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Though vain the vision seem
Is with thine image fraught,
I send a thought to thee,
Ah ! shall it reach thee? shall it find a rest,
I will believe the dream-
MARY ANN BROWNE.
An hour later, Catherine entered the parlour, where she found the family already seated at breakfast. The O'Neile, in a frolicsome voice, gave her "the top of the morning," as he gazed at her with fond admiration.
“Sure, Kathleen macree, it's yourself that always brings to your old uncle the freshness of the morning dew, the perfume of the opening flowers, and the warmth of the blessed sunshine itself; and, better than all, your own bright face, blessings on it!" and he raised himself as he spoke to imprint a kiss upon the blooming countenance bending over him. “I declare, love, you are a walking reproach to lazy Geraldine, who only left her room a moment before you came in. Even my nephew, Lionel, is not quite free from censure, but then, to be sure, we must remember that he possesses English not Irish habits;" and he gave a sly wink over at him.
Catherine wore one of her most bewitching smiles as a mask to her sad heart; the brisk early morning walk, and the emotion within her to which the event of that morning had given rise, imparted a bright colour to her otherwise pale cheeks, and an unusual lustre to her eyes.
As her glance met Lionel's fixed upon her with an expression of unfeigned admiration, for a moment the idea suggested itself to her that he might have been the writer of the paper; but as she gave him one of her searching looks, and he returned it with one of such surprised frankness, she felt assured that he would not have dared so much.
Though feeling the indifference to food which accompanies feverish excitement, she nevertheless tried to eat, and enter into business matters with her uncle, who was now taxing her memory as to the term of years upon which some of the small farmers held their land, and the coming arrears of rent, and as to whether he should turn the fallow to account this year, 'or still leave it for the pigs to ambulate upon. Catherine tried to give her attention to all these details, yet without feeling the interest that she generally had in all her uncle's business transactions.
Otway, Lionel, and Geraldine were deeply engaged in discussing the merits of one of the neighbouring lakes, where they intended going that day upon a little fishing excursion.
The little boy kept rushing in and out of the room in search of some beautiful variegated flies that his cousin had brought over with him from England.
The latter was now conversing in an undertone with Geraldine. Whatever he might have been saying to her was partly to be guessed at in the smiling, halfparted lips, and the abstracted manner in which she crumbled whole piles of bread upon the table-cloth beside her, while from time to time she blushed.
Mary, who sat at the head of the table, was reading the local news of the day to her father, who, when any subject in particular struck him, would abruptly pause in the middle of some calculation to listen, particularly if it were a political question of the times, whereupon he would rush into a detailed history of the parties mentioned, relating, with much humour and evident selfsatisfaction, many of the jokes they used to have together in their young days. And when the O'Neile was
taken with one of his loquacious fits, he generally addressed himself to all who were within hearing, whether they were willing or not. Mary was always an interested listener, to whom her father's exaggerated accounts we pure, unvarnished truths. The O'Neile's great weakness was exaggeration. Yet in Mary's eyes he ever appeared a great hero, whose former deeds ought to have immortalised him in the opinion of all who came within the influence of his eloquent descriptions.
After having expatiated to his heart's content upon all sorts of heroics, in which he himself played the most prominent character, he every now and then stood up to suit the action to the word. At one moment fancying himself before royalty, he would bow with courteous reverence; then the next, with his hand on his heart, and assuming an admiring glance, would appear to be paying a compliment to some fair one, upon which all the family would look up with surprise, gratification beaming in their faces, at their father, who now in his poverty, could identify himself with associations of past greatness.
He would afterwards sit down, and in a pompous, emphatic manner would assure them, “ It was a fact; upon my life, a fact.”. And to him it really had become
He had given himself so entirely up to the idea, and had so identified himself with it, that at last it had become a part of himself. Yet there were many grounds for truth in what he related, only he drew the bow to its fullest extent without exactly snapping it. He often related the following episode of his young days :
One night, having been invited to a masquerade given at Dublin Castle, he happened, by some unaccountable chance, to wear a domino the counterpart of one worn for the occasion by Lord
In the course of the evening, while sauntering through the rooms, he was playfully tapped upon the shoulder by some unknown fair one.
After glancing at his dress, she, in a rather mysterious manner, pronounced the name of a novel then very much talked of, when the O'Neile, upon the impulse of the moment, and finding nothing better to say at the time, answered in the same playful manner, while mentioning the title of the sequel to the story just named by her
He had no sooner done so than the unknown lady, in an assured and affectionate manner, placed her arm within his, and led him through the long suite of brilliantly-lighted rooms, till they arrived at the last, which seemed less frequented than those they had just passed through. She sank down upon one of the cushioned ottomans near, and made a sign for her companion to seat himself beside her; then, without further preface, she, in an agitated voice and manner, unfolded to his astonished ear a tale which, as he listened to it, only assured him was intended for the private hearing of another.
As she concluded, the O'Neile had no difficulty in guessing who his fair unknown really was. He became dreadfully embarrassed as the truth flashed across him, for, through one of the most extraordinary circumstances, he had heard the secret of another-and that other ! However, he hesitated no longer as to how he should proceed, but bending low before the lady, raised his mask for a moment, then placing his hand upon his heart as he still bent before her, he said, in respectful tones
“Madam, I am Denis O'Neile, of O'Neile Court, and an O'Neile, Madam, never betrays that which honour assures him should be kept inviolate. From this moment I remember no longer what was intended for the ears of another."
As he finished speaking, once more bowing before her, he quickly withdrew, but not before he had time to notice the person wearing a domino like his own advance rapidly towards the lady he had just quitted. He saw nothing more of either of them that night,
The following week, when he had almost forgotten the whole affair, one morning before he was up, his servant entered the room bearing in his hand an officiallooking document, together with a very small packet. The first was an appointment upon some foreign mission, which he had long but hopelessly wished to obtain ; and the other a massive diamond ring, with the motto, “Discretion is the better part of valour," engraved upon the inside, together with the initials of the royal donor.
“Oh, dad! can't you show us the ring ?” Otway excitedly exclaimed,
“Why, yes, I dare say I can—," then in a whisper to himself—“where the deuce have I put it? No doubt with the other relics of my grandeur, if I could only lay my hand upon it.”
“But why don't you wear it, papa ? ” Mary artlessly inquired.
"Hem_" clearing his throat several times—“Why -it would appear too
ridiculous in me to wear diamonds now, love, when my coat is almost threadbare.” He threw a furtive timid glance upon his shabby clothes—"No, love, I have put all my finery away. The garsoon there," pointing to his little son, “will have them all some day, and you know that that will just be the same." He sighed as he said this. Poor old man, pride would not allow him to confess,
to his own children, the loss of all the old valuables that had at one time been in the possession of the family, but long since parted with. Still he indulged in the secret hope that they would all, by some miracle or other, turn up again some day, at least, so old Phil, the butler, predicted, with his usual sanguineness, and his master was too polite to think of contradicting him. Phil knew most of the secrets and degradations to which the family were reduced, on account of their changed circumstances.
Having at last satisfactorily arranged matters with his niece, the O'Neile stood up and declared his inten