Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/423

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April 2, 1864.]

ONCE A WEEK.

435


a patient. It lay in my way here, and I was as quick as could be, but—as you see—not sufficiently so.”

Mr. Carlton slightly pointed to the bed as he concluded. Frederick Grey, who had stood by, listening eagerly, suddenly stepped up to him.

“Have you that draught with you, sir?”

“Of course I have,” replied Mr. Carlton. But he did not seem pleased with the lad’s tones, so unaccountably abrupt and haughty. “Here it is,” he added, taking it from his pocket. “You will find no prussic acid in that.”

Frederick Grey received the small bottle in his hand, uncorked it, smelt it, and tasted it, just as Mr. Carlton had done by the fatal one. Doctors, as Mrs. Pepperfly remarked, like to put their tongues to physic; and Frederick had possibly caught the habit, for he was ale ready being initiated into the mysteries of the profession, under his uncle and father.

“No, there’s no prussic acid in that,” said he. “Neither was there in the draught made up by my father. I stood by him the whole of the time and watched him mix it.”

They were interrupted by Mr. Stephen Grey. To describe his grief and consternation when he saw the dead, would be impossible. Mr. Whittaker had given him the message, had told him Mrs. Gould had been to them with a tale that the lady was dead; but Mr. Stephen, who knew of old Mrs. Gould and her fears, had set it down in his own mind that the lady had only fainted. Mr. Stephen heard the details with astonishment. They were unaccountable; but he warmly repudiated the suspicion as to the error having been made by himself.

“The thing appears to be perfectly unexplainable,” exclaimed Mr. Lycett.

Stephen Grey laid his hand lightly on the brow of the corpse. “I declare,” said he, in an earnest, solemn tone, “in the presence of what remains of this poor young lady; nay, I declare it in a more solemn presence—that of God, who now hears me—that there was no prussic acid, or any other poison whatever, in the sleeping draught I sent here this night. Some foul play has been at work; or else some most grievous and unaccountable mischance has been unwittingly committed. Mr. Carlton, we must do our best in striving to unfathom this. You will aid me in it?”

Mr. Carlton did not hear the words. He had fallen into a reverie. Perhaps he was trying to account for the events of that night. His thoughts at that moment were not so much given to the unhappy dead, as to the face he had seen, or thought he had seen, upon the staircase landing earlier in the evening. That the face was none of his own fancy’s conjuring up; that it was not an appearance from the world of spirits, but one belonging to a living, breathing person, he felt in his judgment convinced. Did he connect that face with the dark deed which had followed? Did he suspect that that stealthy visitor, whoever it might be, was the serpent standing and waiting to deal the deadly blow? It cannot at present be told; but it is certain that Mr. Carlton did attach a dread fear, not the less strong for its being vague and undefined, to that shadowy face.

Vague indeed! More than once he caught himself fancying—nay, almost wishing—that it was but a supernatural appearance from the other world.


“AN APOSTLE INDEED.”


Early in December, 1836, the news went far and wide through the South of Ireland, that the “Apostle of Temperance,” Father Mathew, had paid the last debt of nature. He died, as he had lived, devoted to the good cause of reclaiming his volatile countrymen from their arch—enemy, the whiskey-bottle; and his name ought to stand, in Ireland at least, written in the brightest and most indelible colours among the roll of her philanthropists and patriots.

Theobald Mathew’s life, from first to last, was in full keeping and harmony with his profession as a priest of the church in which his lot was cast. We have been, of late years, by far too much familiarized with such warlike spirits as Dr. Cahill and John McHale, as types of the Irish Roman Catholic clergy, to fancy that one so meek, so gentle, so humble, so self-denying as “Father Mathew,” could have submitted to the ecclesiastical tonsure in the sister island, and worn the monastic cowl. Yet so it was: Father Mathew was not only a Roman Catholic, but a Roman Catholic priest; nor only a priest but a monk—a humble Capuchin. But under the Capuchin’s coarse dress he concealed the heart of a Christian and a gentleman. No doubt, some portion of those qualities he owed to the fact that gentle blood flowed in his veins; and that, instead of being taken (as most Irish priests are) from the plough-tail to the altar, via Maynooth, he was brought up in the refined society of his kinsman, the late Earl of Llandaff, and of his sister, Lady Elizabeth Mathew; and that, in the family-circle of Thomastown House, and amongst its guests, as a boy, he rubbed off some of that rust, and most of those angles, which, somehow or other, seem to mark for life the man who has once passed the gates of