Of course I despatched a courier in my liveries to Castle Lyndon with a private letter for Runt, demanding from him full particulars of the Countess of Lyndon's state of health and mind; and a touching and eloquent letter to her Ladyship, in which I bade her remember ancient days, which I tied up with a single hair from the lock which I had purchased from her woman, and in which I told her that Sylvander remembered his oath, and could never forget his Calista. The answer I received from her was exceedingly unsatisfactory and inexplicit; that from Mr. Runt explicit enough, but not at all pleasant in its contents. My Lord George Poynings, the Marquess of Tiptoff's younger son, was paying very marked addresses to the widow; being a kinsman of the family, and having been called to Ireland relative to the will of the deceased Sir Charles Lyndon.
Now, there was a sort of rough-and-ready law in Ireland in those days, which was of great convenience to persons desirous of expeditious justice; and of which the newspapers of the time contain a hundred proofs. Fellows with the nicknames of Captain Fireball, Lieutenant Buffcoat, and Ensign Steele, were repeatedly sending warning letters to landlords, and murdering them if the notes were unattended to. The celebrated Captain Thunder ruled in the southern counties, and his business seemed to be to procure wives for gentlemen who had not sufficient means to please the parents of the young ladies; or, perhaps, had not time for a long and intricate courtship.
I had found my cousin Ulick at Dublin, grown very fat, and very poor; hunted up by Jews and creditors: dwelling in all sorts of queer corners, from which he issued at nightfall to the Castle, or to his card-party at his tavern; but he was always the courageous fellow: and I hinted to him the state of my affections regarding Lady Lyndon.
'The Countess of Lyndon!' said poor Ulick; 'well, that IS a wonder. I myself have been mightily sweet upon a young lady, one of the Kiljoys of Ballyhack, who has ten thousand pounds to her fortune, and to whom her Ladyship is guardian; but how is a poor fellow without a coat to his back to get on with an heiress in such company as that? I might as well propose for the Countess myself.'
'You had better not,' said I, laughing; 'the man who tries runs a chance of going out of the world first.' And I explained to him my own intention regarding Lady Lyndon. Honest Ulick, whose respect for me was prodigious when he saw how splendid my appearance was, and heard how wonderful my adventures and great my experience of fashionable life had been, was lost in admiration of my daring and energy, when I confided to him my intention of marrying the greatest heiress in England.
I bade Ulick go out of town on any pretext he chose, and put a letter into a post-office near Castle Lyndon, which I prepared in a feigned hand, and in which I gave a solemn warning to Lord George Poynings to quit the country; saying that the great prize was never meant for the likes of him, and that there were heiresses enough in England, without coming to rob them out of the domains of Captain Fireball. The letter was written on a dirty piece of paper, in the worst of spelling: it came to my Lord by the post-conveyance, and, being a high-spirited young man, he of course laughed at it.
As ill-luck would have it for him, he appeared in Dublin a very short time afterwards; was introduced to the Chevalier Redmond Barry, at the Lord Lieutenant's table; adjourned with him and several other gentlemen to the club at 'Daly's,' and there, in a dispute about the pedigree of a horse, in which everybody said I was in the right, words arose, and a meeting was the consequence. I had had no affair in Dublin since my arrival, and people were anxious to see whether I was equal to my reputation. I make no boast about these matters, but always do them when the time comes; and poor Lord George, who had a neat hand and a quick eye enough, but was bred in the clumsy English school, only stood before my point until I had determined where I should hit him.
My sword went in under his guard, and came out at his back. When he fell, he good-naturedly extended his hand to me, and said, 'Mr. Barry, I was wrong!' I felt not very well at ease when the poor fellow made this confession: for the dispute had been of my making, and, to tell the truth, I had never intended it should end in any other way than a meeting.
He lay on his bed for four months with the effects of that wound; and the same post which conveyed to Lady Lyndon the news of the duel, carried her a message from Captain Fireball to say, 'This is NUMBER ONE!'
'You, Ulick,' said I, 'shall be NUMBER TWO.'
''Faith,' said my cousin, 'one's enough:' But I had my plan regarding him, and determined at once to benefit this honest fellow, and to forward my own designs upon the widow.
CHAPTER XV. I PAY COURT TO MY LADY LYNDON
As my uncle's attainder was not reversed for being out with the Pretender in 1745, it would have been inconvenient for him to accompany his nephew to the land of our ancestors; where, if not hanging, at least a tedious process of imprisonment, and a doubtful pardon, would have awaited the good old gentleman. In any important crisis of my life, his advice was always of advantage to me, and I did not fail to seek it at this juncture, and to implore his counsel as regarded my pursuit of the widow. I told him the situation of her heart, as I have described it in the last chapter; of the progress that young Poynings had made in her affections, and of her forgetfulness of her old admirer; and I got a letter, in reply, full of excellent suggestions, by which I did not fail to profit. The kind Chevalier prefaced it by saying, that he was for the present boarding in the Minorite convent at Brussels; that he had thoughts of making his salut there, and retiring for ever from the world, devoting himself to the severest practices of religion. Meanwhile he wrote with regard to the lovely widow: it was natural that a person of her vast wealth and not disagreeable person should have many adorers about her; and that, as in her husband's lifetime she had shown herself not at all disinclined to receive my addresses, I must make no manner of doubt I was not the first person whom she had so favoured; nor was I likely to be the last.
'I would, my dear child,' he added, 'that the ugly attainder round my neck, and the resolution I have formed of retiring from a world of sin and vanity altogether, did not prevent me from coming personally to your aid in this delicate crisis of your affairs; for, to lead them to a good end, it requires not only the indomitable courage, swagger, and audacity, which you possess beyond any young man I have ever known' (as for the 'swagger,' as the Chevalier calls it, I deny it in toto, being always most modest in my demeanour); 'but though you have the vigour to execute, you have not the ingenuity to suggest plans of conduct for the following out of a scheme that is likely to be long and difficult of execution. Would you have ever thought of the brilliant scheme of the Countess Ida, which so nearly made you the greatest fortune in Europe, but for the advice and experience of a poor old man, now making up his accounts with the world, and about to retire from it for good and all?
'Well, with regard to the Countess of Lyndon, your manner of winning her is quite en l'air at present to me; nor can I advise day by day, as I would I could, according to circumstances as they arise. But your general scheme should be this. If I remember the letters you used to have from her during the period of the correspondence which the silly woman entertained you with, much high-flown sentiment passed between you; and especially was written by her Ladyship herself: she is a blue-stocking, and fond of writing; she used to make her griefs with her husband the continual theme of her correspondence (as women will do). I recollect several passages in her letters bitterly deploring her fate in being united to one so unworthy of her.
'Surely, in the mass of billets you possess from her, there must be enough to compromise her. Look them well over; select passages, and threaten to do so. Write to her at first in the undoubting tone of a lover who has every claim upon her. Then, if she is silent, remonstrate, alluding to former promises from her; producing proofs of her former regard for you; vowing despair, destruction, revenge, if she prove unfaithful. Frighten her—astonish her by some daring feat, which will let her see your indomitable resolution: you are the man to do it. Your sword has a reputation in Europe, and you have a character for boldness; which was the first thing that caused my Lady Lyndon to turn her eyes upon you. Make the people talk about you at Dublin. Be as splendid, and as brave, and as odd as possible. How I wish I were near you! You have no imagination to invent such a character as I would make for you—but why speak; have I not had enough of the world and its vanities?'
There was much practical good sense in this advice; which I quote, unaccompanied with the lengthened description of his mortifications and devotions which my uncle indulged in, finishing his letter, as usual, with earnest prayers for my conversion to the true faith. But he was constant to his form of worship; and I, as a man of honour and principle, was resolute to mine; and have no doubt that the one, in this respect, will be as acceptable as the other.
Under these directions it was, then, I wrote to Lady Lyndon, to ask on my arrival when the most respectful of her admirers might be permitted to intrude upon her grief? Then, as her Ladyship was silent, I demanded, Had she forgotten old times, and one whom she had favoured with her intimacy at a very happy period? Had Calista forgotten Eugenio? At the same time I sent down by my servant with this letter a present of a little sword for Lord Bullingdon, and a private note to his governor; whose note of hand, by the way, I possessed for a sum—I forget what—but such as the poor fellow would have been very unwilling to pay. To this an answer came from her Ladyship's amanuensis, stating that Lady Lyndon was too much disturbed by grief at her recent dreadful calamity to see any one but her own relations; and advices from my friend, the boy's governor, stating that my Lord George Poynings was the young kinsman who was about to console her.
This caused the quarrel between me and the young nobleman; whom I took care to challenge on his first arrival at Dublin.
When the news of the duel was brought to the widow at Castle Lyndon, my informant wrote me that Lady Lyndon shrieked and flung down the journal, and said, 'The horrible monster! He would not shrink from murder, I believe;' and little Lord Bullingdon, drawing his sword—the sword I had given him, the rascal!—declared he would kill with it the man who had hurt Cousin George. On Mr. Runt telling him that I was the donor of the weapon, the little rogue still vowed that he would kill me all the same! Indeed, in spite of my kindness to him, that boy always seemed to detest me.
Her Ladyship sent up daily couriers to inquire after the health of Lord George; and, thinking to myself that she would probably be induced to come to Dublin if she were to hear that he was in danger, I managed to have her informed that he was in a precarious state; that he grew worse; that Redmond Barry had fled in consequence: of this flight I caused the Mercury newspaper to give notice also, but indeed it did not carry me beyond the town of Bray, where my poor mother dwelt; and where, under the difficulties of a duel, I might be sure of having a welcome.
Those readers who have the sentiment of filial duty strong in their mind, will wonder that I have not yet described my interview with that kind mother whose sacrifices for me in youth had been so considerable, and for whom a man of my warm and affectionate nature could not but feel the most enduring and sincere regard.
But a man, moving in the exalted sphere of society in which I now stood, has his public duties to perform before he consults his private affections; and so, upon my first arrival, I despatched a messenger to Mrs. Barry, stating my arrival, conveying to her my sentiments of respect and duty, and promising to pay them to her personally so soon as my business in Dublin would leave me free.
This, I need not say, was very considerable. I had my horses to buy, my establishment to arrange, my entree into the genteel world to make; and, having announced my intention to purchase horses and live in a genteel style, was in a couple of days so pestered by visits of the nobility and gentry, and so hampered by invitations to dinners and suppers, that it became exceedingly difficult for me during some days to manage my anxiously desired visit to Mrs. Barry.
It appears that the good soul provided an entertainment as soon as she heard of my arrival, and invited all her humble acquaintances of Bray to be present: but I was engaged subsequently to my Lord Ballyragget on the day appointed, and was, of course, obliged to break the promise that I had made to Mrs. Barry to attend her humble festival.
I endeavoured to sweeten the disappointment by sending my mother a handsome satin sack and velvet robe, which I purchased for her at the best mercers in Dublin (and indeed told her I had brought from Paris expressly for her); but the messenger whom I despatched with the presents brought back the parcels, with the piece of satin torn half way up the middle: and I did not need his descriptions to be aware that something had offended the good lady; who came out, he said, and abused him at the door, and would have boxed his cars, but that she was restrained by a gentleman in black; who I concluded, with justice, was her clerical friend Mr. Jowls.
This reception of my presents made me rather dread than hope for an interview with Mrs. Barry, and delayed my visit to her for some days further. I wrote her a dutiful and soothing letter, to which there was no answer returned; although I mentioned that on my way to the capital I had been at Barryville, and revisited the old haunts of my youth.
I don't care to own that she is the only human being whom I am afraid to face. I can recollect her fits of anger as a child, and the reconciliations, which used to be still more violent and painful: and so, instead of going myself, I sent my factotum, Ulick Brady, to her; who rode back, saying that he had met with a reception he would not again undergo for twenty guineas; that he had been dismissed the house, with strict injunctions to inform me that my mother disowned me for ever. This parental anathema, as it were, affected me much, for I was always the most dutiful of sons; and I determined to go as soon as possible, and brave what I knew must be an inevitable scene of reproach and anger, for the sake, as I hoped, of as certain a reconciliation.
I had been giving one night an entertainment to some of the genteelest company in Dublin, and was showing my Lord Marquess downstairs with a pair of wax tapers, when I found a woman in a grey coat seated at my doorsteps: to whom, taking her for a beggar, I tendered a piece of money, and whom my noble friends, who were rather hot with wine, began to joke, as my door closed and I bade them all good-night.
I was rather surprised and affected to find afterwards that the hooded woman was no other than my mother; whose pride had made her vow that she would not enter my doors, but whose natural maternal yearnings had made her long to see her son's face once again, and who had thus planted herself in disguise at my gate. Indeed, I have found in my experience that these are the only women who never deceive a man, and whose affection remains constant through all trials. Think of the hours that the kind soul must have passed, lonely in the street, listening to the din and merriment within my apartments, the clinking of the glasses, the laughing, the choruses, and the cheering.
When my affair with Lord George happened, and it became necessary to me, for the reasons I have stated, to be out of the way; now, thought I, is the time to make my peace with my good mother: she will never refuse me an asylum now that I seem in distress. So sending to her a notice that I was coming, that I had had a duel which had brought me into trouble, and required I should go into hiding, I followed my messenger half-an-hour afterwards: and, I warrant me, there was no want of a good reception, for presently, being introduced into an empty room by the barefooted maid who waited upon Mrs. Barry, the door was opened, and the poor mother flung herself into my arms with a scream, and with transports of joy which I shall not attempt to describe—they are but to be comprehended by women who have held in their arms an only child after a twelve years' absence from him.
The Reverend Mr. Jowls, my mother's director, was the only person to whom the door of her habitation was opened during my sojourn; and he would take no denial. He mixed for himself a glass of rum-punch, which he seemed in the habit of drinking at my good mother's charge, groaned aloud, and forthwith began reading me a lecture upon the sinfulness of my past courses, and especially of the last horrible action I had been committing.
'Sinful!' said my mother, bristling up when her son was attacked; 'sure we're all sinners; and it's you, Mr. Jowls, who have given me the inexpressible blessing to let me know THAT. But how else would you have had the poor child behave?'
'I would have had the gentleman avoid the drink, and the quarrel, and this wicked duel altogether,' answered the clergyman.
But my mother cut him short, by saying such sort of conduct might be very well in a person of his cloth and his birth, but it neither became a Brady nor a Barry. In fact, she was quite delighted with the thought that I had pinked an English marquis's son in a duel; and so, to console her, I told her of a score more in which I had been engaged, and of some of which I have already informed the reader.
As my late antagonist was in no sort of danger when I spread that report of his perilous situation, there was no particular call that my hiding should be very close. But the widow did not know the fact as well as I did: and caused her house to be barricaded, and Becky, her barefooted serving-wench, to be a perpetual sentinel to give alarm, lest the officers should be in search of me.
The only person I expected, however, was my cousin Ulick, who was to bring me the welcome intelligence of Lady Lyndon's arrival; and I own, after two days' close confinement at Bray, in which I narrated all the adventures of my life to my mother, and succeeded in making her accept the dresses she had formerly refused, and a considerable addition to her income which I was glad to make, I was very glad when I saw that reprobate Ulick Brady, as my mother called him, ride up to the door in my carriage with the welcome intelligence for my mother, that the young lord was out of danger; and for me, that the Countess of Lyndon had arrived in Dublin.
'And I wish, Redmond, that the young gentleman had been in danger a little longer,' said the widow, her eyes filling with tears, 'and you'd have stayed so much the more with your poor old mother.' But I dried her tears, embracing her warmly, and promised to see her often; and hinted I would have, mayhap, a house of my own and a noble daughter to welcome her.
'Who is she, Redmond dear?' said the old lady.
'One of the noblest and richest women in the empire, mother,' answered I. 'No mere Brady this time,' I added, laughing: with which hopes I left Mrs. Barry in the best of tempers.
No man can bear less malice than I do; and, when I have once carried my point, I am one of the most placable creatures in the world. I was a week in Dublin before I thought it necessary to quit that capital. I had become quite reconciled to my rival in that time; made a point of calling at his lodgings, and speedily became an intimate consoler of his bed-side. He had a gentleman to whom I did not neglect to be civil, and towards whom I ordered my people to be particular in their attentions; for I was naturally anxious to learn what my Lord George's position with the lady of Castle Lyndon had really been, whether other suitors were about the widow, and how she would bear the news of his wound.
The young nobleman himself enlightened me somewhat upon the subjects I was most desirous to inquire into.
'Chevalier,' said he to me one morning when I went to pay him my compliments, 'I find you are an old acquaintance with my kinswoman, the Countess of Lyndon. She writes me a page of abuse of you in a letter here; and the strange part of the story is this, that one day when there was talk about you at Castle Lyndon, and the splendid equipage you were exhibiting in Dublin, the fair widow vowed and protested she never had heard of you.
'"Oh yes, mamma," said the little Bullingdon, "the tall dark man at Spa with the cast in his eye, who used to make my governor tipsy and sent me the sword: his name is Mr. Barry."
'But my Lady ordered the boy out of the room, and persisted in knowing nothing about you.'
'And are you a kinsman and acquaintance of my Lady Lyndon, my Lord?' said I, in a tone of grave surprise.
'Yes, indeed,' answered the young gentleman. 'I left her house but to get this ugly wound from you. And it came at a most unlucky time too.'
'Why more unlucky now than at another moment?'
'Why, look you, Chevalier, I think the widow was not unpartial to me. I think I might have induced her to make our connection a little closer: and faith, though she is older than I am, she is the richest party now in England.'
'My Lord George,' said I, 'will you let me ask you a frank but an odd question?—will you show me her letters?'
'Indeed I'll do no such thing,' replied he, in a rage.
'Nay, don't be angry. If I show you letters of Lady Lyndon's to me, will you let me see hers to you?'
'What, in Heaven's name, do you mean, Mr. Barry?' said the young gentleman.
'I mean that I passionately loved Lady Lyndon. I mean that I am a—that I rather was not indifferent to her. I mean that I love her to distraction at this present moment, and will die myself, or kill the man who possesses her before me.'
'YOU marry the greatest heiress and the noblest blood in England?' said Lord George haughtily.
'There's no nobler blood in Europe than mine,' answered I: 'and I tell you I don't know whether to hope or not. But this I know, that there were days in which, poor as I am, the great heiress did not disdain to look down upon my poverty: and that any man who marries her passes over my dead body to do it. It's lucky for you,' I added gloomily, 'that on the occasion of my engagement with you, I did not know what were your views regarding my Lady Lyndon. My poor boy, you are a lad of courage and I love you. Mine is the first sword in Europe, and you would have been lying in a narrower bed than that you now occupy.'
'Boy!' said Lord George: 'I am not four years younger than you are.'
'You are forty years younger than I am in experience. I have passed through every grade of life. With my own skill and daring I have made my own fortune. I have been in fourteen pitched battles as a private soldier, and have been twenty-three times on the ground, and never was touched but once; and that was by the sword of a French maitre-d'armes, Whom I killed. I started in life at seventeen, a beggar, and am now at seven-and-twenty, with twenty thousand guineas. Do you suppose a man of my courage and energy can't attain anything that he dares, and that having claims upon the widow, I will not press them?'
This speech was not exactly true to the letter (for I had multiplied my pitched battles, my duels, and my wealth somewhat); but I saw that it made the impression I desired to effect upon the young gentleman's mind, who listened to my statement with peculiar seriousness, and whom I presently left to digest it.
A couple of days afterwards I called to see him again, when I brought with me some of the letters that had passed between me and my Lady Lyndon. 'Here,' said I, 'look—I show it you in confidence—it is a lock of her Ladyship's hair; here are her letters signed Calista, and addressed to Eugenio. Here is a poem, "When Sol bedecks the mead with light, And pallid Cynthia sheds her ray," addressed by her Ladyship to your humble servant.'
'Calista! Eugenio! Sol bedecks the mead with light?' cried the young lord. 'Am I dreaming? Why, my dear Barry, the widow has sent me the very poem herself! "Rejoicing in the sunshine bright, Or musing in the evening grey."'
I could not help laughing as he made the quotation. They were, in fact, the very words MY Calista had addressed to me. And we found, upon comparing letters, that whole passages of eloquence figured in the one correspondence which appeared in the other. See what it is to be a blue-stocking and have a love of letter-writing!
The young man put down the papers in great perturbation. 'Well, thank Heaven!' said he, after a pause of some duration,—'thank Heaven for a good riddance! Ah, Mr. Barry, what a woman I MIGHT have married had these lucky papers not come in my way! I thought my Lady Lyndon had a heart, sir, I must confess, though not a very warm one; and that, at least, one could TRUST her. But marry her now! I would as lief send my servant into the street to get me a wife, as put up with such an Ephesian matron as that.'
'My Lord George,' said I, 'you little know the world. Remember what a bad husband Lady Lyndon had, and don't be astonished that she, on her side, should be indifferent. Nor has she, I will dare to wager, ever passed beyond the bounds of harmless gallantry, or sinned beyond the composing of a sonnet or a billet-doux.'
'My wife,' said the little lord, 'shall write no sonnets or billets-doux; and I'm heartily glad to think I have obtained, in good time, a knowledge of the heartless vixen with whom I thought myself for a moment in love.'
The wounded young nobleman was either, as I have said, very young and green in matters of the world—for to suppose that a man would give up forty thousand a year, because, forsooth, the lady connected with it had written a few sentimental letters to a young fellow, is too absurd—or, as I am inclined to believe, he was glad of an excuse to quit the field altogether, being by no means anxious to meet the victorious sword of Redmond Barry a second time.
When the idea of Poynings' danger, or the reproaches probably addressed by him to the widow regarding myself, had brought this exceedingly weak and feeble woman up to Dublin, as I expected, and my worthy Ulick had informed me of her arrival, I quitted my good mother, who was quite reconciled to me (indeed the duel had done that), and found the disconsolate Calista was in the habit of paying visits to the wounded swain; much to the annoyance, the servants told me, of that gentleman. The English are often absurdly high and haughty upon a point of punctilio; and, after his kinswoman's conduct, Lord Poynings swore he would have no more to do with her.
I had this information from his Lordship's gentleman; with whom, as I have said, I took particular care to be friends; nor was I denied admission by his porter, when I chose to call, as before.
Her Ladyship had most likely bribed that person, as I had; for she had found her way up, though denied admission; and, in fact, I had watched her from her own house to Lord George Poynings' lodgings, and seen her descend from her chair there and enter, before I myself followed her. I proposed to await her quietly in the ante-room, to make a scene there, and reproach her with infidelity, if necessary; but matters were, as it happened, arranged much more conveniently for me; and walking, unannounced, into the outer room of his Lordship's apartments, I had the felicity of hearing in the next chamber, of which the door was partially open, the voice of my Calista. She was in full cry, appealing to the poor patient, as he lay confined in his bed, and speaking in the most passionate manner. 'What can lead you, George,' she said, 'to doubt of my faith? How can you break my heart by casting me off in this monstrous manner? Do you wish to drive your poor Calista to the grave? Well, well, I shall join there the dear departed angel.'
'Who entered it three months since,' said Lord George, with a sneer. 'It's a wonder you have survived so long.'
'Don't treat your poor Calista in this cruel cruel manner, Antonio!' cried the widow.
'Bah!' said Lord George, 'my wound is bad. My doctors forbid me much talk. Suppose your Antonio tired, my dear. Can't you console yourself with somebody else?'
'Heavens, Lord George! Antonio!'
'Console yourself with Eugenio,' said the young nobleman bitterly, and began ringing his bell; on which his valet, who was in an inner room, came out, and he bade him show her Ladyship downstairs.
Lady Lyndon issued from the room in the greatest flurry. She was dressed in deep weeds, with a veil over her face, and did not recognise the person waiting in the outer apartment. As she went down the stairs, I stepped lightly after her, and as her chairman opened her door, sprang forward, and took her hand to place her in the vehicle. 'Dearest widow,' said I, 'his Lordship spoke correctly. Console yourself with Eugenio!' She was too frightened even to scream, as her chairman carried her away. She was set down at her house, and you may be sure that I was at the chair-door, as before, to help her out.
'Monstrous man!' said she, 'I desire you to leave me.'
'Madam, it would be against my oath,' replied I; 'recollect the vow Eugenio sent to Calista.'
'If you do not quit me, I will call for the domestics to turn you from the door.'
'What! when I am come with my Calista's letters in my pocket, to return them mayhap? You can soothe, madam, but you cannot frighten Redmond Barry.'
'What is it you would have of me, sir?' said the widow, rather agitated.
'Let me come upstairs, and I will tell you all,' I replied; and she condescended to give me her hand, and to permit me to lead her from her chair to her drawing-room.
When we were alone I opened my mind honourably to her.
'Dearest madam,' said I, 'do not let your cruelty drive a desperate slave to fatal measures. I adore you. In former days you allowed me to whisper my passion to you unrestrained; at present you drive me from your door, leave my letters unanswered, and prefer another to me. My flesh and blood cannot bear such treatment. Look upon the punishment I have been obliged to inflict; tremble at that which I may be compelled to administer to that unfortunate young man: so sure as he marries you, madam, he dies.'
'I do not recognise,' said the widow, 'the least right you have to give the law to the Countess of Lyndon: I do not in the least understand your threats, or heed them. What has passed between me and an Irish adventurer that should authorise this impertinent intrusion?'
'THESE have passed, madam,' said I,—'Calista's letters to Eugenio. They may have been very innocent; but will the world believe it? You may have only intended to play with the heart of the poor artless Irish gentleman who adored and confided in you. But who will believe the stories of your innocence, against the irrefragable testimony of your own handwriting? Who will believe that you could write these letters in the mere wantonness of coquetry, and not under the influence of affection?'
'Villain!' cried my Lady Lyndon, 'could you dare to construe out of those idle letters of mine any other meaning than that which they really bear?'
'I will construe anything out of them,' said I; 'such is the passion which animates me towards you. I have sworn it—you must and shall be mine! Did you ever know me promise to accomplish a thing and fail? Which will you prefer to have from me—a love such as woman never knew from man before, or a hatred to which there exists no parallel?'
'A woman of my rank, sir, can fear nothing from the hatred of an adventurer like yourself,' replied the lady, drawing up stately.
'Look at your Poynings—was HE of your rank? You are the cause of that young man's wound, madam; and, but that the instrument of your savage cruelty relented, would have been the author of his murder—yes, of his murder; for, if a wife is faithless, does not she arm the husband who punishes the seducer! And I look upon you, Honoria Lyndon, as my wife.'
'Husband? wife, sir!' cried the widow, quite astonished.
'Yes, wife! husband! I am not one of those poor souls with whom coquettes can play, and who may afterwards throw them aside. You would forget what passed between us at Spa: Calista would forget Eugenio; but I will not let you forget me. You thought to trifle with my heart, did you? When once moved, Honoria, it is moved for ever. I love you—love as passionately now as I did when my passion was hopeless; and, now that I can win you, do you think I will forego you? Cruel cruel Calista! you little know the power of your own charms if you think their effect is so easily obliterated—you little know the constancy of this pure and noble heart if you think that, having once loved, it can ever cease to adore you. No! I swear by your cruelty that I will revenge it; by your wonderful beauty that I will win it, and be worthy to win it. Lovely, fascinating, fickle, cruel woman! you shall be mine—I swear it! Your wealth may be great; but am I not of a generous nature enough to use it worthily? Your rank is lofty; but not so lofty as my ambition. You threw yourself away once on a cold and spiritless debauchee: give yourself now, Honoria, to a MAN; and one who, however lofty your rank may be, will enhance it and become it!'
As I poured words to this effect out on the astonished widow, I stood over her, and fascinated her with the glance of my eye; saw her turn red and pale with fear and wonder; saw that my praise of her charms and the exposition of my passion were not unwelcome to her, and witnessed with triumphant composure the mastery I was gaining over her. Terror, be sure of that, is not a bad ingredient of love. A man who wills fiercely to win the heart of a weak and vapourish woman MUST succeed, if he have opportunity enough.
'Terrible man!' said Lady Lyndon, shrinking from me as soon as I had done speaking (indeed, I was at a loss for words, and thinking of another speech to make to her)—'terrible man! leave me.'
I saw that I had made an impression on her, from those very words. 'If she lets me into the house to-morrow,' said I, 'she is mine.'
As I went downstairs I put ten guineas into the hand of the hall-porter, who looked quite astonished at such a gift.
'It is to repay you for the trouble of opening the door to me,' said I; 'you will have to do so often.'
CHAPTER XVI. I PROVIDE NOBLY FOR MY FAMILY
The next day when I went back, my fears were realised: the door was refused to me—my Lady was not at home. This I knew to be false: I had watched the door the whole morning from a lodging I took at a house opposite.
'Your lady is not out,' said I: 'she has denied me, and I can't, of course, force my way to her. But listen: you are an Englishman?' 'That I am,' said the fellow, with an air of the utmost superiority. 'Your honour could tell that by my HACCENT.'
I knew he was, and might therefore offer him a bribe. An Irish family servant in rags, and though his wages were never paid him, would probably fling the money in your face.
'Listen, then,' said I. 'Your lady's letters pass through your hands, don't they? A crown for every one that you bring me to read. There is a whisky-shop in the next street; bring them there when you go to drink, and call for me by the name of Dermot.'
'I recollect your honour at SPAR,' says the fellow, grinning: 'seven's the main, hey?' and being exceedingly proud of this reminiscence, I bade my inferior adieu.
I do not defend this practice of letter-opening in private life, except in cases of the most urgent necessity: when we must follow the examples of our betters, the statesmen of all Europe, and, for the sake of a great good, infringe a little matter of ceremony. My Lady Lyndon's letters were none the worse for being opened, and a great deal the better; the knowledge obtained from the perusal of some of her multifarious epistles enabling me to become intimate with her character in a hundred ways, and obtain a power over her by which I was not slow to profit. By the aid of the letters and of my English friend, whom I always regaled with the best of liquor, and satisfied with presents of money still more agreeable (I used to put on a livery in order to meet him, and a red wig, in which it was impossible to know the dashing and elegant Redmond Barry), I got such an insight into the widow's movements as astonished her. I knew beforehand to what public places she would go; they were, on account of her widowhood, but few: and wherever she appeared, at church or in the park, I was always ready to offer her her book, or to canter on horseback by the side of her chariot.
Many of her Ladyship's letters were the most whimsical rodomontades that ever blue-stocking penned. She was a woman who took up and threw off a greater number of dear friends than any one I ever knew. To some of these female darlings she began presently to write about my unworthy self, and it was with a sentiment of extreme satisfaction I found at length that the widow was growing dreadfully afraid of me; calling me her bete noire, her dark spirit, her murderous adorer, and a thousand other names indicative of her extreme disquietude and terror. It was: 'The wretch has been dogging my chariot through the park,' or, 'my fate pursued me at church,' and 'my inevitable adorer handed me out of my chair at the mercer's,' or what not. My wish was to increase this sentiment of awe in her bosom, and to make her believe that I was a person from whom escape was impossible.
To this end I bribed a fortune-teller, whom she consulted along with a number of the most foolish and distinguished people of Dublin, in those days; and who, although she went dressed like one of her waiting-women, did not fail to recognise her real rank, and to describe as her future husband her persevering adorer Redmond Barry, Esquire. This incident disturbed her very much. She wrote about it in terms of great wonder and terror to her female correspondents. 'Can this monster,' she wrote, 'indeed do as he boasts, and bend even Fate to his will?—can he make me marry him though I cordially detest him, and bring me a slave to his feet. The horrid look of his black serpent-like eyes fascinates and frightens me: it seems to follow me everywhere, and even when I close my own eyes, the dreadful gaze penetrates the lids, and is still upon me.'
When a woman begins to talk of a man in this way, he is an ass who does not win her; and, for my part, I used to follow her about, and put myself in an attitude opposite her, 'and fascinate her with my glance,' as she said, most assiduously. Lord George Poynings, her former admirer, was meanwhile keeping his room with his wound, and seemed determined to give up all claims to her favour; for he denied her admittance when she called, sent no answer to her multiplied correspondence, and contented himself by saying generally, that the surgeon had forbidden him to receive visitors or to answer letters. Thus, while he went into the background, I came forward, and took good care that no other rivals should present themselves with any chance of success; for, as soon as I heard of one, I had a quarrel fastened on him, and, in this way, pinked two more, besides my first victim Lord George. I always took another pretext for quarrelling with them than the real one of attention to Lady Lyndon, so that no scandal or hurt to her Ladyship's feelings might arise in consequence; but she very well knew what was the meaning of these duels; and the young fellows of Dublin, too, by laying two and two together, began to perceive that there was a certain dragon in watch for the wealthy heiress, and that the dragon must be subdued first before they could get at the lady. I warrant that, after the first three, not many champions were found to address the lady; and have often laughed (in my sleeve) to see many of the young Dublin beaux riding by the side of her carriage scamper off as soon as my bay-mare and green liveries made their appearance.
I wanted to impress her with some great and awful instance of my power, and to this end had determined to confer a great benefit upon my honest cousin Ulick, and carry off for him the fair object of his affections, Miss Kiljoy, under the very eyes of her guardian and friend, Lady Lyndon; and in the teeth of the squires, the young lady's brothers, who passed the season at Dublin, and made as much swagger and to-do about their sister's L10,000 Irish, as if she had had a plum to her fortune. The girl was by no means averse to Mr. Brady; and it only shows how faint-spirited some men are, and how a superior genius can instantly overcome difficulties which to common minds seem insuperable, that he never had thought of running off with her: as I at once and boldly did. Miss Kiljoy had been a ward in Chancery until she attained her majority (before which period it would have been a dangerous matter for me to put in execution the scheme I meditated concerning her); but, though now free to marry whom she liked, she was a young lady of timid disposition, and as much under fear of her brothers and relatives as though she had not been independent of them. They had some friend of their own in view for the young lady, and had scornfully rejected the proposal of Ulick Brady, the ruined gentleman; who was quite unworthy, as these rustic bucks thought, of the hand of such a prodigiously wealthy heiress as their sister.
Finding herself lonely in her great house in Dublin, the Countess of Lyndon invited her friend Miss Amelia to pass the season with her at Dublin; and, in a fit of maternal fondness, also sent for her son the little Bullingdon, and my old acquaintance his governor, to come to the capital and bear her company. A family coach brought the boy, the heiress, and the tutor from Castle Lyndon; and I determined to take the first opportunity of putting my plan in execution.
For this chance I had not very long to wait. I have said, in a former chapter of my biography, that the kingdom of Ireland was at this period ravaged by various parties of banditti; who, under the name of Whiteboys, Oakboys, Steelboys, with captains at their head, killed proctors, fired stacks, houghed and maimed cattle, and took the law into their own hands. One of these bands, or several of them for what I know, was commanded by a mysterious personage called Captain Thunder; whose business seemed to be that of marrying people with or without their own consent, or that of their parents. The Dublin Gazettes and Mercuries of that period (the year 1772) teem with proclamations from the Lord Lieutenant, offering rewards for the apprehension of this dreadful Captain Thunder and his gang, and describing at length various exploits of the savage aide-de-camp of Hymen. I determined to make use, if not of the services, at any rate of the name of Captain Thunder, and put my cousin Ulick in possession of his lady and her ten thousand pounds. She was no great beauty, and, I presume, it was the money he loved rather than the owner of it.
On account of her widowhood, Lady Lyndon could not as yet frequent the balls and routs which the hospitable nobility of Dublin were in the custom of giving; but her friend Miss Kiljoy had no such cause for retirement, and was glad to attend any parties to which she might be invited. I made Ulick Brady a present of a couple of handsome suits of velvet, and by my influence procured him an invitation to many of the most elegant of these assemblies. But he had not had my advantages or experience of the manners of Court; was as shy with ladies as a young colt, and could no more dance a minuet than a donkey. He made very little way in the polite world or in his mistress's heart: in fact, I could see that she preferred several other young gentlemen to him, who were more at home in the ball-room than poor Ulick; he had made his first impression upon the heiress, and felt his first flame for her, in her father's house of Ballykiljoy, where he used to hunt and get drunk with the old gentleman.
'I could do THIM two well enough, anyhow,' Ulick would say, heaving a sigh; 'and if it's drinking or riding across country would do it, there's no man in Ireland would have a better chance with Amalia.'
'Never fear, Ulick,' was my reply; 'you shall have your Amalia, or my name is not Redmond Barry.'
My Lord Charlemont—who was one of the most elegant and accomplished noblemen in Ireland in those days, a fine scholar and wit, a gentleman who had travelled much abroad, where I had the honour of knowing him—gave a magnificent masquerade at his house of Marino, some few miles from Dublin, on the Dunleary road. And it was at this entertainment that I was determined that Ulick should be made happy for life. Miss Kiljoy was invited to the masquerade, and the little Lord Bullingdon, who longed to witness such a scene; and it was agreed that he was to go under the guardianship of his governor, my old friend the Reverend Mr. Runt. I learned what was the equipage in which the party were to be conveyed to the ball, and took my measures accordingly.
Ulick Brady was not present: his fortune and quality were not sufficient to procure him an invitation to so distinguished a place, and I had it given out three days previous that he had been arrested for debt: a rumour which surprised nobody who knew him.
I appeared that night in a character with which I was very familiar, that of a private soldier in the King of Prussia's guard. I had a grotesque mask made, with an immense nose and moustaches, talked a jumble of broken English and German, in which the latter greatly predominated; and had crowds round me laughing at my droll accent, and whose curiosity was increased by a knowledge of my previous history. Miss Kiljoy was attired as an antique princess, with little Bullingdon as a page of the times of chivalry; his hair was in powder, his doublet rose-colour, and pea-green and silver, and he looked very handsome and saucy as he strutted about with my sword by his side. As for Mr. Runt, he walked about very demurely in a domino, and perpetually paid his respects to the buffet, and ate enough cold chicken and drank enough punch and champagne to satisfy a company of grenadiers.
The Lord Lieutenant came and went in state-the ball was magnificent. Miss Kiljoy had partners in plenty, among whom was myself, who walked a minuet with her (if the clumsy waddling of the Irish heiress may be called by such a name); and I took occasion to plead my passion for Lady Lyndon in the most pathetic terms, and to beg her friend's interference in my favour.
It was three hours past midnight when the party for Lyndon House went away. Little Bullingdon had long since been asleep in one of Lady Charlemont's china closets. Mr. Runt was exceedingly husky in talk, and unsteady in gait. A young lady of the present day would be alarmed to see a gentleman in such a condition; but it was a common sight in those jolly old times, when a gentleman was thought a milksop unless he was occasionally tipsy. I saw Miss Kiljoy to her carriage, with several other gentlemen: and, peering through the crowd of ragged linkboys, drivers, beggars, drunken men and women, who used invariably to wait round great men's doors when festivities were going on, saw the carriage drive off, with a hurrah from the mob; then came back presently to the supper-room, where I talked German, favoured the three or four topers still there with a High-Dutch chorus, and attacked the dishes and wine with great resolution.
'How can you drink aisy with that big nose on?' said one gentleman.
'Go an be hangt!' said I, in the true accent, applying myself again to the wine; with which the others laughed, and I pursued my supper in silence.
There was a gentleman present who had seen the Lyndon party go off, with whom I had made a bet, which I lost; and the next morning I called upon him and paid it him. All which particulars the reader will be surprised at hearing enumerated; but the fact is, that it was not I who went back to the party, but my late German valet, who was of my size, and, dressed in my mask, could perfectly pass for me. We changed clothes in a hackney-coach that stood near Lady Lyndon's chariot, and driving after it, speedily overtook it.
The fated vehicle which bore the lovely object of Ulick Brady's affections had not advanced very far, when, in the midst of a deep rut in the road, it came suddenly to with a jolt; the footman, springing off the back, cried 'Stop!' to the coachman, warning him that a wheel was off, and that it would be dangerous to proceed with only three. Wheel-caps had not been invented in those days, as they have since been by the ingenious builders of Long Acre. And how the linch-pin of the wheel had come out I do not pretend to say; but it possibly may have been extracted by some rogues among the crowd before Lord Charlemont's gate.
Miss Kiljoy thrust her head out of the window, screaming as ladies do; Mr. Runt the chaplain woke up from his boozy slumbers; and little Bullingdon, starting up and drawing his little sword, said, 'Don't be afraid, Miss Amelia: if it's footpads, I am armed.' The young rascal had the spirit of a lion, that's the truth; as I must acknowledge, in spite of all my after quarrels with him.
The hackney-coach which had been following Lady Lyndon's chariot by this time came up, and the coachman seeing the disaster, stepped down from his box, and politely requested her Ladyship's honour to enter his vehicle; which was as clean and elegant as any person of tiptop quality might desire. This invitation was, after a minute or two, accepted by the passengers of the chariot: the hackney-coachman promising to drive them to Dublin 'in a hurry.' Thady, the valet, proposed to accompany his young master and the young lady; and the coachman, who had a friend seemingly drunk by his side on the box, with a grin told Thady to get up behind. However, as the footboard there was covered with spikes, as a defence against the street-boys, who love a ride gratis, Thady's fidelity would not induce him to brave these; and he was persuaded to remain by the wounded chariot, for which he and the coachman manufactured a linch-pin out of a neighbouring hedge.
Meanwhile, although the hackney-coachman drove on rapidly, yet the party within seemed to consider it was a long distance from Dublin; and what was Miss Kiljoy's astonishment, on looking out of the window at length, to see around her a lonely heath, with no signs of buildings or city. She began forthwith to scream out to the coachman to stop; but the man only whipped the horses the faster for her noise, and bade her Ladyship 'hould on—'twas a short cut he was taking.'
Miss Kiljoy continued screaming, the coachman flogging, the horses galloping, until two or three men appeared suddenly from a hedge, to whom the fair one cried for assistance; and the young Bullingdon opening the coach-door, jumped valiantly out, toppling over head and heels as he fell; but jumping up in an instant, he drew his little sword, and, running towards the carriage, exclaimed, 'This way, gentlemen! stop the rascal!'
'Stop!' cried the men; at which the coachman pulled up with extraordinary obedience. Runt all the while lay tipsy in the carriage, having only a dreamy half-consciousness of all that was going on.
The newly arrived champions of female distress now held a consultation, in which they looked at the young lord and laughed considerably.
'Do not be alarmed,' said the leader, coming up to the door; 'one of my people shall mount the box by the side of that treacherous rascal, and, with your Ladyship's leave, I and my companions will get in and see you home. We are well armed, and can defend you in case of danger.'
With this, and without more ado, he jumped into the carriage, his companion following him.
'Know your place, fellow!' cried out little Bullingdon indignantly: 'and give place to the Lord Viscount Bullingdon!' and put himself before the huge person of the new-comer, who was about to enter the hackney-coach.
'Get out of that, my Lord,' said the man, in a broad brogue, and shoving him aside. On which the boy, crying 'Thieves! thieves!' drew out his little hanger, and ran at the man, and would have wounded him (for a small sword will wound as well as a great one); but his opponent, who was armed with a long stick, struck the weapon luckily out of the lad's hands: it went flying over his head, and left him aghast and mortified at his discomfiture.
He then pulled off his hat, making his Lordship a low bow, and entered the carriage; the door of which was shut upon him by his confederate, who was to mount the box. Miss Kiljoy might have screamed; but I presume her shrieks were stopped by the sight of an enormous horse-pistol which one of her champions produced, who said, 'No harm is intended you, ma'am, but if you cry out, we must gag you;' on which she suddenly became as mute as a fish.
All these events took place in an exceedingly short space of time; and when the three invaders had taken possession of the carriage, the poor little Bullingdon being left bewildered and astonished on the heath, one of them putting his head out of the window, said,—
'My Lord, a word with you.'
'What is it?' said the boy, beginning to whimper: he was but eleven years old, and his courage had been excellent hitherto.
'You are only two miles from Marino. Walk back till you come to a big stone, there turn to the right, and keep on straight till you get to the high-road, when you will easily find your way back. And when you see her Ladyship your mamma, give CAPTAIN THUNDER'S compliments, and say Miss Amelia Kiljoy is going to be married.'
'O heavens!' sighed out that young lady.
The carriage drove swiftly on, and the poor little nobleman was left alone on the heath, just as the morning began to break. He was fairly frightened; and no wonder. He thought of running after the coach; but his courage and his little legs failed him: so he sat down upon a stone and cried for vexation.
It was in this way that Ulick Brady made what I call a Sabine marriage. When he halted with his two groomsmen at the cottage where the ceremony was to be performed, Mr. Runt, the chaplain, at first declined to perform it. But a pistol was held at the head of that unfortunate preceptor, and he was told, with dreadful oaths, that his miserable brains would be blown out; when he consented to read the service. The lovely Amelia had, very likely, a similar inducement held out to her, but of that I know nothing; for I drove back to town with the coachman as soon as we had set the bridal party down, and had the satisfaction of finding Fritz, my German, arrived before me: he had come back in my carriage in my dress, having left the masquerade undiscovered, and done everything there according to my orders.
Poor Runt came back the next day in a piteous plight, keeping silence as to his share in the occurrences of the evening, and with a dismal story of having been drunk, of having been waylaid and bound, of having been left on the road and picked up by a Wicklow cart, which was coming in with provisions to Dublin, and found him helpless on the road. There was no possible means of fixing any share of the conspiracy upon him. Little Bullingdon, who, too, found his way home, was unable in any way to identify me. But Lady Lyndon knew that I was concerned in the plot, for I met her hurrying the next day to the Castle; all the town being up about the enlevement. And I saluted her with a smile so diabolical, that I knew she was aware that I had been concerned in the daring and ingenious scheme.
Thus it was that I repaid Ulick Brady's kindness to me in early days; and had the satisfaction of restoring the fallen fortunes of a deserving branch of my family. He took his bride into Wicklow, where he lived with her in the strictest seclusion until the affair was blown over; the Kiljoys striving everywhere in vain to discover his retreat. They did not for a while even know who was the lucky man who had carried off the heiress; nor was it until she wrote a letter some weeks afterwards, signed Amelia Brady, and expressing perfect happiness in her new condition, and stating that she had been married by Lady Lyndon's chaplain Mr. Runt, that the truth was known, and my worthy friend confessed his share of the transaction. As his good-natured mistress did not dismiss him from his post in consequence, everybody persisted in supposing that poor Lady Lyndon was privy to the plot; and the story of her Ladyship's passionate attachment for me gained more and more credit.
I was not slow, you may be sure, in profiting by these rumours. Every one thought I had a share in the Brady marriage; though no one could prove it. Every one thought I was well with the widowed Countess; though no one could show that I said so. But there is a way of proving a thing even while you contradict it, and I used to laugh and joke so apropos that all men began to wish me joy of my great fortune, and look up to me as the affianced husband of the greatest heiress in the kingdom. The papers took up the matter; the female friends of Lady Lyndon remonstrated with her and cried 'Fie!' Even the English journals and magazines, which in those days were very scandalous, talked of the matter; and whispered that a beautiful and accomplished widow, with a title and the largest possessions in the two kingdoms, was about to bestow her hand upon a young gentleman of high birth and fashion, who had distinguished himself in the service of His M——-y the K—- of Pr——. I won't say who was the author of these paragraphs; or how two pictures, one representing myself under the title of 'The Prussian Irishman,' and the other Lady Lyndon as 'The Countess of Ephesus,' actually appeared in the Town and Country Magazine, published at London, and containing the fashionable tittle-tattle of the day.
Lady Lyndon was so perplexed and terrified by this continual hold upon her, that she determined to leave the country. Well, she did; and who was the first to receive her on landing at Holyhead? Your humble servant, Redmond Barry, Esquire. And, to crown all, the Dublin Mercury, which announced her Ladyship's departure, announced mine THE DAY BEFORE. There was not a soul but thought she had followed me to England; whereas she was only flying me. Vain hope!—a man of my resolution was not thus to be balked in pursuit. Had she fled to the antipodes, I would have been there: ay, and would have followed her as far as Orpheus did Eurydice!
Her Ladyship had a house in Berkeley Square, London, more splendid than that which she possessed in Dublin; and, knowing that she would come thither, I preceded her to the English capital, and took handsome apartments in Hill Street, hard by. I had the same intelligence in her London house which I had procured in Dublin. The same faithful porter was there to give me all the information I required. I promised to treble his wages as soon as a certain event should happen. I won over Lady Lyndon's companion by a present of a hundred guineas down, and a promise of two thousand when I should be married, and gained the favours of her favourite lady's-maid by a bribe of similar magnitude. My reputation had so far preceded me in London that, on my arrival, numbers of the genteel were eager to receive me at their routs. We have no idea in this humdrum age what a gay and splendid place London was then: what a passion for play there was among young and old, male and female; what thousands were lost and won in a night; what beauties there were—how brilliant, gay, and dashing! Everybody was delightfully wicked: the Royal Dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland set the example; the nobles followed close behind. Running away was the fashion. Ah! it was a pleasant time; and lucky was he who had fire, and youth, and money, and could live in it! I had all these; and the old frequenters of 'White's,' 'Wattier's,' and 'Goosetree's' could tell stories of the gallantry, spirit, and high fashion of Captain Barry.
The progress of a love-story is tedious to all those who are not concerned, and I leave such themes to the hack novel-writers, and the young boarding-school misses for whom they write. It is not my intention to follow, step by step, the incidents of my courtship, or to narrate all the difficulties I had to contend with, and my triumphant manner of surmounting them. Suffice it to say, I DID overcome these difficulties. I am of opinion, with my friend the late ingenious Mr. Wilkes, that such impediments are nothing in the way of a man of spirit; and that he can convert indifference and aversion into love, if he have perseverance and cleverness sufficient. By the time the Countess's widowhood was expired, I had found means to be received into her house; I had her women perpetually talking in my favour, vaunting my powers, expatiating upon my reputation, and boasting of my success and popularity in the fashionable world.
Also, the best friends I had in the prosecution of my tender suit were the Countess's noble relatives; who were far from knowing the service that they did me, and to whom I beg leave to tender my heartfelt thanks for the abuse with which they then loaded me! and to whom I fling my utter contempt for the calumny and hatred with which they have subsequently pursued me.
The chief of these amiable persons was the Marchioness of Tiptoff, mother of the young gentleman whose audacity I had punished at Dublin. This old harridan, on the Countess's first arrival in London, waited upon her, and favoured her with such a storm of abuse for her encouragement of me, that I do believe she advanced my cause more than six months' courtship could have done, or the pinking of a half-dozen of rivals. It was in vain that poor Lady Lyndon pleaded her entire innocence and vowed she had never encouraged me. 'Never encouraged him!' screamed out the old fury; 'didn't you encourage the wretch at Spa, during Sir Charles's own life? Didn't you marry a dependant of yours to one of this profligate's bankrupt cousins? When he set off for England, didn't you follow him like a mad woman the very next day? Didn't he take lodgings at your very door almost—and do you call this no encouragement? For shame, madam, shame! You might have married my son—my dear and noble George; but that he did not choose to interfere with your shameful passion for the beggarly upstart whom you caused to assassinate him; and the only counsel I have to give your Ladyship is this, to legitimatise the ties which you have contracted with this shameless adventurer; to make that connection legal which, real as it is now, is against both decency and religion; and to spare your family and your son the shame of your present line of life.'
With this the old fury of a marchioness left the room, and Lady Lyndon in tears: I had the whole particulars of the conversation from her Ladyship's companion, and augured the best result from it in my favour.
Thus, by the sage influence of my Lady Tiptoff, the Countess of Lyndon's natural friends and family were kept from her society. Even when Lady Lyndon went to Court the most august lady in the realm received her with such marked coldness, that the unfortunate widow came home and took to her bed with vexation. And thus I may say that Royalty itself became an agent in advancing my suit, and helping the plans of the poor Irish soldier of fortune. So it is that Fate works with agents, great and small; and by means over which they have no control the destinies of men and women are accomplished.
I shall always consider the conduct of Mrs. Bridget (Lady Lyndon's favourite maid at this juncture) as a masterpiece of ingenuity: and, indeed, had such an opinion of her diplomatic skill, that the very instant I became master of the Lyndon estates, and paid her the promised sum—I am a man of honour, and rather than not keep my word with the woman, I raised the money of the Jews, at an exorbitant interest—as soon, I say, as I achieved my triumph, I took Mrs. Bridget by the hand, and said, "Madam, you have shown such unexampled fidelity in my service that I am glad to reward you, according to my promise; but you have given proofs of such extraordinary cleverness and dissimulation, that I must decline keeping you in Lady Lyndon's establishment, and beg you will leave it this very day:" which she did, and went over to the Tiptoff faction, and has abused me ever since.
But I must tell you what she did which was so clever. Why, it was the simplest thing in the world, as all master-strokes are. When Lady Lyndon lamented her fate and my—as she was pleased to call it—shameful treatment of her, Mrs. Bridget said, 'Why should not your Ladyship write this young gentleman word of the evil which he is causing you? Appeal to his feelings (which, I have heard say, are very good indeed—the whole town is ringing with accounts of his spirit and generosity), and beg him to desist from a pursuit which causes the best of ladies so much pain? Do, my Lady, write: I know your style is so elegant that I, for my part, have many a time burst into tears in reading your charming letters, and I have no doubt Mr. Barry will sacrifice anything rather than hurt your feelings.' And, of course, the abigail swore to the fact.
'Do you think so, Bridget?' said her Ladyship. And my mistress forthwith penned me a letter, in her most fascinating and winning manner:—'Why, sir,' wrote she, 'will you pursue me? why environ me in a web of intrigue so frightful that my spirit sinks under it, seeing escape is hopeless from your frightful, your diabolical art? They say you are generous to others—be so to me. I know your bravery but too well: exercise it on men who can meet your sword, not on a poor feeble woman, who cannot resist you. Remember the friendship you once professed for me. And now, I beseech you, I implore you, to give a proof of it. Contradict the calumnies which you have spread against me, and repair, if you can, and if you have a spark of honour left, the miseries which you have caused to the heart-broken
What was this letter meant for but that I should answer it in person? My excellent ally told me where I should meet Lady Lyndon, and accordingly I followed, and found her at the Pantheon. I repeated the scene at Dublin over again; showed her how prodigious my power was, humble as I was, and that my energy was still untired. 'But,' I added, 'I am as great in good as I am in evil; as fond and faithful as a friend as I am terrible as an enemy. I will do everything,' I said, 'which you ask of me, except when you bid me not to love you. That is beyond my power; and while my heart has a pulse I must follow you. It is MY fate; your fate. Cease to battle against it, and be mine. Loveliest of your sex! with life alone can end my passion for you; and, indeed, it is only by dying at your command that I can be brought to obey you. Do you wish me to die?'
She said, laughing (for she was a woman of a lively, humorous turn), that she did not wish me to commit self-murder; and I felt from that moment that she was mine.
A year from that day, on the 15th of May, in the year 1773, I had the honour and happiness to lead to the altar Honoria, Countess of Lyndon, widow of the late Right Honourable Sir Charles Lyndon, K.B. The ceremony was performed at St. George's, Hanover Square, by the Reverend Samuel Runt, her Ladyship's chaplain. A magnificent supper and ball was given at our house in Berkeley Square, and the next morning I had a duke, four earls, three generals, and a crowd of the most distinguished people in London at my LEVEE. Walpole made a lampoon about the marriage, and Selwyn cut jokes at the 'Cocoa-Tree.' Old Lady Tiptoff, although she had recommended it, was ready to bite off her fingers with vexation; and as for young Bullingdon, who was grown a tall lad of fourteen, when called upon by the Countess to embrace his papa, he shook his fist in my face and said, 'HE my father! I would as soon call one of your Ladyship's footmen Papa!'
But I could afford to laugh at the rage of the boy and the old woman, and at the jokes of the wits of St. James's. I sent off a flaming account of our nuptials to my mother and my uncle the good Chevalier; and now, arrived at the pitch of prosperity, and having, at thirty years of age, by my own merits and energy, raised myself to one of the highest social positions that any man in England could occupy, I determined to enjoy myself as became a man of quality for the remainder of my life.
After we had received the congratulations of our friends in London—for in those days people were not ashamed of being married, as they seem to be now—I and Honoria (who was all complacency, and a most handsome, sprightly, and agreeable companion) set off to visit our estates in the West of England, where I had never as yet set foot. We left London in three chariots, each with four horses; and my uncle would have been pleased could he have seen painted on their panels the Irish crown and the ancient coat of the Barrys beside the Countess's coronet and the noble cognisance of the noble family of Lyndon.
Before quitting London, I procured His Majesty's gracious permission to add the name of my lovely lady to my own; and henceforward assumed the style and title of BARRY LYNDON, as I have written it in this autobiography.
CHAPTER XVII. I APPEAR AS AN ORNAMENT OF ENGLISH SOCIETY
All the journey down to Hackton Castle, the largest and most ancient of our ancestral seats in Devonshire, was performed with the slow and sober state becoming people of the first quality in the realm. An outrider in my livery went on before us, and bespoke our lodging from town to town; and thus we lay in state at Andover, Ilminster, and Exeter; and the fourth evening arrived in time for supper before the antique baronial mansion, of which the gate was in an odious Gothic taste that would have set Mr. Walpole wild with pleasure.
The first days of a marriage are commonly very trying; and I have known couples, who lived together like turtle-doves for the rest of their lives, peck each other's eyes out almost during the honeymoon. I did not escape the common lot; in our journey westward my Lady Lyndon chose to quarrel with me because I pulled out a pipe of tobacco (the habit of smoking which I had acquired in Germany when a soldier in Billow's, and could never give it over), and smoked it in the carriage; and also her Ladyship chose to take umbrage both at Ilminster and Andover, because in the evenings when we lay there I chose to invite the landlords of the 'Bell' and the 'Lion' to crack a bottle with me. Lady Lyndon was a haughty woman, and I hate pride; and I promise you that in both instances I overcame this vice in her. On the third day of our journey I had her to light my pipematch with her own hands, and made her deliver it to me with tears in her eyes; and at the 'Swan Inn' at Exeter I had so completely subdued her, that she asked me humbly whether I would not wish the landlady as well as the host to step up to dinner with us. To this I should have had no objection, for, indeed, Mrs. Bonnyface was a very good-looking woman; but we expected a visit from my Lord Bishop, a kinsman of Lady Lyndon, and the BIENSEANCES did not permit the indulgence of my wife's request. I appeared with her at evening service, to compliment our right reverend cousin, and put her name down for twenty-five guineas, and my own for one hundred, to the famous new organ which was then being built for the cathedral. This conduct, at the very outset of my career in the county, made me not a little popular; and the residentiary canon, who did me the favour to sup with me at the inn, went away after the sixth bottle, hiccuping the most solemn vows for the welfare of such a p-p-pious gentleman.
Before we reached Hackton Castle, we had to drive through ten miles of the Lyndon estates, where the people were out to visit us, the church bells set a-ringing, the parson and the farmers assembled in their best by the roadside, and the school children and the labouring people were loud in their hurrahs for her Ladyship. I flung money among these worthy characters, stopped to bow and chat with his reverence and the farmers, and if I found that the Devonshire girls were among the handsomest in the kingdom is it my fault? These remarks my Lady Lyndon especially would take in great dudgeon; and I do believe she was made more angry by my admiration of the red cheeks of Miss Betsy Quarringdon of Clumpton, than by any previous speech or act of mine in the journey. 'Ah, ah, my fine madam, you are jealous, are you?' thought I, and reflected, not without deep sorrow, how lightly she herself had acted in her husband's lifetime, and that those are most jealous who themselves give most cause for jealousy.
Round Hackton village the scene of welcome was particularly gay: a band of music had been brought from Plymouth, and arches and flags had been raised, especially before the attorney's and the doctor's houses, who were both in the employ of the family. There were many hundreds of stout people at the great lodge, which, with the park-wall, bounds one side of Hackton Green, and from which, for three miles, goes (or rather went) an avenue of noble elms up to the towers of the old castle. I wished they had been oak when I cut the trees down in '79, for they would have fetched three times the money: I know nothing more culpable than the carelessness of ancestors in planting their grounds with timber of small value, when they might just as easily raise oak. Thus I have always said that the Roundhead Lyndon of Hackton, who planted these elms in Charles II.'s time, cheated me of ten thousand pounds.
For the first few days after our arrival, my time was agreeably spent in receiving the visits of the nobility and gentry who came to pay their respects to the noble new-married couple, and, like Bluebeard's wife in the fairy tale, in inspecting the treasures, the furniture, and the numerous chambers of the castle. It is a huge old place, built as far back as Henry V.'s time, besieged and battered by the Cromwellians in the Revolution, and altered and patched up, in an odious old-fashioned taste, by the Roundhead Lyndon, who succeeded to the property at the death of a brother whose principles were excellent and of the true Cavalier sort, but who ruined himself chiefly by drinking, dicing, and a dissolute life, and a little by supporting the King. The castle stands in a fine chase, which was prettily speckled over with deer; and I can't but own that my pleasure was considerable at first, as I sat in the oak parlour of summer evenings, with the windows open, the gold and silver plate shining in a hundred dazzling colours on the side-boards, a dozen jolly companions round the table, and could look out over the wide green park and the waving woods, and see the sun setting on the lake, and hear the deer calling to one another.
The exterior was, when I first arrived, a quaint composition of all sorts of architecture; of feudal towers, and gable-ends in Queen Bess's style, and rough-patched walls built up to repair the ravages of the Roundhead cannon: but I need not speak of this at large, having had the place new-faced at a vast expense, under a fashionable architect, and the facade laid out in the latest French-Greek and most classical style. There had been moats, and drawbridges, and outer walls; these I had shaved away into elegant terraces, and handsomely laid out in parterres according to the plans of Monsieur Cornichon, the great Parisian architect, who visited England for the purpose.
After ascending the outer steps, you entered an antique hall of vast dimensions, wainscoted with black carved oak, and ornamented with portraits of our ancestors: from the square beard of Brook Lyndon, the great lawyer in Queen Bess's time, to the loose stomacher and ringlets of Lady Saccharissa Lyndon, whom Vandyck painted when she was a maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, and down to Sir Charles Lyndon, with his riband as a knight of the Bath; and my Lady, painted by Hudson, in a white satin sack and the family diamonds, as she was presented to the old King George II. These diamonds were very fine: I first had them reset by Boehmer when we appeared before their French Majesties at Versailles; and finally raised L18,000 upon them, after that infernal run of ill luck at 'Goosetree's,' when Jemmy Twitcher (as we called my Lord Sandwich), Carlisle, Charley Fox, and I played hombre for four-and-forty hours SANS DESEMPARER. Bows and pikes, huge stag-heads and hunting implements, and rusty old suits of armour, that may have been worn in the days of Gog and Magog for what I know, formed the other old ornaments of this huge apartment; and were ranged round a fireplace where you might have turned a coach-and-six. This I kept pretty much in its antique condition, but had the old armour eventually turned out and consigned to the lumber-rooms upstairs; replacing it with china monsters, gilded settees from France, and elegant marbles, of which the broken noses and limbs, and ugliness, undeniably proved their antiquity: and which an agent purchased for me at Rome. But such was the taste of the times (and, perhaps, the rascality of my agent), that thirty thousand pounds' worth of these gems of art only went for three hundred guineas at a subsequent period, when I found it necessary to raise money on my collections.
From this main hall branched off on either side the long series of state-rooms, poorly furnished with high-backed chairs and long queer Venice glasses, when first I came to the property; but afterwards rendered so splendid by me, with the gold damasks of Lyons and the magnificent Gobelin tapestries I won from Richelieu at play. There were thirty-six bedrooms DE MAITRE, of which I only kept three in their antique condition,—the haunted room as it was called, where the murder was done in James II.'s time, the bed where William slept after landing at Torbay, and Queen Elizabeth's state-room. All the rest were redecorated by Cornichon in the most elegant taste; not a little to the scandal of some of the steady old country dowagers; for I had pictures of Boucher and Vanloo to decorate the principal apartments, in which the Cupids and Venuses were painted in a manner so natural, that I recollect the old wizened Countess of Frumpington pinning over the curtains of her bed, and sending her daughter, Lady Blanche Whalebone, to sleep with her waiting-woman, rather than allow her to lie in a chamber hung all over with looking-glasses, after the exact fashion of the Queen's closet at Versailles.
For many of these ornaments I was not so much answerable as Cornichon, whom Lauraguais lent me, and who was the intendant of my buildings during my absence abroad. I had given the man CARTE BLANCHE, and when he fell down and broke his leg, as he was decorating a theatre in the room which had been the old chapel of the castle, the people of the country thought it was a judgment of Heaven upon him. In his rage for improvement the fellow dared anything. Without my orders he cut down an old rookery which was sacred in the country, and had a prophecy regarding it, stating, 'When the rook-wood shall fall, down goes Hackton Hall.' The rooks went over and colonised Tiptoff Woods, which lay near us (and be hanged to them!), and Cornichon built a temple to Venus and two lovely fountains on their site. Venuses and Cupids were the rascal's adoration: he wanted to take down the Gothic screen and place Cupids in our pew there; but old Doctor Huff the rector came out with a large oak stick, and addressed the unlucky architect in Latin, of which he did not comprehend a word, yet made him understand that he would break his bones if he laid a single finger upon the sacred edifice. Cornichon made complaints about the 'Abbe Huff,' as he called him. ('Et quel abbe, grand Dieu!' added he, quite bewildered, 'un abbe avec douze enfans'); but I encouraged the Church in this respect, and bade Cornichon exert his talents only in the castle.
There was a magnificent collection of ancient plate, to which I added much of the most splendid modern kind; a cellar which, however well furnished, required continual replenishing, and a kitchen which I reformed altogether. My friend, Jack Wilkes, sent me down a cook from the Mansion House, for the English cookery,—the turtle and venison department: I had a CHEF (who called out the Englishman, by the way, and complained sadly of the GROS COCHON who wanted to meet him with COUPS DE POING) and a couple of AIDES from Paris, and an Italian confectioner, as my OFFICIERS DE BOUCHE. All which natural appendages to a man of fashion, the odious, stingy old Tiptoff, my kinsman and neighbour, affected to view with horror; and he spread through the country a report that I had my victuals cooked by Papists, lived upon frogs, and, he verily believed, fricasseed little children.
But the squires ate my dinners very readily for all that, and old Doctor Huff himself was compelled to allow that my venison and turtle were most orthodox. The former gentry I knew how to conciliate, too, in other ways. There had been only a subscription pack of fox-hounds in the county and a few beggarly couples of mangy beagles, with which old Tiptoff pattered about his grounds; I built a kennel and stables, which cost L30,000, and stocked them in a manner which was worthy of my ancestors, the Irish kings. I had two packs of hounds, and took the field in the season four times a week, with three gentlemen in my hunt-uniform to follow me, and open house at Hackton for all who belonged to the hunt.
These changes and this train de vivre required, as may be supposed, no small outlay; and I confess that I have little of that base spirit of economy in my composition which some people practise and admire. For instance, old Tiptoff was hoarding up his money to repair his father's extravagance and disencumber his estates; a good deal of the money with which he paid off his mortgages my agent procured upon mine. And, besides, it must be remembered I had only a life-interest upon the Lyndon property, was always of an easy temper in dealing with the money-brokers, and had to pay heavily for insuring her Ladyship's life.
At the end of a year Lady Lyndon presented me with a son—Bryan Lyndon I called him, in compliment to my royal ancestry: but what more had I to leave him than a noble name? Was not the estate of his mother entailed upon the odious little Turk, Lord Bullingdon? and whom, by the way, I have not mentioned as yet, though he was living at Hackton, consigned to a new governor. The insubordination of that boy was dreadful. He used to quote passages of 'Hamlet' to his mother, which made her very angry. Once when I took a horsewhip to chastise him, he drew a knife, and would have stabbed me: and, 'faith, I recollected my own youth, which was pretty similar; and, holding out my hand, burst out laughing, and proposed to him to be friends. We were reconciled for that time, and the next, and the next; but there was no love lost between us, and his hatred for me seemed to grow as he grew, which was apace.
I determined to endow my darling boy Bryan with a property, and to this end cut down twelve thousand pounds' worth of timber on Lady Lyndon's Yorkshire and Irish estates: at which proceeding Bullingdon's guardian, Tiptoff, cried out, as usual, and swore I had no right to touch a stick of the trees; but down they went; and I commissioned my mother to repurchase the ancient lands of Ballybarry and Barryogue, which had once formed part of the immense possessions of my house. These she bought back with excellent prudence and extreme joy; for her heart was gladdened at the idea that a son was born to my name, and with the notion of my magnificent fortunes.
To say truth, I was rather afraid, now that I lived in a very different sphere from that in which she was accustomed to move, lest she should come to pay me a visit, and astonish my English friends by her bragging and her brogue, her rouge and her old hoops and furbelows of the time of George II.: in which she had figured advantageously in her youth, and which she still fondly thought to be at the height of the fashion. So I wrote to her, putting off her visit; begging her to visit us when the left wing of the castle was finished, or the stables built, and so forth. There was no need of such precaution. 'A hint's enough for me, Redmond,' the old lady would reply. 'I am not coming to disturb you among your great English friends with my old-fashioned Irish ways. It's a blessing to me to think that my darling boy has attained the position which I always knew was his due, and for which I pinched myself to educate him. You must bring me the little Bryan, that his grandmother may kiss him, one day. Present my respectful blessing to her Ladyship his mamma. Tell her she has got a treasure in her husband, which she couldn't have had had she taken a duke to marry her; and that the Barrys and the Bradys, though without titles, have the best of blood in their veins. I shall never rest until I see you Earl of Ballybarry, and my grandson Lord Viscount Barryogue.'
How singular it was that the very same ideas should be passing in my mother's mind and my own! The very title she had pitched upon had also been selected (naturally enough) by me; and I don't mind confessing that I had filled a dozen sheets of paper with my signature, under the names of Ballybarry and Barryogue, and had determined with my usual impetuosity to carry my point. My mother went and established herself at Ballybarry, living with the priest there until a tenement could be erected, and dating from 'Ballybarry Castle;' which, you may be sure, I gave out to be a place of no small importance. I had a plan of the estate in my study, both at Hackton and in Berkeley Square, and the plans of the elevation of Ballybarry Castle, the ancestral residence of Barry Lyndon, Esq., with the projected improvements, in which the castle was represented as about the size of Windsor, with more ornaments to the architecture; and eight hundred acres of bog falling in handy, I purchased them at three pounds an acre, so that my estate upon the map looked to be no insignificant one. [Footnote: On the strength of this estate, and pledging his honour that it was not mortgaged, Mr. Barry Lyndon borrowed L17,000 in the year 1786, from young Captain Pigeon, the city merchant's son, who had just come in for his property. At for the Polwellan estate and mines, 'the cause of endless litigation,' it must be owned that our hero purchased them; but he never paid more than the first L5000 of the purchase-money. Hence the litigation of which he complains, and the famous Chancery suit of 'Trecothick v. Lyndon,' in which Mr. John Scott greatly distinguished himself.-ED.]
I also in this year made arrangements for purchasing the Polwellan estate and mines in Cornwall from Sir John Trecothick, for L70,000—an imprudent bargain, which was afterwards the cause to me of much dispute and litigation. The troubles of property, the rascality of agents, the quibbles of lawyers, are endless. Humble people envy us great men, and fancy that our lives are all pleasure. Many a time in the course of my prosperity I have sighed for the days of my meanest fortune, and envied the boon companions at my table, with no clothes to their backs but such as my credit supplied them, without a guinea but what came from my pocket; but without one of the harassing cares and responsibilities which are the dismal adjuncts of great rank and property.
I did little more than make my appearance, and assume the command of my estates, in the kingdom of Ireland; rewarding generously those persons who had been kind to me in my former adversities, and taking my fitting place among the aristocracy of the land. But, in truth, I had small inducements to remain in it after having tasted of the genteeler and more complete pleasures of English and Continental life; and we passed our summers at Buxton, Bath, and Harrogate, while Hackton Castle was being beautified in the elegant manner already described by me, and the season at our mansion in Berkeley Square.
It is wonderful how the possession of wealth brings out the virtues of a man; or, at any rate, acts as a varnish or lustre to them, and brings out their brilliancy and colour in a manner never known when the individual stood in the cold grey atmosphere of poverty. I assure you it was a very short time before I was a pretty fellow of the first class; made no small sensation at the coffee-houses in Pall Mall and afterwards at the most famous clubs. My style, equipages, and elegant entertainments were in everybody's mouth, and were described in all the morning prints. The needier part of Lady Lyndon's relatives, and such as had been offended by the intolerable pomposity of old Tiptoff, began to appear at our routs and assemblies; and as for relations of my own, I found in London and Ireland more than I had ever dreamed of, of cousins who claimed affinity with me. There were, of course, natives of my own country (of which I was not particularly proud), and I received visits from three or four swaggering shabby Temple bucks, with tarnished lace and Tipperary brogue, who were eating their way to the bar in London; from several gambling adventurers at the watering-places, whom I soon speedily let to know their place; and from others of more reputable condition. Among them I may mention my cousin the Lord Kilbarry, who, on the score of his relationship, borrowed thirty pieces from me to pay his landlady in Swallow Street; and whom, for my own reasons, I allowed to maintain and credit a connection for which the Heralds' College gave no authority whatsoever. Kilbarry had a cover at my table; punted at play, and paid when he liked, which was seldom; had an intimacy with, and was under considerable obligations to, my tailor; and always boasted of his cousin the great Barry Lyndon of the West country.
Her Ladyship and I lived, after a while, pretty separate when in London. She preferred quiet: or to say the truth, I preferred it; being a great friend to a modest tranquil behaviour in woman, and a taste for the domestic pleasures. Hence I encouraged her to dine at home with her ladies, her chaplain, and a few of her friends; admitted three or four proper and discreet persons to accompany her to her box at the opera or play on proper occasions; and indeed declined for her the too frequent visits of her friends and family, preferring to receive them only twice or thrice in a season on our grand reception days. Besides, she was a mother, and had great comfort in the dressing, educating, and dandling our little Bryan, for whose sake it was fit that she should give up the pleasures and frivolities of the world; so she left THAT part of the duty of every family of distinction to be performed by me. To say the truth, Lady Lyndon's figure and appearance were not at this time such as to make for their owner any very brilliant appearance in the fashionable world. She had grown very fat, was short-sighted, pale in complexion, careless about her dress, dull in demeanour; her conversations with me characterised by a stupid despair, or a silly blundering attempt at forced cheerfulness still more disagreeable: hence our intercourse was but trifling, and my temptations to carry her into the world, or to remain in her society, of necessity exceedingly small. She would try my temper at home, too, in a thousand ways. When requested by me (often, I own, rather roughly) to entertain the company with conversation, wit, and learning, of which she was a mistress: or music, of which she was an accomplished performer, she would as often as not begin to cry, and leave the room. My company from this, of course, fancied I was a tyrant over her; whereas I was only a severe and careful guardian over a silly, bad-tempered, and weak-minded lady.
She was luckily very fond of her youngest son, and through him I had a wholesome and effectual hold of her; for if in any of her tantrums or fits of haughtiness—(this woman was intolerably proud; and repeatedly, at first, in our quarrels, dared to twit me with my own original poverty and low birth),—if, I say, in our disputes she pretended to have the upper hand, to assert her authority against mine, to refuse to sign such papers as I might think necessary for the distribution of our large and complicated property, I would have Master Bryan carried off to Chiswick for a couple of days; and I warrant me his lady-mother could hold out no longer, and would agree to anything I chose to propose. The servants about her I took care should be in my pay, not hers: especially the child's head nurse was under MY orders, not those of my lady; and a very handsome, red-cheeked, impudent jade she was; and a great fool she made me make of myself. This woman was more mistress of the house than the poor-spirited lady who owned it. She gave the law to the servants; and if I showed any particular attention to any of the ladies who visited us, the slut would not scruple to show her jealousy, and to find means to send them packing. The fact is, a generous man is always made a fool of by some woman or other, and this one had such an influence over me that she could turn me round her finger. [Footnote: From these curious confessions, it would appear that Mr. Lyndon maltreated his lady in every possible way; that he denied her society, bullied her into signing away her property, spent it in gambling and taverns, was openly unfaithful to her; and, when she complained, threatened to remove her children from her. Nor, indeed, is he the only husband who has done the like, and has passed for 'nobody's enemy but his own:' a jovial good-natured fellow. The world contains scores of such amiable people; and, indeed, it is because justice has not been done them that we have edited this autobiography. Had it been that of a mere hero of romance—one of those heroic youths who figure in the novels of Scott and James—there would have been no call to introduce the reader to a personage already so often and so charmingly depicted. Mr. Barry Lyndon is not, we repeat, a hero of the common pattern; but let the reader look round, and ask himself, Do not as many rogues succeed in life as honest men? more fools than men of talent? And is it not just that the lives of this class should be described by the student of human nature as well as the actions of those fairy-tale princes, those perfect impossible heroes, whom our writers love to describe? There is something naive and simple in that time-honoured style of novel-writing by which Prince Prettyman, at the end of his adventures, is put in possession of every worldly prosperity, as he has been endowed with every mental and bodily excellence previously. The novelist thinks that he can do no more for his darling hero than make him a lord. Is it not a poor standard that, of the summum bonum? The greatest good in life is not to be a lord; perhaps not even to be happy. Poverty, illness, a humpback, may be rewards and conditions of good, as well as that bodily prosperity which all of us unconsciously set up for worship. But this is a subject for an essay, not a note; and it is best to allow Mr. Lyndon to resume the candid and ingenious narrative of his virtues and defects.]
Her infernal temper (Mrs. Stammer was the jade's name) and my wife's moody despondency, made my house and home not over-pleasant: hence I was driven a good deal abroad, where, as play was the fashion at every club, tavern, and assembly, I, of course, was obliged to resume my old habit, and to commence as an amateur those games at which I was once unrivalled in Europe. But whether a man's temper changes with prosperity, or his skill leaves him when, deprived of a confederate, and pursuing the game no longer professionally, he joins in it, like the rest of the world, for pastime, I know not; but certain it is, that in the seasons of 1774-75 I lost much money at 'White's' and the 'Cocoa-Tree,' and was compelled to meet my losses by borrowing largely upon my wife's annuities, insuring her Ladyship's life, and so forth. The terms at which I raised these necessary sums and the outlays requisite for my improvements were, of course, very onerous, and clipped the property considerably; and it was some of these papers which my Lady Lyndon (who was of a narrow, timid, and stingy turn) occasionally refused to sign: until I PERSUADED her, as I have before shown.