Castle Richmond, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XII

Doubts

I believe there is no period of life so happy as that in which a thriving lover leaves his mistress after his first success. His joy is more perfect then than at the absolute moment of his own eager vow, and her half-assenting blushes. Then he is thinking mostly of her, and is to a certain degree embarrassed by the effort necessary for success. But when the promise has once been given to him, and he is able to escape into the domain of his own heart, he is as a conqueror who has mastered half a continent by his own strategy.

It never occurs to him, he hardly believes, that his success is no more than that which is the ordinary lot of mortal man. He never reflects that all the old married fogies whom he knows and despises, have just as much ground for pride, if such pride were enduring; that every fat, silent, dull, somnolent old lady whom he sees and quizzes, has at some period been deemed as worthy a prize as his priceless galleon; and so deemed by as bold a captor as himself.

Some one has said that every young mother, when her first child is born, regards the babe as the most wonderful production of that description which the world has yet seen. And this too is true. But I doubt even whether that conviction is so strong as the conviction of the young successful lover, that he has achieved a triumph which should ennoble him down to late generations. As he goes along he has a contempt for other men; for they know nothing of such glory as his. As he pores over his “Blackstone,” he remembers that he does so, not so much that he may acquire law, as that he may acquire Fanny; and then all other porers over “Blackstone” are low and mean in his sight — are mercenary in their views and unfortunate in their ideas, for they have no Fanny in view.

Herbert Fitzgerald had this proud feeling strong within his heart as he galloped away across the greensward, and trotted fast along the road, home to Castle Richmond. She was compounded of all excellences — so he swore to himself over and over again — and being so compounded, she had consented to bestow all these excellences upon him. Being herself goddess-like, she had promised to take him as the object of her world’s worship. So he trotted on fast and faster, as though conscious of the half-continent which he had won by his skill and valour.

She had told him about his cousin Owen. Indeed, the greater number of the soft musical words which she had spoken in that long three hours’ colloquy had been spoken on this special point. It had behoved her to tell him all; and she thought that she had done so. Nay, she had done so with absolute truth — to the best of her heart’s power.

“You were so young then,” he had argued; “so very young.”

“Yes, very young. I am not very old now, you know,” and she smiled sweetly on him.

“No, no; but a year makes so much difference. You were all but a child then. You do not love him now, Clara?”

“No; I do not love him now,” she had answered.

And then he exacted a second, a third, a fourth assurance, that she did absolutely, actually, and with her whole heart love him, him Herbert, in lieu of that other him, poor Owen; and with this he, Herbert, was contented. Content; nay, but proud, elated with triumph, and conscious of victory. In this spirit he rode home as fast as his horse could carry him.

He too had to tell his tale to those to whom he owed obedience, and to beg that they would look upon his intended bride with eyes of love and with parental affection. But in this respect he was hardly troubled with more doubt than Clara had felt. How could any one object to his Clara?

There are young men who, from their positions in life, are obliged to abstain from early marriage, or to look for dowries with their wives. But he, luckily, was not fettered in this way. He could marry as he pleased, so long as she whom he might choose brought with her gentle blood, a good heart, a sweet temper, and such attraction of person and manners as might make the establishment at Castle Richmond proud of his young bride. And of whom could that establishment be more proud than of Lady Clara Desmond? So he rode home without any doubt to clog his happiness.

But he had a source of joy which Clara wanted. She was almost indifferent to her mother’s satisfaction; but Herbert looked forward with the liveliest, keenest anticipation to his mother’s gratified caresses and unqualified approval — to his father’s kind smile and warm assurance of consent. Clara had made herself known at Castle Richmond; and he had no doubt but that all this would be added to his cup of happiness. There was therefore no alloy to debase his virgin gold as he trotted quickly into the stable-yard.

But he resolved that he would say nothing about the matter that night. He could not well tell them all in full conclave together. Early after breakfast he would go to his father’s room; and after that, he would find his mother. There would then be no doubt that the news would duly leak out among his sisters and Aunt Letty.

“Again only just barely in time, Herbert,” said Mary, as they clustered round the fire before dinner.

“You can’t say I ever keep you waiting; and I really think that’s some praise for a man who has got a good many things on his hand.”

“So it is, Herbert,” said Emmeline. “But we have done something too. We have been over to Berryhill; and the people have already begun there: they were at work with their pickaxes among the rocks by the river-side.”

“So much the better. Was Mr. Somers there?”

“We did not see him: but he had been there,” said Aunt Letty. “But Mrs. Townsend found us. And who do you think came up to us in the most courteous, affable, condescending way?”

“Who? I don’t know. Brady, the builder, I suppose.”

“No, indeed: Brady was not half so civil, for he kept himself to his own work. It was the Rev. Mr. M’Carthy, if you please.”

“I only hope you were civil to him,” said Herbert, with some slight suffusion of colour over his face; for he rather doubted the conduct of his aunt to the priest, especially as her great Protestant ally, Mrs. Townsend, was of the party.

“Civil! I don’t know what you would have, unless you wanted me to embrace him. He shook hands with us all round. I really thought Mrs. Townsend would have looked him into the river when he came to her.”

“She always was the quintessence of absurdity and prejudice,” said he.

“Oh, Herbert!” exclaimed Aunt Letty.

“Well; and what of ‘Oh, Herbert?’ I say she is so. If you and Mary and Emmeline did not look him into the river when he shook hands with you, why should she do so? He is an ordained priest even according to her own tenets — only she knows nothing of what her own tenets are.”

“I’ll tell you what they are. They are the substantial, true, and holy doctrines of the Protestant religion, founded on the gospel. Mrs. Townsend is a thoroughly Protestant woman; one who cannot abide the sorceries of popery.”

“Hates them as a mad dog hates water; and with the same amount of judgment. We none of us wish to be drowned; but nevertheless there are some good qualities in water.”

“But there are no good qualities in popery,” said Aunt Letty, with her most extreme energy.

“Are there not?” said Herbert. “I should have thought that belief in Christ, belief in the Bible, belief in the doctrine of a Saviour’s atonement, were good qualities. Even the Mahommedan’s religion has some qualities that are good.”

“I would sooner be a Mahommedan than a Papist,” said Aunt Letty, somewhat thoughtlessly, but very stoutly.

“You would alter your opinion after the first week in a harem,” said Herbert. And then there was a burst of laughter, in which Aunt Letty herself joined. “I would sooner go there than go to confession,” she whispered to Mary, as they all walked off to dinner.

“And how is the Lady Clara’s arm?” asked Mary, as soon as they were again once more round the fire.

“The Lady Clara’s arm is still very blue,” said Herbert.

“And I suppose it took you half an hour to weep over it?” continued his sister.

“Exactly, by Shrewsbury clock.”

“And while you were weeping over the arm, what happened to the hand? She did not surrender it, did she, in return for so much tenderness on your part?”

Emmeline thought that Mary was very pertinacious in her badinage, and was going to bid her hold her tongue; but she observed that Herbert blushed, and walked away without further answer. He went to the further end of the long room, and there threw himself on to a sofa. “Could it be that it was all settled?” thought Emmeline to herself.

She followed him to the sofa, and sitting beside him, took hold of his arm. “Oh, Herbert! if there is anything to tell, do tell me.”

“Anything to tell!” said he. “What do you mean?”

“Oh! you know. I do love her so dearly. I shall never be contented to love any one else as your wife — not to love her really, really with all my heart.”

“What geese you girls are! — you are always thinking of love, and weddings, and orange-blossoms.”

“It is only for you I think about them,” said Emmeline. “I know there is something to tell. Dear Herbert, do tell me.”

“There is a young bachelor duke coming here tomorrow. He has a million a-year, and three counties all his own; he has blue eyes, and is the handsomest man that ever was seen. Is that news enough?”

“Very well, Herbert. I would tell you anything.”

“Well; tell me anything.”

“I’ll tell you this. I know you’re in love with Clara Desmond, and I’m sure she’s in love with you; and I believe you are both engaged, and you’re not nice at all to have a secret from me. I never tease you, as Mary does, and it would make me so happy to know it.”

Upon this he put his arm round her waist and whispered one word into her ear. She gave an exclamation of delight; and as the tears came into her eyes congratulated him with a kiss. “Oh dear, oh dear! I am so happy!” she exclaimed.

“Hush — sh,” he whispered. “I knew how it would be if I told you.”

“But they will all know tomorrow, will they not?”

“Leave that to me. You have coaxed me out of my secret, and you are bound to keep it. And then he went away well pleased. This description of delight on his sister’s part was the first instalment of that joy which he had promised himself from the satisfaction of his family.”

Lady Fitzgerald had watched all that had passed, and had already learned her mistake — her mistake in that she had prophesied that no immediate proposal was likely to be made by her son. She now knew well enough that he had made such a proposal, and that he had been accepted.

And this greatly grieved her. She had felt certain from the few slight words which Sir Thomas had spoken that there were valid reasons why her son should not marry a penniless girl. That conversation, joined to other things, to the man’s visit, and her husband’s deep dejection, had convinced her that all was not right. Some misfortune was impending over them, and there had been that in her own early history which filled her with dismay as she thought of this.

She had ardently desired to caution her son in this respect — to guard him, if possible, against future disappointment and future sorrow. But she could not do so without obtaining in some sort her husband’s assent to her doing so. She resolved that she would talk it over with Sir Thomas. But the subject was one so full of pain, and he was so ill, and therefore she had put it off.

And now she saw that the injury was done.

Nevertheless, she said nothing either to Emmeline or to Herbert. If the injury were done, what good could now result from talking? She doubtless would hear it all soon enough. So she sat still, watching them.

On the following morning Sir Thomas did not come out to breakfast. Herbert went into his room quite early, as was always his custom; and as he left it for the breakfast-parlour he said, “Father, I should like to speak to you just now about something of importance.”

“Something of importance, Herbert; what is it? Anything wrong?” For Sir Thomas was nervous, and easily frightened.

“Oh dear, no; nothing is wrong. It is nothing that will annoy you; at least, I think not. But it will keep till after breakfast. I will come in again the moment breakfast is over.” And so saying he left the room with a light step.

In the breakfast-parlour it seemed to him as though everybody was conscious of some important fact. His mother’s kiss was peculiarly solemn and full of solicitude; Aunt Letty smirked as though she was aware of something — something over and above the great Protestant tenets which usually supported her; and Mary had no joke to fling at him.

“Emmeline,” he whispered, “you have told.”

“No, indeed,” she replied. But what mattered it? Everybody would know now in a few minutes. So he ate his breakfast, and then returned to Sir Thomas.

“Father,” said he, as soon as he had got into the armchair, in which it was his custom to sit when talking with Sir Thomas, “I hope what I am going to tell you will give you pleasure. I have proposed to a young lady, and she has — accepted me.”

“You have proposed, and have been accepted!”

“Yes, father.”

“And the young lady —?”

“Is Lady Clara Desmond. I hope you will say that you approve of it. She has no fortune, as we all know, but that will hardly matter to me; and I think you will allow that in every other respect she is —”

Perfect, Herbert would have said, had he dared to express his true meaning. But he paused for a moment to look for a less triumphant word; and then paused again, and left his sentence incomplete, when he saw the expression of his father’s face.

“Oh, father! you do not mean to say that you do not like her?”

But it was not dislike that was expressed in his father’s face, as Herbert felt the moment after he had spoken. There was pain there, and solicitude, and disappointment; a look of sorrow at the tidings thus conveyed to him; but nothing that seemed to betoken dislike of any person.

“What is it, sir? Why do you not speak to me? Can it be that you disapprove of my marrying?”

Sir Thomas certainly did disapprove of his son’s marrying, but he lacked the courage to say so. Much misery that had hitherto come upon him, and that was about to come on all those whom he loved so well, arose from this lack of courage. He did not dare to tell his son that he advised him for the present to put aside all such hopes. It would have been terrible for him to do so; but he knew that in not doing so he was occasioning sorrow that would be more terrible.

And yet he did not do it. Herbert saw clearly that the project was distasteful to his father — that project which he had hoped to have seen received with so much delight; but nothing was said to him which tended to make him alter his purpose.

“Do you not like her?” he asked his father, almost piteously.

“Yes, yes; I do like her, we all like her, very much indeed, Herbert.”

“Then why —”

“You are so young, my boy, and she is so very young, and —”

“And what?”

“Why, Herbert, it is not always practicable for the son even of a man of property to marry so early in life as this. She has nothing, you know.”

“So,” said the young man, proudly; “I never thought of looking for money.”

“But in your position it is so essential if a young man wishes to marry.”

Herbert had always regarded his father as the most liberal man breathing — as open-hearted and open-handed almost to a fault. To him, his only son, he had ever been so, refusing him nothing, and latterly allowing him to do almost as he would with the management of the estate. He could not understand that this liberality should be turned to parsimony on such an occasion as that of his son’s marriage.

“You think then, sir, that I ought not to marry Lady Clara?” said Herbert very bitterly.

“I like her excessively,” said Sir Thomas. “I think she is a sweet girl, a very sweet girl, all that I or your mother could desire to see in your wife; but —”

“But she is not rich.”

“Do not speak to me in that tone, my boy,” said Sir Thomas, with an expression that would have moved his enemy to pity, let alone his son. His son did pity him, and ceased to wear the angry expression of face which had so wounded his father.

“But, father, I do not understand you,” he said. “Is there any real objection why I should not marry? I am more than twenty-two, and you, I think, married earlier than that.”

In answer to this Sir Thomas only sighed meekly and piteously.

“If you mean to say,” continued the son, “that it will be inconvenient to you to make me any allowance —”

“No, no, no; you are of course entitled to what you want, and as long as I can give it, you shall have it.”

“As long as you can give it, father!”

“As long as it is in my power, I mean. What can I want of anything but for you — for you and them?”

After this Herbert sat silent for a while, leaning on his arm. He knew that there existed some mischief, but he could not fathom it. Had he been prudent, he would have felt that there was some impediment to his love; some evil which it behoved him to fathom before he allowed his love to share it; but when was a lover prudent?

“We should live here, should we not, father? No second establishment would be necessary.”

“Of course you would live here,” said Sir Thomas, glad to be able to look at the subject on any side that was not painful. “Of course you would live here. For the matter of that, Herbert, the house should be considered as your own if you so wished it.”

Against this the son put in his most violent protest. Nothing on earth should make him consider himself master of Castle Richmond as long as his father lived. Nor would Clara — his Clara, wish it. He knew her well, he boasted. It would amply suffice to her to live there with them all. Was not the house large enough? And, indeed, where else could he live, seeing that all his interests were naturally centred upon the property?

And then Sir Thomas did give his consent. It would be wrong to say that it was wrung from him. He gave it willingly enough, as far as the present moment was concerned. When it was once settled, he assured his son that he would love Clara as his daughter. But, nevertheless —

The father knew that he had done wrong; and Herbert knew that he also, he himself, had done wrongly. He was aware that there was something which he did not understand. But he had promised to see Clara either that day or the next, and he could not bring himself to unsay all that he had said to her. He left his father’s room sorrowful at heart, and discontented. He had expected that his tidings would have been received in so far other a manner; that he would have been able to go from his father’s study upstairs to his mother’s room with so exulting a step; that his news, when once the matter was ratified by his father’s approval, would have flown about the house with so loud a note of triumph. And now it was so different! His father had consented; but it was too plain that there was no room for any triumph.

“Well, Herbert!” said Emmeline, jumping up to meet him as he returned to a small back drawing-room, through which he had gone to his father’s dressing-room. She had calculated that he would come there, and that she might thus get the first word from him after the interview was over.

But there was a frown upon his brow, and displeasure in his eyes. There was none of that bright smile of gratified pride with which she had expected that her greeting would have been met. “Is there anything wrong?” she said. “He does not disapprove, does he?”

“Never mind; and do leave me now. I never can make you understand that one is not always in a humour for joking.” And so saying, he put her aside, and passed on.

Joking! That was indeed hard upon poor Emmeline, seeing that her thoughts were so full of him, that her heart beat so warmly for his promised bride. But she said nothing, shrinking back abashed, and vanishing out of the way. Could it be possible that her father should have refused to receive Lady Clara Desmond as his daughter-inlaw?

He then betook himself to a private territory of his own, where he might be sure that he would remain undisturbed for some half-hour or so. He would go to his mother, of course, but not quite immediately. He would think over the matter, endeavouring to ascertain what it was that had made his father’s manner and words so painful to him.

But he could not get his thoughts to work rightly; — which getting of the thoughts to work rightly is, by-the-by, as I take it, the hardest work which a man is called upon to do. Not that the subject to be thought about need in itself be difficult. Were one to say that thoughts about hydrostatics and pneumatics are difficult to the multitude, or that mental efforts in regions of political economy or ethical philosophy are beyond ordinary reach, one would only pronounce an evident truism, an absurd platitude. But let any man take any subject fully within his own mind’s scope, and strive to think about it steadily, with some attempt at calculation as to results. The chances are his mind will fly off, will-he-nill-he, to some utterly different matter. When he wishes to debate within himself that question of his wife’s temper, he will find himself considering whether he may not judiciously give away half a dozen pairs of those old boots; or when it behoves him to decide whether it shall be manure and a green crop, or a fallow season and then grass seeds, he cannot keep himself from inward inquiry as to the meaning of that peculiar smile on Mrs. Walker’s face when he shook hands with her last night.

Lord Brougham and Professor Faraday can, no doubt, command their thoughts. If many men could do so, there would be many Lord Broughams and many Professor Faradays.

At the present moment Herbert Fitzgerald had no right to consider himself as following in the steps of either one or other of these great men. He wished to think about his father’s circumstances, but his mind would fly off to Clara Desmond and her perfections. And thus, though he remained there for half an hour, with his back to the fire and his hands in his pockets, his deliberations had done him no good whatever — had rather done him harm, seeing that he had only warmed himself into a firmer determination to go on with what he was doing. And then he went to his mother.

She kissed him, and spoke very tenderly, nay affectionately, about Clara; but even she, even his mother, did not speak joyously; and she also said something about the difficulty of providing a maintenance for a married son. Then to her he burst forth, and spoke somewhat loudly.

“I cannot understand all this, mother. If either you or my father know any reason why I should be treated differently from other sons, you ought to tell me; not leave me to grope about in the dark.”

“But, my boy, we both think that no son was ever entitled to more consideration, or to kinder or more liberal treatment.”

“Why do I hear all this, then, about the difficulty of my marrying? Or if I hear so much, why do I not hear more? I know pretty well, I believe, what is my father’s income.”

“If you do not, he would tell you for the asking.”

“And I know that I must be the heir to it, whatever it is — not that that feeling would make any difference in my dealings with him, not the least. And, under these circumstances, I cannot conceive why he and you should look coldly upon my marriage.”

“I look coldly on it, Herbert!”

“Do you not? Do you not tell me that there will be no income for me? If that is to be so; if that really is the case; if the property has so dwindled away, or become embarrassed —”

“Oh, Herbert! there never was a man less likely to injure his son’s property than your father.”

“I do not mean that, mother. Let him do what he likes with it, I should not upbraid him, even in my thoughts. But if it be embarrassed; if it has dwindled away; if there be any reason why I should not regard myself as altogether untrammelled with regard to money, he ought to tell me. I cannot accuse myself of expensive tastes.”

“Dearest Herbert, nobody accuses you of anything.”

“But I do desire to marry; and now I have engaged myself, and will not break from my engagement, unless it be shown to me that I am bound in honour to do so. Then, indeed —”

“Oh, Herbert! I do not know what you mean.”

“I mean this: that I expect that Clara shall be received as my wife with open arms —”

“And so she shall be if she comes.”

“Or else that some reason should be given me why she should not come. As to income, something must be done, I suppose. If the means at our disposal are less than I have been taught to believe, I at any rate will not complain. But they cannot, I think, be so small as to afford any just reason why I should not marry.”

“Your father, you see, is ill, and one can hardly talk to him fully upon such matters at present.”

“Then I will speak to Somers. He, at any rate, must know how the property is circumstanced, and I suppose he will not hesitate to tell me.”

“I don’t think Somers can tell you anything.”

“Then what is it? As for the London estate, mother, that is all moonshine. What if it were gone altogether? It may be that it is that which vexes my father; but if so, it is a monomania.”

“Oh, my boy, do not use such a word!”

“You know what I mean. If any doubt as to that is creating this despondency, it only shows that though we are bound to respect and relieve my father’s state of mind, we are not at all bound to share it. What would it really matter, mother, if that place in London were washed away by the Thames? There is more than enough left for us all, unless —”

“Ah, Herbert, that is it.”

“Then I will go to Somers, and he shall tell me. My father’s interest in this property cannot have been involved without his knowledge; and circumstanced as we and my father are, he is bound to tell me.”

“If there be anything within his knowledge to tell, he will tell it.”

“And if there be nothing within his knowledge, then I can only look upon all this as a disease on my poor father’s part. I will do all I can to comfort him in it; but it would be madness to destroy my whole happiness because he labours under delusions.”

Lady Fitzgerald did not know what further to say. She half believed that Sir Thomas did labour under some delusion; but then she half believed also that he had upon his mind a sorrow, terribly real, which was in no sort delusive. Under such circumstances, how could she advise her son? Instead of advising him, she caressed him.

“But I may claim this from you, mother, that if Somers tells me nothing which ought to make me break my word to Clara, you will receive her as your daughter. You will promise me that, will you not?”

Lady Fitzgerald did promise, warmly; assuring him that she already dearly loved Clara Desmond, that she would delight in having such a daughter-inlaw, and that she would go to her to welcome her as such as soon as ever he should bid her do so. With this Herbert was somewhat comforted, and immediately started on his search after Mr. Somers.

I do not think that any person is to be found, as a rule, attached to English estates whose position is analogous to that of an Irish agent. And there is a wide misunderstanding in England as to these Irish functionaries. I have attempted, some pages back, to describe the national delinquencies of a middleman, or profit-renter. In England we are apt to think that the agents on Irish properties are to be charged with similar shortcomings. This I can assert to be a great mistake; and I believe that, as a class, the agents on Irish properties do their duty in a manner beneficial to the people.

That there are, or were, many agents who were also middlemen, or profit-renters, and that in this second position they were a nuisance to the country, is no doubt true. But they were no nuisance in their working capacity as agents. That there are some bad agents there can be no doubt, as there are also some bad shoemakers.

The duties towards an estate which an agent performs in Ireland are, I believe, generally shared in England between three or four different persons. The family lawyer performs part, the estate steward performs part, and the landlord himself performs part; — as to small estates, by far the greater part.

In Ireland, let the estate be ever so small — eight hundred a-year, we will say — all the working of the property is managed by the agent. It is he who knows the tenants, and the limits of their holdings; it is he who arranges leases, and allows — or much more generally does not allow — for improvements. He takes the rent, and gives the order for the ejection of tenants if he cannot get it.

I am far from saying that it would not be well that much of this should be done by the landlord himself; that all of it should be so done on a small property. But it is done by agents; and, as a rule, is, I think, done honestly.

Mr. Somers was agent to the Castle Richmond property, and as he took to himself as such five per cent, on all rents paid, and as he was agent also to sundry other small properties in the neighbourhood, he succeeded in making a very snug income. He had also an excellent house on the estate, and was altogether very much thought of; on the whole, perhaps, more than was Sir Thomas. But in this respect it was probable that Herbert might soon take the lead.

He was a large, heavy, consequential man, always very busy, as though aware of being one of the most important wheels that kept the Irish clock agoing; but he was honest, kind-hearted in the main, true as steel to his employers, and good-humoured — as long as he was allowed to have his own way. In these latter days he had been a little soured by Herbert’s interference, and had even gone so far as to say that, “in his humble judgment, Mr. Fitzgerald was wrong in doing”— so and so. But he generally called him Herbert, was always kind to him, and in his heart of hearts loved him dearly. But that was a matter of course, for had he not been agent to the estate before Herbert was born?

Immediately after his interview with his mother, Mr. Herbert rode over to Mr. Somers’s house, and there found him sitting alone in his office. He dashed immediately into the subject that had brought him there. “I have come, Mr. Somers,” said he, “to ask you a question about the property.”

“About the Castle Richmond property?” said Mr. Somers, rather surprised by his visitor’s manner.

“Yes; you know in what a state my poor father now is.”

“I know that Sir Thomas is not very well. I am sorry to say that it is long since he has been quite himself.”

“There is something that is preying upon his spirits.”

“I am afraid so, Herbert.”

“Then tell me fairly, Mr. Somers, do you know what it is?”

“Not — in-the least. I have no conception whatever, and never have had any. I know no cause for trouble that should disquiet him.”

“There is nothing wrong about the property?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Who has the title-deeds?”

“They are at Coutts’s.”

“You are sure of that?”

“Well; as sure as a man can be of a thing that he does not see. I have never seen them there; indeed, have never seen them at all; but I feel no doubt in my own mind as to their being at the bankers.”

“Is there much due on the estate?”

“Very little. No estate in county Cork has less on it. Miss Letty has her income, and when Poulnasherry was bought — that townland lying just under Berryhill, where the gorse cover is, part of the purchase money was left on mortgage. That is still due; but the interest is less than a hundred a-year.”

“And that is all?”

“All that I know of.”

“Could there be encumbrances without your knowing it?”

“I think not. I think it is impossible. Of all men your father is the last to encumber his estates in a manner unknown to his agent, and to pay off the interest in secret.”

“What is it, then, Mr. Somers?”

“I do not know.” And then Mr. Somers paused. “Of course you have heard of a visit he received the other day from a stranger?”

“Yes; I heard of it.”

“People about here are talking of it. And he — that man, with a younger man — they are still living in Cork, at a little drinking-house in South Main Street. The younger man has been seen down here twice.”

“But what can that mean?”

“I do not know. I tell you everything that I do know.”

Herbert exacted a promise from him that he would continue to tell him everything which he might learn, and then rode back to Castle Richmond.

“The whole thing must be a delusion,” he said to himself; and resolved that there was no valid reason why he should make Clara unhappy by any reference to the circumstance.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43