Harry Toole was true to his word. Without turning from the direct course, or pausing on his way for one moment, he accomplished the service which he had volunteered, and in an incredibly short time returned to the little inn, bringing Mr. Audley with him in a coach.
With an air of importance and mystery, suitable to the occasion, the little gentleman, followed by his attendant, proceeded to the chamber where Miss Ashwoode and her maid were awaiting his arrival. Mary arose as he entered the room, and Larry, from behind, ejaculated, in a tone of pompous exultation, Here he is, Miss MaryMr. Audley himself, an' no mistake.
Tut, tut, Larry, exclaimed the little gentleman, turning impatiently toward that personage, whose obstreperous announcement had disarranged his plans of approach; hold your tongue, Larry, I sayahem!
Mr. Audley, said Mary, I hope you will pardon
Not one word of the kindexcuse the interruptionnot a word, exclaimed the little gentleman, gallantly waving his hand only too much honourtoo proud, Miss Ashwoode, I have long known something of your family, and, strange
p.309as it may appear, have felt a peculiar interest in youalthough I had not the honour of your acquaintancefor the sake ofof other parties. I have ever entertained a warm regard for your welfare, and although circumstances are much, very much changed, I cannot forget relations that once subsistedahem! This was said diplomatically, and he blew his nose with a short decisive twang. I understand, my poor young lady, he continued, relapsing into the cordial manner that was natural to him, that your are at this moment in circumstances of difficulty, perhaps of danger, and that you have been disappointed in this emergency by the absence of your relative, Major O'Leary, with whose acquaintance, by-the-bye, I am honoured, and a more worthy, warm-heartedbut no matterin his absence, then, I venture to tender my poor servicespray, if it be not too bold a request, tell me fully and fairly, the nature of your embarrassment; and if zeal, activity, and the friendliest dispositions can avail to extricate you, you may command them allpray, then, let me know what I can do to serve you. So saying, the old gentleman took the pale and lovely lady's hand, with a mixture of tenderness and respect which encouraged and assured her.
Larry having withdrawn, she told the little gentleman all that she could communicate, without disclosing her brother's implication in the conspiracy. Even this reserve, the old gentleman's warm and kindly manner, and the good-natured simplicity, apparent in all he said and did, effectually removed, and the whole case, in all its bearings, and with all its circumstances, was plainly put before him. During the narrative, the little gentleman was repeatedly so transported with ire as to slap his thigh, sniff violently, and mutter incoherent ejaculations between his teeth; and when it was ended, was so far overcome by his feelings, that he did not trust himself to address the young lady, until he had a little vented his indignation by marching and countermarching, at quick time, up and down the room, blowing his nose with desperate abandonment, and muttering sundry startling interjections. At length he grew composed, and addressing Mary Ashwoode,
You are quite right, my dear young ladyquite right, indeed, in resolving against putting yourself into the hands of anybody under Sir Henry's influenceperfectly right and wise. Have you no relatives in this country, none capable of protecting you, and willing to do so?
I have, indeed, one relative, rejoined she, but
Who is it? interrupted Audley.
An uncle, replied Mary.
His name, my dearhis name? inquired the old gentleman, impatiently.
His name is FrenchOliver French, replied she, but
Never mind, interrupted Audley again, where does he live?
He lives in an old place called Ardgillagh, rejoined she, on the borders of the county of Limerick.
Is it easily found out?near the high road from Dublin?near any town?easily got at? inquired be, with extraordinary volubility.
I've heard my brother say, rejoined she, that it is not far from the high road from Dublin; he was there himself. I believethe place is well known by the peasantry for many miles round; but
Very good, very good, my dear, interposed Mr. Audley again. Has he a familya wife?
No, rejoined Mary; he is unmarried, and an old man.
Pooh, pooh! why the devil hasn't he a wife? but no matter, you'll be all the welcomer. That's our groundall the safer that it's a little out of the way, exclaimed the old man. We'll steal a marchthey'll never suspect us; we'll start at once.
But I fear, said Mary, dejectedly, that he will not receive me. There has long been an estrangement between our family and him; with my father he had a deadly quarrel while I was yet an infant. He vowed that neither my father nor any child of his should ever cross his threshold. I've been told he bitterly resented what he believed to have been my father's harsh treatment of my mother. I was too young, however, to know on which side the right of the quarrel was; but I fear there is little hope of his doing as you expect, for some six or seven years since my brother was sent down, in the hope of a reconciliation, and in vain. He returned, reporting that my uncle Oliver had met all his advances with scorn. No, no, I fearI greatly fear he will not receive me.
Never believe itnever think so, rejoined old Audley, warmly; if he were man enough to resent your mother's wrongs, think you his heart will have no room for yours? Think you his nature's changed, that he cannot pity the distressed, and hate tyranny any longer? Never believe me, if he won't hug you to his heart the minute he sees you. I like the old chap; he was right to be angryit was his duty to be in a confounded passion; he ought to have been kicked if he hadn't done just as he didI'd swear he was right. Never trust me, if he'll not take your part with his whole heart, and make you his pet for as long as you please to stay with him. Deuce take him, I like the old fellow.
You would advise me, then, to apply to him for protection?
p.311asked Mary Ashwoode, and I suppose to go down there immediately.
The old gentleman then led his young and beautiful charge, with a mixture of gallantry and pity, by the hand down the little inn stairs, and in a very brief time Mary Ashwoode and her faithful attendant found themselves under the hospitable protection of Mrs. Pickley 's roof-tree.