It now becomes our duty to return for a short time to Sir Henry Ashwoode and Nicholas Blarden, whom we left in hot pursuit of the trembling fugitives. The night was consumed in vain but restless search, and yet no satisfactory clue to the direction of their flight had been discovered; no evidence, not even a hint, by which to guide their pursuit. Jaded by his fruitless exertions, frantic with rage and disappointment, Nicholas Blarden at peep of light rode up to the hall door of Morley Court.
No news since? cried he, fixing his bloodshot eyes upon the man who took his horse's bridle, no news since?
No, sir, cried the fellow, shaking his head, not a word.
Is Sir Henry within? inquired Blarden, throwing himself from the saddle.
No, sir, replied the man.
Not returned yet, eh? asked Nicholas.
Yes, sir, he did return, and he left again about ten minutes ago, responded the groom.
And left no message for me, eh? rejoined Blarden.
There's a note, sir, on a scrap of paper, on the table in the hall, I forgot to mention, replied the man he wrote it in a hurry, with a pencil, sir.
Blarden strode into the hall, and easily discovered the documenta hurried scrawl, scarcely legible; it ran as follows:
Nothing yetno traceI half suspect they're lurking in the neighbourhood of the house. I must return to town
p.333there are two places which I forgot to try. Meet me, if you cansay in the old Saint Columbkil; it's a deserted place, in the morning about ten or eleven o'clock.
Blarden glanced quickly through this effusion. A precious piece of paper, that! muttered he, tearing it across, worthy of its authora cursed greenhorn; consume him for a mouth, but no matterno matter yet. Here, you rake-helly squad, some of you, shouted he, addressing himself at random to the servants, one of whom he heard approaching, here, I say, get me some food and drink, and don't be long about it either, I can scarce stand. So saying, and satisfied that his directions would be promptly attended to, he shambled into one of the sitting-rooms, and flung himself at his full length upon a sofa; his disordered and bespattered dress and mud-stained boots contrasted agreeably with the rich crimson damask and gilded backs and arms of the couch on which he lay. As he applied himself voraciously to the solid fare and the wines with which he was speedily supplied, a thousand incoherent schemes, and none of them of the most amiable kind, busily engaged his thoughts. After many wandering speculations, he returned again to a subject which had more than once already presented itself. And then for the brother, the fellow that laid his blows on me before a whole play-house full of people, the vile spawn of insolent beggary, that struck me till his arm was fairly tired with strikingI'm no fool to forget such thingsthe rascally forging ruffianthe mean, swaggering, lying bullyno matterhe must be served out in style, and so he shall. I'll not hang him though, I may turn him to account yet, some way or otherno, I'll not hang him, keep the halter in my handthe best trump for the last cardhold the gallows over him, and make him lead a pleasant sort of life of it, one way or other. I'll not leave a spark of pride in his body, I'll not thrash out of him. I'll make him meeker and sleeker and humbler than a spaniel; he shall, before the face of all the world, just bear what I give him, and do what I bid him, like a trained dogsink me, but he shall.
Somewhat comforted by these ruminations, Nicholas Blarden arose from a substantial meal, and a reverie, which had occupied some hours; and without caring to remove from his person the traces of his toilsome exertions of the night past, nor otherwise to render himself one whit a less slovenly and neglected-looking figure than when he had that morning dismounted at the hall door, he called for a fresh horse, threw himself into the saddle, and spurred away for Dublin city.
He reached the doorway of the old Saint Columbkil, and, under the shadow of its ancient sign-board, dismounted. He entered the tavern, but Ashwoode was not there; and, in answer to his inquiries, Mr. Blarden was informed that Sir Henry Ashwoode had gone over to the Cock and Anchor, to have his horse cared for, and that he was momentarily expected back.
Blarden consulted his huge gold watch. It's eleven o'clock now, every minute of it, and he's not comehoity toity rather, I should say, all things considered. I thought he was better up to his game by this timebut no matterI'll give him a lesson just now.
As if for the express purpose of further irritating Mr. Blarden's already by no means angelic temper, several parties, composed of second-rate sporting characters, all laughing, swearing, joking, betting, whistling, and by every device, contriving together to produce as much clatter and uproar as it was possible to do, successively entered the place.
Well, Nicky, boy, how does the world wag with you? inquired a dapper little fellow, approaching Blarden with a kind of brisk, hopping gait, and coaxingly digging that gentleman's ribs with the butt of his silver-mounted whip.
What the devil brings all these chaps here at this hour? inquired Blarden.
Soft is your horn, old boy, rejoined his acquaintance, in the same arch strain of pleasantry; two regulur good mains to be fought to-daytough ones, I promise youFermanagh Dick against Long Whitefifty birds eachsplendid fowls, I'm toldgreat bettingit will come off in little more than an hour.
I don't care if it never come off, rejoined Blarden; I'm waiting for a chap that ought to have been here half an hour ago. Rot him, I'm sick waiting.
Well, come, I'll tell you how we'll pass the time. I'll toss you for guineas, as many tosses as you like, rejoined the small gentleman, accommodatingly. What do you say?is it a go?
Sit down, then, replied Blarden; sit down, can't you? and begin.
Accordingly the two friends proceeded to recreate themselves thus pleasantly. Mr. Blarden's luck was decidedly bad, and he had been already physicked, as his companion playfully remarked, to the amount of some five-and-twenty guineas, and his temper had become in a corresponding degree affected, when he observed Sir Henry Ashwoode, jaded, haggard, and with dress disordered, approaching the place where he sat.
Blarden, we had better leave this place, said Ashwoode,
p.335glancing round at the crowded benches; there's too much noise here. What say you?
What do I say? rejoined Blarden, in his very loudest and most insolent tone I say you have made an appointment and broke it, so stand there till it's my convenience to talk to youthat's all.
Ashwoode felt his blood tingling in his veins with fury as he observed the sneering significant faces of those who, attracted by the loud tones of Nicholas Blarden, watched the effect of his insolence upon its object. He heard conversations subside into whispers and titters among the low scoundrels who enjoyed his humiliation; yet he dared not answer Blarden as he would have given worlds at that moment to have done, and with the extremest difficulty restrained himself from rushing among the vile rabble who exulted in his degradation, and compelling them at least to respect and fear him. While he stood thus with compressed lips and a face pale as ashes with rage, irresolute what course to take, one of the coins for which Blarden played rolled along the table, and thence along the floor for some distance.
Go, fetch that guineajump, will you? cried Blarden, in the same boisterous and intentionally insolent tone. What are you standing there for, like a stick? Pick it up, sir.
Ashwoode did not move, and an universal titter ran round the spectators, whose attention was now effectually enlisted. Do what I order youdo it this moment. D your audacity, you had better do it, said Blarden, dashing his clenched fist on the table so as to make the coin thereon jump and jingle.
Still Ashwoode remained resolutely fixed, trembling in every joint with very passion; prudence told him that he ought to leave the place instantly, but pride and obstinacy, or his evil angel, held him there.
The sneering whispers of the crowd, who now pressed more nearly round them in the hope of some amusement, became more and more loud and distinct, and the words, white feather, white liver, muff, cur, and other terms of a like import reached Ashwoode's ear. Furious at the contumacy of his wretched slave, and determined to overbear and humble him, Blarden exclaimed in a tone of ferocious menace,
Do as I bid you, you cursed, insolent upstartpick up that coin, and give it to meor by the laws, you'll shake for it.
Still Ashwoode moved not.
Do as I bid you, you robbing swindler, shouted he, with an oath too appalling for our pages, and again rising, and stamping on the floor, or I'll give you to the crows.
The titter which followed this menace was unexpectedly
p.336interrupted. The young man's aspect changed; the blood rushed in livid streams to his face; his dark eyes blazed with deadly fire; and, like the bursting of a storm, all the gathering rage and vengeance of weeks in one tremendous moment found vent. With a spring like that of a tiger, he rushed upon his persecutor, and before the astonished spectators could interfere, he had planted his clenched fists dozens of times, with furious strength, in Blarden's face. Utterly destitute of personal courage, the wretch, though incomparably a more powerful man than his light-limbed antagonist, shrank back, stunned and affrighted, under the shower of blows, and stumbled and fell over a wooden stool. With murderous resolution, Ashwoode instantly drew his sword, and another moment would have witnessed the last of Blarden's life, had not several persons thrown themselves between that person and his frantic assailant.
Hold back, cried one. The man's downdon't murder him.
Down with himhe's mad! cried another; brain him with the stool.
Hold his arm, some of you, or he'll murder the man! shouted a third, hold him, will you?
Overpowered by numbers, with his face lacerated and his clothes torn, and his naked sword still in his hand, Ashwoode struggled and foamed, and actually howled, to reach his abhorred enemyglaring like a baffled beast upon his prey.
Send for constables, quickquick, I say, shouted Blarden, with a frantic imprecation, his face all bleeding under his recent discipline.
Let me golet me go, I tell you, or by the father that made me, I'll send my sword through half-a-dozen of you, almost shrieked Ashwoode.
Hold himhold him fastconsume you, hold him back! shouted Blarden; he's a forger!run for constables!
Several did run in various directions for peace officers.
Wring the sword from his hand, why don't you? cried one; cut it out of his hand with a knife!
Knock him down!down with him! Hold on!
Amid such exclamations, Ashwoode at length succeeded, by several desperate efforts, in extricating himself from those who held him; and without hat, and with clothes rent to fragments in the scuffle, and his face and hands all torn and bleeding, still carrying his naked sword in his hand, he rushed from the room, and, followed at a respectable distance by several of those who had witnessed the scuffle, and by his distracted appearance attracting the wondering gaze of those who traversed the streets, he ran recklessly onward to the Cock and Anchor.