SPIRITUAL insanity, cupidity, cruelty, and possibly immediate demoniacal temptation had long been working in and on a mind that had now ceased almost to distinguish between the real and the unreal. Every man who bends the energies of an immortal spirit to further the ends and objects of his lower being, fails so to distinguish; but with the earl the blindness had wrought outward as well as inwardly, so that he was even unable, during considerable portions of his life, to tell whether things took place outside or inside him. Nor did this trouble him -- he was past caring. He would argue that what equally affected him had an equal right to be by him regarded as existent. He paid no heed to the different natures of the two kinds of existence, their different laws, and the different demands they made upon the two consciousnesses; he had in fact, by a long course of disobedience growing to utter disuse of conscience, arrived nearly at non-individuality. In regard to what was outside him he was but a mirror, in regard to what was inside him a mere vessel of imperfectly interacting forces. And now his capacities and incapacities together had culminated in a hideous plot, in which it would be hard to say whether the folly, the crime, or the cunning predominated: he had made up his mind that, if the daughter of his brother refused to wed her cousin, and so carry out what he asserted to have been the declared wish of her father, she should go after her father, and leave her property to the next heir, so that if not in one way then in another the law of nature might be fulfilled, and title and property united without the intervention of a marriage. As to any evil that therein might be imagined to befall his niece, he quoted the words of Hamlet -- |Since no man has ought of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes?| -- she would be no worse than she must have been when the few years of her natural pilgrimage were of necessity over: the difference to her was not worth thinking of beside the difference to the family! At the same time perhaps a scare might serve, and she would consent to marry Forgue to escape a frightful end!
The moment Donal was gone, he sent Forgue to London, and set himself to overcome the distrust of him which he could not but see had for some time been growing in her. With the sweet prejudices of a loving nature to assist him, he soon prevailed so far that, without much entreaty, she consented to accompany him to London -- for a month or so, he said, while Davie was gone. The proposal had charms for her: she had been there with her father when a mere child, and never since. She wrote to Donal to let him know: how it was that her letter never reached him, it is hardly needful to inquire.
The earl, in order, he said, to show his recognition of her sweet compliance, made arrangements for posting it all the way. He would take her by the road he used to travel himself when he was a young man: she should judge whether more had not been lost than gained by rapidity! Whatever shortened any natural process, he said, simply shortened life itself. Simmons should go before, and find a suitable place for them!
They were hardly gone when Mrs. Brookes received a letter pretendedly from the clergyman of the parish, in a remote part of the south, where her mother, now a very old woman, lived, saying she was at the point of death, and could not die in peace without seeing her daughter. She went at once.
The scheme was a madman's, excellently contrived for the instant object, but with no outlook for immediately resulting perils.
After the first night on the road, he turned across country, and a little towards home; after the next night, he drove straight back, but as it was by a different road, Arctura suspected nothing. When they came within a few hours of the castle, they stopped at a little inn for tea; there he contrived to give her a certain dose. At the next place where they stopped, he represented her as his daughter taken suddenly ill: he must go straight home with her, however late they might be. Giving an imaginary name to their destination, and keeping on the last post-boy who knew nothing of the country, he directed him so as completely to bewilder him, with the result that he set them down at the castle supposing it a different place, and in a different part of the country. The thing was after the earl's own heart; he delighted in making a fool of a fellow-mortal. He sent him away so as not to enter the town: it was of importance his return should not be known.
It is a marvel he could effect what followed; but he had the remnants of great strength, and when under influences he knew too well how to manage, was for the time almost as powerful as ever: he got his victim to his room on the stair, and thence through the oak door.