Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

MANDERVILLE;

OR,

THE HIBERNIAN CHILIARCH.

CHAPTER I.

“ One fatal remembrance, one sorrow that throws
Its bleak shade alike o'er our joys and our woes,
To which life nothing darker or brighter can bring,
For which joy hath no balm, and affliction no sting."

MOORE.

BETWEEN the towns of Belfast and Carrickfergus, on the brow of a hill commanding a fine view of the surrounding wild and romantic scenery, stood, in the year 1700, the remains of an ancient Castle, which even in its then dilapidated state, retained sufficient evidences of its former importance, to awaken, even in the casual passer-by, a desire to investigate it more closely. Surrounded by a

wood on one side, and rendered inaccessible on the other by the abrupt termination of the hill on which the ruins stood, in a perpendicular precipice of limestone, which had possibly been excavated for the purpose of obtaining the materials with which the Castle was built; it presented, altogether, a prospect more than commonly attractive; not only from its situation, but also its apparent antiquity.

The descendants, however, of the Lordly possessors of this extensive domain, had, for a series of Ages, been gradually dwindling into a state of comparative poverty: and the representative of the family, at the period we are speaking of (Sir Henry Mortimer, of Castleward), had, on his arrival at that age, when, according to our laws, he was entitled to the sole management of his affairs, found himself heir to an extensive, but heavily-encumbered estate; together with all the virtues, and all the vices, of his ancestors.--Proud, thought, less, and extravagant; brave, generous, and revengeful; he united in himself many qualities to be admired, some to be revered, but few that could be loved. Want of opportunity had, however, prevented the display of any of the better or greater points in his character, save that of generosity: and his naturally irascible disposition was soon rendered furious, by the embarassment attending on the disorganised state of his affairs at the time he succeeded to his estate, together with his subsequent extravagance; so that, in short, he became an object of dislike, if not of dread, to those classes of society, who ought to have been his associates; not only from his promptitude to insult, but his inflexibility in extorting what he termed satisfaction, for the most trivial, nay, in some instances, unintentional offences.

In his thirty-second year, after he had been for some time married, and was the father of two children, a Boy and a Girl, he unfortunately quarrelled with the Colonel of a Regiment, named Conway, with whom he had been for some time previously acquainted; and a meeting being the result, at the first fire his antagonist fell, mortally wounded. The shock sustained by Sir Henry, on ascertaining he had indeed deprived his adversary of life, was severe in the extreme; neither was the impression made on him at that moment ever afterwards obliterated.

Some little time elapsed after the occurrence of this unfortunate affair; when, one evening as Sir Henry Mortimer was returning alone, and on foot, from a visit which he had made in the neighbourhood, he was encountered in the avenue leading to his house, by a stranger, who rushed suddenly forward and stabbed him before he had an opportunity of defending himself. The wound, though dangerous to appearance, did not prove mortal; and whoever the assassin might have been, he succeeded in making his escape. Various were the conjectures formed on this subject; and, as the father of Colonel Conway was reputed to be a man of a violent and vindictive disposition, it may readily be supposed he did not escape without some portion of suspicion, either as having incited, or been the perpetrator of, the outrage. However that might be, as he was an entire stranger to Sir Henry, and besides, resided at a very considerable distance, no attempt was ever made to elucidate the affair; the person

most interested treating the report as an idle and malicious fabrication, which it were folly to attend to, and injustice to believe. One disastrous consequence, however, resulted from this event; namely, that the wife of Sir Henry Mortimer, who was naturally of a delicate constitution, owing to the shock she received, together with the fatigue she underwent during his convalescence, was suddenly taken ill, and after languishing some time, fell a victim to the influence of her disease; leaving him, in the truest sense of the word, disconsolate; and, if possible, more morose, vindictive, and intractable than formerly.

It is also probable that a sense of the crime of bloodshed might have pressed heavily on the spirits of Mortimer; but, if so, it was known only to himself, as mention of the circumstance, or any thing relating to it,

« AnteriorContinuar »