As my only object in Ireland was to find out Sir Henry de Clare, and identify him (but, really, why I could not have said, as it would have proved nothing after all), I willingly consented to devote a day to assist Mr Cophagus in his examination. The next morning after breakfast, we went together to the house of the old lady, whose name had been Maitland, as Mr Cophagus informed me. Her furniture was of the most ancient description, and in every room in the house there was an ormolu, or Japan cabinet; some of them were very handsome, decorated with pillars, and silver ornaments. I can hardly recount the variety of articles, which in all probability had been amassed during the whole of the old lady’s life, commencing with her years of childhood, and ending with the day of her death. There were antique ornaments, some of considerable value, miniatures, fans, etuis, notes, of which the ink, from time, had turned to a light red, packages of letters of her various correspondents in her days of hope and anticipation, down to those of solitude and age. We looked over some of them, but they appeared to both of us to be sacred, and they were, after a slight examination, committed to the flames.
After we had examined all the apparent receptacles in these cabinets, we took them up between us, and shook them, and in most cases found out that there were secret drawers containing other treasures. There was one packet of letters which caught my eye, it was from a Miss De Benyon. I seized it immediately, and showed the inscription to Mr Cophagus. “Pooh—nothing at all—her mother was a De Benyon.”
“Have you any objection to my looking at these letters?”
“No—read—nothing in them.”
I laid them on one side, and we proceeded in our search, when Mr Cophagus took up a sealed packet. “Heh! what’s this—De Benyon again? Japhet, look here.”
I took the packet; it was sealed, and tied with red tape. “Papers belonging to Lieutenant William De Benyon, to be returned to him at my decease.” “Alice Maitland, with great care,” was written at the bottom of the envelope.
“This is it, my dear sir,” cried I, jumping up and embracing Mr Cophagus “these are the papers which I require. May I keep them?”
“Mad—quite mad—go to Bedlam—strait waistcoat—head shaved, and so on.”
I am not content with
minding my own business, but must have a
hand in that of others, by which means I put my foot in it.
He then, after his own fashion, told me, that as executor, he must retain those papers; pointed out to me the little probability there was of their containing any information relative to my birth, even allowing that a person of the name of De Benyon did call at the Foundling to ask for me, which was only a supposition; and, finally, overthrew all the hopes which had been, for so many days, buoying me up. When he had