired O'Connor.

"Have I seen him?" rejoined the old gentleman. "To be sure I have. The
moment the boat touched the quay, and I fairly felt _terra firma_, I
drove to the 'Fox in Breeches,' and donned a handsome suit"--(here the
gentleman glanced cursorily at his bottle-green habiliments)--"I
ordered a hack-coach--got safely to Morley Court--saw Sir Richard, laid
up with the gout, looking just like an old, dried-up, cross-grained
monkey. There was, of course, a long explanation, and all that sort of
thing--a good deal of tact and diplomacy on my side, doubling about,
neat fencing, and circumbendibus; but all would not do--an infernal
_smash_. Sir Richard was all but downright uncivil--would not hear of
it--said plump and plain he would never consent. The fact is, he's a
sour, hard, insolent old scoundrel, and a bitter pill; and I
congratulate you heartily on having escaped all connection with him and
his. Don't look so down in the mouth about the matter; there's as good
fish in the sea as ever was caught; and if the young woman is half such
a shrew as her father is a tartar, you have had an escape to be
thankful for the longest day you live."

We shall not attempt to describe the feelings with which O'Connor
received this somewhat eccentric communication. He folded his arms upon
the table, and for many minutes leaned his head upon them, without
motion, and without uttering one word. At length he said,--

"After all, I ought to have expected this. Sir Richard is a bigoted man
in his own faith--an ambitious and a worldly man, too. It was folly,
mere folly, knowing all this, to look for any other answer from him. He
may indeed delay our union for a little, but he cannot bar it--he
_shall_ not bar it. I could more easily doubt myself than Mary's
constancy; and if she be but firm and true--and she is all loyalty and
all truth--the world cannot part us two. Our separation cannot outlast
his life; nor shall it last so long. I will overcome her scruples,
combat all her doubts, satisfy her reason. She will consent--she will
be mine--my own--through life and until death. No hand shall sunder us
for ever,"--he turned to the old man, and grasped his hand--"My dear,
kind, true friend, how can I ever thank you for all your generous acts
of kindness. I cannot."

"Never mind, never mind, my dear boy," said the old gentleman,
blubbering in spite of himself--"never mind--what a d----d old fool I
am, to be sure. Come, come, you, shall take a turn with me towards the
country, and get an appetite for dinner. You'll be as well as ever in
half an hour. When all's done, you stand no worse than you did
yesterday; and if the girl's a good girl, as I make no doubt she is,
why, you are sure of her constancy--and the devil himself shall not
part you. Confound me if I don't run away with the girl for you myself
if you make a pother about the matter. Come along, you dog--come along,
I say."

"Nay, sir," replied O'Connor, "forgive me. I am keenly pained. I am
agitated--confounded at the suddenness of this--this dreadful blow. I
will go alone, pardon me, my kind and dear friend, I must go _alone_. I
may chance to see the lady. I am sure she will not fail me--she will
meet me. Oh! heart and brain, be still--be steady--I need your best
counsels now. Farewell, sir--for a little time, farewell."

"Well, be it so--since so it _must_ be," said Mr. Audley, who did not
care to combat a resolution, announced with all the wild energy of
despairing passion, "by all means, my dear boy, _alone_ it shall be,
though I scarce think you would be the worse of a staid old fellow's
company in your ramble--but no matter, boys will be boys while the
world goes round."

The conclusion of this sentence was a soliloquy, for O'Connor had
already descended to the inn yard, where he procured a horse, and was
soon, with troubled mind and swelling heart, making rapid way toward
Morley Court. It was now the afternoon--the sun had made nearly half
his downward course--the air was soft and fresh, and the birds sang
sweetly in the dark nooks and bowers of the tall trees: it seemed
almost as if summer had turned like a departing beauty, with one last
look of loveliness to gladden the scene which she was regretfully
leaving. So sweet and still the air--so full and mellow the thrilling
chorus of merry birds among the rustling leaves, flitting from bough to
bough in the clear and lofty shadow--so cloudless the golden flood of
sunlight. Such was the day--so gladsome the sounds--so serene the
aspect of all nature--as O'Connor, dismounting under the shadow of a
tall, straggling hawthorn hedge, and knotting the bridle in one of its
twisted branches, crossed a low stile, and thus entered the grounds of
Morley Court. He threaded a winding path which led through a neglected
wood of thorn and oak, and found himself after a few minutes in the
spot he sought. The old beech walk had been once the main avenue to the
house. Huge beech-trees flung their mighty boughs high in air across
its long perspective--and bright as was the day, the long lane lay in
shadow deep and solemn as that of some old Gothic aisle. Down this dim
vista did O'Connor pace with hurried steps toward the spot where, about
midway in its length, there stood the half-ruined piers and low walls
of what had once been a gateway.

"Can it be that she shrinks from this meeting?" thought O'Connor, as
his eye in vain sought the wished-for form of Mary Ashwoode, "will she
disappoint me?--surely she who has walked with me so many lonely hours
in guileless trust need not have feared to meet me here. It was not
generous to deny me this boon--to her so easy--to me so rich--yet
perchance she judges wisely. What boots it that I should see her? Why
see again that matchless beauty--that touching smile--those eyes that
looked so fondly on me? Why see her more--since mayhap we shall never
meet again? She means it kindly. Her nature is all nobleness--all
generosity; and yet--and yet to see her no more--to hear her voice no
more--have we--have we then parted at last for ever? But no--by
heavens--'tis she--Mary!"

It was indeed Mary Ashwoode, blushing and beautiful as ever. In an
instant O'Connor stood by her side.

"My own--my true-hearted Mary."

"Oh! Edmond," said she, after a brief silence, "I fear I have done
wrong--have I?--in meeting you thus. I ought not--indeed I know I ought
not to have come."

"Nay, Mary, do not speak thus. Dear Mary, have we not been companions
in many a pleasant ramble: in those times--the times, Mary, that will
never come again? Why, then, should you deny me a few minutes' mournful
converse, where in other days we two have passed so many pleasant
hours?"

There was in the tone in which he spoke something so unutterably
melancholy--and in the recollections which his few simple words called
crowding to her mind, something at once so touching, so dearly
cherished, and so bitterly regretted--that the tears gathered in her
full dark eyes, and fell one by one fast and unheeded.

"You do not grieve, then, Mary," said he, "that you have come
here--that we have met once more: do you, Mary?"

"No, no, Edmond--no, indeed," answered she, sobbing. "God knows I do
not, Edmond--no, no."

"Well, Mary," said he, "I am happy in the belief that you feel toward
me just as you used to do--as happy as one so wretched can hope to be."

"Edmond, your words affright me," said she, fixing her eyes full upon
him with imploring earnestness: "you look sadder--paler than you did
yesterday; something has happened since then. What--what is it, Edmond?
tell me--ah, tell me!"

"Yes, Mary, much has happened," answered he, taking her hand between
both of his, and meeting her gaze with a look of passionate sorrow and
tenderness--"yes, Mary, without my knowledge, the friend of whom I told
you had arrived, and this morning saw your father, told him _all_, and
was repulsed with sternness--almost with insult. Sir Richard has
resolved that it shall never be; there is no more hope of bending
him--none--none--none."

While O'Connor spoke, the colour in Mary's cheeks came and fled in turn
with quick alternations, in answer to every throb and flutter of the
poor heart within.

"See him--speak to him--yourself, Edmond, yourself. Oh! do not
despair--see him--speak to him," she almost whispered, for agitation
had well-nigh deprived her of voice--"see him, Edmond--yourself--for
God's sake, dear Edmond--yourself--yourself"--and she grasped his arm
in her tiny hand, and gazed in his pale face with such a look of
agonized entreaty as cut him to the very heart.

"Yes, Mary, if it seems good to you, I will speak to him myself," said
O'Connor, with deep melancholy. "I will, Mary, though my own heart--my
reason--tells me it is all--all utterly in vain; but, Mary," continued
he, suddenly changing his tone to one of more alacrity, "if he should
still reject me--if he shall forbid our ever meeting more--if he shall
declare himself unalterably resolved against our union--Mary, in such a
case, would you, too, tell me to see you no more--would you, too, tell
me to depart without hope, and never come again? or would you,
Mary--could you--dare you--dear, dear Mary, for once--once
only--disobey your stern and haughty father--dare you trust yourself
with me--fly with me to France, and be at last, and after all, my
own--my bride?"

"No, Edmond," said she, solemnly and sadly, while her eyes again filled
with tears; and though she trembled like the leaf on the tree, yet he
knew by the sound of her sad voice that her purpose could not
alter--"that can never be--never, Edmond--no--no."

"Then, Mary, can it be," he answered, with an accent so desolate that
despair itself seemed breathing in its tone--"can it be, after all--all
we have passed and proved--all our love and constancy, and all our
bright hopes, so long and fondly cherished--cherished in the midst of
grief and difficulty--when we had no other stay but hope alone--are we,
after all--at last, to part for ever?--is it, indeed, Mary, all--all
over?"

As the two lovers stood thus in deep and melancholy converse by the
ivy-grown and ruined gateway, beneath the airy shadow of the old
beech-trees, they were recalled to other thoughts by the hurried patter
of footsteps, and the rustling of the branches among the underwood
which skirted the avenue. As fortune willed it, however, the intruder
was no other than the honest dog, Rover, Mary's companion in many a
silent and melancholy ramble; he came sniffing and bounding with
boisterous greeting to hail his young mistress and her companion. The
interruption, harmless as it was, startled Mary Ashwoode.

"Were my father to find us here, Edmond," said she, "it were fatal to
all our hopes. You know his temper well. Let us then part here. Follow
the by-path leading to the house. Go and see him--speak with him for my
sake--for my sake, Edmond--and so--and so--farewell."

"And farewell, Mary, since it must be," said O'Connor, with a bitter
struggle. "Farewell, but only for a time--only for a little time, Mary;
and whatever befalls, remember--remember me. Farewell, Mary."

As he thus spoke, he raised her hand to his lips, and kissed it for the
first time, it might be for the last, in his life. For a moment he
stood, and gazed with sad devotion upon the loved face. Then, with an
effort, he turned abruptly away, and strode rapidly in the direction
she had indicated; and when he turned to look again, she was gone.

O'Connor followed the narrow path, which, diverging a little from the
broad grass lane, led with many a wayward turn among the tall trees
toward the house. As he thus pursued his way, a few moments of
reflection satisfied him of the desperate nature of the enterprise
which he had undertaken. But if lovers are often upon unreal grounds
desponding, it is likewise true that they are sometimes sanguine when
others would despair; and, spite of all his misgivings--of all the
irresistible conclusions of stern reason--hope still beckoned him on.
Thus agitated, he pursued his way, until, on turning an abrupt angle,
he beheld, scarcely more than a dozen paces in advance, and moving
slowly toward him in the shadowy pathway, a figure, at sight of which,
thus suddenly presented, he recoiled, and stood for a moment fixed as a
statue. He had encountered the object of his search. The form was that
of Sir Richard Ashwoode himself, who, wrapped in his scarlet
roquelaure, and leaning upon the shoulder of his Italian valet, while
he limped forward slowly and painfully, appeared full before him.

"So, so, so, so," repeated the baronet, at first with unaffected
astonishment, which speedily, however, deepened into intense but
constrained anger--his dark, prominent eyes peering fiercely upon the
young man, while, stooping forward, and clutching his crutch-handled
cane hard in his lean fingers, he limped first one and then another
step nearer.

"Mr. O'Connor! or my eyes deceive me."

"Yes, Sir Richard," replied O'Connor, with a haughty bow, and advancing
a little toward him in turn. "I am that Edmond O'Connor whom you once
knew well, and whom it would seem you still know. I ought, doubtless----"

"Nay, sir, no flowers of rhetoric, if you please," interrupted Sir
Richard, bitterly--"no fustian speeches--to the point--to the point,
sir. If you have ought to say to me, deliver it in six words. Your
business, sir. Be brief."

"I will not indeed waste words, Sir Richard Ashwoode," replied
O'Connor, firmly. "There is but one subject on which I would seek a
conference with you, and that subject you well may guess."

"I _do_ guess it," retorted Sir Richard. "You would renew an absurd
proposal--one opened three years since, and repeated this morning by
the old booby, your elected spokesman. To that proposal I have ever
given one answer--no. I have not changed my mind, nor ever shall. Am I
understood, sir? And least of all should I think of changing my purpose
now," continued he, more pointedly, as a suspicion crossed his
mind--"_now_, sir, that you have forfeited by your own act whatever
regard you once seemed to me to merit. You did not seek _me_ here, sir.
I'm not to be fooled, sir. You did not seek me--don't assert it. I
understand your purpose. You came here clandestinely to tamper like a
schemer with my child. Yes, sir, a schemer!" repeated Sir Richard, with
bitter emphasis, while his sharp sallow features grew sharper and more
sallow still; and he struck the point of his cane at every emphatic
word deep into the sod--"a mean, interested, cowardly schemer. How dare
you steal into my place, you thrice-rejected, dishonourable, spiritless
adventurer?"

The blood rushed to O'Connor's brow as the old man uttered this
insulting invective. The fiery impulse which under other circumstances
would have been uncontrollable, was, however, speedily, though with
difficulty, mastered; and O'Connor replied bitterly,--

"You are an old man, Sir Richard, and _her_ father--you are safe, sir.
How much of chivalry or courage is shown in heaping insult upon one who
_will_ not retort upon you, judge for yourself. Alter what has passed,
I feel that I were, indeed, the vile thing you have described, if I
were again to subject myself to your unprovoked insolence: be assured,
I shall never place foot of mine within your boundaries again: relieve
yourself, sir, of all fears upon that score; and for your language, you
know you can appreciate the respect that makes me leave you thus
unanswered and unpunished."

So saying, he turned, and with long and rapid strides retraced his
steps, his heart swelling with a thousand struggling emotions. Scarce
knowing what he did, O'Connor rode rapidly to the "Cock and Anchor,"
and too much stunned and confounded by the scenes in which he had just
borne a part to exchange a word with Mr. Audley, whom he found still
established in his chamber, he threw himself dejectedly into a chair,
and sank into gloomy and obstinate abstraction. The good-natured old
gentleman did not care to interrupt his young friend's ruminations, and
hours might have passed away and found them still undisturbed, were it
not that the door was suddenly thrown open, and the waiter announced
Mr. Ashwoode. There was a spell in the name which instantly recalled
O'Connor to the scene before him. Had a viper sprung up at his feet, he
could not have recoiled with a stronger antipathy. With a mixture of
feelings scarcely tolerable, he awaited his arrival, and after a moment
or two of suspense, Henry Ashwoode entered the room.

Mr. Audley, having heard the name, scowled fearfully from the centre of
the room upon the young gentleman as he entered, stuffed his hands
half-way to the elbows in his breeches pockets, and turning briskly
upon his heel, marched emphatically to the window, and gazed out into
the inn yard with remarkable perseverance. The obvious coldness with
which he was received did not embarrass young Ashwoode in the least.
With perfect ease and a graceful frankness of demeanour, he advanced to
O'Connor, and after a greeting of extraordinary warmth, inquired how he
had gotten home, and whether he had suffered since any inconvenience
from the fall which he had. He then went on to renew his protestations
of gratitude for O'Connor's services, with so much ardour and apparent
heartiness, that spite of his prejudices, the old man was moved in his
favour; and when Ashwoode expressed in a low voice to O'Connor his wish
to be introduced to his friend, honest Mr. Audley felt his heart quite
softened, and instead of merely bowing to him, absolutely shook him by
the hand. The young man then, spite of O'Connor's evident reluctance,
proceeded to relate to his new acquaintance the details of the
adventures of the preceding night, in doing which, he took occasion to
dwell, in the most glowing terms, upon his obligations to O'Connor.
After sitting with them for nearly half an hour, young Ashwoode took
his leave in the most affectionate manner possible, and withdrew.

"Well, that _is_ a good-looking young fellow, and a warm-hearted,"
exclaimed the old gentleman, as soon as the visitor had
disappeared--"what a pity he should be cursed with such a confounded
old father."



CHAPTER XII.

THE APPOINTED HOUR--THE SCHEMERS AND THE PLOT.


"And here comes my dear brother," exclaimed Mary Ashwoode, joyously, as
she ran to welcome the young man, now entering her father's room, in
which, for more than an hour previously, she had been sitting. Throwing
her arm round his neck, and looking sweetly in his face, she
continued--"You _will_ stay with us this evening, dear Harry--do, for
my sake--you won't refuse--it is so long since we have had you;" and
though she spoke with a gay look and a gladsome voice, a sense of real
solitariness called a tear to her dark eye.

"No, Mary--not this evening," said the young man coldly; "I must be in
town again to-night, and before I go must have some conversation upon
business with my father, so that I may not see you again till morning."

"But, dear Henry," said she, still clinging affectionately to his arm,
"you have been in such danger, and I knew nothing of it until after you
went out this morning: are you quite well, Henry?--you were not
hurt--were you?"

"No, no--nothing--nothing--I never was better," said he, impatiently.

"Well, brother--_dear_ brother," she continued imploringly, "come early
home to-night--do not be upon the road late--won't you promise?"

"There, there, there," said he rudely, "run away--take your work, or
your book, or whatever it may be, down stairs; your father wants to
speak with me alone," and so saying, he turned pettishly from her.

His habitual coldness and carelessness of manner had never before
seemed so ungracious. The poor girl felt her heart swell within her, as
though it would burst. She had never felt so keenly that in all this
world there lived but one being upon whose love she might rely, and he
separated, it might be for ever, from her: she gathered up her work,
and ran quickly from the room, to hide the tears which she could not
restrain.

Young Ashwoode was to the full as worldly and as unprincipled a man as
was his father; and whatever reluctance he may have felt as to adopting
Sir Richard's plans respecting O'Connor, the reader would grievously
wrong him in attributing his unwillingness to any visitings of
gratitude, or, indeed, to any other feeling than that which he had
himself avowed. A few hours' reflection had satisfied the young man of
the transcendent importance of securing Lord Aspenly; and by a
corresponding induction he had arrived at the conclusion to which his
father had already come--namely, that it was imperatively necessary by
all means to put an end effectually to his sister's correspondence with
O'Connor. To effect this object both were equally resolved; and with
respect to the means to be employed both were equally unscrupulous.
With Henry Ashwoode courage was constitutional, and art habitual. If,
therefore, either duplicity or daring could ensure success, he felt
that he must triumph; and, at all events, he was sufficiently impressed
with the importance of the object, to resolve to leave nothing untried
for its achievement.

"You _are_ punctual, sir," said Sir Richard, glancing at his
richly-chased watch; "sit down; I have considered your suggestions of
this morning, and I am inclined to adopt them; it is most probable that
Mary, like the rest of her sex, will be taken by the splendour of the
proposal--fascinated--in short, as I said this morning--dazzled. Now,
whether she be or not--observe me, it shall be our object to make
O'Connor believe that she _is_ so. You will have his ear, and through
her maid, Carey, I can manage their correspondence; not a letter from
either can reach the other, without first meeting my eye. I am very
certain that the young fellow will lose no time in writing to her some
more of those passionate epistles, of which, as I told you, I have seen
a sample. I shall take care to have their letters _re_-written for the
future, before they come to hand; and it shall go hard, or between us
we shall manage to give each a very moderate opinion of the other's
constancy; thus the affair will--or rather must--die a natural
death--after all, the most effectual kind of mortality in such cases."

"I called to-day upon the fellow," said the young man. "I made him out,
and without approaching the point of nearest interest, I have,
nevertheless, opened operations successfully--so far as a most
auspicious re-commencement of our acquaintance may be so accounted."

"And, stranger still to say," rejoined the baronet, "I also encountered
him to-day; but only for some dozen seconds."

"How!--saw O'Connor!" exclaimed young Ashwoode.

"Yes, sir, O'Connor--Edmond O'Connor," repeated Sir Richard. "He was
coolly walking up to the house to see me, as it would seem; and I do
believe the fellow speaks truth--he _did_ see me, and that is all. I
fancy he will scarcely come here again uninvited; he said so pretty
plainly, and I believe the fellow has spirit enough to feel an
affront."

"He did not see Mary?" inquired Henry.

"I did not ask him, and don't choose to ask her; I don't mean to allude
to the subject in her presence," replied Sir Richard, quickly. "I
think--indeed I _know_--I can mar their plans better by appearing never
once to apprehend anything from O'Connor's pretensions. I have reasons,
too, for not wishing to deal harshly with Mary _at present_; we must
have no _scenes_, if possible. Were I to appear suspicious and uneasy,
it would put them on their guard. And now, upon the other point, did
you speak to Craven about the possibility of raising ten thousand
pounds on the Glenvarlogh property?"

"He says it can be done very easily, if Mary joins you," replied the
young man; "but I have been thinking that if you ask her to sign any
deed, it might as well be one assigning over her interest absolutely to
you. Aspenly does not want a penny with her--in fact, from what fell
from him to-day, when I met him in town, I'm inclined to think he
believes that she has not a penny in the world; so she may as well make
it over to you, and then we can turn it all into money when and how we
please. I desired Craven to work night and day at the deeds, and have
them over by ten o'clock to-morrow morning."

"You did quite rightly," rejoined the old gentleman. "I hardly expect
any opposition from the girl--at least no more than I can easily
frighten her out of. Should she prove sulky, however, I do not well
know where to turn: as to asking my brother Oliver, I might as well, or
_better_, ask a Jew broker; he hates me and mine with his whole heart;
and to say the truth, there is not much love lost between us. No, no,
there's nothing to be looked for in that quarter. I daresay we'll
manage one way or another--lead or drive to get Mary to sign the deed,
and if so, the ship rights again. Craven comes, you say, at ten
to-morrow?"

"He engaged to be here at that hour with the deeds," repeated the young
man.

"Well," said his father, yawning, "you have nothing more to say, nor I
neither--oblige me by withdrawing." So parted these congenial
relations.

The past day had been an agitating one to Mary Ashwoode. Still suspense
was to be her doom, and the same alternations of hope and of despair
were again to rob her pillow of repose; yet even thus, happy was she in
comparison with what she must have been, had she but known the schemes
of which she was the unconscious subject. At this juncture we shall
leave the actors in this true tale, and conclude the chapter with the
close of day.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE INTERVIEW--THE PARCHMENT--AND THE NOBLEMAN'S COACH.


Sir Richard Ashwoode had never in the whole course of his life denied
himself the indulgence of any passion or of any whim. From his
childhood upward he had never considered the feelings or comforts of
any living being but himself alone. As he advanced in life, this
selfishness had improved to a degree of hardness and coldness so
intense, that if ever he had felt a kindly impulse at any moment in his
existence, the very remembrance of it had entirely faded from his mind:
so that generosity, compassion, and natural affection were to him not
only unknown, but incredible. To him mankind seemed all either fools,
or such as he himself was. Without one particle of principle of any
kind, he had uniformly maintained in the world the character of an
honourable man. The ordinary rules of honesty and morality he regarded
as so many conventional sentiments, to which every gentleman
subscribed, as a matter of course, in public, but which in private he
had an unquestionable right to dispense with at his own convenience. He
was imperious, fiery, and unforgiving to the uttermost; but when he
conceived it advantageous to do so, he could practise as well as any
man the convenient art of masking malignity, hatred, and inveteracy
behind the pleasantest of all pleasant smiles. Capable of any secret
meanness for the sake of the smallest advantage to be gained by it, he
was yet full of fierce and overbearing pride; and although this world
was all in all to him, yet there never breathed a man who could on the
slightest provocation risk his life in mortal combat with more alacrity
and absolute _sang froid_ than Sir Richard Ashwoode. In his habits he
was unboundedly luxurious--in his expenditure prodigal to recklessness.
His own and his son's extravagance, which he had indulged from a kind
of pride, was now, however, beginning to make itself sorely felt in
formidable and rapidly accumulating pecuniary embarrassments. These had
served to embitter and exasperate a temper which at the best had never
been a very sweet one, and of whose ordinary pitch the reader may form
an estimate, when he hears that in the short glimpses which he has had
of Sir Richard, the baronet happened to be, owing to the circumstances
with which we have acquainted him, in extraordinarily good humour.

Sir Richard had not married young; and when he did marry it was to pay
his debts. The lady of his choice was beautiful, accomplished, and an
heiress; and, won by his agreeability, and by his well-assumed
devotedness and passion, she yielded to the pressure of his suit. They
were married, and she gave birth successively to a son and a daughter.
Sir Richard's temper, as we have hinted, was not very placid, nor his
habits very domestic; nevertheless, the world thought the match
(putting his money difficulties out of the question) a very suitable
and a very desirable one, and took it for granted that the gay baronet
and his lady were just as happy as a fashionable man and wife ought to
be--and perhaps they were so; but, for all that, it happened that at
the end of some four years the young wife died of a broken heart. Some
strange scenes, it is said, followed between Sir Richard and the
brother of the deceased lady, Oliver French. It is believed that this
gentleman suspected the cause of Lady Ashwoode's death--at all events
he had ascertained that she had not been kindly used, and after one or
two interviews with the baronet, in which bitter words were exchanged,
the matter ended in a fierce and bloodily contested duel, in which the
baronet received three desperate wounds. His recovery was long
doubtful; but life burns strongly in some breasts; and, contrary to the
desponding predictions of his surgeons, the valuable life of Sir
Richard Ashwoode was prolonged to his family and friends.

Since then, Sir Richard had by different agencies sought to bring about
a reconciliation with his brother-in-law, but without the smallest
success. Oliver French was a bachelor, and a very wealthy one.
Moreover, he had it in his power to dispose of his lands and money just
as he pleased. These circumstances had strongly impressed Sir Richard
with a conviction that quarrels among relations are not only unseemly,
but un-Christian. He was never in a more forgiving and forgetting mood.
He was willing even to make concessions--anything that could be
reasonably asked of him, and even more, he was ready to do--but all in
vain. Oliver was obdurate. He knew his man well. He saw and appreciated
the baronet's motives, and hated and despised him ten thousand times
more than ever.

Repulsed in his first attempt, Sir Richard resolved to give his
adversary time to cool a little; and accordingly, after a lapse of
twelve or fourteen years, his son Henry being then a handsome lad, he
wrote to his brother-in-law a very long and touching epistle, in which
he proposed to send his son down to Ardgillagh, the place where the
alienated relative resided, with a portrait of his deceased lady,
which, of course, with no object less sacred, and to no relative less
near and respected, could he have induced himself to part. This, too,
was a total failure. Oliver French, Esquire, wrote back a very succinct
epistle, but one very full of unpleasant meaning. He said that the
portrait would be odious to him, inasmuch as it would be necessarily
associated in his mind with a marriage which had killed his sister, and
with persons whom he abhorred--that therefore he would not allow it
into his house. He stated, that to the motives which prompted his
attention he was wide awake--that he was, however, perfectly determined
that no person bearing the name or the blood of Sir Richard Ashwoode
should ever have one penny of his; adding, that the baronet could leave
his son, Mr. Henry Ashwoode, quite enough for a gentleman to live upon
respectably; and that, at all events, in his father's virtues the young
gentleman would inherit a legacy such as would insure him universal
respect, and a general welcome wherever he might happen to go,
excepting only one locality, called Ardgillagh.

With the failure of this last attempt, of course, disappeared every
hope of success with the rich old bachelor; and the forgiving baronet
was forced to content himself, in the absence of all more substantial
rewards, with the consciousness of having done what was, under all the
circumstances, the most Christian thing he could have done, as well as
played the most knowing game, though unsuccessful, which he could have
played.

Sir Richard Ashwoode limped downstairs to receive his intended
son-in-law, Lord Aspenly, on the day following the events which we have
detailed in our last and the preceding chapters. That nobleman had
intimated his intention to be with Sir Richard about noon. It was now
little more than ten, and the baronet was, nevertheless, restless and
fidgety. The room he occupied was a large parlour, commanding a view of
the approach to the house. Again and again he consulted his watch, and
as often hobbled over, as well as he could, to the window, where he
gazed in evident discontent down the long, straight avenue, with its
double row of fine old giant lime-trees.

"Nearly half-past ten," muttered Sir Richard, to himself, for at his
desire he had been left absolutely alone--"ay, fully half-past, and the
fellow not come yet. No less than, two notes since eight this morning,
both of them with gratuitous mendacity renewing the appointment for ten
o'clock; and ten o'clock comes and goes, and half-an-hour more along
with it, and still no sign of Mr. Craven. If I had fixed ten o'clock to
pay his accursed, unconscionable bill of costs, he'd have been prowling
about the grounds from sunrise, and pounced upon me before the last
stroke of the clock had sounded."

While thus the baronet was engaged in muttering his discontent, and
venting secret imprecations on the whole race of attorneys, a vehicle
rolled up to the hall-door. The bell pealed, and the knocker thundered,
and in a moment a servant entered, and announced Mr. Craven--a
square-built man of low stature, wearing his own long, grizzled hair
instead of a wig--having a florid complexion, hooked nose, beetle
brows, and long-cut, Jewish, black eyes, set close under the bridge of
his nose--who stepped with a velvet tread into the room. An unvarying
smile sate upon his thin lips, and about his whole air and manner there
was a certain indescribable sanctimoniousness, which was rather
enhanced by the puritanical plainness of his attire.

"Sir Richard, I beg pardon--rather late, I fear," said he, in a dulcet,
insinuating tone--"hard work, nevertheless, I do assure
you--ninety-seven skins--splendidly engrossed--quite a treat--five of
my young men up all night--I have got one of them outside to witness it
along with me. Some reading in the thing, I promise you; but I hope--I
_do_ hope, I am not very late?"

"Not at all--not at all, my dear Mr. Craven," said Sir Richard, with
his most engaging smile; for, as we have hinted, "dear Mr. Craven" had
not made the science of conveyancing peculiarly cheap in practice to
the baronet, who accordingly owed him more costs than it would have
been quite convenient to pay upon a short notice--"I'll just, with your
assistance, glance through these parchments, though to do so be but a
matter of form. Pray take a chair beside me--there. Now then to
business."

Accordingly to business they went. Practice, they say, makes perfect,
and the baronet had had, unfortunately for himself, a great deal of it
in such matters during the course of his life. He knew how to read a
deed as well as the most experienced counsel at the Irish bar, and was
able consequently to detect with wonderfully little rummaging and
fumbling in the ninety-seven skins of closely written verbiage, the
seven lines of sense which they enveloped. Little more than
half-an-hour had therefore satisfied Sir Richard that the mass of
parchment before him, after reciting with very considerable accuracy
the deeds and process by which the lands of Glenvarlogh were settled
upon his daughter, went on to state that for and in consideration of
the sum of five shillings, good and lawful money, she, being past the
age of twenty-one, in every possible phrase and by every word which
tautology could accumulate, handed over the said lands, absolutely to
her father, Sir Richard Ashwoode, Bart., of Morley Court, in the county
of Dublin, to have, and to hold, and to make ducks and drakes of, to
the end of time, constantly affirming at the end of every sentence that
she was led to do all this for and in consideration of the sum of five
shillings, good and lawful money. As soon as Sir Richard had seen all
this, which was, as we have said, in little more than half-an-hour, he
pulled the bell, and courteously informing Mr. Craven, the immortal
author of the interesting document which he had just perused, that he
would find chocolate and other refreshments in the library, and
intimating that he would perhaps disturb him in about ten minutes, he
consigned that gentleman to the guidance of the servant, whom he also
directed to summon Miss Ashwoode to his presence.

"Her signing this deed," thought he, as he awaited her arrival, "will
make her absolutely dependent upon me--it will make rebellion,
resistance, murmuring, impossible; she then _must_ do as I would have
her, or--Ah? my dear child," exclaimed the baronet, as his daughter
entered the room, addressing her in the sweetest imaginable voice, and
instantaneously dismissing the sinister menace which had sat upon his
countenance, and clothing it instead as suddenly with an absolute
radiance of affection, "come here and kiss me and sit down by my
side--are you well to-day? you look pale--you smile--well, well! it
cannot be anything _very_ bad. You shall run out just now with Emily.
But first, I must talk with you for a little, and, strange enough, on
business too." The old gentleman paused for an instant to arrange the
order of his address, and then continued. "Mary, I will tell you
frankly more of my affairs than I have told to almost any person
breathing. In my early days, and indeed _after_ my marriage, I was far,
_far_ too careless in money matters. I involved myself considerably,
and owing to various circumstances, tiresome now to dwell upon, I have
never been able to extricate myself from these difficulties. Henry too,
your brother, is fearfully prodigal--fearfully; and has within the last
three or four years enormously aggravated my embarrassments, and of
course multiplied my anxieties most grievously, most distractingly. I
feel that my spirits are gone, my health declining, and, worse than
all, my temper, yes--my _temper_ soured. You do not know, you cannot
know, how bitterly I feel, with what intense pain, and sorrow, and
contrition, and--and _remorse_, I reflect upon those bursts of
ill-temper, of acrimony, of passion, to which, spite of every
resistance, I am becoming every day more and more prone." Here the
baronet paused to call up a look of compunctious anguish, an effort in
which he was considerably assisted by an acute twinge in his great toe.

"Yes," he continued, when the pain had subsided, "I am now growing old,
I am breaking very fast, sinking, I feel it--I cannot be very long a
trouble to anybody--embarrassments are closing around me on all
sides--I have not the means of extricating myself--despondency, despair
have come upon me, and with them loss of spirits, loss of health, of
strength, of everything which makes life a blessing; and, all these
privations rendered more horrible, more agonizing, by the reflection
that my ill-humour, my peevish temper, are continually taxing the
patience, wounding the feelings, perhaps alienating the affections of
those who are nearest and dearest to me."

Here the baronet became _very_ much affected; but, lest his agitation
should be seen, he turned his head away, while he grasped his
daughter's hand convulsively: the poor girl covered his with kisses. He
had wrung her very heart.

"There is one course," continued he, "by adopting which I might
extricate myself from all my difficulties"--here he raised his eyes
with a haggard expression, and glared wildly along the cornice--"but I
confess I have great hesitation in leaving _you_."

He wrung her hand very hard, and groaned slightly.

"Father, dear father," said she, "do not speak thus--do not--you
frighten me."

"I was wrong, my dear child, to tell you of struggles of which none but
myself ought to have known anything," said the baronet, gloomily. "One
person indeed has the power to assist, I may say, to _save_ me."

"And who is that person, father?" asked the girl.

"Yourself," replied Sir Richard, emphatically.

"How?--I!" said she, turning very pale, for a dreadful suspicion
crossed her mind--"how can _I_ help you, father?"

The old gentleman explained briefly; and the girl, relieved of her
worst fears, started joyously from her seat, clapped her hands together
with gladness, and, throwing her arms about her father's neck,
exclaimed,--

"And is that all?--oh, father; why did you defer telling me so long?
you ought to have known how delighted I would have been to do anything
for you; indeed you ought; tell them to get the papers ready
immediately."

"They _are_ ready, my dear," said Sir Richard, recovering his
self-possession wonderfully, and ringing the bell with a good deal of
hurry--for he fully acknowledged the wisdom of the old proverb, which
inculcates the expediency of striking while the iron's hot--"your
brother had them prepared yesterday, I believe. Inform Mr. Craven," he
continued, addressing the servant, "that I would be very glad to see
him now, and say he may as well bring in the young gentleman who has
accompanied him."

Mr. Craven accordingly appeared, and the "young gentleman," who had but
one eye, and a very seedy coat, entered along with him. The latter
personage bustled about a good deal, slapped the deeds very
emphatically down on the table, and rumpled the parchments sonorously,
looked about for pen and ink, set a chair before the document, and then
held one side of the parchment, while Mr. Craven screwed his knuckles
down upon the other, and the parties forthwith signed; whereupon Mr.
Craven and the one-eyed young gentleman both sat down, and began to
sign away with a great deal of scratching and flourishing on the places
allotted for witnesses; after all which, Mr. Craven, raising himself
with a smile, told Miss Ashwoode, facetiously, that the Chancellor
could not have done so much for the deed as she had done; and the
one-eyed young gentleman held his nose contemplatively between his
finger and thumb, and reviewed the signatures with his solitary optic.

Miss Ashwoode then withdrew, and Mr. Craven and the "young gentleman"
made their bows. Sir Richard beckoned to Mr. Craven, and he glided back
and closed the door, having commanded the "young gentleman" to see if
the coach was ready.

"You see, Mr. Craven," said Sir Richard, who, spite of all his
philosophy, felt a little ashamed even that the attorney should have
seen the transaction which had just been completed--"you see, sir, I
may as well tell you candidly: my daughter, who has just signed this
deed, is about immediately to be married to Lord Aspenly; _he_ kindly
offered to lend me some fifteen thousand pounds, or thereabouts, and I
converted this offer (which I, of course, accepted), into the
assignment, from his bride, that is to be, of this little property,
giving, of course, to his lordship my personal security for the debt
which I consider as owed to him: this arrangement his lordship
preferred as the most convenient possible. I thought it right, in
strict confidence, of course, to explain the real state of the case to
you, as at first sight the thing looks selfish, and I do not wish to
stand worse in my friends' books than I actually deserve to do." This
was spoken with Sir Richard's most engaging smile, and Mr. Craven
smiled in return, most artlessly--at the same time he mentally
ejaculated, "d----d sly!" "You'll bring this security, my dear Mr.
Craven," continued the baronet, "into the market with all dispatch--do
you think you can manage twenty thousand upon it?"

"I fear not more than fourteen, or perhaps, sixteen, with an effort. I
do not think Glenvarlogh would carry much more--I fear not; but rely
upon me, Sir Richard; I'll do everything that can be done--at all
events, I'll lose no time about it, depend upon it--I may as well take
this deed along with me--I have the rest; and title is very--_very_
satisfactory--good-morning, Sir Richard," and the man of parchments
withdrew, leaving Sir Richard in a more benevolent mood than he had
experienced for many a long day.

The attorney had not been many seconds gone, when a second vehicle
thundered up to the door, and a perfect storm of knocking and ringing
announced the arrival of Lord Aspenly himself.



CHAPTER XIV.

ABOUT A CERTAIN GARDEN AND A DAMSEL--AND ALSO CONCERNING A LETTER AND A
RED LEATHERN BOX.


Several days passed smoothly away--Lord Aspenly was a perfect paragon
of politeness; but although his manner invariably assumed a peculiar
tenderness whenever he approached Miss Ashwoode, yet that young lady
remained in happy ignorance of his real intentions. She saw before her
a grotesque old fop, who might without any extraordinary parental
precocity have very easily been her grandfather, and in his airs and
graces, his rappee and his rouge (for his lordship condescended to
borrow a few attractions from art), and in the thousand-and-one _et
ceteras_ of foppery which were accumulated, with great exactitude and
precision, on and about his little person, she beheld nothing more than
so many indications of obstinate and inveterate celibacy, and, of
course, interpreted the exquisite attentions which were meant to
enchain her young heart, merely as so much of that formal target
practice in love's archery, in which gallant single gentlemen of
seventy, or thereabout, will sometimes indulge themselves. Emily
Copland, however, at a glance, saw and understood the nature of Lord
Aspenly's attentions, and she saw just as clearly the intended parts
and the real position of the other actors in this somewhat ill-assorted
drama, and thereupon she took counsel with herself, like a wise damsel,
and arrived at the conclusion, that with some little management she
might, very possibly, play her own cards to advantage among them.

We must here, however, glance for a few minutes at some of the
subordinate agents in our narrative, whose interposition, nevertheless,
deeply, as well as permanently, affected the destinies of more
important personages.

It was the habit of the beautiful Mistress Betsy Carey, every morning,
weather permitting, to enjoy a ramble in the grounds of Morley Court;
and as chance (of course it was chance) would have it, this early
ramble invariably led her through several quiet fields, and over a
stile, into a prettily-situated, but neglected flower-garden, which was
now, however, undergoing a thorough reform, according to the Dutch
taste, under the presiding inspiration of Tobias Potts. Now Tobias
Potts was a widower, having been in the course of his life twice
disencumbered. The last Mrs. Potts had disappeared some five winters
since, and Tobias was now well stricken in years; he possessed the eyes
of an owl, and the complexion of a turkey-cock, and was, moreover,
extremely hard of hearing, and, withal, a man of few words; he was,
however, hale, upright, and burly--perfectly sound in wind and limb,
and free from vice and children--had a snug domicile, consisting of two
rooms and a loft, enjoyed a comfortable salary, and had, it was
confidently rumoured, put by a good round sum of money somewhere or
other. It therefore struck Mrs. Carey very forcibly, that to be Mrs.
Potts was a position worth attaining; and accordingly, without
incurring any suspicion--for the young women generally regarded Potts
with awe, and the young men with contempt--she began, according to the
expressive phrase in such case made and provided, to set her cap at
Tobias.

In this, his usual haunt, she discovered the object of her search,
busily employed in superintending the construction of a terrace walk,
and issuing his orders with the brevity, decision, and clearness of a
consummate gardener.

"Good-morning, Mr. Potts," said the charming Betsy. Mr. Potts did not
hear. "Good-morning, Mr. Potts," repeated the damsel, raising her voice
to a scream.

Tobias touched his hat with a gruff acknowledgment.

"Well, but how beautiful you are doing it," shouted the handmaid again,
gazing rapturously upon the red earthen rampart, in which none but the
eye of an artist could have detected the rudiments of a terrace, "it's
wonderful neat, all must allow, and indeed it puzzles my head to think
how you can think of it all; it _is_ now, _raly_ elegant, so it is."

Tobias did not reply, and the maiden continued, with a sentimental air,
and still hallooing at the top of her voice--

"Well, of all the trades that is--and big and little, there's a plenty
of them--there's none I'd choose, if I was a man, before the trade of a
gardener."

"No, you would not, _I'm_ sure," was the laconic reply.

"Oh, but I declare and purtest _I would_ though," bawled the young
woman; "for gardeners, old or young, is always so good-humoured, and
pleasant, and fresh-like. Oh, dear, but I would like to be a gardener."

"Not an _old_ one, howsomever," growled Mr. Potts.

"Yes, but I would though, I declare and purtest to goodness gracious,"
persisted the nymph; "I'd rather of the two perfer to be an _old_
gardener" (this was a bold stroke of oratory; but Potts did not hear
it); "I'd rather be an _old_ gardener," she screamed a second time;
"I'd rather be an _old_ gardener of the two, so I would."

"That's more than _I_ would," replied Potts, very abruptly, and with an
air of uncommon asperity, for he silently cherished a lingering belief
in his own juvenility, and not the less obstinately that it was fast
becoming desperate--a peculiarity of which, unfortunately, until that
moment the damsel had never been apprised. This, therefore, was a turn
which a good deal disconcerted the young woman, especially as she
thought she detected a satirical leer upon the countenance of a young
man in crazy inexpressibles, who was trundling a wheelbarrow in the
immediate vicinity; she accordingly exclaimed not loud enough for
Tobias, but quite loud enough for the young man in the infirm breeches
to hear,--

"What an old fool. I purtest it's meat and drink to me to tease him--so
it is;" and with a forced giggle she tripped lightly away to retrace
her steps towards the house.

As she approached the stile we have mentioned, she thought she
distinguished what appeared to be the inarticulate murmurings of some
subterranean voice almost beneath her feet. A good deal startled at so
prodigious a phenomenon, she stopped short, and immediately heard the
following brief apostrophe delivered in a rich brogue:--

"Aiqually beautiful and engaging--vartuous Betsy Carey--listen to the
voice of tindher emotion."

The party addressed looked with some alarm in all directions for any
visible intimation of the speaker's presence, but in vain. At length,
from among an unusually thick and luxuriant tuft of docks and other
weeds, which grew at the edge of a ditch close by, she beheld something
red emerging, which in a few moments she clearly perceived to be the
classical countenance of Larry Toole.

"The Lord _purtect_ us all, Mr. Toole. Why in the world do you frighten
people this way?" ejaculated the nymph, rather shrilly.

"Whist! most evangelical iv women," exclaimed Larry in a low key, and
looking round suspiciously--"whisht! or we are ruined."

"La! Mr. Laurence, what _are_ you after?" rejoined the damsel, with a
good deal of asperity. "I'll have you to know I'm not used to talk with
a man that's squat in a ditch, and his head in a dock plant. That's not
the way for to come up to an honest woman, sir--no more it is."

"I'd live ten years in a ditch, and die in a dock plant," replied Larry
with enthusiasm, "for one sight iv you."

"And is that what brought you here?" replied she, with a toss of her
head. "I purtest some people's quite overbearing, so they are, and
knows no bounds."

"Stop a minute, most beautiful bayin'--for one instant minute pay
attintion," exclaimed Mr. Toole, eagerly, for he perceived that she had
commenced her retreat. "Tare an' owns! divine crature, it's not _goin'_
you are?"

"I have no notions, good or bad, Mr. Toole," replied the young lady,
with great volubility and dignity, "and no idaya in the wide world for
to be standing here prating, and talking, and losing my time with such
as you--if my business is neglected, it is not on your back the blame
will light. I have my work, and my duty, and my business to mind, and
if I do not mind them, no one else will do it for me; and I am
astonished and surprised beyant telling, so I am, at the impittence of
some people, thinking that the likes of me has nothing else to be doing
but listening to them discoorsing in a dirty ditch, and more particular
when their conduct has been sich as some people's that is old enough at
any rate to know better."

The fair handmaiden had now resumed her retreat; so that Larry, having
raised himself from his lowly hiding-place, was obliged to follow for
some twenty yards before he again came up with her.

"Wait one half second--stop a bit, for the Lord's sake," exclaimed he,
with most earnest energy.

"Well, wonst for all, Mr. Laurence," exclaimed Mistress Carey severely,
"what _is_ your business with me?"

"Jist this," rejoined Larry, with a mysterious wink, and lowering his
voice--"a letter to the young mistress from"--here he glanced jealously
round, and then bringing himself close beside her, he whispered in her
ear--"from Mr. O'Connor--whisht--not a word--into her own hand, mind."

The young woman took the letter, read the superscription, and forthwith
placed it in her bosom, and rearranged her kerchief.

"Never fear--never fear," said she, "Miss Mary shall have it in half an
hour. And how," added she, maliciously, "_is_ Mr. O'Connor? He is a
lovely gentleman, is not he?"

"He's uncommonly well in health, the Lord be praised," replied Mr.
Toole, with very unaccountable severity.

"Well, for my part," continued the girl, "I never seen the man yet to
put beside him--unless, indeed, the young master may be. He's a very
pretty young man--and so shocking agreeable."

Mr. Toole nodded a pettish assent, coughed, muttered something to
himself, and then inquired when he should come for an answer.

"I'll have an answer to-morrow morning--maybe this evening," pursued
she; "but do not be coming so close up to the house. Who knows who
might be on our backs in an instant here? I'll walk down whenever I get
it to the two mulberries at the old gate; and I'll go there either in
the morning at this hour, or else a little before supper-time in the
evening."

Mr. Toole, having gazed rapturously at the object of his tenderest
aspirations during the delivery of this address, was at its termination
so far transported by his feelings, as absolutely to make a kind of
indistinct and flurried attempt to kiss her.

"Well, I purtest, this is overbearing," exclaimed the virgin; and at
the same time bestowing Mr. Toole a sound box on the ear, she tripped
lightly toward the house, leaving her admirer a prey to what are
usually termed conflicting emotions.

When Sir Richard returned to his dressing-room at about noon, to
prepare for dinner, he had hardly walked to the toilet, and rung for
his Italian servant, when a knock was heard at his chamber door, and,
in obedience to his summons, Mistress Carey entered.

"Well, Carey," inquired the baronet, as soon as she had appeared, "do
you bring me any news?"

The lady's-maid closed the door carefully.

"News?" she repeated. "Indeed, but I do, Sir Richard--and bad news, I'm
afeard, sir. Mr. O'Connor has written a great long letter to my
mistress, if you please, sir."

"Have you gotten it?" inquired the baronet, quickly.

"Yes, sir," rejoined she, "safe and sound here in my breast, Sir
Richard."

"Your young mistress has not opened it--or read it?" inquired he.

"Oh, dear! Sir Richard, it is after all you said to me only the other
day," rejoined she, in virtuous horror. "I hope I know my place better
than to be fetching and carrying notes and letters, and all soarts,
unnonst to my master. Don't I know, sir, very well how that you're the
best judge what's fitting and what isn't for the sight of your own
precious child? and wouldn't I be very unnatural, and very hardened and
ungrateful, if I was to be making secrets in the family, and if any
ill-will or misfortunes was to come out of it? I purtest I never--never
would forgive myself--never--no more I ought--never."

Here Mistress Carey absolutely wept.

"Give me the letter," said Sir Richard, drily.

The damsel handed it to him; and he, having glanced at the seal and the
address, deposited the document safely in a small leathern box which
stood upon his toilet, and having locked it safely therein, he turned
to the maid, and patting her on the cheek with a smile, he remarked,--

"Be a good girl, Carey, and you shall find you have consulted your
interest best."

Here Mistress Carey was about to do justice to her own
disinterestedness in a very strong protestation, but the baronet
checked her with an impatient wave of the hand, and continued,--

"Say not on any account one word to any person touching this letter,
until you have your directions from me. Stay--this will buy you a
ribbon. Good-bye--be a good girl."

So saying, the baronet placed a guinea in the girl's hand, which, with
a courtesy, having transferred to her pocket, she withdrew rather
hurriedly, for she heard the valet in the next room.



CHAPTER XV.

THE TRAITOR.


Upon the day following, O'Connor had not yet received any answer to his
letter. He was, however, not a little surprised instead to receive a
second visit from young Ashwoode.

"I am very glad, my dear O'Connor," said the young man as he entered,
"to have found you alone. I have been wishing very much for this
opportunity, and was half afraid as I came upstairs that I should again
have been disappointed. The fact is, I wish much to speak to you upon a
subject of great difficulty and delicacy--one in which, however, I
naturally feel so strong an interest, that I may speak to you upon it,
and freely, too, without impertinence. I allude to your attachment to
my sister. Do not imagine, my dear O'Connor, that I am going to lecture
you on prudence and all that; and above all, my dear fellow, do not
think I want to tax your confidence more deeply than you are willing I
should; I know quite enough for all I would suggest; I know the plain
fact that you love my sister--I have long known it, and this is
enough."

"Well, sir, what follows?" said O'Connor, dejectedly.

"Do not call me _sir_--call me friend--fellow--fool--anything you
please but that," replied Ashwoode, kindly; and after a brief pause, he
continued: "I need not, and cannot disguise it from you, that I was
much opposed to this, and vexed extremely at the girl's encouragement
of what I considered a most imprudent suit. I have, however, learned to
think differently--very differently. After all my littlenesses and
pettishness, for which you must have, if not abhorred, at least
despised me from your very heart--after all this, I say, your noble
conduct in risking your own life to save my worthless blood is what I
never can enough admire, and honour, and thank." Here he grasped
O'Connor's hand, and shook it warmly. "After this, I tell you,
O'Connor, that were there offered to me, on my sister's behoof, on the
one side the most brilliant alliance in wealth and rank that ever
ambition dreamed of, and upon the other side this hand of yours, I
would, so heaven is my witness, forego every allurement of titles,
rank, and riches, and give my sister to you. I have come here,
O'Connor, frankly to offer you my aid and advice--to prove to you my
sincerity, and, if possible, to realize your wishes."

O'Connor could hardly believe his senses. Here was the man who,
scarcely six days since, he felt assured, would more readily have
suffered him to thrust him through the body than consent to his
marriage with Mary Ashwoode, now not merely consenting to it, but
offering cordially and spontaneously all the assistance in his power
towards effecting that very object. Had he heard him aright? One look
at his expressive face--the kindly pressure of his hand--everything
assured him that he had justly comprehended all that Ashwoode had
spoken, and a glow of hope, warmer than had visited him for years,
cheered his heart.

"In the meantime," continued Ashwoode, "I must tell you exactly how
matters stand at Morley Court. The Earl of Aspenly, of whom you may
have heard, is paying his addresses to my sister."

"The Earl of Aspenly," echoed O'Connor, slightly colouring. "I had not
heard of this before--she did not name him."

"Yet she has known it a good while," returned Ashwoode, with
well-affected surprise--"a month, I believe, or more. He's now at
Morley Court, and means to make some stay--are you sure she never
mentioned him?"

"Titled, and, of course, rich," said O'Connor, scarce hearing the
question. "Why should I have heard of this by chance, and from
another--why this reserve--this silence?"

"Nay, nay," replied Henry, "you must not run away with the matter thus.
Mary may have forgotten it, _or_--or not liked to tell you--not cared
to give you needless uneasiness."

"I wish she had--I wish she had--I am--I am, indeed, Ashwoode, very,
very unhappy," said O'Connor, with extreme dejection. "Forgive
me--forgive my folly, since folly it seems--I fear I weary you."

"Well, well, since it seems you have _not_ heard of it," rejoined
Henry, carelessly throwing himself back in his chair, "you may as well
learn it now--not that there is any real cause of alarm in the matter,
as I shall presently show you, but simply that you may understand the
position of the enemy. Lord Aspenly, then, is at present at Morley
Court, where he is received as Mary's lover--observe me, only as her
lover--not yet, and I trust _never_ as her _accepted_ lover."

"Go on--pray go on," said O'Connor, with suppressed but agonized
anxiety.

"Now, though my father is very hot about the match," resumed his
visitor, "it may appear strange enough to you that _I_ never was.
There are a few--a very few--advantages in the matter, of course,
viewing it merely in its worldly aspect. But Lord Aspenly's property
is a good deal embarrassed, and he is of violently Whig politics and
connections, the very thing most hated by my old Tory uncle, Oliver
French, whom my father has been anxious to cultivate; besides, the
disparity in years is so very great that it is ridiculous--I might
almost say _indecent_--and this even in point of family standing, and
indeed of reputation, putting aside every better consideration, is
objectionable. I have urged all these things upon my father, and
perhaps we should not find any insurmountable obstacle _there_; but
the fact is, there is another difficulty, one of which until this
morning I never dreamed--the most whimsical difficulty imaginable."
Here the young man raised his eyebrows, and laughed faintly, while he
looked upon the floor, and O'Connor, with increasing earnestness,
implored him to proceed. "It appears so very absurd and perverse an
obstacle," continued Ashwoode, with a very quizzical expression, "that
one does not exactly know how to encounter it--to say the truth, I
think that the girl is a little--perhaps the least imaginable
degree--taken--dazzled--caught by the notion of being a countess; it's
very natural, you know, but then I would have expected better from
her."

"By heavens, it is impossible!" exclaimed O'Connor, starting to his
feet; "I cannot believe it; you must, indeed, my dear Ashwoode, you
_must_ have been deceived."

"Well, then," rejoined the young man, "I have lost my skill in reading
young ladies' minds--that's all; but even though I should be right--and
never believe me if I am _not_ right--it does not follow that the giddy
whim won't pass away just as suddenly as it came; her most lasting
impressions--with, I should hope, one exception--were never very
enduring. I have been talking to her for nearly half an hour this
morning--laughing with her about Lord Aspenly's suit, and building
castles in the air about what she will and what she won't do when she's
a countess. But, by the way, how did you let her know that you intend
returning to France at the end of this month, only, as she told me,
however, for a few weeks? She mentioned it yesterday incidentally.
Well, it is a comfort that I hear your secrets, though _you_ won't
entrust them to me. But do not, my dear fellow--_do_ not look so very
black--you very much overrate the firmness of women's minds, and
greatly indeed exaggerate that of my sister's character if you believe
that this vexatious whim which has entered her giddy pate will remain
there longer than a week. The simple fact is that the excitement and
bustle of all this has produced an unusual flow of high spirits, which
will, of course, subside with the novelty of the occasion. Pshaw! why
so cast down?--there is nothing in the matter to surprise one--the
caprice of women knows do rule. I tell you I would almost stake my
reputation as a prophet, that when this giddy excitement passes away,
her feelings will return to their old channel." O'Connor still paced
the room in silence. "Meanwhile," continued the young man, "if anything
occur to you--if I can be useful to you in any way, command me
absolutely, and till you see me next, take heart of grace." He grasped
O'Connor's hand--it was cold as clay; and bidding him farewell, once
more took his departure.

"Well," thought he, as he threw his leg across his high-bred gelding at
the inn door, "I have shot the first shaft home."

And so he had, for the heart at which it was directed, unfenced by
suspicion, lay open to his traitorous practices. O'Connor's letter, an
urgent and a touching one, was still unanswered; it never for a moment
crossed his mind that it had not reached the hand for which it was
intended. The maid who had faithfully delivered all the letters which
had passed between them had herself received it; and young Ashwoode had
but the moment before mentioned, from his sister's lips, the subject on
which it was written--his meditated departure for France. This, too, it
appeared, she had spoken of in the midst of gay and light-hearted
trilling, and projects of approaching magnificence and dissipation with
his rich and noble rival. Twice since the delivery of that letter had
his servant seen Miss Ashwoode's maid; and in the communicative
colloquy which had ensued she had told--no doubt according to
well-planned instructions--how gay and unusually merry her mistress
was, and how she passed whole hours at her toilet, and the rest of her
time in the companionship of Lord Aspenly--so that between his
lordship's society, and her own preparations for it, she had scarcely
allowed herself time to read the letter in question, much less to
answer it.

All these things served to fill O'Connor's mind with vague but
agonizing doubts--doubts which he vainly strove to combat; fears which
had not their birth in an alarmed imagination, but which, alas! were
but too surely approved by reason. The notion of a systematic plot,
embracing so many agents, and conducted with such deep and hellish
hypocrisy, with the sole purpose of destroying affections the most
beautiful, and of alienating hearts the truest, was a thought so
monstrous and unnatural that it never for a second flashed upon his
mind; still his heart struggled strongly against despair. Spite of all
that looked gloomy in what he saw--spite of the boding suggestions of
his worst fears, he would not believe her false to him--that she who
had so long and so well loved and trusted him--she whose gentle heart
he knew unchanged and unchilled by years, and distance, and
misfortunes--that she should, after all, have fallen away from him, and
given up that heart, which once was his, to vanity and the hollow
glitter of the world--this he could hardly bring himself to believe,
yet what was he to think? alas! what?



CHAPTER XVI.

SHOWING SIGNOR PARUCCI ALONE WITH THE WIG-BLOCKS--THE BARONET'S
HAND-BELL AND THE ITALIAN'S TASK.


Morley Court was a queer old building--very large and very irregular.
The main part of the dwelling, and what appeared to be the original
nucleus, upon which after-additions had grown like fantastic
incrustations, was built of deep-red brick, with many recesses and
projections and gables, and tall and grotesquely-shaped chimneys, and
having broad, jutting, heavily-sashed windows, such as belonged to
Henry the Eighth's time, to which period the origin of the building
was, with sufficient probability, referred. The great avenue, which
extended in a direct line to more than the long half of an Irish mile,
led through double rows of splendid old lime-trees, some thirty paces
apart, and arching in a vast and shadowy groining overhead, to the
front of the building. To the rearward extended the rambling additions
which necessity or caprice had from time to time suggested, as the
place, in the lapse of years, passed into the hands of different
masters. One of these excrescences, a quaint little prominence, with a
fanciful gable and chimney of its own, jutted pleasantly out upon the
green sward, courting the friendly shelter of the wild and graceful
trees, and from its casement commanding through the parting boughs no
views but those of quiet fields, distant woodlands, and the far-off
blue hills. This portion of the building contained in the upper story
one small room, to the full as oddly shaped as the outer casing of
fantastic masonry in which it was inclosed--the door opened upon a back
staircase which led from the lower apartments to Sir Richard's
dressing-room; and partly owing to this convenient arrangement, and
partly perhaps to the comfort and seclusion of the chamber itself, it
had been long appropriated to the exclusive occupation of Signor Jacopo
Parucci, Sir Richard's valet and confidential servant. This man was, as
his name would imply, an Italian. Sir Richard had picked him up, some
thirty years before the period at which we have dated our story, in
Naples, where it was said the baronet had received from him very
important instructions in the inner mysteries of that golden science
which converts chance into certainty--a science in which Sir Richard
was said to have become a masterly proficient; and indeed so loudly had
fame begun to bruit his excellence therein, that he found it at last
necessary, or at least highly advisable, to forego the fascinations of
the gaming-table, and to bid to the worship of fortune an eternal
farewell, just at the moment when the fickle goddess promised with
golden profusion to reward his devotion.

Whatever his reason was, Sir Richard had been to this man a good
master; he had, it was said, and not without reason, enriched him; and,
moreover, it was a strange fact, that in all his capricious and savage
moods, from whose consequences not only his servants but his own
children had no exemption, he had never once treated this person
otherwise than with the most marked civility. What the man's services
had actually been, and to what secret influence he owed the close and
confidential terms upon which he unquestionably stood with Sir Richard,
these things were mysteries, and, of course, furnished inexhaustible
matter of scandalous speculation among the baronet's dependents and
most intimate friends.

The room of which we speak was Parucci's snuggery. It contained in a
recess behind the door that gentleman's bed--a plain, low, uncurtained
couch; and variously disposed about the apartment an abundance of
furniture of much better kind; the recess of the window was filled by a
kind of squat press, which was constructed in the lower part, and which
contained, as certain adventurous chambermaids averred, having peeped
into its dim recesses when some precious opportunity presented itself,
among other shadowy shapes, the forms of certain flasks and bottles
with long necks, and several tall glasses of different dimensions. Two
or three tables of various sizes of dark shining wood, with legs after
the fashion of the nether limbs of hippogriffs and fauns, seemed about
to walk from their places, and to stamp and claw at random about the
floor. A large, old press of polished oak, with spiral pillars of the
same flanking it in front, contained the more precious articles of
Signor Parucci's wardrobe. Close beside it, in a small recess, stood a
set of shelves, on which were piled various matters, literary and
otherwise, among which perhaps none were disturbed twice in the year,
with the exception of six or eight packs of cards, with which, for old
associations' sake, Signor Jacopo used to amuse himself now and again
in his solitary hours.

On one of the tables stood two blocks supporting each a flowing black
peruke, which it was almost the only duty of the tenant of this
interesting sanctuary to tend, and trim, and curl. Upon the dusky
tapestry were pinned several coloured prints, somewhat dimmed by time,
but evidently of very equivocal morality. A birding-piece and a
fragment of a fishing-rod covered with dust, neither of which Signor
Parucci had ever touched for the last twenty years, were suspended over
the mantelpiece; and upon the side of the recess, and fully lighted by
the window, in attestation of his gentler and more refined pursuits,
hung a dingy old guitar apparently still in use, for the strings,
though a good deal cobbled and knotted, were perfect in number. A huge,
high-backed, well-stuffed chair, in which a man might lie as snugly as
a kernel in its shell, was placed at the window, and in it reclined the
presiding genius of the place himself, with his legs elevated so as to
rest upon the broad window-sill, formed by the roof of the mysterious
press which we have already mentioned. The Italian was a little man,
very slight, with long hair, a good deal grizzled, flowing upon his
shoulders; he had a sallow complexion and thin hooked nose, piercing
black eyes, lean cheeks, and sharp chin--and altogether a lank,
attenuated, and somewhat intellectual cast of face, with, however, a
certain expression of malice and cunning about the leer of his eye, as
well as in the character of his thin and colourless lip, which made him
by no means a very pleasant object to look upon.

"Fine weather--almost Italy," said the little man, lazily pushing open
the casement with his foot. "I am surprise, good, dear, sweet Sir
Richard, his bell is stop so long quiet. Why is it not go ding, ding,
dingeri, dingeri, ding-a-ding, ding, as usual. Damnation! what do I
care he ring de bell and I leesten. We are not always young, and I must
be allow to be a leetle deaf when he is allow to be a leetle gouty.
Gode blace my body, how hot is de sun. Come down here, leer of
Apollo--come to my arm, meestress of my heart--Orpheus' leer, come
queekly." This was addressed to the ancient instrument of music which
we have already mentioned, and the invitation was accompanied by an
appropriate elevation of his two little legs, which he raised until he
gently closed his feet upon the sides of the "leer of Apollo," which,
with a good deal of dexterity, he unhung from its peg, and conveyed
within reach of his hand. He cast a look of fond admiration at its
dingy and time-dried face, and forthwith, his heels still resting upon
the window-sill, he was soon thrumming a tinkling symphony, none of the
most harmonious, and then, with uncommon zeal, he began, to his own
accompaniment, to sing some ditty of Italian love. While engaged in
this refined and touching employment, he espied, with unutterable
indignation, a young urchin, who, attracted by the sounds of his
amorous minstrelsy, and with a view to torment the performer, who was
an extremely unpopular personage, had stationed himself at a little
distance before the casement, and accompanied the vocal performance of
the Italian with the most hideous grimaces, and the most absurd and
insulting gesticulations.

Signor Parucci would have given a good round sum to have had the
engaging boy by the ears; but this he knew was out of the question; he
therefore (for he was a philosopher) played and sung on without
evincing the smallest consciousness of what was going forward. His
plans of vengeance were, however, speedily devised and no less quickly
executed. There lay upon the window-sill a fragment of biscuit, which
in the course of an ecstatic flourish the little man kicked carelessly
over. The bait had hardly touched the ground beneath the casement when
Jacopo, continuing to play and sing the while, and apparently
unconscious of anything but his own music, to his infinite delight
beheld the boy first abate his exertions, and finally put an end to his
affronting pantomime altogether, and begin to manoeuvre in the
direction of the treacherous windfall. The youth gradually approached
it, and just at the moment when it was within his grasp, Signor
Parucci, with another careless touch of his foot, sent over a large
bow-pot well stored with clay, which stood upon the window-block. The
descent of this ponderous missile was followed by a most heart-stirring
acclamation from below; and good Mr. Parucci, clambering along the
window-sill, and gazing downward, was regaled by the spectacle of the
gesticulating youth stamping about the grass among what appeared to be
the fragments of a hundred flower-pots, writhing and bellowing in
transports of indignation and bodily torment.

"Povero ragazzo--Carissimo figlio," exclaimed the valet, looking out
with an expression of infinite sweetness, "my dear child and charming
boy, how 'av you broke my flower-pote, and when 'av you come here. Ah!
per Bacco, I think I 'av see you before. Ah! yees, you are that
sweetest leetel boy that was leestening at my music--so charming just
now. How much clay is on your back! a cielo! amiable child, you might
'av keel yourself. Sacro numine, what an escape! Say your prayer, and
thank heaven you are safe, my beautiful, sweetest, leetel boy. God
blace you. Now rone away very fast, for fear you pool the other two
flower-potes on your back, sweetest child. Gode bless you, amiable
boy--they are very large and very heavy."

The youth took the hint, and having had quite enough of Mr. Parucci's
music for the evening, withdrew under the combined influences of fury
and lumbago. The little man threw himself back in his chair, and hugged
his shins in sheer delight, grinning and chattering like a delirious
monkey, and rolling himself about, and laughing with the most exquisite
relish. At length, after this had gone on for some time, with the air
of a man who has had enough of trifling, and must now apply himself to
matters of graver importance, he arose, hung up his guitar, sent his
chair, which was upon casters, rolling to the far end of the room, and
proceeded to arrange the curls of one of the two magnificent perukes,
on which it was his privilege to operate. After having applied himself
with uncommon attention to this labour of taste for some time in
silence, he retired a few paces to contemplate the effect of his
performance--whereupon he fell into a musing mood, and began after his
fashion to soliloquize with a good deal of energy and volubility in
that dialect which had become more easy to him than his mother tongue.

"_Corpo di Bacco!_ what thing is life! who would believe thirty years
ago I should be here now in a barbaroose island to curl the wig of an
old gouty blackguard--but what matter. I am a philosopher--damnation--it
is very well as it is--per Bacco! I can go way when I like. I am reech
leetle fellow, and with Sir Richard, good Sir Richard, I do always
whatever I may choose. Good Sir Richard," he continued, addressing the
block on which hung the object of his tasteful labours, as if it had
been the baronet in person--"good Sir Richard, why are you so kind to
me, when you are so cross as the old devil in hell with all the rest
of the world?--why, why, why? Shall I say to you the reason, good,
kind Sir Richard? Well, I weel. It is because you dare not--dare
not--dare not-da-a-a-are not vaix me. I am, you know, dear Sir
Richard, a poor, leetle foreigner, who is depending on your goodness.
I 'ave nothing but your great pity and good charity--oh, no! I am
nothing at all; but still you dare not vaix me--you moste not be
angry--note at all--but very quiet--you moste not go in a passion--oh!
never--weeth me--even if I was to make game of you, and to insult you,
and to pool your nose."

Here the Italian seized, with the tongs which he had in his hand, upon
that prominence in the wooden block which corresponded in position with
the nose, which at other times the peruke overshadowed, and with a grin
of infinite glee pinched and twisted the iron instrument until the
requirements of his dramatic fancy were satisfied, when he delivered
two or three sharp knocks on the smooth face of the block, and resumed
his address.

"No, no--you moste not be angry, fore it would be great misfortune--oh,
it would--if you and I should quarrel together; but tell me now, old
_truffatore_--tell me, I say, am I not very quiet, good-nature,
merciful, peetying faylow? Ah, yees--very, very--_Madre di Dio_--very
moche; and dear, good Sir Richard, shall I tell you why I am so very
good-nature? It is because I love you joste as moche as you love me--it
is because, most charitable patron, it is my convenience to go on weeth
you quietly and 'av no fighting yet--bote you are going to get money.
Oh! so coning you are, you think I know nothing--you think I am
asleep--bote I know it--I know it quite well. You think I know nothing
about the land you take from Miss Mary. Ah! you are very coning--oh!
very; but I 'av hear it all, and I tell you--and I swear _per sangue di
D----_, when you get that money I shall, and will, and moste--_mo-ooste_
'av a very large, comfortable, beeg handful--do you hear me? Oh, you
very coning old rascal; and if you weel not geeve it, oh, my dear Sir
Richard, echellent master, I am so moche afaid we will 'av a fight
between us--a quarrel--that will spoil our love and friendship, and
maybe, helas! horte your reputation--shoking--make the gentlemen spit
on you, and avoid you, and call you all the ogly names--oh! shoking."

Here he was interrupted by a loud ringing in Sir Richard's chamber.

"There he is to pool his leetle bell--damnation, what noise. I weel go
up joste now--time enough, dear, good, patient Sir Richard--time
enough--oh, plainty, plainty."

The little man then leisurely fumbled in his pocket until he brought
forth a bunch of keys, from which, having selected one, he applied it
to the lock of the little press which we have already mentioned, whence
he deliberately produced one of the flasks which we have hinted at,
along with a tall glass with a spiral stem, and filling himself a
bumper of the liquor therein contained, he coolly sipped it to the
bottom, accompanied throughout the performance by the incessant
tinkling of Sir Richard's hand-bell.

"Ah, very good, most echellent--thank you, Sir Richard, you 'av give me
so moche time and so moche music, I 'av drunk your very good health."

So saying, he locked up the flask and glass again, and taking the block
which had just represented Sir Richard in the imaginary colloquy in his
hand, he left his own chamber, and ran upstairs to the baronet's
dressing-room. He found his master alone.

"Ah, Jacopo," exclaimed the baronet, looking somewhat flushed, but
speaking, nevertheless, in a dulcet tone enough, "I have been ringing
for nearly ten minutes; but I suppose you did not hear me."

"Joste so as you 'av say," replied the man. "Your _signoria_ is very
seldom wrong. I was so charmed with my work I could not hear nothing."

"Parucci," rejoined Sir Richard, after a slight pause, "you know I keep
no secrets from you."

"Ah, you flatter me, Signor--you flatter me--indeed you do," said the
valet, with ironical humility.

His master well understood the tone in which the fellow spoke, but did
not care to notice it.

"The fact is, Jacopo," continued Sir Richard, "you already know so many
of my secrets, that I have now no motive in excluding you from any."

"Goode, kind--oh, very kind," ejaculated the valet.

"In short," continued his master, who felt a little uneasy under the
praises of his attendant--"in short, to speak plainly, I want your
assistance. I know your talents well. You can imitate any handwriting
you please to copy with perfect accuracy. You must copy, in the
handwriting of this manuscript, the draft of a letter which I will hand
you this evening. You require some little time to study the character;
so take the letter with you, and be in my room at ten to-night. I will
then hand you the draft of what I want written. You understand?"

"Understand! To be sure--most certilly I weel do it," replied the
Italian, "so that the great devil himself will not tell the writing of
the two, _l'un dall' altro_, one from the other. Never fear--geeve me
the letter. I must learn the writing. I weel be here to-night before
you are arrive, and I weel do it very fast, and so like--bote you know
how well I can copy. Ah! yees; you know it, Signor. I need not tell."

"No more at present," said the baronet, with a gesture of caution.
"Assist me to dress."

The Italian accordingly was soon deep in the mysteries of his elaborate
functions, where we shall leave him and his master for the present.



CHAPTER XVII.

DUBLIN CASTLE BY NIGHT--THE DRAWING-ROOM--LORD WHARTON AND HIS COURT.


Sir Richard Ashwoode had set his heart upon having Lord Aspenly for his
son-in-law; and all things considered, his lordship was, perhaps,
according to the standard by which the baronet measured merit, as good
a son-in-law as he had any right to hope for. It was true, Lord Aspenly
was neither very young nor very beautiful. Spite of all the ingenious
arts by which he reinforced his declining graces, it was clear as the
light that his lordship was not very far from seventy; and it was just
as apparent that it was not to any extraordinary supply of bone,
muscle, or flesh that his vitality was attributable. His lordship was a
little, spindle-shanked gentleman, with the complexion of a consumptive
frog, and features as sharp as edged tools. He condescended to borrow
from the artistic talents of his valet the exquisite pencilling of his
eyebrows, as well as the fine black line which gave effect to a set of
imaginary eyelashes, and depth and brilliancy to a pair of eyes which,
although naturally not very singularly effective, had, nevertheless,
nearly as much vivacity in them as they had ever had. His smiles were
perennial and unceasing, very winning and rather ghastly. He used much
gesticulation, and his shrug was absolutely Parisian. To all these
perfections he added a wonderful facility in rounding the periods of a
compliment, and an inexhaustible affluence of something which passed
for conversation. Thus endowed, and having, moreover, the additional
recommendation of a handsome income, a peerage, and an unencumbered
celibacy, it is hardly wonderful that his lordship was unanimously
voted by all prudent and discriminating persons, without exception, the
most fascinating man in all Ireland. Sir Richard Ashwoode was not one
whit more in earnest in desiring the match than was Lord Aspenly
himself. His lordship had for some time begun to suspect that he had
nearly sown his wild oats--that it was time for him to reform--that he
was ripe for the domestic virtues, and ought to renounce scamp-hood. He
therefore, in the laboratory of his secret soul, compounded a virtuous
passion, which he resolved to expend upon the first eligible object who
might present herself. Mary Ashwoode was the fortunate damsel who first
happened to come within the scope and range of his lordship's
premeditated love; and he forthwith in a matrimonial paroxysm applied,
according to the good old custom, not to the lady herself, but to Sir
Richard Ashwoode, and was received with open arms.

The baronet indeed, as the reader is aware, anticipated many
difficulties in bringing the match about; for he well knew how deeply
his daughter's heart was engaged, and his misgivings were more sombre
and frequent than he cared to acknowledge even to himself. He resolved,
however, that the thing should be; and he was convinced, that if his
lordship only were firm, spite of fate he would effect it. In order
then to inspire Lord Aspenly with this desirable firmness, he not
unwisely believed that his best course was to exhibit him as much as
possible in public places, in the character of the avowed lover of Mary
Ashwoode; a position which, when once unequivocally assumed, afforded
no creditable retreat, except through the gates of matrimony. It was
arranged, therefore, that the young lady, under the protection of Lady
Stukely, and accompanied by Lord Aspenly and Henry Ashwoode, should
attend the first drawing-room at the Castle, a ceremonial which had
been fixed to take place a few days subsequently to the arrival of Lord
Aspenly at Morley Court. Those who have seen the Castle of Dublin only
as it now stands, have beheld but the creation of the last sixty or
seventy years, with the exception only of the wardrobe tower, an old
grey cylinder of masonry, very dingy and dirty, which appears to have
gone into half mourning for its departed companions, and presents
something of the imposing character of an overgrown, mouldy band-box.
At the beginning of the last century, however, matters were very
different. The trim brick buildings, with their spacious windows and
symmetrical regularity of structure, which now complete the quadrangles
of the castle, had not yet appeared; but in their stead masses of
building, constructed with very little attention to architectural
precision, either in their individual formation or in their relative
position, stood ranged together, so as to form two irregular and gloomy
squares. That portion of the building which was set apart for state
occasions and the vice-regal residence, had undergone so many repairs
and modifications, that very little if any of it could have been
recognized by its original builder. Not so, however, with other
portions of the pile: the ponderous old towers, which have since
disappeared, with their narrow loop-holes and iron-studded doors
looming darkly over the less massive fabrics of the place with stern
and gloomy aspect, reminded the passer every moment, that the building
whose courts he trod was not merely the theatre of stately ceremonies,
but a fortress and a prison.

The viceroyalty of the Earl of Wharton was within a few weeks of its
abrupt termination; the approaching discomfiture of the Whigs was not,
however, sufficiently clearly revealed, to thin the levees and
drawing-rooms of the Whig lord-lieutenant. The castle yards were,
therefore, upon the occasion in question, crowded to excess with the
gorgeous equipages in which the Irish aristocracy of the time
delighted. The night had closed in unusual darkness, and the massive
buildings, whose summits were buried in dense and black obscurity, were
lighted only by the red reflected glow of crowded flambeaux and
links--which, as the respective footmen, who attended the crowding
chairs and coaches flourished them according to the approved fashion,
scattered their wide showers of sparks into the eddying air, and
illumined in a broad and ruddy glare, like that of a bonfire, the
gorgeous equipages with which the square was now thronged, and the
splendid figures which they successively discharged. There were
coaches-and-four--out-riders--running footmen and hanging
footmen--crushing and rushing--jostling and swearing--and burly
coachmen, with inflamed visages, lashing one another's horses and their
own. Lackeys collaring and throttling one another, all "for their
master's honour," in the hot and disorderly dispute for precedence, and
some even threatening an appeal to the swords--which, according to the
barbarous fashion of the day, they carried, to the no small peril of
the public and themselves. Others dragging the reins of strangers'
horses, and backing them to make way for their own--a proceeding which,
of course, involved no small expenditure of blasphemy and vociferation.
On the whole, it would not be easy to exaggerate the scene of riot and
confusion which, under the very eye of the civil and military executive
of the country, was perpetually recurring, and that, too, ostensibly in
honour of the supreme head of the Irish Government.

Through all this crash, and clatter, and brawling, and vociferation,
the party whom we are bound to follow made their way with some
difficulty and considerable delay.

The Earl of Wharton with his countess, surrounded by a brilliant staff,
and amid all the pomp and state of vice-regal dignity, received the
distinguished courtiers who thronged the castle chambers. At the time
of which we write, Lord Wharton was in his seventieth year. Few,
however, would have guessed his age at more than sixty, though many
might have supposed it under that. He was rather a spare figure, with
an erect and dignified bearing, and a countenance which combined
vivacity, good-humour, and boldness in an eminent degree. His manners
were, to those who did not know how unreal was everything in them that
bore the promise of good, singularly engaging, and that in spite of a
very strong spice of coarseness, and a very determined addiction to
profane swearing. He had, however, in his whole air and address a kind
of rollicking, good-humoured familiarity, which was very generally
mistaken for the quintessence of candour and good-fellowship, and which
consequently rendered him unboundedly popular among those who were not
aware of the fact that his complimentary speeches meant just nothing,
and were very often followed, the moment the object of them had
withdrawn, by the coarsest ridicule, and even by the grossest abuse.
For the rest, he was undoubtedly an able statesman, and had clearly
discerned and adroitly steered his way through the straits and perils
of troublous and eventful times. He was, moreover, a steady and
uncompromising Whig, upon whom, throughout a long and active life, the
stain of inconsistency had never rested; a thorough partisan, a quick
and ready debater, and an unscrupulous and daring political intriguer.
In private, however, entirely profligate--a sensualist and an infidel,
and in both characters equally without shame.

Through the rooms there wandered a very wild, madcap boy of some ten or
eleven years, venting his turbulent spirits in all kinds of mischievous
pranks--sometimes planting himself behind Lord Wharton, and mimicking,
with ludicrous exaggeration, which the courtly spectators had enough to
do to resist, the ceremonious gestures and gracious nods of the
viceroy; at other times assuming a staid and manly carriage, and
chatting with his elders with the air of perfect equality, and upon
subjects which one would have thought immeasurably beyond his years,
and this with a sound sense, suavity, and precision which would have
done honour to many grey heads in the room. This strange, bold,
precocious boy of eleven was Philip, afterwards Duke of Wharton, the
wonder and the disgrace of the British peerage.

"Ah! Mr. Morris," exclaimed his excellency, as a middle-aged gentleman,
with a fluttered air, a round face, and vacant smile, approached, "I am
delighted to see you--by ---- Almighty I am--give me your hand. I have
written across about the matter we wot of: but for these cursed
contrary winds, I make no doubt I should have had a letter before now.
Is the young gentleman himself here?"

"A--a--not quite, your excellency. That is, not at--all," stammered the
gentleman, in mingled delight and alarm. "He is, my lord, a--a--laid
up. He--a--it is a sore throat. Your excellency is most gracious."

"Tell him from me," rejoined Wharton, "that he must get well as quickly
as may be. We don't know the moment he may be wanted. You understand
me?"

"I--a--do indeed," replied Mr. Morris, retiring in graceful confusion.

"A d----d impudent booby," whispered Wharton to Addison, who stood
beside him, uttering the remark without the change of a single muscle.
"He has made some cursed unconscionable request about his son. I'gad, I
forget what; but we want his vote on Tuesday; and civility, you know,
costs no coin."

Addison smiled faintly, and shook his head.

"May the Lord pardon us all," exclaimed a country clergyman in a rusty
gown and ill-dressed wig, with a pale, attenuated, eager face, which
told mournful tales of short commons and hard work; he had been for
some time an intense and a grieved listener to the lord-lieutenant's
conversation, and was now slowly retiring with a companion as humble as
himself from the circle which surrounded his excellency, with simple
horror impressed upon his pale features--"may the Lord preserve us all,
how awful it is to hear one so highly trusted by _Him_, take His name
thus momentarily in vain. Lord Wharton is, I fear me much, an habitual
profane swearer."

"Believe me, sir, you are very simple," rejoined a young clergyman who
stood close to the position which the speaker now occupied. "His
excellency's object in swearing by the different persons of the Trinity
is to show that he believes in revealed religion--a fact which else
were doubtful; and this being his main object, it is manifestly a
secondary consideration to what particular asseveration or promises his
excellency happens to tack his oaths."

The lank, pale-faced prebendary looked suddenly and earnestly round
upon the person who had accosted him, with an expression of curiosity
and wonder, evidently in some doubt as to the spirit in which the
observation had been made. He beheld a tall, stalwart man, arrayed in a
clerical costume as rich as that of a churchman who has not attained to
the rank of a dignitary in his profession could well be, and in all
points equipped with the most perfect neatness. In the face he looked
in vain for any indication of jocularity. It was a striking
countenance--striking for the extreme severity of its expression, and
for its stern and handsome outline. The eye which encountered the
inquiring glance of the elder man was of the clearest blue, singularly
penetrating and commanding--the eyebrow dark and shaggy--the lips full
and finely formed, but in their habitual expression bearing a character
of haughty and indomitable determination--the complexion of the face
was dark; and as the country prebendary gazed upon the countenance,
full, as it seemed, of a scornful, stern, merciless energy and
decision, something told him, that he looked upon one born to lead and
to command the people. All this he took in at a glance: and while he
looked, Addison, who had detached himself from the vice-regal coterie,
laid his hand upon the shoulder of the stern-featured young clergyman.

"Swift," said he, drawing him aside, "we see you too seldom here. His
excellency begins to think and to hope you have reconsidered what I
spoke about when last we met. Believe me, you wrong yourself in not
rendering what service you can to men who are not ungrateful, and who
have the power to reward. You were always a Whig, and a pamphlet were
with you but the work of a few days."

"Were I to write a pamphlet," rejoined Swift, "it is odds his
excellency would not like it."

"Have you not always been a Whig?" urged Addison.

"Sir, I am not to be taken by nicknames," rejoined Swift. "I know
Godolphin, and I know Lord Wharton. I have long distrusted the
government of each. I am no courtier, Mr. Secretary. What I suspect I
will not seem to trust--what I hate I hate entirely, and renounce
openly. I have heard of my Lord Wharton's doing, too. When I refused
before to understand your overtures to me to write a pamphlet for his
friends, he was pleased to say I refused because he would not make me
his chaplain--in saying which he knowingly and malignantly lied; and to
this lie he, after his accustomed fashion, tacked a blasphemous oath.
He is therefore a perjured liar. I renounce him as heartily as I
renounce the devil. I am come here, Mr. Secretary, not to do reverence
to Lord Wharton--God forbid!--but to offer my homage to the majesty of
England, whose brightness is reflected even in that cracked and
battered piece of pinchbeck yonder. Believe me, should his excellency
be rash enough to engage me in talk to-night, I shall take care to let
him know what opinion I have of him."

"Come, come, you must not be so dogged," rejoined Addison. "You know
Lord Wharton's ways. He says a good deal more than he cares to be
believed--everybody knows _that_--and all take his lordship's
asseverations with a grain of allowance; besides, you ought to consider
that when a man unused to contradiction is crossed by disappointment,
he is apt to be choleric, and to forget his discretion. We all know his
faults; but even you will not deny his merits."

Thus speaking, he led Swift toward the vice-regal circle, which they
had no sooner reached than Wharton, with his most good-humoured smile,
advanced to meet the young clergyman, exclaiming,--

"Swift! so it is, by ----! I am glad to see you--by ---- I am."

"I am glad, my lord," replied Swift, gravely, "that you take such
frequent occasion to remind this godless company of the presence of the
Almighty."

"Well, you know," rejoined Wharton, good-humouredly, "the Scripture
saith that the righteous man sweareth to his neighbour."

"And _disappointeth_ him not," rejoined Swift.

"And disappointeth him not," repeated Wharton; "and by ----," continued
he, with marked earnestness, and drawing the young politician aside as
he spoke, "in whatsoever I swear to thee there shall be no
disappointment."

He paused, but Swift remained silent. The lord-lieutenant well knew
that an English preferment was the nearest object of the young
churchman's ambition. He therefore continued,--

"On my soul, we want you in England--this is no stage for you. By ----
you cannot hope to serve either yourself or your friends in this
place."

"Very few thrive here but scoundrels, my lord," rejoined Swift.

"Even so," replied Wharton, with perfect equanimity--"it is a nation of
scoundrels--dissent on the one side and popery on the other. The upper
order harpies, and the lower a mere prey--and all equally liars,
rogues, rebels, slaves, and robbers. By ---- some fine day the devil
will carry off the island bodily. For very safety you must get out of
it. By ---- he'll have it."

"I am not enough in the devil's confidence to speak of his designs with
so much authority as your lordship," rejoined Swift; "but I incline to
think that under your excellency's administration it will answer his
end as well to leave the island where it is."

"Ah! Swift, you are a wag," rejoined the viceroy; "but by ---- I honour
and respect your spirit. I know we shall agree yet--by ---- I know it.
I respect your independence and honesty all the more that they are
seldom met with in a presence-chamber. By ---- I respect and love you
more and more every day."

"If your lordship will forego your professions of love, and graciously
confine yourself to the backbiting which must follow, you will do for
me to the full as much as I either expect or desire," rejoined Swift,
with a grave reverence.

"Well, well," rejoined the viceroy, with the most unruffled
good-humour, "I see, Swift, you are in no mood to play the courtier
just now. Nevertheless, bear in mind what Addison advised you to
attempt; and though we part thus for the present, believe me, I love
you all the better for your honest humour."

"Farewell, my lord," repeated Swift, abruptly, and with a formal bow he
retired among the common throng.

"A hungry, ill-conditioned dog," said Wharton, turning to the person
next him, "who, having never a bone to gnaw, whets his teeth on the
shins of the company."

Having vented this little criticism, the viceroy resumed once more the
formal routine of state hospitality.

"It is time we were going," suggested Mary Ashwoode to Emily Copland.
"My lord," she continued, turning to Lord Aspenly, whose attentions had
been just as conspicuous and incessant as Sir Richard Ashwoode could
have wished them, "Do you know where Lady Stukely is?"

Lord Aspenly professed his ignorance.

"Have _you_ seen her ladyship?" inquired Emily Copland of the gallant
Major O'Leary, who stood near her.

"Upon my conscience, I have," rejoined the major. "I'm not considered a
poltroon; but I plead guilty to one weakness. I am bothered if I can
stand fire when it appears in the nose of a gentlewoman; so as soon as
I saw her I beat a retreat, and left my valorous young nephew to stand
or fall under the blaze of her artillery. She is at the far end of the
room."

The major was easily persuaded to undertake the mission, and a word to
young Ashwoode settled the matter. The party accordingly left the
rooms, having, however, previously to their doing so, arranged that
Major O'Leary should pass the next day at Morley Court, and afterwards
accompany them in the evening to the theatre, whither Sir Richard, in
pursuance of his plans, had arranged that they should all repair.



CHAPTER XVIII.


THE TWO COUSINS--THE NEGLECTED JEWELS AND THE BROKEN SEAL.

It was drawing toward evening when Emily Copland, in high spirits, and
richly and becomingly dressed, ran lightly to the door of her cousin's
chamber. She knocked, but no answer was returned. She knocked again,
but still without any reply. Then opening the door, she entered the
room, and beheld her cousin Mary seated at a small work-table, at which
it was her wont to read. There she lay motionless--her small head
leaned upon her graceful arms, over which flowed all negligently the
dark luxuriant hair. An open letter was on the table before her, and
two or three rich ornaments lay unheeded on the floor beside her, as if
they had fallen from her hand. There was in her attitude such a
passionate abandonment of grief, that she seemed the breathing image of
despair. Spite of all her levity, the young lady was touched at the
sight. She approached her gently, and laying her hand upon her
shoulder, she stooped down and kissed her.

"Mary, dear Mary, what grieves you?" she said. "Tell me. It's I,
dear--your cousin Emily. There's a good girl--what has happened to vex
you?"

Mary raised her head, and looked in her cousin's face. Her eye was
wild--she was pale as marble, and in her beautiful face was an
expression so utterly woeful and piteous, that Emily was almost moved.

"Oh! I have lost him--for ever and ever I have lost him," said she,
despairingly. "Oh! cousin, dear cousin, he is gone from me. God pity
me--I am forsaken."

"Nay, cousin, do not say so--be cheerful--it cannot be--there, there,"
and Emily Copland kissed the poor girl's pale lips.

"Forsaken--forsaken," continued Mary, for she heard not and heeded not
the voice of vain consolation. "He has thrown me off for ever--for
ever--quite--quite. God pity me, where shall I look for hope?"

"Mary, dear Mary," said her cousin, "you are ill--do not give way thus.
Be assured it is not as you think. You must be in error."

"In error! Oh! that I could think so. God knows how gladly I would give
my poor life to think so. No, no--it is real--all real. Oh! cousin, he
has forsaken me."

"I cannot believe it--I _can_ not," said Emily Copland. "Such folly can
hardly exist. I will not believe it. What reason have you for thinking
him changed?"

"Read--oh, read it, cousin," replied the girl, motioning toward the
letter, which lay open on the table--"read it once, and you will not
bid me hope any more. Oh! cousin, dear cousin, there is no more joy for
me in this world, turn where I will, do what I may--I am heart-broken."

Emily Copland glanced through the letter, shook her head, and dropped
the note again where it had been lying.

"You know, cousin Emily, how I loved him," continued Mary, while for
the first time the tears flowed fast--"you know that day after day,
among all that happened to grieve me, my heart found rest in his
love--in the hope and trust that he would never grow cold;
and--and--oh! God pity me--_now_ where is it all? You see--you know his
love is gone from me--for evermore--gone from me. Oh! how I used to
count the days and hours till the time would come round when I could
see him and speak to him--but this has all gone. Hereafter all days are
to be the same--morning or evening, summer time or winter--no change of
seasons or of hours can bring to me any more hope or gladness, but ever
the same--sorrow and desolate loneliness--for oh! cousin, I am very
desolate, and hopeless, and heart-broken."

The poor girl threw her arms round her cousin's neck, and sobbed and
wept, and wept and sobbed again, as though her heart would break. Long
and bitterly she wept upon her cousin's neck in silence, unbroken,
except by her sobs. After a time, however, Emily Copland exclaimed,--

"Well, Mary, to say the truth, I never much liked the matter; and as he
is a fool, and an _ungrateful_ fool to boot, I am not sorry that he has
shown his character as he has done. Believe me, painful as such
discoveries are when made thus early, they are incomparably more
agonizing when made too late. A little--a very little--time will enable
you quite to forget him."

"No, cousin," replied Mary--"no, I never will forget him. He is changed
indeed--greatly changed from what he was--bitterly has he disappointed
and betrayed me; but I cannot forget him. There shall indeed never more
pass word or look between us; he shall be to me as one that is dead,
whom I shall hear and see no more; but the memory of what he was--the
memory of what I vainly thought him--shall remain with me while my poor
heart beats."

"Well, Mary, time will show," said Emily.

"Yes, time will show--time will show," replied she, mournfully; "be the
time long or short, it will show."

"You _must_ forget him--you _will_ forget him; a few weeks, and you
will thank your stars you found him out so soon."

"Ah, cousin," replied Mary, "you do not know how all my thoughts, and
hopes, and recollections--everything I liked to remember, and to look
forward to; you cannot know how all that was happy in my life--but what
boots it, I will keep my troth with him; I will love no other, and wed
with no other; and while this sorrowful life remains I will
never--never--forget him."

"I can only say, that were the case my own," rejoined Emily, "I would
show the fellow how lightly I held him and his worthless heart, and
marry within a month; but every one has her own way of doing things.
Remember it is nearly time to start for the theatre; the coach will be
at the door in half-an-hour. Surely you will come; it would seem so
very strange were you to change your mind thus suddenly; and you may be
very sure that, by some means or other, the impudent fellow--about
whom, I cannot see why, you care so much--would hear of all your
grieving, and pining, and love-sickness. Pah! I'd rather die than
please the hollow, worthless creature by letting him think he had
caused me a moment's uneasiness; and then, above all, Sir Richard would
be so outrageously angry--why, you would never hear the end of it.
Come, come, be a good girl. After all, it is only holding up your head,
and looking pretty, which you can't help, for an hour or two. You must
come to silence gossip abroad, as well as for the sake of peace at
home--you _must_ come."

"I would fain stay here at home," said the poor girl; "heart and head
are sick: but if you think my father would be angry with me for staying
at home, I will go. It is indeed, as you say, a small matter to me
where I pass an hour or two; all times, all places--crowds or
solitudes--are henceforward indifferent to me. What care I where they
bring me! Cousin Emily, I will do whatever you think best."

The poor girl spoke with a voice and look of such utter wretchedness,
that even her light-hearted, worldly, selfish cousin was touched with
pity.

"Come, then; I will assist you," said she, kissing the pale cheek of
the heart-stricken girl. "Come, Mary, cheer up, you must call up your
good looks it would never do to be seen thus." And so talking on, she
assisted her to dress.

Gaily and richly arrayed in the gorgeous and by no means unbecoming
style of the times, and sparkling with brilliant jewels, poor Mary
Ashwoode--a changed and stricken creature, scarcely conscious of what
was going on around her--took her place in her father's carriage, and
was borne rapidly toward the theatre.

The party consisted of the two young ladies, who were respectively
under the protection of Lord Aspenly, who sate beside Mary Ashwoode,
happily too much pleased with his own voluble frivolity to require
anything more from her than her appearing to hear it, and young
Ashwoode, who chatted gaily with his pretty cousin.

"What has become of my venerable true-love, Major O'Leary?" inquired
Miss Copland.

"He will follow on horseback," replied Ashwoode. "I beheld him, as I
passed downstairs, admiring himself before the looking-glass in his new
regimentals. He designs tremendous havoc to-night. His coat is a
perfect phenomenon--the investment of a year's pay at least--with more
gold about it than I thought the country could afford, and scarlet
enough to make a whole wardrobe for the lady of Babylon--a coat which,
if left to itself, would storm the hearts of nine girls out of ten, and
which, even with an officer in it, will enthral half the sex."

"And here comes the coat itself," exclaimed the young lady, as the
major rode up to the coach-window--"I'm half in love with it myself
already."

"Ladies, your devoted slave: gentlemen, your most obedient," said the
major, raising his three-cornered hat. "I hope to see you before
half-an-hour, under circumstances more favourable to conversation. Miss
Copland, depend upon it, with your permission, I'll pay my homage to
you before half-an-hour, the more especially as I have a scandalous
story to tell you. Meanwhile, I wish you all a safe journey, and a
pleasant one." So saying, the major rode on, at a brisk pace, to the
"Cock and Anchor," there intending to put up his horse, and to exchange
a few words with young O'Connor.

In the meantime the huge old coach, which contained the rest of the
party, jolted and rumbled on, until at length, amid the confusion and
clatter of crowded vehicles, restive horses, and vociferous coachmen,
with all their accompaniments of swearing and whipping, the clank of
scrambling hoofs, the bumping and hustling of carriages, and the
desperate rushing of chairmen, bolting this way or that, with their
living loads of foppery and fashion--the coach-door was thrown open at
the box-entrance of the Theatre Royal, in Smock Alley.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE THEATRE--THE RUFFIAN--THE ASSAULT, AND THE RENCONTRE.


Major O'Leary had hardly dismounted in the quadrangle of the "Cock and
Anchor," when O'Connor rode slowly into the inn-yard.

"How are you, my dear fellow?" exclaimed the man of scarlet and gold;
"I was just asking where you were. Come down off that beast, I want to
have a word in your ear--a bit of news--some fun. Descend, I say,
descend."

O'Connor accordingly dismounted.

"Now then--a hearty shake--so. I have great news, and only a minute to
tell it. Jack, run like a shot, and get me a chair. Here, Tim, take a
napkin and an oyster-knife, and do not leave a bit of mud, or the sign
of it, upon my back: take a general survey of the coat and breeches,
and a particular review of the wig. And, Jem, do you give my boots a
harum-scarum shot of a superficial scrub, and touch up the hat--gently,
do you mind--and take care of the lace. So while the fellows are
finishing my toilet, I may as well tell you my morsel of news. Do you
know who is to be at the playhouse to-night?"

O'Connor expressed his ignorance.

"Well, then, I'll tell you, and make what use you like of it," resumed
the major. "Miss Mary Ashwoode! There's for you. Take my advice, get
into a decent coat and breeches, and run down to the theatre--it is not
five minutes' walk from this; you'll easily find us, and I'll take care
to make room for you. Why, you do not seem half pleased: what more can
you wish for, unless you expect the girl to put up for the evening at
the "Cock and Anchor"? Rouse yourself. If you feel modest, there is
nothing like a pint or two of Madeira: don't try brandy--it's the
father and mother of all sorts of indiscretions. Now, mind, you have
the hint; it is an opportunity you ought to improve. By the powers, if
I was in your place--but no matter. You may not have an opportunity of
seeing her again these six months; and unless I'm completely mistaken,
you are as much in love with the girl as I am with--several that shall
be nameless. Heigho! next after Burgundy, and the cock-pit, and the
fox-hounds, and two or three more frailties of the kind, there is
nothing in the world I prefer to flirtation, without much minding
whether I'm the principal or the second in the affair. But here comes
the vehicle."

Accordingly, without waiting to say any more, the major took his seat
in the chair, and was borne by the lusty chairmen, at a swinging pace,
through the narrow streets, and, without let or accident, safely
deposited within the principal entrance of the theatre.

The theatre of Smock Alley (or, as it was then called, Orange Street)
was not quite what theatres are nowadays. It was a large building of
the kind, as theatres were then rated, and contained three galleries,
one above the other, supported by heavy wooden caryatides, and richly
gilded and painted. The curtain, instead of rising and falling, opened,
according to the old fashion, in the middle, and was drawn sideways
apart, disclosing no triumphs of illusive colouring and perspective,
but a succession of plain tapestry-covered screens, which, from early
habit, the audience accommodatingly accepted for town or country, dry
land or sea, or, in short, for any locality whatsoever, according to
the manager's good will and pleasure. This docility and good faith on
the part of the audience were, perhaps, the more praiseworthy, inasmuch
as a very considerable number of the aristocratic spectators actually
sate in long lines down either side of the stage--a circumstance
involving, by the continuous presence of the same perukes, and the same
embroidered waistcoats, the same set of countenances, and the same set
of legs, in every variety of clime and situation through which the
wayward invention of the playwright hurried his action, a very severe
additional tax upon the imaginative faculties of the audience. But
perhaps the most striking peculiarities of the place were exhibited in
the grim persons of two _bonâ fide_ sentries, in genuine cocked hats
and scarlet coats, with their enormous muskets shouldered, and the
ball-cartridges dangling in ostentatious rows from their bandoleers,
planted at the front, and facing the audience, one at each side of the
stage--a vivid evidence of the stern vicissitudes and insecurity of the
times. For the rest, the audience of those days, in the brilliant
colours, and glittering lace, and profuse ornament, which the gorgeous
fashion of the time allowed, presented a spectacle of rich and dazzling
magnificence, such as no modern assembly of the kind can even faintly
approach.

The major had hardly made his way to the box where his party were
seated, when his attention was caught by an object which had for him
all but irresistible attractions: this was the buxom person of Mistress
Jannet Rumble, a plump, good-looking, young widow of five-and-forty,
with a jolly smile, a hearty laugh, and a killing acquaintance with the
language of the eyes. These perfections--for of course her jointure,
which, by the way, was very considerable, could have had nothing to do
with it--were too much for Major O'Leary. He met the widow
accidentally, made a few careless inquiries about her finances, and
fell over head and ears in love with her upon the shortest possible
notice. Our friend had, therefore, hardly caught a glimpse of her, when
Miss Copland, beside whom he was seated, observed that he became
unusually meditative, and at length, after two or three attempts to
enter again into conversation--all resulting in total and incoherent
failure, the major made some blundering excuse, took his departure, and
in a moment had planted himself beside the fascinating Mistress
Rumble--where we shall allow him the protection of a generous
concealment, and suffer him to read the lady's eyes, and insinuate his
soft nonsense, without intruding for a moment upon the sanctity of
lovers' mutual confidences.

Emily Copland having watched and enjoyed the manoeuvres of her military
friend till she was fairly tired of the amusement, and having in vain
sought to engage Henry Ashwoode, who was unusually moody and absent, in
conversation, at length, as a last desperate resource, turned her
attention to what was passing upon the stage.

While all this was going forward, young Ashwoode was a good deal
disconcerted at observing among the crowd in the pit a personage with
whom, in the vicious haunts which he frequented, he had made a sort of
ambiguous acquaintance. The man was a bulky, broad-shouldered,
ill-looking fellow, with a large, vulgar, red face, and a coarse,
sensual mouth, whose blue, swollen lips indicated habitual
intemperance, and the nauseous ugliness of which was further enhanced
by the loss of two front teeth, probably by some violent agency, as was
testified by a deep scar across the mouth; the eyes of the man carried
that uncertain expression, half of shame and half of defiance, which
belongs to the coward, bully, and ruffian. The blackness of
habitually-indulged and ferocious passion was upon his countenance; and
the revolting character of the face was the more unequivocally marked
by a sort of smile, or rather sneer, which had in it neither
intellectuality nor gladness--an odious libel on the human smile, with
nothing but brute insolence and scorn, and a sardonic glee in its
baleful light--a smile from which every human sympathy recoiled abashed
and affrighted. Let not the reader imagine that the man and the
character are but the dreams of fiction; the wretch, whose outward
seeming we have imperfectly sketched, lived and moved in the scenes
where we have fixed our narrative--there grew rich--there rioted in the
indulgence of every passion which hell can inspire or to which wealth
can pander--there ministered to his insatiate avarice, by the
destruction and beggary of thousands of the young and thoughtless--and
there at length, in the fulness of his time, died--in the midst of
splendour and infamy: with malignant and triumphant perseverance having
persisted to his latest hour in the prosecution of his Satanic mission;
luring the unwary into the toils of crime and inextricable madness, and
thence into the pit of temporal and eternal ruin. This man, Nicholas
Blarden, Esquire, was the proprietor of one of those places where
fortunes are squandered, time sunk, habits, temper, character, morals,
all, corrupted, blasted, destroyed--one of those places which are set
apart as the especial temples of avarice, in which, year after year,
are for ever recurring the same perennial scenes of mad excess, of
calculating, merciless fraud, of bleak, brain-stricken despair--places
to which has been assigned, in a spirit of fearful truth, the
appellative of "hell."

The man whom we have mentioned, it had never been young Ashwoode's
misfortune to meet, except in those scenes where his acquaintance was
useful, without being actually discreditable; for it was the fellow's
habit, with the instinctive caution which marks such gentlemen, to
court public observation as little as possible, and to skulk
systematically from the eye of popular scrutiny--seldom embarrassing
his aristocratic acquaintances by claiming the privilege of recognition
at unseasonable times; and confining himself, for the most part,
exclusively to his own coterie. Independently of his unpleasant natural
peculiarities there were other circumstances which tended to make him a
conspicuous object in the crowd--the fellow was extravagantly
over-dressed, and had planted himself in a standing posture upon a
bench, and from this elevated position was, with steady effrontery,
gazing into the box in which young Ashwoode's party were seated,
exchanging whispers and horse-laughs with three or four men who looked
scarcely less villainous than himself, and, as soon became apparent,
directing his marked and exclusive attention to Miss Ashwoode, who was
too deeply absorbed in her own sorrowful reflections to heed what was
passing around her. The young man felt his choler mount, as he beheld
the insolent conduct of the fellow--he saw, however, that Blarden was
evidently not perfectly sober, and hesitated what course he should
take. Strongly as he was tempted to spring at once into the pit, and
put an end to the impertinence by caning the fellow within an inch of
his life, he yet felt that a disreputable conflict of the kind had
better be avoided, and could not well be justified except as a last
resource; he, therefore, made up his mind to bear it as long as human
endurance could.

Whatever hopes he entertained of escaping a collision with this man
were, however, destined to be disappointed. Nicky Blarden (as his
friends endearingly called him), to the great comfort of that part of
the audience in his immediate neighbourhood, at length descended from
his elevated stand, but not to conceal himself among the less obtrusive
spectators. With an insolent swagger the fellow shouldered his way
among the crowd towards the box where the object of his gaze was
seated; and, having planted himself directly beneath it, he stared
impudently up at young Ashwoode, exclaiming at the same time,--

"I say, Ashwoode, how does the world wag with you?--why ain't you
rattling the bones this evening? d----n me, you may as well be off, and
let me take care of the dimber mot up there?"

"Do you speak to _me_, sir?" inquired young Ashwoode, turning almost
livid with passion, and speaking in that subdued tone, and with that
constrained coolness, which precedes some ungovernable outburst of
fury.

"Why, ---- me, how great we've got all at once--I say, you don't know
me--Eh! don't you?" exclaimed the fellow, with vulgar scorn, at the
same time rather roughly poking Ashwoode's hand with the hilt of his
sword.

"I shall show you, sir, when your drunken folly has passed away, by
very sore proofs, that I _do_ know you," replied the young man,
clutching his cane with such a grip as threatened to force his fingers
into it--"be assured, sir, I shall know you, and you me, as long as you
have the power to remember."

"Whieu, d---- it, don't frighten us," said the fellow, looking round
for the approbation of his companions. "I say, d----n it, don't
frighten the people--come, come, no gammon. I say, Ashwoode, you must
introduce me, or present me, or whatever's the word, to your sister up
there--I say you _must_."

"Quit this part of the house this instant, sir, or nothing shall
prevent me flogging you until I leave not a whole bone in your
body--this warning is the last--profit by it," rejoined Ashwoode, in a
low tone of bitter rage.

"Oh, ho! it's there you are--is it?" rejoined the fellow, with a wink
at his comrades, "so you're going to beat the people--why, d----n it,
you're enough to make a horse laugh. I say I want to know your sister,
or your miss, or whatever she is, with the black hair up there, and if
you won't introduce me, d----n it, I must only introduce myself."

So saying, the fellow made a spring and caught the ledge of the front
of the box, with the intention of vaulting into the place. Lord Aspenly
and the young ladies had arisen in some alarm.

"My lord," said young Ashwoode, "have the goodness to conduct the
ladies to the lobby--I will join you in a moment."

This direction was promptly obeyed, and at the same moment the young
man caught the fellow, already half into the box, by the neckcloth,
dragged his body across the wooden parapet, and while he struggled
helplessly to disengage himself--half strangled, and without the power
to get either up or down--with his heavy cane, the young
gentleman--every nerve, sinew, and muscle being strung to tenfold power
by fury--inflicted upon his back and ribs a castigation so prolonged
and tremendous, that before it had ended, the scoundrel was perfectly
insensible, in which state Henry Ashwoode flung him down again into the
pit, amid the obstreperous acclamations of all parts of the house--an
uproar of applause in which the spectators in the pit joined with such
hearty enthusiasm, that at length, touched with a kindred heroism, they
turned upon the associates of the fallen champion, and fairly kicked
and cuffed them out of the house.

This feat accomplished, the young gentleman went down the stairs to the
street-entrance, and, after considerable delay, succeeded, with the
assistance of the footman who had attended him into the house, in
finding out their carriage, and having it brought to the door--not
judging it expedient that the ladies should return to their places,
where they would, of course, be exposed to the gazing curiosity of the
multitude. He found the party in the lobby quite recovered from
whatever was unpleasant in the excitement of the scene, the more
violent part of which they had not witnessed. Lord Aspenly and Emily
Copland were laughing over the adventure; and Mary, flashed and
agitated, was looking better than she had before upon that night.
Taking his cousin under his own protection, and consigning his sister
to that of Lord Aspenly, young Ashwoode led the way to the carriage. As
they passed slowly along the lobby, the quick eye of Mary Ashwoode
discerned a form, at sight of which her heart swelled and throbbed as
though it would burst--the colour fled from her cheeks, and she felt
for a moment on the point of swooning; the pride of her sex, however,
sustained her; the tingling blood again mounted warmly to her cheeks,
her eye brightened, and she listened, with more apparent interest than
perhaps she ever did before, to Lord Aspenly's remarks--the form was
O'Connor's. As she passed him, she returned his salute with a slight
and haughty bow, and saw, and felt the stern, cold, proud expression
which marked his pale and handsome features. In another moment she was
seated in the carriage; the doors were closed, crack went the whip, and
clatter go the iron hoofs on the pavement--but before they had
traversed a hundred yards on their homeward way, poor Mary Ashwoode
sunk back in her place, and fainted away.



CHAPTER XX.

THE LODGING--YOUNG MELANCHOLY AND OLD REMEMBRANCES--AN ADVENTURE AMONG
THE YEW HEDGES OF MORLEY COURT.


"There is no more doubt--no more hope"--said O'Connor, as, wrapt in his
cloak, he slowly pursued his way homeward--"the worst _is_ true--she is
quite estranged from me--how deceived--how utterly blind I have
been--yet who could have thought it? Light-hearted, vain, worthless--it
is all, all true--my own eyes have seen it. Well, even this must be
borne--borne as best it may, and with a manly spirit. I have been,
indeed, miserably cheated"--he continued, with bitter vehemence--"and
what remains for me? I've been infatuated--a self-flattered fool, and
waken thus to find _all_ lost--but grief avails not--there lie before
me many paths of honourable toil, and many avenues to honourable
death--the ambition of my life is over--henceforth the world has
nothing to offer me. I will leave this, the country of my ill-fated
birth--leave it for ever, and end my days honourably, and God grant
soon, far away from the only one I ever loved--from her who has
betrayed me."

Such were the thoughts which darkly and vaguely hurried through
O'Connor's mind as he retraced his steps. Before he had arrived,
however, at the "Cock and Anchor," whitherward he had mechanically
directed his course, he bethought himself, and turned in a different
direction towards the house in which his worthy friend, Mr.
Audley--having an inveterate prejudice against all inns, which, without
exception, he averred to be the especial sanctuaries of damp sheets,
bugs, thieves, and rheumatic fevers--had already established himself as
a weekly lodger.

"Pooh, pooh! you foolish boy," ejaculated the old bachelor, with
considerable energy, in reply to O'Connor's gloomy and passionate
language; "nonsense, sir, and folly, and absurdity--you'll give me the
vapours if you go on this way--what the devil do you want of foreign
service and foreign graves--do you think, booby, it was for that I came
over here--tilly vally, tilly vally--I know as well as you, or any
other jackanapes, what love is. I tell you, sirrah, _I_ have been in
love, and _I_ have been jilted--_jilted_, sir! and when I _was_ jilted,
I thought the jilting itself quite enough, without improving the matter
by getting myself buried, dead or alive." Here the little gentleman
knocked the table recklessly with his knuckles, buried his hands in his
breeches pockets, and rising from his chair, paced the room with an
impressive tread. "Had you ever seen Letty Bodkin you might, indeed,
have known what love is"--he continued, breathing very hard--"Letty
Bodkin jilted me, and I got over it. I did not ask for razors, or
cannon balls, or foreign interment, sir; but I vented my indignation
like a man of business, in totting up the books, and running up a heavy
arrear in the office accounts--yes, sir, I did more good in the way of
arithmetic and book-keeping during that three weeks of love-sick agony,
than an ordinary man, without the stimulus, would do in a year"--there
was another pause here, and he resumed in a softened tone--"but Letty
Bodkin was no ordinary woman. Oh! you scoundrel, had you seen her,
you'd have been neither to hold nor to bind--there was nothing she
could not do--she embroidered a waistcoat for me--heigho! scarlet
geraniums and parsley sprigs--and she danced like--like a--a spring
board--she'd sail through a minuet like a duck in a pond, and hop and
bounce through 'Sir Roger de Coverley' like a hot chestnut on a
griddle;--and then she sang--oh, her singing!--I've heard turtle-doves
and thrushes, and, in fact, most kind of fowls of all sorts and sizes;
but no nightingale ever came up to her in 'The Captain endearing and
tall,' and 'The Shepherdess dying for love'--there never lived a
man"--continued he, with increasing vehemence--"I don't care when or
where, who could have stood, sate, or walked in her company for
half-an-hour, without making an old fool of himself--she was just my
age, perhaps a year or two more--I wonder whether she is much
changed--heigho!"

Having thus delivered himself, Mr. Audley lapsed into meditation, and
thence into a faint and rather painful attempt to vocalize his
remembrance of "The Captain endearing and tall," engaged in which
desperate operation of memory, O'Connor left the old gentleman, and
returned to his temporary abode to pass a sleepless night of vain
remembrances, regrets, and despair.

On the morning subsequent to the somewhat disorderly scene which we
have described as having occurred in the theatre, Mary Ashwoode, as
usual, sate silent and melancholy, in the dressing-room of her father,
Sir Richard. The baronet was not yet sufficiently recovered to venture
downstairs to breakfast, which in those days was a very early meal
indeed. After an unusually prolonged silence, the old man, turning
suddenly to his daughter, abruptly said, "Mary, you have now had some
days to study Lord Aspenly--how do you like him?"

The girl raised her eyes, not a little surprised at the question, and
doubtful whether she had heard it aright.

"I say," resumed he, "you ought to have been able by this time to
arrive at a fair judgment as to Lord Aspenly's merits--what do you
think of him--do you like him?"

"Indeed, father," replied she, "I have observed him very little--he may
be a very estimable man, but I have not seen enough of him to form any
opinion; and indeed, if I had, _my_ opinion must needs be a matter of
the merest indifference to him and everyone else."

"Your opinion upon this point," replied Sir Richard, tartly, "happens
_not_ to be a matter of indifference."

A considerable pause again ensued, during which Mary Ashwoode had ample
time to reflect upon the very unpleasant doubts which this brief
speech, and the tone in which it was uttered, were calculated to
inspire.

"Lord Aspenly's manners are very agreeable, _very_," continued Sir
Richard, meditatively--"I may say, indeed, fascinating--_very_--do you
think so?" he added sharply, turning towards his daughter.

This was rather a puzzling question. The girl had never thought about
him except as a frivolous old beau; yet it was plain she could not say
so without vexing her father; she therefore adopted the simplest
expedient under such perplexing circumstances, and preserved an
embarrassed silence.

"The fact is," said Sir Richard, raising himself a little, so as to
look full in his daughter's face, at the same time speaking slowly and
sternly, "the fact is, I had better be explicit on this subject. _I_ am
anxious that you should think well of Lord Aspenly; it is, in short, my
wish and pleasure that you should _like_ him; you understand me--you
had _better_ understand me." This was said with an emphasis not to be
mistaken, and another pause ensued. "For the present," continued he,
"run down and amuse yourself--and--stay--offer to show his lordship the
old terrace garden--do you mind? Now, once more, run away."

So saying, the old gentleman turned coolly from her, and rang his
hand-bell vehemently. Scarcely knowing what she did, such was her
astonishment at all that had passed, Mary Ashwoode left the room
without any very clear notion as to whither she was going, or what to
do; nor was her confusion much relieved when, on entering the hall, the
first object which encountered her was Lord Aspenly himself, with his
triangular hat under his arm, while he adjusted his deep lace
ruffles--he had never looked so ugly before. As he stood beneath her
while she descended the broad staircase, smiling from ear to ear, and
bowing with the most chivalric profundity, his skinny, lemon-coloured
face, and cold, glittering little eyes raised toward her--she thought
that it was impossible for the human shape so nearly to assume the
outward semblance of a squat, emaciated toad.

"Miss Ashwoode, as I live!" exclaimed the noble peer, with his most
gracious and fascinating smile. "On what mission of love and mercy does
she move? Shall I hope that her first act of pity may be exercised in
favour of the most devoted of her slaves? I have been looking in vain
for a guide through the intricacies of Sir Richard's yew hedges and
leaden statues; may I hope that my presiding angel has sent me one in
you?"

Lord Aspenly paused, and grinned wider and wider, but receiving no
answer, he resumed,--

"I understand, Miss Ashwoode, that the pleasure-grounds, which surround
us, abound in samples of your exquisite taste; as a votary of Flora,
may I ask, if the request be not too bold, that you will vouchsafe to
lead a bewildered pilgrim to the object of his search? There is--is
there not?--shrined in the centre of these rustic labyrinths, a small
flower-garden which owes its sweet existence to your creative genius;
if it be not too remote, and if you can afford so much leisure, allow
me to implore your guidance."

As he thus spoke, with a graceful flourish, the little gentleman
extended his hand, and courteously taking hers by the extreme points of
the fingers, he led her forward in a manner, as he thought, so engaging
as to put resistance out of the question. Mary Ashwoode felt far too
little interest in anything but the one ever-present grief which
weighed upon her heart, to deny the old fop his trifling request;
shrouding her graceful limbs, therefore, in a short cloak, and drawing
the hood over her head, she walked forth, with slow steps and an aching
heart, among the trim hedges which fenced the old-fashioned pleasure
walks.

"Beauty," exclaimed the nobleman, as he walked with an air of romantic
gallantry by her side, and glancing as he spoke at the flowers which
adorned the border of the path--"beauty is nowhere seen to greater
advantage than in spots like this; where nature has amassed whatever is
most beautiful in the inanimate creation, only to prove how unutterably
more exquisite are the charms of _living_ loveliness: these walks, but
this moment to me a wilderness, are now so many paths of magic
pleasure--how can I enough thank the kind enchantress to whom I owe the
transformation?" Here the little gentleman looked unutterable things,
and a silence of some minutes ensued, during which he effected some
dozen very wheezy sighs. Emboldened by Miss Ashwoode's silence, which
he interpreted as a very unequivocal proof of conscious tenderness, he
resolved to put an end to the skirmishing with which he had opened his
attack, and to commence the action in downright earnestness. "This
place breathes an atmosphere of romance; it is a spot consecrated to
the worship of love; it is--it is the shrine of passion, and I--_I_ am
a votary--a worshipper."

Miss Ashwoode paused in mingled surprise and displeasure, for his
vehemence had become so excessive as, in conjunction with his asthma,
to threaten to choke his lordship outright. When Mary Ashwoode stopped
short, Lord Aspenly took it for granted that the crisis had arrived,
and that the moment for the decisive onset was now come; he therefore
ejaculated with a rapturous croak,--

"And you--_you_ are my divinity!" and at the same moment he descended
stiffly upon his two knees, caught her hand in his, and began to mumble
it with unmistakable devotion.

"My lord--Lord Aspenly!--surely your lordship cannot mean--have done,
my lord," exclaimed the astonished girl, withdrawing her hand
indignantly from his grasp. "Rise, my lord; you cannot mean otherwise
than to mock me by such extravagance. My lord--my lord, you surprise
and shock me beyond expression."

"Angel of beauty! most exquisite--most perfect of your sex," gasped his
lordship, "I love you--yes, to distraction. Answer me, if you would not
have me expire at your feet--ugh--ugh--tell me that I may
hope--ugh--that I am not indifferent to you--ugh, ugh, ugh,--that--that
you can love me?" Here his lordship was seized with so violent a fit of
coughing, that Miss Ashwoode began to fear that he would expire at her
feet in downright earnest. During the paroxysm, in which, with one hand
pressed upon his side, he supported himself by leaning with the other
upon the ground, Mary had ample time to collect her thoughts, so that
when at length he had recovered his breath, she addressed him with
composure and decision.

"My lord," she said, "I am grateful for your preference of me;
although, when I consider the shortness of my acquaintance with you,
and how few have been your opportunities of knowing me, I cannot but
wonder very much at its vehemence. For me, your lordship cannot feel
more than an idle fancy, which will, no doubt, pass away just as
lightly as it came; and as for my feelings, I have only to say, that it
is wholly impossible for you ever to establish in them any interest of
the kind you look for. Indeed, indeed, my lord, I hope I have not given
you pain--nothing can be further from my wish than to do so; but it is
my duty to tell you plainly and at once my real feelings. I should
otherwise but trifle with your kindness, for which, although I cannot
return it as you desire, I shall ever be grateful."

Having thus spoken, she turned from her noble suitor, and began to
retrace her steps rapidly towards the house.

"Stay, Miss Ashwoode--remain here for a moment--you _must_ hear me!"
exclaimed Lord Aspenly, in a tone so altered, that she involuntarily
paused, while his lordship, with some difficulty, raised himself again
to his feet, and with a flushed and haggard face, in which still
lingered the ghastly phantom of his habitual smile, he hobbled to her
side. "Miss Ashwoode," he exclaimed, in a tone tremulous with emotions
very different from love, "I--I--I am not used to be treated
cavalierly--I--I will not brook it: I am not to be trifled
with--jilted--madam, jilted, and taken in. You have accepted and
encouraged my attentions--attentions which you cannot have mistaken;
and now, madam, when I make you an offer--such as your ambition, your
most presumptuous ambition, dared not have anticipated--the offer of my
hand--and--and a coronet, you coolly tell me you never cared for me.
Why, what on earth do you look for or expect?--a foreign prince or
potentate, an emperor, ha--ha--he--he--ugh--ugh--ugh! I tell you
plainly, Miss Ashwoode, that _my_ feelings _must_ be considered. I have
long made my passion known to you; it has been encouraged; and I have
obtained Sir Richard's--your father's--sanction and approval. You had
better reconsider what you have said. I shall give you an hour; at the
end of that time, unless you see the propriety of avowing feelings
which, you must pardon me when I say it, your encouragement of my
advances has long virtually acknowledged, I must lay the whole case,
including all the painful details of my own ill-usage, before Sir
Richard Ashwoode, and trust to his powers of persuasion to induce you
to act reasonably, and, I _will_ add, _honourably_."

Here his lordship took several extraordinarily copious pinches of
snuff, after which he bowed very low, conjured up an unusually hideous
smile, in which spite, fury, and triumph were eagerly mingled, and
hobbled away before the astonished girl had time to muster her spirits
sufficiently to answer him.



CHAPTER XXI.

WHO APPEARED TO MARY ASHWOODE AS SHE SATE UNDER THE TREES--THE
CHAMPION.


With flashing eyes and a swelling heart, struck dumb with unutterable
indignation, the beautiful girl stood fixed in the attitude in which
his last words had reached her, while the enraged and unmanly old fop
hobbled away, with the ease and grace with which a crippled ape might
move over a hot griddle. He had disappeared for some minutes before she
had recovered herself sufficiently to think or speak.

"If _he_ were by my side," she said, "this noble lord dared not have
used me thus. Edmond would have died a thousand deaths first. But oh!
God look upon me, for _his_ love is gone from me, and I am now a poor,
grieved, desolate creature, with none to help me."

Thus saying, she sate herself down upon the grass bank, beneath the
tall and antique trees, and wept with all the bitter and devoted
abandonment of hopeless sorrow. From this unrestrained transport of
grief she was at length aroused by the pressure of a hand, gently and
kindly laid upon her shoulder.

"What vexes you, Mary, my little girl?" inquired Major O'Leary, for he
it was that stood by her. "Come, darling, don't fret, but tell your old
uncle the whole business, and twenty to one, he has wit enough in his
old noddle yet to set matters to rights. So, so, my darling, dry your
pretty eyes--wipe the tears away; why should they wet your young
cheeks, my poor little doat, that you always were. It is too early yet
for sorrow to come on you. Wouldn't I throw myself between my little
pet and all grief and danger? Then trust to me, darling; wipe away the
tears, or by ---- I'll begin to cry myself. Dry your eyes, and see if I
can't help you one way or another."

The mellow brogue of the old major had never fallen before with such a
tender pathos upon the ear of his beautiful niece, as now that its rich
current bore full upon her heart the unlooked-for words of kindness and
comfort.

"Were not you always _my_ pet," continued he, with the same tenderness
and pity in his tone, "from the time I first took you upon my knee, my
poor little Mary? And were not you fond of your old rascally uncle
O'Leary? Usedn't I always to take your part, right or wrong; and do you
think I'll desert you now? Then tell it all to me--ain't I your poor
old uncle, the same as ever? Come, then, dry the tears--there's a
darling--wipe them away."

While thus speaking, the warm-hearted old man took her hand, with a
touching mixture of gallantry, pity, and affection, and kissed it again
and again, with a thousand accompanying expressions of endearment, such
as in the days of her childhood he had been wont to lavish upon his
little favourite. The poor girl, touched by the kindness of her early
friend, whose good-natured sympathy was not to be mistaken, gradually
recovered her composure, and yielding to the urgencies of the major,
who clearly perceived that something extraordinarily distressing must
have occurred to account for her extreme agitation, she at length told
him the immediate cause of her grief and excitement. The major listened
to the narrative with growing indignation, and when it had ended, he
inquired, in a tone, about whose unnatural calmness there was something
infinitely more formidable than in the noisiest clamour of fury,--

"Which way, darling, did his lordship go when he left you?"

The girl looked in his face, and saw his deadly purpose there.

"Uncle, my own dear uncle," she cried distractedly, "for God's sake do
not follow him--for God's sake--I conjure you, I implore--" She would
have cast herself at his feet, but the major caught her in his arms.

"Well, well, my darling." he exclaimed, "I'll not _kill_ him, well as
he deserves it--I'll not: you have saved his life. I pledge you my
honour, as a gentleman and a soldier, I'll not harm him for what he has
said or done this day--are you satisfied?"

"I am, I am! Thank God, thank God!" exclaimed the poor girl, eagerly.

"But, Mary, I must see him," rejoined the major; "he has threatened to
set Sir Richard upon you--I must see him; you don't object to that,
under the promise I have made? I want to--to _reason_ with him. He
shall not get you into trouble with the baronet; for though Richard and
I came of the same mother, we are not of the same marriage, nor of the
same mould--I would not for a cool hundred that he told his story to
your father."

"Indeed, indeed, dear uncle," replied the girl, "I fear me there is
little hope of escape or ease for me. My father must know what has
passed; he will learn it inevitably, and then it needs no colouring or
misrepresentation to call down upon me his heaviest displeasure; his
anger I must endure as best I may. God help me. But neither threats nor
violence shall make me retract the answer I have given to Lord Aspenly,
nor ever yield consent to marry _him_--nor any other now."

"Well, well, little Mary," rejoined the major, "I like your spirit.
Stand to that, and you'll never be sorry for it. In the meantime, I'll
venture to exercise his lordship's conversational powers in a brief
conference of a few minutes, and if I find him as reasonable as I
expect, you'll have no cause to regret my interposition. Don't look so
frightened--haven't I promised, on the honour of a gentleman, that I
will _not_ pink him for anything said or done in his conference with
you? To send a small sword through a bolster or a bailiff," he
continued, meditatively, "is an _indifferent_ action; but to spit such
a poisonous, crawling toad as the respectable old gentleman in
question, would be nothing short of _meritorious_--it is an act that
'ud tickle the fancy of every saint in heaven, and, if there's justice
on earth, would canonize myself. But never mind, I'll let it alone--the
little thing shall escape, since _you_ wish it--Major O'Leary has said
it, so let no doubt disturb you. Good-bye, my little darling, dry your
eyes, and let me see you, before an hour, as merry as in the merriest
days that are gone."

So saying, Major O'Leary patted her cheek, and taking her hand
affectionately in both his, he added,--

"Sure I am, that there is more in all this than you care to tell me, my
little pet. I am sorely afraid there is something beyond my power to
remedy, to change your light-hearted nature so mournfully. What it is,
I will not inquire, but remember, darling, whenever you want a friend,
you'll find a sure one in me."

Thus having spoken, he turned from her, and strode rapidly down the
walk, until the thick, formal hedges concealed his retreating form
behind their impenetrable screens of darksome verdure.

Odd as were the manner and style of the major's professions, there was
something tender, something of heartiness, in his speech, which assured
her that she had indeed found a friend in him--rash, volatile, and
violent it might be, but still one on whose truth and energy she might
calculate. That there was one being who felt with her and for her, was
a discovery which touched her heart and moved her generous spirit, and
she now regarded the old major, whose spoiled favourite in childhood
she had been, but whom, before, she had never known capable of a
serious feeling, with emotions of affection and gratitude, stronger and
more ardent than he had ever earned from any other being. Agitated,
grieved, and excited, she hurriedly left the scene of this interview,
and sought relief for her overcharged feelings in the quiet and
seclusion of her chamber.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE SPINET.


In no very pleasant frame of mind did Lord Aspenly retrace his steps
toward the old house. His lordship had, all his life, been firmly
persuaded that the whole female creation had been sighing and pining
for the possession of his heart and equipage. He knew that among those
with whom his chief experience lay, his fortune and his coronet were
considerations not to be resisted; and he as firmly believed, that even
without such recommendations, few women, certainly none of any taste or
discrimination, could be found with hearts so steeled against the
archery of Cupid, as to resist the fascinations of his manner and
conversation, supported and directed, as both were, by the tact and
experience drawn from a practice of more years than his lordship cared
to count, even to himself. He had, however, smiled, danced, and
chatted, in impregnable celibacy, through more than half a century of
gaiety and frivolity--breaking, as he thought, hearts innumerable, and,
at all events, disappointing very many calculations--until, at length,
his lordship had arrived at that precise period of existence at which
old gentlemen, not unfrequently, become all at once romantic,
disinterested, and indiscreet--nobody exactly knows why--unless it be
for variety, or to spite an heir presumptive, or else that, as a
preliminary to second childhood, nature has ordained a second _boyhood_
too. Certain, however, it is, that Lord Aspenly was seized, on a
sudden, with a matrimonial frenzy; and, tired of the hackneyed
schemers, in the centre of whose manoeuvres he had stood and smiled so
long in contemptuous security, he resolved that his choice should
honour some simple, unsophisticated beauty, who had never plotted his
matrimony.

Fired with this benevolent resolution, he almost instantly selected
Mary Ashwoode as the happy companion of his second childhood,
acquainted Sir Richard with his purpose, of course received his consent
and blessing, and forthwith opened his entrenchments with the same
certainty of success with which the great Duke of Marlborough might
have invested a Flanders village. The inexperience of a girl who had
mixed, comparatively, so little in gay society, her consequent openness
to flattery, and susceptibility of being fascinated by the elegance of
his address, and the splendour of his fortune--all these
considerations, accompanied by a clear consciousness of his own
infinite condescension in thinking of her at all, had completely
excluded from all his calculations the very possibility of her doing
anything else than jump into his arms the moment he should open them to
receive her. The result of the interview which had just taken place,
had come upon him with the overwhelming suddenness of a thunderbolt.
Rejected!--Lord Aspenly rejected!--a coronet, and a fortune, and a man
whom all the male world might envy--each and all rejected!--and by
whom?--a chit of a girl, who had no right to look higher than a
half-pay captain with a wooden leg, or a fox-hunting boor, with a few
inaccessible acres of bog and mountain--the daughter of a spendthrift
baronet, who was, as everyone knew, on the high road to ruin. Death and
fury! was it to be endured?

The little lover, absorbed in such tranquilizing reflections, arrived
at the house, and entered the drawing-room. It was not unoccupied;
seated by a spinet, and with a sheet of music-paper in her lap, and a
pencil in her hand, was the fair Emily Copland. As he entered, she
raised her eyes, started a little, became gracefully confused, and
then, with her archest smile, exclaimed,--

"What shall I say, my lord? You have detected me. I have neither
defence nor palliation to offer; you have fairly caught me. Here am I
engaged in perhaps the most presumptuous task that ever silly maiden
undertook--I am wedding your beautiful verses to most unworthy music of
my own. After all, there is nothing like a simple ballad. Such
exquisite lines as these inspire music of themselves. Would that Henry
Purcell had had but a peep at them! To what might they not have
prompted such a genius--to what, indeed?"

So sublime was the flight of fancy suggested by this interrogatory,
that Miss Copland shook her head slowly in poetic rapture, and gazed
fondly for some seconds upon the carpet, apparently unconscious of Lord
Aspenly's presence.

"_She_ is a fine creature," half murmured he, with an emphasis upon the
identity which implied a contrast not very favourable to
Mary--"and--and very pretty--nay, she looks almost beautiful, and
so--so lively--so much vivacity. Never was poor poet so much
flattered," continued his lordship, approaching, as he spoke, and
raising his voice, but not above its most mellifluous pitch; "to have
his verses read by _such_ eyes, to have them chanted by such a
minstrel, were honour too high for the noblest bards of the noblest
days of poetry: for me it is a happiness almost too great; yet, if the
request be not a presumptuous one, may I, in all humility, pray that
you will favour me with the music to which you have coupled my most
undeserving--my most favoured lines?"

The young lady looked modest, glanced coyly at the paper which lay in
her lap, looked modest once more, and then arch again, and at length,
with rather a fluttered air, she threw her hands over the keys of the
instrument, and to a tune, of which we say enough when we state that it
was in no way unworthy of the words, she sang, rather better than young
ladies usually do, the following exquisite stanzas from his lordship's
pen:--

    "Tho' Chloe slight me when I woo,
      And scorn the love of poor Philander;
    The shepherd's heart she scorns is true,
      His heart is true, his passion tender.

    "But poor Philander sighs in vain,
      In vain laments the poor Philander;
    Fair Chloe scorns with high disdain,
      His love so true and passion tender.

    "And here Philander lays him down,
      Here will expire the poor Philander;
    The victim of fair Chloe's frown,
      Of love so true and passion tender.

    "Ah, well-a-day! the shepherd's dead;
      Ay, dead and gone, the poor Philander;
    And Dryads crown with flowers his head,
      And Cupid mourns his love so tender."

During this performance, Lord Aspenly, who had now perfectly recovered
his equanimity, marked the time with head and hand, standing the while
beside the fair performer, and every note she sang found its way
through the wide portals of his vanity, directly to his heart.

"Brava! brava! bravissima!" murmured his lordship, from time to time.
"Beautiful, beautiful air--most appropriate--most simple; not a note
that accords not with the word it carries--beautiful, indeed! A
thousand thanks! I have become quite conceited of lines of which
heretofore I was half ashamed. I am quite elated--at once overpowered
by the characteristic vanity of the poet, and more than recompensed by
the reality of his proudest aspiration--that of seeing his verses
appreciated by a heart of sensibility, and of hearing them sung by the
lips of beauty."

"I am but too happy if I am _forgiven_," replied Emily Copland,
slightly laughing, and with a heightened colour, while the momentary
overflow of merriment was followed by a sigh, and her eyes sank
pensively upon the ground.

This little by-play was not lost upon Lord Aspenly.

"Poor little thing," he inwardly remarked, "she is in a very bad
way--desperate--quite desperate. What a devil of a rascal I am to be
sure! Egad! it's almost a pity--she's a decidedly superior person; she
has an elegant turn of mind--refinement--taste--egad! she is a fine
creature--and so simple. She little knows I see it all; perhaps she
hardly knows herself what ails her--poor, poor little thing!"

While these thoughts floated rapidly through his mind, he felt, along
with his spite and anger towards Mary Ashwoode, a feeling of contempt,
almost of disgust, engendered by her audacious non-appreciation of his
merits--an impertinence which appeared the more monstrous by the
contrast of Emily Copland's tenderness. _She_ had made it plain enough,
by all the artless signs which simple maidens know not how to hide,
that his fascinations had done their fatal work upon her heart. He had
seen, this for several days, but not with the overwhelming distinctness
with which he now beheld it.

"Poor, poor little girl!" said his lordship to himself; "I am very,
very sorry, but it cannot be helped; it is no fault of mine. I am
really very, very, confoundedly sorry."

In saying so to himself, however, he told himself a lie; for, instead
of being grieved, he was pleased beyond measure--a fact which he might
have ascertained by a single glance at the reflection of his wreathed
smiles in the ponderous mirror which hung forward from the pier between
the windows, as if staring down in wondering curiosity upon the
progress of the flirtation. Not caring to disturb a train of thought
which his vanity told him were but riveting the subtle chains which
bound another victim to his conquering chariot-wheels, the Earl of
Aspenly turned, with careless ease, to a table, on which lay some
specimens of that worsted tapestry-work, in which the fair maidens of a
century and a half ago were wont to exercise their taste and skill.

"Your work is very, very beautiful," said he, after a considerable
pause, and laying down the canvas, upon whose unfinished worsted task
he had been for some time gazing.

"That is my _cousin's_ work," said Emily, not sorry to turn the
conversation to a subject upon which, for many reasons, she wished to
dwell; "she used to work a great deal with me before she grew
romantic--before she fell in love."

"In love!--with whom?" inquired Lord Aspenly, with remarkable
quickness.

"Don't you know, my lord?" inquired Emily Copland, in simple wonder.
"May be I ought not to have told you--I am sure I ought not. Do not ask
me any more. I am the giddiest girl--the most thoughtless!"

"Nay, nay," said Lord Aspenly, "you need not be afraid to trust _me_--I
never tell tales; and now that I know the fact that she is in love,
there can be no harm in telling me the less important particulars. On
my honour," continued his lordship, with real earnestness, and affected
playfulness--"upon my sacred honour! I shall not breathe one syllable
of it to mortal--I shall be as secret as the tomb. Who is the happy
person in question?"

"Well, my lord, you'll _promise_ not to betray me," replied she. "I
know very well I ought not to have said a word about it; but as I
_have_ made the blunder, I see no harm in telling you all I know; but
you _will_ be secret?"

"On my honour--on my life and soul, I swear!" exclaimed his lordship,
with unaffected eagerness.

"Well, then, the happy man is a Mr. Edmond O'Connor," replied she.

"O'Connor--O'Connor--I never saw nor heard of the man before," rejoined
the earl, reflectively. "Is he wealthy?"

"Oh! no; a mere beggarman," replied Emily, "and a Papist to boot!"

"Ha, ha, ha--he, he, he! a Papist beggar," exclaimed his lordship, with
an hysterical giggle, which was intended for a careless laugh. "Has he
any conversation--any manner--any attraction of _that_ kind?"

"Oh! none in the world!--both ignorant, and I think, vulgar," replied
Emily. "In short, he is very nearly a stupid boor!"

"Excellent! Ha, ha--he, he, he!--ugh! ugh!--very capital--excellent!
excellent!" exclaimed his lordship, although he might have found some
difficulty in explaining in what, precisely the peculiar excellence of
the announcement consisted. "Is he--is he--a--a--_handsome_?"

"Decidedly _not_ what I consider handsome!" replied she; "he is a
large, coarse-looking fellow, with very broad shoulders--very
large--and as they say of oxen, in very great condition--a sort of a
prize man!"

"Ha, ha!--ugh! ugh!--he, he, he, he, he!--ugh, ugh,
ugh!--de--lightful--quite delightful!" exclaimed the earl, in a tone of
intense chagrin, for he was conscious that his own figure was perhaps a
little too scraggy, and his legs a _leetle_ too nearly approaching the
genus spindle, and being so, there was no trait in the female character
which he so inveterately abhorred and despised as their tendency to
prefer those figures which exhibited a due proportion of thew and
muscle. Under a cloud of rappee, his lordship made a desperate attempt
to look perfectly delighted and amused, and effected a retreat to the
window, where he again indulged in a titter of unutterable spite and
vexation.

"And what says Sir Richard to the advances of this very desirable
gentleman?" inquired he, after a little time.

"Sir Richard is, of course, violently against it," replied Emily
Copland.

"So I should have supposed," returned the little nobleman, briskly. And
turning again to the window, he relapsed into silence, looked out
intently for some minutes, took more snuff, and finally, consulting his
watch, with a few words of apology, and a gracious smile and a bow,
quitted the room.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE DARK ROOM--CONTAINING PLENTY OF SCARS AND BRUISES AND PLANS OF
VENGEANCE.


On the same day a very different scene was passing in another quarter,
whither for a few moments we must transport the reader. In a large and
aristocratic-looking brick house, situated near the then fashionable
suburb of Glasnevin, surrounded by stately trees, and within furnished
with the most prodigal splendour, combined with the strictest and most
minute attention to comfort and luxury, and in a large and lofty
chamber, carefully darkened, screened round by the rich and voluminous
folds of the silken curtains, with spider-tables laden with fruits and
wines and phials of medicine, crowded around him, and rather buried
than supported among a luxurious pile of pillows, lay, in sore bodily
torment, with fevered pulse, and heart and brain busy with a thousand
projects of revenge, the identical Nicholas Blarden, whose signal
misadventure in the theatre, upon the preceding evening, we have
already recorded. A decent-looking matron sate in a capacious chair,
near the bed, in the capacity of nurse-tender, while her constrained
and restless manner, as well as the frightened expression with which,
from time to time, she stole a glance at the bloated mass of scars and
bruises, of which she had the care, pretty plainly argued the sweet and
patient resignation with which her charge endured his sufferings. In
the recess of the curtained window sate a little black boy, arrayed
according to the prevailing fashion, in a fancy suit, and with a turban
on his head, and carrying in his awe-struck countenance, as well as in
the immobility of his attitude, a woeful contradiction to the gaiety of
his attire.

"Drink--drink--where's that d----d hag?--give me drink, I say!" howled
the prostrate gambler.

The woman started to her feet, and with a step which fell noiselessly
upon the deep-piled carpets which covered the floor, she hastened to
supply him.

He had hardly swallowed the draught, when a low knock at the door
announced a visitor.

"Come in, can't you?" shouted Blarden.

"How do you feel now, Nicky dear?" inquired a female voice--and a
handsome face, with rather a bold expression, and crowned by a small
mob-cap, overlaid with a profusion of the richest lace, peeped into the
room through the half-open door--"how do you feel?"

"In _hell_--that's all," shouted he.

"Doctor Mallarde is below, love," added she, without evincing either
surprise or emotion of any kind at the concise announcement which the
patient had just delivered.

"Let him come up then," was the reply.

"And a Mr. M'Quirk--a messenger from Mr. Chancey."

"Let _him_ come up too. But why the hell did not Chancey come
himself?--That will do--pack--be off."

The lady tossed her head, like one having authority, looked half
inclined to say something sharp, but thought better of it, and
contented herself with shutting the door with more emphasis than Dr.
Mallarde would have recommended.

The physician of those days was a solemn personage: he would as readily
have appeared without his head, as without his full-bottomed wig; and
his ponderous gold-headed cane was a sort of fifth limb, the
supposition of whose absence involved a contradiction to the laws of
anatomy; his dress was rich and funereal; his step was slow and
pompous; his words very long and very few; his look was mysterious; his
nod awful; and the shake of his head unfathomable: in short, he was in
no respect very much better than a modern charlatan. The science which
he professed was then overgrown with absurdities and mystification. The
temper of the times was superstitious and credulous, the physician,
being wise in his generation, framed his outward man (including his air
and language) accordingly, and the populace swallowed his long words
and his electuaries with equal faith.

Doctor Mallarde was a doctor-like person, and, in theatrical
phraseology, looked the part well. He was tall and stately, saturnine
and sallow in aspect, had bushy, grizzled brows, and a severe and
prominent dark eye, a thin, hooked nose, and a pair of lips just as
thin as it. Along with these advantages he had a habit of pressing the
gold head of his professional cane against one corner of his mouth, in
a way which produced a sinister and mysterious distortion of that
organ; and by exhibiting the medical baton, the outward and visible
sign of doctorship, in immediate juxtaposition with the fountain of
language, added enormously to the gravity and authority of the words
which from time to time proceeded therefrom.

In the presence of such a spectre as this--intimately associated with
all that was nauseous and deadly on earth--it is hardly to be wondered
at that even Nicholas Blarden felt himself somewhat uneasy and abashed.
The physician felt his pulse, gazing the while upon the ceiling, and
pressing the gold head of his cane, as usual, to the corner of his
mouth; made him put out his tongue, asked him innumerable questions,
which we forbear to publish, and ended by forbidding his patient the
use of every comfort in which he had hitherto found relief, and by
writing a prescription which might have furnished a country dispensary
with good things for a twelvemonth. He then took his leave and his fee,
with the grisly announcement, that unless the drugs were all swallowed,
and the other matters attended to in a spirit of absolute submission,
he would not answer for the life of the patient.

"I am d----d glad he's gone at last," exclaimed Blarden, with a kind of
gasp, as if a weight had been removed from his breast. "Curse me, if I
did not feel all the time as if my coffin was in the room. Are you
there, M'Quirk?"

"Here I am, Mr. Blarden," rejoined the person addressed, whom we may as
well describe, as we shall have more to say about him by-and-by.

Mr. M'Quirk was a small, wiry man, of fifty years and upwards, arrayed
in that style which is usually described as "shabby genteel." He was
gifted with one of those mean and commonplace countenances which seem
expressly made for the effectual concealment of the thoughts and
feelings of the possessor--an advantage which he further secured by
habitually keeping his eyes as nearly closed as might be, so that, for
any indication afforded by them of the movements of the inward man,
they might as well have been shut up altogether. The peculiarity, if
not the grace, of his appearance, was heightened by a contraction of
the muscles at the nape of the neck, which drew his head backward, and
produced a corresponding elevation of the chin, which, along with a
certain habitual toss of the head, gave to his appearance a kind of
caricatured affectation of superciliousness and _hauteur_, very
impressive to behold. Along with the swing of the head, which we have
before noticed, there was, whenever he spoke, a sort of careless
libration of the whole body, which, together with a certain way of
jerking or twitching the right shoulder from time to time, were the
only approaches to gesticulation in which he indulged.

"Well, what does your master say?" inquired Blarden--"out with it,
can't you."

"Master--master--indeed! Cock _him_ up with _master_," echoed the man,
with lofty disdain.

"Ay! what does he say?" reiterated Blarden, in no very musical tones.
"D---- you, are you choking, or moonstruck? Out with it, can't you?"

"_Chancey_ says that you had better think the matter over--and that's
his opinion," replied M'Quirk.

"And a fine opinion it is," rejoined Blarden, furiously. "Why, in
hell's name, what's the matter with him--the--drivelling idiot? What's
law for--what's the courts for? Am I to be trounced and cudgelled in
the face of hundreds, and--and half _murdered_, and nothing for it? I
tell you, I'll be beggared before the scoundrel shall escape. If every
penny I'm worth in the world can buy it, I'll have justice. Tell that
sleepy sot Chancey that I'll _make_ him work. Ho--o--o--oh!" bawled the
wretch, as his anguish all returned a hundredfold in the fruitless
attempt to raise himself in bed.

"Drink, here--_drink_--I'm choking! Hock and water. D---- you, don't
look so stupid and frightened. I'll not be bamboozled by an old
'pothecary. Quick with it, you fumbling witch."

He finished the draught, and lay silently for a time.

"See--mind me, M'Quirk," he said, after a pause, "tell Chancey to come
out himself--tell him to be here before evening, or I'll make him sorry
for it, do you mind; I want to give him directions. Tell him to come at
once, or I'll make him _smoke_ for it, that's all."

"I understand--all right--very well; and so, as you seem settling for a
snooze, I wish you good-evening, Mr. Blarden, and all sorts of pleasure
and happiness," rejoined the messenger.

The patient answered by a grin and a stifled howl, and Mr. M'Quirk,
having his head within the curtains, which screened him effectually
from the observation of the two attendants, and observing that Mr.
Blarden's eyes were closely shut in the rigid compression of pain, put
out his tongue, and indulged for a few seconds in an exceedingly ugly
grimace, after which, repeating his farewell in a tone of respectful
sympathy, he took his departure, chuckling inwardly all the way
downstairs, for the little gentleman had a playful turn for mischief.

When Gordon Chancey, Esquire, barrister-at-law, in obedience to this
summons, arrived at Cherry Hill, for so the residence of the sick
voluptuary was called, he found his loving friend and patron, Nicholas
Blarden, babbling not of green fields, but of green curtains, theatres,
dice-boxes, bright eyes, small-swords, and the shades infernal--in a
word, in a high state of delirium. On calling next day, however, he
beheld him much recovered; and after an extremely animated discussion,
these two well-assorted confederates at length, by their united
ingenuity, succeeded in roughly sketching the outlines of a plan of
terrific vengeance, in all respects worthy of the diabolical council in
which it originated, and of whose progress and development this history
very fully treats.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A CRITIC--A CONDITION--AND THE SMALL-SWORDS.


Lord Aspenly walked forth among the trim hedges and secluded walks
which surrounded the house, and by alternately taking enormous pinches
of rappee, and humming a favourite air or two, he wonderfully assisted
his philosophy in recovering his equanimity.

"It matters but little how the affair ends," thought his lordship, "if
in matrimony--the girl is, after all, a very fine girl: but if the
matter is fairly off, in that case I shall--look very foolish,"
suggested his conscience faintly, but his lordship dismissed the
thought precipitately--"in that case I shall make it a point to marry
within a fortnight. I should like to know the girl who would refuse
_me_"--"_the only one you ever asked_," suggested his conscience again,
but with no better result--"I should like to see the girl of sense or
discrimination who _could_ refuse me. I shall marry the finest girl in
the country, and _then_ I presume very few will be inclined to call me
fool."

"Not _I_ for one, my lord," exclaimed a voice close by. Lord Aspenly
started, for he was conscious that in his energy he had uttered the
concluding words of his proud peroration with audible emphasis, and
became instantly aware that the speaker was no other than Major
O'Leary.

"Not _I_ for one, my lord," repeated the major, with extreme gravity,
"I take it for granted, my lord, that you are no fool."

"I am obliged to you, Major O'Leary, for your good opinion," replied
his lordship, drily, with a surprised look and a stiff inclination of
his person.

"Nothing to be grateful for in it," replied the major, returning the
bow with grave politeness: "if years and discretion increase together,
you and I ought to be models of wisdom by this time of day. I'm proud
of my years, my lord, and I would be half as proud again if I could
count as many as your lordship."

There was something singularly abrupt and uncalled for in all this,
which Lord Aspenly did not very well understand; he therefore stopped
short, and looked in the major's face; but reading in its staid and
formal gravity nothing whatever to furnish a clue to his exact purpose,
he made a kind of short bow, and continued his walk in dignified
silence. There was something exceedingly disagreeable, he thought, in
the manner of his companion--something very near approaching to cool
impertinence--which he could not account for upon any other supposition
than that the major had been prematurely indulging in the joys of
Bacchus. If, however, he thought that by the assumption of the frigid
and lofty dignity with which he met the advances of the major, he was
likely to relieve himself of his company, he was never more lamentably
mistaken. His military companion walked with a careless swagger by his
side, exactly regulating his pace by that of the little nobleman, whose
meditations he had so cruelly interrupted.

"What on earth is to be done with this brute beast?" muttered his
lordship, taking care, however, that the query should not reach the
subject of it. "I must get rid of him--I must speak with the girl
privately--what the deuce is to be done?"

They walked on a little further in perfect silence. At length his
lordship stopped short and exclaimed,--

"My dear major, I am a very dull companion--quite a bore; there are
times when the mind--the--the--spirits require _solitude_--and these
walks are the very scene for a lonely ramble. I dare venture to aver
that you are courting solitude like myself--your silence betrays
you--then pray do not stand on ceremony--_that_ walk leads down toward
the river--pray no ceremony."

"Upon my conscience, my lord, I never was less inclined to stand on
ceremony than I am at this moment," replied the major; "so give
yourself no trouble in the world about me. Nothing would annoy me so
much as to have you think I was doing anything but precisely what I
liked best myself."

Lord Aspenly bowed, took a violent pinch of snuff, and walked on, the
major still keeping by his side. After a long silence his lordship
began to lilt his own sweet verses in a careless sort of a way, which
was intended to convey to his tormentor that he had totally forgotten
his presence:--

    "Tho' Chloe slight me when I woo,
      And scorn the love of poor Philander;
    The shepherd's heart she scorns is true,
      His heart is true, his passion tender."

"Passion tender," observed the major--"_passion_ tender--it's a
_nurse_-tender the like of you and me ought to be looking
for--_passion_ tender--upon my conscience, a good joke."

Lord Aspenly was strongly tempted to give vent to his feelings; but
even at the imminent risk of bursting, he managed to suppress his fury.
The major was certainly (however unaccountable and mysterious the fact
might be) in a perfectly cut-throat frame of mind, and Lord Aspenly had
no desire to present _his_ weasand for the entertainment of his
military friend.

"Tender--_tender_," continued the inexorable major, "allow me, my lord,
to suggest the word _tough_ as an improvement--_tender_, my lord, is a
term which does not apply to chickens beyond a certain time of life,
and it strikes me as too bold a license of poetry to apply it to a
gentleman of such extreme and venerable old age as your lordship; for I
take it for granted that Philander is another name for yourself."

As the major uttered this critical remark, Lord Aspenly felt his brain,
as it were, fizz with downright fury; the instinct of self-preservation,
however, triumphed; he mastered his generous indignation, and resumed
his walk in a state of mind nothing short of awful.

"My lord," inquired the major, with tragic abruptness, and with very
stern emphasis--"I take the liberty of asking, _have you made your
soul_?"

The precise nature of the major's next proceeding, Lord Aspenly could
not exactly predict; of one thing, however, he felt assured, and that
was, that the designs of his companion were decidedly of a dangerous
character, and as he gazed in mute horror upon the major, confused but
terrific ideas of "homicidal monomania," and coroner's inquests floated
dimly through his distracted brain.

"My soul?" faltered he, in undisguised trepidation.

"Yes, my lord," repeated the major, with remarkable coolness, "have you
made your soul?"

During this conference his lordship's complexion had shifted from its
original lemon-colour to a lively orange, and thence faded gradually
off into a pea-green; at which hue it remained fixed during the
remainder of the interview.

"I protest--you cannot be serious--I am wholly in the dark. Positively,
Major O'Leary, this is very unaccountable conduct--you really
ought--pray explain."

"Upon my conscience, I _will_ explain," rejoined the major, "although
the explanation won't make you much more in love with your present
predicament, unless I am very much out. You made my niece, Mary
Ashwoode, an offer of marriage to-day; well, she was much obliged to
you, but she did not _want_ to marry you, and she told you so civilly.
Did you then, like a man and a gentleman, take your answer from her as
you ought to have done, quietly and courteously? No, you did not; you
went to bully the poor girl, and to insult her; because she politely
declined to marry a--a--an ugly bunch of wrinkles, like you; and you
threatened to tell Sir Richard--ay, you _did_--to tell him your pitiful
story, you--you--you--but wait awhile. You want to have the poor girl
frightened and bullied into marrying you. Where's your spirit or your
feeling, my lord? But you don't know what the words mean. If ever you
did, you'd sooner have been racked to death, than have terrified and
insulted a poor friendless girl, as you thought her. But she's _not_
friendless. I'll teach you she's not. As long as this arm can lift a
small-sword, and while the life is in my body, I'll never see any woman
maltreated by a scoundrel--a _scoundrel_, my lord; but I'll bring him
to his knees for it, or die in the attempt. And holding these opinions,
did you think I'd let you offend my niece? _No_, sir, I'd be blown to
atoms first."

"Major O'Leary," replied his lordship, as soon as he had collected his
thoughts and recovered breath to speak, "your conduct is exceedingly
violent--very, and, I will add, most hasty and indiscreet. You have
entirely misconceived me, you have mistaken the whole affair. You will
regret this violence--I protest--I know you will, when you understand
the whole matter. At present, knowing the nature of your feelings, I
protest, though I might naturally resent your observations, it is not
in my nature, in my _heart_ to be angry." This was spoken with a very
audible quaver.

"You _would_, my lord, you _would_ be angry," rejoined the major,
"you'd _dance_ with fury this moment, if you _dared_. You could find it
in your heart to go into a passion with a _girl_; but talking with men
is a different sort of thing. Now, my lord, we are both here, with our
swords; no place can be more secluded, and, I presume, no two men more
willing. Pray draw, my lord, or I'll be apt to spoil your velvet and
gold lace."

"Major O'Leary, I _will_ be heard!" exclaimed Lord Aspenly, with an
earnestness which the imminent peril of his person inspired--"I _must_
have a word or two with you, before we put this dispute to so deadly an
arbitrament."

The major had foreseen and keenly enjoyed the reluctance and the
evident tremors of his antagonist. He returned his half-drawn sword to
its scabbard with an impatient thrust, and, folding his arms, looked
down with supreme contempt upon the little peer.

"Major O'Leary, you have been misinformed--Miss Ashwoode has mistaken
me. I assure you, I meant no disrespect--none in the world, I protest.
I may have spoken hastily--perhaps I did--but I never intended
disrespect--never for a moment."

"Well, my lord, suppose that I admit that you did _not_ mean any
disrespect; and suppose that I distinctly assert that I have neither
right nor inclination just now to call you to an account for anything
you may have said, in your interview this morning, offensive to my
niece; I give you leave to suppose it, and, what's more, in supposing
it, I solemnly aver, you suppose neither more nor less than the exact
truth," said the major.

"Well, then, Major O'Leary," replied Lord Aspenly, "I profess myself
wholly at a loss to understand your conduct. I presume, at all events,
that nothing further need pass between us about the matter."

"Not so fast, my lord, if you please," rejoined the major; "a great
deal more must pass between us before I have done with your lordship;
although I cannot punish you for the past, I have a perfect right to
restrain you for the future. I have a proposal to make, to which I
expect your lordship's assent--a proposal which, under the
circumstances, I dare say, you will think, however unpleasant, by no
means unreasonable."

"Pray state it," said Lord Aspenly, considerably reassured on finding
that the debate was beginning to take a diplomatic turn.

"This is my proposal, then," replied the major: "you shall write a
letter to Sir Richard, renouncing all pretensions to his daughter's
hand, and taking upon yourself the whole responsibility of the measure,
without implicating _her_ directly or indirectly; do you mind: and you
shall leave this place, and go wherever you please, before supper-time
to-night. These are the conditions on which I will consent to spare
you, my lord, and upon no other shall you escape."

"Why, what can you mean, Major O'Leary?" exclaimed the little coxcomb,
distractedly. "If I did any such thing, I should be run through by Sir
Richard or his rakehelly son; besides, I came here for a wife--my
friends know it; I _cannot_ consent to make a fool of myself. How
_dare_ you presume to propose such conditions to me?"

The little gentleman as he wound up, had warmed so much, that he placed
his hand on the hilt of his sword. Without one word of commentary, the
major drew his, and with a nod of invitation, threw himself into an
attitude of defence, and resting the point of his weapon upon the
ground, awaited the attack of his adversary. Perhaps Lord Aspenly
regretted the precipitate valour which had prompted him to place his
hand on his sword-hilt, as much as he had ever regretted any act of his
whole life; it was, however, too late to recede, and with the hurried
manner of one who has made up his mind to a disagreeable thing, and
wishes it soon over, he drew his also, and their blades were instantly
crossed in mortal opposition.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE COMBAT AND ITS ISSUE.


Lord Aspenly made one or two eager passes at his opponent, which were
parried with perfect ease and coolness; and before he had well
recovered his position from the last of those lunges, a single clanging
sweep of the major's sword, taking his adversary's blade from the point
to the hilt with irresistible force, sent his lordship's weapon
whirring through the air some eight or ten yards away.

"Take your life, my lord," said the major, contemptuously; "I give it
to you freely, only wishing the present were more valuable. What do you
say _now_, my lord, to the terms?"

"I say, sir--what do _I_ say?" echoed his lordship, not very
coherently. "Major O'Leary, you have disarmed me, sir, and you ask me
what I say to your terms. What do I say? Why, sir, I say again what I
said before, that I cannot and will not subscribe to them."

Lord Aspenly, having thus delivered himself, looked half astonished and
half frightened at his own valour.

"Everyone to his taste--your lordship has an uncommon inclination for
slaughter," observed the major coolly, walking to the spot where lay
the little gentleman's sword, raising it, and carelessly presenting it
to him: "take it, my lord, and use it more cautiously than you _have_
done--defend yourself!"

Little expecting another encounter, yet ashamed to decline it, his
lordship, with a trembling hand, grasped the weapon once more, and
again their blades were crossed in deadly combat. This time his
lordship prudently forbore to risk his safety by an impetuous attack
upon an adversary so cool and practised as the major, and of whose
skill he had just had so convincing a proof. Major O'Leary, therefore,
began the attack; and pressing his opponent with some slight feints and
passes, followed him closely as he retreated for some twenty yards, and
then, suddenly striking up to the point of his lordship's sword with
his own, he seized the little nobleman's right arm at the wrist with a
grasp like a vice, and once more held his life at his disposal.

"Take your life for the second and the _last_ time," said the major,
having suffered the wretched little gentleman for a brief pause to
fully taste the bitterness of death; "mind, my lord, for the _last_
time;" and so saying, he contemptuously flung his lordship from him by
the arm which he grasped.

"Now, my lord, before we begin for the _last_ time, listen to me," said
the major, with a sternness, which commanded all the attention of the
affrighted peer; "I desire that you should _fully_ understand what I
propose. I would not like to kill you under a mistake--there is nothing
like a clear, mutual understanding during a quarrel. Such an
understanding being once established, bloodshed, if it unfortunately
occurs, can scarcely, even in the most scrupulous bosom, excite the
mildest regret. I wish, my lord, to have nothing whatever to reproach
myself with in the catastrophe which you appear to have resolved shall
overtake you; and, therefore, I'll state the whole case for your dying
consolation in as few words as possible. Don't be in a hurry, my lord,
I'll not detain you more than five minutes in this miserable world.
Now, my lord, you have two strong, indeed I may call them in every
sense _fatal_, objections to my proposal. The first is, that if you
write the letter I propose, you must fight Sir Richard and young Henry
Ashwoode. Now, I pledge myself, my soul, and honour, as a Christian, a
soldier, and a gentleman, that I will stand between you and them--that
_I_ will protect you completely from all responsibility upon that
score--and that if anyone is to fight with either of them, it shall not
be you. Your second objection is, that having been fool enough to tell
the world that you were coming here for a wife, you are ashamed to go
away without one. Now, without meaning to be offensive, I never heard
anything more idiotic in the whole course of my life. But if it _must_
be so, and that you cannot go away without a wife, why the d----l don't
you ask Emily Copland--a fine girl with some thousands of pounds, I
believe, and at all events dying for love of you, as I am sure you see
yourself? You can't care for one more than the other, and why the deuce
need you trouble your head about their gossip, if anyone wonders at the
change? And now, my lord, mark me, I have said all that is to be said
in the way of commentary or observation upon my proposal, and I must
add a word or two about the consequences of finally rejecting it. I
have spared your life twice, my lord, within these five minutes. If you
refuse the accommodation I have proposed, I will a third time give you
an opportunity of disembarrassing yourself of the whole affair by
running me through the body--in which, if you fail, so sure as you are
this moment alive and breathing before me, you shall, at the end of the
next five, be a corpse. So help me God!"

Major O'Leary paused, leaving Lord Aspenly in a state of confusion and
horror, scarcely short of distraction.

There was no mistaking the major's manner, and the old _beau garçon_
already felt in imagination the cold steel busy with his intestines.

"But, Major O'Leary," said he, despairingly, "will you engage--can you
pledge yourself that no mischief shall follow from my withdrawing as
you say? not that I would care to avoid a duel when occasion required;
but no one likes to unnecessarily risk himself. Will you indeed prevent
all unpleasantness?"

"Did I pledge my soul and honour that I would?" inquired the major
sternly.

"Well, I am satisfied. I do agree," replied his lordship. "But is there
any occasion for me to remove _to-night_?"

"Every occasion," replied the major, coolly. "You must come directly
with me, and write the letter--and this evening, before supper, you
must leave Morley Court. And, above all things, just remember this, let
there be no trickery or treachery in this matter. So sure as I see the
smallest symptom of anything of the kind, I will bring about such
another piece of work as has not been for many a long day. Am I fully
understood?"

"Perfectly--perfectly, my dear sir," replied the nobleman. "Clearly
understood. And believe me, Major, when I say that nothing but the fact
that I myself, for private reasons, am not unwilling to break the
matter off, could have induced me to co-operate with you in this
business. Believe me, sir, otherwise I should have fought until one or
other of us had fallen to rise no more."

"To be sure you would, my lord," rejoined the major, with edifying
gravity. "And in the meantime your lordship will much oblige me by
walking up to the house. There's pen and paper in Sir Richard's study;
and between us we can compose something worthy of the occasion. Now, my
lord, if you please."

Thus, side by side, walked the two elderly gentlemen, like the very
best friends, towards the old house. And shrewd indeed would have been
that observer who could have gathered from the manner of either
(whatever their flushed faces and somewhat ruffled exterior might have
told), as with formal courtesy they threaded the trim arbours together,
that but a few minutes before each had sought the other's life.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE HELL--GORDON CHANCEY--LUCK--FRENZY AND A RESOLUTION.


The night which followed this day found young Henry Ashwoode, his purse
replenished with bank-notes, that day advanced by Craven, to the amount
of one thousand pounds, once more engaged in the delirious prosecution
of his favourite pursuit--gaming. In the neighbourhood of the theatre,
in that narrow street now known as Smock Alley, there stood in those
days a kind of coffee-house, rather of the better sort. From the
public-room, in which actors, politicians, officers, and occasionally a
member of parliament, or madcap Irish peer, chatted, lounged, and
sipped their sack or coffee--the initiated, or, in short, any man with
a good coat on his back and a few pounds in his pocket, on exchanging a
brief whisper with a singularly sleek-looking gentleman, who sate in
the prospective of the background, might find his way through a small,
baize-covered door in the back of the chamber, and through a lobby or
two, and thence upstairs into a suite of rooms, decently hung with
gilded leather, and well lighted with a profusion of wax candles, where
hazard and cards were played for stakes unlimited, except by the
fortunes and the credit of those who gamed. The ceaseless clang of the
dice-box and rattle of the dice upon the table, and the clamorous
challenging and taking of the odds upon the throwing, accompanied by
the ferocious blasphemies of desperate losers, who, with clenched hands
and distracted gestures, poured, unheeded, their frantic railings and
imprecations, as they, in unpitied agony, withdrew from the fatal
table; and now and then the scarcely less hideous interruptions of
brutal quarrels, accusations, and recriminations among the excited and
half-drunken gamblers, were the sounds which greeted the ear of him who
ascended toward this unhallowed scene. The rooms were crowded--the
atmosphere hot and stifling, and the company in birth and pretensions,
if not in outward attire, to the full as mixed and various as the
degrees of fortune, which scattered riches and ruin promiscuously among
them. In the midst of all this riotous uproar, several persons sate and
played at cards as if (as, perhaps, was really the case), perfectly
unconscious of the ceaseless hubbub going on around them. Here you
might see in one place the hare-brained young squire, scarcely three
months launched upon the road to ruin, snoring in drunken slumber, in
his deep-cushioned chair, with his cravat untied, and waistcoat
loosened, and his last cup of mulled sack upset upon the table beside
him, and streaming upon his velvet breeches and silken hose--while his
lightly-won bank notes, stuffed into the loose coat pocket, and peeping
temptingly from the aperture, invited the fingers of the first
_chevalier d'industrie_ who wished to help himself. In another place
you might behold two sharpers fulfilling the conditions of their
partnership, by wheedling a half-tipsy simpleton into a quiet game of
ombre. And again, elsewhere you might descry some bully captain, whose
occupation having ended with the Irish wars, indemnified himself as
best he might by such contributions as he could manage to levy from the
young and reckless in such haunts as this, busily and energetically
engaged in brow-beating a timid greenhorn, who has the presumption to
fancy that he has won something from the captain, which the captain has
forgotten to pay. In another place you may see, unheeded and unheeding,
the wretch who has played and lost his last stake; with white,
unmeaning face and idiotic grin, glaring upon the floor, thought and
feeling palsied, something worse, and more appalling than a maniac.

The whole character of the assembly bespoke the recklessness and the
selfishness of its ingredients. There was, too, among them a certain
coarse and revolting disregard and defiance of the etiquettes and
conventional decencies of social life. More than half the men were
either drunk or tipsy; some had thrown off their coats and others wore
their hats; altogether the company had more the appearance of a band of
reckless rioters in a public street, than of an assembly of persons
professing to be gentlemen, and congregated in a drawing-room.

By the fireplace in the first and by far the largest and most crowded
of the three drawing-rooms, there sate a person whose appearance was
somewhat remarkable. He was an ill-made fellow, with long, lank, limber
legs and arms, and an habitual lazy stoop. His face was sallow; his
mouth, heavy and sensual, was continually moistened with the brandy and
water which stood beside him upon a small spider-table, placed there
for his especial use. His eyes were long-cut, and seldom more than half
open, and carrying in their sleepy glitter a singular expression of
treachery and brute cunning. He wore his own lank and grizzled hair,
instead of a peruke, and sate before the fire with a drowsy inattention
to all that was passing in the room; and, except for the occasional
twinkle of his eye as it glanced from the corner of his half-closed
lids, he might have been believed to have been actually asleep. His
attitude was lounging and listless, and all his movements so languid
and heavy, that they seemed to be rather those of a somnambulist than
of a waking man. His dress had little pretension, and less neatness; it
was a suit of threadbare, mulberry-coloured cloth, with steel buttons,
and evidently but little acquainted with the clothes-brush. His linen
was soiled and crumpled, his shoes ill-cleaned, his beard had enjoyed
at least two days' undisturbed growth; and the dingy hue of his face
and hands bespoke altogether the extremest negligence and slovenliness
of person.

This slovenly and ungainly being, who sate apparently unconscious of
the existence of any other earthly thing than the fire on which he
gazed, and the grog which from time to time he lazily sipped, was
Gordon Chancey, Esquire, of Skycopper Court, Whitefriar Street, in the
city of Dublin, barrister-at-law--a gentleman who had never been known
to do any professional business, but who managed, nevertheless, to
live, and to possess, somehow or other, the command of very
considerable sums of money, which he most advantageously invested by
discounting, at exorbitant interest, short bills and promissory notes
in such places as that in which he now sate--one of his favourite
resorts, by the way. At intervals of from five to ten minutes he slowly
drew from the vast pocket of his clumsy coat a bulky pocket-book, and
sleepily conned over certain memoranda with which its leaves were
charged--then having looked into its well-lined receptacles, to satisfy
himself that no miracle of legerdemain had abstracted the treasure on
which his heart was set, he once more fastened the buckle of the
leathern budget, and deposited it again in his pocket. This procedure,
and his attentions to the spirits and water, which from time to time he
swallowed, succeeded one another with a monotonous regularity
altogether undisturbed by the uproarious scene which surrounded him.

As the night wore apace, and fortune played her wildest pranks, many an
applicant--some successfully, and some in vain--sought Chancey's
succour.

"Come, my fine fellow, tip me a cool hundred," exclaimed a
fashionably-dressed young man, flushed with the combined excitement of
wine and the dice, and tapping Chancey on the back impatiently with his
knuckles--"this moment--will you, and be d----"

"Oh, dear me, dear me, Captain Markham," drawled the barrister in a
low, drowsy tone, as he turned sleepily toward the speaker, "have you
lost the other hundred so soon? Oh, dear!--oh, dear!"

"Never you mind, old fox. Shell out, if you're going to do it,"
rejoined the applicant. "What is it to you?"

"Oh, dear me, dear me!" murmured Chancey, as he languidly drew the
pocket-book from his pocket. "When shall I make it payable? To-morrow?"

"D----n to-morrow," replied the captain. "I'll sleep all to-morrow.
Won't a fortnight do, you harpy?"

"Well, well--sign--sign it here," said the usurer, handing the paper,
with a pen, to the young gentleman, and indicating with his finger the
spot where the name was to be written.

The _roué_ wrote his name without ever reading the paper; and Chancey
carefully deposited it in his book.

"The money--the money--d----n you, will you never give it!" exclaimed
the young man, actually stamping with impatience, as if every moment's
absence from the hazard-table cost him a fortune. "Give--give--_give_
them."

He seized the notes, and without counting, stuffed them into his
coat-pocket, and plunged in an instant again among the gamblers who
crowded the table.

"Mr. Chancey--Mr. Chancey," said a slight young man, whose whole
appearance betokened a far progress in the wasting of a mortal decline.
His face was pale as death itself, and glittering with the cold, clammy
dew of weakness and excitement. The eye was bright, wild, and glassy;
and the features of this attenuated face trembled and worked in the
spasms of agonized anxiety and despair--with timid voice, and with the
fearful earnestness of one pleading for his life--with knees half bent,
and head stretched forward, while his thin fingers were clutched and
knotted together in restless feverishness. He still repeated at
intervals in low, supplicating accents--"Mr. Chancey--Mr. Chancey--can
you spare a moment, sir--Mr. Chancey, good sir--Mr. Chancey."

For many minutes the worthy barrister gazed on apathetically into the
fire, as if wholly unconscious that this piteous spectacle was by his
side, and all but begging his attention.

"Mr. Chancey, good sir--Mr. Chancey, kind sir--only one moment--one
word--Mr. Chancey."

This time the wretched young man advanced one of his trembling hands,
and laid it hesitatingly upon Chancey's knee--the seat of mercy, as the
ancients thought; but truly here it was otherwise. The hand was
repulsed with insolent rudeness; and the wretched suppliant stood
trembling in silence before the bill-discounter, who looked upon him
with a scowl of brute ferocity, which the timid advances he had made
could hardly have warranted.

"Well," growled Chancey, keeping his baleful eyes fixed not very
encouragingly upon the poor young man.

"I have been unfortunate, sir--I have lost my last shilling--that is,
the last I have about me at present."

"Well," repeated he.

"I might win it all back," continued the suppliant, becoming more
voluble as he proceeded. "I might recover it _all_--it has often
happened to me before. Oh, sir, it is possible--_certain_, if I had but
a few pounds to play on."

"Ay, the old story," rejoined Chancey.

"Yes, sir, it is indeed--indeed it is, Mr. Chancey," said the young
man, eagerly, catching at this improvement upon his first laconic
address as an indication of some tendency to relent, and making, at the
same time, a most woeful attempt to look pleasant--"it is, sir--the old
story, indeed; but this time it will come out true--indeed it will.
Will you do one little note for me--a _little_ one--twenty pounds?"

"No, I won't," drawled Chancey, imitating with coarse buffoonery the
intonation of the request--"I won't do a _little_ one for you."

"Well, for ten pounds--for _ten_ only."

"No, nor for ten pence," rejoined Chancey, tranquilly.

"You may keep five out of it for the discount--for friendship--only let
me have five--just _five_," urged the wasted gambler, with an agony of
supplication.

"No, I won't; _just five_," replied the lawyer.

"I'll make it payable to-morrow," urged the suppliant.

"Maybe you'll be dead before that," drawled Chancey, with a sneer; "the
life don't look very tough in you."

"Ah! Mr. Chancey, dear sir--good Mr. Chancey," said the young man, "you
often told me you'd do me a friendly turn yet. Do not you remember
it?--when I was able to lend you money. For God's sake, lend me five
pounds now, or anything; I'll give you half my winnings. You'll save me
from beggary--ah, sir, for old friendship."

Mr. Gordon Chancey seemed wondrously tickled by this appeal; he gazed
sleepily at the fire while he raked the embers with the toe of his
shoe, stuffed his hands deep into his breeches pockets, and indulged in
a sort of lazy, comfortable laughter, which lasted for several minutes,
until at length it subsided, leaving him again apparently unconscious
of the presence of his petitioner. Emboldened by the condescension of
his quondam friend, the young man made a piteous effort to join in the
laughter--an attempt, however, which was speedily interrupted by the
hollow cough of consumption. After a pause of a minute or two, during
which Chancey seemed to have forgotten his existence, he once more
addressed that gentleman,--

"Well, sir--well, Mr. Chancey?"

The barrister turned full upon him with an expression of face not to be
mistaken, and in a tone just as unequivocal, he growled,--

"I'm d----d if I give you as much as a leaden penny. Be off; there's no
_begging_ allowed here--away with you, you blackguard."

Having thus delivered himself, Chancey relapsed into his ordinary
dreamy quiet.

Every muscle in the pale, wasted face of the ruined, dying gamester
quivered with fruitless agony; he opened his mouth to speak, but could
not; he gasped and sobbed, and then, clutching his lank hands over his
eyes and forehead as though he would fain have crushed his head to
pieces, he uttered one low cry of anguish, more despairing and
appalling than the loudest shriek of horror, and passed from the room
unnoticed.

"Jeffries, can you lend me fifty or a hundred pounds till to-morrow?"
said young Ashwoode, addressing a middle-aged fop who had just reeled
in from an adjoining room.

"_Cuss_ me, Ashwoode, if the thing is a possibility," replied he, with
a hiccough; "I have just been fairly cleaned out by Snarley and two or
three others--not one guinea left--confound them all. I've this moment
had to beg a crown to pay my chair and link-boy home; but Chancey is
here; I saw him not an hour ago in his old corner."

"So he is, egad--thank you," and Ashwoode was instantly by the monied
man's side. "Chancey, I want a hundred and fifty--quickly, man, are you
awake?" and so saying, he shook the lawyer roughly by the shoulder.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" exclaimed he, in his usual low, sleepy voice,
"it's Mr. Ashwoode, it is indeed--dear me, dear me; and can I oblige
you, Mr. Ashwoode?"

"Yes; don't I tell you I want a hundred and fifty--or stay, two
hundred," said Ashwoode, impatiently. "I'll pay you in a week or
less--say to-morrow if you please it."

"Whatever sum you like, Mr. Ashwoode," rejoined he--"whatever sum or
whatever date you please; I declare to God I'm uncommonly glad to do
it. Oh, dear, but them dice _is_ unruly. Two hundred, you say, and a--a
_week_ we'll say, not to be pressing. Well, well, this money has luck
in it, maybe. That's a long lane that has no turn--fortune changes
sides when it's least expected. Your name here, Mr. Ashwoode."

The name was signed, the notes taken, and Ashwoode once more at the
table; but alack-a-day! fortune was for once steady, and frowned with
consistent obdurateness upon Henry Ashwoode. Five minutes had hardly
passed, when the two hundred pounds had made themselves wings and
followed the larger sums which he had already lost. Again he had
recourse to Chancey: again he found that gentleman smooth, gracious,
and obliging as he could have wished. Still his luck was adverse: as
fast as he drew the notes from his pocket, they were caught and whirled
away in the eddy of ruin. Once more from the accommodating barrister he
drew a larger sum,--still with a like result. So large and frequent
were his drafts, that Chancey was obliged to go away and replenish his
exhausted treasury; and still again and again, with a terrible monotony
of disaster, young Ashwoode continued to lose.

At length the grey, cold light of morning streamed drearily through the
chinks of the window-shutters into the hot chamber of destruction and
debauchery. The sounds of daily business began to make themselves heard
from the streets. The wax lights were flaring in the sockets. The floor
strewn with packs of cards, broken glasses, and plates, and fragments
of fowls and bread, and a thousand other disgusting indications of
recent riot and debauchery which need not to be mentioned. Soiled and
jaded, with bloodshot eyes and haggard faces, the gamblers slunk, one
by one, in spiritless exhaustion, from the scene of their distracting
orgies, to rest the brain and refresh the body as best they might.

With a stunning and indistinct sense of disaster and ruin; a vague,
fevered, dreamy remembrance of overwhelming calamity: a stupefying,
haunting consciousness that all the clatter, and roaring, and stifling
heat, and jostling, and angry words, and smooth, civil speeches of the
night past, had been, somehow or other, to him fraught with fearful and
tremendous agony, and delirium, and ruin--Ashwoode stalked into the
street, and mechanically proceeded to the inn where his horse was
stabled.

The ostler saw, by the haggard, vacant stare with which Ashwoode
returned his salutation, that something had gone wrong, and, as he held
the stirrup for him, he arrived at the conclusion that the young
gentleman must have gotten at least a dozen duels upon his hands, to be
settled, one and all, before breakfast.

The young man dashed the spurs into the high-mettled horse, and
traversing the streets at a perilous speed, without well thinking or
knowing whitherward he was proceeding, he found himself at length among
the wild lanes and brushwood of the Royal Park, and was recalled to
himself by finding his horse rearing and floundering up to his sides in
a slough. Having extricated the animal, he dismounted, threw his hat
beside him, and, kneeling down, bathed his head and face again and
again in the water of a little brook, which ran in many a devious
winding through the tangled briars and thorns. The cold, refreshing
ablution, assisted by the sharp air of the morning, soon brought him to
his recollection.

"The fiend himself must have been by my elbow last night," he muttered,
as he stood bare-headed, in wild disorder, by the brook's side. "I've
lost before, and lost heavily too, but such a run, such an infernal
string of ruinous losses. First, a thousand pounds gone--swallowed up
in little more than an hour; and then the devil knows how much
more--curse me, if I can remember _how_ much I borrowed. I am over head
and ears in Chancey's books. How shall I face my father? and how, in
the fiend's name, am I to meet my engagements? Craven will hand me no
more of the money. Was I mad or drunk, to go on against such an
accursed tide of bad luck?--what fury from hell possessed me? I wish I
had thrust my hand between the bars, and burnt it to the elbow, before
I took the dice-box last night. What's to be done?"--he paused--
"Yes--I _must_ do it--fate, destiny, circumstances drive me to it. I
_will_ marry the woman; she can't live very long--it's not likely; and
even if she does, what's that to me?--the world is wide enough for us
both, and once married, we need not plague one another much with our
society. I must see Chancey about those d----d bills or notes: curse
me, if I even know when they are payable. My brain swims like a sea.
Lady Stukely, Lady Stukely, you are a happy woman: it's an ill wind
that blows nobody good--I am resolved--my course is taken. First then
for Morley Court, and next for the wealthy widow's. I don't half like
the thing, but, d----n it, what other chance have I? Then away with
hesitation, away with thought; fate has ordained it."

So saying, the young man donned his hat, caught the bridle of his
well-trained steed, vaulted into the saddle, and was soon far on his
way to Morley Court, where strange and startling tidings awaited his
arrival.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE DEPARTURE OF THE PEER--THE BILLET AND THE SHATTERED MIRROR.


Never yet did day pass more disagreeably to mortal man than that whose
early events we have recorded did to Lord Aspenly. His vanity and
importance had suffered more mortification within the last few hours
than he had ever before encountered in all the eight-and-sixty winters
of his previous useful existence. And spite of the major's assurances
to the contrary, he could not help feeling certain very unpleasant
misgivings, as the evening approached, touching the consequences likely
to follow to himself from his meditated retreat.

He resolved by the major's advice to leave Morley Court without a
formal leave-taking, or, in short, any explanatory interview whatever
with Sir Richard. And for the purpose of taking his departure without
obstruction or annoyance, he determined that the hour of his setting
forth should be that at which the baronet was wont to retire for a time
to his dressing-room, previously to appearing at supper. The note which
was to announce his departure was written and sealed, and deposited in
his waistcoat pocket. He felt that it supplied but a very meagre
explanation of so decided a step as he was constrained to take;
nevertheless it was the only explanation he had to offer. He well knew
that its perusal would be followed by an explosion, and he not unwisely
thought it best, under all the circumstances, to withdraw to a
reasonable distance before springing the mine.

The evening closed ominously in storm and cloud; the wind was hourly
rising, and distant mutterings of thunder bespoke a night of tempest.
Lord Aspenly had issued his orders with secrecy, and they were
punctually obeyed. At the hour indicated, his own and his servant's
horses were at the door. Lord Aspenly was crossing the hall, cloaked,
booted, and spurred for the road, when he encountered Emily Copland.

"Dear me, my lord, can it be possible--surely you are not going to
leave us to-night?"

"Indeed, it is but too true, fair lady," rejoined his lordship, with a
dolorous shrug. "An unlucky _contretemps_ requires my attendance in
town; my precipitate flight," he continued, with an attempt at a
playful smile, "is accounted for in this note, which perhaps you will
kindly deliver to Sir Richard, when next you see him. I trust, Miss
Copland, that fortune will often grant me the privilege of meeting you.
Be assured it is one which I prize above all others. Adieu."

His lordship gallantly kissed the hand which was extended to receive
the note, and then, with his best bow, withdrew.

A few petulant questions, which bespoke his inward acerbity, he
addressed to his servant--glanced with a very sour aspect at the
lowering sky--clambered stiffly into the saddle, and then, desiring his
attendant to follow him, rode down the avenue at a speed which seemed
prompted by an instinctive dread of pursuit.

As the wind howled and the thunder rolled and rumbled nearer and
nearer, Emily Copland could not but wonder more and more what urgent
and peremptory cause could have induced the little peer to adopt this
sudden resolution, and to carry it into effect upon such a night of
storm. Surely that motive must be a strange and urgent one which would
not brook the delay of a few hours, especially during the violence of
such weather as the luxurious little nobleman had perhaps never
voluntarily encountered in the whole course of his life. Curiosity
prompted her to deliver the note which she held in her hand at once;
she therefore ran lightly upstairs, and rapidly threading all the
intervening lobbies and rambling passages, she knocked at her uncle's
door.

"Come in, come in," cried the peevish voice of Sir Richard Ashwoode.

The girl entered the room. The Italian was at the toilet, arranging his
master's dressing-case, and the baronet himself in his night-gown and
slippers, and with a pamphlet in his hand, reclined listlessly upon a
sofa.

"Who is that?--who _is_ it?" inquired he in the same tone, without
turning his eyes from the volume which he read.

"Per dina!" exclaimed the Neapolitan--"Mees Emily--she is vary seldom
come here. You are wailcome, Mees Emily; weel you seet down?--there is
chair. Sir Richard, it is Mees Emily."

"What does the young lady want?" inquired he, drily.

"I have gotten a note for you, uncle," replied she.

"Well, put it down?--put it there on the table, anywhere; I presume it
will keep till morning," replied he, without removing his eyes from the
pages.

"It is from Lord Aspenly," urged the girl.

"Eh! Lord Aspenly. How--give it to me," said the baronet, raising
himself quickly and tossing the pamphlet aside. He broke the seal and
read the note. Whatever its contents were, they produced upon the
baronet an extraordinary effect; he started from the sofa with clenched
hands and frantic gesture.

"Who--where--stop him, after him--he shall answer me--he shall!" cried,
or rather shrieked, the baronet in the hoarse, choking scream of fury.
"After him all--my sword, my horse. By ----, he'll reckon with me this
night."

Never did the human form more fearfully embody the passions of hell; he
stood before them absolutely transformed. The quivering face was pale
as ashes; the livid veins, like blue knotted cordage, protruded upon
his forehead; the eye glared and rolled with the light of madness, and
as he shook and raved there before them, no dream ever conjured up a
spectacle more appalling; he spit upon the letter--he tore it into
fragments, and with his gouty feet stamped it into the fire.

There was no extravagance of frenzy which he did not enact. He tossed
his arms into the air, and dashed his clenched hands upon the table; he
stamped, he stormed, he howled; and as with thick and furious utterance
he volleyed forth his incoherent threats, mandates, and curses, the
foam hung upon his blackened lips.

"I'll bring him to the dust--to the earth. My very menials shall spurn
him. Almighty, that he should dare--trickster--liar--that he should
dare to practise upon _me_ this outrageous slight. Ay, ay--ay,
ay--laugh, my lord--laugh on; but by the ---- ----, this shall bring
you to your knees, ay, and to your grave; and you--_you_," thundered
he, turning upon the awe-struck and terrified young lady, "you no doubt
had _your_ share in this--ay, you have--you _have_--yes, I know
you--you--you--hollow, lying ----, quit my house--out with you--turn
her out--drive her out--away with her."

As the horrible figure advanced towards her, the girl by an effort
roused herself from the dreadful fascination, and turning from him,
fled swiftly downstairs, and fell fainting at the parlour door.

Sir Richard still strode through his chamber with the same frantic
evidences of unabated fury; and the Italian--the only remaining
spectator of the hideous scene--sate calmly in a chair by the toilet,
with his legs crossed, and his countenance composed into a kind of
sanctimonious placidity, which, however, spite of all his efforts,
betrayed at the corners of the mouth, and in the twinkle of the eye, a
certain enjoyment of the spectacle, which was not altogether consistent
with the perfect affection which he professed for his master.

"Ay, ay, my lord," continued the baronet, madly, "laugh on--laugh while
you may; but by the ---- ----, you shall gnash your teeth for this!"

"What coning, old gentleman is mi Lord Aspenly--ah! vary, vary," said
the Italian, reflectively.

"You _shall_, my lord," continued Sir Richard, furiously. "Your
disgrace shall be public--exemplary--the insult shall recoil upon,
yourself--your punishment shall be memorable-public--tremendous."

"Mi Lord Aspenly and Sir Richard--both so coning," continued the
Italian--"yees--yees--set one thief to catch the other."

The Neapolitan had, no doubt, bargained for the indulgence of his
pleasant humour, as usual, free of cost; but he was mistaken. With the
quickness of light, Sir Richard grasped a massive glass decanter, full
of water, and hurled it at the head of his valet. Luckily for that
gentleman's brains, it missed its object, and, alighting upon a huge
mirror, it dashed it to fragments with a stunning crash. In the
extremity of his fury, Sir Richard grasped a heavy metal inkstand, and
just as the valet escaped through the private door of his room, hurled
_it_, too, at his head. Two such escapes were quite enough for Signor
Parucci on one evening; and not wishing to tempt his luck further, he
ran nimbly down the stairs, leaped into his own room, and bolted and
double-locked the door; and thence, as the night wore on, he still
heard Sir Richard pacing up and down his chamber, and storming and
raving in dreadful rivalry with the thunder and hurricane without.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE THUNDER-STORM--THE EBONY STICK--THE UNSEEN VISITANT--TERROR.


At length the uproar in Sir Richard's room died away. The hoarse voice
in furious soliloquy, and the rapid tread as he paced the floor, were
no longer audible. In their stead was heard alone the stormy wind
rushing and yelling through the old trees, and at intervals the deep
volleying thunder. In the midst of this hubbub the Italian rubbed his
hands, tripped lightly up and down his room, placed his ear at the
keyhole, and chuckled and rubbed his hands again in a paroxysm of
glee--now and again venting his gratification in brief ejaculations of
intense delight--the very incarnation of the spirit of mischief.

The sounds in Sir Richard's room had ceased for two hours or more; and
the piping wind and the deep-mouthed thunder still roared and rattled.
The Neapolitan was too much excited to slumber. He continued,
therefore, to pace the floor of his chamber--sometimes gazing through
his window upon the black stormy sky and the blue lightning, which
leaped in blinding flashes across its darkness, revealing for a moment
the ivied walls, and the tossing trees, and the fields and hills, which
were as instantaneously again swallowed in the blackness of the
tempestuous night; and then turning from the casement, he would plant
himself by the door, and listen with eager curiosity for any sound from
Sir Richard's room.

As we have said before, several hours had passed, and all had long been
silent in the baronet's apartment, when on a sudden Parucci thought he
heard the sharp and well-known knocking of his patron's ebony stick
upon the floor. He ran and listened at his own door. The sound was
repeated with unequivocal and vehement distinctness, and was
instantaneously followed by a prolonged and violent peal from his
master's hand-bell. The summons was so sustained and vehement, that the
Italian at length cautiously withdrew the bolt, unlocked the door, and
stole out upon the lobby. So far from abating, the sound grew louder
and louder. On tip-toe he scaled the stairs, until he reached to about
the midway; and he there paused, for he heard his master's voice
exerted in a tone of terrified entreaty,--

"Not now--not now--avaunt--not now. Oh, God!--help," cried the
well-known voice.

These words were followed by a crash, as of some heavy body springing
from the bed--then a rush upon the floor--then another crash.

The voice was hushed; but in its stead the wild storm made a long and
plaintive moan, and the listener's heart turned cold.

"_Malora_--_Corpo di Pluto!_" muttered he between his teeth. "What is
it? Will he reeng again? _Santo gennaro!_--there is something wrong."

He paused in fearful curiosity; but the summons was not repeated. Five
minutes passed; and yet no sound but the howling and pealing of the
storm. Parucci, with a beating heart, ascended the stairs and knocked
at the door of his patron's chamber. No answer was returned.

"Sir Richard, Sir Richard," cried the man, "do you want me, Sir
Richard?"

Still no answer. He pushed open the door and entered. A candle, wasted
to the very socket, stood upon a table beside the huge hearse-like bed,
which, for the convenience of the invalid, had been removed from his
bed-chamber to his dressing-room. The light was dim, and waved
uncertainly in the eddies which found their way through the chinks of
the window, so that the lights and shadows flitted ambiguously across
the objects in the room. At the end of the bed a table had been upset;
and lying near it upon the floor was some-thing--a heap of bed-clothes,
or--could it be?--yes, it _was_ Sir Richard Ashwoode.

Parncci approached the prostrate figure: it was lying upon its back,
the countenance fixed and livid, the eyes staring and glazed, and the
jaw fallen--he was a corpse. The Italian stooped down and took the hand
of the dead man--it was already cold; he called him by his name and
shook him, but all in vain. There lay the cunning intriguer, the
fierce, fiery prodigal, the impetuous, unrelenting tyrant, the
unbelieving, reckless man of the world, a ghastly lump of clay.

  [Illustration: "Parucci approached the prostate figure."
                 _To face page 156._]

With strange emotions the Neapolitan gazed upon the lifeless effigy
from which the evil tenant had been so suddenly and fearfully called to
its eternal and unseen abode.

"Gone--dead--all over--all past," muttered he, slowly, while he pressed
his foot upon the dead body, as if to satisfy himself that life was
indeed extinct--"quite gone. _Canchero!_ it was ugly death--there was
something with him; what was he speaking with?"

Parucci walked to the door leading to the great staircase, but found it
bolted as usual.

"Pshaw! there was nothing," said he, looking fearfully round the room
as he approached the body again, and repeating the negative as if to
reassure himself--"no, no--nothing, nothing."

He gazed again on the awful spectacle in silence for several minutes.

"_Corbezzoli_, and so it _is_ over," at length he ejaculated--"the game
is ended. See, see, the breast is bare, and there the two marks of
Aldini's stiletto. Ah! _briccone_, _briccone_, what wild faylow were
you--_panzanera_, for a pretty ankle and a pair of black eyes, you
would dare the devil. _Rotto di collo_, his face is moving!--pshaw! it
is only the light that wavers. _Diamine!_ the face is terrible. What
made him speak? nothing was with him--pshaw! nothing could come to him
here--no, no, nothing."

As he thus spoke, the wind swept vehemently upon the windows with a
sound as if some great thing had rushed, against them, and was pressing
for admission, and the gust blew out the candle; the blast died away in
a lengthened wail, and then again came rushing and howling up to the
windows, as if the very prince of the powers of the air himself were
thundering at the casement; then again the blue dazzling lightning
glared into the room and gave place to deeper darkness.

"Pah! that lightning smells like brimstone. _Sangue d'un dua_, I hear
something in the room."

Yielding to his terrors, Parucci stumbled to the door opening upon the
great lobby, and with cold and trembling fingers drawing the bolt,
sprang to the stairs and shouted for assistance in a tone which
speedily assembled half the household in the chamber of death.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE CRONES--THE CORPSE, AND THE SHARPER.


Haggard, exhausted, and in no very pleasant temper, Henry Ashwoode rode
up the avenue of Morley Court.

"I shall have a blessed conference with my father," thought he, "when
he learns the fate of the thousand pounds I was to have brought him--a
pleasant interview, by ----. How shall I open it? He'll be no better
than a Bedlamite. By ----, a pretty hot kettle of fish this--but
through it I must flounder as best I may--curse it, what am I afraid
of?"

Thus muttering, he leaped from the saddle, leaving the well-trained
steed to make his way to the stable, and entered at the half open door.
In the hall he encountered a servant, but was too much occupied by his
own busy reflections to observe the earnest, awe-struck countenance of
the old domestic.

"Mr. Henry--Mr. Henry--stay, sir--stay--one moment," said the man,
following and endeavouring to detain him.

Ashwoode, however, without heeding the interruption, hastened by him,
and mounted the stairs with long and rapid strides, resolved not
unnecessarily to defer the interview which he believed must come sooner
or later. He opened Sir Richard's door, and entered the chamber. He
looked round the room for the object of his search in vain; but to his
unmeasured astonishment, beheld instead three old shrivelled hags
seated by the hearth, who all rose upon his entrance, except one, who
was warming something in a saucepan upon the fire, and each and all
resumed respectively the visages of woe which best became the occasion.

"Eh! How is this? What brings you here, nurse?" exclaimed the young
man, in a tone of startled curiosity.

The old lady whom he addressed thought it advisable to weep, and
instead of returning any answer, covered her face with her apron,
turned away her head, and shook her palsied hand towards him with a
gesture which was meant to express the mute anguish of unutterable
sorrow.

"What _is_ it?" said Ashwoode. "Are you all tongue-tied? Speak, some of
you."

"Oh, musha! musha! the crathur," observed the second witch, with a most
lugubrious shake of the head, "but it is _he_ that's to be pitied. Oh,
wisha--wisha--wiristhroo!"

"What the d----l ails you? Can't you speak out? Where's my father?"
repeated the young man, with impatient perplexity.

"With the blessed saints in glory," replied the third hag, giving the
saucepan a slight whisk to prevent the contents from burning, "and if
ever there was an angel on earth, _he_ was one. Well, well, he has his
reward--that's one comfort, sure. The crown of glory, with the holy
apostles--it's _he's_ to be envied--up in heaven, though he wint mighty
suddint, surely."

This was followed by a kind of semi-dolorous shake of the head, in
which the three old women joined.

With a hurried step, young Ashwoode strode to the bedside, drew the
curtain, and gazed upon the sharp and fixed features of the corpse, as
it leered with unclosed eyes from among the bed-clothes. It would not
have been easy to analyze the feelings with which he looked upon this
spectacle. A kind of incredulous horror sate upon his compressed
features. He touched the hand, which rested stiffly upon the coverlet,
as if doubtful that the old man, whom he had so long feared and obeyed,
was actually _dead_. The cold, dull touch that met his was not to be
mistaken, and he gazed fixedly with that awful curiosity with which in
death the well-known features of a familiar face are looked on. There
lay the being whose fierce passions had been to him from his earliest
days a source of habitual fear--in childhood, even of terror--henceforth
to be no more to him than a thing which had never been. There lay the
scheming, busy head, but what availed all its calculations and its
cunning now! No more thought or power has it than the cushion on which
it stiffly rests. There lies the proud, worldly, unforgiving, violent
man, a senseless effigy of cold clay--a grim, impassive monument of
the recent presence of the unearthly visitant.

"It's a beautiful corpse, if the eyes were only shut," observed one of
the crones, approaching; "a purty corpse as ever was stretched."

"The hands is very handsome entirely," observed another of them, "and
so small, like a lady's."

"It's himself was the good master," observed the old nurse, with a slow
shake of the head; "the likes of him did not thread in shoe leather.
Oh! but my heart's sore for you this day, Misther Harry."

Thus speaking, with a good deal of screwing and puckering, she
succeeded in squeezing a tear from one eye, like the last drop from an
exhausted lemon, and suffering it to rest upon her cheek, that it might
not escape observation, she looked round with a most pity-moving visage
upon her companions, and an expression of face which said as plainly as
words, "What a faithful, attached, old creature I am, and how well I
deserve any little token of regard which Sir Richard's will may have
bequeathed me."

"Ah! then, look at him," said the matron of the saucepan, gazing with
the most touching commiseration upon Henry Ashwoode, "see how he looks
at it. Oh, but it's he that adored him! Oh, the crathur, what will he
do this day? Look at him there--he's an orphan now--God help him."

"Be off with yourselves, and leave me here," said Henry (now Sir Henry)
Ashwoode, turning sharply upon them. "Send me some one that can speak a
word of sense: call Parucci here, and get out of the room every one of
you--away!"

With abundance of muttering and grumbling, and many an indignant toss
of the head, and many a dignified sniff, the old women hobbled from the
room; and Henry Ashwoode had hardly been left alone, when the small
private door communicating with Parucci's apartment, opened, and the
valet peeped in.

"Come in--come in, Jacopo," said the young man; "come in, and close the
door. When did this happen?"

The Neapolitan recounted briefly the events which we have already
recorded.

"It was a fit--some sudden seizure," said the young man, glancing at
the features of the corpse.

"Yes, vary like, vary like," said Parucci; "he used to complain
sometimes that his head was sweeming round, and pains and aches; but
there was something more--something more."

"What do you mean?--don't speak riddles," said Ashwoode.

"I mean this, then," replied the Italian; "something came to
him--something was in the room when he died."

"How do you know that?" inquired the young man.

"I heard him talking loudly with it," replied he--"talking and praying
it to go away from him."

"Why did you not come into the room yourself?" asked Ashwoode.

"So I did, _Diamine_, so I did," replied he.

"Well, what saw you?"

"Nothing bote Sir Richard, dead--quite dead; and the far door was
bolted inside, just so as he always used to do; and when the candle
went out, the thing was here again. I heard it myself, as sure as I am
leeving man--I heard it--close up with me--by the body."

"Tut, tut, man; speak sense. Do you mean to say that anyone talked with
you?" said Ashwoode.

"I mean this, that something was in the chamber with me beside the dead
man," replied the valet, doggedly. "I heard it with my own ears.
_Zucche!_ I moste 'av been deaf, if I did not hear it. It said 'hish,'
and then again, close up to my face, it said it--'hish, hish,' and
laughed below its breath. Pah! the place smelt of brimstone."

"In plain terms, then, you believe that the devil was in the room; is
that it?" said Ashwoode, with a ghastly smile of contempt.

"Oh! no," replied the servant, with a sneer as ghastly; "it was an
angel, of course--an angel from heaven."

"No more of this folly, sirrah," said Ashwoode, sharply. "Your own
d----d cowardice fills your brain with these fancies. Here, give me the
keys, and show me where the papers are laid. I shall first examine the
cabinets here, and then in the library. Now open this one; and do you
hear, Parucci, not one word of this cock-and-bull story of yours to the
servants. Good God! my brain's unsettled. I can scarcely believe my
father dead--dead," and again he stood by the bedside, and looked upon
the still face of the corpse.

"We must send for Craven at once," said Ashwoode, turning from the bed;
"I must confer with him; he knows better than anyone else how all my
father's affairs stand. There are some d----d bills out, I believe, but
we'll soon know."

Having despatched an urgent note to Craven, the insinuating attorney,
to whom we have already introduced the reader, Sir Henry Ashwoode
proceeded roughly to examine the contents of boxes, escritoires, and
cabinets filled with dusty papers, and accompanied and directed in his
search by the Italian.

"You never heard him mention a will, did you?" inquired the young man.

The Neapolitan shook his head.

"You did not know of his making one?" he resumed.

"No, no, I cannot remember," said the Italian, reflectively; "but," he
added quickly, while a peculiar meaning lit up the piercing eyes which
he turned upon the interrogator--"but do you weesh to _find_ one? Maybe
I could help you to find one."

"Pshaw! folly; what do you take me for?" retorted Ashwoode, slightly
colouring, in spite of his habitual insensibility, for Parucci was too
intimate with his principles for him to assume ignorance of his
meaning. "Why the devil should I wish to find a will, since I inherit
everything without it?"

"Signor," said the little man, after an interval of silence, during
which he seemed absorbed in deep reflection, "I have moche to say about
what I shall do with myself, and some things to ask from you. I will
begin and end it here and now--it is best over at once. I have served
Sir Richard there for thirty-four years. I have served him well--vary
well. I have taught him great secrets. I have won great abundance of
good moneys for him; if he was not reech it is not my fault. I attend
him through his sickness; and 'av been his companion for the half of a
long life. What else I 'av done for him I need not count up, but most
of it you know well. Sir Richard is there--dead and gone--the service
is ended, and now I 'av resolved I will go back again to Italy--to
Naples--where I was born. You shall never hear of me any more if you
will do for me one little thing."

"What is it?--speak out. You want to extort money--is it so?" said
Ashwoode, slowly and sternly.

"I want," continued the man, with equal distinctness and
deliberateness, "I want one thousand pounds. I do not ask a penny more,
and I will not take a penny less; and if you give me that, I will never
trouble you more with word of mine--you will never hear or see honest
Jacopo Parucci any more."

"Come, come, Jacopo, that were paying a little too dear, even for such
a luxury," replied Ashwoode. "A thousand pounds! Ha! ha! A modest
request, truly. I half suspect your brain is a little crazed."

"Remember what I have done--all I have done for him." rejoined the
Italian, coolly. "And above all, remember what I have _not_ done for
him. I could have had him hanged up by the neck--hanged like a dog--but
I never did. Oh! no, never--though not a day went by that I might not
'av brought the house full of officers, and have him away to jail and
get him hanged. Remember all that, signor, and say is it in conscience
too moche?--_rotta di collo!_ It is not half--no, nor quarter so moche
as I ought to ask. No, nor as you ought to give, signor, without me to
ask at all."

"Parucci, you are either mad or drunk, or take me to be so," said
Ashwoode, who could not feel quite comfortable in disputing the claims
of the Italian, nor secure in provoking his anger. "But at all events,
there is ample time to talk about these matters. We can settle it all
more at our ease in a week or so."

"No, no, signor. I will have my answer now," replied the man, doggedly.
"Mr. Craven has money now--the money of Miss Mary's land that Sir
Richard got from her. But though the money is there _now_, in a week or
leetle more we will not see moche of it, and my pocket weel remain
aimpty--_corbezzoli!_ am I a fool?"

"I tell you, Parucci, I will give you no promises now," exclaimed the
young man, vehemently. "Why, d---- it, the blood is hardly cold in the
old man's veins, and you begin to pester me for money. Can't you wait
till he's buried?"

"Ay--yees--yees--wait till he's buried--and then wait till the
mourning's off--and then wait for something more," said the Neapolitan,
with a sneer, "and so wait on till the money's all spent. No, no,
signor--_corpo di Bacco!_ I will have it now. I will have my answer
now, before Mr. Craven comes--_giuro di Dio_, I _will_ have my answer."

"Don't talk like a madman, Parucci," replied the young man, angrily. "I
have no money here. I will make no promises. And besides, your request
is perfectly ridiculous and unconscionable."

"I ask for a thousand pounds," replied the valet. "I must have the
promise _now_, signor, and the money to-day. If you do not promise it
here and at once, I will not ask again, and maybe you weel be sorry. I
will take one thousand pounds. I want no more, and I accept no less.
Signor, your answer."

There was a cool, menacing insolence in the manner of the fellow which
stung the pride of the young baronet to the quick.

"Scoundrel," said he, "do you think I am to be bullied by your
audacious threats? Do you dream that I am weak enough to suffer a
wretch like you to practise his extortions upon me? By ----, you'll
find to your cost that you have no longer to deal with a master who is
in your power. What care I for your utmost? Do your worst, miscreant--I
defy you. I warn you only to beware of giving an undue license to your
foul, lying tongue--for if I find that you have been spreading your
libellous tales abroad, I'll have you pilloried and whipped."

"Well, you 'av given me an answer," replied the Italian coolly. "I weel
ask no more; and now, signor, farewell--adieu. I think, perhaps, you
will hear of me again. I will not return here any more after I go out;
and so, for the last time," he continued, approaching the cold form
which lay upon the bed, "farewell to you, Sir Richard Ashwoode. While I
am alive I will never see your face again--perhaps, if holy friars tell
true, we may meet again. Till then--till then--farewell."

With this strange speech the Neapolitan, having gazed for a brief
space, with a strange expression, in which was a dash of something very
nearly approaching to sorrow, upon the stern, moveless face before him,
and then with an effort, and one long-drawn sigh, having turned away,
deliberately withdrew from the room through the small door which led to
his own apartment.

"The lazzarone will come to himself in a little," muttered Ashwoode;
"he will think twice before he leaves this place--he'll cool--he'll
cool."

Thus soliloquizing, the young man locked up the presses and desks which
he had opened, bolted the door after the Italian, and hurried from the
room; for, somehow or other, he felt uneasy and fearful alone in the
chamber with the body.



CHAPTER XXX.

SKY-COPPER COURT.


Upon the evening of the same day, the Italian having collected together
the few movables which he called his own, and left them ready for
removal in the chamber which he had for so long exclusively occupied,
might have been seen, emerging from the old manor-house, and with a
small parcel in his hand, wending his solitary, moon-lit way across the
broad wooded pasture-lands of Morley Court. Without turning to look
back upon the familiar scene, which he was now for ever leaving--for
all his faculties and feelings, such as they were, had busy occupation
in the measures of revenge which he was keenly pursuing, he crossed the
little stile which terminated the pathway he was following, and
descended upon the public road--shaking from his hat and cloak the
heavy drops, which in his progress the close underwood through which he
brushed had shed upon him. With a quickened pace, and with a stern,
almost a savage countenance, over which from time to time there flitted
a still more ominous smile, and muttering between his teeth many a
short and vehement apostrophe as he went, he held his way directly
toward the city of Dublin; and once within the streets, he was not long
in reaching the ancient, and by this time to the reader, familiar
mansion, over whose portal swung the glittering sign of the "Cock and
Anchor."

"Now, then," thought Parucci, "let us see whether I have not one card
left, and that a trump. What, because I wear no sword myself, shall you
escape unpunished? Fool--miscreant, I will this night conjure up such
an avenger as will appal even you; I will send him with a thousand
atrocious wrongs upon his head, frantic into your presence--you had
better cope with an actual incarnate demon."

Such were the exulting thoughts which lighted the features of Parucci
with a fitful smile of singular grimness as he entered the inn yard,
where meeting one of the waiters, he promptly inquired for O'Connor. To
his dismay, however, he learnt that that gentleman had quitted the
"Cock and Anchor" on the day before, and whither he had gone, none
could inform him. As he stood, pondering in bitter disappointment what
step was next to be taken, somebody tapped his shoulder smartly from
behind. He turned, and beheld the square form and swarthy features of
O'Hanlon, whose interview with O'Connor is recorded early in these
pages. After a few brief questions and answers, in which, by a
reference to the portly proprietor of the "Cock and Anchor," who
vouched for the accuracy of his representations, O'Hanlon satisfied the
vindictive foreigner that he might safely communicate the subject of
his intended communication to _him_, as to the sure friend of Mr.
O'Connor. Both personages, Parucci and O'Hanlon--or, as he was there
called, Dwyer--repaired to a private room, where they remained closeted
for fully half an hour. That interview had its consequences--consequences
of which sooner or later the reader shall fully hear, and which were
perhaps somewhat unlike those calculated upon by honest Jacopo.

It is not necessary to detain the reader with a description of the
ceremonial which conducted the mortal remains of Sir Henry Ashwoode to
the grave. It is enough to say that if pomp and pageantry, lavished
upon the fleeting tenement of clay which it has deserted, can delight
the departed spirit, that of the deceased baronet was happy. The
funeral was an aristocratic procession, well worthy of the rank and
pretensions of the distinguished dead, and in numbers and _éclat_ such
as to satisfy even the exactions of Irish pride.

Carriages and four were there in abundance, and others of lesser note
without number. Outriders, and footmen, and corpulent coachmen filled
the court and avenue of the manor, and crowded its hall, where
refreshments enough for a garrison were heaped together upon the
tables. The funeral feasting and revelry finished, the enormous mob of
coaches, horses, and lacqueys began to arrange itself, and assume
something like order. The great velvet-covered coffin was carried out
upon the shoulders of six footmen, staggering under the leaden load,
and was laid in the hearse. The high-born company, dressed in the
fantastic trappings of mourning, began to show themselves one by one,
or in groups, at the hall-door, and took their places in their
respective vehicles; and at length the enormous volume began to uncoil,
and gradually passing down the great avenue, and winding along the
road, to proceed toward the city, covering from the coffin to the last
carriage a space of more than a mile in length.

The body was laid in the aisle of St. Audoen's Church, and a comely
monument, recording in eloquent periods the virtues of the deceased,
was reared by the piety of his son. The aisle, however, in which it
stood, is now a rootless ruin; and this, along with many a more curious
relic, has crumbled into dust from its time-worn wall: so that there
now remains, except in these idle pages, no record to tell posterity
that so important a personage as Sir Richard Ashwoode ever existed at
all.

Of all who donned "the customary suit of solemn black" upon the death
of Sir Richard Ashwoode, but one human being felt a pang of sorrow. But
there _was_ one whose grief was real and poignant--one who mourned for
him as though he had been all that was fond and tender--who forgot and
forgave all his faults and failings, and remembered only that he had
been her father and she his child, and companion, and gentle, patient
nurse-tender through many an hour of pain and sickness. Mary wept for
his death bitterly for many a day and night; for all that he had ever
done or said to give her pain, her noble nature found entire
forgiveness, and every look, and smile, and word, and tone that had
ever borne the semblance of kindness, were all treasured in her memory,
and all called up again in affectionate and sorrowful review. Seldom
indeed had the hard nature of Sir Richard evinced even such transient
indications of tenderness, and when they did appear they were still
more rarely genuine. But Mary felt that an object of her kindly care
and companionship was gone--a familiar face for ever hidden--one of the
only two who were near to her in the ties of blood, departed to return
no more, and with all the deep, strong yearnings of kindred, she wept
and mourned after her father.

Emily Copland had left Morley Court and was now residing with her gay
relative, Lady Stukely, so that poor Mary was left almost entirely
alone, and her brother, Sir Henry, was so immersed in business and
papers that she scarcely saw him even for a moment except while he
swallowed his hasty meals; and sooth to say, his thoughts were not much
oftener with her than his person.

Though, as the reader is no doubt fully aware, Sir Henry's grief for
the loss of his parent was by no means of that violent kind which
refuses to be comforted, yet he was too chary of the world's opinion,
as well as too punctilious an observer of etiquette, to make the
cheerfulness of his resignation under this dispensation startlingly
apparent by any overt act of levity or indifference. Sir Henry,
however, must see Gordon Chancey; he must ascertain how much he owes
him, and when it is all payable--facts of which he has, if any, the
very dimmest and vaguest possible recollection. Therefore, upon the
very day on which the funeral had taken place, as soon as the evening
had closed, and darkness succeeded the twilight, the young baronet
ordered his trusty servant to bring the horses to the door, and then
muffling himself in his cloak, and drawing it about his face, so that
even in the reflection of an accidental link he might not by
possibility be recognized, he threw himself into the saddle, and
telling his servant to follow him, rode rapidly through the dense
obscurity towards the town.

When he had reached Whitefriar Street, he checked his pace to a walk,
and calling his attendant to his side, directed him to await his return
there; then dismounting, he threw him the bridle, and proceeded upon
his way. Guided by the hazy starlight and by an occasional gleam from a
shop-window or tavern-door, as well as by the dusky glimmer of the
wretched street lamps, the young man directed his course for some way
along the open street, and then turning to the right into a dark
archway which opened from it, he found himself in a small, square
court, surrounded by tall, dingy, half-ruinous houses which loomed
darkly around, deepening the shadows of the night into impenetrable
gloom. From some of these dilapidated tenements issued smothered sounds
of quarrelling, indistinctly mingled with the crying of children and
the shrill accents of angry females; from others the sounds of
discordant singing and riotous carousal; while, as far as the eye could
discern, few places could have been conceived with an aspect more
dreary, forbidding, and cut-throat, and, in all respects, more
depressing and suspicious.

"This is unquestionably the place," exclaimed Ashwoode, as he stepped
cautiously over the broken pavement; "there is scarcely another like it
in this town or any other; but beshrew me if I remember which is the
house."

He entered one of them, the hall-door of which stood half open, and
through the chinks of whose parlour-door were issuing faint streams of
light and gruff sounds of talking. At one of these doors he knocked
sharply with his whip-handle, and instantly the voices were hushed.
After a silence of a minute or two, the parties inside resumed their
conversation, and Ashwoode more impatiently repeated his summons.

"There _is_ someone knocking--I tould you there was," exclaimed a harsh
voice from within. "Open the doore, Corny, and take a squint."

The door opened cautiously; a great head, covered with shaggy
elf-locks, was thrust through the aperture, and a singularly
ill-looking face, as well as the imperfect light would allow Ashwoode
to judge, was advanced towards his. The fellow just opened the door far
enough to suffer the ray of the candle to fall upon the countenance of
his visitant, and staring suspiciously into his face for some time,
while he held the lock of the door in his hand, he asked,--

"Well, neighbour, did you rap at this doore?"

"Yes, I want to be directed to Mr. Chancey's rooms." replied Ashwoode.

"Misthur who?" repeated the man.

"Mr. Chancey--_Chancey_: he lives in this court, and, unless I am
mistaken, in this house, or the next to it," rejoined Ashwoode.

"_Chancey_: I don't know him," answered the man. "Do _you_ know where
Mr. Chancey lives, Garvey?"

"Not I, nor don't care," rejoined the person addressed, with a hoarse
growl, and without taking the trouble to turn from the fire, over which
he was cowering, with his back toward the door. "Slap the _doore_ to,
can't you? and don't keep gostherin' there all night."

"No, he won't slap the doore," exclaimed the shrill voice of a female.
"I'll see the gentleman myself. Well, sir," she cried, presenting a
tall, raw-boned figure, arrayed in tawdry rags, at the door, and
shoving the man with the unkempt locks aside, she eyed Ashwoode with a
leer and a grin that were anything but inviting--"well, sir, is there
anything I can do for you. The chaps here is not used to quality, an'
Pather has a mighty ignorant manner; but they are placible boys, an'
manes no offence. Who is it you're lookin' for, sir?"

"Mr. Gordon Chancey: he lives in one of these houses. Can you direct me
to him?"

"No, we can't," said the fellow from the fire, in a savage tone. "I
tould you before. Won't you _take_ your answer--won't you? Slap that
_doore_, Corny, or I'll get up to him myself."

"Hould your tongue, you gaol bird, won't you?" rejoined the female, in
accents of shrill displeasure. "_Chancey!_ is not he the counsellor
gentleman; he has a yallow face an' a down look, and never has his
hands out of his breeches' pockets?"

"The very man," replied Ashwoode.

"Well, sir, _he does_ live in this court: he has the parlour next
doore. The street _doore_ stands open--it's a lodging-house. One doore
further on; you can't miss him."

"Thank you, thank you," said Ashwoode. "Good-night." And as the door
was closed upon him, he heard the voices of those within raised in hot
debate.

He stumbled and groped his way into the hall of the house which the
gracious nymph, to whom he had just bidden farewell, indicated, and
knocked stoutly at the parlour-door. It was opened by a sluttish girl,
with bare feet, and a black eye, which had reached the green and yellow
stage of recovery. She had probably been interrupted in the midst of a
spirited altercation with the barrister, for ill humour and excitement
were unequivocally glowing in her face.

Ashwoode walked in, and found matters as we shall describe them in the
next chapter.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE USURER AND THE OAKEN BOX.


The room which Sir Henry Ashwoode entered was one of squalid disorder.
It was a large apartment, originally handsomely wainscoted, but damp
and vermin had made woeful havoc in the broad panels, and the ceiling
was covered with green and black blotches of mildew. No carpet covered
the bare boards, which were strewn with fragments of papers, rags,
splinters of an old chest, which had been partially broken up to light
the fire, and occasionally a potato-skin, a bone, or an old shoe. The
furniture was scant, and no one piece matched the other. Little and bad
as it was, its distribution about the room was more comfortless and
wretched still. All was dreary disorder, dust, and dirt, and damp, and
mildew, and rat-holes.

By a large grate, scarcely half filled with a pile of ashes and a few
fragments of smouldering turf, sat Gordon Chancey, the master of this
notable establishment; his arm rested upon a dirty deal table, and his
fingers played listlessly with a dull and battered pewter goblet, which
he had just replenished from a two-quart measure of strong beer which
stood upon the table, and whose contents had dabbled that piece of
furniture with sundry mimic lakes and rivers. Unrestrained by the
ungenerous confinement of a fender, the cinders strayed over the
cracked hearthstone, and even wandered to the boards beyond it. Mr.
Gordon Chancey was himself, too, rather in deshabille. He had thrown
off his shoes, and was in his stockings, which were unfortunately
rather imperfect at the extremities. His waistcoat was unbuttoned, and
his cravat lay upon the table, swimming in a sea of beer. As Ashwoode
entered, with ill-suppressed disgust, this loathly den, the object of
his visit languidly turned his head and his sleepy eyes over his
shoulder, in the direction of the door, and without making the smallest
effort to rise, contented himself with extending his hand along the
sloppy table, palm upwards, for Ashwoode to shake, at the same time
exclaiming, with a drawl of gentle placidity,--

"Oh, dear--oh, dear me! Mr. Ashwoode, I declare to God I am very glad
to see you. Won't you sit down and have some beer? Eliza, bring a cup
for my friend, Mr. Ashwoode. Will you take a pipe too? I have some
elegant tobacco. Bring _my_ pipe to Mr. Ashwoode, and the little
canister that M'Quirk left here last night."

"I am much obliged to you," said Ashwoode, with difficulty swallowing
his anger, and speaking with marked _hauteur_, "my visit, though an
unseasonable one, is entirely one of business. I shall not give you the
trouble of providing any refreshment for me; in a word, I have neither
time nor appetite for it. I want to learn exactly how you and I stand:
five minutes will show me the state of the account."

"Oh, dear--oh, dear! and won't you take any beer, then? it's elegant
beer, from Mr. M'Gin's there, round the corner."

Ashwoode bit his lips, and remained silent.

"Eliza, bring a chair for my friend, Sir Henry Ashwoode," continued
Chancey; "he must be very tired--indeed he must, after his long walk;
and here, Eliza, take the key and open the press, and do you see, bring
me the little oak box on the second shelf. She's a very good little
girl, Mr. Ashwoode, I assure you. Eliza is a very sensible, good little
girl. Oh, dear!--oh, dear! but your father's death was very sudden; but
old chaps always goes off that way, on short notice. Oh, dear me!--I
declare to ----, only I had a pain in my--(here he mentioned his lower
stomach somewhat abruptly)--I'd have gone to the funeral this morning.
There was a great lot of coaches, wasn't there?"

"Pray, Mr. Chancey," said Ashwoode, preserving his temper with an
effort, "let us proceed at once to business. I am pressed for time, and
I shall be glad, with as little delay as possible, to ascertain--what I
suppose there can be no difficulty in learning--the exact state of our
account."

"Well, I'm very sorry, so I am, Mr. Ashwoode, that you are in such a
hurry--I declare to ---- I am," observed Chancey, supplying big goblet
afresh from the larger measure. "Eliza, have you the box? Well, bring
it here, and put it down on the table, like an elegant little girl."

The girl shoved a small oaken chest over to Chancey's elbow; and he
forthwith proceeded to unlock it, and to draw forth the identical red
leather pocket-book which had received in its pages the records of
Ashwoode's disasters upon the evening of their last meeting.

"Here I have them. Captain Markham--no, that is not it," said Chancey,
sleepily turning over the leaves; "but this is it, Mr. Ashwoode--ay,
here; first, two hundred pounds, promissory note--payable one week
after date. Mr. Ashwoode, again, one hundred and fifty--promissory
note--one week. Lord Kilblatters--no--ay, here again--Mr. Ashwoode, two
hundred--promissory note--one week. Mr. Ashwoode, two hundred and
fifty--promissory note--one week. Mr. Ashwoode, one hundred; Mr.
Ashwoode, fifty. Oh, dear me! dear me! Mr. Ashwoode, three hundred."
And so on, till it appeared that Sir Henry Ashwoode stood indebted to
Gordon Chancey, Esq., in the sum of six thousand four hundred and fifty
pounds, for which he had passed promissory notes which would all become
due in two days' time.

"I suppose," said Ashwoode, "these notes have hardly been negotiated.
Eh?"

"Oh, dear me! No--oh, no, Mr. Ashwoode," replied Chancey. "They have
not gone out of my desk. I would not put them into the hands of a
stranger for any trifling advantage to myself. Oh, dear me! not at
all."

"Well, then, I suppose you can renew them for a fortnight or so, or
hold them over--eh?" asked Ashwoode.

"I'm sure I can," rejoined Chancey. "The bills belong to the old
cripple that lent the money; and _he_ does whatever I bid him. He
trusts it all to me. He gives me the trouble, and takes the profit
himself. Oh! he _does_ confide in me. I have only to say the word, and
it's done. They shall be renewed or held over as often as you wish.
Indeed, I can answer for it. Dear me, it would be very hard if I could
not."

"Well, then, Mr. Chancey," replied Ashwoode, "I may require it, or I
may not. Craven has the promise of a large sum of money, within two or
three days--part of the loan he has already gotten. Will you favour me
with a call on to-morrow afternoon at Morley Court. I will then have
heard definitely from Craven, and can tell you whether I require time
or not."

"Very good, sir--very fair, indeed, Mr. Ashwoode. Nothing fairer,"
rejoined the lawyer. "But don't give yourself any uneasiness. Oh, dear,
on no account; for I declare to ---- I would hold them over as long as
you like. Oh, dear me--indeed but I would. Well, then, I'll call out at
about four o'clock."

"Very good, Mr. Chancey," replied Ashwoode. "I shall expect you.
Meanwhile, good-night." So they separated.

The young baronet reached his ancestral dwelling without adventure of
any kind, and Mr. Gordon Chancey poured out the last drops of beer from
the inverted can into his pewter cup, and draining it calmly, anon
buttoned his waistcoat, shook the wet from his cravat, and tied it on,
thrust his feet into his shoes, and flinging his cocked hat carelessly
upon his head, walked forth in deep thought into the street, whistling
a concerto of his own invention.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE DIABOLIC WHISPER.


Gordon Chancey sauntered in his usual lazy, lounging way, with his
hands in his pockets, down the street. After a listless walk of
half-an-hour he found himself at the door of a handsome house, in the
immediate neighbourhood of the Castle. He knocked, and was admitted by
a servant in full livery.

"Is he in the same room?" inquired Chancey.

"Yes, sir," replied the man; and without further parley, the learned
counsel proceeded upstairs, and knocked at the drawing-room door,
which, without waiting for any answer, he forthwith opened.

Nicholas Blarden--with two ugly black plaisters across his face, his
arm in a sling, and his countenance bearing in abundance the livid
marks of his late rencounter--stood with his back to the fire-place; a
table, blazing with wax-lights, and stored with glittering wine-flasks
and other matters, was placed at a little distance before him. As the
man of law entered the room, the countenance of the invalid relaxed
into an ugly grin of welcome.

"Well, Gordy, boy, how goes the game? Out with your news, old
rat-catcher," said Blarden, in high good humour.

"Dear me, dear me! but the night is mighty chill, Mr. Blarden,"
observed Chancey, filling a glass of wine to the brim, and sipping it
uninvited. "News," he continued, letting himself drop into a
chair--"news; well, there's not much stirring worth telling you."

"Come, what _is_ it? You're not come here for nothing, old fox,"
rejoined Blarden, "I know by the ---- twinkle in the corner of your
eye."

"Well, _he_ has been with me, just now," drawled Chancey.

"Ashwoode?"

"Yes."

"Well! what does he want--what does he want, eh?" asked Blarden, with
intense excitement.

"He says he'll want time for the notes," replied Chancey.

"God be thanked!" ejaculated Blarden, and followed this ejaculation
with a ferocious burst of laughter. "We'll have him, Chancey, boy, if
only we know how to play him--by ----, we'll have him, as sure as
there's heat in hell."

"Well, maybe we will," rejoined Chancey.

"Does he say he can't pay them on the day?" asked Blarden, exultingly.

"No; he says _maybe_ he can't," replied the jackal.

"That's all one," cried Blarden. "What do you think? Do you think he
can?"

"I think maybe he can, if we _squeeze_ him," replied Chancey.

"Then _don't_ squeeze him--he must not get out of our books on any
terms--we'll lose him if he does," said Nicholas.

"We'll not renew the notes, but hold them over," said Chancey. "He must
not feel them till he _can't_ pay them. We'll make them sit light on
him till then--give him plenty of line for a while--rope enough and a
little patience--and the devil himself can't keep him out of the
noose."

"You're right--you _are_, Gordy, boy," rejoined Blarden. "Let him get
through the ready money first--eh?--and then into the stone jug with
him--we'll just choose our own time for striking."

"I tell you what it is, if you are just said and led by me, you'll have
a _quare_ hold on him before three months are past and gone," said
Chancey, lazily--"mind I tell you, you will."

"Well, Gordy, boy, fill again--fill again--here's success to you."

Chancey filled, and quaffed his bumper, with, a matter-of-fact,
business-like air.

"And do you mind me, boy," continued Blarden, "spare _nothing_ in this
business--bring Ashwoode entirely under my knuckle--and, by ----, I'll
make it a great job for you."

"Indeed--indeed but I will, Mr. Blarden, if I can," rejoined Chancey;
"and I _think_ I can--I think I know a way, so I do, to get a _halter_
round his neck--do you mind?--and leave the rope's end in your hand, to
hang him or not, as you like."

"To _hang_ him!" echoed Blarden, like one who hears something too good
to be true.

"Yes, to hang him by the neck till he's dead--dead--dead," repeated
Chancey, imperturbably.

"How the blazes will you do it?" demanded the wretch, anxiously. "Pish,
it's all prate and vapour."

Gordon Chancey stole a suspicious glance round the room from the corner
of his eye, and then suffering his gaze to rest sleepily upon the fire
once more, he stretched out one of his lank arms, and after a little
uncertain groping, succeeding in grasping the collar of his companion's
coat, and drawing his head down toward him. Blarden knew Mr. Chancey's
way, and without a word, lowered his ear to that gentleman's mouth, who
forthwith whispered something into it which produced a marked effect
upon Mr. Blarden.

"If you do _that_," replied he with ferocious exultation, "by ----,
I'll make your fortune for you at a slap."

And so saving, he struck his hand with heavy emphasis upon the
barrister's shoulder, like a man who clenches a bargain.

"Well, Mr. Blarden," replied Chancey, in the same drowsy tone, "as I
said before, I declare it's my opinion I can, so it is--I think I can."

"And so do _I_ think you can--by ----, I'm _sure_ of it," exclaimed
Blarden triumphantly; "but take some more--more wine, won't you? take
some more, and stay a bit, can't you?"

Chancey had made his way to the door with his usual drowsy gait; and,
passing out without deigning any answer or word of farewell, stumbled
lazily downstairs. There was nothing odd, however, in this
leave-taking; it was Chancey's way.

"We'll do it, and easily too," muttered Blarden with a grin of
exultation. "I never knew him fail--that fellow is worth a mine. Ho!
ho! Sir Henry, beware--beware. Egad, you had better keep a bright
look-out. It's rather late for green goslings to look to their necks,
when the fox claps his nose in the poultry-yard."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

SHOWING HOW SIR HENRY ASHWOODE PLAYED AND PLOTTED--AND OF THE SUDDEN
SUMMONS OF GORDON CHANCEY.


Henry Ashwoode was but too anxious to avail himself of the indulgence
offered by Gordon Chancey. With the immediate urgency of distress, any
thoughts of prudence or retrenchment which may have crossed his mind
vanished, and along with the command of new resources came new wants
and still more extravagant prodigality. His passion for gaming was now
indulged without restraint, and almost without the interruption of a
day. For a time his fortune rallied, and sums, whose amount would
startle credulity, flowed into his hands, only to be lost and
squandered again in dissipation and extravagance, which grew but the
wilder and more reckless, in proportion as the sources which supplied
them were temporarily increased. At length, after some coquetting, the
giddy goddess again deserted him. Night after night brought new and
heavier disasters; and with this reverse of fortune came its invariable
accompaniment--a wilder and more daring recklessness, and a more
unmeasured prodigality in hazarding larger and larger sums; as if the
victims of ill luck sought, by this frantic defiance, to bully and
browbeat their capricious persecutor into subjection. There was
scarcely an available security of any kind which he had not already
turned into money, and now he began to feel, in downright earnest, the
iron gripe of ruin closing upon him.

He was changed--in spirit and in aspect changed. The unwearied fire of
a secret fever preyed upon his heart and brain; an untold horror robbed
him of his rest, and haunted him night and day.

"Brother," said Mary Ashwoode, throwing one hand fondly round his neck,
and with the other pressing his, as he sate moodily, with compressed
lips and haggard face, and eyes fixed upon the floor, in the old
parlour of Morley Court--"dear brother, you are greatly changed; you
are ill; some great trouble weighs upon your mind. Why will you keep
all your cares and griefs from me? I would try to comfort you, whatever
your sorrows may be. Then let me know it all, dear brother; why should
your griefs be hidden from me? Are there not now but the two of us in
the wide world to care for each other?" and as she said this her eyes
filled with tears.

"You would know what grieves me?" said Ashwoode, after a short silence,
and gazing fixedly in her face, with stern, dilated eyes, and pale
features. He remained again silent for a time, and then uttered the
emphatic word--"_Ruin._"

"How, dear brother, what has befallen you?" asked the poor girl,
pressing her brother's hand more kindly.

"I say, we are ruined--both of us. I've lost everything. We are little
better than beggars," replied he. "There's nothing I can call my own,"
he resumed, abruptly, after a pause, "but that old place, Incharden.
It's worth next to nothing--bog, rocks, brushwood, old stables, and
all--absolutely nothing. We are ruined--beggared--that's all."

"Oh! brother, I am glad we have still that dear old place. Oh, let us
go down and live there together, among the quiet glens, and the old
green woods; for amongst its pleasant shades I have known happier times
than shall ever come again for me. I would like to ramble there again
in the pleasant summer time, and hear the birds sing, and the sound of
the rustling leaves, and the clear winding brook, as I used to hear
them long ago. _There_ I could think over many things, that it breaks
my heart to think of here; and you and I, brother, would be always
together, and we would soon be as happy as either of us can be in this
sorrowful world."

She threw her arms around her brother's neck, and while the tears
flowed fast and silently, she kissed his pale and wasted cheeks again
and again.

"In the meantime," said Ashwoode, starting up abruptly, and looking at his
watch, "I must go into town, and see some of these harpies--usurers--that
have gotten their fangs in me. It is as well to keep out of jail as long
as one can," and, with a very joyless laugh, he strode from the room.

As he rode into town, his thoughts again and again recurred to his old
scheme respecting Lady Stukely.

"It is after all my only chance," said he. "I have made my mind up
fifty times to it, but somehow or other, d----n me, if I could ever
bring myself to _do_ it. That woman will live for five-and-twenty years
to come, and she would as easily part with the control of her property
as with her life. While she lives I must be her dependent--her slave:
there is no use in mincing the matter, I shall not have the command of
a shilling, but as she pleases; but patience--patience, Henry Ashwoode,
sooner or later death _will_ come, and then begins your jubilee."

As these thoughts hurried through his brain, he checked his horse at
Lady Betty Stukely's door.

As he traversed the capacious hall, and ascended the handsome
staircase--"Well," thought he, "even _with_ her ladyship, this were
better than the jail."

In the drawing-room he found Lady Stukely, Emily Copland, and Lord
Aspenly. The two latter evidently deep in a very desperate flirtation,
and her ladyship meanwhile very considerately employed in trying a
piece of music on the spinet.

The entrance of Sir Henry produced a very manifest sensation among the
little party. Lady Stukely looked charmingly conscious and fluttered.
Emily Copland smiled a gracious welcome, for though she and her
handsome cousin perfectly well understood each other, and both well
knew that marriage was out of the question, they had each, what is
called, a fancy for the other; and Emily, with the unreasonable
jealousy of a woman, felt a kind of soreness, secretly and almost
unacknowledged to herself, at Sir Henry's marked devotion to Lady
Stukely, though, at the same time, no feeling of her own heart, beyond
the lightest and the merest vanity, had ever been engaged in favour of
Henry Ashwoode. Of the whole party, Lord Aspenly alone was a good deal
disconcerted, and no wonder, for he had not the smallest notion upon
what kind of terms he and Henry Ashwoode were to meet;--whether that
young gentleman would shake hands with him as usual, or proceed to
throttle him on the spot. Ashwoode was, however, too completely a man
of the world to make any unnecessary fuss about the awkward affair of
Morley Court; he therefore met the little nobleman with cold and easy
politeness; and, turning from him, was soon engaged in an animated and
somewhat tender colloquy with the love-stricken widow, whose last words
to him, as at length he arose to take his leave, were,--

"Remember to-morrow evening, Sir Henry, we shall look for you early;
and you have promised not to disappoint your cousin Emily--has not he,
Emily? I shall positively be affronted with you for a week at least if
you are late. I am very absolute, and never forgive an act of
rebellion. I'm quite a little sovereign here, and very despotic; so you
had better not venture to be naughty."

Here she raised her finger, and shook it in playful menace at her
admirer.

Lady Stukely had, however, little reason to doubt his punctuality. If
she had but known the true state of the case she would have been aware
that in literal matter-of-fact she had become as necessary to Sir Henry
Ashwoode as his daily bread.

Accordingly, next evening Sir Henry Ashwoode was one of the gayest of
the guests in Lady Stukely's drawing-rooms. His resolution was taken;
and he now looked round upon the splendid rooms and all their rich
furniture as already his own. Some chatted, some played cards, some
danced the courtly minuet, and some hovered about from group to group,
without any determinate occupation, and sharing by turns in the
frivolities of all. Ashwoode was, of course, devoted exclusively to his
fair hostess. She was all smiles, and sighs, and bashful coyness; he
all tenderness and fire. In short, he felt that all he wanted at that
moment was the opportunity of asking, to ensure his instantaneous
acceptance. While thus agreeably employed, the young baronet was
interrupted by a footman, who, with a solemn bow, presented a silver
salver, on which was placed an exceedingly dirty and crumpled little
note. Ashwoode instantly recognized the hand in which the address was
written, and snatching the filthy billet from its conspicuous position,
he thrust it into his waistcoat pocket.

"A messenger, sir, waits for an answer," murmured the servant.

"Where is he?"

"He waits in the hall, sir."

"Then I shall see him in a moment--tell him so," said Ashwoode; and
turning to Lady Stukely, he spoke a few sweet words of gallantry, and
with a forced smile, and casting a longing, lingering look behind, he
glided from the room.

"So, what can this mean?" muttered he, as he placed himself immediately
under a cluster of lights in the lobby, and hastily drew forth the
crumpled note. He read as follows:--

    "MY DEAR SIR HENRY,--There is bad news--as bad as can be. Wherever
    you are, and whatever you are doing, come on receipt of these, on
    the moment, to me. If you don't, you'll be done for to-morrow; so
    come at once. Bobby M'Quirk will hand you these, and if you follow
    him, will bring you where I am now. I am desirous to serve you, and
    if the art of man can do it, to keep you out of this pickle.

    "Your obedient, humble servant,

    "GORDON CHANCEY."

    "N.B.--It is about these infernal notes, so come quickly."

Through this production did Ashwoode glance with no very enviable
feelings; and tearing the note into the very smallest possible pieces,
he ran downstairs to the hall, where he found the aristocratic Mr.
M'Quirk, with his chin as high as ever, marching up and down with a
free and easy swagger, and one arm akimbo, and whistling the while an
air of martial defiance.

"Did you bring a note to me just now?" inquired Ashwoode.

"I have had that pleasure," replied M'Quirk, with an aristocratic air.
"I presume I am addressed by Sir Henry Ashwoode, baronet. _I_ am Mr.
M'Quirk--Mr. Robert M'Quirk. Sir Henry, I kiss your hands--proud of the
honour of your acquaintance."

"Is Mr. Chancey at his own lodging now?" inquired Ashwoode, without
appearing to hear the speeches which M'Quirk thought proper to deliver.

"Why, no," replied the little gentleman. "Our friend Chancey is just
now swigging his pot of beer, and smoking his pen'orth of pigtail in
the "Old Saint Columbkil," in Ship Street--a comfortable house, Sir
Henry, as any in Dublin, and very cheap--cheap as dirt, sir. A Welsh
rarebit, one penny; a black pudding, and neat cut of bread, and three
leeks, for--how much do you guess?"

"Have the goodness to conduct me to Mr. Chancey, wherever he is," said
Ashwoode drily. "I will follow--go on, sir."

"Well, Sir Henry, I'm your man--I'm your man--glad of your company, Sir
Henry," exclaimed the insinuating Bobby M'Quirk; and following his
voluble conductor in obstinate silence, Sir Henry Ashwoode found
himself, after a dark and sloppy walk, for the first, though not for
the last time in his life, under the roof tree of the "Old Saint
Columbkil."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE "OLD ST. COLUMBKIL"--A TÊTE-À-TÊTE IN THE "ROYAL RAM"--THE TEMPTER.


The "Old Saint Columbkil" was a sort of low sporting tavern frequented
chiefly by horse-jockeys, cock-fighters, and dog-fanciers; it had its
cock-pits, and its badger-baits, and an unpretending little "hell" of
its own; and, in short, was deficient in none of the attractions most
potent in alluring such company as it was intended to receive.

As Ashwoode, preceded by his agreeable companion, made his way into the
low-roofed and irregular chamber, his senses were assailed by the thick
fumes of tobacco, the reek of spirits, and the heavy steams of the hot
dainties which ministered to the refined palates of the patrons of the
"Old Saint Columbkil;" and through the hazy atmosphere, seated at a
table by himself, and lighted by a solitary tallow candle with a
portentous snuff, and canopied in the clouds of tobacco smoke which he
himself emitted, Gordon Chancey was dimly discernible.

"Ah! dear me, dear me. I'm right glad to see you--I declare to ----, I
am, Mr. Ashwoode," said that eminent barrister, when the young
gentleman had reached his side. "Indeed, I was thinking it was maybe
too late to see you to-night, and that things would have to go on. Oh,
dear me, but it's a regular Providence, so it is. You'd have been up in
lavender to-morrow, as sure as eggs is eggs. I'm gladder than a crown
piece, upon my soul, I am."

"Don't talk of business here; cannot we have some place to ourselves
for five minutes, out of this stifling pig-sty. I can't bear the place;
besides, we shall be overheard," urged Ashwoode.

"Well, and that's very true," assented Chancey, gently, "very true, so
it is; we'll get a small room above. You'll have to pay an extra
sixpenny bit for it though, but what signifies the matter of that?
M'Quirk, ask old Pottles if 'Noah's Ark' is empty--either that or the
'Royal Ram'--run, Bobby."

"I have something else to do, Mr. Chancey," replied Mr. M'Quirk, with
_hauteur_.

"Run, Bobby, run, man," repeated Chancey, tranquilly.

"Run yourself," retorted M'Quirk, rebelliously.

Chancey looked at him for a moment to ascertain by his visible aspect
whether he had actually uttered the audacious suggestion, and reading
in the red face of the little gentleman nothing but the most refractory
dispositions, he said with a low, dogged emphasis which experience had
long taught Mr. M'Quirk to respect,--

"Are you at your tricks again? D---- you, you blackguard, if you stand
prating there another minute, I'll open your head with this pot--be
off, you scoundrel."

The learned counsel enforced his eloquence by knocking the pewter pot
with an emphatic clang upon the table.

All the aristocratic blood of the M'Quirks mounted to the face of the
gentleman thus addressed; he suffered the noble inundation, however, to
subside, and after some hesitation, and one long look of unutterable
contempt, which Chancey bore with wonderful stoicism, he yielded to
prudential considerations, as he had often done before, and proceeded
to execute his orders.

The effect was instantaneous--Pottles himself appeared. A short, stout,
asthmatic man was Pottles, bearing in his thoughtful countenance an
ennobling consciousness that human society would feel it hard to go on
without him, and carrying in his hand a soiled napkin, or rather clout,
with which he wiped everything that came in his way, his own forehead
and nose included.

With pompous step and wheezy respiration did Pottles conduct his
honoured guests up the creaking stairs and into the "Royal Ram." He
raked the embers in the fire-place, threw on a piece of turf, and
planting the candle which he carried upon a table covered with slop and
pipe ashes, he wiped the candlestick, and then his own mouth carefully
with his dingy napkin, and asked the gentlemen whether they desired
anything for supper.

"No, no, we want nothing but to be left to ourselves for ten or fifteen
minutes," said Ashwoode, placing a piece of money upon the table. "Take
this for the use of the room, and leave us."

The landlord bowed and pocketed the coin, wheezed and bowed again, and
then waddled magnificently out of the room. Ashwoode got up and closed
the door after him, and then returning, drew his chair opposite to
Chancey's, and in a low tone asked,--

"Well, what is all this about?"

"All about them notes, nothing else," replied Chancey, calmly.

"Go on--what of them?" urged Ashwoode.

"Can you pay them all to-morrow morning?" inquired Chancey, tranquilly.

"To-morrow!" exclaimed Ashwoode. "Why, hell and death, man, you
promised to hold them over for three months. To-morrow! By ----, you
must be joking," and as he spoke his face turned pale as ashes.

"I told you all along, Mr. Ashwoode," said Chancey drowsily, "that the
money was not my own; I'm nothing more than an agent in the matter, and
the notes are in the desk of that old bed-ridden cripple that lent it.
D----n him, he's as full of fumes and fancies as old cheese is of
maggots. He has taken it into his head that your paper is not safe, and
the devil himself won't beat it out of him; and the long and the short
of it is, Mr. Ashwoode, he's going to arrest you to-morrow."

In vain Ashwoode strove to hide his agitation--he shook like a man in
an ague.

"Good heavens! and is there no way of preventing this? Make him wait
for a week--for a day," said Ashwoode.

"Was not I speaking to him ten times to-day--ay, twenty times," replied
Chancey, "trying to make him wait even for one day? Why, I'm hoarse
talking to him, and I might just as well be speaking to Patrick's
tower; so make your mind up to this. As sure as light, you'll be in
gaol before to-morrow's past, unless you either settle it early some
way or other, or take leg bail for it."

"See, Chancey, I may as well tell you this," said Ashwoode, "before a
fortnight, perhaps before a week, I shall have the means of satisfying
these damned notes beyond the possibility of failure. Won't he hold
them over for so long?"

"I might as well be asking him to cut out his tongue and give it to me
as to allow us even a day; he has heard of different accidents that has
happened to some of your paper lately--and the long and the short of it
is--he won't hear of it, nor hold them over one hour more than he can
help. I declare to ----, Mr. Ashwoode, I am very sorry for your
distress, so I am--but you say you'll have the money in a week?"

"Ay, ay, ay, so I shall, _if_ he don't arrest me," replied Ashwoode;
"but if he does, my perdition's sealed; I shall lie in gaol till I rot;
but, curse it, can't the idiot see this?--if he waits a week or so
he'll get his money--every penny back again--but if he won't have
patience, he loses every sixpence to all eternity."

"You might as well be arguing with an iron box as think to change that
old chap by talk, when he once gets a thing into his head," rejoined
Chancey. Ashwoode walked wildly up and down the dingy, squalid
apartment, exhibiting in his aristocratic form and face, and in the
rich and elegant suit, flashing even in the dim light of that solitary,
unsnuffed candle, with gold lace and jewelled buttons, and with cravat
and ruffles fluttering with rich point lace, a strange and startling
contrast to the slovenly and deserted scene of low debauchery which
surrounded him.

"Chancey," said he, suddenly stopping and grasping the shoulder of the
sleepy barrister with a fierceness and energy which made him
start--"Chancey, rouse yourself, d---- you. Do you hear? Is there _no_
way of averting this awful ruin--_is_ there none?"

As he spoke, Ashwoode held the shoulder of the fellow with a gripe like
that of a vice, and stooping over him, glared in his face with the
aspect of a maniac.

The lawyer, though by no means of a very excitable temperament, was
startled at the horrible expression which encountered his gaze, and
sate silently looking into his victim's face with a kind of
fascination.

"Well," said Chancey, turning away his head with an effort--"there's
but one way I can think of."

"What is it? Do you know anyone that _will_ take my note at a short
date? For God's sake, man, speak out at once, or my brain will turn.
What is it?" said Ashwoode.

"Why, Mr. Ashwoode, to be plain with you," rejoined Chancey, "I do not
know a soul in Dublin that would discount for you to one-fourth of the
amount you require--but there is another way."

"In the fiend's name, out with it, then," said Ashwoode, shaking him
fiercely by the shoulder.

"Well, then, get Mr. Craven to join you in a bond for the amount," said
Chancey, "with a warrant of attorney to confess judgment."

"Craven! Why, he knows as well as you do how I am dipped. He'd just as
readily thrust his hand into the fire," replied Ashwoode. "Is that your
hopeful scheme?"

"Why, Mr. Craven might not do so well, after all," said Chancey,
meditatively, and without appearing to hear what the young baronet
said. "Oh! dear, dear, no, he would not do. Old Money-bags knows
him--no, no, that would not do."

"Can your d----d scheming brain plot no invention to help me? In the
devil's name, where are your wits? Chancey, if you get me out of this
accursed fix, I'll make a man of you."

"I got a whole lot of bills done for you once by the very same old
gentleman," continued Chancey, "and d----n heavy bills they were too,
but they had Mr. Nicholas Blarden's name across them; would not he lend
it again, if you told him how you stand? If you can come by the money
in a month or so, you may be sure he'll do it."

"Better and better! Why, Blarden would ask no better fun than to see me
ruined, dead, and damned," rejoined Ashwoode, bitterly. "Cudgel your
brains for another bright thought."

"Oh! dear me, dear me," said the barrister mildly, "I thought you were
the best of friends. Well, well, it's hard to know. But are you sure he
don't like you?"

"It's odd if he does," said Ashwoode, "seeing it's scarce a month since
I trounced him almost to death in the theatre. Blarden, indeed!"

"Well, Mr. Ashwoode, sit down here for a minute, and I'll say all I
have to say; and if you like it, well and good; and if not, there's no
harm done, and things must only take their course. Are you quite sure
of having the means within a month of taking up the notes?"

"As sure as I am that I see you before me," replied he.

"Well, then, get Mr. Blarden's name along with your own to your joint
and several bond--the old chap won't have anything more to do with
bills--so, do you mind, your joint and several bond, with warrant of
attorney to confess judgment--and I'll stake my life, he'll take it as
ready as so much cash, the instant I show it to him," said the lawyer
quietly.

"Are you dreaming or drunk? Have not I told you twenty times over that
Blarden would cut his throat first?" retorted Ashwoode, passionately.

"Why," said Chancey, fixing his cunning eyes, with a peculiar meaning,
upon the young man, and speaking with a lowered voice and marked
deliberateness, "perhaps if Mr. Blarden knew that his name was wanted
only to satisfy the whim of a fanciful old hunks--if he knew that
judgment should never be entered--if he knew that the bond should never
go outside a strong iron box, under an old bedridden cripple's bed--if
he knew that no questions should be asked as to how he came to write
his name at the foot of it--and if he knew that no mortal should ever
see it until you paid it long before the day it was due--and if he was
quite aware that the whole transaction should be considered so strictly
confidential, that even to _himself_--do you mind--no allusion should
be made to it;--don't you think, in such a case, you could, by some
means or other, manage to get his--_name_?"

They continued to gaze fixedly at one another in silence, until, at
length, Ashwoode's countenance lighted into a strange, unearthly smile.

"I see what you mean, Chancey--is it so?" said he, in a voice so low,
as scarcely to be audible.

"Well, maybe you do," said the barrister, in a tone nearly as low, and
returning the young man's smile with one to the full as sinister. Thus
they remained without speaking for many minutes.

"There's no danger in it," said Chancey, after a long pause; "I would
not take a part in it if there was. You can pay it eleven months before
it's due. It's a thing I have _known_ done a hundred times over,
without risk; here there _can_ be none. I do _all_ his business myself.
I tell you, that for anything that any living mortal but you and me and
the old badger himself will ever hear, or see, or know of the matter,
the bond might as well be burnt to dust in the back of the fire. I
declare to ---- it's the plain truth I'm telling you--Sir Henry--so it
is."

There followed another silence of some minutes. At length Ashwoode
said, "I'd rather use any name but Blarden's, if it _must_ be done."

"What does it matter whose name is on it, if there is no one but
ourselves to read it?" replied Chancey. "I say Blarden's is the best,
because he accepted bills for you before, which were discounted by the
same old codger; and again, because the old fellow knows that the money
was wanted to satisfy gambling debts, and Blarden would seem a very
natural party in a gaming transaction. Blarden's _is_ the name for us.
And, for myself, all I ask is fifty pounds for my share in the
trouble."

"When must you have the bond?" asked Ashwoode.

"Set about it _now_," said Chancey; "or stay, your hand shakes too
much, and for both our sakes it must be done neatly; so say to-morrow
morning, early. I'll see the old gentleman to-night, and have the
overdue notes to hand you in the morning. I think that's doing
business."

"I would not do it--I'd rather blow my brains out--if there was a
single chance of his entering judgment on the bond, or talking of it,"
said Ashwoode, in great agitation.

"A _chance_!" said the barrister. "I tell you there's not a
_possibility_. I manage all his money matters, and I'd burn that bond,
before it should see the outside of his strong box. Why, d----n! do you
think I'd let myself be ruined for fifty pounds? You don't know Gordon
Chancey, indeed you don't, Mr. Ashwoode."

"Well, Chancey, I'll see you early to-morrow morning," said Ashwoode;
"but are you very--_very_ sure--is there no chance--no _possibility_
of--of mischief?"

"I tell you, Mr. Ashwoode," replied Chancey, "unless I chose to betray
_myself_, you can't come by harm. As I told you before, I'm not such a
fool as to ruin myself. Rely on me, Mr. Ashwoode--rely on me. Do you
believe what I say?"

Ashwoode walked slowly up to him, and fixing his eyes upon the
barrister, with a glance which made Chancey's heart turn chill within
him,--

"Yes, Mr. Chancey," he said, "you may be sure I believe you; for if I
did _not_--so help me, God!--you should not quit this room--alive."

He eyed the caitiff for some minutes in silence, and then returning the
sword, which he had partially drawn, to its scabbard, he abruptly
wished him good-night, and left the room.



CHAPTER XXXV.

OF THE COUSIN AND THE BLACK CABINET--AND OF HENRY ASHWOODE'S DECISIVE
INTERVIEW WITH LADY STUKELY.


"Well, then," said Ashwoode, a few days after the occurrences which
have just been faithfully recorded, "it behoves me without loss of time
to make provision for this infernal bond; until I see it burned to
dust, I feel as if I stood in the dock. This sha'n't last long--my
stars be thanked, one door of escape lies open to me, and through it I
will pass; the sun shall not go down upon my uncertainty. To be sure, I
shall be--but curse it, it can't be helped now; and let them laugh, and
quiz, and sneer as they please, two-thirds of them would be but too
glad to marry Lady Stukely with half her fortune, were she twice as old
and twice as ugly--if, indeed, either were possible. Pshaw! the laugh
will subside in a week, and in the style in which I shall open, curse
me, if half the world won't lie at my feet. Give me but
money--money--plenty of money, and though I be a paragon of absurdity
and vice, the whole town will vote me a Solomon and a saint; so let's
have no more shivering by the brink, but plunge boldly in at once and
have it over."

Fortified with these reflections, Sir Henry Ashwoode vaulted lightly
into his saddle, and putting his horse into an easy canter, he found
himself speedily at Lady Stukely's house in Stephen's Green. His
servant held the rein and he dismounted, and, having obtained
admission, summoned all his resolution, lightly mounted the stairs, and
entered the handsome drawing-room. Lady Stukely was not there, but his
cousin, Emily Copland, received him.

"Lady Betty is not visible, then?" inquired he, after a little chat
upon indifferent subjects.

"I believe she is out shopping--indeed, you may be very certain she is
not at home," replied Emily, with a malicious smile; "her ladyship is
always visible to you. Now confess, have you ever had much cruelty or
coldness to complain of at dear Lady Stukely's hands?"

Ashwoode laughed, and perhaps for a moment appeared a little
disconcerted.

"I _do_ admit, then, as you insist on placing me in the confessional,
that I have always found Lady Betty as kind and polite as I could have
expected or hoped," rejoined Ashwoode, assuming a grave and
particularly proper air; "I were particularly ungrateful if I said
otherwise."

"Oh, ho! so her ladyship has actually succeeded in inspiring my
platonic cousin with gratitude," continued Emily, in the same tone,
"and gratitude we all know is Cupid's best disguise. Alas, and
alack-a-day, to what vile uses may we come at last--alas, my poor coz."

"Nay, nay, Emily," replied he, a little piqued, "you need not write my
epitaph yet; I don't see exactly why you should pity me so enormously."

"Haven't you confessed that you glow with gratitude to Lady Stukely?"
rejoined she.

"Nonsense! I said nothing about _glowing_; but what if I had?" answered
he.

"Then you acknowledge that you _do_ glow! Heaven help him, the man
actually _glows_," ejaculated Emily.

"Pshaw! stuff, nonsense. Emily, don't be a blockhead," said he,
impatiently.

"Oh! Harry, Harry, Harry, don't deny it," continued she, shaking her
head with intense solemnity, and holding up her fingers in a monitory
manner--"you are then actually in love. Oh, Benedick, poor Benedick!
would thou hadst chosen some Beatrice not quite so well stricken in
years; but what of that?--the beauties of age, if less attractive to
the eye of thoughtless folly than those of youth, are unquestionably
more durable; time may rob the cheek of its bloom, but I defy him to
rob it of its rouge; years--I might say centuries--have no power to
blanche a wig or thin its flowing locks; and though the nymph be blind
with age, what matters it if the swain be blind with love? I make no
doubt you'll be fully as happy together as if she had twice as long to
live."

Ashwoode poked the fire and blew his nose violently, but nevertheless
answered nothing.

"The brilliant blush of her cheek and the raven blackness of her wig,"
continued the incorrigible Emily, "in close and striking contrast, will
remind you, and I trust usefully, of that _rouge et noir_ which has
been your ruin all your days."

Still Ashwoode spoke not.

"The exquisite roundness of her ladyship's figure will remind you that
flesh, if not exactly grass, is at least very little better than bran
and buckram; and her smile will invariably suggest the great truth,
that whenever you do not intend to bite it is better not to show your
teeth, especially when they happen to be like her ladyship's; in short,
you cannot look at her without feeling that in every particular, if
rightly read, she supplied a moral lesson, so that in her presence
every unruly passion of man's nature must entirely subside and sink to
rest. Yes, she will make you happy--eminently happy; every little
attention, every caress, every fond glance she throws at you, will
delightfully assure your affectionate spirit, as it wanders in memory
back to the days of earliest childhood, that she will be to you all
that your beloved grandmother could have been, had she been spared. Oh!
Harry, Harry, this will indeed be too much happiness."

Another pause ensued, and Emily approached Sir Henry as he stood
sulkily by the mantelpiece, and laying her hand upon his arm, looked
archly up into his face, while shaking her head she slowly said,--

"Oh! love, love--oh! Cupid, Cupid, mischievous little boy, what hast
thou done with my poor cousin's heart?

    "''Twas on a widow's jointure land
    The archer, Cupid, took his stand.'"

As she said this, she looked so unutterably mischievous and comical,
that in spite of his vexation and all his efforts to the contrary, he
burst into a long and hearty fit of laughter.

"Emily," said he, at length, "you are absolutely incorrigible--gravity
in your company is entirely out of the question; but listen to me
seriously for one moment, if you can. I will tell you plainly how I am
circumstanced, and you must promise me in return that you will not quiz
me any more about the matter. But first," he added, cautiously, "let us
guard against eavesdroppers."

He accordingly walked into the next room, which opened upon that in
which they were, and proceeded to close the far door. Before he had
reached it, however, that in the other room opened, and Lady Stukely
herself entered. The instant she appeared, Emily Copland by a gesture
enjoined silence, nodded towards the door of the next room, from which
Ashwoode's voice, as he carelessly hummed an air, was audible; she then
frowned, nodded, and pointed with vehement repetition toward a dark
recess in the wall, made darker and more secure by the flanking
projection of a huge, black, varnished cabinet. Lady Stukely looked
puzzled, took a step in the direction of the post of concealment
indicated by the girl, then looked puzzled, and hesitated again. More
impatiently Emily repeated her signal, and her ladyship, without any
distinct reason, but with her curiosity all alive, glided behind the
protecting cabinet, with all its army of china ornaments, into the
recess, and there remained entirely concealed. She had hardly effected
this movement, which the deep-piled carpet enabled her to do without
noise, when Ashwoode returned, closed the door of communication between
the two rooms, and then shut that through which Lady Stukely had just
entered, almost brushing against her as he did so, so close was their
proximity. These precautions taken, he returned.

"Now," said he, in a low and deliberate tone, "the plain facts of the
case are just these. I am dipped over head and ears in debt--debts,
too, of the most urgent kind--debts which threaten me with ruin. Now,
these _must_ be paid--one way or another they _must_ be met. And to
effect this I have but one course--one expedient, and you have guessed
it. No man knows better than I what Lady Stukely is. I can see all that
is ridiculous and repulsive about her just as clearly as anybody else.
She is old enough to be my grandmother, and ugly enough to be the
devil's--and, moreover, painted and varnished over like a signboard.
She may be a fool--she may be a termagant--she may be what you
please--but--_but_ she has money. She has been throwing herself into my
arms this twelvemonth or more--and--but what the deuce is that?"

This interrogatory was caused by certain choking sounds which proceeded
with fearful suddenness from the place of Lady Stukely's concealment,
and which were instantaneously followed by the appearance of her
ladyship in bodily presence. She opened her mouth, but gave utterance
to nothing but a gasp--drew herself up with such portentous and
swelling magnificence, that Ashwoode almost expected to see her expand
like the spectre of a magic-lantern until her head touched the ceiling.
Forward she came, in her progress sweeping a score of china ornaments
from the cabinet, and strewing the whole floor with the crashing
fragments of monkeys, monsters, and mandarins, breathless, choking, and
almost black with rage, Lady Stukely advanced to Ashwoode, who stood,
for the first time in his life, bereft of every vestige of
self-possession.

"Painted! varnished!" she screamed hysterically, "ridiculous!
repulsive! Oh, heaven and earth! you--you preternatural monster!" With
these words she uttered two piercing shrieks, and threw herself in
strong hysterics into a chair, holding on her wig distractedly with one
hand, for fear of accidents.

  [Illustration: "'Painted! Varnished!' she screamed, hysterically."
                  _To face page 188._]

"Don't--don't ring the bell," said she, with an abrupt accession of
fortitude, observing Emily Copland approach the bell. "Don't, I shall
be better presently." And then, with another shriek, she opened afresh.

As the hysterics subsided, Ashwoode began a little to recover his
scattered wits, and observing that Lady Stukely had sunk back in
extreme languor and exhaustion, with closed eyes, he ventured to
approach the shrine of his outraged divinity.

"I feel--indeed I own, Lady Stukely," he said, hesitatingly, "I have
much to explain. I ought to explain--yes, I ought. I will, Lady
Stukely--and--and I can entirely satisfy--completely dispel----"

He was interrupted here; for Lady Stukely, starting bolt upright in the
chair, exclaimed,--

"You wretch! you villain! you perjured, scheming, designing, lying,
paltry, stupid, insignificant, outrageous----"

Whether it was that her ladyship wanted words to supply a climax, or
that hysterics are usually attended with such results, we cannot
pretend to say, but certain it is that at this precise point the
languishing, fashionable, die-away Lady Stukely actually spat in the
young baronet's face.

Ashwoode changed colour, as he promptly discharged the ridiculous but
very necessary task of wiping his face. With difficulty he restrained
himself under this provocation, but he did command himself so far as to
say nothing. He turned on his heel and walked downstairs, muttering as
he went,--

"An old painted devil!"

The cool air, as he passed out, speedily dissipated the confusion and
excitement of the scene that had just passed, and all the consequences
of his rupture with Lady Stukely rushed upon his mind with overwhelming
and maddening force.

"You were right, perfectly right--he _is_ a cheat--a trickster--a
villain!" exclaimed Lady Stukely. "Only to think of him! Oh, heaven and
earth!" And again she was seized with violent hysterics, in which state
she was conducted up to her bedroom by Emily Copland, who had enjoyed
the catastrophe with an intensity of relish which none but a female,
and a mischievous one to boot, can know.

Loud and repeated were Lady Stukely's thanksgivings for having escaped
the snares of the designing young baronet, and warm and multiplied and
grateful her acknowledgments to Emily Copland--to whom, however, from
that time forth she cherished an intense dislike.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

OF JEWELS, PLATE, HORSES, DOGS, AND FAMILY PICTURES--AND CONCERNING THE
APPOINTED HOUR.


In a state little, if at all, short of distraction, Sir Henry Ashwoode
threw himself from his horse at Morley Court. That resource which he
had calculated upon with absolute certainty had totally failed him; his
last stake had been played and lost, and ruin in its most hideous
aspect stared him in the face.

Spattered from heel to head with mud--for he had ridden at a reckless
speed--with a face pale as that of a corpse, and his dress all
disordered, he entered the great old parlour, and scarcely knowing what
he did, dashed the door to with violence and bolted it. His brain swam
so that the floor seemed to heave and rock like a sea; he cast his
laced hat and his splendid peruke (the envy and admiration of half the
_petit maîtres_ in Dublin) upon the ground, and stood in the centre of
the room, with his hands clutched upon the temples of his bare, shorn
head, and his teeth set, the breathing image of despair. From this
state he was roused by some one endeavouring to open the door.

"Who's there?" he shouted, springing backward and drawing his sword, as
if he expected a troop of constables to burst in.

Whoever the party may have been, the attempt was not repeated.

"What's the matter with me--am I mad?" said Ashwoode, after a terrible
pause, and hurling his sword to the far end of the room. "Lie there.
I've let the moment pass--I might have done it--cut the Gordian knot,
and there an end of all. What brought me here?"

He stared about the room, for the first time conscious where he stood.

"Damn these pictures," he muttered; "they're all alive--everything
moves towards me." He flung himself into a chair and clasped his
fingers over his eyes. "I can't breathe--the place is suffocating. Oh,
God! I shall go mad!" He threw open one of the windows and stood
gasping at it as if he stood at the mouth of a furnace.

"Everything is hot and strange and maddening--I can't endure
this--brain and heart are bursting--it is HELL."

In a state of excitement which nearly amounted to downright insanity,
he stood at the open window. It was long before this extravagant
agitation subsided so as to allow room for thought or remembrance. At
length he closed the window, and began to pace the room from end to end
with long and heavy steps. He stopped by a pier-table, on which stood a
china bowl full of flowers, and plunging his hands into it, dashed the
water over his head and face.

"Let me think--let me think," said he. "I was not wont to be thus
overcome by reverse. Surely I can master as much as will pay that
thrice-accursed bond, if I could but collect my thoughts--there must
yet be the means of meeting it. Let _that_ be but paid, and then,
welcome ruin in any other shape. Let me see. Ay, the furniture; then
the pictures--some of them valuable--_very_ valuable; then the horses
and the dogs; and then--ay, the plate. Why, to be sure--what have I
been dreaming of?--the plate will go half-way to satisfy it; and
then--what else? Let me see. The whole thing is six thousand four
hundred and fifty pounds--what more? Is there _nothing_ more to meet
it? The plate--the furniture--the pictures--ay, idiot that I am, why
did I not think of them an hour since?--my sister's jewels--why, it's
all settled--how the devil came it that I never thought of them before?
It's very well, however, as it is--for if I had, they would have gone
long ago. Come, come, I breathe again--I have gotten my neck out of the
hemp, at all events. I'll send in for Craven this moment. He likes a
bargain, and he shall have one--before to-morrow's sun goes down, that
d----d bond shall be ashes. Mary's jewels are valued at two thousand
pounds. Well, let him take them at one thousand five hundred; and the
pictures, plate, furniture, dogs, and horses for the rest--and he has a
bargain. These jewels have saved me--bribed the hangman. What care I
how or when I die, if I but avert that. Ten to one I blow my brains out
before another month. A short life and a merry one was ever the motto
of the Ashwoodes; and as the mirth is pretty well over with me, I begin
to think it time to retire. _Satis edisti, satis bipisti, satis
lusisti, tempus est tibi abire_--what am I raving about? There's
business to be done now--to it, then--to it like a man--while we _are_
alive let us _be_ alive."

Craven liked his bargain, and engaged that the money should be duly
handed at noon next day to Sir Henry Ashwoode, who forthwith bade the
worthy attorney good-night, and wrote the following brief note to
Gordon Chancey, Esq.:--

    "SIR,

    "I shall call upon you to-morrow at one of the clock, if the hour
    suit you, upon particular business, and shall be much obliged by
    your having a _certain security_ by you, which I shall then be
    prepared to redeem.

    "I remain, sir, your very obedient servant,

    "HENRY ASHWOODE."

"So," said Sir Henry, with a half shudder, as he folded and sealed this
missive, "I shall, at all events, escape the halter. To-morrow night,
spite of wreck and ruin, I shall sleep soundly. God knows, I want rest.
Since I wrote that name, and gave that accursed bond out of my hands,
my whole existence, waking and sleeping, has been but one abhorred and
ghastly nightmare. I would gladly give a limb to have that d----d scrap
of parchment in my hand this moment; but patience, patience--one night
more--one night only--of fevered agony and hideous dreams--one last
night--and then--once more I am my own master--my character and safety
are again in my own hands--and may I die the death, if ever I risk them
again as I have done--one night more--would--_would_ to God it were
morning!"



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE RECKONING--CHANCEY'S LARGE CAT--AND THE COACH.


The morning arrived, and at the appointed hour Sir Henry Ashwoode
dismounted in Whitefriar Street, and gave the bridle of his horse to
the groom who accompanied him.

"Well," thought he, as he entered the dingy, dilapidated square in
which Chancey's lodgings were situated, "this matter, at all events, is
arranged--I sha'n't hang, though I'm half inclined to allow I deserve
to do so for my infernal folly in trying the thing at all; but no
matter, it has given me a lesson I sha'n't soon forget. As to the rest,
what care I now? Let ruin pounce upon me in any shape but that--luckily
I have still enough to keep body and soul together left."

He paused to indulge in ruminations of no very pleasant kind, and then
half muttered,--

"I have been a fool--I have walked in a dream. Only to think of a man
like me, who has seen something of the world, allowing that d----d hag
to play him such a trick. Well, I believe it _is_ true, after all, that
we cannot have wisdom without paying for it. If my acquisitions bear
any proportion to my outlay, I ought to be a Solomon by this time."

The door was opened to his summons by Gordon Chancey himself. When
Ashwoode entered, Chancey carefully locked the door on the inside and
placed the key in his pocket.

"It's as well, Sir Henry, to be on the safe side," observed Chancey,
shuffling towards the table. "Dear me, dear me, there's no such thing
as being too careful--is there, Sir Henry?"

"Well, well, well, let's to business," said young Ashwoode, hurriedly,
seating himself at the end of a heavy deal table, at which was a chair,
and taking from his pocket a large leathern pocket-book. "You have
the--the security here?"

"Of course--oh, dear, of course," replied the barrister; "the bond and
warrant of attorney--that d----d forgery--it is in the next room, very
safe--oh, dear me, yes indeed."

It struck Ashwoode that there was something, he could not exactly say
what, unusual and sinister in the manner of Mr. Chancey, as well as in
his emphasis and language, and he fixed his eye upon him for a moment
with a searching glance. The barrister, however, busied himself with
tumbling over some papers in a drawer.

"Well, why don't you get it?" asked Ashwoode, impatiently.

"Never mind, never mind," replied Chancey; "do _you_ reckon your money
over, and be very sure the bond will come time enough. I don't wonder,
though, you're eager to have it fast in your own hands again--but it
will come--it will come."

Ashwoode proceeded to open the pocket-book and to turn over the notes.

"They're all right," said he, "they're all right. But, hush!" he added,
slightly changing colour--"I hear something stirring in the next room."

"Oh, dear, dear, it's nothing but the cat," rejoined Chancey, with an
ugly laugh.

"Your cat treads very heavily," said Ashwoode, suspiciously.

"So it does," rejoined Chancey, "it does tread heavy; it's a very large
cat, so it is; it has wonderful great claws; it can see in the dark;
it's a great cat; it never missed a rat yet; and I've seen it lure the
bird off a branch with the mere power of its eye; it's a great cat--but
reckon your money, and I'll go in for the bond."

This strange speech was uttered in a manner at least as strange, and
Chancey, without waiting for commentary or interruption, passed into
the next room. The step crossed the adjoining chamber, and Ashwoode
heard the rustling of papers; it then returned, the door opened, and
_not_ Gordon Chancey, but Nicholas Blarden entered the room and
confronted Sir Henry Ashwoode. Personal fear in bodily conflict was a
thing unknown to the young baronet, but now all courage, all strength
forsook him, and he stood gazing in vacant horror upon that, to him,
most tremendous apparition, with a face white as ashes, and covered
with the starting dews of terror.

With that hideous combination, a smile and a scowl, stamped upon his
coarse features, the wretch stood with folded arms, in an attitude of
indescribable exultation, gazing with savage, gloating eyes full upon
his appalled and terror-stricken victim. Fixed as statues they both
remained for several minutes.

"Ho, ho, ho! you look frightened, young man," exclaimed Blarden, with a
horse laugh; "you look as if you were going to be hanged--you look as
if the hemp were round your neck--you look as if the hangman had you by
the collar, you do--ho, ho, ho!"

Ashwoode's bloodless lips moved, but utterance was gone.

"It's hard to get the words out," continued Blarden, with ferocious
glee. "I never knew the man yet could do a last dying speech smooth--a
sort of choking comes on, eh?--the sight of the minister and the
hangman makes a man feel so quare, eh?--and the coffin looks so ugly,
and all the crowd; it's confusing somehow, and puts a man out, eh?--ho,
ho, ho!"

Ashwoode laid his hand upon his forehead, and gazed on in blank horror.

"Why, you're not such a great man, by half, as you were in the
play-house the other evening," continued Blarden; "you don't look so
grand, by any manner of means. Some way or other, you look a little
sickish or so. I'm afraid you don't like my company--ho, ho, ho!"

Still Sir Henry remained locked in the same stupefied silence.

"Ho, ho! you seem to think your hemp is twisted, and your boards
sawed," resumed Blarden; "you seem to think you're in a fix at
last--and so do I, by ----!" he thundered, "for _I_ have the rope
fairly round your weasand, and, by ---- I'll make you dance upon
nothing, at Gallows Hill, before you're a month older. Do you hear
_that_--do you--you swindler? Eh--you gaol-bird, you common forger, you
robber, you crows' meat--who holds the winning cards now?"

"Where--where's the bond?" said Ashwoode, scarce audibly.

"Where's your precious bond, you forger, you gibbet-carrion?" shouted
Blarden, exultingly. "Where's your forged bond--the bond that will
crack your neck for you--where is it, eh? Why, here--here in my
breeches pocket--_that's_ where it is. I hope you think it safe
enough--eh, you gallows-tassle?"

Yielding to some confused instinctive prompting to recover the fatal
instrument, Ashwoode drew his sword, and would have rushed upon his
brutal and triumphant persecutor; but Blarden was not unprepared even
for this. With the quickness of light, he snatched a pistol from his
coat pocket, recoiling, as he did so, a hurried pace or two, and while
he turned, coward as he was, pale and livid as death, he levelled it at
the young man's breast, and both stood for an instant motionless, in
the attitudes of deadly antagonism.

"Put up your sword; I have you there, as well as everywhere
else--regularly checkmated, by ----!" shouted Blarden, with the
ferocity of half-desperate cowardice. "Put up your sword, I say, and
don't be a bloody idiot, along with everything else. Don't you see
you're done for?--there's not a chance left you. You're in the cage,
and there's no need to knock yourself to pieces against the
bars--you're done for, I tell you."

With a mute but expressive gesture of despair, Ashwoode grasped his
sword by the slender, glittering blade, and broke it across. The
fragments dropped from his hands, and he sunk almost lifeless into a
chair--a spectacle so ghastly, that Blarden for a moment thought that
death was about to rescue his victim.

"Chancey, come out here," exclaimed Blarden; "the fellow has taken the
staggers--come out, will you?"

"Oh! dear me, dear me," said Chancey, in his own quiet way, "but he
looks very bad."

"Go over and shake him," said Blarden, still holding the pistol in his
hand. "What are you afraid of? He can't hurt you--he has broken his
bilbo across--the symbol of gentility. By ----! he's a good deal down
in the mouth."

While they thus debated, Ashwoode rose up, looking more like a corpse
endowed with motion than a living man.

"Take me away at once," said he, with a sullen wildness--"take me away
to gaol, or where you will--anywhere were better than this place. Take
me away; I am ruined--blasted. Make the most of it--your infernal
scheme has succeeded--take me to prison."

"Oh, murder! he wants to go to gaol--do you hear him, Chancey?" cried
Blarden--"such an elegant, fine gentleman to think of such a thing:
only to think of a baronet in gaol--and for forgery, too--and the
condemned cell such an ungentlemanly sort of a hole. Why, you'd have to
use perfumes to no end, to make the place fit for the reception of your
aristocratic visitors--my Lord this, and my Lady that--for, of course,
you'll keep none but the best of company--ho, ho, ho! Perhaps the judge
that's to try you may turn out to be an old acquaintance, for your luck
is surprising--isn't it, Chancey?--and he'll pay you a fine compliment,
and express his regret when he's going to pass sentence, eh?--ho, ho,
ho! But, after all, I'd advise you, if the condescension is not too
much to expect from such a very fine gentleman as you, to consort as
much as possible with the turnkey--he's the most useful friend you can
make, under your peculiarly delicate circumstances--ho, ho!--eh? It's
just possible he mayn't like to associate with you, for some of them
fellows are rather stiff, d'ye see, and won't keep company with certain
classes of the coves in quod, such as forgers or pickpockets; but if
he'll allow it, you'd better get intimate with him--ho, ho, ho!--eh?"

"Take me to the prison, sir," said Ashwoode, sternly--"I suppose you
mean to do so. Let your officers remove me at once--you have, no doubt,
men for the purpose in the next room. Let them call a coach, and I will
go with them--but let it be at once."

"Well, you're not far out there, by ----!" replied Blarden. "I _have_ a
broad-shouldered acquaintance or two, and a little bit of a
warrant--you understand?--in the next apartment. Grimes, Grimes, come
in here--you're wanted."

A huge, ill-looking fellow, with his coat buttoned up to his chin, and
a short pipe protruding from the corner of his mouth, swaggered into
the chamber, with that peculiar gait which seems as if contracted by
habitually shouldering and jostling through mobs and all manner of
riotous assemblies.

"_That's_ the bird?" said the fellow, interrogatively, and pointing
with his pipe carelessly at Ashwoode. "You're my prisoner," he added,
gruffly addressing the unfortunate young man, and at the same time
planting his ponderous hand heavily upon his shoulder, he in the other
exhibited a crumpled warrant.

"Grimes, go call a coach," said Blarden, "and don't be a brace of
shakes about it, do you mind."

Grimes departed, and Blarden, after a long pause, suddenly addressing
himself to Ashwoode, resumed, in a somewhat altered tone, but with
intenser sternness still,--

"Now, I tell you what it is, my young cove, I have a sort of half a
notion not to send you to gaol at all, do you hear?"

"Pshaw, pshaw!" said Ashwoode, turning bitterly away.

"I tell you I'm speaking what I mean," rejoined Blarden; "I'll not send
you there _now_ at any rate. I want to have a bit of chat with you this
evening, and it shall rest with you whether you go there at all or not;
I'll give you the choice fairly. We'll meet, then, at Morley Court this
evening, at eight o'clock; and for fear of accidents in the meantime,
you'll have no objection to our mutual friend, Mr. Chancey, and our
common acquaintance, Mr. Grimes, accompanying you home in the coach,
and just keeping an eye on you till I come, for fear you might be out
walking when I call--you understand me? But here's Grimes. Mr. Grimes,
my particular friend Sir Henry Ashwoode has taken an extraordinary
remarkable fancy to you, and wishes to know whether you'll do him the
favour to take a jaunt with him in a carriage to see his house at
Morley Court, and to spend the day with him and Mr. Chancey, for he
finds that his health requires him to keep at home, and he has a
particular objection to be left alone, even for a minute. Sir Henry,
the coach is at the door. You'd better bundle up your bank-notes, they
may be useful to you. Chancey, tell Sir Henry's groom, as you pass,
that he'll not want his horse any more to-day."

The party went out; Sir Henry, pale as death, and scarcely able to
support himself on his limbs, walking between Chancey and the herculean
constable. Blarden saw them safely shut up in the vehicle, and giving
the coachman his orders, gazed after them as they drove away in the
direction of Morley Court, with a flushed face and a bounding heart.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

STRANGE GUESTS AT THE MANOR.


The coach jingled, jolted, and rumbled on, and Ashwoode lay back in the
crazy conveyance in a kind of stupefied apathy. The scene which had
just closed was, in his mind, a chaos of horrible confusion--a hideous,
stunning dream, whose incidents, as they floated through his passive
memory, seemed like unreal and terrific exaggerations, into whose
reality he wanted energy and power to inquire. Still before him sate a
breathing evidence of the truth of all these confused and horrible
recollections--the stalwart, ruffianly figure of the constable--with
his great red horny hands, and greasy cuffs, and the heavy coat
buttoned up to his unshorn chin--and the short, discoloured pipe,
protruding from the corner of his mouth--lounging back with half-closed
eyes, and the air of a man who had passed the night in wearisome vigils
among strife and riot, and who has acquired the compensating power of
dividing his faculties at all times pretty nearly between sleep and
waking--a kind of sottish, semi-existence--something between that of a
swine and a sloth. Over this figure the eyes of the young man vacantly
wandered, and thence to the cheerful fields and trees visible from the
window, and back again to the burly constable, until every seam and
button in his coat grew familiar to his mind as the oldest tenants of
his memory. Beside him, too, sate Chancey--his artful, cowardly
betrayer. Yet even against him he could not feel anger; all energy of
thought and feeling seemed lost to him; and nothing but a dull
ambiguous incredulity and a scared stupor were there in their stead.
On--on they rolled and rumbled, among pleasant fields and stately
hedge-rows, toward the ancestral dwelling of the miserable prisoner,
who sate like a lifeless effigy, yielding passively to every jolt and
movement of the carriage.

"I say, Grimes, were you ever out here before?" inquired Mr. Chancey.
"We'll soon be in the manor, driving up to Morley Court. It's a fine
place, I'm given to understand. I never was here but once before, long
as I know Sir Henry; but better late than never. Do you know this
place, Mr. Grimes?"

A negative grunt and a short nod relieved Mr. Grimes from the painful
necessity of removing his pipe for the purpose of uttering an
articulate answer.

"Oh, dear me, dear me," resumed Mr. Chancey, "but I'm uncommon hungry
and dry. I wish to God we were safe and sound in Sir Henry's house.
Grimes, are _you_ dry?"

Mr. Grimes removed his pipe, and spat upon the coach floor.

"Am I dhry?" said he. "About as dhry as a sprat in a tindher-box,
that's all. Is there much more to go?"

Chancey stretched his head out of the coach window.

"I see the old piers of the avenue," said he; "and God knows but it's I
that's glad we're near our journey's end. Now we're passing in--we're
in the avenue."

Mr. Grimes hereupon uttered a grunt of approbation; and pressing down
the ashes of his pipe with his thumb, he deposited that instrument in
his waistcoat pocket--whence, at the same time, he drew a small plug of
tobacco, which he inserted in his mouth, and rolled it about with his
tongue from time to time during the remainder of their progress.

"Sir Henry, we're arrived," said Chancey, admonishing the baronet with
his elbow--"we're at the hall-door at Morley Court. Sir Henry--dear me,
dear me, he's very abstracted, so he is. I say, Sir Henry, we're at
Morley Court."

Ashwoode looked vacantly in Chancey's face, and then upon the stately
door of the old house, and suddenly recollecting himself, he said with
strange alacrity,--

"Ay, ay--at Morley Court--so we are. Come, then, gentlemen, let us get
down."

Accordingly the three companions descended from the conveyance, and
entered the ancient dwelling-house together.

"Follow me, gentlemen," said Ashwoode, leading the way to a small,
oak-wainscoted parlour. "You shall have refreshments immediately."

He called the servant to the door, and continued addressing himself to
Chancey, and his no less refined companion.

"Order what you please, gentlemen--I can't think of these things just
now; and, sirrah, do you hear me, bring a large vessel of water--my
throat is literally scorched."

"Well, Mr. Chancey, what do you say?" said Grimes. "I'm for a couple of
bottles of sack, and a good pitcher of ale, to begin with, in the way
of liquor."

"Well, it wouldn't be that bad," said Chancey. "What meat have you on
the spit, my good man?"

"I don't exactly know, sir," replied the wondering domestic; "but I'll
inquire."

"And see, my good man," continued Chancey, "ask them whether there
isn't some cold roast beef in the buttery; and if so, bring it up in a
jiffy, for, I declare to G--d I'm uncommon hungry; and let the cook
send up a hot joint directly;--and do you mind, my honest man, light a
bit of a fire here, for it's rather chill, and put plenty of dry
sticks----"

"Give us the ale and the sack this instant minute, do you see," said
Mr. Grimes. "You may do the rest after."

"Yes, you may as well," resumed Chancey; "for indeed I'm lost with the
drooth myself."

"Cut your stick, saucepan," said Mr. Grimes, authoritatively; and the
servant departed in unfeigned astonishment to execute his various
commissions.

Ashwoode threw himself into a seat, and in silence endeavoured to
collect his thoughts. Faint, sick, and stunned, he nevertheless began
gradually to comprehend every particular of his position more and more
fully--until at length all the ghastly truth stood revealed to his
mind's eye in vivid and glaring distinctness. While Ashwoode was
engaged in his agreeable ruminations, Mr. Chancey and Mr. Grimes were
busily employed in discussing the substantial fare which his larder had
supplied, and pledging one another in copious libations of generous
liquor.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE BARGAIN, AND THE NEW CONFEDERATES.


At length the evening came--darkness closed over the old place, and as
the appointed hour approached, Ashwoode became more and more excited.

"I must," thought he, "keep every faculty intensely on the stretch, to
detect, if possible, the nature of their schemes. Blarden and Chancey
have unquestionably hatched some other d----d plot, though what worse
can befall me? _I_ am netted as completely as their worst malice can
desire. It is now seven o'clock. Another hour will determine all my
doubts. Hark you, sirrah!" continued he, raising his voice, and
addressing a servant who had entered the chamber, "I expect a gentleman
upon particular business at eight o'clock. On his arrival conduct him
directly to this room."

He then relapsed into the same train of gloomy and agitated thought.

Chancey and his burly companion both sat snugly before the fire smoking
their pipes in silent enjoyment, while their miserable host paced the
room from wall to wall in mental torments indescribable.

At length the weary interval expired, and within a few minutes of the
appointed hour, Nicholas Blarden was admitted by the servant, and
ushered into the chamber in which Ashwoode expected his arrival.

"Well, Sir Henry," exclaimed Blarden, as he swaggered into the room,
"you seem a little flustered still--eh? Hope you found your company
pleasant. My friends' society is considered uncommon agreeable."

The visitor here threw himself into a chair, and continued--

"By the holy Saint Paul, as I rode up your cursed old dusky avenue, I
began to think the chances were ten to one you had brought your throat
and a razor acquainted before this. I have known men do it under your
circumstances--of course I mean _gentlemen_, with fine friends and
delicate habits, and who could not stand exposure and all that kind of
thing. I say, Mr. Grimes, my sweet fellow, you may leave the room, but
keep within call, do ye mind. Mr. Chancey and I want to have a little
confidential conversation with my friend, Sir Henry. Bundle out, and
the moment you hear me call your name, bolt in again like a shot."

Mr. Grimes, without answering, rose and lounged out of the room.

"Chancey, shut that door," continued Blarden. "Shut it tight, as tight
as a drum. There, to your seat again. _Now_ then, Sir Henry, we may as
well to business; but first of all, sit down. I have no objection to
your sitting. Don't be shy."

Sir Henry Ashwoode _did_ seat himself, and the three members of this
secret council drew their chairs around the table, each with very
different feelings.

"I take it for granted," said Blarden, planting his elbow upon the
table, and supporting his chin upon his hand, while he fixed his
baleful eyes upon the young man, "I take it for granted, and as a
matter of course, that you have been puzzling your brains all day to
come at the reason why I allow you to be sitting in this house, instead
of clapping your four bones under lock and key, in another place."

He paused here, as if to allow his exordium to impress itself upon the
memory of his auditory, and then resumed,--

"And I take it for granted, moreover, that you are not quite fool
enough to imagine that I care one blast if you were strung up by the
hangman, and carved by the doctors, to-morrow--eh?"

He paused again.

"Well, then, it's possible you think I have some end of my own to
serve, by letting the matter stand over this way. And so I _have_, by
----. You think right, if you never thought right before. I _have_ an
object in view, and it lies with you whether it's gained or lost. Do
you mind?"

"Go on--go on--go on," repeated Ashwoode, gloomily.

"What a devil of a hurry you're in," observed Blarden, with a scornful
chuckle. "But don't tear yourself; you'll have it all time enough. Now
I'm going to do great things for you--do you mind me? I'm going, in the
first place, to give you your life and your character--such as it is;
and, what's more, I'll not let you go to jail for debt neither. I'll
not let you be ruined; for Nickey Blarden was never the man to do
things by halves. Do you hear all I'm saying?"

"Yes, yes," said Ashwoode, faintly; "but the condition--come to
that--the condition."

"Well, I _will_ come to that. I will tell you the terms," rejoined
Blarden. "I suppose you need not be told that I am worth a good penny,
no matter how much. At any rate I'm _rich_--that much you _do_ know.
Well, perhaps you'll think it odd that I have not taken up a little to
live more quiet and orderly; in short, that I have not sown my wild
oats, and settled down, and all that, and become what they call an
ornament to society--eh? You, perhaps, wonder how it comes I have not
taken a rib--why I have not got married--eh? Well, I think myself it
_is_ a wonder, especially for such an admirer of the sex as I am, and I
think it's a pity besides, and so I've made up my mind to mend the
matter, do you see, and to take a wife without loss of time. She must
have family, for I want that, and she must have beauty, for I would not
marry the queen without it--family and beauty. I don't ask money; I
have more of my own than I well know what to do with. Family and beauty
is what I require. And I have settled the thing in my own mind, that
the very article I want, just the thing to a nicety, is your
sister--little, bright-eyed Mary--sporting Molly. I wish to marry her,
and her I'll _have_--and that's the long and the short of the whole
business."

"You--_you_ marry my sister," exclaimed Ashwoode, returning the
fellow's insolent gaze with a look of indescribable scorn and
astonishment.

"Yes--I--I myself--I, Nicholas Blarden, with more gold than a man could
count in three lives," shouted Blarden, returning his gaze with a scowl
of defiance--"_I_ condescend to marry the sister of a ruined, beggared
profligate--a common _forger_, who has one foot in the dock at this
minute. Down upon your marrow-bones, and thank me for my
condescension--down, I say."

Overwhelmed with indignation and disgust, Ashwoode could not answer.
All his self-command was required to resist his vehement internal
impulse to strike the fellow to the ground and trample upon him. This
strong emotion, however, had its spring in no generous source. No
thought or care for Mary's feelings or fate crossed his mind; but only
the sense of insulted pride, for even in the midst of all his misery
and abasement, his hereditary pride of birth survived: that this low,
this entirely blasted, this branded ruffian should dare to propose to
ally himself with the Ashwoodes of Morley Court--a family whose blood
was as pure as centuries of aristocratic transmission, and repeated
commixture with that of nobility, could make it--a family who stood, in
consideration and respect, one of the very highest of the country!
Could flesh and blood endure it?

"Make your mind up at once--I have no time to spare; and just remember
that the locality of your night's lodging depends upon your decision,"
said Blarden, coolly, looking at his watch. "If, unfortunately for
yourself, you should resolve against the connection, then you must have
the goodness to accompany us into town to-night, and the law takes its
course quietly with you, and your neck-bone must only reconcile itself
to an ugly bit of a twist. If otherwise, you're a made man. Run the
matter fairly over in your mind, and see which of us two should desire
the thing most. As for me, I tell you plainly, it's a bit of a
fancy--no more--and may pass off in a day or two, for I don't pretend
to be extraordinarily steady in love affairs, and always had rather a
roving eye; and if I _should_ happen to cool, by ----, you'll be in a
nice hobble. So I think you had best take the ball at the hop--do you
mind--and make no mouths at your good fortune."

Blarden paused, and looked at his huge chased-gold watch again, and
laid it on the table, as if to measure Ashwoode's deliberation by the
minute. Meanwhile the young baronet had ample time to recollect the
desperate pressure of his circumstances, which outraged pride had for a
moment half obliterated from his mind, and the process of remembrance
was in no small degree assisted by the heavy tread of the constable,
distinctly audible from the hall.

"Blarden," said Ashwoode, in a voice low and husky with agitation,
"she'll never consent--you can't expect it: she'll never marry you."

"I'm not talking of the girl's consent just now," replied Blarden: "I'm
asking only for _yours_ in the first place. Am I to understand that
you're agreed?"

"Yes," replied Ashwoode, sullenly; "what is there left to me, but to
agree?"

"Then leave me alone to gain _her_ consent," retorted Blarden, with a
brutal smile. "I have a bit of a winning way with me--a knack of my
own--for coming round a girl; and if she don't yield to that, why we
must only try another course. When love is wanting, _obedience_ is the
next best thing: although we can't charm her, she's no girl if we can't
frighten her--eh?"

Ashwoode was silent.

"Now mind, I require your active co-operation," continued Blarden;
"there's to be no shamming. I'm no greenhorn, and know a loaded die
from a fair one. It's not safe to try hocus pocus with me, and if I
don't get the girl, of course you're no brother of mine, and must not
expect me to forget the old score that's between us. Do you understand
me? Unless you bring this marriage about, you must only take the
consequences, and I promise you they'll be of the very ugliest possible
description."

"Agreed, agreed; talk no more of it just now," said Ashwoode,
vehemently--"we understand one another. Tomorrow we may talk of it
again; meanwhile torment me no more!"

"Well, I have said my say," rejoined Blarden, "and have nothing more to
do but to inform you, that I intend passing the night here, and, in
short, to make a visit of a week or so, for it's right the young lady
should have an opportunity of knowing my geography before she marries
me; and besides, I have heard a great account of old Sir Richard's
cellar. Chancey, do you tell my servant to bring my things up to the
room that Sir Henry will point out. Sir Henry, you'll see about my
room--have a bit of fire in it--see to it yourself, mind; for do you
mind, between ourselves, I think it's on the whole your better course
to be uncommonly civil to me. Stir yourselves, gentlemen. And, Chancey,
hand Grimes his fee, and let him be off. We'll try a jug of your
claret, Sir Henry, and a spatchcock, or some little thing of the kind,
and then to our virtuous beds--eh?"

After a carousal protracted to nearly three hours, during which Nickey
Blarden treated his two companions to sundry ballads, and other vocal
efforts somewhat more boisterous than elegant, and supplying frequent
allusion, and not of the most delicate kind, to his contemplated change
of condition, that interesting person proceeded somewhat unsteadily
upstairs to his bed-chamber. With a suspicion, which even his tipsiness
could not overcome, he jealously bolted the door upon the inside, and
laid his sword and pistols upon the table by his bed, remembering that
it was just possible that his entertainer might conceive an expeditious
project for relieving himself of all his troubles, or at least the
greater part of them. These pleasant precautions taken, Mr. Blarden
undressed himself with all celerity and threw himself into bed.

This gentleman's opinion of mankind was by no means exalted, nor at all
complimentary to human nature. Utter, hardened selfishness he believed
to be the master-passion of the human race, and any appeal which
addressed itself to that, he looked upon as irresistible. In applying
this rule to Sir Henry Ashwoode he happened, indeed, to be critically
correct, for the young baronet was in very nearly all points fashioned
precisely according to honest Nickey's standard of humanity. That
gentleman experienced, therefore, no misgivings as to his young
friend's preferring at all hazards to remain at Morley Court, rather
than quit the country, and enter upon a life of vagabond beggary.

"No, no," thought Blarden, "he'll not take leg bail, just because he
can gain nothing earthly by it now; the only thing I can see that could
serve him at all--that is, supposing him to be against the match--is to
cut my throat; however, I don't think he's wild enough to run that
risk, and if he does try it, by ----, he'll have the worst of the
game."

Thus, after a day of unclouded triumph, did Mr. Blarden compose himself
to light and happy slumbers.



CHAPTER XL.

DREAMS--FIRST IMPRESSIONS--THE MAN IN THE PLUM-COLOURED SUIT.


The sun shone cheerily through the casement of the quaint and pretty
little chamber which called Mary Ashwoode its mistress. It was a fresh
and sunny autumn morning; the last leaves rustled on the boughs, and
the thrush and blackbird sang their merry morning lays. Mary sat by the
window, looking sadly forth upon the slopes and woods which caught the
slanting beams of the ruddy sun.

"I have passed, indeed, a very troubled night--I have been haunted with
strange and fearful dreams. I feel very sorrowful and uneasy--indeed,
indeed I do, Carey."

"It's only the vapours, my lady," replied the maid; "a glass of
orange-flower water and camphor is the sovereignest thing in the world
for them."

"Indeed, Carey," continued the young lady, still gazing sadly from the
casement, "I know not why it is so--a foolish dream, wild and most
extravagant, yet still it will not leave me. I cannot shake off this
fear and depression. I will run down stairs and talk with my dear
brother--that may cheer me."

She arose, ran lightly down the stairs, and entered the parlour. The
first object that met her gaze, standing full before her, was a large
and singularly ill-looking man, arrayed in a suit of plum-coloured
cloth, richly laced. It was Nicholas Blarden. With a vulgar swagger,
half abashed and half impudent, the fellow acknowledged her entrance by
retreating a little and making an awkward bow, while a smile and a
leer, more calculated to frighten than to attract, lighted his coarse
and swollen features. The girl looked at this object with a startled
air, she felt that she had seen that sinister face before, but where or
when--whether waking or in a dream, she strove in vain to remember.

"I say, Ashwoode, where's your manners?" said Blarden, turning angrily
towards the young baronet, who was scarcely less confounded at her
sudden entrance than was the girl herself. "What do you stand gaping
there for? Don't you see the young lady wants to know who I am?"

Blarden followed this vehement exhortation with a look which at once
recalled Ashwoode to his senses.

"Mary," said he, approaching, "this is my particular friend, Mr.
Nicholas Blarden. Mr. Blarden, my sister, Miss Mary Ashwoode."

"Your most obedient humble servant, Mistress Mary," said Blarden, with
a gallant air. "Wonderful beautiful weather; d---- me, but it's like
the middle of summer. I'm just going out to take a bit of a tramp among
the bushes and lead goddesses," he added, not feeling, spite of all his
effrontery, quite at his ease in the presence of the elegant and
high-born girl; and, more confounded and abashed by the simple dignity
of her artless nature than he ever remembered to have been before,
under any circumstances whatever, he made his exit from the chamber.

"Who is that man?" said the girl, drawing close to her brother's side,
and clinging timidly to his arm. "His face is familiar to me--I have
seen or dreamed of it before; it has been before me either in some
troubled scene or dream. I feel frightened and oppressed when he is
near me. Who is he, brother?"

"Pshaw! nonsense, girl," said her brother, in vain attempting to appear
unconstrained and at his ease; "he is a very good, honest fellow, not,
as you see, the most polished in the world, but in essentials an
excellent fellow; you'll easily get over your antipathy--his oddity of
manner and appearance is soon forgotten, and in all other points he is
an admirable fellow. Pshaw! you have too much sense to hate a man for
his face and manner."

"I do not hate him, brother," said Mary, "how could I? The man has
never wronged me; but there is something in his eye, in his air and
expression, in his whole appearance, sinister and terrible--something
which oppresses and terrifies me. I can scarcely move or breathe in his
presence. I only hope that I may never meet him so near again."

"Your hope is not likely to be realized, then," replied Ashwoode,
abruptly, "he makes a stay here of a week, or perhaps more."

A silence followed, during which he revolved the expediency of hinting
at once at the designs of Blarden. As he thus paused, moodily plotting
how best to open the subject, the unconscious girl stood beside him,
and, looking fondly in his face, she said,--

"Dear brother, you must not be so sad. When all's done, what have we
lost but some of the wealth which we can spare? We have still enough,
quite enough. You shall live with your poor little sister, and I will
take care of you, and read to you, and sing to you whenever you are
sad; and we will walk together in the old green woods, and be far
happier and merrier than ever we could have been in the midst of cold
and heartless luxury and dissipation. Brother, dear brother, when shall
we go to Incharden?"

"I can't say; I--I don't know that we shall go there at all," replied
he, shortly.

Deep disappointment clouded the poor girl's face for a moment, but as
instantly the sweet smile returned, and she laid her hand
affectionately upon her brother's shoulder, and looked in his face.

"Well, dear brother, wherever you go, there is _my_ home, and there I
will be happy--as happy as being with the only creature that cares for
me now can make me."

"Perhaps there are others who care for you--ay--even more than I do,"
said the young man deliberately, and fixing his eyes upon her
searchingly, as he spoke.

"How, brother; what do you mean?" said the poor girl, faintly, and
turning pale as death. "Have you seen--have you heard from----" She
paused, trembling violently, and Ashwoode resumed,--

"No, no, child; I have neither seen nor heard from anyone whom you know
anything of. Why are you so agitated? Pshaw! nonsense."

"I know not how it is, brother; I am depressed, and easily agitated
to-day," rejoined she; "perhaps it is that I cannot forget a fearful
dream which troubled me last night."

"Tut, tut, child," replied he; "I thought you had other matters to
think of."

"And so I have, God knows, dear brother," resumed she--"so I have; but
this dream haunted me long, and haunts me still; it was about you. I
dreamed that we were walking, lovingly, hand in hand, among the shady
walks in this old place; when, on a sudden, a great savage dog--just
like the old blood-hound you had shot last summer--came, with open jaws
and all its fangs exposed, springing towards us. I threw myself,
terrified, into your arms, but you grasped me, with iron strength, and
held me forth toward the frightful animal. I saw your face; it was
changed and horrible. I struggled--I screamed--and awakened, gasping
with afright."

"A silly, unmeaning dream," said Ashwoode, slightly changing colour,
and turning from her. "You're not such a child, surely, as to let
_that_ trouble you."

"No, indeed, brother," replied she, "I do not suffer it to trouble my
mind; but it has fastened somehow upon my imagination, and spite of all
I can do, the impression remains---- There--there--see that horrible
man staring in at us, from behind the evergreens," she added, glancing
at a large, tufted laurel, which partially screened the unprepossessing
form of Nicholas Blarden, who was intently watching the youthful pair
as they conversed. Perhaps conscious that he had been observed, he
quitted his lurking-place, and plunged deeper into the thick screen of
foliage.

"Dear Henry," said she, turning imploringly toward her brother, "there
is something about that man which frightens me; my heart sickens
whenever I see him. I feel like some poor bird under the eye of a hawk.
I do not feel safe when he is looking at me; there is some evil
influence in his gaze--something bad, satanic, in his look and
presence; I dread him instinctively. For God's sake, dear, dear
brother, do not keep company with him--he will harm you--it cannot lead
to good."

"This is mere folly--downright raving," said Ashwoode, vehemently, but
with an uneasiness which he could not conceal. "He is my guest, and
will remain so for some weeks. I must be civil to him--_both_ of us
must."

"Surely, dear brother--after all I have said--you will not ask me to
associate with him during his stay, since stay he must," urged Mary.

"We ought not to consult our whims at the expense of civility,"
retorted the baronet, drily.

"But surely my presence is not required," urged she.

"You cannot tell how that may be," replied Ashwoode, abruptly, and then
added, abstractedly, as he walked slowly towards the door: "We often
speak, we know not what; we often stand, we know not where--necessity,
fate, destiny--whatever is, _must_ be. Let this be our philosophy,
Mary."

Wholly at a loss to comprehend this incoherent speech, his sister
remained silent for some minutes.

"Well, child, how say you?" exclaimed Ashwoode, turning suddenly round.

"Dear brother," said she, "I would fain not meet that man any more
while he remains here. You will not ask me to come down."

"A truce to this folly," exclaimed Ashwoode, with loud and sudden
emphasis. "You must--you _must_, I say, appear at breakfast, at dinner,
and at supper. You must see Blarden, and talk with him--he's _my_
friend--you _must_ know him." Then checking himself, he added, in a
less vehement tone--"Mary, don't _act_ like a fool--you _are_ none:
these silly fancies must not be indulged--remember, he's _my_ friend.
There, there, be a good girl--no more folly."

He came over, patted her cheek, and then turned abruptly from her, and
left the room. His parting caress, however, was not sufficient to
obliterate the painful impression which his momentary violence had
left, for in that brief space of angry excitement his countenance had
worn the self-same sinister expression which had appalled her in her
last night's dream.



CHAPTER XLI.

OF O'CONNOR AND A CERTAIN TRAVELLING ECCLESIASTIC--AND HOW THE DARKNESS
OVERTOOK THEM.


It has become necessary, in order to a clear and chronologically
arranged exposition of events to return for a little while to our
melancholy young friend, Edmond O'Connor, who, with his faithful
squire, Larry Toole, following in close attendance upon his progress,
was now returning from a last visit to the poor fragment of his
patrimony, the wreck of his father's fortunes, and which consisted of a
few hundred acres of wild woodland, surrounding a small square tower
half gone to decay, and bidding fair to become in a few years a mere
roofless ruin. He had seen the few retainers of his family who still
remained, and bidden them a last farewell, and was now far in his
second day's leisurely journey toward the city of Dublin.

The sun was fast declining among the rich and glowing clouds of an
autumnal evening, and pouring its melancholy lustre upon the woods and
the old towers of Leixlip, as the young man rode into that ancient
town. How different were his present feelings from those with which he
had last traversed the quiet little village--then his bright hopes and
cheery fancies had tinged every object he looked on with their own warm
and happy colouring; but now, alas! how mournful the reverse. With the
sweet illusions he had so fondly cherished had vanished all the charm
of all he saw; the scene was disenchanted now, and all seemed coloured
in the sombre and chastened hues of his own deep melancholy; the river,
with all its brawling falls and windings, filled his ear with plaintive
harmonies, and all its dancing foam-bells, that chased one another down
its broad eddies, glancing in the dim, discoloured light of the evening
sun, seemed but so many images of the wayward courses and light
illusions of human hope; even the old ivy-mantled towers, as he looked
upon their time-worn front, seemed to have suffered a century's decay
since last he beheld them; every scene that met his eye, and every
sound that floated to his ear on the still air of evening, was alike
charged with sadness.

At a slow pace, and with a heart oppressed, he passed the little town,
and soon its trees, and humble roofs, and blue curling smoke were left
far behind him. He had proceeded more than a mile when the sun
descended, and the dusky twilight began to deepen. He spurred his
horse, and at a rate more suited to the limited duration of the little
light which remained, he rode at a sharp trot along the uneven way
toward Dublin. He had not proceeded far at this rate when he overtook a
gentleman on horseback, who was listlessly walking his steed in the
same direction, and who, on seeing a cavalier thus wending his way on
the same route, either with a view to secure good company upon the
road, or for some other less obvious purpose, spurred on also, and took
his place by the side of our young friend. O'Connor looked upon his
uninvited companion with a jealous eye, for his night adventure of a
few months since was forcibly recalled to his memory by the
circumstances of his present situation. The person who rode by his side
was, as well as he could descry, a tall, lank man, with a hooked nose,
heavy brows, and sallow complexion, having something grim and ascetic
in the character of his face. After turning slightly twice or thrice
towards O'Connor, as if doubtful whether to address him, the stranger
at length accosted the young man.

"A fair evening this, sir," said he, "and just cool enough to make a
brisk ride pleasant."

O'Connor assented drily, and without waiting for a renewal of the
conversation, spurred his horse into a canter, with the intention of
leaving his new companion behind. That personage was not, however, so
easily to be shaken off; he, in turn, put his horse to precisely the
same pace, and remarked composedly,--

"I see, sir, you wish to make the most of the light we've left us; dark
riding, they say, is dangerous riding hereabout. I suppose you ride for
the city?"

O'Connor made no answer.

"I presume you make Dublin your halting-place?" repeated the man.

"You are at liberty, sir," replied O'Connor, somewhat sharply, "to
presume what you please; I have good reasons, however, for not caring
to bandy words with strangers. Where I rest for the night cannot
concern anybody but myself."

"No offence, sir--no offence meant," replied the man, in the same even
tone, "and I hope none taken."

A silence of some minutes ensued, during which O'Connor suddenly
slackened his horse's pace to a walk. The stranger made a corresponding
alteration in that of his.

"Your pace, sir, is mine," observed the stranger. "We may as well
breathe our beasts a little."

Another pause followed, which was at length broken by the stranger's
observing,--

"A lucky chance, in truth. A comrade is an important acquisition in
such a ride as ours promises to be."

"I already have one of my own choosing," replied O'Connor drily; "I
ride attended."

"And so do I," continued the other, "and doubtless our trusty squires
are just as happy in the rencounter as are their masters."

A considerable silence ensued, which at length was broken by the
stranger.

"Your reserve, sir," said he, "as well as the hour at which you travel,
leads me to conjecture that we are both bound on the same errand. Am I
understood?"

"You must speak more plainly if you would be so," replied O'Connor.

"Well, then," resumed he, "I half believe that we shall meet
to-night--where it is no sin to speak loyalty."

"Still, sir, you leave me in the dark as to your meaning," replied
O'Connor.

"At a certain well of sweet water," said the man with deliberate
significance--"is it not so--eh--am I right?"

"No, sir," replied O'Connor, "your sagacity is at fault; or else, it
may be, your wit is too subtle, or mine too dull; for, if your
conjectures be correct, I cannot comprehend your meaning--nor indeed is
it very important that I should."

"Well, sir," replied he, "I am seldom wrong when I hazard a guess of
this kind; but no matter--if we meet we shall be better friends, I
promise you."

They had now reached the little town of Chapelizod, and darkness had
closed in. At the door of a hovel, from which streamed a strong red
light, the stranger drew his bridle, and called for a cup of water. A
ragged urchin brought it forth.

"_Pax Domini vobiscum_," said the stranger, restoring the vessel, and
looking upward steadfastly for a minute, as if in mental prayer, he
raised his hat, and in doing so exhibited the monkish tonsure upon his
head; and as he sate there motionless upon his horse, with his sable
cloak wrapped in ample folds about him, and the strong red light from
the hovel door falling upon his thin and well-marked features, bringing
into strong relief the prominences of his form and attire, and shining
full upon the drooping head of the tired steed which he bestrode--this
equestrian figure might have furnished no unworthy study for the pencil
of Schalken.

In a few minutes they were again riding side by side along the street
of the straggling little town.

"I perceive, sir," said O'Connor, "that you are a clergyman. Unless
this dim light deceives me, I saw the tonsure when you raised your hat
just now."

"Your eyes deceived you not--I am one of a religious order," replied
the man, "and perchance not on that account a more acceptable companion
to you."

"Indeed you wrong me, reverend sir," said O'Connor. "I owe you an
apology for receiving your advances as I have done; but experience has
taught me caution; and until I know something of those whom I encounter
on the highway, I hold with them as little communication as I can well
avoid. So far from being the less acceptable a companion to me by
reason of your sacred office, believe me, you need no better
recommendation. I am myself an humble child of the true Church; and her
ministers have never claimed respect from me in vain."

The priest looked searchingly at the young man; but the light afforded
but an imperfect scrutiny.

"You say, sir," rejoined he after a pause, "that you acknowledge our
father of Rome--that you are one of those who eschew heresy, and cling
constantly to the old true faith--that you are free from the mortal
taint of Protestant infidelity."

"That do I with my whole heart," rejoined O'Connor.

"Are you, moreover, one of those who still look with a holy confidence
to the return of better days? When the present order of things, this
usurped government and abused authority, shall pass away like a dark
dream, and fly before the glory of returning truth. Do you look for the
restoration of the royal heritage to its rightful owner, and of these
afflicted countries to the bosom of mother Church?"

"Happy were I to see these things accomplished," rejoined O'Connor;
"but I hold their achievement, except by the intervention of Almighty
Providence, impossible. Methinks we have in Ireland neither the spirit
nor the power to do it. The people are heartbroken; and so far from
coming to the field in this quarrel, they dare not even speak of it
above their breath."

"Young man, you speak as one without understanding. You know not this
people of Ireland of whom you speak. Believe me, sir, the spirit to
right these things is deep and strong in the bosoms of the people. What
though they do not cry aloud in agony for vengeance, are they therefore
content, and at their heart's ease?

    "'Quamvis tacet Hermogenes, cantor tamen atque,
    Optimus est modulator.'

"Their silence is not dumbness--you shall hear them speak plainly yet."

"Well, it may be so," rejoined O'Connor; "but be the people ever so
willing, another difficulty arises--where are the men to lead them
on?--who are they?"

The priest again looked quickly and suspiciously at the speaker; but
the gloom prevented his discerning the features of his companion. He
became silent--perhaps half-repenting his momentary candour, and rode
slowly forward by O'Connor's side, until they had reached the extremity
of the town. The priest then abruptly said,--

"I find, sir, I have been wrong in my conjecture. Our paths at this
point diverge, I believe. You pursue your way by the river's side, and
I take mine to the left. Do not follow me. If you be what you represent
yourself, my command will be sufficient to prevent your doing so; if
otherwise, I ride armed, and can enforce what I conceive necessary to
my safety. Farewell."

And so saying, the priest turned his horse's head in the direction
which he had intimated, rode up the steep ascent which loomed over the
narrow level by the river's side; and his dark form quickly disappeared
beyond the brow of the dusky hill. O'Connor's eyes instinctively
followed the retreating figure of his companion, until it was lost in
the profound darkness; and then looking back for any dim intimation of
the presence of his trusty follower, he beheld nothing but the dark
void. He listened; but no sound of horse's hoofs betokened pursuit. He
shouted--he called upon his squire by name; but all in vain; and at
length, after straining his voice to its utmost pitch for six or ten
minutes without eliciting any other reply than the prolonged barking of
half the village curs in Chapelizod, he turned away, and pursued his
course alone, consoling himself with the reflection that his attendant
was at least as well acquainted with the way as was he himself, and
that he could not fail to reach the "Cock and Anchor" whenever he
pleased to exert himself for the purpose.



CHAPTER XLII.

THE SQUIRES.


O'Connor had scarcely been joined by the priest, when Larry Toole, who
jogged quietly on, pipe in mouth, behind his master, was accosted by
his reverence's servant, a stout, clean-limbed fellow, arrayed in blue
frieze, who rode a large, ill-made horse, and bumped listlessly along
at that easy swinging jog at which our southern farmers are wont to
ride. The fellow had a shrewd eye, and a pleasant countenance withal to
look upon, and might be in years some five or six and thirty.

"God save you, neighbour," said he.

"God save you kindly," rejoined Mr. Toole graciously.

"A plisint evenin' for a quiet bit iv a smoke," rejoined the stranger.

"None better," rejoined Larry, scanning the stranger's proportions, to
see whether, in his own phrase, "he liked his cut." The scrutiny
evidently resulted favourably, for Larry removed his pipe, and handing
it to his new acquaintance, observed courteously, "Maybe you'd take a
draw, neighbour."

"I thank you kindly," said the stranger, as he transferred the utensil
from Larry's mouth to his own. "It's turning cowld, I think. I wish to
the Lord we had a dhrop iv something to warm us," observed he, speaking
out of the unoccupied corner of his mouth.

"We'll be in Chapelizod, plase God," said Larry Toole, "in half an
hour, an' if ould Tim Delany isn't gone undher the daisies, maybe we
won't have a taste iv his best."

"Are _you_ follyin' that gintleman?" inquired the stranger, with his
pipe indicating O'Connor, "that gintleman that the masther is talking
to?"

"I am _so_," rejoined Larry promptly, "an' a good gintleman he is; an'
that's your masther there. What sort is he?"

"Oh, good enough, as masthers goes--no way surprisin' one way or th'
other."

"Where are you goin' to?" pursued Larry.

"I never axed, bedad," rejoined the man, "only to folly on, wherever he
goes--an' divil a hair I care where that is. What way are you two
goin'?"

"To Dublin, to be sure," rejoined Larry. "I wisht we wor there now.
What the divil makes him ride so unaiqual--sometimes cantherin', and
other times mostly walkin'--it's mighty nansinsical, so it is."

"By gorra, I don't know, anless fancy alone," rejoined the stranger.

"Here's your pipe," continued he, after some pause, "an' I thank you
kindly, misther--misther--how's this they call you?"

"Misther Larry Toole is the name I was christened by," rejoined the
gentleman so interrogated.

"An' a rale illegant name it is," replied the stranger. "The Tooles is
a royal family, an' may the Lord restore them to their rights."

"Amen, bedad," rejoined Larry devoutly.

"My name's Ned Mollowney," continued he, anticipating Larry's
interrogatory, "from the town of Ballydun, the plisintest spot in the
beautiful county iv Tipperary. There isn't it's aquil out for fine men
and purty girls." Larry sighed.

The conversation then took that romantic turn which best suited the
melancholy chivalry of Larry's mind, after which the current of their
mutual discoursing, by the attraction of irresistible association, led
them, as they approached the little village, once more into suggestive
commentaries upon the bitter cold, and sundry pleasant speculations
respecting the creature comforts which awaited them under Tim Delany's
genial roof-tree.

"The holy saints be praised," said Ned Mollowney, "we're in the village
at last. The tellin' iv stories is the dhryest work that ever a boy
tuck in hand. My mouth is like a cindher all as one."

"Tim Delany's is the second house beyant that wind in the street," said
Larry, pointing down the road as they advanced. "We'll jist get down
for a minute or two, an' have somethin' warrum by the fire; we'll
overtake the gintlemen asy enough."

"I'm agreeable, Mr. Toole," said the accommodating Ned Mollowney. "Let
the gintlemen take care iv themselves. They're come to an age when they
ought to know what they're about."

"This is it," said Larry, checking his horse before a low thatched
house, from whose doorway the cheerful light was gleaming upon the
bushes opposite.

The two worthies dismounted, and entered the humble place of
entertainment. Tim Delany's company was singularly fascinating, and his
liquor was, if possible, more so--besides, the evening was chill, and
his hearth blazed with a fire, the very sight of which made the blood
circulate freely, and the finger-tops grow warm. Larry Toole was
prepossessed in favour of Ned Mollowney, and Ned Mollowney had fallen
in love with Larry Toole, so that it is hardly to be wondered at that
the two gentlemen yielded to the combined seduction of their situation,
and seated themselves snugly by the fire, each with his due allowance
of stimulating liquor, and with a very vague and uncertain kind of
belief in the likelihood of their following their masters respectively
until they had made themselves particularly comfortable. It was not
until after nearly two hours of blissful communion with his delectable
companion, that Larry Toole suddenly bethought him of the fact that he
had allowed his master, at the lowest calculation, time enough to have
ridden to and from the "Cock and Anchor" at least half a dozen times.
He, therefore, hurriedly bade good-night, with many a fond vow of
eternal friendship for the two companions of his princely revelry,
mounted his horse with some little difficulty, and becoming every
moment more and more confused, and less and less perpendicular, found
himself at length--with an indistinct remembrance of having had several
hundred falls upon every possible part of his body, and upon every
possible geological substance, from soft alluvial mud up to plain
lime-stone, during the course of his progress--within the brick
precincts of the city. The horse, with an instinctive contempt for Mr.
Toole's judgment, wholly disregarded that gentleman's vehement appeals
to the bridle, and quietly pursued his well-known way to the hostelry
of the "Cock and Anchor."

Our honest friend had hardly dismounted, which he did with one eye
closed, and a hiccough, and a happy smile which mournfully contrasted
with his filthy and battered condition, when he at once became
absolutely insensible, from which condition he did not recover till
next morning, when he found himself partially in bed, quite undressed,
with the exception of his breeches, boots, and spurs, which he had
forgotten to remove, and which latter, along with his feet, he had
deposited upon the pillow, allowing his head to slope gently downward
towards the foot of the bed.

As soon as Mr. Toole had ascertained where he was, and begun to
recollect how he came there, he removed his legs from the pillow, and
softly slid upon the floor. His first solicitude was for his clothes,
the spattered and villainous condition of which appalled him; his next
was to endeavour to remember whether or not his master had witnessed
his weakness. Absorbed in this severe effort of memory, he sat upon the
bedside, gazing upon the floor, and scratching his head, when the door
opened, and his friend the groom entered the chamber.

"I say, old gentleman, you've been having a little bit of a spree,"
observed he, gazing pleasantly upon the disconsolate figure of the
little man, who sat in his shirt and jack-boots, staring at him with a
woe-begone and bewildered air. "Why, you had a bushel of mud about your
body when you came in, and no hat at all. Well, you _had_ a pleasant
night of it--there's no denying that."

"No hat;" said Larry desolately. "It isn't possible I dropped my hat
off my head unknownest. Bloody wars, my hat! is it gone in airnest?"

"Yes, young gentleman, you came here bareheaded. The hat _is_ gone, and
that's a fact," replied the groom.

"I thought my coat was bad enough; but--oh! blur-anagers, my hat!"
ejaculated Larry with abandonment. "Bad luck go with the
liquor--tare-an-ouns, my hat!"

"There's a shoe off the horse," observed the groom; "and the seat is
gone out of your breeches as clean as if it never was in it. Well, but
you _had_ a pleasant evening of it--you had."

"An' my breeches desthroyed--ruined beyant cure! See, Tom Berry, take a
blundherbuz, will you, and put me out of pain at wonst. My breeches!
Oh, divil go with the liquor! Holy Moses, is it possible?--my
breeches!"

In an agony of contrition and desperate remorse, Larry Toole clasped
his hands over his eyes and remained for some minutes silent; at length
he said--

"An' what did the masther say? Don't be keeping me in pain--out with it
at wonst."

"What master?" inquired the groom.

"What masther?" echoed Mr. Toole--"why Mr. O'Connor, to be sure."

"I'm sure I can't say," replied the man; "I have not seen him this
month."

"Wasn't he here before me last night?" inquired the little man.

"No, nor after neither," replied his visitor.

"Do you mane to tell me that he's not in the house at all?"
interrogated Mr. Toole.

"Yes," replied he, "Mr. O'Connor is _not_ in the house; the horse did
not cross the yard this month. Will that do you?"

"Be the hoky," said Larry, "that's exthramely quare. But are you raly
sure and quite sartin?"

"Yes, I tell you yes," replied he.

"Well, well," said Mr. Toole, "but that puts me to the divil's rounds
to undherstand it--not come at all. What in the world's gone with
him--not come--where else could he go to? Begorra, the whole iv the
occurrences iv last night is a blaggard mysthery. What the divil's gone
with him--where is he at all?--why couldn't he wait a bit for me an'
I'd iv tuck the best care iv him? but gintlemen is always anruly. What
the divil's keepin' him? I wouldn't be surprised if he made a baste iv
himself in some public-house last night. A man ought never to take a
dhrop more than jist what makes him plisant--bad luck to it. Lend me a
breeches, an' I'll pray for you all the rest of my days. I must go out
at wonst an' look for him; maybe he's at Mr. Audley's lodgings--ay,
sure enough, it's there he is. Bad luck to the liquor. Why the divil
did I let him go alone? Oh! sweet bad luck to it," he continued in
fierce anguish, as he held up the muddy wreck of his favourite coat
before his aching eyes--"my elegant coat--bad luck to it again--an' my
beautiful hat--once more bad luck to it; an' my breeches--oh! it's
fairly past bearin'--my elegant breeches! Bad luck to it for a
threacherous drop--an' the masther lost, and no one knows what's done
with him. Up with that poker, I tell you, and blow my brains out at
once; there's nothing before me in this life but the divil's own
delight--finish me, I tell you, and let me rest in the shade. I'll
never hould up my head again, there's no use in purtendin'. Oh! bad
luck to the dhrink!"

In this distracted frame of mind did Larry continue for nearly an hour,
after which, with the aid of some contributions from the wardrobe of
honest Tom Berry, he clothed himself, and went forth in quest of his
master.



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE WILD WOOD--THE OLD MANSION-HOUSE OF FINISKEA--SECRETS, AND A
SURPRISE.


O'Connor pursued his way towards the city, following the broken
horse-track, which then traversed the low grounds which lie upon the
left bank of the Liffey. The Phoenix Park, or, as it was then called,
the Royal Park, was at the time of which we write a much wilder place
than it now is. There were no trim plantations nor stately clumps of
tufted trees, no signs of care or culture. Broad patches of shaggy
thorn spread with little interruption over the grounds, and regular
roads were then unknown. The darkness became momentarily deeper and
more deep as O'Connor pursued his solitary way; and the difficulty of
proceeding grew every instant greater, for the heavy rains had
interrupted his path with deep sloughs and pools, which became at
length so frequent, and so difficult of passage, that he was fain to
turn from the ordinary track, and seek an easier path along the high
grounds which overhang the river. The close screen of the wild gnarled
thorns which covered the upper level on which he now moved, still
further deepened the darkness; and he became at length so entirely
involved in the pitchy gloom, that he dismounted, and taking his horse
by the head, led him forward through the tangled brake, and under the
knotted branches of the old hoary thorns, stumbling among the briers
and the crooked roots, and every moment encountering the sudden
obstruction, either of some stooping branch, or the trunk of one of the
old trees; so that altogether his progress was as tedious and
unpleasant as it well could be. His annoyance became the greater as he
proceeded; for he was so often compelled to turn aside, and change his
course, to avoid these interruptions, that in the utter darkness he
began to grow entirely uncertain whether or not he was moving in the
right direction. The more he paused, and the oftener he reflected, the
more entirely puzzled and bewildered did he become. Glad indeed would
he have been that he had followed the track upon which he had at first
entered, and run the hazard of all the sloughs and pools which crossed
it; but he was now embarked in another route; and even had he desired
it, so perplexed was he, that he could not have effected his retreat.
Fully alive to the ridiculousness, as well as the annoyance of his
situation, he slowly and painfully stumbled forward, conscious that if
only he could move for half an hour or thereabout consistently in the
same direction, he must disengage himself in some quarter or another
from the entanglement in which he was involved. In vain he looked round
him; nothing but entire darkness encountered him. In vain he listened
for any sound which might intimate the neighbourhood of any living
thing. Nothing but the hushed soughing of the evening breeze through
the old boughs was audible; and he was forced to continue his route in
the same troublesome uncertainty.

At length he saw, or thought he saw, a red light gleaming through the
trees. It disappeared--it came again. He stopped, uncertain whether it
was one of those fitful marsh-fires which but mock the perplexity of
benighted travellers; but no--this light shone clearly, and with a
steady beam, through the branches; and towards it he directed his
steps, losing it now, and again recovering it, till at length, after a
longer probation than he had at first expected, he gained a clear space
of ground, intersected only by a few broken hedges and ditches, but
free from the close wood which had so entirely darkened his advance. In
this position he was enabled to discern that the light which had guided
him streamed from the window of an old shattered house, partially
surrounded by a dilapidated wall, having a few ruinous outhouses
attached to it. In this building he beheld the old mansion-house of
Finiskea, which then occupied the ground on which at present stands the
powder-magazine, and which, by a slight alteration in sound, though
without any analogy in meaning, has given its name to the Phoenix Park.
The light streamed through the diamond panes of a narrow casement; and
still leading his horse, O'Connor made his way over the broken fences
towards the old house. As he approached, he perceived several figures
moving to and fro in the chamber from which the light issued, and
detected, or thought he did so, among them the remarkable form of the
priest who had lately been his companion upon the road. As he advanced,
someone inside drew a curtain across the window, though, as O'Connor
conjectured, wholly unaware of his approach, and thus precluded any
further reconnoitering on his part.

"At all events," thought he, "they can spare me some one to put me upon
my way. They can hardly complain if I intrude upon such an errand."

With this reflection, he led his horse round the corner of the building
to the door, which was sheltered by a small porch roofed with tiles. By
the faint light, which in the open space made objects partially
discernible, he perceived two men, as it appeared to him, fast
asleep--half sitting and half lying on the low step of the door. He had
just come near enough to accost them, when, somewhat to his surprise,
he was seized from behind in a powerful grip, and his arms pinioned to
his sides. A single antagonist he would easily have shaken off; but a
reinforcement was at hand.

"Up, boys--be stirring--open the door," cried the hoarse voice of the
person who held O'Connor.

The two figures started to their feet; their strength, combined with
the efforts of his first assailant, effectually mastered O'Connor, and
one of them shoved the door open.

"Pretty watch you keep," said he, as the party hurried their prisoner,
wholly without the power of resistance, into the house.

Three or four powerful, large-limbed fellows, well armed, were seated
in the hall, and arose on his entrance. O'Connor saw that resistance
against such odds were idle, and resolved patiently to submit to the
issue, whatever it might be.

"Gentlemen that's caught peeping is sometimes made to see more than
they have a mind to," observed one of O'Connor's conductors.

Another removed his sword, and having satisfied himself that he had not
any other weapon upon his person, observed,--

"You may let his elbows loose; but jist keep him tight by the collar."

"Let the gentlemen know there's a bird limed," observed the first
speaker; and one of the others passed from the narrow hall to execute
the mission.

After some little delay, O'Connor, who awaited the result with more of
curiosity and impatience than of alarm, was conducted by two of the
armed men who had secured him through a large passage terminating in a
chamber, which they also traversed, and by a second door at its far
extremity found entrance into a rude but spacious apartment, floored
with tiles, and with a low ceiling of dark plank, supported by
ponderous beams. A large wood fire burned in the hearth, beside which
some half dozen men were congregated; several others were seated by a
massive table, on which were writing materials, with which two or three
of them were busily employed; a number of open letters were also strewn
upon it, and here and there a brace of horse-pistols or a carbine
showed that the party felt neither very secure, nor very much disposed
to surrender without a struggle, should their worst anticipations be
realized, in any attempt to surprise them.

Most of those who were present bore, in their disordered dress and
mud-soiled boots, the evidence of recent travel. They were lighted
chiefly by the broad, uncertain gleam of the blazing wood fire, in
which the misty flame of two or three wretched candles which burned
upon the table shone pale and dim as the last stars of night in the red
dawn of an autumnal sun. In this strong and ruddy light the groups of
figures, variously attired, some seated by the table, and others
standing with their ample cloaks still folded around them, acquired by
the contrast of broad light and shade a character of picturesqueness
which had in it something wild and imposing. This singular tableau
occupied the further end of the room, which was one of considerable
length, and as the prisoner was led forward to the bar of the tribunal,
those who composed it eyed him sternly and fixedly.

"Bind his hands fast," said a lean and dark-featured man, with a
singularly forbidding aspect and a deep, stern voice, who sat at the
head of the table with a pile of papers beside him. Spite of O'Connor's
struggles, the order was speedily executed, and with such good-will
that the blood almost started from his nails.

"Now, sir," continued the same speaker, "who are you, and what may your
errand be?"

"Before I answer your questions you must satisfy me that you have
authority to ask them," replied O'Connor. "Who, I pray, are you, who
dare to seize the person, and to bind the limbs of a free man? I shall
know this ere one of your questions shall have a reply."

"I have seen you, young sir, before--scarce an hour since," observed
one of those who stood by the hearth. "Look at me, and say do you
remember my features?"

"I do," replied O'Connor, who had no difficulty in recognizing those of
the priest who had parted from him so abruptly on that evening--"of
course I recollect your face; we rode side by side from Leixlip
to-day."

"You recollect my caution too--you cannot have forgotten that,"
continued the priest, menacingly. "You know how peremptorily I warned
you against following me, yet you have dogged me here; on your own head
be the consequences--the fool shall perish in his folly."

"I have _not_ dogged you here, sir," replied O'Connor; "I seek my way
to Dublin. The river banks are so soft that a horse had better swim
than seek to keep them; I therefore took the upper ground, and after
losing myself among the woods, at length saw a light, reached it, and
here I am."

The priest heard the statement with a sinister smile.

"A truce to these inventions, sir," said he. "It is indeed _possible_
that you speak the truth, but it is in the highest degree _probable_
that you lie; it is, in a word, plain--satisfactorily plain, that you
followed me hither, as I suspected you might have done; you have dogged
me, sir, and you have seen all that you sought to behold; you have seen
my place of destination and my company. I care not with what motive you
have acted--that is between yourself and your Maker. If you are a spy,
which I shrewdly suspect, Providence has defeated your treason, and
punished the traitor; if mere curiosity impelled you, you will remember
that ill-directed curiosity was the sin which brought death upon
mankind, and cease to wonder that its fruits may be bitter to yourself.
What say you, young man?"

"I have told you plainly how I happened to reach this place," replied
O'Connor; "I have told you once--I will repeat the statement no more;
and once again I ask, on what authority you question me, and dare thus
to bind my hands and keep me here against my will?"

"Authority sufficient to satisfy our own consciences," rejoined the
priest. "The responsibility rests not upon you; enough it is for you to
know that we have the power to detain you, and that we exercise that
power, as we most probably shall _another_, still less conducive to
your comfort."

"You have the power to make me captive, I admit," rejoined
O'Connor--"you have the power to murder me, as you threaten, but though
power to keep or kill is all the justification a robber or a bravo
needs, methinks such an argument should hardly satisfy a consecrated
minister of Christ."

The expression with which the priest regarded the young man grew
blacker and more truculent at this rebuke, and after a silence of a few
seconds he replied,--

"We are doubly authorized in what we do--ay, trebly warranted, young
traitor. God Almighty has given us the instinct of self-defence, which
in a righteous cause it is laudable to consult and indulge; the Church,
too, tells us in these times to deal strictly with the malignant
persecutors of God's truth; and lastly, we have a royal warranty--the
authority of the rightful king of these realms, investing us with
powers to deal summarily with rebels and traitors. Let this satisfy
you."

"I honour the king," rejoined O'Connor, "as truly as any man here,
seeing that _my_ father lost all in the service of his illustrious
sire, but I need some more satisfactory assurance of his delegated
authority than the bare assertion of a violent man, of whom I know
absolutely nothing, and until you show me some instrument empowering
you to act thus, I will not acknowledge your competency to subject me
to an examination, and still resolutely protest against your detaining
me here."

"You refuse, then, to answer our questions?" said the hard-featured
little person who sat at the far end of the table.

"Until you show authority to put them, I peremptorily _do_ refuse to
answer them," replied the young man.

The little person looked expressively at the priest, who appeared to
hold a high influence among the party. He answered the look by
saying,--

"His blood be upon his own head."

"Nay, not so fast, holy father; let us debate upon this matter for a
few minutes, ere we execute sentence," said a singularly noble-looking
man who stood beside the priest. "Remove the prisoner," he added, with
a voice of command, "and keep him strictly guarded."

"Well, be it so," said he, reluctantly.

The little man who sat at the head of the table made a gesture to those
who guarded O'Connor, and the order thus given and sanctioned was at
once carried into execution.



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE DOOM.


The young man was conveyed from the chamber by his two athletic
conductors, the door closed upon the deliberations of the stern
tribunal who were just about to debate upon the question of his life or
death, and he was led round the corner of a lobby, a few steps from the
chamber where his judges sat; a stout door in the wall was pushed open
and he himself thrust through it into a cold, empty apartment, in
perfect darkness, and the door shut and barred behind him.

Here, in solitude and darkness, the horrors of his situation rushed
upon him with tremendous and overwhelming reality. His life was in the
hands of fierce and relentless men, by whom, he had little doubt, he
was already judged and condemned; bound and helpless, he must await,
without the power of hastening or of deferring his fate by a single
minute, the cold-blooded deliberations of the conclave who sat within.
Unable even to hear the progress of the debate on whose result his life
was suspended, a faint and dizzy sickness came upon him, and the cold
dew burst from every pore; ghastly, shapeless images of horror hurried
with sightless speed across his mind, and his brain throbbed with the
fearful excitement of madness. With a desperate effort he roused his
energies; but what could human ingenuity, even sharpened by the
presence of urgent and terrific danger, suggest or devise? His hands
were firmly bound behind his back; in vain he tugged with all his
strength, in the fruitless hope of disengaging the cords which crushed
them together. He groaned in downright agony as, strength and hope
exhausted, he gave up the desperate attempt; nothing then could be
done; there remained for him no hope--no chance. In this horrible
condition he walked with slow steps to and fro in the dark chamber, in
vain endeavouring to compose his terrible agitation.

"Were my hands but free," thought he, "I should let the villains know
that against any odds a resolute man may sell his life dearly. But it
is in vain to struggle; they have bound me here but too securely."

  [Illustration: "He made his way to the aperture."
                 _To face page 223._]

Thus saying, he leaned himself against the partition, to await,
passively, the event which he knew could not be far distant. The
surface against which he leaned was not that of the wall--it yielded
slightly to his pressure--it was a door. With his knee and shoulder he
easily forced it open, and entered another chamber, at the far-side of
which he distinctly saw a stream of light, which, passing through a
chink, fell upon the opposite wall, and, at the same time, he clearly
heard the muffled sound of voices in debate. He made his way to the
aperture through which the light found entrance, and as he did so, the
sound of the voices fell more and more distinctly upon his ear. A small
square, of about two feet each way, was cut in the wall, affording an
orifice through which, probably, the closet in which he stood was
imperfectly lighted in the daytime. A plank shutter was closed over
this, and barred upon the outside, through the imperfect joints of
which the light had found its way, and O'Connor now scanned the
contents of the outer chamber. It was that in which the assembly, in
whose presence he had, but a few minutes before, been standing, were
congregated. A low, broad-shouldered man, whose dress was that of
mourning, and who wore his own hair, which descended in meagre ringlets
of black upon either side, leaving the bald summit of his head exposed,
and who added to the singularity of his appearance not a little by a
long, thick beard, which covered his chin and upper lip--this man, who
sat nearly opposite to the opening through which O'Connor looked, was
speaking and addressing himself to some person who stood, as it
appeared, divided by little more than the thickness of the wall from
the party whose life he was debating.

"And against all this," continued the speaker, "what weighs the life of
one man--one life, at best useless to the country, and useless to the
king--at _best_, I say? What came we here for? No light matter to take
in hand, sirs; to be pursued with no small risk; each comes hither,
_cinctus gladio_, in the cause of the king. That cause with our own
lives we are bound to maintain; and why not, if need be, at the cost of
the lives of others? No good can come of sparing this fellow--at the
best, no advantage to the cause: and, on the other hand, should he
prove a traitor, a spy, or even an idle babbler, the heaviest damage
may befall us. Tush, tush, gentlemen, it is ill straining at gnats in
such times. We are here a court-martial, or no court at all. If I find
that such dangerous vacillation as this carries it in your councils, I
shall, for one, henceforward hang my sword over the mantel-piece, and
obey the new laws. What! one life against such a risk--one execution,
to save the cause and secure us all. To us, who have served in the
king's wars, and hanged rebels by the round dozen--even on suspicion of
being so--such indecision seems incredible. There ought not to be two
words about the matter. Put him to death."

Having thus acquitted himself, this somewhat unattractive personage
applied himself, with much industry and absorption, to the task of
chopping, shredding, rolling up, and otherwise preparing a piece of
tobacco for the bowl of his pipe.

"I confess," said someone whom O'Connor could not see, "that in
pleading what may be said on behalf of this young man, I have no ground
to go upon beyond a mere instinctive belief in the poor fellow's
honesty, and in the truth of his story."

"Pardon me, sir," replied one in whose voice O'Connor thought he
recognized that of the priest, "if I say, that to act upon such
fanciful impressions, as if they were grounded upon evidence, were, in
nine cases out of every ten, the most transcendent and mischievous
folly. I repeat my own conviction, upon something like satisfactory
evidence, that he is _not_ honest. I talked with the fellow this
evening--perhaps a little too freely--but in that conference, if he
lied not, I learned that he belonged to that most dangerous class--the
worst with whom we have to contend--the lukewarm, professing, passive
Catholics--the very stuff of which the worst kind of spies and
informers are made. He, no doubt, guessed, from what I said--for, to be
plain with you, I spoke too freely by a great deal, in the belief, I
know not how assumed, that he was one of ourselves--he guessed, I say,
something of the nature of my mission, and tracked me hither--at all
events, by some strange coincidence, hither he came. It is for you to
weigh the question of probabilities."

"It matters not, in my mind, why or how he came hither," observed the
ill-favoured gentleman, who sate at the head of the table; "he _is_
here, and he hath seen our meeting, and could identify many of us. This
is too large a confidence to repose in a stranger, and I for one do not
like it, and therefore I say let him be killed without any more parley
or debate."

The old man paused, and a silence followed. With an agonized attention,
O'Connor listened for one word or movement of dissent; it came not.

"All agreed?" said the bearded hero, preparing to light his tobacco
pipe at the candle. "Well, so I expected."

The little man who had spoken before him knocked sharply with the butt
of a pistol upon the table, and O'Connor heard the door of the room
open. The same person beckoned with his hand, and one of the stalwart
men who had assisted in securing him, advanced to the foot of the
board.

"Let a grave be digged in the orchard," said he, "and when it is ready,
bring the prisoner out and despatch him, Let it be all done and the
grave closed in half an hour."

The man made a rude obeisance, and left the room in silence.

Bound as he was, O'Connor traced the four walls of the room, in the
vague hope that he might discover some other outlet from the chamber
than that which he had just entered. But in vain; nothing encountered
him but the hard, cold wall; and even had it been otherwise, thus
helplessly manacled, what would it have availed him? He passed into the
room into which he had been first thrust by the two guards, and in a
state little short of frenzy, he cast himself upon the floor.

"Oh God!" said he, "it is terrible to see death thus creeping toward
me, and not to have the power to help myself. I am doomed--my life
already devoted, and before another hour I shall lie under the clay, a
corpse. Is there nothing to be done--no hope, no chance? Oh, God!
nothing!"

As he lay in this strong agony, he heard, or thought he heard, the
clank of the spade upon the stony soil without. The work was begun--the
grave was opened. Madly he strained at the cords--he tugged with more
than human might--but all in vain. Still with horrible monotony he
heard the clank of the iron mattock tinkling and clanking in the
gravelly soil. Oh! that he could have stopped his ears to exclude the
maddening sound. The pulses smote upon his brain like floods of fire.
With closed eyes, and teeth set, and hands desperately clenched, he
drew himself together, in the awful spasms of uncontrollable horror.
Suddenly this fearful paroxysm departed, and a kind of awful calm
supervened. It was no dull insensibility to his real situation, but a
certain collectedness and calm self-possession, which enabled him to
behold the grim adversary of human kind, even arrayed in all the
terrors of his nearest approach, with a steady eye.

"After all, when all's done, what have I to lose? Life had no more joys
for me--happy I could never more have been. Why should the miserable
dread death, and cling to life like cowards? What is it? A brief
struggle--the agony of a few minutes--the instinctive yearnings of our
nature after life; and this over, comes rest--eternal quiet."

He then endeavoured, in prayer, earnestly to commend his spirit to its
Maker. While thus employed he heard steps upon the hard tiles of the
passage. His heart swelled as though it would burst. He rightly guessed
their mission. The bolt was slowly drawn; the dusky light of a lantern
streamed into the room, and revealed upon the threshold the forms of
three tall men.

"Lift him up--rise him, boys," said he who carried the lantern.

"You must come with us," said one of the two who advanced to O'Connor.

Resistance was fruitless, and he offered none. A cold, sick,
overwhelming horror unstrung his joints and dimmed his sight. He
suffered them to lead him passively from the room.



CHAPTER XLV.

THE MAN IN THE CLOAK--AND HIS BED-CHAMBER.


As O'Connor approached the outer door through which he was to pass to
certain and speedy death, it were not easy to describe or analyze his
sensations; every object he beheld in the brief glance he cast around
him as he passed along the hall appeared invested with a strangely
sharp and vivid intensity of distinctness, and had in its aspect
something indefinably spectral and ghastly--like things beheld under
the terrific spell of a waking nightmare. His tremendous situation
seemed to him something unreal, incredible; he walked in an appalling
dream; in vain he strove to fix his thoughts myriads and myriads of
scenes and incidents, never remembered since childhood's days, now with
strange distinctness and wild rapidity whirled through his brain. The
hall-door stood half open, and the fellow who led the way had almost
reached it, when it was on a sudden thrown wide, and a figure, muffled
in a cloak, confronted the funeral procession.

The foremost man raised the ponderous weapon which he carried, and held
it poised in the air, ready to shiver the head of the intruder should
he venture to advance--the two guards who held O'Connor halted at the
same time.

"How's this, Cormack!" said the stranger. "Do you lift your weapon
against the life of a friend?--rub your eyes and waken--how is it you
cannot know me?--you've been drinking, sirrah."

At the sound of the speaker's voice the man at once lowered his hatchet
and withdrew, a little sulkily, like a rebuked mastiff.

"What means all this?" continued he in the cloak, looking searchingly
at the party in the rear; "whom have we got here?--where made you this
prisoner? So, so--this must be looked to. How were you about to deal
with him, fellow?" he added, addressing himself to him whom he had
first encountered.

"According to orders, captain," replied the man, doggedly.

"And how may that have been?" interrogated the gentleman in the cloak.

"_End_ him," replied he, sulkily.

"Has he been before the council in the great parlour?" inquired the
stranger.

"Yes, captain--long enough, too," replied the fellow.

"And _they_ have ordered this execution?" added the newly arrived.

"Yes, sir--who else? Come on, boys--bring him out, will you? Time is
running short," he added, addressing his comrades, and himself
approaching the door.

"Re-conduct the prisoner to the council-board," said the stranger, in a
tone of command.

Without a moment's hesitation they obeyed the order; and O'Connor,
followed by the muffled figure of the stranger, for the second time
entered the apartment where his relentless judges sate.

The new-comer strode up the room to the table at which the self-styled
council were seated.

"God save you, gentlemen," said he, "and prosper the good work ye have
taken in hand;" and thus speaking, he removed and cast upon the table
his hat and cloak, thereby revealing the square-built form and harsh
features of O'Hanlon.

O'Connor no sooner recognized the traits of his mysterious
acquaintance, than he felt a hope which thrilled with a strange agony
of his heart--a hope--almost a conviction--that he should escape; and
unaccountable though it may appear, in this hope he felt more unmanned
and agitated than he had done but a few moments before, in the apparent
certainty of immediate and inevitable destruction.

The salutation of O'Hanlon was warmly, almost enthusiastically,
returned, and after this interchange of friendly greeting, and a few
brief questions and answers touching comparatively indifferent matters,
he glanced toward O'Connor, and said,--

"I've so far presumed upon my favour with you, gentlemen, as to stay
your orders in respect of that young gentleman, whom, it would appear,
you have judged worthy of death. Death is a matter whose importance
I've never very much insisted upon--that you know--at least, several
among you, gentlemen, well know it, for you have seen me deal it
somewhat unsparingly when the cause required it; but I profess I do not
care in cool blood to take life upon insufficient reason. Life is
lightly taken; but once gone, who can restore it? Therefore, I think it
very meet that patient consideration should be had of all cases, when
such deliberation is possible and convenient, before proceeding to the
last irrevocable extremity. Pray you inform me upon what charges does
this youth stand convicted, that his life should be forfeit?"

"It is briefly told," replied the priest. "On my way hither I
encountered him; we rode and conversed together; and conjecturing that
he travelled on the same errand as myself, I talked to him more freely
than in all discretion I ought to have done. I discovered my mistake,
and at Chapelizod I turned and left him, telling him with threats _not_
to follow me; yet scarcely had I been here ten minutes, when this
gentleman is found lurking near the house--and about to enter it. He is
seized, bound, brought in here, and witnesses our assembly and
proceedings. Under these suspicious circumstances, and with the
knowledge of our meeting and its objects, were it wise to let him go?
Surely not so--but the veriest madness."

"Young man," said O'Hanlon, turning to O'Connor, "what say you to
this?"

"No more than what I already told these gentlemen--simply, that taking
the upper level to avoid the sloughs by the river side, I became in the
darkness entangled in the dense woods which cover these grounds, and at
length, after groping my way through the trees as best I might, arrived
by the merest chance at this place, and without the slightest
knowledge, or even suspicion, either that I was following the course
taken by that gentleman, or intruding myself upon any secret councils.
I have no more to say--this is the simple truth."

"Well, gentlemen," said O'Hanlon, "you hear the prisoner's defence.
What think you?"

"We have decided already, and he has now produced nothing new in his
favour. I see no reason why we should alter our decision," replied the
priest.

"You would, then, put him to death?" inquired he.

"Assuredly," replied the priest, calmly.

"But this shall not be, gentlemen; he shall _not_ die. You shall slay
_me_ first," replied O'Hanlon. "I know this youth; and every word he
has spoken I believe. He is the son of one who risked his life a
hundred times, and lost all for the sake of the king and his
country--one who, throughout the desperate and fruitless struggles of
Irish loyalty, was in the field my constant comrade, and a braver and a
better one none ever need desire. The son of such a man shall not
perish by our hands; and for the risk of his talking elsewhere of this
night's adventure, I will be his surety, with my life, that he mentions
it to no one, and nowhere."

A silence of some seconds followed this unexpected declaration.

"Be it so, then," said the priest; "for my part, I offer no
resistance."

"So say I," added the person who sat with the papers by him at the
extremity of the board. "On you, however, Captain O'Hanlon, rest the
whole responsibility of this act."

"On me alone. Were there the possibility of treason in that youth, I
would myself perish ere I should move a hand to save him," replied
O'Hanlon. "I gladly take upon myself the whole accountability, and all
the consequences of the act."

"Your life and liberty are yours, sir," said the priest, addressing
O'Connor; "see that you abuse neither to our prejudice. Unbind and let
the prisoner go."

"Stay," said O'Hanlon. "Mr. O'Connor, I have one request to make."

"It is granted ere it is made. What can I return you in exchange for my
life?" replied O'Connor.

"I wish to speak with you to-night," continued O'Hanlon, "on matters
which concern you nearly. You will remain here--you can have a chamber.
Farewell for the present. Conduct Mr. O'Connor to my apartment," he
added, addressing the attendants, who were employed in loosening the
strained cords which bound his hands; and with this direction, O'Hanlon
mingled with the group at the hearth, and began to converse with them
in a low voice.

O'Connor followed his guide through a narrow, damp-stained corridor,
with tiled flooring, and up a broad staircase, with heavy oaken
balustrades, and steps whose planks seemed worn by the tread of
centuries; and then along another passage, more cheerless still than
the first--several of the narrow windows, by which in the daytime it
was lighted, had now lost every vestige of glass, and even of the
wooden framework in which it had been fixed, and gave free admission to
the fitful night-wind, as well as to the straggling boughs of ivy which
mantled the old walls and clustered shelteringly about the ruined
casements. Screening the candle which he carried behind the flap of his
coat, to prevent its being extinguished by the gusts which somewhat
rudely swept the narrow passage, the man led O'Connor to a chamber,
which they both entered. It was not quite so cheerless as the desolate
condition of the approach to it might have warranted one in expecting;
a wood-fire, which had been recently replenished, blazed and crackled
briskly upon the hearth, and shed an uncertain but cheerful glow
through the recesses of the chamber. It was a spacious apartment, hung
with stamped leather, in many places stained and rotted by the damp,
and here and there hanging in rags from the wall, and exposing the
bare, mildewed plaster beneath. The furniture was scanty, and in
keeping with the place--old, dark, and crazy; and a wretched bed, with
very spare covering, was, as it seemed, temporarily strewn upon the
floor, near the hearth. The man placed the candle upon a small table,
black with age, and patched and crutched up like a battered pensioner,
and flinging some more wood upon the fire, turned and left the room in
silence.

Alone, his first employment was to review again and again the strange
events of that night; his next was to conjecture the nature of
O'Hanlon's promised communication. Baffled in these latter
speculations, he applied himself to examine the old chamber in which he
sat, and to endeavour to trace the half-obliterated pattern of the
tattered hangings. These occupations, along with sundry speculations
just as idle, touching the original of a grim old portrait, faded and
torn, which hung over the fireplace, filled up the tedious hours which
preceded his expected interview with his preserver.

At length the weary interval elapsed, and the anxiously expected moment
arrived. The door opened, and O'Hanlon entered. He approached the young
man, who advanced to meet him, and extending his hand, grasped that of
O'Connor with a warm and friendly pressure.



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE DOUBLE CONFERENCE--OLD PAPERS.


"When last I saw you," said O'Hanlon, seating himself before the
hearth, and motioning O'Connor to take a chair also, "I told you that
you ought to tame your rash young blood, and gave you thereupon an old
soldier's best advice. It seems, however, that you are wayward and
headlong still. Young soldiers look for danger--old ones are content to
meet it when it comes, knowing well that it will come often enough,
uninvited and unsought; nevertheless, we will pass by this night's
adventure, and turn to other matters. First, however, it were meet and
necessary that you should have somewhat to refresh you; you must needs
be weary and exhausted."

"If you can give me some wine, it will be very welcome. I care not for
anything more to-night," replied O'Connor.

"That can I," replied he, "and will myself do you reason." He arose,
and after a few minutes' absence entered with two flasks, whose dust
and cobwebs bespoke their antiquity, and filled two large, long-stemmed
glasses with the generous liquor.

"Young man," said O'Hanlon, "from the moment I saw you in the inner
room yonder, I know not how or wherefore my heart clave to you; and now
knowing you for the son of my true friend, I feel for you the stronger
love. I will tell you now how matters stand with us. I will hide
nothing from you. I am old enough to have learned the last lesson of
experience--the folly of too much suspicion. I will not distrust the
son of Richard O'Connor. I need hardly tell you that those men whom you
saw below stairs are no friends of the ruling powers, but devoted
entirely to the service and the fortunes of the rightful heir of the
throne of England and of Ireland, met here together not without great
peril."

"I had conjectured as much from what I myself witnessed," rejoined
O'Connor.

"Well, then, I tell you this--the cause is not a hopeless one; the
exiled king has warm, zealous, and powerful friends where their
existence is least suspected," continued O'Hanlon. "In the Parliament
of England he has a strong and untiring party undetected--some of them,
too, must soon wield the enormous powers of government, and have
already gotten entire possession of the ear of the Queen; and so soon
as events invite, and the time is ripe for action, a mighty and a
sudden constitutional movement will be made in favour of the prince--a
movement entirely constitutional and in the Parliament. This will,
whether successful or not, raise the intolerant party here into fierce
resistance--the resistance of the firelock and the sword; all the
usurpers, the perjurers, and the plunderers who now possess the wealth
and dignities of this spoiled and oppressed country, will arise in
terror to defend their booty, and unless met and encountered, and
defeated by the party of the young king in this island, will embolden
the malignant rebels of the sister country to imitate their example,
and so overawe the Parliament, and frustrate their beneficent
intentions. To us, therefore, has fallen the humbler but important task
of organizing here, in the heart of this country, and in entire
secrecy, a power sufficient for the occasion. Fain would I have thee
along with us in so great and good a work, but will not urge you now;
think upon it, however--it is not so mad a scheme as you may have
thought, but such a one as looked on calmly, with the cold eye of
reason, seems practicable--ay, sure of success. Ponder the matter,
then; give me no answer now--I will take none--but think well upon it,
and after a week, and not sooner, when you have decided, tell me
whether you will be one of us or not. Meanwhile, I have other matters
to tell you of, in which perhaps your young heart will take a nearer
interest."

He paused, and having replenished their glasses, and thrown a fresh
supply of wood upon the fire, he continued,--

"Are you acquainted with a family named Ashwoode?"

"Yes," replied O'Connor, quickly, "I have known them long."

O'Hanlon looked searchingly at the young man, and then continued,--

"Yes," said he, "I see it is even so--your face betrays it--you loved
the young lady, Mary Ashwoode--deny it not--I am your friend, and seek
not idly or without purpose thus to question you. What thought you of
Henry Ashwoode, now Sir Henry Ashwoode?"

"He was latterly much--_entirely_ my friend," replied O'Connor.

"He so professed himself?" asked O'Hanlon.

"Ay," replied O'Connor, somewhat surprised at the tone in which the
question was put, "he did so profess himself, and repeatedly."

"He is a villain--he has betrayed you," said the elder man, sternly.

"How--what--a villain! Henry Ashwoode deceive me?" said O'Connor,
turning pale as death.

"Yes--unless I've been strangely practised on--he has villainously
deceived alike you and his own sister--pretending friendship, he has
sowed distrust between you."

"But have you evidence of what you say?" cried O'Connor. "Gracious
God--what have I done!"

"I have evidence, and you shall hear and judge of it yourself," replied
O'Hanlon; "you cannot hear it to-night, however, nor I produce it--you
need some rest, and so in truth do I--make use of that poor bed--a
tired brain and weary body need no luxurious couch--I shall see you in
the morning betimes--till then farewell."

The young man would fain have detained O'Hanlon, and spoken with him,
but in vain.

"We have talked enough for this night," said the elder man--"I have it
not in my power now to satisfy you--I shall, however, in the morning--I
have taken measures for the purpose--good-night."

So saying, O'Hanlon left the chamber, and closed the door upon his
young friend, now less than ever disposed to slumber.

He threw himself upon the pallet, the victim of a thousand harassing
and exciting thoughts--sleep was effectually banished; and at length,
tired of the fruitless attitude of repose which he courted in vain, he
arose and resumed his seat by the hearth, in anxious and weary
expectation of the morning.

At length the red light of the dawn broke over the smoky city, and with
a dusky glow the foggy sun emerged from the horizon of chimney-tops,
and threw his crimson mantle of ruddy light over the hoary thorn-wood
and the shattered mansion, beneath whose roof had passed the scenes we
have just described. Never did the sick wretch, who in sleepless
anguish has tossed and fretted through the tedious watches of the
night, welcome the return of day with more cordial greeting than did
O'Connor upon this dusky morn. The time which was to satisfy his doubts
could not now be far distant, and every sound which smote upon his ear
seemed to announce the approach of him who was to dispel them all.

Weary, haggard, and nervous after the fatigues and agitation of the
previous day--unrefreshed by the slumbers he so much required, his
irritation and excitement were perhaps even greater than under other
circumstances they would have been. The torments of suspense were at
length, however, ended--he did hear steps approach the chamber--the
steps evidently of more than one person--the door opened, and O'Hanlon,
followed by Signor Parucci, entered the room.

"I believe, young gentleman, you have seen this person before?" said
O'Hanlon, addressing O'Connor, while he glanced at the Italian.

O'Connor assented.

"Ah! yees," said the Neapolitan, with a winning smile; "he has see me
vary often. Signor O'Connor--he know me vary well. I am so happy to see
him again--vary--oh! vary."

"Let Mr. O'Connor know briefly and distinctly what you have already
told me," said O'Hanlon.

"About the letters?" asked the Italian.

"Yes, be brief," replied O'Hanlon.

"Ah! did he not guess?" rejoined the Neapolitan; "_per crilla!_ the
deception succeed, then--vary coning faylow was old Sir Richard--bote
not half so coning as his son, Sir Henry. He never suspect--Mr.
O'Connor never doubt, bote took all the letters and read them just so
as Sir Henry said he would. _Malora!_ what great meesfortune."

"Parucci, speak plainly to the point; I cannot endure this. Say at once
what has he done--_how_ have I been deceived?" cried O'Connor.

"You remember when the old gentleman--Mr. Audley, I think he is
call--saw Sir Richard--immediately after that some letters passed
between you and Mees Mary Ashwoode."

"I do remember it--proceed," replied O'Connor.

"Mees Mary's letters to you were cold and unkind, and make you think
she did not love you any more," added Parucci.

"Well, well--say on--say on--for God's sake, man--say on," cried
O'Connor, vehemently.

"Those letters you got were not written by her," continued the Italian,
coolly; "they were all wat you call _forged_--written by another
person, and planned by Sir Henry and Sir Reechard; and the same way on
the other side--the letters you wrote to her were all stopped, and read
by the same two gentlemen, and other letters written in stead, and she
is breaking her heart, because she thinks you 'av betrayed her, and
given her up--_rotta di collo!_ they 'av make nice work!"

"Prove this to me, prove it," said O'Connor, wildly, while his eye
burned with the kindling fire of fury.

"I weel prove it," rejoined Parucci, but with an agitated voice and a
troubled face; "bote, _corpo di Plato_, you weel keel me if I
tell--promise--swear--by your honour--you weel not horte me--you weel
not toche me--swear, Signor, and I weel tell."

"Miserable caitiff--speak, and quickly--you are safe--I swear it,"
rejoined he.

"Well, then," resumed the Italian, with restored calmness, "I will
prove it so that you cannot doubt any more--it was I that wrote the
letters for them--I, myself--and beside, here is the bundle with all of
them written out for me to copy--most of them by Sir Henry--you know
his hand-writing--you weel see the character--_corbezzoli!_ he is a
great rogue--and you will find all the _real_ letters from you and Mees
Mary that were stopped--I have them here."

He here disengaged from the deep pocket of his coat, a red leathern
case stamped with golden flowers, and opening it presented it to the
young man.

With shifting colour and eyes almost blinded with agitation, O'Connor
read and re-read these documents.

"Where is Ashwoode?" at length he cried; "bring me to him--gracious
God, what a monster I must have appeared--will she--_can_ she ever
forgive me?"

Disregarding in entire contempt the mean agent of Ashwoode's villainy,
and thinking only of the high-born principal, O'Connor, pale as death,
but with perfect deliberateness, arose and took the sword which the
attendant who conducted him to the room had laid by the wall, and
replacing it at his side, said sternly,--

"Bring me to Sir Henry Ashwoode--where is he? I must speak with him."

"I cannot breeng you to him now," replied Parucci, in internal
ecstasies, "for I cannot say where he is; bote I know vary well where
he weel be to-day after dinner time, in the evening, and I weel breeng
you; bote I hope very moche you are not intending any mischiefs; if I
thought so, I would be vary sorry--oh! vary."

"Well, be it so, if it may not be sooner," said O'Connor, gloomily,
"this evening at all events he shall account with me."

"Meanwhile," said O'Hanlon, "you may as well remain here; and when the
time arrives which this Italian fellow names, we can start. I will
accompany you, for in such cases the arm of a friend can do you no harm
and may secure you fair play. Hear me, you Italian scoundrel, remain
here until we are ready to depart with you, and that shall be whenever
you think it time to seek Sir Henry Ashwoode; you shall have enough to
eat and drink meanwhile; depart, and relieve us of your company."

Signor Parucci smiled sweetly from ear to ear, shrugged, and bowed, and
then glided lightly from the room, exulting in the pleasant conviction
that he had commenced operations against his ungrateful patron, by
involving him in a scrape which must inevitably result in somewhat
unpleasant exposures, and which had beside reduced the question of Sir
Henry's life or death to an even chance.



CHAPTER XLVII.

"THE JOLLY BOWLERS"--THE DOUBLE FRAY AND THE FLIGHT.


At the time of which we write, there lay at the southern extremity of
the city of Dublin, a bowling-green of fashionable resort, well known
as "Cullen's Green." For greater privacy it was enclosed by a brick
wall of considerable height, which again was surrounded by stately rows
of lofty and ancient elms. A few humble dwellings were clustered about
it; and through one of them, a low, tiled public-house, lay the
entrance into this place of pastime. Thitherward O'Connor and O'Hanlon,
having left their horses at the "Cock and Anchor," were led by the wily
Italian.

"The players you say, will not stop till dusk," said O'Connor; "we can
go in, and I shall wait until the party have broken up, to speak to
Ashwoode; in the interval we can mix with the spectators, and so escape
remark."

They were now approaching the little tavern embowered in tufted trees,
and as they advanced, they perceived a number of hack carriages and led
horses congregated upon the road about its entrance.

"Sir Henry is within; that iron-grey is his horse; _sangue dun dua_,
there is no mistake," observed the Neapolitan.

The little party entered the humble tavern, but here they were
encountered by a new difficulty.

"You can't get in to-night, gentlemen--sorry to disappint, gentlemen;
but the green's engaged," said mine host, with an air of mysterious
importance; "a private party, engaged two days since for fear of a
disappint."

"Are they so strictly private, that they would not suffer two gentlemen
to be spectators of their play?" inquired O'Hanlon.

"My orders is not to let anyone in, good, bad, or indifferent, while
they are playing the match; that's _my_ orders," replied the man;
"sorry to disappint, but can't break my word with the gentlemen, you
know."

"Is there any other entrance into the bowling-green?" inquired
O'Connor, "except through that door."

"Divil a one, sir, where would it be?--divil a one, gentlemen," replied
mine host, "no other way in or out."

"We will rest ourselves here for a time, then," said O'Connor.

Accordingly the party seated themselves in the low-roofed chamber
through which the bowlers on quitting the ground must necessarily pass;
and calling for some liquor to prevent suspicion, moodily awaited the
appearance of the young baronet and his companions. Many a stern,
impatient glance of expectation did O'Connor direct to the old door
which alone separated him from the traitor and hypocrite who had with
such monstrous fraud practised upon his unsuspecting confidence. At
length he heard gay laughter and the tread of many feet approaching;
the proprietor of "The Jolly Bowlers" opened the door, and several
merry groups passed them by and took their departure, but O'Connor's
eye in vain sought among them the form of young Ashwoode.

"I see the grey horse still at the door; I know it as well as I know my
own hand," said the Italian; "as sure as I am leeving man, Sir Henry is
there still."

After an interval so considerable that O'Connor almost despaired of the
appearance of Ashwoode, voices were again audible, and steps
approaching the door-way at a slow pace; the time between the first
approach of those sounds, and the actual appearance of those who caused
them, appeared to the overwrought anxiety of O'Connor all but
interminable. At length, however, two figures entered from the
bowling-green--the one was that of a spare but dignified-looking man,
somewhat advanced in years, but carrying in his countenance a singular
expression of jollity and good humour--the other was that of Sir Henry
Ashwoode.

"God be thanked," said O'Hanlon, grasping the hilt of his sword, "here
comes the perjured villain Wharton."

O'Connor had another object, however, and beheld no one existing thing
but only the now hated form of his false friend; both he and O'Hanlon
started to their feet as the two figures entered the small and darksome
room. O'Connor threw himself directly in their path and said,--

"Sir Henry Ashwoode, a word with you."

The appeal was startling and unexpected, and there was in the voice and
attitude of him who uttered it, something of deep, intense, constrained
passion and resolution, which made the two companions involuntarily and
suddenly check their advance. One moment sufficed for Sir Henry to
recognize O'Connor, and another convinced him that his quondam friend
had discovered his treachery, and was there to unmask, perhaps to
punish him. His presence of mind, however, seldom, if ever, forsook him
in such scenes as this--he instantly resolved upon the tone in which to
meet his injured antagonist.

"Pray, sir," said he, with stern _hauteur_, "upon what ground do you
presume to throw yourself thus menacingly in my way? Move aside and let
me pass, or your rashness shall cost you dearly."

"Ashwoode--Sir Henry--you well know there is one consideration which
would unstring my arm if lifted against your life--you presume upon the
forbearance which this respect commands," said O'Connor. "Promise but
this--that you will undeceive your sister, whom you have practised upon
as cruelly as you have on me, and I will call you to no further
account, and inflict no further humiliation."

"Very good, sir, very magnanimous, and exceedingly tragic," rejoined
Ashwoode, scornfully. "Turn aside, sirrah, and leave my path open, or
by the ---- you shall rue it."

"I will not leave the spot on which I stand but with my life, except on
the conditions I have named," replied O'Connor.

"Once more, before I _strike_ you, leave the way," cried Ashwoode,
whose constitutional pugnacity began to be thoroughly aroused. "Turn
aside, sirrah! How dare you confront gentlemen--insolent beggar, how
dare you!"

Yielding to the furious impulse of the moment, Sir Henry Ashwoode drew
his sword, and with the naked blade struck his antagonist twice with no
sparing hand. The passions which O'Connor had, with all his energy,
hitherto striven to master, would now brook restraint no longer; at
this last extremity of insult the blood sprang from his heart in fiery
currents and tingled through every vein; every feeling but the one
deadly sense of outraged pride, of repeated wrong, followed and
consummated by one degrading and intolerable outrage, vanished from his
mind. With the speed of light his sword was drawn and presented at
Ashwoode's breast. Each threw himself into the cautious attitude of
deadly vigilance, and quick as lightning the bright blades crossed and
clashed in the mortal rivalry of cunning fence. Each party was
possessed of consummate skill in the use of the fatal weapon which he
wielded, and several times in the course of the fierce debate, so
evenly were they matched, the two, as by voluntary accommodation,
paused in the conflict to take breath.

With faces pale as death with rage, and a consciousness of the deadly
issue in which alone the struggle could end, and with eyes that glared
like those of savage beasts at bay, each eyed the other. Thus
alternately they paused and renewed the combat, and for long, with
doubtful fortune. In the position of the antagonists there was,
however, an inequality, and, as it turned out, a decisive one--the door
through which Ashwoode and his companion had entered, and to which his
back was turned, lay open, and the light which it admitted fell full in
O'Connor's eyes. This, as all who have handled the foil can tell, is a
disadvantage quite sufficient to determine even a less nicely balanced
contest than that of which we write. After several pauses in the
combat, and as many desperate renewals of it, Ashwoode, in one quick
lunge, passed his blade through his opponent's sword-arm. Though the
blood flowed plenteously, neither party seemed inclined to abate his
deadly efforts. O'Connor's arm began to grow stiff and weak, and the
energy and quickness of his action impaired; the consequences of this
were soon exhibited. Ashwoode lunged twice or thrice rapidly, and one
of these passes, being imperfectly parried, took effect in his
opponent's breast. O'Connor staggered backward, and his hand and eye
faltered for a moment; but he quickly recovered, and again advanced and
again with the same result. Faint, dizzy, and half blind, but with
resolution and rage, enhanced by defeat, he staggered forward again,
wild and powerless, and was received once more upon the point of his
adversary's sword. He reeled back, stood for a moment, his sword
dropped upon the ground, and he shook his empty hand in fruitless
menace at his triumphant antagonist, and then rolled headlong upon the
pavement, insensible, and weltering in gore--the combat was over.

Ashwoode and O'Connor had hardly crossed their weapons when O'Hanlon
sprang forward and sternly accosted Lord Wharton, for it was no other,
who accompanied Ashwoode.

"My lord, you need not interfere," said he, observing a movement on
Lord Wharton's part as if he would have separated the combatants. "This
is a question which all your diplomacy will not arrange--they will
fight it to the end. If you give them not fair play while I secure the
door, I will send my sword through your excellency's body."

So saying, O'Hanlon drew his weapon, and keeping occasional watch upon
Wharton--who, however, did not exhibit any further disposition to
interfere--he strode to the outer door, which opened upon the public
road, and to prevent interruption from that quarter, drew the bar and
secured it effectually.

"Now, my lord," said he, returning and resuming his position, "I have
secured this fortunate meeting against intrusion. What think you, while
our friends are thus engaged, were we, for warmth and exercise sake,
likewise to cross our blades? Will your lordship condescend to gratify
a simple gentleman so far?"

"Out upon you, fellow; know you who I am?" said Wharton, with sturdy
good-humour.

"I know thee well, Lord Wharton--a wily, selfish, double-dealing
politician; a profligate in morals; an infidel in religion; and a
traitor in politics. I know thee--who doth not?"

"Landlord," said Wharton, turning toward that personage, who, with
amazement, irresolution, and terror in his face, inspected these
violent proceedings, "landlord, I say, call in a lackey or two; I'll
bring this ruffian to reason quickly. Have you gotten a pump in the
neighbourhood? Landlord, I say, bestir thyself, or, by ----, I'll spur
thee with my sword-point."

"Stir not, if you would keep your life," said O'Hanlon, in a tone which
the half-stupefied host of "The Jolly Bowlers" dared not disobey. "If
you would not suffer death upon the spot where you stand, do not
attempt to move one step, nor to speak one word. My lord," he
continued, "I am right glad of this rencounter. I would have freely
given half what I possess in the world to have secured it. Believe me,
I will not leave it unimproved. My lord, in plain terms, for ten
thousand reasons I desire your death, and will not leave this place
till I have striven to effect it. Draw your sword, if you be a man;
draw your sword, unless cowardice has come to crown your vices."

O'Hanlon drew his sword, and allowing Wharton hardly time sufficient to
throw himself into an attitude of defence, he attacked him with deadly
resolution. It was well for the viceroy that he was an expert
swordsman, otherwise his career would undoubtedly have been abruptly
terminated upon the floor of "The Jolly Bowlers." As it was, he
received a thrust right through the shoulder, and staggering back,
stumbled and fell upon the uneven pavement which studded the floor.
This occurred almost at the same moment with O'Connor's fall, and
believing that he had mortally hurt his noble antagonist, O'Hanlon,
without stopping to look about him hastily lifted his fallen and
senseless companion from the pavement and bore him in his arms through
the outer door, which the landlord had at length found resolution
enough to unbar. Fortunately a hackney coach stood there waiting for a
chance job from some of the aristocratic bowlers within, and in this
vehicle he hurriedly deposited his inanimate burden, and desiring the
coachman to drive for his life into the city, sprang into the
conveyance himself. Irishmen are proverbially ready at all times to aid
an escape from the fangs of justice, and without pausing to ask a
question, the coachman, to whom the sight of blood and of the naked
sword, which O'Hanlon still carried, was warrant sufficient, mounted
the box with incredible speed, pressed his hat firmly down upon his
brows, shook the reins, and lashed his horses till they smoked again;
and thus, at a gallop, O'Hanlon and his bleeding companion thundered
onward toward the city. Ashwoode did not interfere to stay the
fugitives, for he was not sorry to be relieved of the embarrassment
which he foresaw in having the body of his victim left, as it were, in
his charge. He therefore gladly witnessed its removal, and addressed
himself to Lord Wharton, who was rising with some difficulty from his
prostrate position.

"Are you hurt, my lord?" inquired Ashwoode, kneeling by his side and
assisting him to rise.

"Hush! nothing--a mere scratch. Above all things, make no row about it.
By ----, I would not for worlds that anything were heard of it.
Fortunately, this accident is a trivial one--the blood flows rather
fast, though. Let's get into a coach, if, indeed, the scoundrels have
not run away with the last of them."

They found one, however, at the door, and getting in with all
convenient dispatch, desired the man to drive slowly toward the castle.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

THE STAINED RUFFLES.


We must now return for a brief space to Morley Court. The apartment
which lay beneath what had been Sir Richard Ashwoode's bed-chamber, and
in which Mary and her gay cousin, Emily Copland, had been wont to sit
and work, and read and sing together, had grown to be considered, by
long-established usage, the rightful and exclusive property of the
ladies of the family, and had been surrendered up to their private
occupation and absolute control. Around it stood full many a quaint
cabinet of dark old wood, shining like polished jet, little bookcases,
and tall old screens, and music stands, and drawing tables. These,
along with a spinet and a guitar, and countless other quaint and pretty
sundries indicating the habitual presence of feminine refinement and
taste, abundantly furnished the chamber. In the window stood some
choice and fragrant flowers, and the light fell softly upon the carpet
through the clustering bowers of creeping plants which mantled the
outer wall, in sombre rivalry of the full damask curtains, whose
draperies hung around the deep receding casements.

Here sat Mary Ashwoode, as the evening, whose tragic events we have in
our last chapter described, began to close over the old manor of Morley
Court. Her embroidery had been thrown aside, and lay upon the table,
and a book, which she had been reading, was open before her; but her
eyes now looked pensively through the window upon the fair, sad
landscape, clothed in the warm and melancholy tints of evening. Her
graceful arm leaned upon the table, and her small, white hand supported
her head and mingled in the waving tresses of her dark hair.

"At what hour did my brother promise to return?" said she, addressing
herself to her maid, who was listlessly arranging some books in the
little book-case.

"Well, I declare and purtest, I can't rightly remember," rejoined the
maid, cocking her head on one side reflectively, and tapping her
eyebrow to assist her recollection. "I don't think, my lady, he named
any hour precisely; but at any rate, you may be sure he'll not be long
away now."

"I thought he said seven o'clock," continued Mary; "would he were come!
I feel very solitary to-day; and this evening we might pass happily
together, for that strange man will not return to-night--he said so--my
brother told me so."

"I believe Mr. Blarden changed his mind, my lady," said the maid; "for
I know he gave orders before he went for a fire in his room to-night."

Even as she spoke she heard Sir Henry's step upon the stairs, and her
brother entered the room.

"Harry, Harry, I am so glad to see you," said she, running lightly to
him and throwing her arms around his neck. "Come, come, sit you down
beside me; we shall be happy together at least for this evening. Come,
Harry, come."

So saying she led him, passive and gloomy, to the fireside, and drew a
chair beside that into which he had thrown himself.

"Dear brother, the time seemed so very tedious to-day while you were
away," said she. "I thought it would never pass. Why are you so silent
and thoughtful, brother? has anything happened to vex you?"

"Nothing," said he, glancing at her with a strange expression--"nothing
to vex me--no, nothing--perhaps the contrary."

"Dear brother, have you heard good news? Come and tell me," said she;
"though I fear from the sadness of your face you do but flatter me.
Have you, Harry--have you heard or seen anything that gave you
comfort?"

"No, not comfort; I know not what I say. Have you any wine here?" said
Ashwoode, hurriedly; "I am tired and thirsty."

"No, not here," answered she, somewhat surprised at the oddity of the
question, as well as by the abruptness and abstraction of his manner.

"Carey," said he, "run down--bring wine quickly; I'm exhausted--quite
wearied. I have played more at bowls this afternoon than I've done for
years," he added, addressing his sister as the maid departed on her
errand.

"You do look very pale, brother," said she, "and your dress is all
disordered; and, gracious God!--see all the ruffles of this hand are
steeped in blood--brother, brother, for God's sake--are you hurt?"

"Hurt--I--?" said he hastily, and endeavouring to smile! "no, indeed--I
hurt! far be it from me--this blood is none of mine; one of our party
scratched his hand, and I bound his handkerchief round the wound, and
in so doing contracted these tragic spots that startle you so. No, no,
believe me, when I am hurt I will make no secret of it. Carey, pour
some wine into that glass--fill it--fill it, child--there," and he
drank it off--"fill it again--so two or three more, and I shall be
quite myself again. How snug this room of yours is, Mary."

"Yes, brother, I am very fond of it; it is a pleasant old room, and one
that has often seen me happier than I shall be again," said she, with a
sigh; "but do you feel better? has the wine refreshed you? You still
look pale," she added, with fears not yet half quieted.

"Yes, Mary, I am refreshed," he said, with a sudden and reckless burst
of strange merriment that shocked her; "I could play the match through
again--I could leap, and laugh and sing;" and then he added quickly in
an altered voice--"has Blarden returned?"

"No," said she; "I thought you said he would remain in town to-night."

"I said wrong if I said so at all," replied Ashwoode; "and if he _did_
intend to stay in town he has changed his plans--he will be here this
evening; I thought I should have found him here on my return; I expect
him every moment."

"When, dear brother, is this visit of his to end?" asked the girl
imploringly.

"Not for weeks--for months, I hope," replied Ashwoode drily and
quickly; "why do you inquire, pray?"

"Simply because I wish it were ended, brother," answered she sadly;
"but if it vexes you I will ask no more."

"It _does_ vex me, then," said Ashwoode, sternly; "it _does_, and you
know it"--he accompanied these words with a look even more savage than
the tone in which he had uttered them, and a silence of some minutes
followed.

Ashwoode desired nothing so much as to speak with his sister
intelligibly upon the subject of Blarden's designs, and of his own
entire approval of them; but, somehow, often as he had resolved upon
it, he had never yet approached the topic, even in imagination, in his
sister's presence, without feeling himself unnerved and abashed. He now
strove to fret himself into a rage, in the instinctive hope that under
the influence of this stimulus he might find nerve to broach the
subject in plain terms; he strode quickly to and fro across the floor,
casting from time to time many an angry glance at the poor girl, and
seeking by every mechanical agency to work himself into a passion.

"And so it is come to this at last," said he, vehemently, "that I may
not invite my friends to my own house; or that if I dare to do so, they
shall necessarily be exposed to the constant contempt and rudeness of
those who ought to be their entertainers; all their advances towards
acquaintance met with a hoity-toity, repulsive impertinence, and
themselves treated with a marked and insulting avoidance, shunned as
though they had the plague. I tell you now plainly, once for all, _I
will_ be master in my own house; you shall treat my guests with
attention and respect; you must do so; I command you; you shall find
that I am master here."

"No doubt of it, by ----," ejaculated Nicholas Blarden, himself
entering the room at the termination of Ashwoode's stormy harangue;
"but where the devil is the good of roaring that way? your sister is
not deaf, I suppose? Mistress Mary, your most obedient----"

Mary did not wait for further conference; but rising with a proud mien
and a burning cheek, she left the room and went quickly to her own
chamber, where she threw herself into a chair, covered her eyes with
her hands, and burst into an agony of weeping.

"Well, but she _is_ a fine wench," cried Nicholas Blarden, as soon as
she had disappeared. "The tantarums become her better than good
humour;" so saying, he half filled Ashwoode's glass with wine, and
rinsed it into the fireplace; then coolly filled a bumper and quaffed
it off, and then another and another.

"Sit down here and listen to me," said he to Ashwoode, in that
insolent, domineering tone which he so loved to employ in accosting
him, "sit down here, I say, young man, and listen to me while I give
you a bit of my mind."

Ashwoode, who knew too well the consequences of even murmuring under
the tyranny of his task-master, in silence did as he was commanded.

"I tell you what it is," said Blarden, "I don't like the way this
affair is going on; the girl avoids me; I don't know her, by ----, a
curse better to-day than I did the first day I came into the house;
this won't do, you know; it will never do; you had better strike out
some expeditious plan, or it's very possible I may tire of the whole
concern and cut it back, do you mind; you had better sharpen your wits,
my fine fellow."

"The fault is your own," said Ashwoode gloomily; "if you desire
expedition, you can command it, by yourself speaking to her; you have
not as yet even hinted at your intentions, nor by any one act made her
acquainted with your designs; let her see that you like her; let her
understand you; you have never done so yet."

"She's infernally proud," said Blarden, "just as proud as yourself: but
we know a knack, don't we, for bringing pride to its senses? Eh?
Nothing, I believe, Sir Henry, like _fear_ in such cases; don't you
think so? I've known it succeed sometimes to a miracle--fear of one
kind or another is the only way we have of working men or women. Mind I
tell you she must be frightened, and well frightened too, or she'll run
rusty. I have a knack with me--a kind of gift--of frightening people
when I have a fancy; and if you're in earnest, as I guess you pretty
well are, between us we'll tame her."

"It were not advisable to proceed at once to extremities," said
Ashwoode, who, spite of his constitutional selfishness, felt some odd
sensations, and not of the pleasantest kind, while they thus conversed.
"You must begin by showing your wishes in your manner; be attentive to
her; and, in short, let her unequivocally see the nature of your
intentions; _tell_ her that you want to marry her; and when she
refuses, then it is time enough to commence those--those--other
operations at which you hint."

"Well, d----n me, but there is some sense in what you say," observed
Blarden, filling his glass again. "Umph! perhaps I've been rather
backward; I believe I _have_; she's coy, shy, and a proud little
baggage withal--I like her the better for it--and requires a lot of
wooing before she's won; well, I'll make myself clear on to-morrow. I'm
blessed if she sha'n't understand me beyond the possibility of question
or doubt; and if she won't listen to reason, _then_ we'll see whether
there isn't a way to break her spirit if she was as proud as the
Queen." With these words Blarden arose and drained the flask of wine,
then observed authoritatively,--

"Get the cards and follow me to the parlour. I want something to amuse
me; be quick, d'ye hear?"

And so saying he took his departure, followed by Sir Henry Ashwoode,
whose condition was now more thoroughly abject and degraded than that
of a purchased slave.



CHAPTER XLIX.

OLD SONGS--THE UNWELCOME LISTENER--THE BARONET'S PLEDGE.


Next day Mary Ashwoode sat alone in the same room in which she had been
so unpleasantly intruded upon on the evening before. The unkindness of
her brother had caused her many a bitter tear during the past night,
and although still entirely in the dark as to Blarden's designs, there
was yet something in his manner during the brief moment of their
yesterday evening's rencontre which alarmed her, and suggested, in a
few hurried and fevered dreams which troubled her broken slumbers of
the night past, his dreaded image in a hundred wild and fantastic
adventures.

She sat, as we have already said, alone in the self-same room, and as
mechanically she pursued her work, her thoughts were far away, and
wherever they turned still were they clouded with anxiety and sorrow.
Wearied at length with the monotony of an occupation which availed not
even momentarily to draw her attention from the griefs which weighed
upon her, she threw her work aside, and taking the guitar which in
gayer hours had often yielded its light music to her touch, and trying
to forget the consciousness of her changed and lonely existence in the
happier recollections which returned in these once familiar sounds, she
played and sang the simple melodies which had been her favourites long
ago; but while thus her hands strayed over the chords of the
instrument, and the low and silvery cadences of her sweet voice
recalled many a touching remembrance of the past, she was startled and
recalled at once from her momentary forgetfulness of the present by a
voice close behind her which exclaimed,--

"Capital--never a better--encore, encore;" and on looking hurriedly
round, her glance at once encountered and recognized the form and
features of Nicholas Blarden. "Go on, go on, do," said that gentleman
in his most engaging way, and with an amorous grin; "do--go on, can't
you--by ----, I'm half sorry I said a word."

"I--I would rather not," stammered she, rising and colouring; "I have
played and sung enough--too much already."

"No, no, not at all," continued Blarden, warming as he proceeded; "hang
me, no such thing, you were just going on strong when I came in--come,
come, I won't _let_ you stop."

Her heart swelled with indignation at the coarse, familiar insolence of
his manner; but she made no other answer than that conveyed by laying
down the instrument, and turning from it and him.

"Well, rot me, but this is too bad," continued he, playfully; "come,
take it up again--come, you _must_ tip us another stave, young
lady--do--curse me if I heard half your songs, you're a perfect
nightingale."

So saying he took up the guitar, and followed her with it towards the
fireplace.

"Come, you won't refuse, eh?--I'm in earnest," he continued; "upon my
soul and oath I want to hear more of it."

"I have already told you, sir," said Mary Ashwoode, "that I do not wish
to play or sing any more at present. I am sure you are not aware, Mr.
Blarden, that this is my private apartment; no one visits me here
uninvited, and at present I wish to be alone."

Thus speaking, she resumed her seat and her work, and sat in perfect
silence, her heaving breast and glowing cheeks alone betraying the
strength of her emotions.

"Ho, ho! rot me, but she's sulky," cried Blarden, with a horse-laugh,
while he flung the guitar carelessly upon the table; "sure you wouldn't
turn me out--that would be very hard usage, and no mistake. Eh! Miss
Mary?"

Mary continued to ply her silks in silence, and Blarden threw himself
into a chair opposite to her.

"I like to rise you--hang me, if I don't," said Blarden,
exultingly--"you are always a snug-looking bit of goods, but when your
blood's up, you're a downright beauty--rot me, but you are--why the
devil don't you talk to me--eh?" he added, more roughly than he had yet
spoken.

Mary Ashwoode began now to feel seriously alarmed at the man's manner,
and as her eyes encountered his gloating gaze, her colour came and went
in quick succession.

"Confoundedly pretty, sure enough, and well you know it, too,"
continued he--"curse me, but you _are_ a fine wench--and I'll tell you
what's more--I'm more than half in love with you at this minute, may
the devil have me but I am."

Thus speaking, he drew his chair nearer hers.

"Mr. Blarden--sir--I insist on your leaving me," said Mary, now
thoroughly frightened.

"And _I_ insist on _not_ leaving you," replied Blarden, with an
insolent chuckle--"so it's a fair trial of strength between us,
eh?--ho, ho, what are you afraid of?--stick up to your fight--do
then--I like you all the better for your spirit--confound me but I do."

He advanced his chair still nearer to that on which she was seated.

"Well, but you _do_ look pretty, by Jove," he exclaimed. "I like _you_,
and I am determined to make you like _me_--I am--you _shall_ like me."

He arose, and approached her with a half amorous, half menacing air.

Pale as death, Mary Ashwoode arose also, and moved with hurried,
trembling steps towards the door. He made a movement as if to intercept
her exit, but checked the impulse, and contented himself with observing
with a scowl of spite and disappointment, as she passed from the
room,--

"Pride will have a fall, my fine lady--you'll be tame enough yet for
all your tantarums, by Jove."

Breathless with haste and agitation, Mary reached the study, where she
knew her brother was now generally to be found. He was there engaged in
the miserable labour of looking through accounts and letters, in
arranging the complicated records of his own ruin.

"Brother," said she, running to his side with the earnestness of deep
agitation, "brother, listen to me."

He raised his eyes, and at a glance easily divined the cause of her
excitement.

"Well," said he, "speak on--I hear."

"Brother," she resumed, "that man--that Mr. Blarden, came uninvited
into my study; he was at first very coarse and free in his manner--very
disagreeable and impudent--he refused to leave me when I requested him
to do so, and every moment became more and more insolent--his manner
and language terrified me. Brother, dear brother, you must not expose
me to another such scene as that which has just passed."

Ashwoode paused for a good while, with the pen still in his fingers,
and his eyes fixed abstractedly upon his sister's pale face. At length
he said,--

"Do you wish me to make this a quarrel with Blarden? Was there enough
to warrant a--a duel?"

He well knew, however, that he was safe in putting the question, and in
anticipating her answer, he calculated rightly the strength of his
sister's affection for him.

"Oh! no, no, brother--no!" she cried, with imploring terror; "dear
brother, you are everything to me now. No, no; promise that you will
not!"

"Well, well, I do," said Ashwoode; "but how would you have me act?"

"Do not ask this man to prolong his visit," replied she; "or if he
must, at least let me go elsewhere while he remains here."

"You have but one female relative in Ireland with a house to receive
you," rejoined Ashwoode, "and that is Lady Stukely; and I have reason
to think she would not like to have you as a guest just now."

"Dear Harry--dear brother, think of some place," said she, with earnest
entreaty. "I now feel secure nowhere; that rude man, the very sight of
whom affrights me, will not forbear to intrude upon my privacy;
alone--in my own little room--anywhere in this house--I am equally
liable to his intrusions and his rudeness. Dear brother, take pity on
me--think of some place."

"Curse that beast Blarden!" muttered Sir Henry Ashwoode, between his
teeth. "Will nothing ever teach the ruffian one particle of tact or
common sense? What good end could he possibly propose to himself by
terrifying the girl?"

Ashwoode bit his lips and frowned, while he thought the matter over. At
length he said,--

"I shall speak to Blarden immediately. I begin to think that the man is
not fit company for civilized people. I think we must get rid of him at
whatever temporary inconvenience, without actual rudeness. Without
anything approaching to a quarrel, I can shorten his visit. He shall
leave this either to-night or before seven o'clock to-morrow morning."

"And you promise there shall be no quarrel--no violence?" urged she.

"Yes, Mary, I do promise," rejoined Ashwoode.

"Dear, dear brother, you have set my heart at rest," cried she. "Yes,
you _are_ my own dear brother--my protector!" And with all the warmth
and enthusiasm of unsuspecting love, she threw her arms around his neck
and kissed her betrayer.

Mary had scarcely left the room in which Sir Henry Ashwoode was seated,
when he perceived Blarden sauntering among the trees by the window,
with his usual swagger; the young man put on his hat and walked quickly
forth to join him; as soon as he had come up with him, Blarden turned,
and anticipating him, said,--

"Well, I _have_ spoken out, and I think she understands me too; at any
rate, if she don't, it's no fault of mine."

"I wish you had managed it better," said Ashwoode; "there is a way of
doing these things. You have frightened the foolish girl half out of
her wits."

"Have I, though?" exclaimed Blarden, with a triumphant grin. "She's
just the girl we want--easily cowed. I'm glad to hear it. We'll manage
her--we'll bring her into training before a week--hang me, but we
will."

"You began a little too soon, though," urged Ashwoode; "you ought to
have tried gentle means first."

"Devil the morsel of good in them," rejoined Blarden. "I see well
enough how the wind sits--she don't like me; and I haven't time to
waste in wooing. Once we're buckled, she'll be fond enough of me;
matrimony 'll turn out smooth enough--I'll take devilish good care of
that; but the courtship will be the devil's tough business. We must
begin the taming system off-hand; there's no use in shilly shally."

"I tell you," rejoined Ashwoode, "you have been too precipitate--I
speak, of course, merely in relation to the policy and expediency of
the thing. I don't mean to pretend that constraint may not become
necessary hereafter; but just now, and before our plans are well
considered, and our arrangements made, I think it was injudicious to
frighten her so. She was talking of leaving the house and going to Lady
Stukely's, or, in short, anywhere rather than remain here."

"Threaten to run away, did she?" cried Blarden, with a whistle of
surprise which passed off into a chuckle.

"Yes, in plain terms, she said so," rejoined Ashwoode.

"Then just turn the key upon her at once," replied Blarden--"lock her
up--let her measure her rambles by the four walls of her room! Hang me,
if I can see the difficulty."

Ashwoode remained silent, and they walked side by side for a time
without exchanging a word.

"Well, I believe I'm right," cried Blarden, at length; "I think our
game is plain enough, eh? Don't let her budge an inch. Do you act
turnkey, and I'll pay her a visit once a day for fear she'd forget
me--I'll be her father confessor, eh?--ho, ho!--and between us I think
we'll manage to bring her to before long."

"We must take care before we proceed to this extremity that all our
agents are trustworthy," said Ashwoode. "There is no immediate danger
of her attempting an escape, for I told her that you were leaving this
either to-night or to-morrow morning, and she's now just as sure as if
we had her under lock and key."

"Well, what do you advise? Can't you speak out? What's all the delay to
lead to?" said Blarden.

"Merely that we shall have time to adjust our schemes," replied
Ashwoode; "there is more to be done than perhaps you think of. We must
cut off all possibility of correspondence with friends out of doors,
and we must guard against suspicion among the servants; they are all
fond of her, and there is no knowing what mischief might be done even
by the most contemptible agents. Some little preparation before we
employ coercion is absolutely indispensable."

"Well, then, you'd have me keep out of the way," said Blarden. "But
mind you, I won't leave this; I like to have my own eye upon my own
business."

"There is no reason why you should leave it," rejoined Ashwoode. "The
weather is now cold and broken, so that Mary will seldom leave the
house; and when she remains in it, she is almost always in the little
drawing-room with her work, and books, and music; with the slightest
precaution you can effectually avoid her for a few days."

"Well, then, agreed--done and done--a fair go on both sides," replied
Blarden, "but it must not be too long; knock out some scheme that will
wind matters up within a fortnight at furthest; be lively, or she shall
lead apes, and you swing as sure as there's six sides to a die."



CHAPTER L.

THE PRESS IN THE WALL.


Larry Toole, having visited in vain all his master's usual haunts,
returned in the evening of that day on which we last beheld him, to the
"Cock and Anchor," in a state of extreme depression and desolateness.

"By the holy man," said Larry, in reply to the inquiries of the groom,
who encountered him at the yard gate, "he's gone as clane as a whistle.
It's dacent thratement, so it is--gone, and laves me behind to rummage
the town for him, and divil a sign of him, good or bad. I'm fairly
burstin' with emotions. Why did he make off with himself? Why the devil
did he desart me? There's no apology for sich minewvers, nor no excuse
in the wide world, anless, indeed, he happened to be dhrounded or
dhrunk. I'm fairly dry with the frettin'. Come in with me, and we'll
have a sorrowful pot iv strong ale together by the kitchen fire; for,
bedad, I want something badly."

Accordingly the two worthies entered the great old kitchen, and by the
genial blaze of its cheering hearth, they discussed at length the
probabilities of recovering Larry's lost master.

"Usedn't he to take a run out now and again to Morley Court?" inquired
the groom; "you told me so."

"By the hokey," exclaimed Larry, with sudden alacrity, "there is some
sinse in what you say--bedad, there is. I don't know how in the world I
didn't think iv going out there to-day. But no matter, I'll do it
to-morrow."

And in accordance with this resolution, upon the next day, early in the
forenoon, Mr. Toole pursued his route toward the old manor-house. As he
approached the domain, however, he slackened his pace, and, with
extreme hesitation and caution, began to loiter toward the mansion,
screening his approach as much as possible among the thick brushwood
which skirted the rich old timber that clothed the slopes and hollows
of the manor in irregular and stately masses. Sheltered in his post of
observation, Larry lounged about until he beheld Sir Henry emerge from
the hall door and join Nicholas Blarden in the _tête-à-tête_ which we
have in our last chapter described. Our romantic friend no sooner
beheld this occurrence, than he felt all his uneasiness at once
dispelled. He marched rapidly to the hall door, which remained open,
and forthwith entered the house. He had hardly reached the interior of
the hall, when he was encountered by no less a person than the fair
object of his soul's idolatry, the beauteous Mistress Betsy Carey.

"La, Mr. Laurence," cried she, with an affected start, "you're always
turning up like a ghost, when you're least expected."

"By the powers of Moll Kelly!" rejoined Larry, with fervour, "it's more
and more beautiful, the Lord be merciful to us, you're growin' every
day you live. What the divil will you come to at last?"

"Well, Mr. Toole," rejoined she, relaxing into a gracious smile, "but
you do talk more nonsense than any ten beside. I wonder at you, so I
do, Mr. Toole. Why don't you have a discreeterer way of conversation
and discourse?"

"Och! murdher!--heigho! beautiful Betsy," sighed Larry, rapturously.

"Did you walk, Mr. Toole?" inquired the maiden.

"I did so," rejoined Larry.

"Young master's just gone out," continued the maid.

"So I seen, jewel," replied Mr. Toole.

"An' you may as well come into the parlour, an' have some drink and
victuals," added she, with an encouraging smile.

"Is there no fear of his coming in on me?" inquired Larry, cautiously.

"Tilly vally, man, who are you afraid of?" exclaimed the handmaiden,
cheerily. "Come, Mr. Toole, you used not to be so easily frightened."

"I'll never be afraid to folly your lead, most beautiful and
bewildhering iv famales," ejaculated Mr. Toole, gallantly. "So here
goes; folly on, and I'll attind you behind."

Accordingly, they both entered the great parlour, where the table bore
abundant relics of a plenteous meal, and Mistress Betsy Carey, with her
own fair hands, placed a chair for him at the table, and heaping a
plate with cold beef and bread, laid it before her grateful swain,
along with a foaming tankard of humming ale. The maid was gracious, and
the beef delicious; his ears drank in her accents, and his throat her
ale, and his heart and mouth were equally full. Thus, in a condition as
nearly as human happiness can approach to unalloyed felicity, realizing
the substantial bliss of Mahomet's paradise, Mr. Toole ogled and ate,
and glanced and guzzled in soft rapture, until the force of nature
could no further go on, and laying down his knife and fork, he took one
long last draught of ale, measuring, it is supposed, about three
half-pints, and then, with an easy negligence, wiping the froth from
his mouth with the cuff of his coat, he addressed himself to the fair
dame once more,--

"They may say what they like, by the hokey! all the world over; but
divil bellows me, if ever I seen sich another beautiful, fascinating,
flusthrating famale, since I was the size iv that musthard pot--may the
divil bile me if I did," ejaculated Mr. Toole, rapturously throwing
himself into the chair with something between a sigh and a grunt, and
ready to burst with love and repletion.

The fair maiden endeavoured to look contemptuous; but she smiled in
spite of herself.

"Well, well, Mr. Toole," she exclaimed, "I see there is no use in
talking; a fool's a fool to the end of his days, and some people's past
cure. But tell me, how's Mr. O'Connor?"

"Bedad, it's time for me to think iv it," exclaimed Larry, briskly. "Do
you know what brought me here?"

"How should _I_ know?" responded she, with a careless toss of her head,
and a very conscious look.

"Well," replied Mr. Toole, "I'll tell you at once. I lost the masther
as clane as a new shilling, an' I'm fairly braking my heart lookin' for
him; an' here I come, trying would I get the chance iv hearing some
soart iv a sketch iv him."

"Is that all?" inquired the damsel, drily.

"All!" ejaculated Larry; "begorra. I think it's enough, an' something
to spare. _All!_ why, I tell you the masther's lost, an' anless I get
some news of him here, it's twenty to one the two of us 'ill never meet
in this disappinting world again. _All!_ I think that something."

"An' pray, what should _I_ know about Mr. O'Connor?" inquired the girl,
tartly.

"Did you see him, or hear of him, or was he out here at all?" asked he.

"No, he wasn't. What would bring him?" replied she.

"Then he _is_ gone in airnest," exclaimed Larry, passionately; "he's
gone entirely! I half guessed it from the first minute. By jabers, my
bitther curse attind that bloody little public. He's lost, an' tin to
one he's _in glory_, for he was always unfortunate. Och! divil fly away
with the liquor."

"Well, to be sure," ejaculated the lady's maid, with contemptuous
severity, "but it is surprising what fools some people is. Don't you
think your master can go anywhere for a day or two, but he must bring
_you_ along with him, or ask _your_ leave and licence to go where he
pleases forsooth? Marry, come up, it's enough to make a pig laugh only
to listen to you."

Just at this moment, and when Larry was meditating his reply, steps
were heard in the hall, and voices in debate. They were those of
Nicholas Blarden and of Sir Henry Ashwoode. Larry instantly recognized
the latter, and his companion both of them.

"They're coming this way," gasped Larry, with agonized alarm. "Tare an'
ouns, evangelical girl, we're done for. Put me somewhere quick, or
begorra it's all over with us."

"What's to be done, merciful Moses? Where can you go?" ejaculated the
terrified girl, surveying the room with frantic haste. "The press. Oh!
thank God, the press. Come along, quick, quick, Mr. Toole, for gracious
goodness sake."

So saying, she rushed headlong at a kind of cupboard or press, whose
doors opened in the panelling of the wall, and fumbling with frightful
agitation among her keys, she succeeded at length in unlocking it, and
throwing open its door, exhibited a small orifice of about four feet
and a half by three in the wall.

"Now, Mr. Toole, into it, as you vally your precious life--quick,
quick, for the love of heaven," ejaculated the maiden.

Larry was firmly persuaded that the feat was a downright physical
impossibility; yet with a devotion and desperation which love and
terror combined alone could inspire, he mounted a chair, and, supported
by all the muscular strength of his soul's idol, scrambled into the
aperture. A projecting shelf about half way up threw his figure so much
out of equilibrium, that the task of keeping him in his place was no
light one. By main strength, however, the girl succeeded in closing the
door and locking her visitor fairly in, and before her master entered
the chamber, Mr. Toole became a close prisoner, and the key which
confined him was safely deposited in the charming Betsy's pocket.

Blarden roared lustily to the servants, and with sundry impressive
imprecations, commanded them to remove every vestige of the breakfast
of which the prisoner had just clandestinely partaken. Meanwhile he
continued to walk up and down the room, whistling a lively ditty, and
here and there, at particularly sprightly parts, drumming with his foot
in time upon the floor.

"Well, that job's done at last," said he. "The room's clean and quiet,
and we can't do better than take a twist at the cards. So let's have a
pack, and play your best, d'ye mind."

This was addressed to Ashwoode, who, of course, acquiesced.

"Oh, bloody wars, I'm in for it," murmured Larry, "they'll be playin'
here to no end, and I smothering fast, as it is; I'll never come out iv
this pisition with my life."

Few situations could indeed be conceived physically more uncomfortable.
A shelf projecting about midway pressed him forward, exerting anything
but a soothing influence upon the backbone, so that his whole weight
rested against the door of his narrow prison, and was chiefly sustained
by his breast-bone and chin. In this very constrained attitude, and
afraid to relieve his fatigue by moving even in the very slightest
degree, lest some accidental noise should excite suspicion and betray
his presence, the ill-starred squire remained; his discomforts still
further enhanced by the pouring of some pickles, which had been
overturned upon an upper shelf, in cool streams of vinegar down his
back.

"I could not have betther luck," murmured he. "I never discoorsed a
famale yet, but I paid through the nose for it. Didn't I get enough iv
romance, bad luck to it, an' isn't it a plisint pisition I'm in at
last--locked up in an ould cupboard in the wall, an' fairly swimming in
vinegar. Oh, the women, the women. I'd rather than every stitch of
cloth on my back, I walked out clever an' clane to meet the young
masther, and not let myself be boxed up this way, almost dying with the
cramps and the snuffication. Oh, them women, them women!"

Thus mourned our helpless friend in inarticulate murmurings. Meanwhile
young Ashwoode opened two or three drawers in search of a pack of
cards.

"There are several, I know, in that locker," said Ashwoode. "I laid
some of them there myself."

"This one?" inquired Blarden, making the interrogatory by a sharp
application of the head of his cane to the very panel against which
Larry's chin was resting. The shock, the pain, and the exaggerated
loudness of the application caused the inmate of the press, in spite of
himself, to ejaculate,--

"Oh, holy Pether!"

"Did you hear anything queer?" inquired Blarden, with some
consternation. "Anyone calling out?"

"No," said Ashwoode.

"Well, see what the nerves is," cried Blarden, "by ----, I'd have bet
ten to one I heard a voice in the wall the minute I hit that locker
door--this ---- weather don't agree with me."

This sentence he wound up by administering a second knock where he had
given the first; and Larry, with set teeth and a grin, which in a
horse-collar would have won whole pyramids of gingerbread, nevertheless
bore it this time with the silent stoicism of a tortured Indian.

"The nerves is a ---- quare piece of business," observed Mr. Blarden--a
philosophical remark in which Larry heartily concurred--"but get the
cards, will you--what the ---- is all the delay about?"

In obedience to Ashwoode's summons, Mistress Betsy Carey entered the
room.

"Carey," said he, "open that press and take out two or three packs of
cards."

"I can't open the locker," replied she, readily, "for the young
mistress put the key astray, sir--I'll run and look for it, if you
please, sir."

"God bless you," murmured Larry, with fervent gratitude.

"Hand me that bunch of keys from under your apron," said Blarden, "ten
to one we'll find some one among them that'll open it."

"There's no use in trying, sir," replied the girl, very much alarmed,
"it's a pitiklar soart of a lock, and has a pitiklar key--you'll
ruinate it, sir, if you go for to think to open it with a key that
don't fit it, so you will--I'll run and look for it if you please,
sir."

"Give me that bunch of keys, young woman; give them, I tell you,"
exclaimed Blarden.

Thus constrained, she reluctantly gave the keys, and among them the
identical one to whose kind offices Mr. O'Toole owed his present
dignified privacy.

"Come in here, Chancey," said Mr. Blarden, addressing that gentleman,
who happened at that moment to be crossing the hall--"take these keys
here and try if any of them will pick that lock."

Chancey accordingly took the keys, and mounting languidly upon a chair,
began his operations.

It were not easy to describe Mr. Toole's emotions as these proceedings
were going forward--some of the keys would not go in at all--others
went in with great difficulty, and came out with as much--some entered
easily, but refused to turn, and during the whole of these various
attempts upon his "dungeon keep," his mental agonies grew momentarily
more and more intense, so much so that he was repeatedly prompted to
precipitate the _dénouement_, by shouting his confession from within.
His heart failed him, however, and his resolution grew momentarily
feebler and more feeble--he would have given worlds at that moment that
he could have shrunk into the pickle-pot, whose contents were then
streaming down his back--gladly would he have compounded for escape at
the price of being metamorphosed for ever into a gherkin. His prayers
were, however, unanswered, and he felt his inevitable fate momentarily
approaching.

"This one will do it--I declare to God I have it at last," drawled
Chancey, looking lazily at a key which he held in his hand; and then
applying it, it found its way freely into the key-hole.

"Bravo, Gordy, by ----," cried Blarden, "I never knew you fail
yet--you're as cute as a pet fox, you are."

Mr. Blarden had hardly finished this flattering eulogium, when Chancey
turned the key in the lock: with astonishing violence the doors burst
open, and Larry Toole, Mr. Chancey, and the chair on which he was
mounted, descended with the force of a thunderbolt on the floor. In
sheer terror, Chancey clutched the interesting stranger by the throat,
and Larry, in self-defence, bit the lawyer's thumb, which had by a
trifling inaccuracy entered his mouth, and at the same time, with both
his hands, dragged his nose in a lateral direction until it had
attained an extraordinary length and breadth. In equal terror and
torment the two combatants rolled breathless along the floor; the
charming Betsy Carey screamed murder, robbery, and fire--while Ashwoode
and Blarden both started to their feet in the extremest amazement.

"How the devil did you get into that press?" exclaimed Ashwoode, as
soon as the rival athletes had been separated and placed upon their
feet, addressing Larry Toole.

"Oh! the robbing villain," ejaculated Mistress Betsy Carey--"don't
suffer nor allow him to speak--bring him to the pump, gentlemen--oh!
the lying villain--kick him out, Mr. Chancey--thump him, Sir
Henry--don't spare him, Mr. Blarden--turn him out, gentlemen all--he's
quite aperiently a robber--oh! blessed hour, but it's I that ought to
be thankful--what in the world wide would I do if he came powdering
down on me, the overbearing savage!"

"Och! murder--the cruelty iv women!" ejaculated Larry,
reproachfully--"oh! murdher, beautiful Betsy."

"Don't be talking to me, you sneaking, skulking villain," cried
Mistress Carey, vehemently, "you must have stole the key, so you must,
and locked yourself up, you frightful baste. For goodness gracious
sake, gentlemen, don't keep him talking here--he's dangerous--the
Turk."

"Oh! the villainy iv women!" repeated Larry, with deep pathos.

A brief cross-examination of Mistress Carey and of Larry Toole sufficed
to convict the fair maiden of her share in concealing the prisoner.

"Now, Mr. Toole," said Ashwoode, addressing that personage, "you have
been once before turned out of this house for misconduct--I tell you,
that if you do not make good use of your time, and run as fast as your
best exertions will enable you, you shall have abundant reason to
repent it, for in five minutes more I will set the dogs after you; and
if ever I find you here again, I will have you ducked in the horse-pond
for a full hour--depart, sirrah--away--run."

Larry did not require any more urgent remonstrances to induce him to
expedite his retreat--he made a contrite bow to Sir Henry--cast a look
of melancholy reproach at the beautiful Betsy, who, with a heightened
colour, was withdrawing from the scene, and then with sudden
nimbleness, effected his retreat.

"The fellow," said Ashwoode, "is a servant of that O'Connor, whom I
mentioned to you. I do not think we shall ever have the pleasure of his
company again. I am glad the thing has happened, for it proves that we
cannot trust Carey."

"That it does," echoed Blarden, with an oath.

"Well, then, she shall take her departure hence before a week,"
rejoined Ashwoode. "We shall see about her successor without loss of
time. So much for Mistress Carey."



CHAPTER LI.

FLORA GUY.


"Why, I thought you had done for that fellow, that O'Connor," exclaimed
Blarden, after he had carefully closed the door. "I thought you had
pinked him through and through like a riddle--isn't he dead--didn't you
settle him?"

"So I thought myself, but some troublesome people have the art of
living through what might have killed a hundred," rejoined Ashwoode;
"and I do not at all like this servant of his privately coming here, to
hold conference with my sister's maid--it looks suspicious; if it be,
however, as I suspect, I have effectually countermined them."

"Well, then," replied Blarden, with an oath, "at all events we must set
to work now in earnest."

"The first thing to be done is to find a substitute for the girl whom I
am about to dismiss," said Ashwoode, "we must select carefully, one
whom we can rely upon--do _you_ choose her?"

"Why, I'm no great judge of such cattle," rejoined Blarden. "But here's
Chancey that understands them. I stake this ring to a sixpence he has
one in his eye this very minute that'll fit our purpose to a hair--what
do you say, Gordy, boy--can you hit on the kind of wench we want--eh,
you old sly boots?"

Chancey sat sleepily before the fire, and a languid, lazy smile
expanded his sallow sensual face as he gazed at the bars of the grate.

"Are you tongue-tied, or what?" exclaimed Blarden; "speak out--can you
find us such a one as we want? she must be a regular knowing devil, and
no mistake--as sly as yourself--a dead hand at a scheming game like
this--a deep one."

"Well, maybe I do," drawled Chancey, "I think I know a girl that would
do, but maybe you'd think her too bad."

"She can't be too bad for the work we want her for--what the devil do
you mean by BAD?" exclaimed Blarden.

"Well," continued Chancey, disregarding the last interrogatory, "she's
Flora Guy, she attends in the 'Old Saint Columbkil,' a very arch little
girl--I think she'll do to a nicety."

"Use your own judgment, I leave it all to you," said Blarden, "only get
one at once, do you mind, you know the sort we want."

"I suppose she can't come any sooner than to-morrow, she must have
notice," said Chancey, "but I'll go in there to-day if you like, and
talk to her about it; I'll have her out with you here to-morrow to a
certainty, an' I declare to G---- she's a very smart little girl."

"Do so," said Ashwoode, "and the sooner the better."

Chancey arose, stuffed his hands into his breeches pockets according to
his wont, and with a long yawn lounged out of the room.

"Do you keep out of the way after this evening," continued Sir Henry,
addressing himself to Blarden; "I will tell her that you are to leave
us this night, and that your visit ends; this will keep her quiet until
all is ready, and then she must be tractable."

"Do you run and find her, then," said Blarden, "and tell her that I'm
off for town this evening--tell her at once--and mind, bring me word
what she says--off with you, doctor--ho, ho, ho!--mind, bring me word
what she says--do you hear?"

With this pleasant charge ringing in his ears, Sir Henry Ashwoode
departed upon his honourable mission.

Chancey strolled listlessly into town, and after an easy ramble, at
length found himself safe and sound once more beneath the roof of the
'Old Saint Columbkil.' He walked through the dingy deserted benches and
tables of the old tavern, and seating himself near the hearth, called a
greasy waiter who was dozing in a corner.

"Tim, I'm rayther dry to-day, Timothy," said Mr. Chancey, addressing
the functionary, who shambled up to him more than half asleep; "what
will you recommend, Timothy--what do you think of a pot of light ale?"

"Pint or quart?" inquired Tim shortly.

"Well, we'll say a pint to begin with, Timothy," said Chancey, meekly;
"and do you see, Timothy, if Miss Flora Guy is on the tap; I wish she
would bring it to me herself--do you mind, Timothy?"

Tim nodded and departed, and in a few minutes a brisk step was heard,
and a neat, good-humoured looking wench approached Mr. Chancey, and
planted a pint pot of ale before him.

"Well, my little girl," said Chancey, with the quiet dignity of a
patron, "would you like to get a fine situation in a baronet's family,
my dear; to be own maid to a baronet's sister, where they eat off of
silver every day in the week, and have more money than you or I could
count in a twelve-month?"

"Where's the good of liking it, Mr. Chancey?" replied the girl,
laughing; "it's time enough to be thinking of it when I get the offer."

"Well, you _have_ the offer this minute, my little girl," rejoined
Chancey; "I have an elegant place for you--upon my conscience I
have--up at Morley Court, with Sir Henry Ashwoode; he's a baronet,
dear, and you're to be own maid to Miss Mary Ashwoode."

"It can't be the truth you're telling me," said the girl, in unfeigned
amazement.

"I declare to G--d, and upon my soul, it is the plain truth," drawled
Chancey; "Sir Henry Ashwoode, the baronet, asked me to recommend a
tidy, sprightly little girl, to be own maid to his elegant, fine
sister, and I recommended you--I declare to G--d but I did, and I come
in to-day from the baronet's house to hire you, so I did."

"Well, an' is it in airnest you are?" said the girl.

"What I'm telling you is the rale truth," rejoined Chancey: "I declare
to G--d upon my soul and conscience, and I wouldn't swear that in a
lie, if you like to take the place you can get it."

"Well, well, after _that_--why, my fortune's made," cried the girl, in
ecstasies.

"It is _so_, indeed, my little girl," rejoined Chancey; "your fortune's
made, sure enough."

"An' my dream's out, too; for I was dreaming of nothing but washing,
and that's a sure sign of a change, all the live-long night," cried
she, "washing linen, and such lots of it, all heaped up; well, I'm a
sharp dreamer--ain't I, though?"

"You will take it, then?" inquired Chancey.

"_Will_ I--maybe I won't," rejoined she.

"Well, come out to-morrow," said Chancey.

"I can't to-morrow," replied she; "for all the table-cloth is to be
done, an' I would not like to disappoint the master after being with
him so long."

"Well, can you next day?"

"I can," replied she; "tell me where it is."

"Do you know Tony Bligh's public--the old 'Bleeding Horse?'" inquired
he.

"I do--right well," she rejoined with alacrity.

"They'll direct you there," said Chancey; "ask for the manor of Morley
Court; it's a great old brick house, you can see it a mile away, and
whole acres of wood round it--it's a wonderful fine place, so it is;
remember it's Sir Henry himself you're to see when you go there; an' do
you mind what I'm saying to you, if I hear that you were talking and
prating about the place here to the chaps that's idling about, or to
old Pottles, or the sluts of maids, or, in short, to anyone at all,
good or bad, you'll be sure to lose the situation; so mind my advice,
like a good little girl, and don't be talking to any of them about
where you're going; for it wouldn't look respectable for a baronet to
be hiring his servants out of a tavern--do you mind me, dear."

"Oh, never fear me, Mr. Chancey," she rejoined; "I'll not say a word to
a living soul; but I hope there's no fear the place will be taken
before me, by not going to-morrow."

"Oh! dear me! no fear at all, I'll keep it open for you; now be a good
girl, and remember, don't disappoint."

So saying he drained his pot of ale to the last drop, and took his
departure in the pleasing conviction that he had secured the services
of a fitting instrument to carry out the infernal schemes of his
employers.



CHAPTER LII.

OF MARY ASHWOODE'S WALK TO THE LONESOME WELL--AND OF WHAT SHE SAW
THERE--AND SHOWING HOW SCHEMES OF PERIL BEGAN TO CLOSE AROUND HER.


On the following evening, Mary Ashwoode, in the happy conviction that
Nicholas Blarden was far away, and for ever removed from her
neighbourhood, walked forth at the fall of the evening unattended, to
ramble among the sequestered, but now almost leafless woods, which
richly ornamented the old place. Through sloping woodlands, among the
stately trees and wild straggling brushwood, now densely crowded
together, and again opening in broad vistas and showing the level
sward, and then again enclosing her amid the gnarled and hoary trunks
and fantastic boughs, all touched with the mellow golden hue of the
rich lingering light of evening, she wandered on, now treading the
smooth sod among the branching roots, now stepping from mossy stone to
stone across the wayward brook--now pausing on a gentle eminence to
admire the glowing sky and the thin haze of evening, mellowing all the
distant shadowy outlines of the landscape; and by all she saw at every
step beguiled into forgetfulness of the distance to which she had
wandered.

She now approached what had been once a favourite spot with her. In a
gentle slope, and almost enclosed by wooded banks, was a small clear
well, an ancient lichen-covered arch enclosed it; and all around in
untended wildness grew the rugged thorn and dwarf oak, crowding around
it with a friendly pressure, and embowering its dark clear waters with
their ivy-clothed limbs; close by it stood a tall and graceful ash, and
among its roots was placed a little rustic bench where, in happier
times, Mary had often sat and read through the pleasant summer hours;
and now, alas! there was the little seat and there the gnarled roots
and the hoary stems of the wild trees, and the graceful ivy clusters,
and the time-worn mossy arch that vaulted the clear waters bubbling so
joyously beneath; how could she look on these old familiar friends, and
not feel what all who with changed hearts and altered fortunes revisit
the scenes of happier times are doomed to feel?

For a moment she paused and stood lost in vain and bitter regrets by
the old well-side. Her reverie was, however, soon and suddenly
interrupted by the sound of something moving among the brittle
brushwood close by; she looked quickly in the direction of the noise,
and though the light had now almost entirely failed, she yet
discovered, too clearly to be mistaken, the head and shoulders of
Nicholas Blarden, as he pushed his way among the bushes toward the very
spot where she stood. With an involuntary cry of terror she turned, and
running at her utmost speed, retraced her steps toward the old mansion;
not daring even to look behind her, she pursued her way among the
deepening shadows of the old trees with the swiftness of terror; and,
as she ran, her fears were momentarily enhanced by the sound of heavy
foot-falls in pursuit, accompanied by the loud short breathing of one
exerting his utmost speed. On--on she flew with dizzy haste; the
distance seemed interminable, and her exhaustion was such that she felt
momentarily tempted to forego the hopeless effort, and surrender
herself to the mercy of her pursuer. At length she approached the old
house--the sounds behind her abated; she thought she heard hoarse
volleys of muttered imprecations, but not hazarding even a look behind,
she still held on her way, and at length, almost wild with fear,
entered the hall and threw herself sobbing into her brother's arms.

"Oh God! brother; he's here; am I safe?" and she burst into hysterical
sobs.

As soon as she was a little calmed, he asked her,--

"What has alarmed you, Mary; what have you seen to agitate you so?"

"Oh! brother; have you deceived me; _is_ that fearful man still an
inmate of the house?" she said.

"No; I tell you no," replied Ashwoode, "he's gone; his visit ended with
yesterday evening; he's fifty miles away by this time; tut--tut--folly,
child; you must not be so fanciful."

"Well, brother, _he_ has deceived _you_," she rejoined, with the
earnestness of terror; "he is _not_ gone; he is about this place; so
surely as you stand there, I saw him; and, O God! he pursued me, and
had my strength faltered for a moment, or my foot slipped, I should
have been in his power;" she leaned down her head and clasped her hands
across her eyes, as if to exclude some image of horror.

"This is mere raving, child," said Ashwoode, "the veriest folly; I tell
you the man is gone; you heard, if anything at all, a dog or a hare
springing through the leaves, and your imagination supplied the rest. I
tell you, once for all, that Blarden is threescore good miles away."

"Brother, as surely as I see you, I saw him this night," she replied.
"I could not be mistaken; I saw him, and for several seconds before I
could move, such was the palsy of terror that struck me. I saw him, and
watched him advancing towards me--gracious heaven! for while I could
reckon ten; and then, as I fled, he still pursued; he was so near that
I actually heard his panting, as well as the tread of his
feet;--brother--brother--there was no mistake; there _could_ be none in
this."

"Well, be it so, since you will have it," replied Ashwoode, trying to
laugh it off; "you have seen his _fetch_--I think they call it so. I'll
not dispute the matter with you; but this I will aver, that his
corporeal presence is removed some fifty miles from hence at this
moment; take some tea and get you to bed, child; you have got a fit of
the vapours; you'll laugh at your own foolish fancies to-morrow
morning."


That night Sir Henry Ashwoode, Nicholas Blarden, and their worthy
confederate, Gordon Chancey, were closeted together in earnest and
secret consultation in the parlour.

"Why did you act so rashly--what could have possessed you to follow the
girl?" asked Ashwoode, "you have managed one way or another so
thoroughly to frighten the girl, to make her so fear and avoid you,
that I entirely despair, by fair means, of ever inducing her to listen
to your proposals."

"Well, that does not take me altogether by surprise," said Blarden,
"for I have been suspecting so much this many a day; we must then go to
work in right earnest at once."

"What measures shall we take?" said Ashwoode.

"What measures!" echoed Blarden; "well, confound me if I know what to
begin with, there's such a lot of them, and all good--what do you say,
Gordy?"

"You ought to ask her to marry you off-hand," said Chancey, demurely,
but promptly; "and if she refuses, let her be locked up, and treat her
as if she was _mad_--do you mind; and I'll go to Patrick's-close, and
bring out old Shycock, the clergyman; and the minute she strikes, you
can be coupled; she'll give in very soon, you'll find; little Ebenezer
will do whatever we bid him, and swear whatever we like; we'll all
swear that you and she are man and wife already; and when she denies
it, threaten her with the mad-house; and then we'll see if she won't
come round; and you must first send away the old servants--every
mother's skin of them--and get _new_ ones instead; and that's my
advice."

"It's not bad, either," said Blarden, knitting his brows twice or
thrice, and setting his teeth. "I like that notion of threatening her
with Bedlam; it's a devilish good idea; and I'll give long odds it will
work wonders; what do you say, Ashwoode?"

"Choose your own measures," replied the baronet. "I'm incapable of
advising you."

"Well, then, Gordy, that's the go," said Blarden; "bring out his
reverence whenever I tip you the signal; and he shall have board and
lodging until the job's done; he'll make a tip-top domestic chaplain; I
suppose we'll have family prayers while he stays--eh?--ho,
ho!--devilish good idea, that; and Chancey'll act clerk--eh? won't you,
Gordy?" and, tickled beyond measure at the facetious suggestion, Mr.
Blarden laughed long and lustily.

"I suppose I may as well keep close until our private chaplain arrives,
and the new waiting-maid," said Blarden; "and as soon as all is ready,
I'll blaze out in style, and I'll tell you what, Ashwoode, a precious
good thought strikes me; turn about you know is fair play; and as I'm
fifty miles away to-day, it occurs to me it would be a deuced good plan
to have _you_ fifty miles away to-morrow--eh?--we could manage matters
better if you were supposed out of the way, and that she knew I had the
whole command of the house, and everything in it; she'd be a cursed
deal more frightened; what do you think?"

"Yes, I entirely agree with you," said Ashwoode, eagerly catching at a
scheme which would relieve him of all prominent participation in the
infamous proceedings--an exemption which, spite of his utter
selfishness, he gladly snatched at. "I will do so. I will leave the
house in reality."

"No--no; my tight chap, not so fast," rejoined Blarden, with a savage
chuckle. "I'd rather have my eye on you, if you please; just write her
a letter, dated from Dublin, and say you're obliged to go anywhere you
please for a month or so; she'll not find you out, for we'll not let
her out of her room; and now I think everything is settled to a turn,
and we may as well get under the blankets at once, and be stirring
betimes in the morning."



CHAPTER LIII.

THE DOUBLE FAREWELL.


Next day Mistress Betsy Carey bustled into her young mistress's chamber
looking very red and excited.

"Well, ma'am," said she, dropping a short indignant courtesy, "I'm come
to bid you good-bye, ma'am."

"How--what can you mean, Carey?" said Mary Ashwoode.

"I hope them as comes after me," continued the handmaiden, vehemently,
"will strive to please you in all pints and manners as well as them
that's going."

"Going!" echoed Mary; "why, this can't be--there must be some great
mistake here."

"No mistake at all, ma'am, of any sort or description; the master has
just paid up my wages, and gave me my discharge," rejoined the maid.
"Oh, the ingratitude of some people to their servants is past bearing,
so it is."

And so saying, Mistress Carey burst into a passion of tears.

"There _is_ some mistake in all this, my poor Carey," said the young
lady; "I will speak to my brother about it immediately; don't cry so."

"Oh! my lady, it ain't for myself I'm crying; the blessed saints in
heaven knows it ain't," cried the beautiful Betsy, glancing
devotionally upward through her tears; "not at all and by no means,
ma'am, it's all for other people, so it is, my lady; oh! ma'am, you
don't know the badness and the villainy of people, my lady."

"Don't cry so, Carey," replied Mary Ashwoode, "but tell me frankly what
fault you have committed--let me know why my brother has discharged
you."

"Just because he thinks I'm too fond of you, my lady, and too honest
for what's going on," cried she, drying her eyes in her apron with
angry vehemence, and speaking with extraordinary sharpness and
volubility; "because I saw Mr. O'Connor's man yesterday--and found out
that the young gentleman's letters used to be stopped by the old
master, God rest him, and Sir Henry, and all kinds of false letters
written to him and to you by themselves, to breed mischief between you.
I never knew the reason before, why in the world it was the master used
to make me leave every letter that went between you, for a day or more
in his keeping. Heaven be his bed; I was too innocent for them, my
lady; we were both of us too simple; oh dear! oh dear! it's a quare
world, my lady. And that wasn't all--but who do you think I meets
to-day skulking about the house in company with the young master, but
Mr. Blarden, that we all thought, glory be to God, was I don't know how
far off out of the place; and so, my lady, because them things has come
to my knowledge, and because they knowed in their hearts, so they did,
that I'd rayther be crucified than hide as much as the black of my nail
from you, my lady, they put me away, thinking to keep you in the dark.
Oh! but it's a dangerous, bad world, so it is--to put me out of the way
of tellin' you whatever I knowed; and all I'm hoping for is, that them
that's coming in my room won't help the mischief, and try to blind you
to what's going on;" hereupon she again burst into a flood of tears.

"Good God," said Mary Ashwoode, in the low tones of horror, and with a
face as pale as marble, "_is_ that dreadful man here--have you seen
him?"

"Yes, my lady, seen and talked with him, my lady, not ten minutes
since," replied the maid, "and he gave me a guinea, and told me not to
let on that I seen him--he did--but he little knew who he was speaking
to--oh! ma'am, but it's a terrible shocking bad world, so it is."

Mary Ashwoode leaned her head upon her hand in fearful agitation. This
ruffian, who had menaced and insulted and pursued her, a single glance
at whose guilty and frightful aspect was enough to warn and terrify,
was in league and close alliance with her own brother to entrap and
deceive her--Heaven only could know with what horrible intent.

"Carey, Carey," said the pale and affrighted lady, "for God's sake send
my brother--bring him here--I must see Sir Henry, your master--quickly,
Carey--for God's sake quickly."

The young lady again leaned her head upon her hand and became silent;
so the lady's maid dried her eyes, and left the room to execute her
mission.

The apartment in which Mary Ashwoode was now seated, was a small
dressing-room or boudoir, which communicated with her bed-chamber, and
itself opened upon a large wainscotted lobby, surrounded with doors,
and hung with portraits, too dingy and faded to have a place in the
lower rooms. She had thus an opportunity of hearing any step which
ascended the stairs, and waited, in breathless expectation, for the
sounds of her brother's approach. As the interval was prolonged her
impatience increased, and again and again she was tempted to go down
stairs and seek him herself; but the dread of encountering Blarden, and
the terror in which she held him, kept her trembling in her room. At
length she heard two persons approach, and her heart swelled almost to
bursting, as, with excited anticipation, she listened to their advance.

"Here's the room for you at last," said the voice of an old female
servant, who forthwith turned and departed.

"I thank you kindly, ma'am," said the second voice, also that of a
female, and the sentence was immediately followed by a low, timid knock
at the chamber door.

"Come in," said Mary Ashwoode, relieved by the consciousness that her
first fears had been delusive--and a good-looking wench, with rosy
cheeks, and a clear, good-humoured eye, timidly and hesitatingly
entered the room, and dropped a bashful courtesy.

"Who are you, my good girl, and what do you want with me?" inquired
Mary, gently.

"I'm the new maid, please your ladyship, that Sir Henry Ashwoode hired,
if it pleases you, ma'am, instead of the young woman that's just gone
away," replied she, her eyes staring wider and wider, and her cheeks
flushing redder and redder every moment, while she made another
courtesy more energetic than the first.

"And what is your name, my good girl?" inquired Mary.

"Flora Guy, may it please your ladyship," replied the newcomer, with
another courtesy.

"Well, Flora," said her new mistress, "have you ever been in service
before?"

"No, ma'am, if you please," replied she, "unless in the old Saint
Columbkil."

"The old Saint Columbkil," rejoined Mary. "What is that, my good girl?"

The ignorance implied in this question was so incredibly absurd, that
spite of all her fears and all her modesty, the girl smiled, and looked
down upon the floor, and then coloured to the eyes at her own
presumption.

"It's the great wine-tavern and eating-house, ma'am, in Ship Street, if
you please," rejoined she.

"And who hired you?" inquired Mary, in undisguised surprise.

"It was Mr. Chancey, ma'am--the lawyer gentleman, please your
ladyship," answered she.

"Mr. Chancey!--I never heard of him before," said the young lady, more
and more astonished. "Have you seen Sir Henry--my brother?"

"Oh! yes, my lady, if you please--I saw him and the other gentleman
just before I came upstairs, ma'am," replied the maid.

"What other gentleman?" inquired Mary, faintly.

"I think Sir Henry was the young gentleman in the frock suit of
sky-blue and silver, ma'am--a nice young gentleman, ma'am--and there
was another gentleman, my lady, with him; he had a plum-coloured suit
with gold lace; he spoke very loud, and cursed a great deal; a large
gentleman, my lady, with a very red face, and one of his teeth out. I
seen him once in the tap-room. I remembered him the minute I set eyes
on him, but I can't think of his name. He came in, my lady, with that
young lord--I forget _his_ name, too--that was ruined with play and
dicing, my lady; and they had a quart of mulled sack--it was I that
brought it to them--and I remembered the red-faced gentleman very well,
for he was turning round over his shoulder, and putting out his tongue,
making fun of the young lord--because he was tipsy--and winking to his
own friends."

"What did my brother--Sir Henry--your master--what did he say to you
just now?" inquired Mary, faintly, and scarcely conscious what she
said.

"He gave me a bit of a note to your ladyship," said the girl, fumbling
in the profundity of her pocket for it, "just as soon as he put the
other girl--her that's gone, my lady--into the chaise--here it is,
ma'am, if you please."

Mary took the letter, opened it hurriedly, and with eyes unsteady with
agitation, read as follows:--

    "MY DEAR MARY,--I am compelled to fly as fast as horseflesh can
    carry me, to escape arrest and the entire loss of whatever little
    chance remains of averting ruin. I don't see you before leaving
    this--my doing so were alike painful to us both--perhaps I shall be
    here again by the end of a month--at all events, you shall hear of
    me some time before I arrive. I have had to discharge Carey for
    very ill-conduct I have not time to write fully now. I have hired
    in her stead the bearer, Flora Guy, a very respectable, good girl.
    I shall have made at least two miles away in my flight before you
    read this. Perhaps you had better keep within your own room, for
    Mr. Blarden will shortly be here to look after matters in my
    absence. I have hardly a moment to scratch this line.

    "Always your attached brother,

    "HENRY ASHWOODE."

Her eye had hardly glanced through this production when she ran wildly
toward the door; but, checking herself before she reached it, she
turned to the girl, and with an earnestness of agony which thrilled to
her very heart, she cried,--

"Is he gone? tell me, as you hope for mercy, is he--_is_ he gone?"

"Who, who is it, my lady?" inquired the girl, a good deal startled.

"My brother--my brother: is he gone?" cried she more wildly still.

"I seen him riding away very fast on a grey horse, my lady," said the
maid, "not five minutes before I came up stairs."

"Then it's too late. God be merciful to me! I am lost, I have none to
guard me; I have none to help me--don't--don't leave me; for God's sake
don't leave the room for one instant----"

There was an imploring earnestness of entreaty in the young lady's
accents and manner, and a degree of excited terror in her dilated eyes
and pale face, which absolutely affrighted the attendant.

"No, my lady," said she, "I won't leave you, I won't indeed, my lady."

"Oh! my poor girl," said Mary, "you little know the griefs and fears of
her you've come to serve. I fear me you have changed your lot, however
hard before, much for the worst in coming here; never yet did creature
need a friend so much as I; and never was one so friendless before,"
and thus speaking, poor Mary Ashwoode leaned forward and wept so
bitterly that the girl was almost constrained to weep too for very
pity.

"Don't take it to heart so much, my lady; don't cry. I'll do my best,
my lady, to serve you well; indeed I will, my lady, and true and
faithful," said the poor damsel, approaching timidly but kindly to her
young mistress's side. "I'll not leave you, my lady; no one shall harm
you nor hurt a hair of your head; I'll stay with you night and day as
long as you're pleased to keep me, my lady, and don't cry; sure you
won't, my lady?"

So the poor girl in her own simple way strove to comfort and encourage
her desolate mistress.

It is a wonderful and a beautiful thing how surely, spite of every
difference of rank and kind and forms of language, the words of
kindness and of sympathy--be they the rudest ever spoken, if only they
flow warm from the heart of a fellow-mortal--will gladden, comfort, and
cheer the sorrow-stricken spirit. Mary felt comforted and assured.

"Do you be but true to me; stay by my side in this season of my sorest
trouble; and may God reward you as richly as I would my poor means
could," said Mary, with the same intense earnestness of entreaty.
"There is kindness and truth in your face. I am sure you will not
deceive me."

"Deceive you, my lady! God forbid," said the poor maid, earnestly; "I'd
die before I'd deceive you; only tell me how to serve you, my lady, and
it will be a hard thing that I won't do for you."

"There is no need to conceal from you what, if you do not already know,
you soon must," said Mary, speaking in a low tone, as if fearful of
being overheard; "that red-faced man you spoke of, that talked so loud
and swore so much, that man I fear--fear him more than ever yet I
dreaded any living thing--more than I thought I _could_ fear anything
earthly--him, this Mr. Blarden, we must avoid."

"Blarden--Mr. Blarden," said the maid, while a new light dawned upon
her mind. "I could not think of his name--Nicholas Blarden--Tommy, that
is one of the waiters in the 'Columbkil,' my lady, used to call him
'red ruin.' I know it all now, my lady; it's he that owns the great
gaming house near High Street, my lady; and another in Smock Alley; I
heard Mr. Pottles say he could buy and sell half Dublin, he's mighty
rich, but everyone says he's a very bad man: I couldn't think of his
name, and I remember everything about him now; it's all found out. Oh!
dear--dear; then it's all a lie; just what I thought, every bit from
beginning to end--nothing else but a lie. Oh, the villain!"

"What lie do you speak of?" asked Mary; "tell me."

"Oh, the villain!" repeated the girl. "I wish to God, my lady, you were
safe out of this house----"

"What is it?" urged Mary, with fearful eagerness; "what lie did you
speak of? what makes you now think my danger greater?"

"Oh! my lady, the lies, the horrible lies he told me to-day, when Sir
Henry and himself were hiring me," replied she. "Oh! my lady, I'm sure
you are not safe here----"

"For God's sake tell me plainly, what did they say?" repeated Mary.

"Oh, ma'am, what do you think he told me? As sure as you're sitting
there, he told me he was a mad-doctor," replied she; "and he said, my
lady, how that you were not in your right mind, and that he had the
care of you; and, oh, my God, my lady, he told me never to be
frightened if I heard you crying out and screaming when he was alone
with you, for that all mad people was the same way----"

"And was Sir Henry present when he told you this?" said Mary, scarce
articulately.

"He was, my lady," replied she, "and I thought he turned pale when the
red-faced man said that; but he did not speak, only kept biting his
lips and saying nothing."

"Then, indeed, my case is hopeless," said Mary, faintly, while all
expression, save that of vacant terror, faded from her face; "give me
some counsel--advise me, for God's sake, in this terrible hour. What
shall I do?"

"Ah, my lady, I wish to the blessed saints I could," rejoined the girl;
"haven't you some friends in Dublin; couldn't I go for them?"

"No--no," said she, hastily, "you must not leave me; but, thank God,
you have advised me well. I have one friend, and indeed only one, in
Dublin, whom I may rely upon, my uncle, Major O'Leary; I will write to
him."

She sat down, and with cold trembling hands traced the hurried lines
which implored his succour; she then rang the bell. After some delay it
was answered by a strange servant; and, after a few brief inquiries, to
her unutterable horror she learned that all who remained of the old
faithful servants of the family had been dismissed, and persons whose
faces she had never seen before, hired in their stead.

These were prompt and decisive measures, and ominously portended some
sinister catastrophe; the whole establishment reduced to a few
strangers, and--as she had too much reason to fear--tools and creatures
of the wretch Blarden. Having ascertained these facts, Mary Ashwoode,
without giving the letter to the man, dismissed him with some trivial
direction, and turning to her maid, said,--

"You see how it is; I am beset by enemies; may God protect and save me;
what shall I do? my mind--my senses, will forsake me. Merciful heaven!
what will become of me?"

"Shall I take it myself, my lady?" inquired the maid.

Mary raised herself eagerly, but with sudden dejection, said,--

"No--no; it cannot be; you must not leave me. I could not bear to be
alone here; besides, they must not think you are my friend; no, no, it
cannot be."

"Well, my lady," said the maid decisively, "we'll leave the house
to-night; they'll not be on their guard against that, and once beyond
the walls, you're safe."

"It is, I believe, the only chance of safety left me," replied Mary,
distractedly; "and, as such, it shall be tried."



CHAPTER LIV.

THE TWO CHANCES--THE BRIBED COURIER.


"I don't half like the girl you've picked up," said Nicholas Blarden,
addressing his favourite parasite, Chancey; "she don't look half sharp
enough for our work; she hasn't the cut of a town lass about her; she's
too like a milk-maid, too simple, too soft. I've confounded misgivings
she's no schemer."

"Well, well--dear me, but you're very suspicious," said Chancey. "I'd
like to know did ever anything honest come out of the 'Old Saint
Columbkil!' there wasn't a sharper little wench in the place than
herself, and I'll tell you that's a big word--no, no; there's not an
inch of the fool about her."

"Well, she can't do us much mischief anyway," said Blarden; "the three
others are as true as steel--the devil's own chickens; and mind you
don't let the door-keys out of your pocket. Honour's all very fine, and
ought not to be doubted; but there's nothing to my mind like a stiff
bit of a rusty lock."

Chancey smiled sleepily, and slapped the broad skirt of his coat twice
or thrice, producing therefrom the ringing clank which betoken the
presence of the keys in question.

"So then we're all caged, by Jove," continued Blarden, rapturously;
"and very different sorts of game we are too: did you ever see the
show-box where the cats and the rats and the little birds are all boxed
up together, higgledy-piggledy, in the same wire cage. I can't but
think of it; it's so devilish like."

"Well, well--dear me; I declare to God but you're a terrible funny
chap," said Chancey, enjoying a quiet chuckle; "but some way or
another," he continued, significantly, "I'm thinking the cat will have
a claw at the little bird yet."

"Well, maybe it will;" rejoined Blarden, "you never knew one yet that
was not fond of a tit-bit when he could have it. Eh?"

Thus playfully they conversed, seasoning their pleasantries with sack
and claret, and whatever else the cellars of Morley Court afforded,
until evening closed, and the darkness of night succeeded.

Mary Ashwoode and her maid sat prepared for the execution of their
adventurous project; they had early left the outer room in which we saw
them last, and retired into her bedchamber to avoid suspicion; as the
night advanced they extinguished the lights, lest their gleaming
through the windows should betray the lateness of their vigil, and
alarm the fears of their persecutors. Thus, in silence and darkness,
not daring to speak, and almost afraid to breathe, they waited hour
after hour until long past midnight. The well-known sounds of riotous
swearing and horse-laughter, and the heavy trampling of feet, as the
half-drunken revellers staggered to their beds, now reached their ears
in noises faint and muffled by the distance. At length all was again
quiet, and nearly a whole hour of silence passed away ere they ventured
to move, almost to breathe.

"Now, Flora, open the outer door softly," whispered Mary, "and listen
for any, the faintest sound; take off your shoes, and for your life
move noiselessly."

"Never fear, my lady," responded the girl in a tone as low; and
slipping off her shoes from her feet, she pressed her hand upon the
young lady's wrist, to intimate silence, and glided into the little
boudoir. With sickening anxiety the young lady heard her cross the
small chamber, now and then stumbling against some pieces of furniture
and cautiously groping her way; at length the door-handle turned, and
then followed a silence. After an interval of a few seconds the girl
returned.

"Well, Flora," whispered Mary, eagerly, as she approached, "is all
still?"

"Oh! blessed hour! my lady, the door's locked on the outside," replied
the maid.

"It can't be," said Mary Ashwoode, while her very heart sank within
her. "Oh! Flora, Flora--girl, don't say that."

"It is indeed, my lady--as sure as I'm a living soul, it is so,"
replied she fearfully; "and it was wide open when I came up. Oh!
blessed hour! my lady, what are we to do?"

"I will try; I will see; perhaps you are mistaken. God grant you may
be," said the young lady, making her way to the door which opened on to
the lobby. She reached it--turned the handle--pressed it with all her
feeble strength, but in vain; it was indeed securely locked upon the
outside; her project of escape was baffled at the very outset, and with
a heart-sickening sense of terror and dismay--such as she had never
felt before--she returned with her attendant to her chamber.

A night, sleepless, except for a few brief and fevered slumbers,
crowded with terrors, passed heavily away, and the morning found Mary
Ashwoode, pale, nervous, and feverish. She resolved, at whatever
hazard, to endeavour to induce one of the new servants to convey her
letter to Major O'Leary. The detection of this attempt could at worst
result in nothing worse than to precipitate whatever mischief Blarden
and his confederates had plotted, and which would if not so speedily,
at all events as surely overtake her, were no such attempt made.

"Flora," said she, "I am resolved to try this chance, I fear me it is
but a poor one; you, however, my poor girl, must not be compromised
should it fail; you must not be exposed by your faithfulness to the
vengeance of these villains; do you go into the next room, and I will
try what may be done."

So saying, she rang the bell, and in a few minutes it was answered by
the same man who had obeyed her summons on the day before. The man,
although arrayed in livery, had by no means the dapper air of a
professed footman, and possessed rather a villainous countenance than
otherwise; he stood at the door with one hand fumbling at the handle,
while he asked with an air half gruff and half awkward what she wanted.
She sat in silence for a minute like the enchanter whose spells have
been for the first time answered by the appearance of the familiar; too
much agitated and affrighted to utter her mandate; with a violent
effort she mastered her trepidation, and with an appearance of
self-possession and carelessness which she was far from feeling, she
said,--

"Can you, my good man, find a trusty messenger to carry a letter for me
to a friend in Dublin?"

The man remained silent for some seconds, twisted his mouth into
several strange contortions, and looked very hard indeed at her. At
length he said, closing the door at the same time, and speaking in a
low key,--

"Well, I don't say but I _might_ find one, but there's a great many
things would make it very costly; maybe you could not afford to pay
him?"

"I could--I would--see here," and she took a diamond ring from her
finger; "this is a diamond; it is of value--convey but this letter
safely and it is yours."

The man took the ring from the table where she laid it, and examined it
curiously.

"It's a pretty ring--it is," said he, removing it a little from his
eye, and turning it in different directions so as to make it flash and
sparkle in the light, "it _is_ a pretty ring, rayther small for my
fingers, though--it's a real diamond?"

"It is indeed, valuable--worth forty pounds at least," she replied.

"Well, then, here goes, it's worth a bit of a risk," and so saying he
deposited it carefully in a corner of his waistcoat pocket, "give me
the letter now, ma'am."

She handed him the letter, and he thrust it into the deepest abyss of
his breeches pocket.

"Deliver that letter but safely," said she, "and what I have given you
shall be but the earnest of what's to come, it is important--urgent--execute
but the mission truly, and I will not spare rewards."

The man gave two short nods of huge significance, accompanied with a
slight grunt.

"I say again, let me but have assurance that the message has been
done," repeated she, "and you shall have abundant reason to rejoice,
above all things dispatch--and--and--_secrecy_."

The man winked very hard with one eye, and at the same time with his
crooked finger drew his nose so much on one side, that he seemed intent
on removing that feature into exile somewhere about the region of his
ear; and having performed this elegant and expressive pantomime for
several seconds, he stooped forward, and in an emphatic whisper said,--

"_Ne-ver fear._"

He then opened the door and abruptly made his exit, leaving poor Mary
Ashwoode full of agitating hopes.



CHAPTER LV.

THE FEARFUL VISITANT.


Two or three days had passed, during which Mary had ascertained the
fact that every door affording egress from the house was kept
constantly locked, and that the new servants, as well as Blarden and
his companions, were perpetually on the alert, and traversing the lower
apartments, so that even had the door of the mansion laid open it would
have been impossible to attempt an escape without encountering some one
of those whose chief object was to keep her in close confinement,
perhaps the very man from whose presence her inmost soul shrank in
terror--she felt, therefore, that she was as effectually and as
helplessly a prisoner as if she lay in the dungeons of a gaol.

Often again had she endeavoured to see the man to whom she had confided
her letter to Major O'Leary, but in vain; her summons was invariably
answered by the others, and fearing to excite suspicion, she, of
course, did not inquire for him, and so, after a time, desisted from
her endeavours.

Her window commanded a partial view of the old shaded avenue, and hour
after hour would she sit at her casement, watching in vain for the
longed-for appearance of her uncle, and listening, as fruitlessly, for
the clang of his horse's hoofs upon the stony court.

"Oh! Flora, will he ever come?" she would exclaim, with a voice of
anguish, "will he ever--ever come to deliver me from this horrible
thraldom? I watch in vain, from the light of early dawn till darkness
comes--I watch in vain, for the welcome sight of my friend--in vain--in
vain I listen for the sound of his approach--heaven pity me, where shall
I turn for hope--all--all have forsaken me--all that ever I loved have
fallen from me, and left me desolate in this extremity--has he, too, my
last friend, forsaken me--will they leave me here to misery--oh, that
I might lay me down where head and heart are troubled no more, and be
at rest in the cold grave. He'll never come--no--no--no--never."

Then she would wring her hands, still gazing from the casement, and
hopelessly sob and weep.


She knew not why it was that Nicholas Blarden had suffered her, for a
day or two, to be exempt from the dreaded intrusions of his hated
presence. But this afforded her little comfort; she knew not how
soon--at what moment--the monster might choose to present himself
before her under circumstances of horror so dreadful as those of her
present friendless and forsaken abandonment to his mercy--and when
these imminent fears were for an instant hushed, a thousand agonizing
thoughts, arising from the partial revelations of her late servant,
Carey, occupied her mind. That the correspondence between her and
O'Connor had been falsified--she dreaded, yet she hoped it might be
true--she feared, yet prayed it might be so--and while the thought that
others had wrought their estrangement, and that the coolness of
indifference had not touched the heart of him she so fondly loved
visited her mind, a thousand bright, but momentary hopes, fluttered her
poor heart, and, for an instant, her dangers and her fears were all
forgotten.

The day had passed, and its broad, clear light had given place to the
red, dusky glow of sunset, when Mary Ashwoode heard the measured tread
of several persons approaching her room. With an instinctive
consciousness of her peril, she started to her feet, while every tinge
of colour fled entirely from her cheeks.

"Flora--stay by me--oh, God, they are coming!" she said, and the words
had hardly escaped her lips, when the door of the boudoir, in which she
stood, was pushed open, and Nicholas Blarden, followed by Gordon
Chancey, entered the room. There was in the countenance of Blarden none
of his usual affectation of good humour; on the contrary, it wore a
scowl of undisguised and formidable menace, the effect of which was
enhanced by the baleful significance of the malignant glance which he
fixed upon her, and as he stood there biting his lips in ominous
silence, and gazing with savage, gloating eyes, upon the affrighted
girl, it were not easy to imagine an apparition more intimidating and
hideous. Even Chancey seemed a little uneasy in the anticipation of
what was coming, and the sallow face of the barrister looked more than
usually sallow, and his glittering eyes more glossy than ever.

"Go out of the room, _you_--do you mind," said Blarden, grimly,
addressing Flora Guy, who had placed herself a little in advance of her
young mistress, and who stood mute and thunderstruck, looking upon the
two intruders--"are you palsied, or what--quit the room when I command
you, you brimstone fool;" and he clutched her by the shoulder, and
thrust her headlong out of the chamber, flinging the door to, with a
crash that made the walls ring again.

"Listen to me and mind me, and weigh my words, or you'll rue it," said
he, with a tremendous oath, addressing himself to the speechless and
terrified lady. "I have a bit of information to give you, and then a
bit of advice after it; you must know it's my intention we shall be
married; mind me, _married_ to-morrow evening; I know you don't like
it; but _I_ do, and that's enough for my purpose; and whenever I make
my mind up to a thing, there is not that power in earth, or heaven, or
hell, to turn me from it. I was always considered a tough sort of a
chap when I was in earnest about anything; and I can tell you I'm
mighty well in earnest here; and now you may as well know how
completely I have you under my thumb; there is not a servant in the
house that does not belong to me; there is not a door in the house but
the key of it is in my keeping; there is not a word spoken in the house
but I hear it, nor a thing done that I don't know of it, and _here's
your letter for you_," he shouted, and flung her letter to Major
O'Leary open before her on the table. "How dare you tamper with my
servant's honesty? how _dare_ you?" thundered he, with a stamp upon the
floor which made the ornaments on the cabinet dance and jingle; "but
mind how you try it again--beware; mind how you offer to bribe them
again; I give you fair warning; you're my property now--to do what I
like with, just as much as my horse or my dog; and if you _won't_ obey
me, why I'll find a way to _make_ you; to-morrow evening I'll have a
parson here, and we'll be buckled; make no rout about it, and it will
be better for you, for whatever you do or say, if I had to get you into
a strait-waistcoat and clap a plaister over your mouth to keep you
quiet, married we shall be; husband and wife, and plenty of witnesses
to vouch for it; do you understand me, and no mistake; and if you're
foolish enough to make a row about it, I'll tell you what I'll do in
such a case," and he fixed his eyes with a still more horrible
expression upon her. "I have a particular friend, do you mind--a very
obliging, particular old friend that's a mad-doctor; do you hear me;
not a very lucky one to be sure, for he has made devilish few cures; a
mad-doctor, do you mind?--and I'll have him to reside here and
superintend your treatment; do you hear me? don't stand gaping there
like an idiot; do you hear me?"

Blarden during this address had advanced into the room and stood by the
little table, leaning his knuckles upon it, and stooping forward and
advancing his menacing and hideous face, so as to diminish still
further the intervening distance, when, all on a sudden, like a
startled bird, she darted across the room, and ere they had time to
interpose, had opened the door, and was half-way across the lobby; she
passed Flora Guy, who was sobbing at the door with her apron to her
eyes, and at the head of the stairs beheld Sir Henry Ashwoode, no less
confounded at the rencounter than was she herself.

"My brother! my brother!" she shrieked, and threw herself fainting into
his arms.

Spite of all that was base in his character, the young man was so
shocked and confounded that he turned pale as death, and speech and
recollection for a moment forsook him.

Almost at the same instant Chancey and Blarden were at his side.

"What the devil ails you?" said Blarden, furiously, addressing
Ashwoode, "what do you stand there hugging her for, you white-faced
idiot?"

Ashwoode's lips moved; but he could not speak, and the senseless burden
still lay in his arms.

"Let her go, will you, you d----d oaf? take hold of the girl, Chancey,
and you, you idiot, come here and lend a hand; carry her into her room,
and mind, sweet lips, keep the key in your pocket; and if you want help
tatter the bells; get down, will you, you moon-struck fool?" he
continued, addressing Ashwoode; "what do you stand there for, with your
whitewashed face?"

Ashwoode, scarcely knowing what he did, staggered down the stairs and
made his way to the parlour, where he sat gasping, with his face buried
in his hands. Meanwhile, with many a meek expression of pity, the
lawyer assisted Flora Guy in bearing the inanimate body of her mistress
into the chamber, where, in happy unconsciousness, she lay under the
tender care of her humble friend and servant. Blarden and Chancey
having accomplished the object of their mission, departed to the lower
regions to enjoy whatever good cheer Morley Court afforded.



CHAPTER LVI.

EBENEZER SHYCOCK.


In pursuance of the arrangements which Mr. Blarden had, on the evening
before, announced to his intended victim, Gordon Chancey was despatched
early the next morning to engage the services of a clergyman for the
occasion. He knew pretty well how to choose his man, and for the most
part, when a plot was to be executed, in theatrical phrase, _cast_ the
parts well. He proceeded leisurely to the city, and sauntering through
the streets, found himself at length in Saint Patrick's Close; beneath
the shadow of the old Cathedral he turned down a narrow and deserted
lane and stopped before a dingy, miserable little shop, over whose
doorway hung a panel with the dusky and faded similitude of two great
keys crossed, now scarcely discernible through the ancient dust and
soot. The shop itself was a chaotic depository of old locks, holdfasts,
chisels, crowbars, and in short, of rusty iron in almost every
conceivable shape. Chancey entered this dusky shop, and accosting a
very grimed and rusty-looking little boy who was, with a file,
industriously employed in converting a kitchen candlestick into a
cannon, inquired,--

"I say, my good boy, does the Reverend Doctor Ebenezer Shycock stop
here yet?"

"Aye, does he," said the youth, inspecting the visitor with a broad and
leisurely stare, while he wiped his forehead with his shirt sleeve.

"Up the stairs, is it?" demanded Chancey.

"Aye, the garrets," replied the boy. "And mind the hole in the top
lobby," he shouted after him, as he passed through the little door in
the back of the shop and began to ascend the narrow stairs.

He did "mind the hole in the top lobby" (a very necessary caution, by
the way, as he might otherwise have been easily engulfed therein and
broken either his neck or his leg, after descending through the lath
and plaster, upon the floor of the landing-place underneath); and
having thus safely reached the garret door, he knocked thereupon with
his knuckles.

"Come in," answered a female voice, not of the most musical quality,
and Chancey accordingly entered. A dirty, sluttish woman was sitting by
the window, knitting, and as it seemed, she was the only inmate of the
room.

"Is the Reverend Ebenezer at home, my dear?" inquired the barrister.

"He is, and he isn't," rejoined the female, oracularly.

"How's that, my good girl?" inquired Chancey.

"He's in the house, but he's not good for much," answered she.

"Has he been throwing up the little finger, my dear?" said Chancey, "he
used to be rayther partial to brandy."

"Brandy--brandy--who says brandy?" exclaimed a voice briskly from
behind a sheet which hung upon a string so as to screen off one corner
of the chamber.

"Ay, ay, that's the word that'll waken you," said the woman. "Here's a
gentleman wants to speak with you."

"The devil there is!" exclaimed the clerical worthy, abruptly, while
with a sudden chuck he dislodged the sheet which had veiled his
presence, and disclosed, by so doing, the form of a stout, short,
bull-necked man, with a mulberry-coloured face and twinkling grey
eyes--one of them in deep mourning. He wore a greasy red night-cap and
a very tattered and sad-coloured shirt, and was sitting upright in a
miserable bed, the covering of which appeared to be a piece of ancient
carpet. With one hand he scratched his head, while in the other he held
the sheet which he had just pulled down.

"How are you, Parson Shycock?" said Chancey; "how do you find yourself
this morning, doctor?"

"Tolerably well. But what is it you want with me? out with it, spooney.
Any job in my line, eh?" inquired the clergyman.

"Yes, indeed, doctor," replied Chancey, "and a very good job; you're
wanted to marry a gentleman and a lady privately, not a mile and a half
out of town, this evening; you'll get five guineas for the job, and I
think that's no trifle."

The parson mused, and scratched his head again.

"Well," said he, "you must do a little job for me first. You can't be
ignorant that we members of the Church militant are often hard up; and
whenever I'm in a fix I pop wig, breeches, and gown, and take to my
bed; you'll find the three articles in this lane, corner house--sign,
three golden balls; present this docket--where the devil is it? ay,
here; all right--present this along with two guineas, paid in advance
on account of job: bring me the articles, and I'll get up and go along
with you in a brace of shakes. And stay; didn't I hear some one talking
of brandy? or--or was I dreaming? You may as well get in a half-pint,
for I'm never the thing till I have some little moderate refreshment;
so, dearly beloved, mizzle at once."

"Dear me, dear me, doctor," said Chancey, "how can you think I'd go for
to bring two guineas along with me?"

"If you haven't the _rhino_, this is no place for you, my fellow-sinner,"
rejoined the couple-beggar; "and if you _have_, off with you and
deliver the togs out of pop. You wouldn't have a clergyman walk the
streets without breeches, eh, dearly beloved cove?"

"Well, well, but you're a wonderful man," rejoined Chancey, with a
faint smile. "I suppose, then, I must do it; so give me the docket, and
I'll be here again as soon as I can."

"And do you mind me, you stray sheep, you, don't forget the lush,"
added the pastor. "I'm very desirous to wet my whistle; my mums, by the
hokey, is as dry as a Dutch brick. Good-bye to you, and do you mind, be
back here in the twinkling of a brace of bed-posts."

With this injunction, and bearing the crumpled document, which the
reverend divine had given him, as his credentials with the pawnbroker,
Mr. Chancey cautiously lounged down the crazy stairs.

"I say, my nutty Nancy," observed the parson, after a long yawn and a
stretch, addressing the female who sat at the window, "that chap's made
of money. I had a pint with him once in Clarke's public--round the
corner there. His name's Chancey, and he does half the bills in town--a
regular Jew chap."

So saying, the Reverend Ebenezer Shycock, LL.D., unceremoniously rolled
himself out of bed and hobbled to a crazy deal box, in which were
deposited such articles of attire as had not been transmitted to the
obliging proprietor of the neighbouring three golden balls.

While the reverend divine was kneeling before this box, and, with a
tenderness suited to their frail condition, removing the few scanty
articles of his wardrobe and laying them reverently upon a crazy stool
beside him, Mr. Chancey returned, bearing the liberated decorations of
the doctor's person, as also a small black bottle.

"Oh, dear me, doctor," said Chancey, "but I'm glad to see you're
stirring. Here's the things."

"And the--the lush, eh?" inquired the clergyman, peering inquisitively
round Chancey's side to have a peep at the bottle.

"Yes, and the lush too," said the barrister.

"Well, give me the breeches," said the doctor, with alacrity, clutching
those essential articles and proceeding to invest his limbs therein.
"And, Nancy, a sup of water and a brace of cups."

A cracked mug and a battered pewter goblet made their appearance, and,
along with the ruin of a teapot which contained the pure element, were
deposited on a chair--for tables were singularly scarce in the reverend
doctor's establishment.

"Now, my beloved fellow-sinner, mix like a Trojan!" exclaimed the
divine; "and take care, take care, pogey aqua, don't drown it with
water; chise it, _chise_ it, man, that'll do."

With these words he grasped the vessel, nodded to Chancey, and
directing his two grey eyes with a greedy squint upon the liquor as it
approached his lips, he quaffed it at a single draught.

Without waiting for an invitation, which Chancey thought his clerical
acquaintance might possibly forget, the barrister mingled some of the
same beverage for his own private use, and quietly gulped it down;
seeing which, and dreading Mr. Chancey's powers, which he remembered to
have already seen tested at "Clarke's public," the learned divine
abstractedly inverted the brandy bottle into his pewter goblet, and
shedding upon it an almost imperceptible dew from the dilapidated
teapot, he terminated the _symposium_ and proceeded to finish his
toilet.

This was quickly done, and Mr. Gordon Chancey and the Reverend Ebenezer
Shycock--two illustrious and singularly well-matched ornaments of their
respective professions--proceeded arm in arm, both redolent of grog, to
the nearest coach stand, where they forthwith supplied themselves with
a vehicle; and while Mr. Chancey pretty fully instructed his reverend
companion in the precise nature of the service required of him, and, as
far as was necessary, communicated the circumstances of the whole case,
they traversed the interval which separated Dublin city from the manor
of Morley Court.



CHAPTER LVII.

THE CHAPLAIN'S ARRIVAL AT MORLEY COURT--THE KEY--AND THE BOOZE IN THE
BOUDOIR.


The hall door was opened to the summons of the two gentlemen by no less
a personage than Nicholas Blarden himself, who, having carefully locked
it again, handed the key to his accomplice, Gordon Chancey.

"Here, take it, Gordy, boy," exclaimed he, "I make you porter for the
term of the honeymoon. Keep the gates well, old boy, and never let the
keys out of your pocket unless I tell you. And so," continued he,
treating the Reverend Ebenezer Shycock to a stare which took in his
whole person, "you have caught the doctor and landed him fairly.
Doctor--what's your name? no matter--it's a delightful turn-up for a
sinner like me to have the heavenly consolation of your pious company.
Follow me in here; I dare say your reverence would not object to a
short interview with the brandy flask, or something of the kind--even
saints must wet their whistles now and again."

So saying, Blarden led the way into the parlour.

"Here, guzzle away, old gentleman, there's plenty of the stuff here,"
said Blarden, "only beware how you make a beast of yourself. You
mustn't tie up your red rag, do you mind? We'll want you to stand and
read; and if you just keep senses enough for that, you may do whatever
you like with the rest."

The clergyman nodded, and with a single sweep of his grey eyes, took in
the contents of the whole table. His shaking hand quickly grasped the
neck of the brandy flask, and he filled out and quaffed a comforting
bumper.

"Now, take it easy, do, or, by Jove, you'll not _keep_ till evening,"
said Blarden. "Chancey, have an eye on the parson, for his mind's so
intent on heaven that he may possibly forget where he is and what he's
doing. After dinner, Ashwoode and I have to go into town--some matters
that must be wound up before the evening's entertainment begins--we'll
be out, however, at eight o'clock or so. And mind this," he continued,
gripping the barrister's shoulder in his hand with an energizing
pressure, and speaking into his ear to secure attention, "you know that
little room upstairs wherein we had the bit of chat with my lady
love--the--the boudoir, I think they call it--now, mind me well--when
the dusk comes on, do you and his reverence there take your pipes and
your brandy, or whatever else you're amusing yourselves with at the
time, and sit in that same room together, so that not a mouse can cross
the floor unknown to you. Don't forget this, for we can't be too sharp.
Do you hear me, old Lucifer?"

"Never fear, never fear," rejoined Mr. Chancey. "The Reverend Ebenezer
and I will spend the evening there--and, indeed, I declare to God, it's
a very neat little room, so it is, for a quiet pipe and a pot of sack."

"Well, that's a point settled," rejoined Blarden. "And do you mind me,
don't let that beastly old sot knock himself up before we come home. Do
you hear me, old scarecrow," he continued, poking the reverend doctor
somewhere about the region of the abdomen with the hilt of his sword,
which he was adjusting at his side, and addressing himself to that
gentleman, "if I find you drunk when I return this evening, I'll make
it your last bout--I'll tap the brandy, old tickle pitcher, and stave
the cask, and send you to seek your fortune in the other world. Mind my
words--I'm not given to joking when I have real business on hand; and
faith, you'll find me as ready to _do_ as to promise."

So saying, he left the room.

"A rum cove, that, upon my little word," said the Reverend Ebenezer
Shycock, filling out another bumper of his beloved cordial. "Take the
bottle away at once; lock it up, my fellow-worm, lock it up, or I'll be
at it again. Lock it up while I have this glass in my hand, or I must
have another, and that might be--_might_, I say--_possibly_ might--but
d----n it, no, it can't--I will have one more." And so saying, with
desperate resolution, he quaffed what he had already in his hand and
filled out another.

Chancey did not wait till he had repeated his mandate, but quietly
removed the seductive flask and placed it beyond the reach and the
sight of his clerical friend, who, feeling himself a little pleasant,
sat down before the hearth, and in a voice whose tone nearly resembled
that of a raven labouring under an affection of the chest, he chaunted
through his nose, with many significant winks and grimaces, a ditty at
that time in high acceptance among the votaries of vice and license,
and whose words were such as even the 'Old St. Columbkill' would hardly
have tolerated. This performance over--which, by the way, Chancey
relished in his own quiet way with intense enjoyment--the reverend
gentleman, composed himself for a doze for several hours, from which he
aroused himself to eat and to drink a little more.

Thus pleasantly the day wore on, until at length the sun descended in
glory behind the far-off blue hills, and the pale twilight began to
herald the approach of night.

That day Mary Ashwoode appeared to have lost all energy of thought and
feeling; she lay pale and silent upon her bed, seeming scarcely
conscious even of the presence of her faithful attendant. From the
moment of her yesterday's interview with Blarden, and the meeting with
her brother, she had been thus despairing and stupefied. Flora Guy sat
in the window, sometimes watching the pale face of the wretched lady,
and at others looking out upon the old woodlands and the great avenue,
darkened among its double rows of huge old limes. As the day wore on
she suddenly exclaimed,--

"Oh, my lady, here's a gentleman coming with Mr. Chancey up the avenue,
I see them between the trees, and the coach driving away."

"Can it--_can_ it be?" exclaimed Mary, starting wildly up in the
bed--"is it he?"

"It's a little stout gentleman, with a red pimply face--they're talking
under the window now, my lady; he has a band on, and a black gown
across his arm--as sure as daylight, my lady--he is--blessed hour; he
_is_ a parson."

Mary Ashwoode did not speak, but the momentary flash of hope faded from
her face, and was succeeded by a paleness so deadly that lips and
cheeks looked bloodless as the marble lineaments of a statue; in dull
and silent despair she sank again where she had lain before.

"Don't fear them, my lady," said the poor girl, placing herself by the
bedside where, more like a corpse than a living being, her hapless
mistress lay; "I will not leave you, and though they may threaten, they
dare not hurt you--don't fear them, my lady."

The blanched cheeks and evident excitement of the honest maiden,
however, too clearly belied her words of encouragement.

Twice or thrice the girl, in the course of the day, locking the door of
her mistress's chamber, according to the orders of Nicholas Blarden and
his confederates, but less in obedience to them than for the sake of
_her_ security, ran downstairs to learn whatever could be gathered from
the servants of the intended movements of the conspirators; each time,
as she descended the stairs, the parlour bell was rung, and a servant
encountered her before she had well reached the hall; and Mr. Chancey,
too, with his hands in his pockets, and his cunning eyes glittering
suspiciously through their half-closed lids, would meet and question
her before she passed: were ever sentinels more vigilant--was ever
_surveillance_ more jealous and complete?

During these excursions she picked up whatever was to be learned of the
intentions of those in whose power her young mistress now helplessly
and despairingly lay.

"Sir Henry Ashwoode and Mr. Blarden is gone to town together, my lady,"
said the maid, in a whisper, for she felt the vigilance of Chancey and
his creatures might pursue her even to the chamber where she stood;
"they'll not be out till about eight o'clock, my lady, at the soonest,
maybe not till near nine or ten; at any rate it will be dark long
before they come, and God knows what may turn up before then--don't
lose heart, my lady--don't give up."

In vain, entirely in vain, however, were the words of hope and courage
spoken; they fell cold and dead upon the palsied senses and stricken
heart of despairing terror. Mary Ashwoode scarcely understood, and
seemed not even to have heard them.

As the evening approached the poor girl made another exploring ramble,
in the almost desperate speculation that she might possibly hit upon
something which might suggest even a hint of some mode of escape.
Having encountered Chancey and one of the serving men, as usual, and
passed her examination, she crossed the large old hall, and without any
definite pre-determination, entered Sir Henry's study, where he and
Blarden had been sitting, and carelessly thrown upon the table a large
key. For a moment she could scarcely believe her eyes, and her heart
bounded high with hope as she grasped it quickly and rolled it in her
apron--"Could it be the key of one of the doors through which alone
liberty was to be regained?" With a deliberate step, which strangely
belied her restless anxiety, she passed the door within which Chancey
was sitting, and ascended to the young lady's chamber.

"My lady, is this it?" exclaimed she, almost breathless with
excitement, and holding the key before the lady's face.

Mary Ashwoode with a momentary eagerness glanced at it.

"No, no," said she, faintly, "I know all the keys of the outer doors;
it was I who brought them to my father every night; but this is none of
them--no, no, no, no." There was a dulness and apathy upon the young
lady, and a seeming insensibility to everything--to hope, to danger--to
all, in short, which had intensely interested every faculty of mind and
feeling but the day before--which frightened and dismayed her humble
friend.

"Don't, my lady--don't give up--oh, sure you won't lose heart entirely;
see if I won't think of something--never mind, if I don't think of some
way or another yet."

The red discoloured tints of evening were now fading from the
landscape, and rapidly giving place to the dim twilight--the harbinger
of a night of dangers, terrors, and adventures; and as the poor maiden
sat by the young lady's side, with a heart full of dark and ominous
foreboding, she heard the door of the outer chamber--the little boudoir
which we have often had occasion to mention--opened, and two persons
entered it.

"They are here--they are come. Oh, God! they are here," exclaimed Mary
Ashwoode, clasping her small hand in terror round the girl's wrist.

"The door's locked, my lady," said the girl, scarcely less terrified
than her mistress; "they can't come in without letting us know first.'
So saying, she ran to the door and peeped through the keyhole, to
reconnoitre the party, and then stepping on tip-toe to the young lady,
who, more dead than alive, was sitting by the bed-side, she said in a
whisper,--

"Who do you think it is, ma'am? blessed hour! my lady, who should it be
but that lawyer gentleman--that Mr. Chancey, and the old parson--they
are settling themselves at the table."

Mr. Gordon Chancey and the Reverend Ebenezer Shycock were determined to
make themselves comfortable in their new quarters. Accordingly they
heaped wood and turf upon the expiring fire, and compelled the servant
to ply the kitchen bellows, until the hearth crackled and roared again;
then drawing the table to the fire-side--a pretty little work-table of
poor Mary's--now covered with brandy-flasks, pieces of tobacco, pipes,
and the other apparatus of their coarse debauch--the two worthies,
illuminated by a pair of ponderous wax-candles, and by the blaze of a
fire, and having drawn the curtains, sat themselves down and commenced
their jolly vigils.

Chancey possessed the rare faculty of preserving his characteristic
cunning throughout every phase and stage of intoxication short of
absolute insensibility; on the present occasion, however, he was
resolved not to put this convenient accomplishment to the test. The
goodwill of Nicholas Blarden was too lucrative a possession to be
lightly parted with, and he could not afford to hazard it by too free
an indulgence upon the present important occasion; he therefore
conducted his assaults upon the bottle with a very laudable
abstemiousness. Not so, however, his clerical companion; he, too, had,
in connection with his convivial frailties, a compensating gift of his
own; he possessed, in an eminent degree, the power of recovering his
intellects upon short notice from the influence of brandy, and of
descending almost at a single bound from the loftiest altitude of
drunken inspiration to the dull insipid level of ordinary sobriety; all
he asked was fifteen minutes to bring himself to. He used to say with
becoming pride--"If I could have done it in _ten_, I'd have been a
bishop by this time; but _dis aliter visum_; I had not time one
forenoon; being wapper-eyed, I was five minutes short of my allowance
to get right, consequently officiated oddly--fell on my back on the way
out, and couldn't get up; but what signifies it? I'm better off, as
matters stand, ten to one; so here goes, my fellow-sinner, to it again;
one brimmer more."

The reverend doctor, therefore, was much less cautious than his
companion, and soon began to exhibit very unequivocal symptoms of a
declension in his intellectual and physical energies, and a more than
corresponding elevation in his hilarious spirits.

"I say," said Chancey, "my good man, you'd better stop; you have too
much in as it is; they'll be here before half-an-hour, and if Mr.
Blarden finds you this way, I declare to God I think he'll crack your
neck down the staircase."

"Well, dearly beloved," said the clerical gentleman, "I believe you
_are_ right; I'll bring myself to. I _am_ a little heavy-eyed or so;
all I ask for is a towel and cold water." So saying, with many a screw
of the lips, and many a hiccough, he made an effort to rise, but
tumbled back--with an expression of the most heavenly benevolence--into
his chair, knocking his head with an audible sound upon the back of it,
and at the same time overturning one of the candles.

"Pull the bell, dearly beloved," said he, with a smile and a
hiccough--"a basin of water and a towel."

"Devil broil you, for a drunken beast," said Chancey, seriously alarmed
at the condition of the couple-beggar; "he'll never be fit for his work
to-night."

"Fifteen minutes, neither more nor less," hiccoughed the divine, with
the same celestial smile--"towel, basin of cold water, and fifteen
minutes."

Chancey did procure the cold water and a napkin, which, being laid
before the clergyman, he proceeded with much deliberation, while
various expressions of stupendous solemnity and beaming benevolence
flitted in beautiful alternations across his expressive countenance, to
prepare them for use. He doffed his wig, and first bathing his head,
face, and temples completely in the cool liquid, saturated the towel
likewise therein, and wound it round his shorn head in the fashion of a
Turkish turban; having accomplished which feat, he leaned back in his
chair, closed his eyes, and became, to all intents and purposes, for
the time being, stone dead.

Leaving his reverend companion undisturbed to the operation of his own
hydropathic treatment, Gordon Chancey drew his seat near to the fire,
and filling his pipe anew with tobacco, leaned back in the chair,
crossed his legs, and more than half closing his eyes, prepared himself
luxuriously for what he called "a raal elegant draw of particular
pigtail."



CHAPTER LVIII.

THE SIGNAL.


Flora Guy peeped eagerly through the keyhole of her lady's chamber into
the little apartment in which the two boon companions were seated.
After reconnoitring for a very long time, she moved lightly to her
mistress's side, and said, in a low but distinct tone,--

"Now, my lady, you must get up and rouse yourself--for God's sake,
mistress dear, shake off the heaviness that's over you, and we have a
chance left still."

"Are they not in the next room to us?" inquired Mary.

"Yes, my lady," replied the maid, "but the parson gentleman is drunk or
asleep, and Mr. Chancey is there alone--and--and has the four keys
beside him on the table; don't be frightened, my lady, do you stay
quite quiet, and I'll go into the room."

Mary Ashwoode made no answer, but pressed the poor girl's hand in her
cold fingers, and without moving, almost without breathing, awaited the
result. Flora Guy, meanwhile, opened the door, and passed into the
outer apartment, assuming, as she did so, an air of easy and careless
indifference. Chancey turned as she entered the room, fanning the smoke
of his tobacco pipe aside with his hand, and eying her with a jealous
glance.

"Well, my little girl," said he, "and what makes you leave your young
lady, my dear?"

"An' is a body never to get an instant minute to themselves?" rejoined
she, with an indignant toss of her head; "why then, I tell you what it
is, Mr. Chancey, I'm tired to death, so I am, sitting in that little
room the whole blessed day, and not a word, good or bad, will the young
lady say--she's gone stupid like."

"Is the door locked?" said Chancey, suspiciously, and at the same time
rising and approaching the young lady's chamber.

As he did so, Flora Guy, availing herself instantly of this averted
position, snatched up, without waiting to choose, one of the four great
keys which lay upon the table, and replaced it dexterously with that
which she had but a short time before shown to her mistress; in doing
so, however, spite of all her caution, a slight clank was audible.

"Well, _is_ it locked?" inquired the damsel, hoping by the loud tone in
which she uttered the question to drown the suspicious sounds which
threatened her schemes with instant detection.

"Yes, it is locked," rejoined Chancey, glancing quickly at the keys;
"but what do you want there? move off from my place, will you?" and
shambling to the table he hastily gathered the four keys in his grasp,
and thrust them into his deep coat pocket.

"You're in a mighty quare humour, so you are, Mr. Chancey," said the
girl, affecting a saucy tone, through which, had his ear been listening
for the sound, he might have detected the quaver of extreme agitation,
"you usedn't to be so cross by no means at the Columbkil, but mighty
pleasant, so you used."

"Well, my little girl," said Chancey, whose suspicions were now
effectually quieted, "I declare to God you're the first that ever said
I was bad tempered, so you are--will you have something to drink?"

"What have you there, Mr. Chancey?" inquired she.

"This is brandy, my little girl, and this is sack, dear," rejoined
Chancey, "both of them elegant; you must have whichever you like--which
will you choose, dear?"

"Well, then, I'll have a little drop of the sack, mulled, I thank you,
Mr. Chancey," replied she.

"There's nothing to mull it in here, my little girl," objected the
barrister.

"Oh, but I'll get it in a minute though," replied she, "I'll run down
for a saucepan."

"Well, dear, run away," replied he, "but don't be long, for Miss
Ashwoode might want you, my little girl, and it wouldn't do if you were
out of the way, you know."

Without waiting to hear the end of this charge, Flora Guy ran down the
staircase, and speedily returned with the utensil required.

"Maybe I'd better go in for a minute first, and see if she wants me,"
suggested the girl.

"Very well, my dear," replied Chancey.

And accordingly, she turned the key in the chamber door, closed it
again, and stood by the young lady's side; such was her agitation that
for three or four seconds she could not speak.

"My lady," at length she said, "I have one of the keys--when I go in
next I'll leave your room door unlocked, only closed just, and no
more--the lobby door is ajar--I left it that way this very minute; and
when you hear me saying 'the sack's upset!'--do you open your door, and
cross the room as quick as light, and out on the lobby, and stop by the
stairs, my lady, and I'll follow you as fast as I can. Here, my lady,"
continued the poor girl, bringing a small box from her mistress's
toilet; "your rings, my lady--they'll be wanted--mind, your rings, my
lady--there is the little case, keep it in your pocket; if we escape,
my lady, they'll be wanted--mind, Mr. Chancey has ears like needle
points. Keep up your heart, my lady, and in the name of God we'll try
this chance."

"Into His hands I commit myself," said the young lady, with a tone and
air of more firmness and energy than she had shown for days; "my heart
is strengthened, my courage comes again--oh, thank God, I am equal to
this dreadful hour."

Flora Guy made a gesture of silence, and then, opening the door
briskly, and shutting it again with an ostentatious noise, and drawing
the key from the lock, she crossed the room to where Chancey, who had
watched her entrance, was sitting.

"Well, my dear," said he, "how is that delicate young lady in there?"

"Why, she's raythur bad, I'm afraid," rejoined the girl; "she's the
whole day long in a sort of a heavy dulness like--she don't seem to
mind anything."

"So much the better, my dear," said Chancey, "she'll be the less
inclined to gad, or to be troublesome--come, mix the spices and the
sugar, dear, and settle the liquor in the saucepan--you want some
refreshment, so you do, for I declare to God, I never saw anyone so
pale in all my life as you are this minute."

"I'll not be long so," said the girl, affecting a tone of briskness,
and proceeding to mingle the ingredients in the little saucepan, "for I
think if I was dead itself, let alone a little bit tired, a cup of
mulled sack would cheer me up again."

So saying, she placed the little saucepan on the bar.

"Is the parson asleep?" inquired she.

"Indeed, my dear, I'm very much afraid it's tipsy he is," drawled
Chancey, demurely, "take care of that clergyman, my dear, for indeed
I'm afraid he has very loose conduct."

"Will I blacken his nose with a burned cork?" inquired she.

"Oh! no, my little girl," replied Chancey, with a tranquil chuckle, and
turning his sleepy grey eyes upon the apoplectic visage of the
stupefied drunkard who sat bolt upright before him; "no, no, we don't
know the minute he may be wanted; he'll have to perform the ceremony
very soon, my dear; and Mr. Blarden, if he took the fancy, would think
nothing of braining half a dozen of us. I declare to God he wouldn't."

"Well, Mr. Chancey, will you mind the little saucepan for one minute,"
said she, "while I'm putting a bit of turf or a few sticks under it."

"Indeed I will," said he, turning his eyes lazily upon the utensil, but
doing nothing more to secure it. Flora Guy accordingly took some wood,
and, pretending to arrange the fire, overturned the wine; the loud hiss
of the boiling liquid, and the sudden cloud of whirling steam and
ashes, ascending toward the ceiling, and puffing into his face, half
confounded the barrister, and at the same instant, Flora Guy, clapping
her hands, and exclaimed with a shrill cry,--

"_The sack's upset! the sack's upset!_ lend a hand, Mr. Chancey--Mr.
Chancey, do you hear?" and, while thus conjured, the barrister, in
obedience to her vociferous appeal, made some indistinct passes at the
saucepan with the poker, which he had grasped at the first alarm; the
damsel, without daring to look directly where every feeling would have
riveted her eyes, beheld a dark form glide noiselessly behind Chancey,
and pass from the room. For the moment, so intense was her agony of
anxiety, she felt upon the very point of fainting; in an instant more,
however, she had recovered all her energies, and was bold and
quick-witted as ever; one glance in the direction of the lady's chamber
showed her the door slowly swinging open; fortunately the barrister was
at the moment too much occupied with the extraction of the remainder of
the saucepan from the fire, to have yet perceived the treacherous
accident, one glance at which would have sealed their ruin, and Flora
Guy, running noiselessly to the door, remedied the perilous disclosure
by shutting it softly and quickly; and then, with much clattering of
the key, and a good deal of pushing beside, forcing it open again, she
passed into the room and spoke a little in a low tone, as if to her
mistress; and then, returning, she locked the door of the then
untenanted chamber in real earnest, and, crossing to Chancey, said:--"I
wonder at you, so I do, Mr. Chancey; you frightened the young mistress
half out of her wits; and I'm all over dust and ashes; I must run down
and wash every inch of my face and hands, so I must; and here, Mr.
Chancey, will you keep the key of the bed-room till I come back? afraid
I might drop it; and don't let it out of your hands."

  [Illustration: "Glide noiselessly behind Chancey."
                 _To face page 293._]

"I will indeed, dear; but don't be long away," rejoined the barrister,
extending his hand to receive the key of the now vacant chamber.

So Flora Guy boldly walked forth upon the lobby, and closing the
chamber door behind her, found herself in the vast old gallery, hung
round with grim and antique portraits, and lighted only by the fitful
beams of a clouded moon shining doubtfully through the stained glass of
a solitary window.

Mary Ashwoode awaited her approach, concealed in a small recess or
niche in the wall, shrined like an image in the narrow enclosure of
carved oak, not daring to stir, and with a heart throbbing as though it
would burst.

"My lady, are you there?" whispered the maid, scarce audibly; great
nervous excitement renders the sense morbidly acute, and Mary Ashwoode
heard the sound distinctly, faint though it was, and at some distance
from her; she stepped falteringly from her place of concealment, and
took the hand of her conductress in a grasp cold as that of death
itself, and side by side they proceeded down the broad staircase. They
had descended about half-way when a loud and violent ringing from the
bell of the chamber where Chancey was seated made their very hearts
bound with terror; they stood fixed and breathless on the stair where
the fearful peal had first reached their ears. Again the summons came
louder still, and at the same moment the sounds of steps approached
from below, and the gleam of a candle quickly followed; Mary Ashwoode
felt her ears tingle and her head swim with terror; she was on the
point of sinking upon the floor. In this dreadful extremity her
presence of mind did not forsake Flora Guy: disengaging her hand from
that of her terrified mistress, she tripped lightly down the stairs to
meet the person who was approaching--a turn in the staircase confronted
them, and she saw before her the serving man whose treachery had
already defeated Mary Ashwoode's hopes of deliverance.

"What keeps you such a time answering the bell?" inquired she, saucily,
"you needn't go up now, for I've got your message; bring up clean cups
and a clean saucepan, for everything's destroyed with the dust and dirt
Mr. Chancey's after kicking up; what did he do, do you think, but
upsets the sack into the fire. Now be quick with the things, will you?
the bell won't be easy one minute till they're done."

"Give me a kiss, sweet lips," exclaimed the man, setting down his
candle, "and I'll not be a brace of shakes about the message; come, you
_must_," he continued, playfully struggling with the affrighted girl.

"Well, do the message first, at any rate," said she, forcing herself,
with some difficulty, from his grasp, as the bell rang a third time;
"it will be a nice piece of business, so it will, if Mr. Chancey comes
down and catches you here, pulling me about, so it will, you'll look
well, won't you, when he's telling it to Mr. Blarden?--don't be a
fool."

The reiterated application to the bell had more effect upon the serving
man than all her oratory, and muttering a curse or two, he ran down,
determined, vindictively, to bring up soiled cups, and a dirty
saucepan. The man had hardly departed, when the maid exclaimed, in a
hurried whisper, "Come--come--quick--quick, for your life!" and with
scarcely the interval of three seconds, they found themselves in the
hall.

"Here's the key, my lady; see which of the doors does it open,"
whispered she, exhibiting the key in the dusky and imperfect light.

"Here--here--this way," said Mary Ashwoode, moving with weak and
stumbling steps through a tiled lobby which opened upon the great hall,
and thence along a narrow passage upon which several doors opened.
"Here, here," she exclaimed, "this door--this--I cannot open it--my
strength is gone--this is it--for God's sake, quickly."

After two or three trials, Flora Guy succeeded in getting the key into
the lock, and then exerting the whole strength of her two hands, with a
hoarse jarring clang the bolt revolved, the door opened, and they stood
upon the fresh and dewy sward, beneath the shadow of the old
ivy-mantled walls. The girl locked the door upon the outside, fearful
that its lying open should excite suspicion, and flung the key away
into the thick weeds and brushwood.

"Now, my lady, the shortest way to the high road?" inquired Flora in a
hurried whisper, and supporting, as well as she could, the tottering
steps of her mistress, "how do you feel, my lady? Don't lose heart now,
a few minutes more and you will be safe--courage--courage, my lady."

"I am better now, Flora," said Mary faintly, "much better--the cool air
refreshes me." As she thus spoke, her strength returned, her step grew
fleeter and firmer, and she led the way round the irregular ivy-clothed
masses of the dark old building and through the stately trees that
stood gathered round it. Over the unequal sward they ran with the light
steps of fear, and under the darksome canopy of the vast and ancient
linden-trees, gliding upon the smooth grass like two ghosts among the
chequered shade and dusky light. On, on they sped, scarcely feeling the
ground beneath their feet as they pursued their terrified flight; they
had now gained the midway distance in the ancient avenue between the
mansion and great gate, and still ran noiselessly and fleetly along,
when the quick ear of Mary Ashwoode caught the distant sounds of
pursuit.

"Flora--Flora--oh, God! we are followed," gasped the young lady.

"Stop an instant, my lady," rejoined the maid, "let us listen for a
second."

They did pause, and distinctly, between them and the old mansion, they
heard, among the dry leaves with which in places the ground was strewn,
the tread of steps pursuing at headlong speed.

"It is--it is, I hear them," said Mary distractedly.

"Now, my lady, we must run--run for our lives; if we but reach the road
before them, we may yet be saved; now, my lady, for God's sake don't
falter--don't give up."

And while the sounds of pursuit grew momentarily louder and more loud,
they still held their onward way with throbbing hearts, and eyes almost
sightless with fatigue and terror.



CHAPTER LIX.

HASTE AND PERIL.


The rush of feet among the leaves grew every moment closer and closer
upon them, and now they heard the breathing of their pursuer--the
sounds came near--nearer--they approached--they reached them.

"Oh, God! they are up with us--they are upon us," said Mary, stumbling
blindly onward, and at the same moment she felt something laid heavily
upon her shoulder--she tottered--her strength forsook her, and she fell
helplessly among the branching roots of the old trees.

"My lady--oh, my lady--thank God, it's only the dog," cried Flora Guy,
clapping her hands in grateful ecstasies; and at the same time, Mary
felt a cold nose thrust under her neck and her chin and cheeks licked
by her old favourite, poor Rover. More dead than alive, she raised
herself again to her feet, and before her sat the great old dog, his
tail sweeping the rustling leaves in wide circles, and his
good-humoured tongue lolling from among his ivory fangs. With many a
frisk and bound the fine dog greeted his long-lost mistress, and seemed
resolved to make himself one of the party.

"No, no, poor Rover," said Mary, hurriedly--"we have rambled our last
together--home, Rover, home."

The old dog looked wonderingly in the face of his mistress.

"Home, Rover--home," repeated she, and the noble dog did credit to his
good training by turning dejectedly, and proceeding at a slow, broken
trot homeward, after stopping, however, and peeping round his shoulder,
as though in the hope of some signal relentingly inviting his return.

Thus relieved of their immediate fears, the two fugitives, weak,
exhausted, and breathless, reached the great gate, and found themselves
at length upon the high road. Here they ventured to check their speed,
and pursue their way at a pace which enabled them to recover breath and
strength, but still fearfully listening for any sound indicative of
pursuit.

The moon was high in the heavens, but the dark, drifting scud was
sailing across her misty disc, and giving to her light the character of
ceaseless and ever varying uncertainty. The road on which they walked
was that which led to Dublin city, and from each side was embowered by
tall old trees, and rudely fenced by unequal grassy banks. They had
proceeded nearly half-a-mile without encountering any living being,
when they heard, suddenly, a little way before them, the sharp clang of
horses' hoofs upon the road, and shortly after, the moon shining forth
for a moment, revealed distinctly the forms of two horsemen approaching
at a slow trot.

"As sure as light, my lady, it's they," said Flora Guy, "I know Sir
Henry's grey horse--don't stop, my lady--don't try to hide--just draw
the hood over your head, and walk on steady with me, and they'll never
mind us, but pass on."

With a throbbing heart, Mary obeyed her companion, and they walked side
by side by the edge of the grassy bank and under the tall trees--the
distance between them and the two mounted figures momentarily
diminishing.

"I say he's as lame as a hop-jack," cried the well-known voice of
Nicholas Blarden, as they approached--"hav'n't you an eye in your head,
you mouth, you--look there--another false step, by Jove."

Just at this moment the girls, looking neither to the right nor left,
and almost sinking with fear, were passing them by.

"Stop you, one of you, will you?" said Blarden, addressing them, and at
the same time reining in his horse.

Flora Guy stopped, and making a slight curtsey, awaited his further
pleasure, while Mary Ashwoode, with faltering steps and almost dead
with terror, walked slowly on.

"Have you light enough to see a stone in a horse's hoof, my dimber
hen?--have you, I say?"

"Yes, sir," faltered the girl, with another curtsey, and not venturing
to raise her voice, for fear of detection.

"Well, look into them all in turn, will you?" continued Blarden, "while
I walk the beast a bit. Do you see anything? is there a stone
there?--is there?"

"No, sir," said she again, with a curtsey.

"No, sir," echoed he--"but I say 'yes, sir,' and I'll take my oath of
it. D----n it, it can't be a strain. Get down, Ashwoode, I say, and
look to it yourself; these blasted women are fit for nothing but
darning old stockings--get down, I say, Ashwoode."

Without awaiting for any more formal dismissal, Flora Guy walked
quickly on, and speedily overtook her companion, and side by side they
continued to go at the same moderate pace, until a sudden turn in the
road interposing trees and bushes between them and the two horsemen,
they renewed their flight at the swiftest pace which their exhausted
strength could sustain; and need had they to exert their utmost speed,
for greater dangers than they had yet escaped were still to follow.

Meanwhile Nicholas Blarden and Sir Henry Ashwoode mended their pace,
and proceeded at a brisk trot toward the manor of Morley Court. Both
rode on more than commonly silent, and whenever Blarden spoke, it was
with something more than his usual savage moroseness. No doubt their
rapid approach to the scene where their hellish cruelty and oppression
were to be completed, did not serve either to exhilarate their spirits
or to soothe the asperities of Blarden's ruffian temper. Now and then,
indeed, he did indulge in a few flashes of savage exulting glee at his
anticipated triumph over the hereditary pride of Sir Henry, against
whom, with all a coward's rancour, he still cherished a "lodged hate,"
and in mortifying and insulting whom his kestrel heart delighted and
rioted with joy. As they approached the ancient avenue, as if by mutual
consent, they both drew bridle and reduced their pace to a walk.

"You shall be present and give her away--do you mind?" said Blarden,
abruptly breaking silence.

"There's no need for that--surely there is none?" said Ashwoode.

"Need or no need, it's my humour," replied Blarden.

"I've suffered enough already in this matter," replied Sir Henry,
bitterly; "there's no use in heaping gratuitous annoyances and
degradation upon me."

"Ho, ho, running rusty," exclaimed Blarden, with the harsh laugh of
coarse insult--"running rusty, eh? I thought you were broken in by this
time--paces learned and mouth made, eh?--take care, take care."

"I say," repeated Ashwoode, impetuously, "you can have no object in
compelling my presence, except to torment me."

"Well, suppose I allow that--what then, eh?--ho, ho!" retorted Blarden.

Sir Henry did not reply, but a strange fancy crossed his mind.

"I say," resumed Blarden, "I'll have no argument about it; I choose it,
and what I choose must be done--that's enough."

The road was silent and deserted; no sound, save the ringing of their
own horses' hoofs upon the stones, disturbed the stillness of the air;
dark, ragged clouds obscured the waning moon, and the shadows were
deepened further by the stooping branches of the tall trees which
guarded the road on either side. Ashwoode's hand rested upon the pommel
of his holster pistol, and by his side moved the wretch whose cunning
and ferocity had dogged and destroyed him--with startling vividness the
suggestion came. His eyes rested upon the dusky form of his companion,
all calculations of consequences faded away from his remembrance, and
yielding to the dark, dreadful influence which was upon him, he
clutched the weapon with a deadly gripe.

"What are you staring at me for?--am I a stone wall, eh?" exclaimed
Blarden, who instinctively perceived something odd in Ashwoode's air
and attitude, spite of the obscurity in which they rode.

The spell was broken. Ashwoode felt as if awaking from a dream, and
looked fearfully round, almost expecting to behold the visible presence
of the principle of mischief by his side, so powerful and vivid had
been the satanic impulse of the moment before.

They turned into the great avenue through which so lately the fugitives
had fearfully sped.

"We're at home now," cried Blarden; "come, be brisk, will you?" And so
saying, he struck Ashwoode's horse a heavy blow with his whip. The
spirited animal reared and bolted, and finally started at a gallop down
the broad avenue towards the mansion, and at the same pace Nicholas
Blarden also thundered to the hall door.



CHAPTER LX.

THE UNTREASURED CHAMBER.


Their obstreperous summons at the door was speedily answered, and the
two cavaliers stood in the hall.

"Well, all's right, I suppose?" inquired Blarden, tossing his gloves
and hat upon the table.

"Yes, sir," replied the servant, "all but the lady's maid; Mr.
Chancey's been calling for her these five minutes and more, and we
can't find her."

"How's this--all the doors locked?" inquired Blarden vehemently.

"Ay, sir, every one of them," replied the man.

"Who has the keys?" asked Blarden.

"Mr. Chancey, sir," replied the servant.

"Did he allow them out of his keeping--did he?" urged Blarden.

"No, sir--not a moment--for he was saying this very minute," answered
the domestic, "he had them in his pocket, and the key of Miss Mary's
room along with them; he took it from Flora Guy, the maid, scarce a
quarter of an hour ago."

"Then all _is_ right," said Blarden, while the momentary blackness of
suspicion passed from his face, "the girl's in some hole or corner of
this lumbering old barrack, but here comes Chancey himself, what's all
the fuss about--who's in the upper room--the--the boudoir, eh?" he
continued, addressing the barrister, who was sneaking downstairs with a
candle in his hand, and looking unusually sallow.

"The Reverend Ebenezer and one of the lads--they're sitting there,"
answered Chancey, "but we can't find that little girl, Flora Guy,
anywhere."

"Have you the keys?" asked Blarden.

"Ay, dear me, to be sure I have, except the one that I gave to little
Bat there, to let you in this minute. I have the three other keys; dear
me--dear me--what could ail me?" And so saying, Chancey slapped the
skirt of his coat slightly so as to make them jingle in his pocket.

"The windows are all fast and safe as the wall itself--screwed down,"
observed Blarden, "let's see the keys--show them here."

Chancey accordingly drew them from his pocket, and laid them on the
table.

"There's the three of them," observed he, calmly.

"Have you no more?" inquired Blarden, looking rather aghast.

"No, indeed, the devil a one," replied Chancey, thrusting his arm to
the elbow in his coat pocket.

"D--n me, but I think this is the key of the cellar," ejaculated
Blarden, in a tone which energized even the apathetic lawyer, "come
here, Ashwoode, what key's this?"

"It _is_ the cellar key," said Ashwoode, in a faltering voice and
turning very pale.

"Try your pockets for another, and find it, or ----." The aposiopesis
was alarming, and Blarden's direction was obeyed instantaneously.

"I declare to God," said Chancey, much alarmed, "I have but the three,
and that in the door makes four."

"You d----d oaf," said Blarden, between his set teeth, "if you have
botched this business, I'll let you know for what. Ashwoode, which of
the keys is missing?"

After a moment's hesitation, Ashwoode led the way through the passage
which Mary and her companion had so lately traversed.

"That's the door," said he, pointing to that through which the escape
had been effected.

"And what's this?" cried Blarden, shouldering past Sir Henry, and
raising something from the ground, just by the door-post, "a
handkerchief, and marked, too--it's the young lady's own--give me the
key of the lady's chamber," continued he, in a low changed voice, which
had, in the ears of the barrister, something more unpleasant still than
his loudest and harshest tones--"give me the key, and follow me."

He clutched it, and followed by the terror-stricken barrister, and by
Sir Henry Ashwoode, he retraced his steps, and scaled the stairs with
hurried and lengthy strides. Without stopping to glance at the form of
the still slumbering drunkard, or to question the servant who sat
opposite, on the chair recently occupied by Chancey, he strode directly
to the door of Mary Ashwoode's sleeping apartment, opened it, and stood
in an untenanted chamber.

For a moment he paused, aghast and motionless; he ran to the bed--still
warm with the recent pressure of his intended victim--the room was,
indeed, deserted. He turned round, absolutely black and speechless with
rage. As he advanced, the wretched barrister--the tool of his worst
schemes--cowered back in terror. Without speaking one word, Blarden
clutched him by the throat, and hurled him with his whole power
backward. With tremendous force he descended with his head upon the bar
of the grate, and thence to the hearthstone; there, breathless,
powerless, and to all outward seeming a livid corpse, lay the devil's
cast-off servant, the red blood trickling fast from ears, nose, and
mouth. Not waiting to see whether Chancey was alive or dead, Mr.
Blarden seized the brandy flask and dashed it in the face of the stupid
drunkard--who, disturbed by the fearful hubbub, was just beginning to
open his eyes--and leaving that reverend personage drenched in blood
and brandy, to take care of his boon companion as best he might,
Blarden strode down the stairs, followed by Ashwoode and the servants.

"Get horses--horses all," shouted he, "to the stables--by Jove, it was
they we met on the road--the two girls--quick to the stables--whoever
catches them shall have his hat full of crowns."

Led by Blarden, they all hurried to the stables, where they found the
horses unsaddled.

"On with the saddles--for your life be quick," cried Blarden, "four
horses--fresh ones."

While uttering his furious mandates, with many a blasphemous
imprecation, he aided the preparations himself, and with hands that
trembled with eagerness and rage, he drew the girths, and buckled the
bridles, and in almost less than a minute, the four horses were led out
upon the broken pavement of the stable-yard.

"Mind, boys," cried Blarden, "they are two mad-women--escaped
mad-women--ride for your lives. Ashwoode, do you take the right, and
I'll take the left when we come on the road--do you follow me,
Tony--and Dick, do you go with Sir Henry--and, now, devil take the
hindmost." With these words he plunged the spurs into his horse's
flanks, and with the speed of a thunder blast, they all rode
helter-skelter, in pursuit of their human prey.



CHAPTER LXI.

THE CART AND THE STRAW.


While this was passing, the two girls continued their flight toward
Dublin city. They had not long passed Ashwoode and Nicholas Blarden,
when Mary's strength entirely failed, and she was forced first to
moderate her pace to a walk, and finally to stop altogether and seat
herself upon the bank which sloped abruptly down to the road.

"Flora," said she, faintly, "I am quite exhausted--my strength is
entirely gone; I must perforce rest myself and take breath here for a
few minutes, and then, with God's help, I shall again have power to
proceed."

"Do so, my lady," said Flora, taking her stand beside her mistress,
"and I'll watch and listen here by you. Hish! don't I hear the sound of
a car on the road before us?"

So, indeed, it seemed, and at no great distance too. The road, however,
just where they had placed themselves, made a sweep which concealed the
vehicle, whatever it might be, effectually from their sight. The girl
clambered to the top of the bank, and thence commanding a view of that
part of the highway which beneath was hidden from sight, she beheld,
two or three hundred yards in advance of them, a horse and cart, the
driver of which was seated upon the shaft, slowly wending along in the
direction of the city.

"My lady," said she, descending from her post of observation, "if you
have strength to run on for only a few perches more of the road, we'll
be up with a car, and get a lift into town without any more trouble;
try it, my lady."

Accordingly they again set forth, and after a few minutes' further
exertion, they came up with the vehicle and accosted the driver, a
countryman, with a short pipe in his mouth, who, with folded arms, sat
listlessly upon the shaft.

"Honest man, God bless you, and give us a bit of a lift," said Flora
Guy; "we've come a long way and very fast, and we are fairly tired to
death."

The countryman drew the halter which he held, and uttering an
unspellable sound, addressed to his horse, succeeded in bringing him
and the vehicle to a standstill.

"Never say it twiste," said he; "get up, and welcome. Wait a bit, till
I give the straw a turn for yees; not for it; step on the wheel; don't
be in dread, he won't move."

So saying, he assisted Mary Ashwoode into the rude vehicle, and not
without wondering curiosity, for the hand which she extended to him was
white and slender, and glittered in the moonlight with jewelled rings.
Flora Guy followed; but before the cart was again in motion, they
distinctly heard the far-off clatter of galloping hoofs upon the road.
Their fears too truly accounted for these sounds.

"Merciful God! we are pursued," said Mary Ashwoode; and then turning to
the driver, she continued, with an agony of imploring terror--"as you
look for pity at the dreadful hour when all shall need it, do not
betray us. If it be as I suspect, we are pursued--pursued with an
evil--a dreadful purpose. I had rather die a thousand deaths than fall
into the hands of those who are approaching."

"Never fear," interrupted the man; "lie down flat both of you in the
cart and I'll hide you--never fear."

They obeyed his directions, and he spread over their prostrate bodies a
covering of straw; not quite so thick, however, as their fears would
have desired; and thus screened, they awaited the approach of those
whom they rightly conjectured to be in hot pursuit of them. The man
resumed his seat upon the shaft, and once more the cart was in motion.

Meanwhile, the sharp and rapid clang of the hoofs approached, and
before the horsemen had reached them, the voice of Nicholas Blarden was
shouting--

"Holloa--holloa, honest fellow--saw you two young women on the road?"

There was scarcely time allowed for an answer, when the thundering
clang of the iron hoofs resounded beside the conveyance in which the
fugitives were lying, and the horsemen both, with a sudden and violent
exertion, brought their beasts to a halt, and so abruptly, that
although thrown back upon their haunches, the horses slid on for
several yards upon the hard road, by the mere impetus of their former
speed, knocking showers of fire flakes from the stones.

"I say," repeated Blarden, "did two girls pass you on the road--did you
see them?"

"Divil a sign of a girl I see," replied the man, carelessly; and to
their infinite relief, the two fugitives heard their pursuer, with a
muttered curse, plunge forward upon his way. This relief, however, was
but momentary, for checking his horse again, Blarden returned.

"I say, my good chap, I passed you before to-night, not ten minutes
since, on my way out of town, not half-a-mile from this spot--the girls
were running this way, and if they're between this and the gate--they
must have passed you."

"Devil a girl I seen this---- Oh, begorra! you're right, sure enough,"
said the driver, "what the devil was I thinkin' about--two girls--one
of them tall and slim, with rings on her fingers--and the other a
short, active bit of a colleen?"

"Ay--ay--ay," cried Blarden.

"Sure enough they did overtake me," said the man, "shortly after I
passed two gentlemen--I suppose you are one of them--and the little one
axed me the direction of Harold's-cross--and when I showed it to them,
bedad they both made no more bones about it, but across the ditch with
them, an' away over the fields--they're half-way there by this time--it
was jist down there by the broken bridge--they were quare-looking
girls."

"It would be d----d odd if they were not--they're both mad," replied
Blarden; "thank you for your hint."

And so saying, as he turned his horse's head in the direction
indicated, he chucked a crown piece into the cart. As the conveyance
proceeded, they heard the driver soliloquizing with evident
satisfaction--

"Bedad, they'll have a plisint serenade through the fields, the two of
them," observed he, standing upon the shafts, and watching the progress
of the two horsemen--"there they go, begorra--over the ditch with them.
Oh, by the hokey, the sarvint boy's down--the heart's blood iv a
toss--an' oh, bloody wars! see the skelp iv the whip the big chap gives
him--there they go again down the slope--now for it--over the gripe
with them--well done, bedad, and into the green lane--devil take the
bushes, I can't see another sight iv them. Young women," he continued,
again assuming his sitting position, and replacing his pipe in the
corner of his mouth--"all's safe now--they're clean out of sight--you
may get up, miss."

Accordingly, Mary Ashwoode and Flora Guy raised themselves.

"Here," said the latter, extending her hand toward the driver, "here's
the silver he threw to you."

"I wisht I could airn as much every day as aisily," said the man,
securing his prize; "that chap has raal villiany in his face; he looks
so like ould Nick, I'm half afeard to take his money; the crass of
Christ about us, I never seen such a face."

"You're an honest boy at any rate," said Flora Guy, "you brought us
safe through the danger."

"An' why wouldn't I--what else 'id I do?" rejoined the countryman; "it
wasn't for to sell you I was goin'."

"You have earned my gratitude for ever," said Mary Ashwoode; "my
thanks, my prayers; you have saved me; your generosity, and humanity,
and pity, have delivered me from the deadliest peril that ever yet
overtook living creature. God bless you for it."

She removed a ring from her finger, and added--"Take this; nay, do not
refuse so poor an acknowledgment for services inestimable."

"No, miss, no," rejoined the countryman, warmly, "I'll not take it;
I'll not have it; do you think I could do anything else but what I did,
and you putting yourself into my hands the way you did, and trusting to
me, and laving yourselves in my power intirely? I'm not a Turk, nor an
unnatural Jew; may the devil have me, body and soul, the hour I take
money, or money's worth, for doin' the like."

Seeing the man thus resolved, she forbore to irritate him by further
pressing the jewel on his acceptance, and he, probably to put an end to
the controversy, began to shake and chuck the rope halter with
extraordinary vehemence, and at the same time with the heel of his
brogue, to stimulate the lagging jade, accompanying the application
with a sustained hissing; the combined effect of all which was to cause
the animal to break into a kind of hobbling canter; and so they rumbled
and clattered over the stony road, until at length their charioteer
checked the progress of his vehicle before the hospitable door-way of
"The Bleeding Horse"--the little inn to which, in the commencement of
these records, we have already introduced the reader.

"Hould that, if you plase," said he, placing the end of the halter in
Flora Guy's hand, "an' don't let him loose, or he'll be makin' for the
grass and have you upset in the ditch. I'll not be a minute in here;
and maybe the young lady and yourself 'id take a drop of something; the
evenin's mighty chill entirely."

They both, of course, declined the hospitable proposal, and their
conductor, leaving them on the cart, entered the little hostelry;
outside the door were two or three cars and horses, whose owners were
boozing within; and feeling some return of confidence in the
consciousness that they were in the neighbourhood of persons who could,
and probably would, protect them, should occasion arise, Mary Ashwoode,
with her light mantle drawn around her, and the hood over her head, sat
along with her faithful companion, awaiting his return, under the
embowering shadow of the old trees.

"Flora, I am sorely perplexed; I know not whither to go when we have
reached the city," said Mary, addressing her companion in a low tone.
"I have but one female relative residing in Dublin, and she would
believe, and think, and do, just as my brother might wish to make her.
Oh, woeful hour! that it should ever come to this--that I should fear
to trust another because she is my own brother's friend."

She had hardly ceased to speak when a small man, with his cocked hat
set somewhat rakishly on one side, stepped forth from the little inn
door; he had just lighted his pipe, and was inhaling its smoke with
anxious attention lest the spark which he cherished should expire
before the ignition of the weed became sufficiently general; his walk
was therefore slow and interrupted; the top of his finger tenderly
moved the kindling tobacco, and his two eyes squinted with intense
absorption at the bowl of the pipe; by the time he had reached the back
of the cart in which Mary Ashwoode and her attendant were seated, his
labours were crowned by complete success, as was attested by the dense
volumes of smoke which at regular intervals he puffed forth. He carried
a cutting-whip under his arm, and was directing his steps toward a
horse which, with its bridle thrown over a gate-post, was patiently
awaiting his return. As he passed the rude vehicle in which the two
fugitives were couched, he happened to pause for a moment, and Mary
thought she recognized the figure before her as that of an old
acquaintance.

"Is that Larry--Larry Toole?" inquired she.

"It's myself, sure enough," rejoined that identical personage; "an' who
are you--a woman, to be sure, who else 'id be axin' for me?"

"Larry, don't you know me?" said she.

"Divil a taste," replied he. "I only see you're a female av coorse, why
wouldn't you, for, by the piper that played before Moses, I'm never out
of one romance till I'm into another."

"Larry," said she, lowering her voice, "it is Miss Ashwoode who speaks
to you."

"Don't be funnin' me, can't you?" rejoined Larry, rather pettishly.
"I've got enough iv the thricks iv women latterly; an' too much. I'm a
raal marthyr to famale mineuvers; there's a bump on my head as big as a
goose's egg, glory be to God! an' my bones is fairly aching with what
I've gone through by raison iv confidin' myself to the mercy of women.
Oh thunder----"

"I tell you, Larry," repeated Mary, "I am, indeed, Miss Ashwoode."

"No, but who are you, in earnest?" urged Larry Toole; "can't you put me
out iv pain at wonst; upon my sowl I don't know you from Moses this
blessed minute."

"Well, Larry, although you cannot recognize my voice," said she,
turning back her hood so as to reveal her pale features in the
moonlight, "you have not forgotten my face."

"Oh, blessed hour! Miss Mary," exclaimed Larry, in unfeigned amazement,
while he hurriedly thrust his pipe into his pocket, and respectfully
doffed his hat.

"Hush, hush," said Mary, with a gesture of caution. "Put on your hat,
too; I wish to escape observation; put it on, Larry; it is my wish."

Larry reluctantly complied.

"Can you tell me where in town my uncle O'Leary is to be found?"
inquired she, eagerly.

"Bedad, Miss Mary, he isn't in town at all," replied the man; "they say
he married a widdy lady about ten days ago; at any rate he's gone out
of town more than a week; I didn't hear where."

"I know not whither to turn for help or counsel, Flora," said she,
despairingly, "my best friend is gone."

"Well," said Larry--who, though entirely ignorant of the exact nature
of the young lady's fears, had yet quite sufficient shrewdness to
perceive that she was, indeed, involved in some emergency of
extraordinary difficulty and peril--"well, miss, maybe if you'd take a
fool's advice for once, it might turn out best," said Larry. "There's
an ould gentleman that knows all about your family; he was out at the
manor, and had a long discourse, himself and Sir Richard--God rest
him--a short time before the ould masther died; the gentleman's name is
Audley; and, though he never seen you but once, he wishes you well, and
'id go a long way to sarve you; an' above all, he's a raal rock iv
sinse. I'm not bad myself, but, begorra, I'm nothin' but a fool beside
him; now do you, Miss Mary, and the young girl that's along with you,
jist come in here; you can have a snug little room to yourselves, and
I'll go into town and have the ould gentleman out with you before you
know what you're about, or where you are; he'll ax no more than the
wind iv the word to bring him here in a brace iv shakes; and my name's
not Larry if he don't give you suparior advice."

A slight thing determines a mind perplexed and desponding; and Mary
Ashwoode, feeling that whatever objection might well be started against
the plan proposed by Larry Toole, yet felt that, were it rejected, she
had none better to follow in its stead; anything rather than run the
risk of being placed again in her brother's keeping; there was no time
for deliberation, and therefore she at once adopted the suggestion.
Larry, accordingly, conducted them into the little inn, and consigned
them to the care of a haggard, slovenly girl, who, upon a hint from
that gentleman, conducted them to a little chamber, up a flight of
stairs, looking out upon the back yard, where, with a candle and a
scanty fire, she left the two anxious fugitives; and, as she descended,
they heard the clank of the iron shoes, as Larry spurred his horse into
a hard gallop, speeding like the wind upon his mission.

The receding sounds of his rapid progress had, however, hardly ceased
to be heard, when the fears and anxieties which had been for a moment
forgotten, returned with heavier pressure upon the poor girl's heart,
and she every moment expected to hear the dreaded voices of her
pursuers in the passage beneath, or to see their faces entering at the
door. Thus restlessly and fearfully she awaited the return of her
courier.



CHAPTER LXII.

THE COUNCIL--SHOWING WHAT ADVICE MR. AUDLEY GAVE, AND HOW IT WAS TAKEN.


Larry Toole was true to his word. Without turning from the direct
course, or pausing on his way for one moment, he accomplished the
service which he had volunteered, and in an incredibly short time
returned to the little inn, bringing Mr. Audley with him in a coach.

With an air of importance and mystery, suitable to the occasion, the
little gentleman, followed by his attendant, proceeded to the chamber
where Miss Ashwoode and her maid were awaiting his arrival. Mary arose
as he entered the room, and Larry, from behind, ejaculated, in a tone
of pompous exultation, "Here he is, Miss Mary--Mr. Audley himself, an'
no mistake."

"Tut, tut, Larry," exclaimed the little gentleman, turning impatiently
toward that personage, whose obstreperous announcement had disarranged
his plans of approach; "hold your tongue, Larry, I say--ahem!"

"Mr. Audley," said Mary, "I hope you will pardon----"

"Not one word of the kind--excuse the interruption--not a word,"
exclaimed the little gentleman, gallantly waving his hand--"only too
much honour--too proud, Miss Ashwoode, I have long known something of
your family, and, strange as it may appear, have felt a peculiar
interest in you--although I had not the honour of your acquaintance--for
the sake of--of other parties. I have ever entertained a warm regard
for your welfare, and although circumstances are much, very much
changed, I cannot forget relations that once subsisted--ahem!" This was
said diplomatically, and he blew his nose with a short decisive twang.
"I understand, my poor young lady," he continued, relapsing into the
cordial manner that was natural to him, "that you are at this moment in
circumstances of difficulty, perhaps of danger, and that you have been
disappointed in this emergency by the absence of your relative, Major
O'Leary, with whose acquaintance, by-the-bye, I am honoured, and a more
worthy, warm-hearted--but no matter--in his absence, then, I venture to
tender my poor services--pray, if it be not too bold a request, tell me
fully and fairly, the nature of your embarrassment; and if zeal,
activity, and the friendliest dispositions can avail to extricate you,
you may command them all--pray, then, let me know what I _can_ do to
serve you." So saying, the old gentleman took the pale and lovely
lady's hand, with a mixture of tenderness and respect which encouraged
and assured her.

Larry having withdrawn, she told the little gentleman all that she
could communicate, without disclosing her brother's implication in the
conspiracy. Even this reserve, the old gentleman's warm and kindly
manner, and the good-natured simplicity, apparent in all he said and
did, effectually removed, and the whole case, in all its bearings, and
with all its circumstances, was plainly put before him. During the
narrative, the little gentleman was repeatedly so transported with ire
as to slap his thigh, sniff violently, and mutter incoherent
ejaculations between his teeth; and when it was ended, was so far
overcome by his feelings, that he did not trust himself to address the
young lady, until he had a little vented his indignation by marching
and countermarching, at quick time, up and down the room, blowing his
nose with desperate abandonment, and muttering sundry startling
interjections. At length he grew composed, and addressing Mary
Ashwoode, observed,--

"You are quite right, my dear young lady--quite right, indeed, in
resolving against putting yourself into the hands of anybody under Sir
Henry's influence--perfectly right and wise. Have you _no_ relatives in
this country, none capable of protecting you, and willing to do so?"

"I have, indeed, one relative," rejoined she, but----"

"Who is it?" interrupted Audley.

"An uncle," replied Mary.

"His name, my dear--his name?" inquired the old gentleman, impatiently.

"His name is French--Oliver French," replied she, "but----"

"Never mind," interrupted Audley again, "where does he live?"

"He lives in an old place called Ardgillagh," rejoined she, "on the
borders of the county of Limerick."

"Is it easily found out?--near the high road from Dublin?--near any
town?--easily got at?" inquired he, with extra-ordinary volubility.

"I've heard my brother say," rejoined she, "that it is not far from the
high road from Dublin; he was there himself. I believe the place is
well known by the peasantry for many miles round; but----"

"Very good, very good, my dear," interposed Mr. Audley again. "Has he a
family--a wife?"

"No," rejoined Mary; "he is unmarried, and an old man."

"Pooh, pooh! why the devil hasn't he a wife? but no matter, you'll be
all the welcomer. That's our ground--all the safer that it's a little
out of the way," exclaimed the old man. "We'll steal a march--they'll
never suspect us; we'll start at once."

"But I fear," said Mary, dejectedly, "that he will not receive me.
There has long been an estrangement between our family and him; with my
father he had a deadly quarrel while I was yet an infant. He vowed that
neither my father nor any child of his should ever cross his threshold.
I've been told he bitterly resented what he believed to have been my
father's harsh treatment of my mother. I was too young, however, to
know on which side the right of the quarrel was; but I fear there is
little hope of his doing as you expect, for some six or seven years
since my brother was sent down, in the hope of a reconciliation, and in
vain. He returned, reporting that my uncle Oliver had met all his
advances with scorn. No, no, I fear--I greatly fear he will not receive
me."

"Never believe it--never think so," rejoined old Audley, warmly; "if he
were man enough to resent your mother's wrongs, think you his heart
will have no room for yours? Think you his nature's changed, that he
cannot pity the distressed, and hate tyranny any longer? Never believe
me, if he won't hug you to his heart the minute he sees you. I like the
old chap; he was right to be angry--it was his duty to be in a
confounded passion; he ought to have been kicked if he hadn't done just
as he did--I'd swear he was right. Never trust me, if he'll not take
your part with his whole heart, and make you his pet for as long as you
please to stay with him. Deuce take him, I like the old fellow."

"You would advise me, then, to apply to him for protection?" asked Mary
Ashwoode, "and I suppose to go down there immediately."

"Most unquestionably so," replied Mr. Audley, with a short nod of
decision--"most unquestionably--start to-night; we shall go as far as
the town of Naas; I will accompany you. I consider you my ward until
your natural protectors take you under their affectionate charge, and
guard you from grief and danger as they ought. My good girl," he
continued, addressing Flora Guy, "you must come along with your
mistress; I've a coach at the door. We shall go directly into town, and
my landlady shall take you both under her care until I have procured
two chaises, the one for myself, and the other for your mistress and
you. You will find Mrs. Pickley, my landlady, a very kind, excellent
person, and ready to assist you in making your preparations for the
journey."

The old gentleman then led his young and beautiful charge, with a
mixture of gallantry and pity, by the hand down the little inn stairs,
and in a very brief time Mary Ashwoode and her faithful attendant found
themselves under the hospitable protection of Mrs. Pickley's roof-tree.



CHAPTER LXIII.

PARTING--THE SHELTERED VILLAGE, AND THE JOURNEY'S END.


Never was little gentleman in such a fuss as Mr. Audley--never were so
many orders issued and countermanded and given again--never were Larry
Toole's energies so severely tried and his intellects so
distracted--impossible tasks and contradictory orders so "huddled on
his back," that he well nigh went mad under the burthen; at length,
however, matters were arranged, two coaches with post-horses were
brought to the door, Mary Ashwoode and her attendant were deposited in
one, along with such extempore appliances for wardrobe and toilet as
Mrs. Pickley, in a hurried excursion, was enabled to collect from the
neighbouring shops and pack up for the journey, and Mr. Audley stood
ready to take his place in the other.

"Larry," said he, before ascending, "here are ten guineas, which will
keep you in bread and cheese until you hear from me again; don't on any
account leave the 'Cock and Anchor,' your master's horse and luggage
are there, and, no doubt, whenever he returns to Dublin, which I am
very certain must soon occur, he will go directly thither; so be you
sure to meet him there, should he happen during my absence to arrive;
and mark me, be very careful of this letter, give it him the moment you
see him, which, please God, will be very soon indeed; keep it in some
safe place--don't carry it in your breeches pocket, you blockhead,
you'll grind it to powder, booby! indeed, now that I think on't, you
had better give it at once in charge to the innkeeper of the 'Cock and
Anchor;' don't forget, on your life I charge you, and now good-night."

"Good-night, and good luck, your honour, and may God speed you!"
ejaculated Larry, as the vehicles rumbled away. The charioteers had
received their directions, and Mary Ashwoode and her trusty companion,
confused and bewildered by the rapidity with which events had succeeded
one another during the day, and stunned by the magnitude of the dangers
which they had so narrowly escaped, found themselves, scarcely
crediting the evidence of their senses, rapidly traversing the interval
which separated Dublin city from the little town of Naas.

It is not our intention to weary our readers with a detailed account of
the occurrences of the journey, nor to present them with a catalogue of
all the mishaps and delays to which Irish posting in those days, and
indeed much later, was liable; it is enough to state that upon the
evening of the fourth day the two carriages clattered into the wretched
little village which occupied the road on which opened the avenue
leading up to the great house of Ardgillagh. The village, though
obviously the abode of little comfort or cheerfulness, was not on that
account the less picturesque; the road wound irregularly where it
stood, and was carried by an old narrow bridge across a wayward
mountain stream which wheeled and foamed in many a sportive eddy within
its devious banks. Close by, the little mill was couched among the
sheltering trees, which, extending in irregular and scattered groups
through the village, and mingling with the stunted bushes and briars of
the hedges, were nearly met from the other side of the narrow street by
the broad branching limbs of the giant trees which skirted the wild
wooded domain of Ardgillagh. Thus occupying a sweeping curve of the
road, and embowered among the shadowy arches of the noble timber, the
little village had at first sight an air of tranquillity, seclusion,
and comfort, which made the traveller pause to contemplate its simple
attractions and to admire how it could be that a few wretched hovels
with crazy walls and thatch overgrown with weeds, thus irregularly
huddled together beneath the rude shelter of the wood, could make a
picture so pleasing to the eye and so soothing to the heart. The
vehicles were drawn up by their drivers before the door of a small
thatched building which, however, stood a whole head and shoulders
higher than the surrounding hovels, exhibiting a second storey with
three narrow windows in front, and over its doorway, from which a large
pig, under the stimulus of a broomstick, was majestically issuing, a
sign-board, the admiration of connoisseurs for miles round, presenting
a half-length portrait of the illustrious Brian Borhome, and admitted
to be a startling likeness. Before this mansion--the only one in the
place which pretended to the character of a house of public
entertainment--the post-boys drew bridle, and brought the vehicles to a
halt. Mr. Audley was upon the road in an instant, and with fussy
gallantry assisting Mary Ashwoode to descend. Their sudden arrival had
astounded the whole household--consternation and curiosity filled the
little establishment. The proprietor, who sat beneath the capacious
chimney, started to his feet, swallowing, in his surprise, a whole
potato, which he was just deliberately commencing, and by a miracle
escaped choking. The landlady dropped a pot, which she was scrubbing,
upon the back of a venerable personage who was in a stooping posture,
lighting his pipe, and inadvertently wiped her face in the pot clout;
everybody did something wrong, and nobody anything right; the dog was
kicked and the cat scalded, and in short, never was known in the little
village of Ardgillagh, within the memory of man, except when Ginckle
marched his troops through the town, such a universal hubbub as that
which welcomed the two chaises and their contents to the door of Pat
Moroney's hospitable mansion.

Mrs. Moroney, with more lampblack upon her comely features than she was
at that moment precisely aware of, hastened to the door, which she
occupied as completely and exclusively as the corpulent specimen of
Irish royalty over her head did his proper sign-board; all the time
gazing with an admiring grin upon Mr. Audley and the lady whom he
assisted to descend; and at exceedingly short and irregular intervals,
executing sundry slight ducks, intended to testify her exuberant
satisfaction and respect, while all around and about her were thrust
the wondering visages of the less important inmates of the
establishment; many were the murmured criticisms, and many the
ejaculations of admiration and surprise, which accompanied every
movement of the party under observation.

"Oh! but she's a fine young lady, God bless her!" said one.

"But isn't she mighty pale, though, entirely?" observed another.

"That's her father--the little stout gentleman; see how he houlds her
hand for fear she'd thrip comin' out. Oh! but he's a nate man!"
remarked a third.

"An' her hand as white as milk; an' look at her fine rings," said a
fourth.

"She's a rale lady; see the grand look of her, and the stately step,
God bless her!" said a fifth.

"See, see; here's another comin' out; that's her sisther," remarked
another.

"Hould your tongues, will yees?" ejaculated the landlady, jogging her
elbow at random into somebody's mouth.

"An' see the little one taking the box in her hand," observed one.

"Look at the tall lady, how she smiles at her, God bless her! she's a
rale good lady," remarked another.

"An' now she's linkin' with him, and here they come, by gorra,"
exclaimed a third.

"Back with yees, an' lave the way," exclaimed Mrs. Moroney; "don't you
see the quality comin'?"

Accordingly, with a palpitating heart, the worthy mistress of King
Brian Borhome prepared to receive her aristocratic guests. With due
state and ceremony she conducted them into the narrow chamber which,
except the kitchen, was the only public apartment in the establishment.
After due attention to his fair charge, Mr. Audley inquired of the
hostess,--

"Pray, my good worthy woman, are we not now within a mile or less of
the entrance into the domain of Ardgillagh?"

"The gate's not two perches down the road, your honour," replied she;
"is it to the great house you want to go, sir?"

"Yes, my good woman; certainly," replied he.

"Come here, Shawneen, come, asthore!" cried she, through the half-open
door. "I'll send the little gossoon with you, your honour; he'll show
you the way, and keep the dogs off, for they all knows him up at the
great house. Here, Shawneen; this gintleman wants to be showed the way
up to the great house; and don't let the dogs near him; do you mind? He
hasn't much English," said she, turning to her guest, by way of
apology, and then conveying her directions anew in the mother tongue.

Under the guidance of this ragged little urchin, Mr. Audley accordingly
set forth upon his adventurous excursion.

Mrs. Moroney brought in bread, milk, eggs, and in short, the best cheer
which her limited resources could supply; and, although Mary Ashwoode
was far too anxious about the result of Mr. Audley's visit to do more
than taste the tempting bowl of new milk which was courteously placed
before her, Flora Guy, with right good will and hearty appetite, did
ample justice to the viands which the hostess provided.

After some idle talk between herself and Flora Guy, Mrs. Moroney
observed in reply to an interrogatory from the girl,--

"Twenty or thirty years ago there wasn't such a fox-hunter in the
country as Mr. French; but he's this many a year ailing, and winter
after winter, it's worse and worse always he's getting, until at last
he never stirs out at all; and for the most part he keeps his bed."

"Is anyone living with him?" inquired Flora.

"No, none of his family," answered she; "no one at all, you may say;
there's no one does anything in his place, an' very seldom anyone sees
him except Mistress Martha and Black M'Guinness; them two has him all
to themselves; and, indeed, there's quare stories goin' about them."



CHAPTER LXIV.

MISTRESS MARTHA AND BLACK M'GUINNESS.


Mr. Audley, preceded by his little ragged guide, walked thoughtfully on
his way to visit the old gentleman, of whose oddities and strange and
wayward temper the keeper of the place where they had last obtained a
relay of horses had given a marvellous and perhaps somewhat exaggerated
account. Now that he had reached the spot, and that the moment
approached which was to be the crisis of the adventure, he began to
feel far less confident of success than he had been while the issue of
his project was comparatively remote.

They passed down the irregular street of the village, and beneath the
trees which arched overhead like the vast and airy aisles of some huge
Gothic pile, and after a short walk of some two or three hundred yards,
during which they furnished matter of interesting speculation to half
the village idlers, they reached a rude gate of great dimensions, but
which had obviously seen better days. There was no lodge or gate-house,
and Mr. Audley followed the little conductor over a stile, which
occupied the side of one of the great ivy-mantled stone piers; crossing
this, he found himself in the demesne. A broken and irregular avenue or
bridle track--for in most places it was little more--led onward over
hill and through hollow, along the undulations of the soft green sward,
and under the fantastic boughs of gnarled thorns and oaks and sylvan
birches, which in thick groups, wild and graceful as nature had placed
them, clothed the varied slopes. The rude approach which they followed
led them a wayward course over every variety of ground--now flat and
boggy, again up hill, and over the grey surface of lichen-covered
rocks--again down into deep fern-clothed hollows, and then across the
shallow, brawling stream, without bridge or appliance of any kind, but
simply through its waters, forced, as best they might, to pick their
steps upon the moss-grown stones that peeped above the clear devious
current. Thus they passed along through this wild and extensive
demesne, varied by a thousand inequalities of ground and by the
irregular grouping of the woods, which owed their picturesque
arrangement to the untutored fancies of nature herself, whose dominion
had there never known the intrusions of the axe, or the spade, or the
pruning-hook, but exulted in the unshackled indulgence of all her
wildest revelry. After a walk of more than half-an-hour's duration,
through a long vista among the trees, the grey gable of the old mansion
of Ardgillagh, with its small windows and high and massive chimney
stacks, presented itself.

There was a depressing air of neglect and desertion about the old
place, which even the unimaginative temperament of Mr. Audley was
obliged to acknowledge. Rank weeds and grass had forced their way
through the pavement of the courtyard, and crowded in patches of
vegetation even to the very door of the house. The same was observable,
in no less a degree, in the great stable-yard, the gate of which,
unhinged, lay wide open, exhibiting a range of out-houses and stables,
which would have afforded lodging for horse and man to a whole regiment
of dragoons. Two men, one of them in livery, were loitering through the
courtyard, apparently not very well knowing what to do with themselves;
and as the visitors approached, a whole squadron of dogs, the little
ones bouncing in front with shrill alarm, and the more formidable, at a
majestic canter and with deep-mouthed note of menace, bringing up the
rear, came snarling, barking, and growling, towards the intruders at
startling speed.

"Piper, Piper, Toby, Fan, Motheradauna, Boxer, Boxer, Toby!" screamed
the little guide, advancing a few yards before Mr. Audley, who, in
considerable uneasiness, grasped his walking cane with no small energy.
The interposition of the urchin was successful, the dogs recognized
their young friend, the angry clangour was hushed and their pace
abated, and when they reached Mr. Audley and his guide, in compliment
to the latter they suffered the little gentleman to pass on, with no
further question than a few suspicious sniffs, as they applied their
noses to the calves of that gentleman's legs. As they continued to
approach, the men in the court, now alarmed by the vociferous challenge
of the dogs, eyed the little gentleman inquisitively, for a visitor at
Ardgillagh was a thing that had not been heard of for years. As Mr.
Audley's intention became more determinate, and his design appeared
more unequivocally to apply for admission, the servant, who watched his
progress, ran by some hidden passage in the stable-yard into the
mansion and was ready to gratify his curiosity legitimately, by taking
his post in the hall in readiness to answer Mr. Audley's summons, and
to hold parley with him at the door.

"Is Mr. French at home?" inquired Mr. Audley.

"Ay, sir, he is at home," rejoined the man, deliberately, to allow
himself time fully to scrutinize the visitor's outward man.

"Can I see him, pray?" asked the little gentleman.

"Why, raly, sir, I can't exactly say," observed the man, scratching his
head. "He's upstairs in his own chamber--indeed, for that matter, he's
seldom out of it. If you'll walk into the room there, sir, I'll
inquire."

Accordingly, Mr. Audley entered the apartment indicated and sat himself
down in the deep recess of the window to take breath. He well knew the
kind of person with whom he had to deal, previously to encountering
Oliver French in person. He had heard quite enough of Mistress Martha
and of Black M'Guinness already, to put him upon his guard, and fill
him with just suspicions as to their character and designs; he
therefore availed himself of the little interval to arrange his plans
of operation in his own mind. He had not waited long, when the door
opened, and a tall, elderly woman, with a bunch of keys at her side,
and arrayed in a rich satin dress, walked demurely into the room. There
was something unpleasant and deceitful in the expression of the
half-closed eyes and thin lips of this lady which inspired Mr. Audley
with instinctive dislike of her--an impression which was rather
heightened than otherwise by the obvious profusion with which her
sunken and sallow cheeks were tinged with rouge. This demure and
painted lady made a courtesy on seeing Mr. Audley, and in a low and
subdued tone which well accorded with her meek exterior, inquired,--

"You were asking for Mr. Oliver French, sir?"

"Yes, madam," replied Mr. Audley, returning the salute with a bow as
formal; "I wish much to see him, if he could afford me half an hour's
chat."

"Mr. French is very ill--very--very poorly, indeed," said Mistress
Martha, closing her eyes, and shaking her head. "He dislikes talking to
strangers. Are you a relative, pray, sir?"

"Not I, madam--not at all, madam," rejoined Mr. Audley.

A silence ensued, during which he looked out for a minute at the view
commanded by the window; and as he did so, he observed with the corner
of his eyes that the lady was studying him with a severe and searching
scrutiny. She was the first to break the silence.

"I suppose it's about business you want to see him?" inquired she,
still looking at him with the same sharp glance.

"Just so," rejoined Mr. Audley; "it is indeed upon business."

"He dislikes transacting business or speaking of it himself," said she.
"He always employs his own man, Mr. M'Guinness. I'll call Mr.
M'Guinness, that you may communicate the matter to him."

"You must excuse me," said Mr. Audley. "My instructions are to give my
message to Mr. Oliver French in person--though indeed there's no secret
in the matter. The fact is, Madam, my mission is of a kind which ought
to make me welcome. You understand me? I come here to announce a--a--an
acquisition, in short a sudden and, I believe, a most unexpected
acquisition. But perhaps I've said too much; the facts are for his own
ear solely. Such are my instructions; and you know I have no choice.
I've posted all the way from Dublin to execute the message; and between
ourselves, should he suffer this occasion to escape him, he may never
again have an opportunity of making such an addition to--but I must
hold my tongue--I'm prating against orders. In a word, madam, I'm
greatly mistaken, or it will prove the best news that has been told in
this house since its master was christened."

He accompanied his announcement with a prodigious number of nods and
winks of huge significance, and all designed to beget the belief that
he carried in his pocket the copy of a will, or other instrument,
conveying to the said Oliver French of Ardgillagh the gold mines of
Peru, or some such trifle.

Mistress Martha paused, looked hard at him, then reflected again. At
length she said, with the air of a woman who has made up her mind,--

"I dare to say, sir, it _is_ possible for you to see Mr. French. He is
a little better to-day. You'll promise not to fatigue him--but you must
first see Mr. M'Guinness. He can tell better than I whether his master
is sufficiently well to-day for an interview of the kind."

So saying, Mrs. Martha sailed, with saint-like dignity, from the room.

"_She_ rules the roost, I believe," said Mr. Audley within himself. "If
so, all's smooth from this forth. Here comes the gentleman,
however--and, by the laws, a very suitable co-mate for that painted
Jezebel."

As Mr. Audley concluded this criticism, a small man, with a greasy and
dingy complexion, and in a rusty suit of black, made his appearance.

This individual was, if possible, more subdued, meek, and
Christian-like than the lady who had just evacuated the room in his
favour. His eyes were, if possible, habitually more nearly closed; his
step was as soft and cat-like to the full; and, in a word, he was in
air, manner, gait, and expression as like his accomplice as a man can
well be to one of the other sex.

A short explanation having passed between this person and Mr. Audley,
he retired for a few minutes to prepare his master for the visit, and
then returning, conducted the little bachelor upstairs.



CHAPTER LXV.

THE CONFERENCE--SHOWING HOW OLIVER FRENCH BURST INTO A RAGE AND FLUNG
HIS CAP ON THE FLOOR.


Mr. Audley followed Black M'Guinness as we have said up the stairs, and
was, after an introductory knock at the door, ushered by him into
Oliver French's bed-room. Its arrangements were somewhat singular--a
dressing-table with all the appliances of the most elaborate
cultivation of the graces, and a huge mirror upon it, stood directly
opposite to the door; against the other wall, between the door and this
table, was placed a massive sideboard covered with plate and wine
flasks, cork-screws and cold meat, in the most admired disorder--two
large presses were also visible, one of which lay open, exhibiting
clothes, and papers, and other articles piled together in a highly
original manner--two or three very beautiful pictures hung upon the
walls. At the far end of the room stood the bed, and at one side of it
a table covered with wines and viands, and at the other, a large
iron-bound chest, with a heavy bunch of keys dangling from its lock--a
little shelf, too, occupied the wall beside the invalid, abundantly
stored with tall phials with parchment labels, and pill-boxes and
gallipots innumerable. In the bed, surrounded by the drapery of the
drawn curtains, lay, or rather sat, Oliver French himself, propped up
by the pillows: he was a corpulent man, with a generous double chin; a
good-natured grey eye twinkled under a bushy, grizzled eye-brow, and a
countenance which bore unequivocally the lines of masculine beauty,
although considerably disfigured by the traces of age, as well as of
something very like intemperance and full living: he wore a silk
night-gown and a shirt of snowy whiteness, with lace ruffles, and on
his head was a crimson velvet cap.

Grotesque as were the arrangements of the room, there was,
nevertheless, about its occupant an air of aristocratic superiority and
ease which at once dispelled any tendency to ridicule.

"Mr. Audley, I presume," said the invalid.

Mr. Audley bowed.

"Pray, sir, take a chair. M'Guinness, place a chair for Mr. Audley,
beside the table here. I am, as you see, sir," continued he, "a
confirmed valetudinarian; I suffer abominably from gout, and have not
been able to remove to my easy chair by the fire for more than a week.
I understand that you have some matters of importance to communicate to
me; but before doing so, let me request of you to take a little wine,
you can have whatever you like best--there's some Madeira at your elbow
there, which I can safely recommend, as I have just tasted it
myself--o-oh! d---- the gout--you'll excuse me, sir--a cursed twinge."

"Very sorry to see you suffering," responded Mr. Audley--"very, indeed,
sir."

"It sha'n't, however, prevent my doing you reason, sir," replied he,
with alacrity. "M'Guinness, two glasses. I drink, sir, to our better
acquaintance. Now, M'Guinness, you may leave the room."

Accordingly Mr. M'Guinness withdrew, and the gentlemen were left
_tête-à-tête_.

"And now, sir," continued Oliver French, "be so good as to open the
subject of your visit."

Mr. Audley cleared his voice twice or thrice, in the hope of clearing
his head at the same time, and then, with some force and embarrassment,
observed,--

"I am necessarily obliged, Mr. French, to allude to matters which may
possibly revive unpleasant recollections. I trust, indeed, my dear
sir,--I'm sure that you will not suffer yourself to be distressed or
unduly excited, when I tell you that I must recall to your memory a
name which I believe does not sound gratefully to your ear--the name of
Ashwoode."

"Curse them," was the energetic commentary of the invalid.

"Well, sir, I dare venture to say that you and I are not very much at
variance in our estimate of the character of the Ashwoodes generally,"
said Mr. Audley. "You are aware, I presume, that Sir Richard has been
some time dead."

"Ha! actually _gone_ to hell?--no, sir, I was not aware of this. Pray,
proceed, sir," responded Oliver French.

"I am aware, sir, that he treated his lady harshly," resumed Audley.

"Harshly, _harshly_, sir," cried the old man, with an energy that well
nigh made his companion bounce from his seat--"why, sir, beginning with
neglect and ending with blows--through every stage of savage insult and
injury, his wretched wife, my sister--the most gentle, trusting, lovely
creature that ever yet was born to misery, was dragged by that inhuman
monster, her husband, Sir Richard Ashwoode; he broke her heart--he
killed her, sir--_killed_ her. She was my sister--my only sister; I was
justly proud of her--loved her most dearly, and the inhuman villain
broke her heart."

Through his clenched teeth he uttered a malediction, and with a
vehemence of hatred which plainly showed that his feelings toward the
family had undergone no favourable change.

"Well, sir," resumed Mr. Audley, after a considerable interval, "I
cannot wonder at the strength of your feelings in this matter, more
especially at this moment. I myself burn with indignation scarce one
degree less intense than yours against the worthy son of that most
execrable man, and upon grounds, too, very nearly similar."

He then proceeded to recount to his auditor, waxing warm as he went on,
all the circumstances of Mary Ashwoode's sufferings, and every
particular of the grievous persecution which she had endured at the
hands of her brother, Sir Henry. Oliver French ground his teeth and
clutched the bed-clothes as he listened, and when the narrative was
ended, he whisked the velvet cap from his head, and flung it with all
his force upon the floor.

"Oh, God Almighty! that I had but the use of my limbs," exclaimed he,
with desperation--"I would give the whole world a lesson in the person
of that despicable scoundrel. I would--but," he added bitterly, "I am
powerless--I am a cripple."

"You are not powerless, sir, for purposes nobler than revenge,"
exclaimed Audley, with eagerness; "you may shelter and protect the
helpless, friendless child of calamity, the story of whose wrongs has
so justly fired you with indignation."

"Where is she--where?" cried Oliver French, eagerly--"I ought to have
asked you long ago."

"She is not far away--she even now awaits your decision in the little
village hard by," responded Mr. Audley.

"Poor child--poor child!" ejaculated Oliver, much agitated. "And did
she--could she doubt my willingness to befriend her--good God--could
she doubt it?--bring her--bring her here at once--I long to see
her--poor bird--poor bird--the world's winter has closed over thee too
soon. Alas! poor child--tell her--tell her, Mr. Audley, that I long to
see her--that she is most welcome--that all which I command is heartily
and entirely at her service. Plead my apology for not going myself to
meet her--as God knows I would fain do; you see I am a poor cripple--a
very worthless, helpless, good-for-nothing old man. Tell her all better
than I can do it now. God bless you, sir--God bless you, for believing
that such an ill-conditioned old fellow as I am had yet heart enough to
feel rightly sometimes. I had rather die a thousand deaths than that
you had not brought the poor outcast child to my roof. Tell her how
glad--how very, very happy--how proud it makes me that she should come
to her old uncle Oliver--tell her this. God bless you, sir!"

With a cordial pressure, he gripped Audley's hand, and the old
gentleman, with a heart overflowing with exultation and delight,
retraced his steps to the little village, absolutely bursting with
impatience to communicate the triumphant result of his visit.



CHAPTER LXVI.

THE BED-CHAMBER.


Black M'Guinness and Mistress Martha had listened in vain to catch the
purport of Mr. Audley's communication. Unfortunately for them, their
master's chamber was guarded by a double door, and his companion had
taken especial pains to close both of them before detailing the subject
of his visit. They were, however a good deal astonished by Mr. French's
insisting upon rising forthwith, and having himself clothed and shaved.
This huge, good-natured lump of gout was, accordingly, arrayed in full
suit--one of the handsomest which his wardrobe commanded--his velvet
cap replaced by a flowing peruke--his gouty feet smothered in endless
flannels, and himself deposited in his great easy chair by the fire,
and his lower extremities propped up upon stools and pillows. These
preparations, along with a complete re-arrangement of the furniture,
and other contents of the room, effectually perplexed and somewhat
alarmed his disinterested dependents.

Mr. Audley returned ere the preparations were well completed, and
handed Mary Ashwoode and her attendant from the chaise. It needs not to
say how the old bachelor of Ardgillagh received her--with, perhaps, the
more warmth and tenderness that, as he protested, with tears in his
eyes, she was so like her poor mother, that he felt as if old times had
come again, and that she stood once more before him, clothed in the
melancholy beauty of her early and ill-fated youth. It were idle to
describe the overflowing kindness of the old man's greeting, and the
depth of gratitude with which his affectionate and hearty welcome was
accepted by the poor grieved girl. He would scarcely, for the whole
evening, allow her to leave him for one moment; and every now and again
renewed his pressing invitation to her and to Mr. Audley to take some
more wine or some new delicacy; he himself enforcing his solicitations
by eating and drinking in almost unbroken continuity during the whole
time. All his habits were those of the most unlimited self-indulgence;
and his chief, if not his sole recreation for years, had consisted in
compounding, during the whole day long, those astounding gastronomic
combinations, which embraced every possible variety of wine and
liqueur, of vegetable, meat, and confection; so that the fact of his
existing at all, under the extraordinary regimen which he had adopted,
was a triumph of the genius of digestion over the demon of dyspepsia,
such as this miserable world has seldom witnessed. Nevertheless, that
he did exist, and that too, apparently, in robust though unwieldy
health, with the exception of his one malady, his constitutional gout,
was a fact which nobody could look upon and dispute. With an
imperiousness which brooked no contradiction, he compelled Mr. Audley
to eat and drink very greatly more than he could conveniently
contain--browbeating the poor little gentleman into submission, and
swearing, in the most impressive manner, that he had not eaten one
ounce weight of food of any kind since his entrance into the house;
although the unhappy little gentleman felt at that moment like a boa
constrictor who has just bolted a buffalo, and pleaded in stifled
accents for quarter; but it would not do. Oliver French, Esq., had not
had his humour crossed, nor one of his fancies contradicted, for the
last forty years, and he was not now to be thwarted or put down by a
little "hop-o'-my-thumb," who, though ravenously hungry, pretended,
through mere perverseness, to be bursting with repletion. Mr. Audley's
labours were every now and again pleasingly relieved by such
applications as these from his merciless entertainer.

"Now, my good friend--my worthy friend--will you think it too great a
liberty, sir, if I ask you to move the pillow a _leetle_ under this
foot?"

"None in the world, sir--quite the contrary--I shall have the very
greatest possible pleasure," would poor Mr. Audley reply, preparing for
the task.

"You are very good, sir, very kind, sir. Just draw it quietly to the
right--a little, a very little--you are very good, indeed, sir. Oh--oh,
O--oh, you--you booby--you'll excuse me, sir--gently--there,
there--gently, gently. O--oh, you d----d handless idiot--pray pardon
me, sir; that will do."

Such passages as these were of frequent occurrence; but though Mr.
Audley was as choleric as most men at his time of life, yet the
incongruous terms of abuse were so obviously the result of inveterate
and almost unconscious habit, stimulated by the momentary twinges of
acute pain, that he did not suffer this for an instant to disturb the
serenity and goodwill with which he regarded his host, spite of all his
oddities and self-indulgence.

In the course of the evening Oliver French ordered Mistress Martha to
have beds prepared for the party, and that lady, with rather a vicious
look, withdrew. She soon returned, and asked in her usual low, dulcet
tone, whether the young lady could spare her maid to assist in
arranging the room, and forthwith Flora Guy consigned herself to the
guidance of the sinister-looking Abigail.

"This is a fine country, isn't it?" inquired Mistress Martha, softly,
when they were quite alone.

"A very fine country, indeed, ma'am," rejoined Flora, who had heard
enough to inspire her with a certain awe of her conductress, which
inclined her as much as possible to assent to whatever proposition she
might be inclined to advance, without herself hazarding much original
matter.

"It's a pity you can't see it in the summer time; this is a very fine
place indeed when all the leaves are on the trees," repeated Mistress
Martha.

"Indeed, so I'd take it to be, ma'am," rejoined the maid.

"Just passing through this way--hurried like, you can't notice much
about it though," remarked the elderly lady, carelessly.

"No, ma'am," replied Flora, becoming more reserved, as she detected in
her companion a wish to draw from her all she knew of her mistress's
plans.

"There are some views that are greatly admired in the
neighbourhood--the glen and the falls of Glashangower. If she could
stay a week she might see everything."

"Oh! indeed, it's a lovely place," observed Flora, evasively.

"That old gentleman, that Mr. Audley, your young mistress's father,
or--or uncle, or whatever he is"--Mistress Martha here made a
considerable pause, but Flora did not enlighten her, and she
continued--"whatever he is to her, it's no matter, he seems a very
good-humoured nice old gentleman--he's in a great hurry back to Dublin,
where he came from, I suppose."

"Well, I really don't know," replied the girl.

"He looks very comfortable, and everything handsome and nice about
him," observed Mistress Martha again. "I suppose he's well off--plenty
of money--not in want at all."

"Indeed he seems all that," rejoined the maid.

"He's cousin, or something or another, to the master, Mr. French;
didn't you tell me so?" asked the painted Abigail.

"No, ma'am; I didn't tell you; I don't know," replied she.

"This is a very damp old house, and full of rats; I wish I had known a
week ago that beds would be wanting; but I suppose it was a sudden
thing," said the housekeeper.

"Indeed, I suppose it just was, ma'am," responded the attendant.

"Are you going to stay here long?" asked the old lady, more briskly
than she had yet spoken.

"Raly, ma'am, I don't know," replied Flora.

The old painted termagant shot a glance at her of no pleasant meaning;
but for the present checked the impulse in which it had its birth, and
repeated softly--"You don't know; why, you are a very innocent, simple
little girl."

"Pray, ma'am, if it's not making too bold, which is the room, ma'am?"
asked Flora.

"What's your young lady's name?" asked the matron, directly, and
disregarding the question of the girl.

Flora Guy hesitated.

"Do you hear me--what's your young lady's name?" repeated the woman,
softly, but deliberately.

"Her name, to be sure; her name is Miss Mary," replied she.

"Mary _what_?" asked Martha.

"Miss Mary Ashwoode," replied Flora, half afraid as she uttered it.

Spite of all her efforts, the woman's face exhibited disagreeable
symptoms of emotion at this announcement; she bit her lips and dropped
her eyelids lower than usual, to conceal the expression which gleamed
to her eyes, while her colour shifted even through her rouge. At
length, with a smile infinitely more unpleasant than any expression
which her face had yet worn, she observed,--

"Ashwoode, Ashwoode. Oh! dear, to be sure; some of Sir Richard's
family; well, I did not expect to see them darken these doors again.
Dear me! who'd have thought of the Ashwoodes looking after him again?
well, well, but they're a very forgiving family," and she uttered an
ill-omened tittering.

"Which is the room, ma'am, if you please?" repeated Flora.

"That's the room," cried the stalwart dame, with astounding vehemence,
and at the same time opening a door and exhibiting a large neglected
bed-chamber, with its bed-clothes and other furniture lying about in
entire disorder, and no vestige of a fire in the grate; "that's the
room, miss, and make the best of it yourself, for you've nothing else
to do."

In this very uncomfortable predicament Flora Guy applied herself
energetically to reduce the room to something like order, and although
it was very cold and not a little damp, she succeeded, nevertheless, in
giving it an air of tolerable comfort by the time her young mistress
was prepared to retire to it.

As soon as Mary Ashwoode had entered this chamber her maid proceeded to
narrate the occurrences which had just taken place.

"Well, Flora," said she, smiling, "I hope the old lady will resume her
good temper by to-morrow, for one night I can easily contrive to rest
with such appliances as we have. I am more sorry, for your sake, my
poor girl, than for mine, however, and wherever I lay me down, my rest
will be, I fear me, very nearly alike."

"She's the darkest, ill-lookingest old woman, God bless us, that ever I
set my two good-looking eyes upon, my lady," said Flora. "I'll put a
table to the door; for, to tell God's truth, I'm half afeard of her.
She has a nasty look in her, my lady--a bad look entirely."

Flora had hardly spoken when the door opened, and the subject of their
conversation entered.

"Good evening to you, Miss Ashwoode," said she, advancing close to the
young lady, and speaking in her usual low soft tone. "I hope you find
everything to your liking. I suppose your own maid has settled
everything according to your fancy. Of course, she knows best how to
please you. I'm very delighted to see you here in Ardgillagh, as I was
telling your innocent maid there--very glad, indeed; because, as I
said, it shows how forgiving you are, after all the master has said and
done, and the way he has always spit on every one of your family that
ever came here looking after his money--though, indeed, I'm sure you're
a great deal too good and too religious to care about money; and I'm
sure and certain it's only for the sake of Christian charity, and out
of a forgiving disposition, and to show that there isn't a bit of pride
of any sort, or kind, or description in your carcase--that you're come
here to make yourself at home in this house, that never belonged to
you, and that never will, and to beg favours of the gentleman that
hates, and despises, and insults everyone that carries your name--so
that the very dogs in the streets would not lick their blood. I like
that, Miss Ashwoode--I _do_ like it," she continued, advancing a little
nearer; "for it shows you don't care what bad people may say or think,
provided you do your Christian duty. They may say you're come here to
try and get the old gentleman's money; they may say that you're eaten
up to the very backbone with meanness, and that you'd bear to be kicked
and spit upon from one year's end to the other for the sake of a few
pounds--they'll call you a sycophant and a schemer--but you don't mind
that--and I admire you for it--they'll say, miss--for they don't
scruple at anything--they'll say you lost your character and fortune in
Dublin, and came down here in the hope of finding them again; but I
tell you what it is," she continued, giving full vent to her fury, and
raising her accents to a tone more resembling the scream of a
screech-owl than the voice of a human being, "I know what you're at,
and I'll blow your schemes, Miss Innocence. I'll make the house too hot
to hold you. Do you think I mind the old bed-ridden cripple, or anyone
else within its four walls? Hoo! I'd make no more of them or of you
than that old glass there;" and so saying, she hurled the candlestick,
with all her force, against the large mirror which depended from the
wall, and dashed it to atoms.

"Hoo! hoo!" she screamed, "you think I am afraid to do what I
threatened; but wait--wait, I say; and now good-night to you, Miss
Ashwoode, for the first time, and pleasant dreams to you."

So saying, the fiendish hag, actually quivering with fury, quitted the
room, drawing the door after her with a stunning crash, and leaving
Mary Ashwoode and her servant breathless with astonishment and
consternation.



CHAPTER LXVII.

THE EXPULSION.


While this scene was going on in Mary Ashwoode's chamber, our friend
Oliver French, having wished Mr. Audley good-night, had summoned to his
presence his confidential servant, Mr. M'Guinness. The corpulent
invalid sat in his capacious chair by the fireside, with his muffled
legs extended upon a pile of pillows, a table loaded with the materials
of his protracted and omnigenous repast at his side. Black M'Guinness
made his appearance, evidently a little intoxicated, and not a little
excited. He proceeded in a serpentine course through the chamber,
overturning, of malice prepense, everything in which he came in
contact.

"What the devil ails you, sir?" ejaculated Mr. French--"what the plague
do you mean? D--n you, M'Guinness, you're drunk, sir, or mad."

"Ay, to be sure," ejaculated M'Guinness, grimly. "Why not--oh, do--I've
no objection; d----n away, sir, pray, do."

"What do you mean by talking that way, you scoundrel?" exclaimed old
French.

"Scoundrel!" repeated M'Guinness, overturning a small table, and all
thereupon, with a crash upon the floor, and approaching the old
gentleman, while his ugly face grew to a sickly, tallowy white with
rage, "you go for to bring a whole lot of beggarly squatters into the
house to make away with your substance, and to turn you against your
faithful, tried, trusty, and dutiful servants," he continued, shaking
his fist in his master's face. "You do, and to leave them, ten to one,
in their old days unprovided for. Damn ingratitude!--to the devil with
thankless, unnatural vermin! You call me scoundrel. Scoundrel was the
word--by this cross it was."

While Oliver French, speechless with astonishment and rage, gazed upon
the audacious menial, Mistress Martha herself entered the chamber.

"Yes, they are, you old dark-hearted hypocrite--they're settled
here--fixed in the house--they are," screamed she; "but they _sha'n't_
stay long; or, if they do, I'll not leave a whole bone in their skins.
What did _they_ ever do for you, you thankless wretch?"

"Ay, what did they ever do for you?" shouted M'Guinness.

"Do you think we're fools--do you? and idiots--do you? not to know what
you're at, you ungrateful miscreant! Turn them out, bag and
baggage--every mother's skin of them, or I'll show them the reason why,
turn them out, I say."

"You infernal hag, I'd see you in hell or Bedlam first," shouted
Oliver, transported with fury. "You have had your way too long, you
accursed witch--you have."

"Never mind--oh!--you wretch," shrieked she--"never mind--wait a
bit--and never fear, you old crippled sinner, I'll be revenged on you,
you old devil's limb. Here's your watch for you," screamed she,
snatching a massive, chased gold watch from her side, and hurling it at
his head. It passed close by his ear, and struck the floor behind him,
attesting the force with which it had been thrown, as well as the
solidity of its workmanship, by a deep mark ploughed in the floor.

Oliver French grasped his crutch and raised it threateningly.

"You old wretch, I'll not let you strike the woman," cried M'Guinness,
snatching the poker, and preparing to dash it at the old man's head.
What might have been the issue of the strife it were hard to say, had
not Mr. Audley at that moment entered the room.

"Heyday!" cried that gentleman, "I thought it had been robbers--what's
all this?"

M'Guinness turned upon him, but observing that he carried a pistol in
each hand, he contented himself with muttering a curse and lowering the
poker which he held in his hand.

"Why, what the devil--your own servants--your own man and woman!"
exclaimed Mr. Audley. "I beg your pardon, sir--pray excuse me, Mr.
French; perhaps I ought not to have intruded upon you."

"Pray don't go, Mr. Audley--don't think of going," said Oliver,
eagerly, observing that his visitor was drawing to the door. "These
beasts will murder me if you leave me; I can't help myself--do stay."

"Pray, madam, you are the amiable and remarkably quiet gentlewoman with
whom I was to-day honoured by an interview? God bless my body and soul,
can it possibly be?" said Mr. Audley, addressing himself to the lady.

"You vile old swindling schemer," shrieked she, returning--"you
skulking, mean dog--you brandy-faced old reprobate, you--hoo! wait,
wait--wait awhile; I'll master you yet--just wait--never mind--hoo!"
and with something like an Indian war-whoop she dashed out of the room.

"Get out of this apartment, you ruffian, you--M'Guinness, get out of
the room," cried old French, addressing the fellow, who still stood
grinning and growling there.

"No, I'll not till I do my business," retorted the man, doggedly; "I'll
put you to bed first. I've a right to do my own business; I'll undress
you and put you to bed first--bellows me, but I will."

"Mr. Audley, I beg pardon for troubling you," said Oliver, "but will
you pull the bell if you please, like the very devil."

"Pull away till you are black in the face; _I'll_ not stir," retorted
M'Guinness.

Mr. Audley pulled the bell with a sustained vehemence which it put Mr.
French into a perspiration even to witness.

"Pull away, old gentleman--you may pull till you burst--to the devil
with you all. I'll not stir a peg till I choose it myself; I'll do my
business what I was hired for; there's no treason in that. D---- me, if
I stir a peg for you," repeated M'Guinness, doggedly.

Meanwhile, two half-dressed, scared-looking servants, alarmed by Mr.
Audley's persevering appeals, showed themselves at the door.

"Thomas--Martin--come in here, you pair of boobies," exclaimed French,
authoritatively; "Martin, do you keep an eye on that scoundrel, and
Thomas, run you down and waken the post-boy and tell him to put his
horses to, and do you assist him, sir, away!"

With unqualified amazement in their faces, the men proceeded to obey
their orders.

"So, so," said Oliver, still out of breath with anger, "matters are
come to a pleasant pass, I'm to be brained with my own poker--by my own
servant--in my own house--very pleasant, because forsooth, I dare to do
what I please with my own--highly agreeable, truly! Mr. Audley, may I
trouble you to give me a glass of noyeau--let me recommend that to you,
Mr. Audley, it has the true flavour--nay, nay--I'll hear of no
excuse--I'm absolute in my own room at least--come, my dear sir--I
implore--I insist--nay, I command; come--come--a bumper; very good
health, sir; a pleasant pair of furies!--just give me the legs of that
woodcock while we are waiting."

Accordingly Mr. Oliver French filled up the brief interval after his
usual fashion, by adding slightly to the contents of his stomach, and
in a little time the servant whom he had dispatched downward, returned
with the post-boy in person.

"Are your horses under the coach, my good lad?" inquired old French.

"No, but they're to it, and that's better," responded the charioteer.

"You'll not have far to go--only to the little village at the end of
the avenue," said Mr. French. "Mr. Audley, may I trouble you to fill a
large glass of Creme de Portugal; thank you; now, my good lad, take
that," continued he, delighted at an opportunity of indulging his
passion for ministering to the stomach of a fellow mortal, "take
it--take it--every drop--good--now Martin, do you and Thomas find that
termagant--fury--Martha Montgomery, and conduct her to the coach--carry
her down if necessary--put her into it, and one of you remain with her,
to prevent her getting out again, and let the other return, and with my
friend the post-boy, do a like good office by my honest comrade Mr.
M'Guinness--mind you go along with them to the village, and let them be
set down at Moroney's public-house; everything belonging to them shall
be sent down to-morrow morning, and if you ever catch either of them
about the place--duck them--whip them--set the dogs on them--that's
all."

Shrieking as though body and soul were parting, Mrs. Martha was
half-carried, half-dragged from the scene of her long-abused authority;
screaming her threats, curses, and abuse in volleys, she was deposited
safely in the vehicle, and guarded by the footman--who in secret
rejoiced in common with all the rest of the household at the disgrace
of the two insolent favourites--and was forced to sit therein until her
companion in misfortune being placed at her side, they were both, under
a like escort, safely deposited at the door of the little public-house,
scarcely crediting the evidence of their senses for the reality of
their situation.


Henceforward Ardgillagh was a tranquil place, and day after day old
Oliver French grew to love the gentle creature, whom a chance wind had
thus carried to his door, more and more fondly. There was an
artlessness and a warmth of affection, and a kindliness about her,
which all, from the master down to the humblest servant, felt and
loved; a grace, and dignity, and a simple beauty in every look and
action, which none could see and not admire. The strange old man, whose
humour had never brooked contradiction, felt for her, he knew not why,
a tenderness and respect such as he never before believed a mortal
creature could inspire; her gentle wish was law to him; to see her
sweet face was his greatest joy--to please her his first ambition; she
grew to be, as it were, his idol.

It was her chief delight to ramble unattended through the fine old
place. Often, with her faithful follower, Flora Guy, she would visit
the humble dwellings of the poor, wherever grief or sickness was, and
with gentle words of comfort and bounteous pity, cheer and relieve. But
still, from week to week it became too mournfully plain that the sweet,
sad face was growing paler and ever paler, and the graceful form more
delicately slight. In the silent watches of the night often would Flora
Guy hear her loved young mistress weep on for hours, as though her
heart were breaking; yet from her lips there never fell at any time one
word of murmuring, nor any save those of gentle kindness; and often
would she sit by the casement and reverently read the pages of one old
volume, and think and read again, while ever and anon the silent tears,
gathering on the long, dark lashes, would fall one by one upon the
leaf, and then would she rise with such a smile of heavenly comfort
breaking through her tears, that peace, and hope, and glory seemed
beaming in her pale angelic face.

Thus from day to day, in the old mansion of Ardgillagh, did she, whose
beauty none, even the most stoical, had ever seen unmoved--whose
artless graces and perfections all who had ever beheld her had thought
unmatched, fade slowly and uncomplainingly, but with beauty if possible
enhanced, before the eyes of those who loved her; yet they hoped on,
and strongly hoped--why should they not? She was young--yes, very
young, and why should the young die in the glad season of their early
bloom?

Mr. Audley became a wondrous favourite with his eccentric entertainer,
who would not hear of his fixing a time for his departure, but partly
by entreaties, partly by bullying, managed to induce him to prolong his
stay from week to week. These concessions were not, however, made
without corresponding conditions imposed by the consenting party, among
the foremost of which was the express stipulation that he should not be
expected, nor by cajolery nor menaces induced or compelled, to eat or
drink at all more than he himself felt prompted by the cravings of his
natural appetite to do. The old gentlemen had much in common upon which
to exercise their sympathies; they were both staunch Tories, both
admirable judges of claret, and no less both extraordinary proficients
in the delectable pastimes of backgammon and draughts, whereat, when
other resources failed, they played with uncommon industry and
perseverance, and sometimes indulged in slight ebullitions of
acrimonious feeling, scarcely exhibited, however, before they were
atoned for by fervent apologies and vehement vows of good behaviour for
the future.

Leaving this little party to the quiet seclusion of Ardgillagh, it
becomes now our duty to return for a time to very different scenes and
other personages.



CHAPTER LXVIII.

THE FRAY.


It now becomes our duty to return for a short time to Sir Henry
Ashwoode and Nicholas Blarden, whom we left in hot pursuit of the
trembling fugitives. The night was consumed in vain but restless
search, and yet no satisfactory clue to the direction of their flight
had been discovered; no evidence, not even a hint, by which to guide
their pursuit. Jaded by his fruitless exertions, frantic with rage and
disappointment, Nicholas Blarden at peep of light rode up to the hall
door of Morley Court.

"No news since?" cried he, fixing his bloodshot eyes upon the man who
took his horse's bridle, "no news since?"

"No, sir," cried the fellow, shaking his head, "not a word."

"Is Sir Henry within?" inquired Blarden, throwing himself from the
saddle.

"No, sir," replied the man.

"Not returned yet, eh?" asked Nicholas.

"Yes, sir, he did return, and he left again about ten minutes ago,"
responded the groom.

"And left no message for me, eh?" rejoined Blarden.

"There's a note, sir, on a scrap of paper, on the table in the hall, I
forgot to mention," replied the man--"he wrote it in a hurry, with a
pencil, sir."

Blarden strode into the hall, and easily discovered the document--a
hurried scrawl, scarcely legible; it ran as follows:--

    "Nothing yet--no trace--I half suspect they're lurking in the
    neighbourhood of the house. I must return to town--there are two
    places which I forgot to try. Meet me, if you can--say in the old
    Saint Columbkil; it's a deserted place, in the morning about ten or
    eleven o'clock.

    "HENRY ASHWOODE."

Blarden glanced quickly through this effusion.

"A precious piece of paper, that!" muttered he, tearing it across,
"worthy of its author--a cursed greenhorn; consume him for a _mouth_,
but no matter--no matter yet. Here, you rake-helly squad, some of you,"
shouted he, addressing himself at random to the servants, one of whom
he heard approaching, "here, I say, get me some food and drink, and
don't be long about it either, I can scarce stand." So saying, and
satisfied that his directions would be promptly attended to, he
shambled into one of the sitting-rooms, and flung himself at his full
length upon a sofa; his disordered and bespattered dress and
mud-stained boots contrasted agreeably with the rich crimson damask and
gilded backs and arms of the couch on which he lay. As he applied
himself voraciously to the solid fare and the wines with which he was
speedily supplied, a thousand incoherent schemes, and none of them of
the most amiable kind, busily engaged his thoughts. After many
wandering speculations, he returned again to a subject which had more
than once already presented itself. "And then for the brother, the
fellow that laid his blows on me before a whole play-house full of
people, the vile spawn of insolent beggary, that struck me till his arm
was fairly tired with striking--I'm no fool to forget such things--the
rascally forging ruffian--the mean, swaggering, lying bully--no
matter--he must be served out in style, and so he shall. I'll not hang
him though, I may turn him to account yet, some way or other--no, I'll
not hang him, keep the halter in my hand--the best trump for the last
card--hold the gallows over him, and make him lead a pleasant sort of
life of it, one way or other. I'll not leave a spark of pride in his
body I'll not thrash out of him. I'll make him meeker and sleeker and
humbler than a spaniel; he shall, before the face of all the world,
just bear what I give him, and do what I bid him, like a trained
dog--sink me, but he shall."

Somewhat comforted by these ruminations, Nicholas Blarden arose from a
substantial meal, and a reverie, which had occupied some hours; and
without caring to remove from his person the traces of his toilsome
exertions of the night past, nor otherwise to render himself one whit a
less slovenly and neglected-looking figure than when he had that
morning dismounted at the hall door, he called for a fresh horse, threw
himself into the saddle, and spurred away for Dublin city.

He reached the doorway of the old Saint Columbkil, and, under the
shadow of its ancient sign-board, dismounted. He entered the tavern,
but Ashwoode was not there; and, in answer to his inquiries, Mr.
Blarden was informed that Sir Henry Ashwoode had gone over to the "Cock
and Anchor," to have his horse cared for, and that he was momentarily
expected back.

Blarden consulted his huge gold watch. "It's eleven o'clock now, every
minute of it, and he's not come--hoity toity rather, I should say, all
things considered. I thought he was better up to his game by this
time--but no matter--I'll give him a lesson just now."

As if for the express purpose of further irritating Mr. Blarden's
already by no means angelic temper, several parties, composed of
second-rate sporting characters, all laughing, swearing, joking,
betting, whistling, and by every device, contriving together to produce
as much clatter and uproar as it was possible to do, successively
entered the place.

"Well, Nicky, boy, how does the world wag with you?" inquired a dapper
little fellow, approaching Blarden with a kind of brisk, hopping gait,
and coaxingly digging that gentleman's ribs with the butt of his
silver-mounted whip.

"What the devil brings all these chaps here at this hour?" inquired
Blarden.

"Soft is your horn, old boy," rejoined his acquaintance, in the same
arch strain of pleasantry; "two regular good mains to be fought
to-day--tough ones, I promise you--Fermanagh Dick against Long
White--fifty birds each--splendid fowls, I'm told--great betting--it
will come off in little more than an hour."

"I don't care if it never comes off," rejoined Blarden; "I'm waiting
for a chap that ought to have been here half an hour ago. Rot him, I'm
sick waiting."

"Well, come, I'll tell you how we'll pass the time. I'll toss you for
guineas, as many tosses as you like," rejoined the small gentleman,
accommodatingly. "What do you say--is it a go?"

"Sit down, then," replied Blarden; "sit down, can't you? and begin."

Accordingly the two friends proceeded to recreate themselves thus
pleasantly. Mr. Blarden's luck was decidedly bad, and he had been
already "physicked," as his companion playfully remarked, to the amount
of some five-and-twenty guineas, and his temper had become in a
corresponding degree affected, when he observed Sir Henry Ashwoode,
jaded, haggard, and with dress disordered, approaching the place where
he sat.

"Blarden, we had better leave this place," said Ashwoode, glancing
round at the crowded benches; "there's too much noise here. What say
you?"

"What do I say?" rejoined Blarden, in his very loudest and most
insolent tone--"I say you have made an appointment and broke it, so
stand there till it's my convenience to talk to you--that's all."

Ashwoode felt his blood tingling in his veins with fury as he observed
the sneering significant faces of those who, attracted by the loud
tones of Nicholas Blarden, watched the effect of his insolence upon its
object. He heard conversations subside into whispers and titters among
the low scoundrels who enjoyed his humiliation; yet he dared not answer
Blarden as he would have given worlds at that moment to have done, and
with the extremest difficulty restrained himself from rushing among the
vile rabble who exulted in his degradation, and compelling _them_ at
least to respect and fear him. While he stood thus with compressed lips
and a face pale as ashes with rage, irresolute what course to take, one
of the coins for which Blarden played rolled along the table, and
thence along the floor for some distance.

"Go, fetch that guinea--jump, will you?" cried Blarden, in the same
boisterous and intentionally insolent tone. "What are you standing
there for, like a stick? Pick it up, sir."

Ashwoode did not move, and an universal titter ran round the
spectators, whose attention was now effectually enlisted.

"Do what I order you--do it this moment. D---- your audacity, you had
better do it," said Blarden, dashing his clenched fist on the table so
as to make the coin thereon jump and jingle.

Still Ashwoode remained resolutely fixed, trembling in every joint with
very passion; prudence told him that he ought to leave the place
instantly, but pride and obstinacy, or his evil angel, held him there.

The sneering whispers of the crowd, who now pressed more nearly round
them in the hope of some amusement, became more and more loud and
distinct, and the words, "white feather," "white liver," "muff," "cur,"
and other terms of a like import reached Ashwoode's ear. Furious at the
contumacy of his wretched slave, and determined to overbear and humble
him, Blarden exclaimed in a tone of ferocious menace,--

"Do as I bid you, you cursed, insolent upstart--pick up that coin, and
give it to me--or by the laws, you'll shake for it."

Still Ashwoode moved not.

"Do as I bid you, you robbing swindler," shouted he, with an oath too
appalling for our pages, and again rising, and stamping on the floor,
"or I'll give you to the crows."

The titter which followed this menace was unexpectedly interrupted. The
young man's aspect changed; the blood rushed in livid streams to his
face; his dark eyes blazed with deadly fire; and, like the bursting of
a storm, all the gathering rage and vengeance of weeks in one
tremendous moment found vent. With a spring like that of a tiger, he
rushed upon his persecutor, and before the astonished spectators could
interfere, he had planted his clenched fists dozens of times, with
furious strength, in Blarden's face. Utterly destitute of personal
courage, the wretch, though incomparably a more powerful man than his
light-limbed antagonist, shrank back, stunned and affrighted, under the
shower of blows, and stumbled and fell over a wooden stool. With
murderous resolution, Ashwoode instantly drew his sword, and another
moment would have witnessed the last of Blarden's life, had not several
persons thrown themselves between that person and his frantic
assailant.

"Hold back," cried one. "The man's down--don't murder him."

"Down with him--he's mad!" cried another; "brain him with the stool."

"Hold his arm, some of you, or he'll murder the man!" shouted a third,
"hold him, will you?"

Overpowered by numbers, with his face lacerated and his clothes torn,
and his naked sword still in his hand, Ashwoode struggled and foamed,
and actually howled, to reach his abhorred enemy--glaring like a
baffled beast upon his prey.

"Send for constables, quick--_quick_, I say," shouted Blarden, with a
frantic imprecation, his face all bleeding under his recent discipline.

"Let me go--let me go, I tell you, or by the father that made me, I'll
send my sword through half-a-dozen of you," almost shrieked Ashwoode.

"Hold him--hold him fast--consume you, hold him back!" shouted Blarden;
"he's a forger!--run for constables!"

Several did run in various directions for peace officers.

"Wring the sword from his hand, why don't you?" cried one; "cut it out
of his hand with a knife!"

"Knock him down!--down with him! Hold on!"

Amid such exclamations, Ashwoode at length succeeded, by several
desperate efforts, in extricating himself from those who held him; and
without hat, and with clothes rent to fragments in the scuffle, and his
face and hands all torn and bleeding, still carrying his naked sword in
his hand, he rushed from the room, and, followed at a respectable
distance by several of those who had witnessed the scuffle, and by his
distracted appearance attracting the wondering gaze of those who
traversed the streets, he ran recklessly onward to the "Cock and
Anchor."



CHAPTER LXIX.

THE BOLTED WINDOW.


Followed at some distance by a wondering crowd, he entered the
inn-yard, where, for the first time, he checked his flight, and
returned his sword to the scabbard.

"Here, ostler, groom--quickly, here!" cried Ashwoode. "In the devil's
name, where are you?"

The ostler presented himself, gazing in unfeigned astonishment at the
distracted, pale, and bleeding figure before him.

"Where have you put my horse?" said Ashwoode.

"The boy's whisping him down in the back stable, your honour," replied
he.

"Have him saddled and bridled in three seconds," said Ashwoode,
striding before the man towards the place indicated. "I'll make it
worth your while. My life--my _life_ depends on it!"

"Never fear," said the fellow, quickening his pace, "may I never buckle
a strap if I don't."

With these words, they entered the stable together, but the horse was
not there.

"Confound them, they brought him to the dark stable, I suppose," said
the groom, impatiently. "Come along, sir."

"'Sdeath! it will be too late! Quick!--quick, man!--in the fiend's
name, be quick!" said Ashwoode, glaring fearfully towards the entrance
to the inn-yard.

Their visit to the second stable was not more satisfactory.

"Where the devil's Sir Henry Ashwoode's horse?" inquired the groom,
addressing a fellow who was seated on an oat-bin, drumming listlessly
with his heels upon its sides, and smoking a pipe the while--"where's
the horse?" repeated he.

The man first satisfied his curiosity by a leisurely view of Ashwoode's
disordered dress and person, and then removed his pipe deliberately
from his mouth, and spat upon the ground.

"Where's Sir Henry's horse?" he repeated. "Why, Jim took him out a
quarter of an hour ago, walking down towards the Poddle there. I'm
thinking he'll be back soon now."

"Saddle a horse--any horse--only let him be sure and fleet," cried
Ashwoode, "and I'll pay you his price thrice over!"

"Well, it's a bargain," replied the groom, promptly; "I don't like to
see a gentleman caught in a hobble, if I can help him out of it. Take
my advice, though, and duck your head under the water in the trough
there; your face is full of blood and dust, and couldn't but be noticed
wherever you went."

While the groom was with marvellous celerity preparing the horse which
he selected for the young man's service, Ashwoode, seeing the
reasonableness of his advice, ran to the large trough full of water
which stood before the pump in the inn-yard; but as he reached it, he
perceived the entrance of some four or five persons into the little
quadrangle whom, at a glance, he discovered to be constables.

"That's him--he's our bird! After him!--there he goes!" cried several
voices.

Ashwoode sprang up the stairs of the gallery which, as in most old
inns, overhung the yard. He ran along it, and rushed into the first
passage which opened from it. This he traversed with his utmost speed,
and reached a chamber door. It was fastened; but hurling himself
against it with his whole weight, he burst it open, the hoarse voices
of his pursuers, and their heavy tread, ringing in his ears. He ran
directly to the casement; it looked out upon a narrow by-lane. He
strove to open it, that he might leap down upon the pavement, but it
resisted his efforts; and, driven to bay, and hearing the steps at the
very door of the chamber, he turned about and drew his sword.

  [Illustration: "Driven to bay ... he drew his sword."
                 _To face page 338._]

"Come, no sparring," cried the foremost, a huge fellow in a great coat,
and with a bludgeon in his hand; "give in quietly; you're regularly
caged."

As the fellow advanced, Ashwoode met him with a thrust of his sword.
The constable partly threw it up with his hand, but it entered the
fleshy part of his arm, and came out near his shoulder blade.

"Murder! murder!--help! help!" shouted the man, staggering back, while
two or three more of his companions thrust themselves in at the door.

Ashwoode had hardly disengaged his sword, when a tremendous blow upon
the knuckles with a bludgeon dashed it from his grasp, and almost at
the same instant, he received a second blow upon the head, which felled
him to the ground, insensible, and weltering in blood, the execrations
and uproar of his assailants still ringing in his ears.

"Lift him on the bed. Pull off his cravat. By the hoky, he's done for.
Devil a kick in him. Open his vest. Are you hurted, Crotty? Get some
water and spirits, some of yees, an' a towel. Begorra, we just nicked
him. He's an active chap. See, he's opening his mouth and his eyes.
Hould him, Teague, for he's the devil's bird. Never mind it, Crotty.
Devil a fear of you. Tear open the shirt. Bedad, it was close shaving.
Give him a drop iv the brandy. Never a fear of you, old bulldog."

These and such broken sentences from fifty voices filled the little
chamber where Ashwoode lay in dull and ghastly insensibility after his
recent deadly struggle, while some stuped the wounds of the combatants
with spirits and water, and others applied the same medicaments to
their own interiors, and all talked loud and fast together, as men are
apt to do after scenes of excitement.


We need not follow Ashwoode through the dreadful preliminaries which
terminated in his trial. In vain did he implore an interview with
Nicholas Blarden, his relentless prosecutor. It were needless to enter
into the evidence for the prosecution, and that for the defence,
together with the points made arguments, and advanced by the opposing
counsel; it is enough to know that the case was conducted with much
ability on both sides, and that the jury, having deliberated for more
than an hour, at length found the verdict which we shall just now
state. A baronet in the dock was too novel an exhibition to fail in
drawing a full attendance, and the consequence was, that never was
known such a crowd of human beings in a compass so small as that which
packed the court-house upon this memorable occasion.

Throughout the whole proceedings, Sir Henry Ashwoode, though deadly
pale, conducted himself with singular coolness and self-possession,
frequently suggesting questions to his counsel, and watching the
proceedings apparently with a mind as disengaged from every agitating
consciousness of personal danger as that of any of the indifferent but
curious bystanders who looked on. He was handsomely dressed, and in his
degraded and awful situation preserved, nevertheless, in his outward
mien and attire, the dignity of his rank and former pretensions. As is
invariably the case in Ireland, popular sympathy moved strongly in
favour of the prisoner, a feeling of interest which the grace, beauty,
and evident youth of the accused, as well as his high rank--for the
Irish have ever been an aristocratic race--served much to enhance; and
when the case closed, and the jury retired after an adverse charge from
the learned judge, to consider their verdict, perhaps Ashwoode himself
would have seemed, to the careless observer, the least interested in
the result of all who were assembled in that densely crowded place, to
hear the final adjudication of the law. Those, however, who watched him
more narrowly could observe, in this dreadful interval, that he raised
his handkerchief often to his face, keeping it almost constantly at his
mouth to conceal the nervous twitching of the muscles which he could
not control. The eyes of the eager multitude wandered from the prisoner
to the jury-box, and thence to the impassive parchment countenance of
the old ermined effigy who presided at the harrowing scene, and not one
ventured to speak above his breath. At length, a sound was heard at the
door of the jury-box--the jury was returning. A buzz ran through the
court, and then the prolonged "hish," enjoining silence, while one by
one the jurors entered and resumed their places in the box. The verdict
was--Guilty.

In reply to the usual interrogatory from the officer of the court, Sir
Henry Ashwoode spoke, and though many there were moved, even to sobs
and tears, yet his manner had recovered its grace and collectedness,
and his voice was unbroken and musical as when it was wont to charm all
hearers in the gay saloons of fashion, and splendour, and heedless
folly, in other times--when he, blasted and ruined as he stood there,
was the admired and courted favourite of the great and gay.

"My lord," said he, "I have nothing to urge which, in the strict
requirements of the law, avails to abate the solemn sentence which you
are about to pronounce--for my life I care not--something is, however,
due to my character and the name I bear--a name, my lord, never, never
except on this day, never clouded by the shadow of dishonour--a name
which will yet, after I am dead and gone, be surely and entirely
vindicated; vindicated, my lord, in the entire dispersion of the foul
imputations and fatal contrivances under which my fame is darkened and
my life is taken. Far am I from impeaching the verdict that I have just
heard. I will not arraign the jurymen, nor lay to _their_ charge that I
am this day wrongfully condemned, but to the charge of those who, on
that witness table, have sworn my life away--perjurers procured for
money, whose exposure I leave to time, and whose punishment to God.
Knowing that although my body shall ignominiously perish, and though my
fame be tarnished for an hour, yet shall truth and years, with
irresistible power, bring my innocence to light--rescue my character
and restore the name I bear. He who stands in the shadow of death, as I
do, has little to fear in human censure, and little to gather from the
applause of men. My life is forfeited, and I must soon go into the
presence of my Creator, to receive my everlasting doom; and in presence
of that almighty and terrible God before whom I must soon stand, and as
I look for mercy when He shall judge me, I declare, that of this crime,
of which I am pronounced guilty, I am altogether innocent. I am a
victim of a conspiracy, the motives of which my defence hath truly
showed you. I never committed the crime for which I am to suffer. I
repeat that I am innocent, and in witness of the truth of what I say, I
appeal to my Maker and my Judge, the Eternal and Almighty God."

Having thus spoken, Ashwoode received his sentence, and was forthwith
removed to the condemned cell.

Ashwoode had many and influential friends, and it required but a small
exercise of their good offices to procure a reprieve. He would not
suffer himself to despond--no, nor for one moment to doubt his final
escape from the fangs of justice. He was first reprieved for a
fortnight, and before that term expired again for six weeks. In the
course of the latter term, however, an event occurred which fearfully
altered his chances of escape, and filled his mind with the justest and
most dreadful apprehensions. This was the recall of Wharton from the
viceroyalty of Ireland.

The new lord-lieutenant could not see, in the case of the young Whig
baronet, the same extenuating circumstances which had wrought so
effectually upon his predecessor, Wharton. The judge who had tried the
case refused to recommend the prisoner to the mercy of the Crown; and
the viceroy accordingly, in his turn, refused to entertain any
application for the commutation or further suspension of his sentence;
and now, for the first time, Sir Henry Ashwoode felt the tremendous
reality of his situation. The term for which he was reprieved had
nearly expired, and he felt that the hours which separated him from the
deadly offices of the hangman were numbered. Still, in this dreadful
consciousness, there mingled some faint and flickering ray of hope--by
its uncertain mockery rendering the terrors of his situation but the
more intolerable, and by the sleepless agonies of suspense, unnerving
the resolution which he might have otherwise summoned to his aid.



CHAPTER LXX.

THE BARONET'S ROOM.


Desperately wounded, O'Connor lay between life and death for many weeks
in the dim and secluded apartment whither O'Hanlon had borne him after
his combat with Sir Henry Ashwoode. There, fearing lest his own
encounter with Wharton, and its startling result, should mark them for
pursuit and search, he placed O'Connor under the charge of trusty
creatures of his own--for some time not daring to visit him except
under cover of the night. This alarm, however, soon subsided; and
consequently less precaution was adopted. O'Connor's wounds were, as we
have said, most dangerous, and for fully two months he lay upon the
fiery couch of fever, alternately raving in delirium, and locked in the
dull stupor of entire apathy and exhaustion. Through this season of
pain and peril he was sustained, however, by the energies of a young
and vigorous constitution. The fever, at length, abated, and the
unclouded light of reason returned; still, however, in body he was
weak, so weak that, sorely against his will, he was perforce obliged to
continue the occupant of his narrow bed, in the dingy and secluded
lodgings in which he lay. Impatient to learn something of her who
entirely filled his thoughts, and of the truth of whose love for him he
now felt the revival of more than hope, he chafed and fretted in the
narrow limits of his dark and gloomy chamber. Spite of all the
remonstrances of the old crone who attended him, backed by the more
awful fulminations of his apothecary, O'Connor would not submit any
longer to the confinement of his bed; and, but for the firm and
effectual resistance of O'Hanlon, would have succeeded, weak as he was,
in making his escape from the house, and resuming his ordinary
occupations and pursuits, as though his health had not suffered, nor
his strength become impaired, so as to leave him scarcely the power of
walking a hundred steps, without the extremest exhaustion and
lassitude. To O'Hanlon's expostulations he was forced to yield, and
even pledged his word to him not to attempt a removal from his hated
lodgings, without his consent and approbation. In reply to a message to
his friend Audley, he learned, much to his mortification, that that
gentleman had left town, and as thus full of disquiet and anxiety, one
day O'Connor was seated, pale and languid, in his usual place by the
window, the door of his apartment opened, and O'Hanlon entered. He took
the hand of the invalid and said,--

"I commend your patience, young man, you have been my _parole_ prisoner
for many days. When is this durance to end?"

"I'faith, I believe with my life," rejoined O'Connor, "I never knew
before what weariness and vexation in perfection are--this dusky room
is hateful to me, it grows narrower and narrower every day--and those
old houses opposite--every pane of glass in their windows, and every
brick in their walls I have learned by rote--I am tired to death. But,
seriously, I have other and very different reasons for wishing to be at
liberty again--reasons so urgent as to leave me no rest by night or
day. I chafe and fret here like a caged bird. I have been too long shut
up--my strength will never come again unless I am allowed to breathe
the fresh air--you are all literally killing me with kindness."

"And yet," rejoined O'Hanlon, "I have never been thought an
over-careful leech, and truth to say, had I suffered you to have your
own way, you would not now have been a living man. I know, as well as
any of them, how to tend a wound, and this I will say, that in all my
practice it never yet has been my lot to meet with so ill-conditioned
and cross-grained a patient as yourself. Why, nothing short of
downright force has kept you in your room--your life is saved in spite
of yourself."

"If you keep me here much longer," replied O'Connor, "it will prove but
indifferent economy as regards my bodily health, for I shall
undoubtedly cut my throat before another week."

"There shall be no need, my friend, to find such an escape," replied
O'Hanlon, "for I now absolve you of your promise, hitherto so well
observed; nay, more, _I_ advise you to leave the house to-day. I think
your strength sufficient, and the occasion, moreover, demands that you
should visit an acquaintance immediately."

"Who is it?" inquired O'Connor, starting to his feet with alacrity,
"thank God I am at length again my own master."

"When I this day entered the yard of the 'Cock and Anchor'," answered
O'Hanlon, "the inn where you and I first encountered, I found a fellow
inquiring after you most earnestly; he had a letter with which he was
charged. It is from Sir Henry Ashwoode, who lies now in prison, and
under sentence of death. You start, and no wonder--his old associates
have convicted him of forgery."

"Gracious Heaven, is it possible?" exclaimed O'Connor.

"Nay, _certain_," continued O'Hanlon, "nor has he any longer a chance
of escape. He has been twice reprieved--but his friend Wharton is
recalled--his reprieve expires in three days' time, and then he will be
inevitably executed."

"Good God, is this--can it be reality?" exclaimed O'Connor, trembling
with the violence of his agitation, "give me the letter." He broke the
seal, and read as follows:--

    "EDMOND O'CONNOR,--I know I have wronged you sorely. I have
    destroyed your peace and endangered your life. You are more than
    avenged. I write this in the condemned cell of the gaol. If you can
    bring yourself to confer with me for a few minutes, come here. I
    stand on no ceremony, and time presses. Do not fail. If you be
    living I shall expect you.

    "HENRY ASHWOODE."

O'Connor's preparations were speedily made, and leaning upon the arm of
his elder friend, he, with slow and feeble steps, and a head giddy with
his long confinement, and the agitating anticipation of the scene in
which he was just about to be engaged, traversed the streets which
separated his lodging from the old city gaol--a sombre, stern, and
melancholy-looking building, surrounded by crowded and dilapidated
houses, with decayed plaster and patched windows, and a certain
desolate and sickly aspect, as though scared and blasted by the
contagious proximity of that dark receptacle of crime and desperation
which loomed above them. At the gate O'Hanlon parted from him,
appointing to meet him again in the "Cock and Anchor," whither he
repaired. After some questions, O'Connor was admitted. The clanging of
bolts, and bars, and door-chains, smote heavily on his heart--he heard
no other sounds but these and the echoing tread of their own feet, as
they traversed the long, dark, stone-paved passages which led to the
dungeon in which he whom he had last seen in the pride of fashion, and
youth, and strength, was now a condemned felon, and within a few hours
of a public and ignominious death. The turnkey paused at one of the
narrow doors opening from the dusky corridor, and unclosing it, said,--

"A gentleman, sir, to see you."

"Request him to come in," replied a voice, which, though feebler than
it used to be, O'Connor had no difficulty in recognizing. In compliance
with this invitation, he with a throbbing heart entered the
prison-room. It was dimly lighted by a single small window set high in
the wall, and darkened by iron bars. A small deal table, with a few
books carelessly laid upon it, occupied the centre of the cell, and two
heavy stools were placed beside it, on one of which was seated a
figure, with his back to the light, to conceal, with a desperate
tenacity of pride, the ravages which the terrific mental fever of weeks
had wrought in his once bold and handsome face. By the wall was
stretched a wretched pallet; and upon the plaster were written and
scratched, according to the various moods of the miserable and guilty
tenants of the place, a hundred records, some of slang philosophy, some
of desperate drunken defiance, and some again of terror, but all
bearing reference to the dreadful scene to which this was but the
ante-chamber and the passage. Many hieroglyphical emblems of
unmistakable significance had also been traced upon the walls by the
successive occupants of the place, such as coffins, gallows-trees,
skulls and cross-bones; the most striking among which symbols was a
large figure of death upon a horse, sketched with much spirit, by some
moralizing convict, with a piece of burned stick, and to which some
waggish successor had appropriately added, in red chalk, a gigantic
pair of spurs. As soon as O'Connor entered, the turnkey closed the
door, and he and Sir Henry Ashwoode were left alone. A silence of some
minutes, which neither party dared to break, ensued.



CHAPTER LXXI.

THE FAREWELL.


O'Connor was the first to speak. In a low voice, which trembled with
agitation, he said,--

"Sir Henry Ashwoode, I have come here in answer to a note which reached
me but a few minutes since. You desired a conference with me; is there
any commission with which you would wish to charge me?--if so, let me
know it, and it shall be done."

"None, none, Mr. O'Connor, thank you," rejoined Ashwoode, recovering
his characteristic self-possession, and continuing proudly, "if you add
to your visit a patient audience of a few minutes, you will have
conferred upon me the only favour I desire. Pray, sit down; it is
rather a hard and a homely seat," he added, with a haggard, joyless
smile--"but the only one this place supplies."

Another silence followed, during which Sir Henry Ashwoode restlessly
shifted his attitude every moment, in evident and uncontrollable
nervous excitement. At length he arose, and walked twice or thrice up
and down the narrow chamber, exhibiting without any longer care for
concealment his pale, wasted face in the full light which streamed in
through the grated window, his sunken eyes and unshorn chin, and worn
and attenuated figure.

"You hear that sound," said he, abruptly stopping short, and looking
with the same strange smile upon O'Connor; "the clank upon the flags as
I walk up and down--the jingle of the fetters--isn't it strange--isn't
it odd--like a dream--eh?"

Another silence followed, which Ashwoode again abruptly interrupted.

"You know all this story?--of course you do--everybody does--how the
wretches have trapped me--isn't it terrible--isn't it dreadful? Oh! you
cannot know what it is to mope about this place alone, when it is
growing dark, as I do every evening, and in the night time. If I had
been another man, I'd have been raving mad by this time. I said
_alone_--did I?" he continued, with increasing excitement; "oh! that it
were!--oh! that it were! He comes there--_there_," he screamed, pointing
to the foot of the bed, "with all those infernal cloths and fringes
about his face, morning and evening. Ah, God! such a thing--half idiot,
half fiend; and still the same, though I curse him till I'm hoarse, he
won't leave it. Can't they wait--can't they wait? for-ever is a long
day. As I'm a living man, he's with me every night--there--there is the
body, gaping and nodding--_there_--_there_--_there_!"

As he shouted this with frantic and despairing horror, shaking his
clenched hands toward the place of his dreaded nightly visitant,
O'Connor felt a thrill of horror such as he had never known before, and
hardly recovered from this painful feeling, when Sir Henry Ashwoode
turned to the little table on which, among many things, a vessel of
water was placed, and filling some out into a cracked cup, he added to
it drops from a phial, and hastily swallowed the mixture.

"Laudanum is all the philosophy or religion I can boast; it's well to
have even so much," said he, returning the bottle to his pocket. "It's
a dead secret, though, that I have got any; this is a present from the
doctor they allow me to see, and I'm on honour not--to poison
myself--isn't it comical?--for fear he should get into a scrape; but
I've another game to play--no fear of that--no, no."

Another silence followed, and Sir Henry Ashwoode said quickly,--

"What do the people say about it? Do they think I forged that accursed
bond? Do they think me guilty?"

O'Connor declared his entire ignorance of public rumour, alleging his
own illness, and consequent close confinement, as the cause of it.

"They sha'n't believe me guilty, no, they sha'n't. Look ye, sir, I have
one good feeling left," he resumed, vehemently; "I will not let my name
suffer. If the most resolute firmness to the very last, and the most
solemn renunciation of the charges preferred against me, reiterated at
the foot of the gallows, with the halter about my neck--if these can
beget a belief of my innocence, my name shall be clear--my name shall
not suffer; this last outrage I will avert; but oh, my God! is there no
chance yet--must I--_must_ I perish? Will no one save me--will no one
help me? Oh, God! oh, God! is there no pity--no succour; must it come?"

Thus crying, he threw himself forward upon the table, while every joint
and muscle quivered and heaved with fierce hysterical sobs which, more
like a succession of short convulsive shrieks than actual weeping,
betrayed his agony, while O'Connor looked on with a mixture of horror
and pity, which all that was past could not suppress.

At length the paroxysm subsided. The wretched man filled out some more
water, and mingling some drops of laudanum in it, he drank it off, and
became comparatively composed.

"Not a word of this to any living being, I charge you," said he,
clutching O'Connor's arm in his attenuated hand, and fixing his sunken
fiery eyes upon his; "I would not have my folly known; I'm not always
so weak as you have seen me. It _must_ be, that's all--no help for it.
It's rather a novel thing, though, to hang a baronet--ha! ha! You look
scared--you think my wits are unsettled; but you're wrong. I don't
sleep; I hav'n't for some time; and want of rest, you know, makes a
man's manner odd; makes him excitable--nervous. I'm more myself now."

After a short pause, Sir Henry Ashwoode resumed,--

"When we had that affray together, in which would to God you had run me
through the heart, you put a question to me about my sister--poor Mary;
I will answer that now, and more than answer it. That girl loves you
with her whole heart; loves you alone; never loved another. It matters
not to tell how I and my father--the great and accursed first cause of
all our misfortunes and miseries--effected your estrangement. The
Italian miscreant told you truth. The girl is gone I know not whither,
to seek an asylum from me--ay, from _me_. To save my life and honour. I
would have constrained her to marry the wretch who has destroyed me. It
was he--_he_ who urged it, who cajoled me. I joined him, to save my
life and honour! and now--oh! God, where are they?"

O'Connor rose, and said somewhat sternly,--

"May God pardon you, Sir Henry Ashwoode, for all you have done against
the peace of that most noble and generous being, your sister. What I
have suffered at your hands I heartily forgive."

"I ask forgiveness nowhere," rejoined Ashwoode, stoically; "what's done
is done. It has been a wild and fitful life, and is now over. What
forgiveness can you give me or she that's worth a thought?--folly,
folly!"

"One word of earnest hope before I leave you; one word of solemn
warning," said O'Connor; "the vanities of this world are fading fast
and for ever from your view; you are going where the applause of men
can reach you no more! I conjure you, then, for the sake of your
eternal peace, if your sentence be a just one, do not insult your
Creator by denying your guilt, and pass into His awful presence with a
lie upon your lips."

Ashwoode paused for a moment, and then walked suddenly up to O'Connor,
and almost in a whisper said,--

"Not a word of that, my course is chosen; not one word more. Observe,
what has passed between us is private; now leave me." So saying,
Ashwoode turned from him, and walked toward the narrow window of his
cell.

"Farewell, Sir Henry Ashwoode, farewell for ever; and may God have
mercy upon you," said O'Connor, passing out upon the dark and narrow
corridor.

The turnkey closed the door with a heavy crash upon his prisoner, and
locked it once more, and thus the two young men, who had so often and
so variously encountered in the unequal path of life, were parted never
again to meet in the wayward scenes of this chequered and changeful
existence. Tired and agitated, O'Connor threw himself into the first
coach he met, and was deposited safely in the "Cock and Anchor." It
were vain to attempt to describe the ecstasies and transports of honest
Larry Toole at the unexpected recovery of his long-lost master; we
shall not attempt to do so. It is enough for our purpose to state that
at the "Cock and Anchor" O'Connor received two letters from his old
friend, Mr. Audley, and one conveying a pressing invitation from Oliver
French of Ardgillagh, in compliance with which, early on the next
morning, he mounted his horse, and set forth, followed by his trusty
squire, upon the high road to Naas, resolved to task his strength to
the uttermost, although he knew that even thus he must necessarily
divide his journey into many more stages than his impatience would have
allowed, had more rapid travelling in his weak condition been possible.



CHAPTER LXXII.

THE ROPE AND THE RIOT IN GALLOWS GREEN--AND THE WOODS OF ARDGILLAGH BY
MOONLIGHT.


At length came that day, that dreadful day, whose evening Sir Henry
Ashwoode was never to see. Noon was the time fixed for the fatal
ceremonial; and long before that hour, the mob, in one dense mass of
thousands, had thronged and choked the streets leading to the old gaol.
Upon this awful day the wretched man acquired, by a strange revulsion,
a kind of stoical composure, which sustained him throughout the
dreadful preparations. With hands cold as clay, and a face white as
ashes, and from which every vestige of animation had vanished, he
proceeded, nevertheless, with a calm and collected demeanour to make
all his predetermined arrangements for the fearful scene. With a minute
elaborateness he finished his toilet, and dressed himself in a grave,
but particularly handsome suit. Could this shrunken, torpid, ghastly
spectre, in reality be the same creature who, a few months since, was
the admiration and envy of half the beaux of Dublin?

There was little or none of the fitful excitability about him which had
heretofore marked his demeanour during his confinement; on the
contrary, a kind of stupor and apathy had supervened, partly occasioned
by the laudanum which he had taken in unusually large quantities, and
partly by the overwhelming horror of his situation. He seemed to
observe and hear nothing. When the gaoler entered to remove his irons,
shortly before the time of his removal had arrived, he seemed a little
startled, and observing the physician who had attended him among those
who stood at the door of his cell, he beckoned him toward him.

"Doctor, doctor," said he in a dusky voice, "how much laudanum may I
safely take? I want my head clear to say a few words, to speak to the
people. Don't give me too much; but let me, with that condition, have
whatever I can safely swallow. You know--you understand me; don't
oblige me to speak any more just now."

The physician felt his pulse, and looked in his face, and then mingled
a little laudanum and water, which he applied to the young man's pale,
dry lips. This dose was hardly swallowed, when one of the gaol
officials entered, and stated that the ordinary was anxious to know
whether the prisoner wished to pray or confer with him in private
before his departure. The question had to be twice repeated ere it
reached Sir Henry. He replied, however, quickly, and in a low tone,--

"No, no, not for the world. I can't bear it; don't disturb me--don't,
don't."

It was now intimated to the prisoner that he must proceed. His arms
were pinioned, and he was conducted along the passages leading to the
entrance of the gaol, where he was received by the sheriff. For a
moment, as he passed out into the broad light and the keen fresh air,
he beheld the vast and eager mob pressing and heaving like a great dark
sea around him, and the mounted escort of dragoons with drawn swords
and gay uniforms; and without attaching any clear or definite meaning
to the spectacle, he beheld the plumes of a hearse, and two or three
fellows engaged in sliding the long black coffin into its place. These
sights, and the strange, gaping faces of the crowd, and the sheriff's
carriage, and the gay liveries, and the crowded fronts and roofs of the
crazy old houses opposite, for one moment danced like the fragment of a
dream across his vision, and in the next he sat in the old-fashioned
coach which was to convey him to the place of execution.

"Only twenty-seven years, only twenty-seven years, only twenty-seven
years," he muttered, vacantly and mechanically repeating the words
which had reached his ear from those who were curiously reading the
plate upon the coffin as he entered the coach--"only twenty-seven,
twenty-seven."

The awful procession moved on to the place of its final destination;
the enormous mob rushing along with it--crowding, jostling, swearing,
laughing, whistling, quarrelling, and hustling, as they forced their
way onward, and staring with coarse and eager curiosity whenever they
could into the vehicle in which Ashwoode sat. All the sights--the
haggard, smirched, and eager faces, the prancing horses of the
troopers, the well-known shops and streets, and the crowded
windows--all sailed by his eyes like some unintelligible and
heart-sickening dream. The place of public execution for criminals was
then, and continued to be for long after, a spot significantly
denominated "Gallows Hill," situated in the neighbourhood of St.
Stephen's Green, and not far from the line at present traversed by
Baggot Street. There a permanent gallows was erected, and thither, at
length, amid thousands of crowding spectators, the melancholy
procession came, and proceeded to the centre of area, where the gallows
stood, with the long new rope swinging in the wind, and the cart and
the hangman, with the guard of soldiers, prepared for their reception.
The vehicles drew up, and those who had to play a part in the dreadful
scene descended. The guard took their place, preserving a narrow circle
around the fatal spot, free from the pressure of the crowd. The
carriages were driven a little away, and the coffin was placed close
under the gallows, while Ashwoode, leaning upon the chaplain and upon
one of the sheriffs, proceeded toward the cart, which made the rude
platform on which he was to stand.

"Sir Henry Ashwoode," observes a contemporary authority, the _Dublin
Journal_, "showed a great deal of calmness and dignity, insomuch that a
great many of the mob, especially among the women, were weeping. His
figure and features were handsome, and he was finely dressed. He prayed
a short time with the ordinary, and then, with little assistance,
mounted the hurdle, whence he spoke to the people, declaring his
innocence with great solemnity. Then the hangman loosened his cravat,
and opened his shirt at the neck, and Sir Henry turning to him, bid
him, as it was understood, to take a ring from his finger, for a token
of forgiveness, which he did, and then the man drew the cap over his
eyes; but he made a sign, and the hangman lifted it up again, and Sir
Henry, looking round at all the multitude, said again, three times, 'In
the presence of God Almighty, I stand here innocent;' and then, a
minute after, 'I forgive all my enemies, and I die innocent;' then he
spoke a word to the hangman, and the cap being pulled down, and the
rope quickly adjusted, the hurdle was moved away, and he swung off, the
people with one consent crying out the while. He struggled for a long
time, and very hard; and not for more than an hour was the body cut
down, and laid in the coffin. He was buried in the night-time. His last
dying words have begot among most people a great opinion of his
innocence, though the lawyers still hold to it that he was guilty. It
was said that Mr. Blarden, the prosecutor, was in a house in Stephen's
Green, to see the hanging, and as soon as the mob heard it, they went
and broke the windows, and, but for the soldiers, would have forced
their way in, and done more violence."

Thus speaks the _Dublin Journal_, and the extract needs no addition
from us.


Gladly do we leave this hateful scene, and turn from the dreadful fate
of him whose follies and vices had wrought so much misery to others,
and ended in such fearful ignominy and destruction to himself. We leave
the smoky town, with all its fashion, vice, and villainy; its princely
equipages; its prodigals; its paupers; its great men and its
sycophants; its mountebanks and mendicants; its riches and its
wretchedness. We leave that old city of strange compounds, where the
sublime and the ridiculous, deep tragedies and most whimsical farces
are ever mingling--where magnificence and squalor rub shoulders day by
day, and beggars sit upon the steps of palaces. How much of what is
wonderful, wild, and awful, has not thy secret history known! How much
of the romance of human act and passion, vicissitude, joy and sorrow,
grandeur and despair, has there not lived, and moved, and perished, age
after age, under thy perennial curtain of solemn smoke!

Far, far behind, we leave the sickly smoky town--and over the far blue
hills and wooded country--through rocky glens, and by sonorous streams,
and over broad undulating plains, and through the quiet villages, with
their humble thatched roofs from which curls up the light blue smoke
among the sheltering bushes and tall hedge-rows--through ever-changing
scenes of softest rural beauty, in day time and at even-tide, and by
the wan, misty moonlight, we follow the two travellers who ride toward
the old domain of Ardgillagh.

The fourth day's journey brought them to the little village which
formed one of the boundaries of that old place. But, long ere they
reached it, the sun had gone down behind the distant hills, under his
dusky canopy of crimson clouds, and the pale moon had thrown its broad
light and shadows over the misty landscape. Under the soft splendour of
the moon, chequered by the moving shadows of the tall and ancient
trees, they rode into the humble village--no sound arose to greet them
but the desultory baying of the village dogs, and the soft sighing of
the light breeze through the spreading boughs--and no signal of waking
life was seen, except, few and far between, the red level beam of some
still glowing turf fire, shining through the rude and narrow aperture
that served the simple rustic instead of casement.

At one of these humble dwellings Larry Toole applied for information,
and with ready courtesy the "man of the house," in person, walked with
them to the entrance of the place, and shoved open one of the valves of
the crazy old gate, and O'Connor rode slowly in, following, with his
best caution, the directions of his guide. His honest squire, Larry,
meanwhile, loitered a little behind, in conference with the courteous
peasant, and with the laudable intention of procuring some trifling
refection, which, however, he determined to swallow without
dismounting, and with all convenient dispatch, bearing in mind a
wholesome remembrance of the disasters which followed his convivial
indulgence in the little town of Chapelizod. While Larry thus loitered,
O'Connor followed the wild winding avenue which formed the only
approach to the old mansion. This rude track led him a devious way over
slopes, and through hollows, and by the broad grey rocks, white as
sheeted phantoms in the moonlight, and the thick weeds and brushwood
glittering with the heavy dew of night, and through the beautiful misty
vistas of the ancient wild wood, now still and solemn as old cathedral
aisles. Thus, under the serene and cloudless light of the sailing moon,
he had reached the bank of the broad and shallow brook whose shadowy
nooks and gleaming eddies were canopied under the gnarled and arching
boughs of the hoary thorn and oak--and here tradition tells a
marvellous tale.

It is narrated that when O'Connor reached this point, his jaded horse
stopped short, refusing to cross the stream, and when urged by voice
and spur, reared, snorted, and by every indication exhibited the
extremest terror and an obstinate reluctance to pass the brook. The
rider dismounted--took his steed by the head, patted and caressed him,
and by every art endeavoured to induce him to traverse the little
stream, but in vain; while thus fruitlessly employed, his attention was
arrested by the sounds of a female voice, in low and singularly sweet
and plaintive lamentation, and looking across the water, for the first
time he beheld the object which so affrighted his steed. It was a
female figure arrayed in a mantle of dusky red, the hood of which hung
forward so as to hide the face and head: she was seated upon a broad
grey rock by the brook's side, and her head leaned forward so as to
rest upon her knees; her bare arm hung by her side, and the white
fingers played listlessly in the clear waters of the brook, while with
a wild and piteous chaunt, which grew louder and clearer as he gazed,
she still sang on her strange mournful song. Spellbound and entranced,
he knew not why, O'Connor gazed on in speechless and breathless awe,
until at length the tall form arose and disappeared among the old
trees, and the sounds melted away and were lost among the soft chiming
of the brook, and heard no more. He dared not say whether it was
reality or illusion, he felt like one suddenly recalled from a dream,
and a certain awe, and horror, and dismay still hung upon him, for
which he scarcely could account.

Without further resistance, the horse now crossed the brook; O'Connor
remounted, and followed the shadowy track; but again he was destined to
meet with interruption; the pathway which he followed, embowered among
the branching trees and bushes, at one point wound beneath a low,
ivy-mantled rock; he was turning this point, when his horse, snorting
loudly, checked his pace with a recoil so sudden that he threw himself
back upon his haunches, and remained, except for his violent trembling,
fixed and motionless. O'Connor raised his eyes, and standing upon the
rock which overhung the avenue, he beheld, for a moment, a tall female
form clothed in an ample cloak of dusky red. The arms with the hands
clasped, as if in the extremity of woe, firmly together, were extended
above her head, the face white as the foam of the river, and the eyes
preternaturally large and wild, were raised fixedly toward the broad
bright moon; this phantom, for such it was, for a moment occupied his
gaze, and in the next, with a scream so piercing and appalling that his
very marrow seemed to freeze at the sound, she threw herself forward as
though she would cast herself upon the horse and rider--and, was gone.

  [Illustration: "His horse, snorting loudly, checked his pace."
                 _To face page 354._]

The horse started wildly off and galloped at headlong speed up the
broken ascent, and for some time O'Connor had not collectedness to
check his frantic course, or even to think; at length, however, he
succeeded in calming the terrified animal--and, uttering a fervent
prayer, he proceeded, without further adventure, till the tall gable of
the old mansion in the spectral light of the moon among its thick
embowering trees and rich ivy-mantles, with all its tall white chimney
stacks and narrow windows with their thousand glittering panes, arose
before his anxious gaze.



CHAPTER LXXIII.

THE LAST LOOK.


Time had flowed on smoothly in the quiet old place, with an even
current unbroken and unmarred, except by one event. Sir Henry
Ashwoode's danger was known to old French and Mr. Audley; but with
anxious and effectual care they kept all knowledge of his peril and
disgrace from poor Mary: this pang was spared her. The months that
passed had wrought in her a change so great and so melancholy, that
none could look upon her without sorrowful forebodings, without
misgivings against which they vainly strove. Sore grief had done its
worst: the light and graceful step grew languid and feeble--the young
face wan and wasted--the beautiful eyes grew dim; and now in her sad
and early decline, as in other times, when her smile was sunshine, and
her very step light music, was still with her the same warm and gentle
spirit; and even amid the waste and desolation of decay, still
prevailed the ineffaceable lines of that matchless and touching beauty,
which in other times had wrought such magic.

It was upon that day, the night of which saw O'Connor's long-deferred
arrival at Ardgillagh, that Flora Guy, vainly striving to restrain her
tears, knocked at Mr. Audley's chamber door. The old gentleman quickly
answered the summons.

"Ah, sir," said the girl, "she's very bad, sir, if you wish to see her,
come at once."

"I _do_, indeed, wish to see her, the dear child," said he, while the
tears started to his eyes; "bring me to the room."

He followed the kind girl to the door, and she first went in, and in a
low voice told her that Mr. Audley wished much to see her, and she,
with her own sweet, sad smile, bade her bring him to her bedside.

Twice the old man essayed to enter, and twice he stayed to weep
bitterly as a child. At length he commanded composure enough to enter,
and stood by the bedside, and silently and reverently held the hand of
her that was dying.

"My dear child! my darling!" said he, vainly striving to suppress his
sobs, while the tears fell fast upon the thin small hand he held in
his--"I have sought this interview, to tell you what I would fain have
told you often before now but knew not how to speak of it, I want to
speak to you of one who loved you, and loves you still, as mortal has
seldom loved; of--of my good young friend O'Connor."

As he said this, he saw, or was it fancy, the faintest flush imaginable
for one moment tinge her pale cheek. He had touched a chord to which
the pulses of her heart, until they had ceased to beat, must tremble;
and silently and slow the tears gathered upon her long dark lashes, and
followed one another down her wan face, unheeded. Thus she listened
while he related how truly O'Connor had loved her, and when the tale
was ended she wept on long and silently.

"Flora," she said at length, "cut off a lock of my hair."

The girl did as she was desired, and in her thin and feeble hand her
young mistress took it.

"Whenever you see him, sir," said she, "will you give him this, and say
that I sent it for a token that to the last I loved him, and to help
him to remember me when I am gone: this is my last message--and poor
Flora, won't you take care of her?"

"Won't I, won't I!" sobbed the old man, vehemently. "While I have a
shilling in the world she shall never know want--faithful creature"--and
he grasped the honest girl's hand, and shook it, and sobbed and wept
like a child.

He took the long dark ringlet, which he had promised to give to
O'Connor; and seeing that his presence agitated her, he took a long
last look at the young face he was never more to see in life, and
kissing the small hand again and again, he turned and went out, crying
bitterly.

Soon after this she grew much fainter, and twice or thrice she spoke as
though her mind was busy with other scenes.

"Let us go down to the well side," she said, "the primroses and
cowslips are always there the earliest;" and then she said again, "He's
coming, Flora; he'll be here very soon, so come and dress my hair; he
likes to see my hair dressed with flowers--wild flowers."

Shortly after this she sank into a soft and gentle sleep, and while she
lay thus calmly, there came over her pale face a smile of such a pure
and heavenly light, that angelic hope, and peace, and glory, shone in
its beauty. The smile changed not; but she was dead! The sorrowful
struggle was over--the weary bosom was at rest--the true and gentle
heart was cold for ever--the brief but sorrowful trial was over--the
desolate mourner was gone to the land where the pangs of grief, the
tumults of passion, regrets, and cold neglect are felt no more.

Her favourite bird, with gay wings, flutters to the casement; the
flowers she planted are sweet upon the evening air; and by their
hearths the poor still talk of her and bless her; but the silvery voice
that spoke, and the gentle hand that tended, and the beautiful smile
that gave an angelic grace to the offices of charity, where are they?


The tapers are lighted in the silent chamber, and Flora Guy has laid
early spring flowers on the still cold form that sleeps there in its
serene sad beauty tranquilly and for ever; when in the court-yard are
heard the tramp and clatter of a horse's hoofs--it is he--O'Connor,--he
comes for her--the long lost--the dearly loved--the true-hearted--the
found again.

'Twere vain to tell of frantic grief--words cannot tell, nor
imagination conceive, the depth--the wildness--the desolation of that
woe.



CONCLUSION.


Some fifteen years ago there was still to be seen in the little ruined
church which occupies a corner in what yet remains of the once
magnificent domain of Ardgillagh, side by side among the tangled weeds,
two gravestones; one recording the death of Mary Ashwoode, at the early
age of twenty-two, in the year of grace 1710; the other, that of Edmond
O'Connor, who fell at Denain, in the year of our Lord 1712. Thus they
were, who in life were separated, laid side by side in death. It is a
still and sequestered spot, and the little ruin clothed in rich ivy,
and sheltered by the great old trees with its solemn and holy quiet, in
such a resting-place as most mortals would fain repose in when their
race is done.

For the rest our task is quickly done. Mr. Audley and Oliver French had
so much gotten into one another's way of going on, that the former
gentleman from week to week, and from month to month, continued to
prolong his visit, until after a residence of eight years, he died at
length in the mansion of Ardgillagh, at a very advanced age, and
without more than two days' illness, having never experienced before,
in all his life, one hour's sickness of any kind. Honest Oliver French
outlived his boon companion by the space of two years, having just
eaten an omelette and actually called for some woodcock-pie; he
departed suddenly while the servant was raising the crust. Old Audley
left Flora Guy well provided for at his death, but somehow or other
considerably before that event Larry Toole succeeded in prevailing on
the honest handmaiden to marry him, and although, questionless, there
was some disparity in point of years, yet tradition says, and we
believe it, that there never lived a fonder or a happier couple, and it
is a genealogical fact, that half the Tooles who are now to be found in
that quarter of the country, derive their descent from the very
alliance in question.

Of Major O'Leary we have only to say that the rumour which hinted at
his having united his fortunes with those of the house of Rumble, were
but too well founded. He retired with his buxom bride to a small
property, remote from the dissipation of the capital, and except in the
matter of an occasional cock-fight, whenever it happened to be within
reach, or a tough encounter with the squire, when a new pipe of claret
was to be tasted, one or two occasional indiscretions, he became, as he
himself declared, in all respects an ornament to society.

Lady Stukely, within a few months after the explosion with young
Ashwoode, vented her indignation by actually marrying young
Pigwiggynne. It was said, indeed, that they were not happy; of this,
however, we cannot be sure; but it is undoubtedly certain that they
used to beat, scratch, and pinch each other in private--whether in play
merely, or with the serious intention of correcting one another's
infirmities of temper, we know not. Several weeks before Lady Stukely's
marriage, Emily Copland succeeded in her long-cherished schemes against
the celibacy of poor Lord Aspenly. His lordship, however, lived on with
a perseverance perfectly spiteful, and his lady, alas and alack-a-day,
tired out, at length committed a _faux pas_--the trial is on record,
and eventuated, it is sufficient to say, in a verdict for the
plaintiff.

Of Chancey, we have only to say that his fate was as miserable as his
life had been abject and guilty. When he arose after the tremendous
fall which he had received at the hands of his employer, Nicholas
Blarden, upon the memorable night which defeated all their schemes, for
he _did_ arise with life--intellect and remembrance were alike
quenched--he was thenceforward a drivelling idiot. Though none cared to
inquire into the cause and circumstances of his miserable privation,
long was he well known and pointed out in the streets of Dublin, where
he subsisted upon the scanty alms of superstitious charity, until at
length, during the great frost in the year 1739, he was found dead one
morning, in a corner under St. Audoen's Arch, stark and cold, cowering
in his accustomed attitude.

Nicholas Blarden died upon his feather bed, and if every luxury which
imagination can devise, or prodigal wealth procure, can avail to soothe
the racking torments of the body, and the terrors of the appalled
spirit, he died happy.

Of the other actors in this drama--with the exception of M'Quirk, who
was publicly whipped for stealing four pounds of sausages from an eating
house in Bride Street, and the Italian, who, we believe, was seen as
groom-porter in Mr. Blarden's hell, for many years after--tradition is
silent.


  [Illustration: The End.]


GILBERT AND RIVINGTON, LD., ST. JOHN'S HOUSE, CLERKENWELL.





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