Mr. Somers, returning from Hap House, gave Owen’s message to Herbert Fitzgerald, but at the same time told him that he did not think any good would come of such a meeting.
“I went over there,” he said, “because I would not willingly omit anything that Mr. Prendergast had suggested; but I did not expect any good to come of it. You know what I have always thought of Owen Fitzgerald.”
“But Mr. Prendergast said that he behaved so well.”
“He did not know Prendergast, and was cowed for the moment by what he had heard. That was natural enough. You do as you like, however; only do not have him over to Castle Richmond.”
Owen, however, did not trust solely to Mr. Somers, but on the following day wrote to Herbert, suggesting that they had better meet, and begging that the place and time of meeting might be named. He himself again suggested Hap House, and declared that he would be at home on any day and at any hour that his “cousin” might name, “only,” as he added, “the sooner the better.” Herbert wrote back by the same messenger, saying that he would be with him early on the following morning; and on the following morning he drove up to the door of Hap House, while Owen was still sitting with his coffee-pot and knife and fork before him.
Captain Donnellan, whom we saw there on the occasion of our first morning visit, was now gone, and Owen Fitzgerald was all alone in his home. The captain had been an accustomed guest, spending perhaps half his time there during the hunting season, but since Mr. Prendergast had been at Hap House, he had been made to understand that the master would fain be alone. And since that day Owen had never hunted, nor been noticed in his old haunts, nor had been seen talking to his old friends. He had remained at home, sitting over the fire thinking, wandering up and down his own avenue, or standing about the stable, idly, almost unconscious of the grooming of his horses. Once and once only he had been mounted, and then as the dusk of evening was coming on he had trotted over quickly to Desmond Court, as though he had in hand some purport of great moment, but if so he changed his mind when he came to the gate, for he walked on slowly for three or four hundred yards beyond it, and then, turning his horse’s head, slowly made his way back past the gate, and then trotted quickly home to Hap House. In these moments of his life he must make or mar himself for life, ’twas so that he felt it, and how should he make himself, or how avoid the marring? That was the question which he now strove to answer.
When Herbert entered the room, he rose from his chair, and walked quickly up to his visitor, with extended hand, and a look of welcome in his face. His manner was very different from that with which he had turned and parted from his cousin not many days since in the demesne at Castle Richmond. Then he had intended absolutely to defy Herbert Fitzgerald; but there was no spirit of defiance now, either in his hand, or face, or in the tone of his voice.
“I am very glad you have come,” said he. “I hope you understood that I would have gone to you, only that I thought it might be better for both of us to be here.”
Herbert said something to the effect that he had been quite willing to come over to Hap House. But he was not at the moment so self-possessed as the other, and hardly knew how to begin the subject which was to be discussed between them.
“Of course you know that Mr. Prendergast was here?” said Owen.
“Oh yes,” said Herbert.
“And Mr. Somers also? I tell you fairly, Herbert, that when Mr. Somers came, I was not willing to say much to him. What has to be said must be said between you and me, and not to any third party. I could not open my heart, nor yet speak my thoughts, to Mr. Somers.”
In answer to this, Herbert again said that Owen need have no scruple in speaking to him. “It is all plain sailing; too plain, I fear,” said he. “There is no doubt whatever now as to the truth of what Mr. Prendergast has told you.”
And then having said so much, Herbert waited for Owen to speak. He, Herbert himself, had little or nothing to say. Castle Richmond with its title and acres was not to be his, but was to be the property of this man with whom he was now sitting. When that was actually and positively understood between them, there was nothing further to be said; nothing as far as Herbert knew. That other sorrow of his, that other and deeper sorrow which affected his mother’s name and station — as to that he did not find himself called on to speak to Owen Fitzgerald. Nor was it necessary that he should say anything as to his great consolation — the consolation which had reached him from Clara Desmond.
“And is it true, Herbert,” asked Owen at last, “that my uncle is so very ill?” In the time of their kindly intercourse, Owen had always called Sir Thomas his uncle, though latterly he had ceased to do so.
“He is very ill; very ill indeed,” said Herbert. This was a subject in which Owen had certainly a right to feel interested, seeing that his own investiture would follow immediately on the death of Sir Thomas; but Herbert almost felt that the question might as well have been spared. It had been asked, however, almost solely with the view of gaining some few moments.
“Herbert,” he said at last, standing up from his chair, as he made an effort to begin his speech, “I don’t know how far you will believe me when I tell you that all this news has caused me great sorrow. I grieve for your father and your mother, and for you, from the very bottom of my heart.”
“It is very kind of you,” said Herbert. “But the blow has fallen, and as for myself, I believe that I can bear it. I do not care so very much about the property.”
“Nor do I;” and now Owen spoke rather louder, and with his own look of strong impulse about his mouth and forehead. “Nor do I care so much about the property. You were welcome to it; and are so still. I have never coveted it from you, and do not covet it.”
“It will be yours now without coveting,” replied Herbert; and then there was another pause, during which Herbert sat still, while Owen stood leaning with his back against the mantelpiece.
“Herbert,” said he, after they had thus remained silent for two or three minutes, “I have made up my mind on this matter, and I will tell you truly what I do desire, and what I do not. I do not desire your inheritance, but I do desire that Clara Desmond shall be my wife.”
“Owen,” said the other, also getting up, “I did not expect when I came here that you would have spoken to me about this.”
“It was that we might speak about this that I asked you to come here. But listen to me. When I say that I want Clara Desmond to be my wife, I mean to say that I want that, and that only. It may be true that I am, or shall be, legally the heir to your father’s estate. Herbert, I will relinquish all that, because I do not feel it to be my own. I will relinquish it in any way that may separate myself from it most thoroughly. But in return, do you separate yourself from her who was my own before you had ever known her.”
And thus he did make the proposition as to which he had been making up his mind since the morning on which Mr. Prendergast had come to him.
Herbert for a while was struck dumb with amazement, not so much at the quixotic generosity of the proposal, as at the singular mind of the man in thinking that such a plan could be carried out. Herbert’s best quality was no doubt his sturdy common sense, and that was shocked by a suggestion which presumed that all the legalities and ordinary bonds of life could be upset by such an agreement between two young men. He knew that Owen Fitzgerald could not give away his title to an estate of fourteen thousand a year in this off-hand way, and that no one could accept such a gift were it possible to be given. The estate and title must belong to Owen, and could not possibly belong to any one else, merely at his word and fancy. And then again, how could the love of a girl like Clara Desmond be bandied to and fro at the will of any suitor or suitors? That she had once accepted Owen’s love, Herbert knew; but since that, in a soberer mood, and with maturer judgment, she had accepted his. How could he give it up to another, or how could that other take possession of it if so abandoned? The bargain was one quite impossible to be carried out; and yet Owen in proposing it had fully intended to be as good as his word.
“That is impossible,” said Herbert, in a low voice.
“Why impossible? May I not do what I like with that which is my own? It is not impossible. I will have nothing to do with that property of yours. In fact, it is not my own, and I will not take it; I will not rob you of that which you have been born to expect. But in return for this —”
“Owen, do not talk of it; would you abandon a girl whom you loved for any wealth, or any property?”
“You cannot love her as I love her. I will talk to you on this matter openly, as I have never yet talked to any one. Since first I saw Clara Desmond, the only wish of my life has been that I might have her for my wife. I have longed for her as a child longs — if you know what I mean by that. When I saw that she was old enough to understand what love meant, I told her what was in my heart, and she accepted my love. She swore to me that she would be mine, let mother or brother say what they would. As sure as you are standing there a living man she loved me with all truth. And that I loved her —! Herbert, I have never loved aught but her; nothing else! — neither man nor woman, nor wealth nor title. All I ask is that I may have that which was my own.”
“But, Owen —” and Herbert touched his cousin’s arm.
“Well; why do you not speak? I have spoken plainly enough.”
“It is not easy to speak plainly on all subjects. I would not, if I could avoid it, say a word that would hurt your feelings.”
“Never mind my feelings. Speak out, and let us have the truth, in God’s name. My feelings have never been much considered yet — either in this matter or in any other.”
“It seems to me,” said Herbert, “that the giving of Lady Clara’s hand cannot depend on your will, or on mine.”
“You mean her mother.”
“No, by no means. Her mother now would be the last to favour me. I mean herself. If she loves me, as I hope and believe — nay, am sure —”
“She did love me!” shouted Owen.
“But even if so — I do not now say anything of that; but even if so, surely you would not have her marry you if she does not love you still? You would not wish her to be your wife if her heart belongs to me?”
“It has been given you at her mother’s bidding.”
“However given it is now my own, and it cannot be returned. Look here, Owen. I will show you her last two letters, if you will allow me; not in pride, I hope, but that you may truly know what are her wishes.” And he took from his breast, where they had been ever since he received them, the two letters which Clara had written to him. Owen read them both twice over before he spoke, first one and then the other, and an indescribable look of pain fell on his brow as he did so. They were so tenderly worded, so sweet, so generous! He would have given all the world to have had those letters addressed by her to himself. But even they did not convince him. His heart had never changed, and he could not believe that there had been any change in hers.
“I might have known,” he said, as he gave them back, “that she would be too noble to abandon you in your distress. As long as you were rich I might have had some chance of getting her back, despite the machinations of her mother. But now that she thinks you are poor —” And then he stopped, and hid his face between his hands.
And in what he had last said there was undoubtedly something of truth. Clara’s love for Herbert had never been passionate, till passion had been created by his misfortune. And in her thoughts of Owen there had been much of regret. Though she had resolved to withdraw her love, she had not wholly ceased to love him. Judgment had bade her to break her word to him, and she had obeyed her judgment. She had admitted to herself that her mother was right in telling her that she could not join her own bankrupt fortunes to the fortunes of one who was both poor and a spendthrift, and thus she had plucked from her heart the picture of the man she had loved — or endeavoured so to pluck it. Some love for him, however, had unwittingly lingered there. And then Herbert had come with his suit, a suitor fitted for her in every way. She had not loved him as she had loved Owen. She had never felt that she could worship him, and tremble at the tones of his voice, and watch the glance of his eye, and gaze into his face as though he were half divine. But she acknowledged his worth, and valued him: she knew that it behoved her to choose some suitor as her husband; and now that her dream was gone, where could she choose better than here? And thus Herbert had been accepted. He had been accepted, but the dream was not wholly gone. Owen was in adversity, ill spoken of by those around her, shunned by his own relatives, living darkly, away from all that is soft in life; and for these reasons Clara could not wholly forget her dream. She had, in some sort, unconsciously clung to her old love, till he to whom she had plighted her new troth was in adversity — and then all was changed. Then her love for Herbert did become a passion; and then, as Owen had become rich, she felt that she could think of him without remorse. He was quite right in perceiving that his chance was gone now that Herbert had ceased to be rich.
“Owen,” said Herbert, and his voice was full of tenderness, for at this moment he felt that he did love and pity his cousin, “we must each of us bear the weight which fortune has thrown on us. It may be that we are neither of us to be envied. I have lost all that men generally value, and you —”
“I have lost all on earth that is valuable to me. But no, it is not lost — not lost as yet. As long as her name is Clara Desmond, she is as open for me to win as she is for you. And, Herbert, think of it before you make me your enemy. See what I offer you — not as a bargain, mind you. I give up all my title to your father’s property. I will sign any paper that your lawyers may bring to me, which may serve to give you back your inheritance. As for me, I would scorn to take that which belongs in justice to another. I will not have your property. Come what may, I will not have it. I will give it up to you, either as to my enemy or as to my friend.”
“I sincerely hope that we may be friends, but what you say is impossible.”
“It is not impossible. I hereby pledge myself that I will not take an acre of your father’s lands; but I pledge myself also that I will always be your enemy if Clara Desmond becomes your wife: and I mean what I say. I have set my heart on one thing, and on one thing only, and if I am ruined in that I am ruined indeed.”
Herbert remained silent, for he had nothing further that he knew how to plead; he felt as other men would feel, that each of them must keep that which Fate had given him. Fate had decreed that Owen should be the heir to Castle Richmond, and the decree thus gone forth must stand valid; and Fate had also decreed that Owen should be rejected by Clara Desmond, which other decree, as Herbert thought, must be held as valid also. But he had no further inclination to argue upon the subject: his cousin was becoming hot and angry; and Herbert was beginning to wish that he was on his way home, that he might be once more at his father’s bedside, or in his mother’s room, comforting her and being comforted.
“Well,” said Owen, after a while in his deep-toned voice, “what do you say to my offer?”
“I have nothing further to say: we must each take our own course; as for me, I have lost everything but one thing, and it is not likely that I shall throw that away from me.”
“Nor, so help me Heaven in my need! will I let that thing be filched from me. I have offered you kindness and brotherly love, and wealth, and all that friendship could do for a man, give me my way in this, and I will be to you such a comrade and such a brother.”
“Should I be a man, Owen, were I to give up this?”
“Be a man! Yes! It is pride on your part. You do not love her; you have never loved her as I have loved; you have not sat apart long months and months thinking of her, as I have done. From the time she was a child I marked her as my own. As God will help me when I die, she is all that I have coveted in this world; — all! But her I have coveted with such longings of the heart, that I cannot bring myself to live without her; — nor will I.” And then again they both were silent.
“It may be as well that we should part now,” said Herbert at last. “I do not know that we can gain anything by further talking on this subject.”
“Well, you know that best; but I have one further question to ask you.”
“What is it, Owen?”
“You still think of marrying Clara Desmond?”
“Certainly; of course I think of it.”
“And when? I presume you are not so chicken-hearted as to be afraid of speaking out openly what you intend to do.”
“I cannot say when; I had hoped that it would have been very soon; but all this will of course delay it. It may be years first.”
These last were the only pleasant words that Owen had heard. If there were to be a delay of years, might not his chance still be as good as Herbert’s? But then this delay was to be the consequence of his cousin’s ruined prospects — and the accomplishment of that ruin Owen had pledged himself to prevent! Was he by his own deed to enable his enemy to take that very step which he was so firmly resolved to prevent?
“You will give me your promise,” said he, “that you will not marry her for the next three years? Make me that promise, and I will make you the same.”
Herbert felt that there could be no possibility of his now marrying within the time named, but nevertheless he would not bring himself to make such a promise as this. He would make no bargain about Clara Desmond, about his Clara, which could in any way admit a doubt as to his own right. Had Owen asked him to promise that he would not marry her during the next week he would have given no such pledge. “No,” said he, “I cannot promise that.”
“She is now only seventeen.”
“It does not matter. I will make no such promise, because on such a subject you have no right to ask for any. When she will consent to run her risk of happiness in coming to me, then I shall marry her.”
Owen was now walking up and down the room with rapid steps. “You have not the courage to fight me fairly,” said he.
“I do not wish to fight you at all.”
“Ah, but you must fight me! Shall I see the prey taken out of my jaws, and not struggle for it? No, by heavens! you must fight me; and I tell you fairly, that the fight shall be as hard as I can make it. I have offered you that which one living man is seldom able to offer to another — money, and land, and wealth, and station; all these things I throw away from me, because I feel that they should be yours; and I ask only in return the love of a young girl. I ask that because I feel that it should be mine. If it has gone from me — which I do not believe — it has been filched and stolen by a thief in the night. She did love me, if a girl ever loved a man; but she was separated from me, and I bore that patiently because I trusted her. But she was young and weak, and her mother was strong and crafty. She has accepted you at her mother’s instance; and were I base enough to keep from you your father’s inheritance, her mother would no more give her to you now than she would to me then. This is true; and if you know it to be true — as you do know — you will be mean, and dastard, and a coward — you will be no Fitzgerald if you keep from me that which I have a right to claim as my own. Not fight! Ay, but you must fight. We cannot both live here in this country if Clara Desmond become your wife. Mark my words, if that take place, you and I cannot live here alongside of each other’s houses.” He paused for a moment after this, and then added, “You can go now if you will, for I have said out my say.”
And Herbert did go — almost without uttering a word of adieu. What could he say in answer to such threats as these? That his cousin was in every way unreasonable — as unreasonable in his generosity as he was in his claims, he felt convinced. But an unreasonable man, though he is one whom one would fain conquer by arguments were it possible, is the very man on whom arguments have no avail. A madman is mad because he is mad. Herbert had a great deal that was very sensible to allege in favour of his views, but what use of alleging anything of sense to such a mind as that of Owen Fitzgerald? So he went his way without further speech.
When he was gone, Owen for a time went on walking his room, and then sank again into his chair. Abominably irrational as his method of arranging all these family difficulties will no doubt seem to all who may read it, to him it had appeared not only an easy but a happy mode of bringing back contentment to everybody. He was quite serious in his intention of giving up his position as heir to Castle Richmond. Mr. Prendergast had explained to him that the property was entailed as far as him, but no farther; and had done this, doubtless, with the view, not then expressed, to some friendly arrangement by which a small portion of the property might be saved and restored to the children of Sir Thomas. But Owen had looked at it quite in another light. He had, in justice, no right to inquire into all those circumstances of his old cousin’s marriage. Such a union was a marriage in the eye of God, and should be held as such by him. He would take no advantage of so terrible an accident.
He would take no advantage. So he said to himself over and over again; but yet, as he said it, he resolved that he would take advantage. He would not touch the estate; but surely if he abstained from touching it, Herbert would be generous enough to leave to him the solace of his love! And he had no scruple in allotting to Clara the poorer husband instead of the richer. He was no poorer now than when she had accepted him. Looking at it in that light, had he not a right to claim that she should abide by her first acceptance? Could any one be found to justify the theory that a girl may throw over a poor lover because a rich lover comes in the way? Owen had his own ideas of right and wrong — ideas which were not without a basis of strong, rugged justice; and nothing could be more antagonistic to them than such a doctrine as this. And then he still believed in his heart that he was dearer to Clara than that other richer suitor. He heard of her from time to time, and those who had spoken to him had spoken of her as pining for love of him. In this there had been much of the flattery of servants, and something of the subservience of those about him who wished to stand well in his graces. But he had believed it. He was not a conceited man, nor even a vain man. He did not think himself more clever than his cousin; and as for personal appearance, it was a matter to which his thoughts never descended; but he had about him a self-dependence and assurance in his own manhood, which forbade him to doubt the love of one who had told him that she loved him.
And he did not believe in Herbert’s love. His cousin was, as he thought, of a calibre too cold for love. That Clara was valued by him, Owen did not doubt — valued for her beauty, for her rank, for her grace and peerless manner; but what had such value as that to do with love? Would Herbert sacrifice everything for Clara Desmond? would he bid Pelion fall on Ossa? would he drink up Esil? All this would Owen do, and more; he would do more than any Laertes had ever dreamed. He would give up for now and for ever all title to those rich lands which made the Fitzgeralds of Castle Richmond the men of greatest mark in all their county.
And thus he fanned himself into a fury as he thought of his cousin’s want of generosity. Herbert would be the heir, and because he was the heir he would be the favoured lover. But there might yet be time and opportunity; and at any rate Clara should not marry without knowing what was the whole truth. Herbert was ungenerous, but Clara still might be just. If not — then, as he had said before, he would fight out the battle to the end as with an enemy.
Herbert, when he got on to his horse to ride home, was forced to acknowledge to himself that no good whatever had come from his visit to Hap House. Words had been spoken which might have been much better left unspoken. An angry man will often cling to his anger because his anger has been spoken; he will do evil because he has threatened evil, and is ashamed to be better than his words. And there was no comfort to be derived from those lavish promises made by Owen with regard to the property. To Herbert’s mind they were mere moonshine — very graceful on the part of the maker, but meaning nothing. No one could have Castle Richmond but him who owned it legally. Owen Fitzgerald would become Sir Owen, and would, as a matter of course, be Sir Owen of Castle Richmond. There was no comfort on that score; and then, on that other score, there was so much discomfort. Of giving up his bride Herbert never for a moment thought; but he did think, with increasing annoyance, of the angry threats which had been pronounced against him.
When he rode into the stable-yard as was his wont, he found Richard waiting for him. This was not customary; as in these latter days Richard, though he always drove the car, as a sort of subsidiary coachman to the young ladies to whom the car was supposed to belong in fee, did not act as general groom. He had been promoted beyond this, and was a sort of hanger-on about the house, half indoor servant and half out, doing very much what he liked, and giving advice to everybody, from the cook downwards. He thanked God that he knew his place, he would often say; but nobody else knew it. Nevertheless, everybody liked him; even the poor housemaid whom he snubbed.
“Is anything the matter?” asked Herbert, looking at the man’s sorrow-laden face.
‘“Deed an’ there is, Mr. Herbert; Sir Thomas is —”
“My father is not dead!” exclaimed Herbert.
“Oh no, Mr. Herbert; it’s not so bad as that; but he is very failing — very failing. My lady is with him now.”
Herbert ran into the house, and at the bottom of the chief stairs he met one of his sisters, who had heard the steps of his horse.
“Oh, Herbert, I am so glad you have come!” said she. Her eyes and cheeks were red with tears, and her hand, as her brother took it, was cold and numbed.
“What is it, Mary? Is he worse?”
“Oh, so much worse. Mamma and Emmeline are there. He has asked for you three or four times, and always says that he is dying. I had better go up and say that you are here.”
“And what does my mother think of it?”
“She has never left him, and therefore I cannot tell; but I know from her face that she thinks that he is — dying. Shall I go up, Herbert?” and so she went; and Herbert, following softly on his toes, stood in the corridor outside the bedroom-door, waiting till his arrival should have been announced. It was but a minute, and then his sister, returning to the door, summoned him to enter.
The room had been nearly darkened, but as there were no curtains to the bed, Herbert could see his mother’s face as she knelt on a stool at the bedside. His father was turned away from him, and lay with his hand inside his wife’s, and Emmeline was sitting on the foot of the bed, with her face between her hands, striving to stifle her sobs. “Here is Herbert now, dearest,” said Lady Fitzgerald, with a low, soft voice, almost a whisper, yet clear enough to cause no effort in the hearing. “I knew that he would not be long.” And Herbert, obeying the signal of his mother’s eye, passed round to the other side of the bed.
“Father,” said he, “are you not so well today?”
“My poor boy, my poor ruined boy!” said the dying man, hardly articulating the words as he dropped his wife’s hand and took that of his son. Herbert found that it was wet, and clammy, and cold, and almost powerless in its feeble grasp.
“Dearest father, you are wrong if you let that trouble you; all that will never trouble me. Is it not well that a man should earn his own bread? Is it not the lot of all good men?” But still the old man murmured with his broken voice, “My poor boy, my poor boy!”
The hopes and aspirations of his eldest son are as the breath of his nostrils to an Englishman who has been born to land and fortune. What had not this poor man endured in order that his son might be Sir Herbert Fitzgerald of Castle Richmond? But this was no longer possible; and from the moment that this had been brought home to him, the father had felt that for him there was nothing left but to die. “My poor boy,” he muttered, “tell me that you have forgiven me.”
And then they all knelt round the bed and prayed with him; and afterwards they tried to comfort him, telling him how good he had been to them; and his wife whispered in his ear that if there had been fault, the fault was hers, but that her conscience told her that such fault had been forgiven; and while she said this she motioned the children away from him, and strove to make him understand that human misery could never kill the soul, and should never utterly depress the spirit. “Dearest love,” she said, still whispering to him in her low, sweet voice — so dear to him, but utterly inaudible beyond —“if you would cease to accuse yourself so bitterly, you might yet be better, and remain with us to comfort us.”
But the slender, half-knit man, whose arms are without muscles and whose back is without pith, will strive in vain to lift the weight which the brawny vigour of another tosses from the ground almost without an effort. It is with the mind and the spirit as with the body; only this, that the muscles of the body can be measured, but not so those of the spirit. Lady Fitzgerald was made of other stuff than Sir Thomas; and that which to her had cost an effort, but with an effort had been done surely, was to him as impossible as the labour of Hercules. “My poor boy, my poor ruined boy!” he still muttered, as she strove to comfort him.
“Mamma has sent for Mr. Townsend,” Emmeline whispered to her brother, as they stood together in the bow of the window.
“And do you really think he is so bad as that?”
“I am sure that mamma does. I believe he had some sort of a fit before you came. At any rate, he did not speak for two hours.”
“And was not Finucane here?” Finucane was the Mallow doctor.
“Yes; but he had left before papa became so much worse. Mamma has sent for him also.”
But I do not know that it boots to dally longer in a dying chamber. It is an axiom of old that the stage curtain should be drawn before the inexorable one enters in upon his final work. Dr. Finucane did come, but his coming was all in vain. Sir Thomas had known that it was in vain, and so also had his patient wife. There was that mind diseased, towards the cure of which no Dr. Finucane could make any possible approach. And Mr. Townsend came also, let us hope not in vain; though the cure which he fain would have perfected can hardly be effected in such moments as those. Let us hope that it had been already effected. The only crying sin which we can lay to the charge of the dying man is that of which we have spoken; he had endeavoured by pensioning falsehood and fraud to preserve for his wife her name, and for his son that son’s inheritance. Even over this, deep as it was, the recording angel may have dropped some cleansing tears of pity.
That night the poor man died, and the Fitzgeralds who sat in the chambers of Castle Richmond were no longer the owners of the mansion. There was no speech of Sir Herbert among the servants as there would have been had these tidings not have reached them. Dr. Finucane had remained in the house, and even he, in speaking of the son, had shown that he knew the story. They were strangers there now, as they all knew — intruders, as they would soon be considered in the house of their cousin Owen; or rather not their cousin. In that he was above them by right of his blood, they had no right to claim him as their relation.
It may be said that at such a moment all this should not have been thought of; but those who say so know little, as I imagine, of the true effect of sorrow. No wife and no children ever grieved more heartily for a father; but their grief was blacker and more gloomy in that they knew that they were outcasts in the world.
And during that long night, as Herbert and his sisters sat up cowering round the fire, he told them of all that had been said at Hap House. “And can it not be as he says?” Mary had asked.
“And that Herbert should give up his wife!” said Emmeline.
“No; but the other thing.”
“Do not dream of it,” said Herbert. “It is all, all impossible. The house that we are now in belongs to Sir Owen Fitzgerald.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01