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Kate Vernon: A Tale. Vol. 2 (of 3)

Kate Vernon: A Tale. Vol. 2 (of 3)

Author:Mrs. Alexander


It would give a very false idea of Kate Vernon's character, were we to say that Captain Egerton's departure did not leave a blank in the quiet routine of her life. Indeed, she was rather surprised to find how closely he had...
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  It would give a very false idea of Kate Vernon's character, were weto say that Captain Egerton's departure did not leave a blank in thequiet routine of her life. Indeed, she was rather surprised to find howclosely he had linked himself with the pleasures and occupations of thesecluded little circle amongst whom accident had thrown him. She missedhis ready companionship, and the amusing contrariety of his opinionsand prejudices; she missed the interested attention with which helistened to every word that fell from her lips, and her eye, peculiarlyalive to beauty in every form, missed his distinguished, soldierlyfigure, and bold, frank, open face. But her regrets did not even borderon the sentimental, and were spoken as openly as her grandfather's,who every hour in the day, for a week, at least, after his departure,might be heard to say--"If Fred Egerton was here, he would do this, orthat, for me." In short, Kate had never dreamt of Egerton as a lover.Marriage was to her a distant possibility--desirable, certainly, indue time, as she always considered it, if happy, the happiest stateof life; but marriage with a soldier, who could not be always nearher grandfather, was something so utterly beyond the powers of herimagination to conceive, that it gave her all the ease and security shemight have felt with a brother.

  So the winter wore steadily away. The morning's study--the afternoonwalk with her grandfather--often to visit the sick and needy--theinterchange of contrasting thought with Winter and the organist, keptMiss Vernon too wholesomely active both in mind and body to permit thepleasant monotony of her life to degenerate into stagnation.

  But the half-hour in the evening, while her grandfather dosed, wasthe happiest portion of the day to her; when she leaned back in herchair gazing at the fire-light as it danced upon the wall and castuncouth shadows, and, following some train of thought suggested bythe reading, or occurrences of the day, dreamed of the future, orconjured up the past! And often did she feel surprise, at the frequentrecurrence of the ball at Carrington--of Egerton's farewell--amongthese visions--though, at this point, she ever turned resolutely away.

  Then Colonel Vernon was laid up for a month with a feverish cold, whichmade Kate rather anxious, and banished every thought not connectedwith the invalid.

  So-came on the lengthening days' warmer sun, and more piercing winds ofearly spring; and one morning, towards the end of March, Mrs. O'Toolelaid two letters before the Colonel; one directed to him in a clear,bold hand, bearing the Marseilles' post-mark, the other to Kate.

  "I really think this is from Fred Egerton," said the Colonel, feelingin every pocket for glasses. "Kate, my dear! they were hanging round myneck before breakfast?"

  "Oh! here they are, dear grandpapa," exclaimed she, eagerly; "do notmind looking at the outside--open it."

  And she laid aside her own.

  With many a break, and many a tantalising pause, the Colonel slowlydoled forth Egerton's letter, it was short, and contained little morethan a report of his safe arrival, after a tedious journey, manyexpressions of sincere regard, and kind enquiries for his friendsat A----, but breathed an indefinable tone of despondency, andrestlessness of spirit, unlike anything they had hitherto observed inhim.

  The Colonel, at length, concluded, in a sort of surprised accent, asthough he expected something more; and Kate exclaimed--

  "Is that all? Do you know, grandpapa, I expected much greater thingsfrom Captain Egerton's first letter from India. Do you not think hewrites dejectedly."

  "I cannot quite make him out," he replied, in an absent manner; "but Iam obliged to him for his kind remembrance of us. We must tell Winterand Gilpin--he was such a favorite with them. Now open your despatch,my dear. I see it is from Georgina."

  "Dearest Kate," began Miss Vernon, in obedience to his commands, "yourlast letter is now so ancient, I am ashamed to mention it--your first Idid not answer because I was too much vexed at your absurd oppositionto all my plans for your benefit. Time has cooled my resentment, andaccident has revived my affection for my pretty, loveable god-child,while it has, I hope, awakened in your mind proper regret for thefolly of preferring a life of seclusion in a dull country town to thebrilliant lot you might have secured. I forgive you, as I am sure youhave punished yourself enough. The immediate cause of this letter isas follows. Mrs. Wentworth, one of my closest allies at Naples, toldme, a brother of hers met a most exquisite personage, called ColonelVernon, and an equally exquisite Miss Vernon at A----, I recognisedthe description, and immediately a vision of my happy girlish days atDungar, and of all I owed to my kind and venerated cousin, rose beforemy mind; and deep was the self-reproach, with which I thought of mylong unpardonable neglect! It is the life of unchecked prosperityI lead, that makes me thus thoughtless, thus inferior to you, mybright-eyed recluse, in whose name I once promised and vowed the threethings you have practised. I am what I am, and will feign nothing. Iacknowledge, that tardy as this letter is, I doubt if I should havepenned it, had not certain fleeting catspaws ruffled the smoothsurface of my life, and showed me how slight are the bands that holdback the "dogs of war," doubt, emptiness, and dissatisfaction! Ifear I am selfish, but nothing will do my heart so much good as thesight of your calm, sweet face, and the sound of your noble-heartedgrandfather's well-remembered voice--forgive me, I know how guilty Iam, I feel I am most unworthy--yet, forgive me, and come; leave theseclusion nature never intended for either. D'Arcy Vernon never refusedme a request in those old times when I was all but a dependent on hisbounty--I trust he will not now prevent me from employing some of thefilthy lucre fortune has thrown in my way, in administering to myown enjoyment, by accelerating your journey here. I have written somuch longer than usual, I can add nothing of the charms intrinsic orextrinsic of fair Florence, to me it will be nothing if you refuse tocome.

  "Yours as warmly as ever,


  "P.S.--Moore writes me word there has been a great search for somepapers relating to the Knockdrum farm, I do not exactly understand whatthey want them for; some lawsuit that a Mr. Taaffe is engaged in, butyou had better tell your grandfather."

  "What a charming letter!" cried Kate, as she concluded. "Is it notdelightful, to read such a candid, warm-hearted acknowledgement oferror? I am so glad to have heard from her at last. It is so dreadfulto feel that any chilling cloud of doubt intervenes between you andone you love!"

  "Yes, indeed," said the Colonel; "what a rash impulsive creature Georgyhas ever been! rushing into injustice one moment, and atoning for itwith such graceful self-abasement the next; it would be better if shecould steer clear of both extremes; but let me look at that postscriptagain; she is as distinct as ladies usually are on legal subjects."

  Kate handed him the letter, and he continued to read and re-read thepostscript for some minutes, with a look of concentrated attention,then, raising his eyes and speaking more to himself than to hisgrand-daughter--

  "I am astonished, that Moore has not written to me on this matter,"he said, in a displeased tone. "If this Taaffe, be the nephew of oldArthur Taaffe, and the papers required, those connected with thatjudgment;" he stopped abruptly, and sat for a few moments in deepthought, looking very grave. Kate also kept a respectful silence,feeling little interest in any legal matter, till her grandfatherrousing himself, and with his old contented look returning, observed,"no, no! no man could act such a villanous part, he must be perfectlyaware it was paid years ago."

  "What was paid, grandpapa?"

  "That debt to old Taaffe; he advanced my father money on Knockdrum, andgot me to join in the bond, on which, of course judgments were enteredagainst us both. I paid it years ago, and simply got an acknowledgementfrom him, but did not go through some other form, satisfying thejudgment, I think they term it."

  "Well, I am sure no one would ever doubt your word," cried Kate, "evenif these papers cannot be found."

  "I am afraid, my dear child, the great mass of legal and money-lendingpeople do not come within the category of christians, who 'believe allthings.' I must write to Moore this very day, I'll be in time for theIrish post, give me my desk, Kate."

  "But suppose this man insists on the production of these papers, andyou cannot satisfy him?" asked Kate, as she was leaving the room afterarranging the Colonel's writing materials.

  He looked up with a sudden expression of pain in his noble, benevolentcountenance.

  "We shall be beggars, my child! that's all."

  Miss Vernon walked into the drawing-room, and opened the pianomechanically; while her thoughts were busily engaged in conjecturingwhether the lingering debility of indisposition, rather than justlygrounded fears, prompted her grandfather's gloomy view of LadyDesmond's intelligence.

  "Shall we then really know the poverty, nurse talks of? Shall I bestrong enough to say, in sincerity, '_Thy will be done!_'"

  But soon these gloomy speculations gave place to the pleasantertopic of her cousin's invitation, which seemed to have escaped hergrandfather's notice.

  She had been _thus_ meditating for some time, when nurse entered with aletter in her hand.

  "The master's love, Miss Kate, and if it's not too early he'd like youto go out wid him, he says he does not feel so well!"

  "Yes, nurse, I will go and get my bonnet and shawl, when I have settledthis music."

  "Faith now, alannah, I'm not plaised at all with the looks iv him!"

  "How?" said Kate, suspending her occupation of replacing the books inthe music-stand, and looking up anxiously in Mrs. O'Toole's face, whichwore an unusual look of care, especially about the depressed corners ofher expressive mouth.

  "Sorra one iv me can tell why, but he looks like as when a big blackcloud is beginin' to be dhrawn over the sun in a fine summer's day;he just sits in the chair tired like; an ses he, 'only one lettherfor the post, nurse,' ses he, 'but be sure it's in time for the Irishmaal,' and then he give me the message, I gave yes. The Cross iv Christbetune us an harum, ses I, as soon as I see 'J. Moore, Esquire,' on theletther; how are we to have luck or grace when we have any thing to sayto the man that sould Dungar, an give it up to the spalpeen that has itnow; look Miss Kate, thim's the Esquires that's going now! Faith an Iremember Paddy Moore, his father, carrying sacks iv corn to the mill,an meself own maid up at the big house! Ay, then, J. Moore, Esquire,ye'r the first esquire in yer family, any ways, an there was ever analways sorra to sup when there was letthers goin back an forward betuneyou an the masther!"

  "But, nurse, I have always heard that Mr. Moore was an uprighthonourable man, and I hope grandpapa's letter will be only productiveof good."

  "Well, well, may be so, but I'd a mighty quare dhrame both last nightan the night afore. Oh, ye may laugh now, Miss Kate, but no matther!I seen the masther as plain as I see yer own sweet face forenent me,slippin, slippin down a steep slim place wid the say roarin mad ondher,an you houlding him for the dear life, an yer round white arms allstrained an tremblin wid the weight that was too much for yez, an Icouldn't help yez, tho' I struve an struve to run to yez; an in thestruggle I woke up, all in a shake; an God forgive the word, but it's amighty bad dhrame intirely!"

  "No, Nurse--you say dreams go by contraries, so it is grandpapa thatwill be ascending some lofty eminence and dragging me after him."

  "It was in the mornin', asthore, in the mornin' I dhreamt it."

  "Never mind, nurse, if so, God will lend these slight arms strength forall that may be required of them--do not tell me any more dreams now,I must go to grandpapa."

  "Sweet Mary, shield ye darlint!" ejaculated Mrs. O'Toole, as she lookedafter her nursling, "but we've rested so long widout them thievingattorneys, I don't like to see them beginin' their letthers agin. _J.Moore, esquire!_ the divil go wid such esquires! amen."

  Fearful and wonderful indeed is our spiritual organisation. Reasonmay smile at fears, unsubstantiated by any tangible motive, but theinstant her accents of reproof have ceased, lo! the same formless andgnawing terror steals back, undiminished by one iota of its influence,to depress the soul, until again routed by reason's disciplined troops;a true guerilla warfare in which the irregular forces, ever ready todisperse and reassemble, always repulsed, but never conquered, are sureto wear out resistance in the end.

  So Kate Vernon, in spite of her clear and cultivated intellect,her sound judgment, and her sense of the ridiculous, could not keepnurse's evil omen from dwelling on her mind; more, ay, a thousand timesmore, than her grandfather's apparent anxiety about the intelligencecommunicated by Lady Desmond, and they accomplished the circuit of thewalls, silently, or, exchanging occasional remarks very foreign fromthe subject occupying both their minds.

  At length the Colonel said abruptly--

  "Kate, my child, what do you think of Lady Desmond's invitation?"

  "Oh! I think it a delightful plan; but you, grandpapa, do you think weshall be able to accept it?"

  "At present decidedly not. I must not be farther from Dublin than Iam--I fear I shall have much letter writing, if indeed I am not obligedto go to Ireland myself; if matters come right again, I shall certainlyendeavour to let the Priory, and take you to Italy; this completeretirement is not good or safe."

  "Safe!" said Kate, laughing. "Why I thought it was quite _selon lesregles_, of all romances, that a dethroned prince, and his lovely andinteresting daughter, like you and I, should be safe only while inobscurity."

  "According to old romances, I grant; but according to reality, there ismore danger in the strong contrasts which the occasional breaks in alife of retirement present, in the tone of mind it engenders, than inthe action of society, at least to you, Kate."

  "Danger! Oh, tempt me not to boast," cried Kate, endeavouring todraw her grandfather from his moralising mood. "You may despise oldromances, but you are nevertheless assuming the tone of some melancholyCount Alphonso, warning a sensitive and angelic Lady Malvina, againstthe world in general: dearest and best," she continued, in graver andtenderer tones, "I must swim down the troubled current of life, as youhave done before me, and meet its difficulties and trials--leave methen to the same guide by whose aid, you have passed many a dangerousrapid safely, to float in a smooth, though diminutive haven at last."

  "You are right, Kate, quite right; but how much longer the smoothnesswill last, God only knows."

  "Well, there _is_ a God, to know all, and direct all, and thatconsciousness, must rob the future of all apprehension. Shall I writeto Lady Desmond, on our return, and tell her of our indecision and itscauses?"

  "By all means. Yet, dear child, I wish _you_ would accept herinvitation, you want change, and I could remain quite comfortably withnurse and--"

  "Do not utter such treason! Leave you! and to amuse myself in Italy,when there is a chance that so far from being able to do without me,you may peculiarly want me."

  "My dear, dear, unselfish child."

  "Not a bit unselfish--_tout au contraire_. I should be miserable away,besides--but here are our friends, Winter and Gilpin, so, dearestgrandpapa, leave the future to take care of itself; all will bearranged for the best."

  There was no time to say more, as the painter and organist approached;but though the Colonel made no reply, some unexplained current offeeling induced him to pass his arm through Kate's, instead of offeringit, as was his habit, for her support.

  "Ha! Miss Vernon, I see you have taken advantage of a stray gleam ofsun, to seduce the Colonel into risking another cold--the wind is trulydetestable, but as I could not keep Gilpin in doors, I came out withhim, he has not a grain of prudence!"

  "My dear Winter, it is a remarkable fine day for March, I am glad,Gilpin, you felt equal to a walk."

  "I think you look better," observed Kate.

  "Yes: I think I am better, I feel to revive at the approach, howeverboisterous, of spring."

  "_Cospetto!_ three months in Italy would make you a new man; but here,the great mystery to me is, how any one who catches a cold ever losesit."

  "The remedy is worse than the disease; imagine a depressed invalid ina strange country, without a single friend, or, even acquaintance, andignorant of its language," returned Gilpin.

  "Wretched indeed! but wait for me, Mr. Gilpin, we have some thoughts oftaking a flight to Italy, this summer," said Miss Vernon.

  "_Corpo di Baccho!_ I'll not be left behind: to act as Miss Vernon's_cicerone_, would be something more than commonly delightful--what astate of enjoyment you would be in; but what put such a move into yourhead, Colonel?"

  "An invitation from Lady Desmond, who is at Florence," said ColonelVernon, "Our acceptance of it however is very uncertain, though I seeKate is full of the project. I had another letter, Messieurs, which Ithink will give you pleasure--here; read it, Winter."

  "Bombay--Fred Egerton--_che gusto_."

  A quick glance at Kate. The whole party moved slowly towards AbbeyGardens, the Colonel and Winter, who read the letter aloud, and Gilpinclose behind with Kate.

  "_Ad ogni uccello suo nido é bello_," said Winter, as he concludedthe epistle, "here am I shivering and pining for a warm sun, whichmany years' custom has made natural to me, and there is that youngscape-grace, revelling in baths; and slaves, and sunshine, dying to beback among east winds and consumption!"

  "Captain Egerton does not forget his friends--as soldiers are said todo," said Gilpin.

  "Pooh, pshaw!" cried Winter, "he was bored by a bad sea voyage;sea-sickness is at the bottom of half the sentimental adieus to mynative shores, that you read in albums and annuals, wait until he getsamong his tiger-shooting brother officers, or the Bombay belles, he'llsoon forget the sum-total of all he left behind--stuff!"

  "I do not quite agree with you, Mr. Winter," replied Kate. "I thinkCaptain Egerton will always remember our little circle, kindly, and bedelighted to see any member of it again. Beyond this we have no rightto expect; he would not charge his memory with regrets for people, whodo not let his absence interfere with their pleasures or occupations."

  "Bravo, Miss Vernon! if he was some worthy curate, in a white tie andspectacles, you would not bustle up so warmly in his defence; but ahandsome light dragoon, with moustache, and a long sword and spurs,and saucy 'make way for me look,' is another affair."

  "Wrong again, Mr. Winter," said Kate. "I see no reason why a Lancer'scap may not cover as good qualities, as a clerical broad-brim--and Ihave been too long your pupil, not to appreciate form and color."

  "Good; and if every Lancer was like Captain Egerton, I, for one, wouldprefer trusting them, even in a confessional, to the white neck-clothedcurates," chimed in the organist.

  "In truth, though Egerton is the type of a class I have alwaysdisliked, I cannot help liking him--especially when I think ofhis--pooh, pooh--I was forgetting--" And Winter stopped abruptly.

  "You are mysterious," said the Colonel. "But let me see the _Times_, atyour house; I want to read the Indian news, that came by the last mail;and to see Mrs. Winter."

  "Do you really think you will go to Italy, Miss Vernon?" asked Gilpin.

  "I fear it is problematical. I long to travel; but grandpapa has somebusiness, and nurse has had a dream, which bodes evil for my wishes."

  "Oh, the dream ought not to be classed with the business."

  "I dare confess to you, and to you only," returned Kate, with a smile,"that it seems to shake my hopes far more than the business."

  "The philosophic Miss Vernon--superstitious!"

  "No, no! yet, you know--

  'It may be a sound,A tone of music, summer's eve, or spring;A flower, the wind, the ocean, which shall wound,Striking the electric chain wherewith we're darkly bound.'"

  "Winter would say it was the east wind."

  "Perhaps so," said Miss Vernon, "for alas! how ignominiously physicalare the causes of many a tenderly poetic mood! not that I am at alladdicted to such, but--"

  "I think it is a mistake to consider everything physical, asdespicable," observed Gilpin; "we hear of mere physical force, merephysical wants; but the same hand made and blended our two natures, andwe shall be happy and healthy, in proportion as we train both to workin harmony, without giving undue preference to either."

  "I often think we have a species of trinity within us," said MissVernon. "We have sense with all its powerful tendencies in onedirection, and spirit with its aspirations in another, while the heartand its affections seem to be neutral ground, where the claims of bothmay be adjusted."

  "I like the fancy; but sense gets the upper hand in many a heart."

  "No," interrupted Kate, "the heart may be destroyed in the struggle,but while it exists, the spirit always has fair play."

  "Your sentence is too sweeping; in all such warfare, the variations areso delicately shaded that--"

  "Walk in, Colonel," broke in Winter; "never mind if Mrs. Winter is inor not; Gilpin, we'll have some Scotch broth for luncheon, that willset you up. I give you no choice--in you must come."

  "Sense must carry the day, Mr. Gilpin," said Kate, smiling.

  Some days elapsed after this conversation before a reply from Mr. Moorereached the Colonel; and the anxiety he and Kate had experienced, diedaway into a half-forgetfulness.

  It is strange how events, which at first strike us with such keenforce, lose their sharpness of outline as the mind becomes accustomedto what was at first a novel aspect of affairs; and, as nothing fresharises, we gradually sink back into our former frame of mind, or recurto that which distressed it, in momentary spasms of anxiety.

  So Kate and her grandfather had quite recovered their usual serenity,and the former had written to Lady Desmond, long and affectionately;rejoicing that the cloud which had for a while interposed between them,had been dispersed; merely mentioning the obstacle to their journey,as a temporary annoyance, and speaking of its removal as a matter ofcertainty.

  But she did not allude to it when in conversation with the Colonel, asshe fancied he avoided the subject.

  Such was their frame of mind when, at the usual post hour, one morning,Mrs. O'Toole entered.

  "A letther for the masther," a large, blue, pitiless looking envelop,such as emanate from attorneys' and merchants' offices, implacableplaces, sacrificial alters, where youth and joy, tenderness and thepleasant amenities of life are immolated at the shrine of the Englishjuggernaut "business."

  The Colonel, keeping his eye fixed on it, felt in his pockets for hisspectacles, silently, with a certain determination of manner, verydifferent from the joyous confusion with which he sought for them, whenopening Fred Egerton's letter; then with a loud hem, as if he wished toclear both throat and brains, he tore open the missive.

  Kate sat opposite gazing at him, as if she could read the contentsthrough his countenance; and although that morning she had risen withthe full conviction that the anticipated letter would only prove theiranxiety to be groundless, she now felt the terrible, creeping, gnawing,sickening sensation of doubt and dread which makes the hand so cold,and the eye so dim, when felt in its full force.

  This however was her first and but slight experience of care, soshe sat quite still, not knowing of what she thought, until hergrandfather had turned over the second page of the rather lengthyepistle; and she could see the flourishing signature at the end ofit. Still the Colonel did not speak, but turned back to re-read somepassage, and Kate was surprised to find she had not courage to ask"what news?"

  At last her grandfather without looking up, handed her the letter,observing--

  "Much what I ought to have anticipated; read it, my dear."

  Kate, with a sensation of extreme repugnance, took the letter and readas follows:--

  "_Dublin, March 27th_, 18--.


  "In reply to yours of the 21st inst., on the subject of Lady Desmond'scommunication to Miss Vernon, it is true that the present Mr. Taaffehas raised the question as to whether the debt to his uncle was paid;seeing, on searching the records, that the judgments securing itremain unsatisfied on the roll. But, as I concluded you got warrantsto satisfy them, at the time of the payment, I was not uneasy on thesubject, and thought it unnecessary to trouble you until I shouldfirst search amongst your papers in my possession for them, which, asyet, I have not done, as the matter was not pressing. If, however, youdid not get the necessary warrants to satisfy, as I begin to apprehendwas the case from the tenor of your letter, I fear we shall have sometrouble, as the present Mr. Taaffe affects to consider himself boundto conclude the debt was not paid; and obliged, in his characteras executor of his late uncle, to call it in, altho' he knows, inhis heart,

as I firmly believe

, the contrary. I trust, however,although you may not,

from your unacquaintance with law terms andforms

recollect what sort of acknowledgment you got at the time, itwill turn up to be a warrant to satisfy, or, if not, some docu-mentsufficient to induce a court of equity to stay any proceedings Mr.Taaffe may be advised to institute at law, on foot of the judgment.

  "You had better search diligently among your papers and send mewhatever you find, at all affecting this matter, and in the mean timeI will search also amongst those of yours in my possession.

  "With respectful compliments to Miss Vernon, I remain, my dear sir,your faithful and obedient servant,

  "J. MOORE.

  "To Colonel Vernon, &c."

  Kate's first feeling was that of indignant scorn at such, to herimagination, unheard of villany as that recorded in the letter she hadjust perused; but she suppressed the expression of it, in order toput the least gloomy view of the matter, her simple sense presented,before her grandfather.

  "After all it is not so bad," she said, "you see, Mr. Moore, onlyanticipates, 'some trouble,' and surely there can be no doubt yourword would be taken, especially in Ireland, before any other man'soath!"

  "My dear Kate, '_some trouble_,' has a very vague meaning from asolicitor; it may be a month's quibbling or forty years' litigation;and in law there is no such thing as honour; every thing must beproved; and though judge and jury may believe me incapable of wrongingMr. Taaffe of one sou; yet, if I cannot bring _legal proof_, he mustsucceed."

  "What a dishonest wretch he must be! but I always had a horror of thename of Taaffe!" cried Kate, the proud, indignant blood mounting toher forehead.

  "Some association of ideas with Taffy's thieving propensities?"observed the Colonel, with an effort to be cheerful.

  "But, dear grandpapa, what is to be done? this letter leaves us justin the same state of uncertainty we were in before."

  "We must search amongst all my papers, dear child, as Moore advises;if I find any thing bearing on the subject, I will send it to him; butI much fear I shall find nothing; I destroyed a great many papers,as useless, on leaving Dungar, and although I do not recollect anyconnected with Taaffe's business among them, there may have been; forI considered it so completely settled beyond dispute, that I shouldhave burnt them, unhesitatingly, had I come across any. And then,Kate, we must bide our time."

  "And are there no more active steps to be taken? Could you not writeto this nephew; assure him you have paid the money, and advise him notto expose himself to universal opprobrium by acting so base a part."

  "Ah, Kate, my own warm hearted child!" said her grandfather, sadly,"God grant you may not have to struggle with the world of which youare so ignorant. "Universal opprobrium," is an expression frequentlyand flourishingly put forth by newspaper editors; and it may beoccasionally drawn down by the singularly flagrant acts of somepublic characters, but the dread of it never yet withheld any man, soinclined, from preying on his fellows in private life; and it willtake many more years' experience to convince you how utterly fruitlessand unorthodox such a proceeding would be."

  "Well, grandpapa, if I am useless as a counsellor can I not be anagent and assist you in your search."

  "Yes, send away the breakfast things and tell nurse to bring me thetin box, and oak brass-bound cabinet that are in my room; make Susanhelp her, they are too heavy for her unassisted strength."

  True to his character, D'Arcy Vernon had room in his heart to thinkfor another, though borne down by the weight of a deeper anxietythan he had ever felt before. His former reverse of fortune, obligedhim to renounce the pomps and vanities of high life, and soon customproved them to be, trifles indeed; but here was a question involvingthe possibility, nay he could scarcely hide it from himself, theprobability of beggary.

  "Athen, mavourneen; it's the sore heart's within me this day to becarryin down thim onlooky boxes; sure, I ses to meself the minit I seteyes on that big baste iv a blue letther, faith mee dhrame's out sureenough; an it's not for the likes iv mee to be spaken to quolity, butit was just on the tip iv mee tongue to say 'throw it in the fire,Kurnel jewel, an don't meddle or make with the likes iv it at all, atall.' Sure I knew at oncet it kem from Moore's place, be the look ivit. Oh, what was in it, good or bad Miss Kate, avourneen?"

  Nurse was too old and devoted a friend to be excluded from thefamily councils, and Miss Vernon was too well acquainted with heraffectionate self-forgetful nature to consider her question intrusive.

  "Only some business, dear nurse; it may be troublesome or may not, butcannot be avoided, even by your good advice; so just bring down theboxes, and you shall hear more when I have more to tell, and, nurse,"turning back from the dining-room door, "should Mr. Winter or Mr.Gilpin, or any one call, you had better say that grandpapa and I areparticularly engaged."

  "The Lord look down on me!" soliloquised Mrs. O'Toole, as she crossedherself, with an air of alarm, "not see Winther nor the crather iv anOrganist. Faith there is throuble gotherin sure enough, I knew be thedarlint's two eyes there was throuble in her heart this week past;sure we were too long quiet an happy, that thim divils iv attorneysshould remember us. I'll go bail, it was thim that druv the captinoff to that murtherin hot counthry, an I thinkin he an mee sweetchild id make it up betune thim. The masther's as innocent as a lamb,but lave ould nurse alone for seein as far into a mill stone as hernaybors ow wow; many a time, I seen him takin the full iv his eye,out iv her, an I removin the tay things. Och! bud it's the wearisomeworld! Susy yer idle gowk, are ye goin to lave me to pull the arrumsout of mee, liftin a ton weight here, widout puttin a finger to helpme?"

  And diligently did the Colonel and his granddaughter untie, read, andexamine, and re-tie the numerous bundles of papers and letters.

  Now a packet in Lady Desmond's clear firm writing was laid aside, nowa smaller one in Kate's own hand; rapturous letters, describing theenjoyments of her memorable visit to London, the only time she hadever been away from her grandfather; now turning over large yellowparchments, with red seals hanging from them, now eagerly examining apile of papers whose crabbed writing bespoke business. It was wearywork; Kate, with all the hopeful energy of youth, rapidly searchingthrough each of the packets at all likely to contain a solicitor'sletter, and handing them to her grandfather, who, latterly, leanedwearily back in his chair, and examined them languidly. Once his armstole round her, as she knelt beside the pile of papers on the floor,and she felt how eloquent of despondency, was the close embrace withwhich he held her to him; but she constrained herself to receive itin silence, and took no further notice than to kiss, warmly, the handwhich pressed her to his heart, as the last and best treasure left him.

  "You are tired and cold," said she, rising, "I will stir the fire, andthen, come and put your feet on the fender, and I will replace thesepackets we have examined in the box, and open all Lady Desmonds'letters, some such paper may have got among them."

  "As you like, as you like, my dear child."

  There was a long silence, broken only by the rustling of the papers.Half an hour elapsed, and at length Vernon, rousing himself, said--

  "Do not tire yourself longer, give me my desk, I had better tell Moorethere is not a symptom here of what we want."

  "Wait a very little longer, there is only one packet more, ofGeorgina's; let us not give up too soon, dear grandpapa." A fewminutes after she came over to him with an old-looking letter in herhand. "This is signed, 'A. Taaffe,' look at it."

  Vernon took it eagerly.

  "Ha, this may be useful, how could it have got among Georgina'sletters?"

  Kate read over his shoulder.

  "_Anne Street, June, 23, 18--._


  "I have just received yours of the 21st, with its enclosure, manythanks for your obliging efforts to comply with my wishes.

  "I have directed my solicitor to prepare the necessary warrants, theywill be ready by Monday or Tuesday at farthest, when I will executethem and send them to you,

  "Your obliged and obedient servant,


  "To Colonel Vernon, &c."

  "Victoria! Dearest of grandfathers will not that utterly annihilate Mr.Taaffe?"

  "Well, I think it must be sufficient; thank Heaven, my love, youthought of searching among Georgy's letters; now I must writeimmediately, to Moore, and I have scarce time. You can put away allthese papers."

  With a lightened heart Kate prepared to obey, and so visible wasthe change from darkness to light, in her countenance, that nurseexclaimed, on receiving from her the letter for the post.

  "Faith, an sure, Miss Kate, you've been makin the masther tell MistherMoore to hold his prate an lave off pinin' any more of his three anfour pinnys to him."

  "No; not exactly that nurse, but I think we shall soon have done withhim."

  "The Lord send! And I forgot to tell ye, Mr. Winther called; an faith,I could hardly keep him from walkin' in, widout 'by yer lave or wid yerlave,' an thin he kim back wid that bit iv a note."

  "Thank you, now run to the post-office, dear nurse. An invitation totea from Mr. Winter," said Kate, returning to the dining-room, wherethe Colonel was putting away his writing materials. "Do you feel equalto it?"

  "Decidedly, my dear--I want to have a little kindly, honesty, afterhaving had a scoundrel before my mind's eye all the morning; we willgo and have a rubber, and a song. How poor Egerton used to enjoy ourlittle parties."

  "And how much more he would enjoy horse-whipping, Mr. Taaffe," criedKate, as she locked the tin box.

  "I believe he would," said the Colonel, laughing. "You and Egertoncertainly understood each other."