The next day the newspapers contained a paragraph, in which Sir Henry de Clare was stated to have committed suicide. No reason could be assigned for this rash act, was the winding up of the intelligence. I also received another letter from Kathleen M’Shane, confirming the previous accounts; her mother had been sent for to assist in laying out the body. There was now no further doubt, and as soon as I could venture out, I hastened to the proper office, where I read the will of the late Sir William. It was very short, merely disposing of his personal property to his wife, and a few legacies; for, as I discovered, only a small portion of the estates were entailed with the title, and the remainder was not only to the heirs male, but the eldest female, should there be no male heir, with the proviso, that should she marry, the husband was to take upon himself the name of De Clare. Here, then, was the mystery explained, and why Melchior had stolen away his brother’s child. Satisfied with my discovery, I determined to leave for England immediately, find out the dowager Lady de Clare, and put the whole case into the hands of Mr Masterton. Fortunately, Timothy had money with him sufficient to pay all expenses, and take us to London, or I should have been obliged to wait for remittances, as mine was all expended before I arrived at Dublin. We arrived safe, and I immediately proceeded to my house, where I found Harcourt, who had been in great anxiety about me. The next morning I went to my old legal friend, to whom I communicated all that had happened.
“Well done, Newland,” replied he, after I had finished. “I’ll bet ten to one that you find out your father. Your life already would not make a bad novel. If you continue your hair-breadth adventures in this way, it will be quite interesting.”
Although satisfied in my own mind that I had discovered Fleta’s parentage, and anxious to impart the joyful intelligence, I resolved not to see her until everything should be satisfactorily arranged. The residence of the dowager Lady de Clare was soon discovered by Mr Masterton; it was at Richmond, and thither he and I proceeded. We were ushered into the drawing-room, and, to my delight, upon her entrance, I perceived that it was the same beautiful person in whose ears I had seen the coral and gold ear-rings matching the necklace belonging to Fleta. I considered it better to allow Mr Masterton to break the subject.
“You are, madam, the widow of the late Sir William de Clare.” The lady bowed. “You will excuse me, madam, but I have most important reasons for asking you a few questions, which otherwise may appear to be intrusive. Are you aware of the death of his brother, Sir Henry de Clare?”
“Indeed I was not,” replied she. “I seldom look at a paper, and I have long ceased to correspond with any one in Ireland. May I ask you what occasioned his death?”
“He fell by his own hands, madam.”