“It is to you, then, that I am indebted for this treatment?” replied I.
“No; not to me,” replied Melchior. “I do not command here; but I knew you when they brought you in insensible, and being employed in the castle, I have taken upon myself the office of your gaoler, that I might, if possible, serve you.”
I felt, I knew this to be false, but a moment’s reflection told me that it was better at present to temporise.
“Who then does the castle belong to, Melchior?”
“To Sir Henry de Clare.”
“And what can be his object in treating me thus?”
“That I can tell you, because I am a party concerned. You remember the little girl, Fleta, who left the gipsy camp with you—she is now somewhere under your care?”
“Well, I grant it; but I was answerable only to you about her.”
“Very true, but I was answerable to Sir Henry; and when I could only say that she was well, he was not satisfied, for family reasons now make him very anxious that she should return to him; and, indeed, it will be for her advantage, as she will in all probability be his heir, for he has satisfactorily proved that she is a near relative.”
“Grant all that, Melchior; but why did not Sir Henry de Clare write to me on the subject, and state his wishes, and his right to demand his relative? And why does he treat me in this way? Another question—how is it that he has recognised me to be the party who has charge of the little girl? Answer me those questions, Melchior, and then I may talk over the matter.”
“I will answer the last question first. He knew your name from me, and it so happened, that a friend of his met you in the coach as you were coming to Ireland: the same person also saw you at the post-house, and gave information. Sir Henry, who is a violent man, and here has almost regal sway, determined to detain you till you surrendered up the child. You recollect, that you refused to tell his agent, the person whose address I gave you, where she was to be found, and, vexed at this, he has taken the law into his own hands.”
“For which he shall smart, one of these days,” replied I, “if there is law in this country.”
“There is a law in England, but very little, and none that will harm Sir Henry in this part of the country. No officer would venture within five miles of the castle, I can assure you; for he knows very well that it would cost him his life; and Sir Henry never quits it from one year’s end to the other. You are in his power, and all that he requires is information where the child may be found, and an order for her being delivered to him. You cannot object to this, as he is her nearest relative. If you comply, I do not doubt but Sir Henry will make you full amends for this harsh treatment, and prove a sincere friend ever afterwards.”
“It requires consideration,” replied I; “at present, I am too much hurt to talk.”