“Either, sir, this must be some strange mistake, or you must be trifling with me,” replied his lordship; “for, sir, I was at his death-bed, and followed him to his grave.”
“Are you sure of that, sir?” replied I, starting up with amazement.
“I wish that I was not, sir—for I am now childless; but pray, sir, who, and what are you, who know so much of my former life, and who would have thus imposed upon me?”
“Imposed upon you, sir!” replied I, perceiving that I was in error. “Alas! I would do no such thing. Who am I? I am a young man who is in search of his father. Your face, and especially your nose, so resembled mine, that I made sure that I had succeeded. Pity me, sir—pity me,” continued I, covering up my face with my hands.
The bishop, perceiving that there was little of the impostor in my appearance, and that I was much affected, allowed a short time for me to recover myself, and then entered into an explanation. When a curate, he had had an only son, very wild, who would go to sea in spite of his remonstrances. He saw him depart by the Portsmouth coach, and gave him the sum mentioned. His son received a mortal wound in action, and was sent to the Plymouth hospital, where he died. I then entered into my explanation in a few concise sentences, and with a heart beating with disappointment, took my leave. The bishop shook hands with me as I quitted the room, and wished me better success at my next application.
I went home almost in despair. Timothy consoled me as well as he could, and advised me to go as much as possible into society, as the most likely chance of obtaining my wish, not that he considered there was any chance, but he thought that amusement would restore me to my usual spirits. “I will go and visit little Fleta,” replied I, “for a few days; the sight of her will do me more good than anything else.” And the next day I set off for the town of ——, where I found the dear little girl, much grown, and much improved. I remained with her for a week, walking with her in the country, amusing her, and amused myself with our conversation. At the close of the week I bade her farewell, and returned to the Major’s lodgings.
I was astonished to find him in deep mourning. “My dear Carbonnell,” said I, inquiringly, “I hope no severe loss?”
“Nay, my dear Newland, I should be a hypocrite if I said so; for there never was a more merry mourner, and that’s the truth of it. Mr M——, who, you know, stood between me and the peerage, has been drowned in the Rhone; I now have a squeak for it. His wife has one daughter, and is enceinte. Should the child prove a boy, I am done for, but if a girl, I must then come in to the barony, and fifteen thousand pounds per annum. However, I’ve hedged pretty handsomely.”
“How do you mean?”
“Why they say that when a woman commences with girls, she generally goes on, and the odds are two to one that Mrs M—— has a girl. I have taken the odds at the clubs to the amount of fifteen thousand pounds; so if it be a girl I shall have to pay that out of my fifteen thousand pounds per annum, as soon as I fall into it; if it be a boy, and I am floored, I shall pocket thirty thousand pounds by way of consolation for the disappointment. They are all good men.”