« AnteriorContinuar »
The riddle was soon read. Scarce had the bystanders resumed their places, after allowing the Levanter to pass, when a new actor was added to the scene, attired in a shabby-genteel white hat, a half shabby black coat, which in its days of prosperity had owned a more corpulent inmate; a waistcoat of the same class, and unmentionables to match ; within all which articles of decoration stood an individual five feet six or so in his buskins, with a decided cast in one of his eyes, and a world of rascality in
The moment this prepossessing personage appeared, it was impossible not to connect his entry with the desertion of Miss Seymour's protector; for the poor man, on looking up to the driving-seat, and find ing it untenanted, betrayed the most unmitigated disappointment. He next took a cursory view of the interior of the vehicle, but apparently without deriving any consolation from aught he saw of its contents, and then scratched his head, and proceeded to bethink him of an expedient.
It is very hard to deceive a Galway man in a bailiff. Even the dumb brutes of that lawless region are endowed with an instinctive faculty of recognizing a member of the hated fraternity. I remember one time while my father was on his keeping, and every mother's son about the premises was on the alert, watching to detect the approach of any unauthorized stranger, it was universally allowed that the most trusty sentinel in the place was a large Poland gander; his sagacity in the matter was truly miraculous ; his discrimination almost infallible; accordingly, whenever this gifted bird uttered his unmusical scream, all persons concerned took the alarm forthwith, the outer doors were barred, the windowblinds drawn down, and the master bolted off to his sanctuary like a detected pickpocket. Allowing me to arrogate for my judgment the claim of similar credit—the wit of a goose, and no more I would feel inclined to pronounce the man in the white felt and shabby etceteras to be one of the proscribed, and invested with a mission fatal to the liberty of mine adversary
No sooner had her favoured scamp retired in the extraordinary manner I have related, than my poor little faithless Grace, utterly overcome by the exceeding embarrassments of her situation, bowed her head on her bosom, and burying her face in her hands, wept with ill-subdued violence; so that, vehemently as I longed to avail myself of the opportunity of offering her my services, common decency forbade me to intrude
her. No similar scruple, however, actuated the discomfited bailiff: after pondering for a moment or two, he suddenly advanced to the carriage, and leaning across the door, in a tone as wheedling and soft as Nature would allow one of his craft to assume, he uttered the monosyllable • Miss.' At the very sound of his voice the poor girl, seemingly but too conscious of the nature of his business, crouched back, cowering in the very far. thest corner, while the low moan that involuntarily escaped her, struck to my very heart, and quite eradicated whatever resentment I felt at first on experiencing the shortness of her memory.
Miss,' repeated the bailiff; and to insure her attention the scoundrel stretched his hand towards her shoulder. It jars on one's nerves indescribably that touch on the shoulder, bestowed whether in jest or earnest by any of that ill-omened craft,---as the Connaught-man said of the gun, Charge, or no charge, she's dangerous.' To stand neuter while such an
outrage was being perpetrated would require more coolness than I POSSESSed, at least at that moment, even had it been any other than my inamorata who was in jeopardy; so, taking one long step, which just brought me within a convenient distance of his ear, I summoned all my strength for the blow, and floored the man of law by one judicious tip planted just where it ought to be. He did not lose a moment recovering and gathering himself up; which being achieved, he looked angrily round for his assailant, and faced me with a show of spirit not always to be found in those who wear the sheriff's livery.
• You infernal ruffian !' exclaimed I in explanation, how dare you attempt to lay your ugly paw on any lady?'
The fellow made no answer, but eyed me from head to foot with a look of puzzled incredulity. I was rapidly losing my temper while undergoing his inspection, and was about repeating the assault, when in a half audible voice he ejaculated, 'Galway, by jingo!' and forthwith proved his prudence equal to his sagacity by decamping without further parley. I was now master of the field, fully entitled to enjoy all the honours therefrom accruing, and yet, albeit that bashfulness, as everybody knows, was never the besetting family failing of our house,' my heart trembled while I proceeded to the task of awakening the strangely dormant recollections of the lady.
Miss Seymour,' said I gently, don't you know me?'
Slightly starting at this abrupt claim on her acquaintance, she looked up, but her eyes were dim with tears, and her memory with terror, and in a doubting sort of voice she answered me.
'Yes — no ; and yet something tells me I ought to remember
• What!' rejoined I, do you forget Bob Donnellan, your partner at the Galway ball ?
Oh, Mr. Donnellan ! exclaimed the poor little girl, and giving me one hand, she held her handkerchief to her eyes with the other, and burst again into an agony of tears.
"Perhaps,' said I, after a short pause, you had better let me look for your horses, and see you home; that ruffian might return, and annoy you again.'
*Do — do!' she answered with difficulty, you are very kind,' and hastening to where a group of servants stood with their horses, quickly found her coachman, had the horses put to in a space of time truly miraculous, then sprang into the vehicle, and seated myself by her side, and away we went as fast as a wilțing whip and two smart greys could expedite us.
It was some time before the paroxysm of her grief abated sufficiently to let me edge in one word of consolation, although one would think that a little chat by way of salvage fees was the least that I might expect. At length I seized the opportunity of a momentary calm, and begged her to quiet her apprehensions, as we were long out of danger either of pursuit or annoyance: the only effect, however, of this intimation seemed to be that, her own personal peril being over, she deemed it now high time to lament the hard fate of her hopeful, for his name, repeated with all the fondness of pity, became the burden of her renewed tribulation. Plague on the girl! couldn't she find some other subject to lament about? I almost writhed with vexation, and would willingly have resigned
all the honours of the championship to be out of hearing of this undisguised preference of a rival, who had so coolly deserted, and under such unfavourable auspices.
Oh, poor Frank !-poor, poor Frank !' she continued to exclaim ever and anon, when her convulsive sobs permitted her to apply her tongue to that very indifferent use.
By my word, Miss Seymour,' said I at length, nettled beyond forbearance, your lamentations seem to be very much wasted on that gentleman ; to all appearance he placed too high a value on his personal liberty to let it stand in jeopardy in any case where a quick pair of heels could secure it to him.'
• But,' she answered passionately, if he is caught he'll be ruined.'
I had a great mind to tell her in reply, that in regard of ruination, as far as my opinion went, the boy was past praying for already ; but where was the use of it? She evidently loved him, and didn't seem much inclined to love him less for his misfortunes. To me she was lost for ever, and I could well afford to be generous on the occasion. I therefore determined to give her such a hint of the character and views of her swain's associate as would form an easy clue to him if he had but the sense to follow it.
"Pray, Miss Seymour,' said I with this intent, do you know a gentleman named Hall ?
'Yes,' she faintly answered, a good deal startled by the question.
'A dashing sort of customer,' continued I, dark eyes and hair, whiskers ad libitum, and as much gold round his neck and fingers as would redeem a Galway mortgage.'
. The same, I should think,' she replied, in the same tone, and growing rather pale.
‘And, perhaps,' said I, 'your acquaintance further extends to a person of the name of Desmond.'
"I have heard of him,' said she, scarce able to answer with some overpowering emotion. Why do you ask me?'
* Because,' I answered, as I quit this country to-morrow, I would wish first to do one act of duty which chance has thrown in my way. I have happened to discover that both these persons are engaged in a swindling confederacy, and have already succeeded in my presence of defrauding of a very large sum your - your that gentleman whom I saw in your company to-day. In fact, I overheard them arrange to sue him forthwith on some bond which they have obtained from him, and it is more than probable that his present dilemma is the consequence of their conspiracy
'It is — it is! she exclaimed breathlessly. 'He told me this morning he was afraid of Desmond; but Hall — Hall,' and her voice sank as she named him. 'Oh! Mr. Donnellan, he thinks that wretch is his bosom friend.'
'I was aware of that,' I replied, and he will find no difficulty in disconcerting their villainy, if he only follows the clue I have now given you.
Hall seems desirous to have him in his power on account of some lady. The reason of this he will understand himself.'
"Oh! too well-too well!' she said with a shudder: 'but you must
see him, and tell him yourself. Hall knows the very spot where he has concealed himself, and will betray him; it is in L where he lodged in the spring, and Hall used to be there with him for days. Dear Mr. Donnellan !' she cried earnestly, 'won't you go and explain it to him at once before it is, perhaps, too late.'
* Excuse me,' I replied, with something of a tremor in my voice, 'my time is very limited. There are other reasons, too, why I would not wish to have any interview with that gentleman,-reasons which it would be worse than useless to talk about now.'
Oh! don't say that, Mr. Donnellan,' she entreated again. You can have the carriage this minute. I can walk home; or I will with
you, if you let me. Only don't leave my poor—poor brother at the mercy of that treacherous Hall.'
Mother of Moses ! I ejaculated, confounded at the discovery, and was that
young man only your brother after all ?? Why, she asked, with undisguised surprise, 'what else did you imamine him to be ?!
Bedad !' answered I, overjoyed at the éclaircissement, 'I took him for your sweetheart.
“And what, in the name of wonder, could have put such a notion into
your head ?
« Faith, I don't know,' I replied, “barring 'twas jealousy.'
Further explanation was needless; my hopes all blazed out afresh, all the brighter for the little damp they had undergone ; but it was no time for regular love-making, nor could I, at all events, have wished for a better opportunity of ingratiating myself with her than by now applying myself sedulously to the rescue of her brother. The horses' heads were accordingly turned round in the direction of the ground we had traversed to convey us to the refuge of the fugitive; and while we rapidly returned towards the park, I extracted from her all she knew of her brother's dealings with Desmond, thus throwing some light on what I knew already myself
. It would seem that on that very morning he had accounted for some depression of spirits by imparting to her in confidence the fact of his having passed Desmond a bond for three hundred pounds, for money lost to him in gambling, besides his having expended in a similar pursuit all the ready money he could command ; thus leaving himself no other alternative but a jail, in case his friend, who had engaged to interfere with Desmond in his behalf, should be unable to prevail with that worthy not to press the demands for payment which he had made in a rather urgent and threatening tone.
And did he tell you who was this obliging friend, Miss Seymour ? I asked.
She held down her head, and made no answer, but twitched the string of her parasol in confusion: I bethought me of Hall's words that I had overheard in the gambling-house, of his extreme intimacy with her duped brother, and allowing a little for the usual exaggeration inflicted on all stories brought to the country, or in fact brought anywhere, had not a doubt but that he was the rival with whom I had been threatened ; though, if I was to draw any conclusion from the apparent feelings of the lady towards him, he was far from being so dangerous a rival as I was at first
led to suppose.
'I shouldn't wonder if it was to Hall he alluded,' remarked I carelessly, in order to bring her to some clear demonstration on the subject.
"Thank God!' she exclaimed in a low and fervent voice, he'll know Hall at last.'
“So much for Hall,' thought I, dismissing the man from my apprehensions, and stealing a glance at the bowed face of my beautiful companion. It was pale-deadly pale; and while her eyes glowed with thankfulness, tears were straying quick and silent down her cheeks. There was something wrong still. I took her hand in mine, and spoke some nonsense or other, incoherent enough, --some rambling assurances of devotion, and so forth, ending with a declaration of my willingness to defend her against all comers if she gave me but the title to do so.
Mr. Donnellan,' said she, turning abruptly round, there is one thing you must promise me. This explanation will naturally place you very much in Frank's confidence; and Hall's treachery, if it be proved, will exasperate him to a degree that I shudder to think of. Will you pledge yourself to me that you will use your best influence to prevent anything in the way of a duel? I know it will be a hard thing to do; but you must promise it to me. Remember, he must not meet Hall.?
• Nonsense! exclaimed I, laughing at her simplicity. 'I can only assure you, my dear Miss Seymour, that it would be against all rules for your brother to meet the fellow after his conduct; so you may dismiss all fears on that head. Meet Hall! why the best-natured man in Ireland wouldn't fight him for charity.'
* Well,' replied she, “remember I place my brother in your hands.'
‘And in my hands he shall be perfectly safe,' I answered ; and now let us talk about ourselves, and that pleasant Galway ball.'
Into what a sea of reminiscences we plunged ! Who could have thought that an acquaintance of some five hours length or so could supply such a fund for conversation ? yet so it was that even the most trifling incident which occurred during that interim had been so firmly planted in both our memories, that when we drew on them for materials we found a hoard that might keep us employed from sunrise to sunset. I felt myself rapidly gaining ground in her favour, as rapidly approaching the opportunity of winning her brother's good-will
, and offering him a substitute for the treacherous friend from whom I was to extricate him. It seemed scarce a minute until we were beyond the smoke of the city; the park was soon left behind, with its rolling thunders of artillery, its floating music swelling and sinking with each fitful breath of the summer air, and dying away at last in the distance, with its glittering pageantry of which a casual glance could now and then be caught through the foliage of the trees as we swept along the road: high hearts and happy were there, no doubt, but mine was as light as the best of them ; and where was the brow even among that throng of loveliness which could vie with that of my gentle Grace ? Still we talked, and still we could have talked to the end of the journey, even if it were to reach to Athlone, until, at last, on mounting the crest of the hill which overhangs the town of Lucan, the coachman turned round with an anxious and alarmed expression for he had picked up enough to understand the object of our journey—and pointing to one of the houses in the Main Street, (I believe they call it,) bade us remark the crowd which had gathered before the door. It was the very house in which Frank Seymour had notified his intention of taking refuge.
Powerless with anxiety, his sister sank back in the carriage, while I