Now, if the credit they can obtain is longer than that which they are forced to give, they go on and prosper; if not, they break, become bankrupts, and sometimes, as bankrupts, thrive. By such men, of course, every short cut to fortune is followed: whilst every habit, which requires time to prove its advantage, is disregarded; nor, with such views, can a character for punctuality have its just value. In the head of a man, who intends to be a tradesman to-day, and a gentleman to-morrow, the ideas of the honesty and the duties of a tradesman, and of the honour and the accomplishments of a gentleman, are oddly jumbled together, and the characteristics of both are lost in the compound.
He will oblige you, but he will not obey you; he will do you a favour, but he will not do you justice; he will do anything to serve you, but the particular thing you order he neglects; he asks your pardon, for he would not, for all the goods in his warehouse, disoblige you; not for the sake of your custom, but he has a particular regard for your family. Economy, in the eyes of such a tradesman, is, if not a mean vice, at least a shabby virtue, of which he is too polite to suspect his customers, and to which he is proud of proving himself superior. Many London tradesmen, after making their thousands and their tens of thousands, feel pride in still continuing to live like plain men of business; but from the moment a Dublin tradesman of this style has made a few hundreds, he sets up his gig, and then his head is in his carriage, and not in his business; and when he has made a few thousands, he buys or builds a country house—and, then, and thenceforward, his head, heart, and soul, are in his country-house, and only his body in the shop with his customers.
Whilst he is making money, his wife, or rather his lady, is spending twice as much out of town as he makes in it. At the word country-house, let no one figure to himself a snug little box like that in which a warm London citizen, after long years of toil, indulges himself, one day out of seven, in repose—enjoying, from his gazabo, the smell of the dust, and the view of passing coaches on the London road: no, these Hibernian villas are on a much more magnificent scale; some of them formerly belonged to Irish members of parliament, who were at a distance from their country-seats. After the Union these were bought by citizens and tradesmen, who spoiled, by the mixture of their own fancies, what had originally been designed by men of good taste.
Some time after Lord Colambre's arrival in Dublin, he had an opportunity of seeing one of these villas, which belonged to Mrs. Raffarty, a grocer's lady, and sister to one of Lord Clonbrony's agents, Mr. Nicholas Garraghty. Lord Colambre was surprised to find that his father's agent resided in Dublin: he had been used to see agents, or stewards, as they are called in England, live in the country, and usually on the estate of which they have the management. Mr. Nicholas Garraghty, however, had a handsome house in a fashionable part of Dublin. Lord Colambre called several times to see him, but he was out of town, receiving rents for some other gentlemen, as he was agent for more than one property.
Though our hero had not the honour of seeing Mr. Garraghty, he had the pleasure of finding Mrs. Raffarty one day at her brother's house. Just as his lordship came to the door, she was going, on her jaunting-car, to her villa, called Tusculum, situate near Bray. She spoke much of the beauties of the vicinity of Dublin; found his lordship was going with Sir James Brooke, and a party of gentlemen, to see the county of Wicklow; and his lordship and party were entreated to do her the honour of taking in their way a little collation at Tusculum.
Our hero was glad to have an opportunity of seeing more of a species of fine lady with which he was unacquainted.
The invitation was verbally made, and verbally accepted; but the lady afterwards thought it necessary to send a written invitation in due form, and the note she sent directed to the Most Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Colambre. On opening it he perceived that it could not have been intended for him. It ran as follows:
"MY DEAR JULIANA O'LEARY,
"I have got a promise from Colambre, that he will be with us at Tusculum on Friday, the 20th, in his way from the county of Wicklow, for the collation I mentioned; and expect a large party of officers: so pray come early, with your house, or as many as the jaunting-car can bring. And pray, my dear, be elegant. You need not let it transpire to Mrs. O'G——; but make my apologies to Miss O'G——, if she says any thing, and tell her I'm quite concerned I can't ask her for that day; because, tell her, I'm so crowded, and am to have none that day but real quality.
"Yours ever and ever,
"P.S. And I hope to make the gentlemen stop the night with me: so will not have beds. Excuse haste and compliments, &c.
"Tusculum, Sunday 15."
After a charming tour in the county of Wicklow, where the beauty of the natural scenery, and the taste with which those natural beauties had been cultivated, far surpassed the sanguine expectations Lord Colambre had formed, his lordship and his companions arrived at Tusculum, where he found Mrs. Raffarty, and Miss Juliana O'Leary, very elegant, with a large party of the ladies and gentlemen of Bray, assembled in a drawing-room, fine with bad pictures and gaudy gilding; the windows were all shut, and the company were playing cards with all their might. This was the fashion of the neighbourhood. In compliment to Lord Colambre and the officers, the ladies left the card-tables; and Mrs. Raffarty, observing that his lordship seemed partial to walking, took him out, as she said, "to do the honours of nature and art."
His lordship was much amused by the mixture, which was now exhibited to him, of taste and incongruity, ingenuity and absurdity, genius and blunder; by the contrast between the finery and vulgarity, the affectation and ignorance, of the lady of the villa. We should be obliged to stop too long at Tusculum were we to attempt to detail all the odd circumstances of this visit; but we may record an example or two, which may give a sufficient idea of the whole.
In the first place, before they left the drawing-room, Miss Juliana O'Leary pointed out to his lordship's attention a picture over the drawing-room chimney-piece. "Is not it a fine piece, my lord?" said she, naming the price Mrs. Raffarty had lately paid for it at an auction. "It has a right to be a fine piece, indeed; for it cost a fine price!" Nevertheless this fine piece was a vile daub; and our hero could only avoid the sin of flattery, or the danger of offending the lady, by protesting that he had no judgment in pictures.
"Indeed! I don't pretend to be a connoisseur or conoscenti myself; but I'm told the style is undeniably modern. And was not I lucky, Juliana, not to let that Medona be knocked down to me? I was just going to bid, when I heard such smart bidding; but, fortunately, the auctioneer let out that it was done by a very old master—a hundred years old. Oh! your most obedient, thinks I!—if that's the case, it's not for my money: so I bought this, in lieu of the smoke-dried thing, and had it a bargain."
In architecture, Mrs. Raffarty had as good a taste and as much skill as in painting. There had been a handsome portico in front of the house: but this interfering with the lady's desire to have a viranda, which she said could not he dispensed with, she had raised the whole portico to the second story, where it stood, or seemed to stand, upon a tarpaulin roof. But Mrs. Raffarty explained, that the pillars, though they looked so properly substantial, were really hollow and as light as feathers, and were supported with cramps, without disobliging the front wall of the house at all to signify.
Before she showed the company any farther, she said, she must premise to his lordship, that she had been originally stinted in room for her improvements, so that she could not follow her genius liberally; she had been reduced to have some things on a confined scale, and occasionally to consult her pocket-compass; but she prided herself upon having put as much into a tight pattern as could well be; that had been her whole ambition, study, and problem; for she was determined to have at least the honour of having a little taste of every thing at Tusculum.
So she led the way to a little conservatory, and a little pinery, and a little grapery, and a little aviary, and a little pheasantry, and a little dairy for show, and a little cottage for ditto, with a grotto full of shells, and a little hermitage full of earwigs, and a little ruin full of looking-glass, "to enlarge and multiply the effect of the Gothic."—"But you could only put your head in, because it was just fresh painted, and though there had been a fire ordered in the ruin all night, it had only smoked."
In all Mrs. Raffarty's buildings, whether ancient or modern, there was a studied crookedness.
Yes, she said, she hated every thing straight, it was so formal and unpicturesque. "Uniformity and conformity," she observed, "had their day; but now, thank the stars of the present day, irregularity and deformity bear the bell, and have the majority."
As they proceeded and walked through the grounds, from which Mrs. Raffarty, though she had done her best, could not take that which nature had given, she pointed out to my lord "a happy moving termination," consisting of a Chinese bridge, with a fisherman leaning over the rails. On a sudden, the fisherman was seen to tumble over the bridge into the water. The gentlemen ran to extricate the poor fellow, while they heard Mrs. Raffarty bawling to his lordship to beg he would never mind, and not trouble himself.
When they arrived at the bridge, they saw the man hanging from part of the bridge, and apparently struggling in the water; but when they attempted to pull him up, they found it was only a stuffed figure, which had been pulled into the stream by a real fish, which had seized hold of the bait.
Mrs. Raffarty, vexed by the fisherman's fall, and by the laughter it occasioned, did not recover herself sufficiently to be happily ridiculous during the remainder of the walk, nor till dinner was announced, when she apologized for having changed the collation, at first intended, into a dinner, which she hoped would be found no bad substitute, and which she flattered herself might prevail on my lord and the gentlemen to sleep, as there was no moon.
The dinner had two great faults—profusion and pretension. There was, in fact, ten times more on the table than was necessary; and the entertainment was far above the circumstances of the person by whom it was given: for instance, the dish of fish at the head of the table had been brought across the island from Sligo, and had cost five guineas; as the lady of the house failed not to make known. But, after all, things were not of a piece; there was a disparity between the entertainment and the attendants; there was no proportion or fitness of things; a painful endeavour at what could not be attained, and a toiling in vain to conceal and repair deficiencies and blunders. Had the mistress of the house been quiet; had she, as Mrs. Broadhurst would say, but let things alone, let things take their course, all would have passed off with well-bred people; but she was incessantly apologizing, and fussing, and fretting inwardly and outwardly, and directing and calling to her servants—striving to make a butler who was deaf, and a boy who was harebrained, do the business of five accomplished footmen of parts and figure. The mistress of the house called for "plates, clean plates!—plates!"
"But none did come, when she did call."
Mrs. Raffarty called "Lanty! Lanty! My lord's plate, there!—James! bread to Captain Bowles!—James! port wine to the major!—James! James Kenny! James!"
"And panting James toiled after her in vain."
At length one course was fairly got through, and after a torturing half hour, the second course appeared, and James Kenny was intent upon one thing, and Lanty upon another, so that the wine-sauce for the hare was spilt by their collision; but, what was worse, there seemed little chance that the whole of this second course should ever be placed altogether rightly upon the table. Mrs. Raffarty cleared her throat, and nodded, and pointed, and sighed, and sent Lanty after Kenny, and Kenny after Lanty; for what one did, the other undid; and at last the lady's anger kindled, and she spoke: "Kenny! James Kenny! set the sea-cale at this corner, and put down the grass cross-corners; and match your maccaroni yonder with them puddens, set—Ogh! James! the pyramid in the middle, can't ye?"
The pyramid, in changing places, was overturned. Then it was that the mistress of the feast, falling back in her seat, and lifting up her hands and eyes in despair, ejaculated, "Oh, James! James!"
The pyramid was raised by the assistance of the military engineers, and stood trembling again on its base; but the lady's temper could not be so easily restored to its equilibrium. She vented her ill humour on her unfortunate husband, who happening not to hear her order to help my lord to some hare, she exclaimed loud, that all the world might hear, "Corny Raffarty! Corny Raffarty! you're no more gud at the fut of my table than a stick of celery!"
The comedy of errors, which this day's visit exhibited, amused all the spectators. But Lord Colambre, after he had smiled, sometimes sighed.—Similar foibles and follies in persons of different rank, fortune, and manner, appear to common observers so unlike that they laugh without scruples of conscience in one case, at what in another ought to touch themselves most nearly. It was the same desire to appear what they were not, the same vain ambition to vie with superior rank and fortune, or fashion, which actuated Lady Clonbrony and Mrs. Raffarty; and whilst this ridiculous grocer's wife made herself the sport of some of her guests, Lord Colambre sighed, from the reflection that what she was to them, his mother was to persons in a higher rank of fashion.—He sighed still more deeply, when he considered, that, in whatever station or with whatever fortune, extravagance, that is, the living beyond our income, must lead to distress and meanness, and end in shame and ruin. In the morning as they were riding away from Tusculum and talking over their visit, the officers laughed heartily, and rallying Lord Colambre upon his seriousness, accused him of having fallen in love with Mrs. Raffarty, or with the elegant Miss Juliana. Our hero, who wished never to be nice over much, or serious out of season, laughed with those that laughed, and endeavoured to catch the spirit of the jest. But Sir James Brooke, who now was well acquainted with his countenance, and who knew something of the history of his family, understood his real feelings, and, sympathizing in them, endeavoured to give the conversation a new turn.
"Look there, Bowles," said he, as they were just riding into the town of Bray; "look at the barouche standing at that green door, at the farthest end of the town. Is not that Lady Dashfort's barouche?"
"It looks like what she sported in Dublin last year," said Bowles; "but you don't think she'd give us the same two seasons. Besides, she is not in Ireland, is she? I did not hear of her intending to come over again."
"I beg your pardon," said another officer; "she will come again to so good a market, to marry her other daughter. I hear she said or swore that she will marry the young widow, Lady Isabel, to an Irish nobleman."
"Whatever she says, she swears, and whatever she swears, she'll do," replied Bowles.
"Have a care, my Lord Colambre; if she sets her heart upon you for Lady Isabel, she has you. Nothing can save you. Heart she has none, so there you're safe, my lord," said the other officer; "but if Lady Isabel sets her eye upon you, no basilisk's is surer."
"But if Lady Dashfort had landed I am sure we should have heard of it, for she makes noise enough wherever she goes; especially in Dublin, where all she said and did was echoed and magnified, till one could hear of nothing else. I don't think she has landed."
"I hope to Heaven they may never land again in Ireland!" cried Sir James Brooke: "one worthless woman, especially one worthless Englishwoman of rank, does incalculable mischief in a country like this, which looks up to the sister country for fashion. For my own part, as a warm friend to Ireland, I would rather see all the toads and serpents, and venomous reptiles, that St. Patrick carried off in his bag, come back to this island, than these two dashers. Why, they would bite half the women and girls in the kingdom with the rage for mischief, before half the husbands and fathers could turn their heads about. And, once bit, there's no cure in nature or art."
"No horses to this barouche!" cried Captain Bowles.—"Pray, sir, whose carriage is this?" said the captain to a servant, who was standing beside it.
"My Lady Dashfort, sir, it belongs to," answered the servant, in rather a surly English tone; and turning to a boy who was lounging at the door, "Pat, bid them bring out the horses, for my ladies is in a hurry to get home."
Captain Bowles stopped to make his servant alter the girths of his horse, and to satisfy his curiosity; and the whole party halted. Captain Bowles beckoned to the landlord of the inn, who was standing at his door.
"So, Lady Dashfort is here again?—This is her barouche, is not it?"
"Yes, sir, she is—it is."
"And has she sold her fine horses?"
"Oh, no, sir—this is not her carriage at all—she is not here. That is, she is here, in Ireland; but down in the county of Wicklow, on a visit. And this is not her own carriage at all;—that is to say, not that which she has with herself, driving; but only just the cast barouche like, as she keeps for the lady's maids."
"For the lady's maids! that is good! that is new, faith! Sir James, do you hear that?"
"Indeed, then, and it's true, and not a word of a lie!" said the honest landlord. "And this minute, we've got a directory of five of them Abigails, sitting within our house; as fine ladies, as great dashers too, every bit, as their principals; and kicking up as much dust on the road, every grain!—Think of them, now! The likes of them, that must have four horses, and would not stir a foot with one less!—As the gentleman's gentleman there was telling and boasting to me about now, when the barouche was ordered for them there at the lady's house, where Lady Dashfort is on a visit—they said they would not get in till they'd get four horses; and their ladies backed them; and so the four horses was got; and they just drove out here to see the points of view for fashion's sake, like their betters; and up with their glasses, like their ladies; and then out with their watches, and 'Isn't it time to lunch?' So there they have been lunching within on what they brought with them; for nothing in our house could they touch of course! They brought themselves a pick-nick lunch, with Madeira and Champagne to wash it down. Why, gentlemen, what do you think, but a set of them, as they were bragging to me, turned out of a boarding-house at Cheltenham, last year, because they had not peach pies to their lunch!—But, here they come! shawls, and veils, and all!—streamers flying! But mum is my cue!—Captain, are these girths to your fancy now?" said the landlord, aloud: then, as he stooped to alter a buckle, he said in a voice meant to be heard only by Captain Bowles, "If there's a tongue, male or female, in the three kingdoms, it's in that foremost woman, Mrs. Petito."
"Mrs. Petito!" repeated Lord Colambre, as the name caught his ear; and, approaching the barouche, in which the five Abigails were now seated, he saw the identical Mrs. Petito, who, when he left London, had been in his mother's service.
She recognized his lordship with very gracious intimacy; and, before he had time to ask any questions, she answered all she conceived he was going to ask, and with a volubility which justified the landlord's eulogium of her tongue.
"Yes, my lord! I left my Lady Clonbrony some time back—the day after you left town; and both her ladyship and Miss Nugent was charmingly, and would have sent their loves to your lordship, I'm sure, if they'd any notion I should have met you, my lord, so soon. And I was very sorry to part with them; but the fact was, my lord," said Mrs. Petito, laying a detaining hand upon Lord Colambre's whip, one end of which he unwittingly trusted within her reach, "I and my lady had a little difference, which the best friends, you know, sometimes have: so my Lady Clonbrony was so condescending to give me up to my Lady Dashfort—and I knew no more than the child unborn that her ladyship had it in contemplation to cross the seas. But, to oblige my lady, and as Colonel Heathcock, with his regiment of militia, was coming for purtection in the packet at the same time, and we to have the government-yacht, I waived my objections to Ireland. And, indeed, though I was greatly frighted at first, having heard all we've heard, you know, my lord, from Lady Clonbrony, of there being no living in Ireland, and expecting to see no trees, nor accommodation, nor any thing but bogs all along; yet I declare, I was very agreeably surprised; for, as far as I've seen at Dublin and in the vicinity, the accommodations, and every thing of that nature now, is vastly put-up-able with!"
"My lord," said Sir James Brooke, "we shall be late."
Lord Colambre, withdrawing his whip from Mrs. Petito, turned his horse away. She, stretching over the back of the barouche as he rode off, bawled to him, "My lord, we're at Stephen's Green, when we're at Dublin." But as he did not choose to hear, she raised her voice to its highest pitch, adding, "And where are you, my lord, to be found?—as I have a parcel of Miss Nugent's for you."
Lord Colambre instantly turned back, and gave his direction.
"Cleverly done, faith!" said the major.
"I did not hear her say when Lady Dashfort is to be in town," said Captain Bowles.
"What, Bowles! have you a mind to lose more of your guineas to Lady Dashfort, and to be jockeyed out of another horse by Lady Isabel?"
"Oh, confound it—no! I'll keep out of the way of that—I have had enough," said Captain Bowles; "it is my Lord Colambre's turn now; you hear that Lady Dashfort would be very proud to see him. His lordship is in for it, and with such an auxiliary as Mrs. Petito, Lady Dashfort has him far Lady Isabel, as sure as he has a heart or hand."
"My compliments to the ladies, but my heart is engaged," said Lord Colambre; "and my hand shall go with my heart, or not at all."
"Engaged! engaged to a very amiable, charming woman, no doubt," said Sir James Brooke. "I have an excellent opinion of your taste; and if you can return the compliment to my judgment, take my advice: don't trust to your heart's being engaged, much less plead that engagement; for it would be Lady Dashfort's sport, and Lady Isabel's joy, to make you break your engagement, and break your mistress's heart; the fairer, the more amiable, the more beloved, the greater the triumph, the greater the delight in giving pain. All the time love would be out of the question; neither mother nor daughter would care if you were hanged, or, as Lady Dashfort would herself have expressed it, if you were d——d."
"With such women I should think a man's heart could be in no great danger," said Lord Colambre.
"There you might be mistaken, my lord; there's a way to every man's heart, which no man in his own case is aware of, but which every woman knows right well, and none better than these ladies—by his vanity."
"True," said Captain Bowles.
"I am not so vain as to think myself without vanity," said Lord Colambre; "but love, I should imagine, is a stronger passion than vanity."
"You should imagine! Stay till you are tried, my lord. Excuse me," said Captain Bowles, laughing.
Lord Colambre felt the good sense of this, and determined to have nothing to do with these dangerous ladies: indeed, though he had talked, he had scarcely yet thought of them; for his imagination was intent upon that packet from Miss Nugent, which Mrs. Petito said she had for him. He heard nothing of it, or of her, for some days. He sent his servant every day to Stephen's Green, to inquire if Lady Dashfort had returned to town. Her ladyship at last returned; but Mrs. Petito could not deliver the parcel to any hand but Lord Colambre's own, and she would not stir out, because her lady was indisposed. No longer able to restrain his impatience, Lord Colambre went himself—knocked at Lady Dashfort's door—inquired for Mrs. Petito—was shown into her parlour. The parcel was delivered to him; but, to his utter disappointment, it was a parcel for, not from Miss Nugent. It contained merely an odd volume of some book of Miss Nugent's which Mrs. Petito said she had put up along with her things in a mistake, and she thought it her duty to return it by the first opportunity of a safe conveyance.
Whilst Lord Colambre, to comfort himself for his disappointment, was fixing his eyes upon Miss Nugent's name, written by her own hand, in the first leaf of the book, the door opened, and the figure of an interesting-looking lady, in deep mourning, appeared—appeared for one moment, and retired.
"Only my Lord Colambre, about a parcel I was bringing for him from England, my lady—my Lady Isabel, my lord," said Mrs. Petito.
Whilst Mrs. Petito was saying this, the entrance and retreat had been made, and made with such dignity, grace, and modesty: with such innocence, dove-like eyes had been raised upon him, fixed and withdrawn; with such a gracious bend the Lady Isabel had bowed to him as she retired; with such a smile, and with so soft a voice, had repeated "Lord Colambre!" that his lordship, though well aware that all this was mere acting, could not help saying to himself, as he left the house, "It is a pity it is only acting. There is certainly something very engaging in this woman. It is a pity she is an actress. And so young! A much younger woman than I expected. A widow before most women are wives. So young, surely she cannot be such a fiend as they described her to be!"
A few nights afterwards Lord Colambre was with some of his acquaintance at the theatre, when Lady Isabel and her mother came into the box, where seats had been reserved for them, and where their appearance instantly made that sensation, which is usually created by the entrance of persons of the first notoriety in the fashionable world. Lord Colambre was not a man to be dazzled by fashion, or to mistake notoriety for deference paid to merit, and for the admiration commanded by beauty or talents. Lady Dashfort's coarse person, loud voice, daring manners, and indelicate wit, disgusted him almost past endurance. He saw Sir James Brooke in the box opposite to him; and twice determined to go round to him. His lordship had crossed the benches, and once his hand was upon the lock of the door; but, attracted as much by the daughter as repelled by the mother, he could move no farther. The mother's masculine boldness heightened, by contrast, the charms of the daughter's soft sentimentality. The Lady Isabel seemed to shrink from the indelicacy of her mother's manners, and appeared peculiarly distressed by the strange efforts Lady Dashfort made, from time to time, to drag her forward, and to fix upon her the attention of gentlemen. Colonel Heathcock, who, as Mrs. Petito had informed Lord Colambre, had come over with his regiment to Ireland, was beckoned into their box by Lady Dashfort, by her squeezed into a seat next to Lady Isabel; but Lady Isabel seemed to feel sovereign contempt, properly repressed by politeness, for what, in a low whisper to a female friend on the other side of her, she called, "the self-sufficient inanity of this sad coxcomb." Other coxcombs, of a more vivacious style, who stationed themselves round her mother, or to whom her mother stretched from box to box to talk, seemed to engage no more of Lady Isabel's attention than just what she was compelled to give by Lady Dashfort's repeated calls of, "Isabel! Isabel! Colonel G——, Isabel! Lord D—— bowing to you. Bell! Bell! Sir Harry B——. Isabel, child, with your eyes on the stage? Did you never see a play before? Novice! Major P—— waiting to catch your eye this quarter of an hour; and now her eyes gone down to her play-bill! Sir Harry, do take it from her.
"'Were eyes so radiant only made to read?'"
Lady Isabel appeared to suffer so exquisitely and so naturally from this persecution, that Lord Colambre said to himself, "If this be acting, it is the best acting I ever saw. If this be art, it deserves to be nature."
And with this sentiment, he did himself the honour of handing Lady Isabel to her carriage this night, and with this sentiment he awoke next morning; and by the time he had dressed and breakfasted, he determined that it was impossible all that he had seen could be acting. "No woman, no young woman, could have such art." Sir James Brooke had been unwarrantably severe; he would go and tell him so.
But Sir James Brooke this day received orders for his regiment to march to quarters in a distant part of Ireland. His head was full of arms, and ammunition, and knapsacks, and billets, and routes; and there was no possibility, even in the present chivalrous disposition of our hero, to enter upon the defence of the Lady Isabel. Indeed, in the regret he felt for the approaching and unexpected departure of his friend, Lord Colambre forgot the fair lady. But just when Sir James had his foot in the stirrup, he stopped.
"By-the-bye, my dear lord, I saw you at the play last night. You seemed to be much interested. Don't think me impertinent if I remind you of our conversation when we were riding home from Tusculum; and if I warn you," said he, mounting his horse, "to beware of counterfeits—for such are abroad." Reining in his impatient steed, Sir James turned again, and added "Deeds, not words, is my motto. Remember, we can judge better by the conduct of people towards others than by their manner towards ourselves."
Our hero was quite convinced of the good sense of his friend's last remark, that it is safer to judge of people by their conduct to others than by their manners towards ourselves; but as yet, he felt scarcely any interest on the subject of Lady Dashfort's or Lady Isabel's characters: however, he inquired and listened to all the evidence he could obtain respecting this mother and daughter.
He heard terrible reports of the mischief they had done in families; the extravagance into which they had led men; the imprudence, to say no worse, into which they had betrayed women. Matches broken off, reputations ruined, husbands alienated from their wives, and wives made jealous of their husbands. But in some of these stories he discovered exaggeration so flagrant as to make him doubt the whole; in others, it could not be positively determined whether the mother or daughter had been the person most to blame.
Lord Colambre always followed the charitable rule of believing only half what the world says, and here he thought it fair to believe which half he pleased. He farther observed, that, though all joined in abusing these ladies in their absence, when present they seemed universally admired. Though every body cried "shame!" and "shocking!" yet every body visited them. No parties so crowded as Lady Dashfort's; no party deemed pleasant or fashionable where Lady Dashfort or Lady Isabel was not. The bon-mots of the mother were every where repeated; the dress and air of the daughter every where imitated. Yet Lord Colambre could not help being surprised at their popularity in Dublin, because, independently of all moral objections, there were causes of a different sort, sufficient, he thought, to prevent Lady Dashfort from being liked by the Irish, indeed by any society. She in general affected to be ill-bred, and inattentive to the feelings and opinions of others; careless whom she offended by her wit or by her decided tone. There are some persons in so high a region of fashion, that they imagine themselves above the thunder of vulgar censure. Lady Dashfort felt herself in this exalted situation, and fancied she might
"Hear the innocuous thunder roll below."
Her rank was so high that none could dare to call her vulgar: what would have been gross in any one of meaner note, in her was freedom or originality, or Lady Dashfort's way. It was Lady Dashfort's pleasure and pride to show her power in perverting the public taste. She often said to those English companions with whom she was intimate, "Now see what follies I can lead these fools into. Hear the nonsense I can make them repeat as wit." Upon some occasion, one of her friends ventured to fear that something she had said was too strong. "Too strong, was it? Well, I like to be strong—woe be to the weak!" On another occasion she was told that certain visitors had seen her ladyship yawning. "Yawn, did I?—glad of it—the yawn sent them away, or I should have snored;—rude, was I? they won't complain. To say I was rude to them, would be to say, that I did not think it worth my while to be otherwise. Barbarians! are not we the civilized English, come to teach them manners and fashions? Whoever does not conform, and swear allegiance too, we shall keep out of the English pale."
Lady Dashfort forced her way, and she set the fashion: fashion, which converts the ugliest dress into what is beautiful and charming, governs the public mode in morals and in manners; and thus, when great talents and high rank combine, they can debase or elevate the public taste.
With Lord Colambre she played more artfully: she drew him out in defence of his beloved country, and gave him opportunities of appearing to advantage; this he could not help feeling, especially when the Lady Isabel was present. Lady Dashfort had dealt long enough with human nature to know, that to make any man pleased with her, she should begin by making him pleased with himself.
Insensibly the antipathy that Lord Colambre had originally felt to Lady Dashfort wore off; her faults, he began to think, were assumed; he pardoned her defiance of good-breeding, when he observed that she could, when she chose it, be most engagingly polite. It was not that she did not know what was right, but that she did not think it always for her interest to practise it.
The party opposed to Lady Dashfort affirmed that her wit depended merely on unexpectedness; a characteristic which may be applied to any impropriety of speech, manner, or conduct. In some of her ladyship's repartees, however, Lord Colambre now acknowledged there was more than unexpectedness; there was real wit; but it was of a sort utterly unfit for a woman, and he was sorry that Lady Isabel should hear it. In short, exceptionable as it was altogether, Lady Dashfort's conversation had become entertaining to him; and though he could never esteem, or feel in the least interested about her, he began to allow that she could be agreeable.
"Ay, I knew how it would be," said she, when some of her friends told her this. "He began by detesting me, and did I not tell you that, if I thought it worth my while to make him like me, he must, sooner or later? I delight in seeing people begin with me as they do with olives, making all manner of horrid faces, and silly protestations that they will never touch an olive again as long as they live; but, after a little time, these very folk grow so desperately fond of olives, that there is no dessert without them. Isabel, child, you are in the sweet line—but sweets cloy. You never heard of any body living on marmalade, did ye?"
Lady Isabel answered by a sweet smile.
"To do you justice, you play Lydia Languish vastly well," pursued the mother; "but Lydia, by herself, would soon tire; somebody must keep up the spirit and bustle, and carry on the plot of the piece, and I am that somebody—as you shall see. Is not that our hero's voice which I hear on the stairs?"
It was Lord Colambre. His lordship had by this time become a constant visitor at Lady Dashfort's. Not that he had forgotten, or that he meant to disregard his friend Sir James Brooke's parting words. He promised himself faithfully, that if any thing should occur to give him reason to suspect designs, such as those to which the warning pointed, he would be on his guard, and would prove his generalship by an able retreat. But to imagine attacks where none were attempted, to suspect ambuscades in the open country, would be ridiculous and cowardly.
"No," thought our hero; "Heaven forefend I should be such a coxcomb as to fancy every woman who speaks to me has designs upon my precious heart, or on my more precious estate!" As he walked from his hotel to Lady Dashfort's house, ingeniously wrong, he came to this conclusion, just as he ascended the stairs, and just as her ladyship had settled her future plan of operations.
After talking over the nothings of the day, and after having given two or three cuts at the society of Dublin, with two or three compliments to individuals, who she knew were favourites with his lordship, she suddenly turned to him. "My lord, I think you told me, or my own sagacity discovered, that you want to see something of Ireland, and that you don't intend, like most travellers, to turn round, see nothing, and go home content."
Lord Colambre assured her ladyship that she had judged him rightly, for that nothing would content him but seeing all that was possible to be seen of his native country. It was for this special purpose he came to Ireland.
"Ah!—well—very good purpose—can't be better; but now how to accomplish it. You know the Portuguese proverb says, 'You go to hell for the good things you intend to do, and to heaven for those you do.' Now let us see what you will do. Dublin, I suppose, you've seen enough of by this time; through and through—round and round—this makes me first giddy, and then sick. Let me show you the country—not the face of it, but the body of it—the people.—Not Castle this, or Newtown that, but their inhabitants. I know them; I have the key, or the pick-lock to their minds. An Irishman is as different an animal on his guard and off his guard, as a miss in school from a miss out of school. A fine country for game, I'll show you; and if you are a good marksman, you may have plenty of shots 'at folly as it flies.'"
Lord Colambre smiled.
"As to Isabel," pursued her ladyship, "I shall put her in charge of Heathcock, who is going with us. She won't thank me for that, but you will. Nay, no fibs, man; you know, I know, as who does not that has seen the world? that, though a pretty woman is a mighty pretty thing, yet she is confoundedly in one's way, when any thing else is to be seen, heard,—or understood."
Every objection anticipated and removed, and so far a prospect held out of attaining all the information he desired, with more than all the amusement he could have expected, Lord Colambre seemed much tempted to accept the invitation; but he hesitated, because, as he said, her ladyship might be going to pay visits where he was not acquainted.
"Bless you! don't let that be a stumbling-block in the way of your tender conscience. I am going to Killpatricks-town, where you'll be as welcome as light. You know them, they know you; at least you shall have a proper letter of invitation from my Lord and my Lady Killpatrick, and all that. And as to the rest, you know a young man is always welcome every where, a young nobleman kindly welcome—I won't say such a young man, and such a young nobleman, for that might put you to your bows or your blushes—but nobilitas by itself, nobility is virtue enough in all parties, in all families, where there are girls, and of course balls, as there are always at Killpatricks-town. Don't be alarmed; you shall not be forced to dance, or asked to marry. I'll be your security. You shall be at full liberty; and it is a house where you can do just what you will. Indeed, I go to no others. These Killpatricks are the best creatures in the world; they think nothing good or grand enough for me. If I'd let them, they would lay down cloth of gold over their bogs for me to walk upon. Good-hearted beings!" added Lady Dashfort, marking a cloud gathering on Lord Colambre's countenance. "I laugh at them, because I love them. I could not love any thing I might not laugh at—your lordship excepted. So you'll come—that's settled."
And so it was settled. Our hero went to Killpatricks-town.
"Every thing here sumptuous and unfinished, you see," said Lady Dashfort to Lord Colambre, the day after their arrival. "All begun as if the projectors thought they had the command of the mines of Peru, and ended as if the possessors had not sixpence. Luxuries enough for an English prince of the blood: comforts not enough for an English yeoman. And you may be sure that great repairs and alterations have gone on to fit this house for our reception, and for our English eyes!—Poor people!—English visitors, in this point of view, are horribly expensive to the Irish. Did you ever hear, that in the last century, or in the century before the last, to put my story far enough back, so that it shall not touch any body living; when a certain English nobleman, Lord Blank A——, sent to let his Irish friend, Lord Blank B——, know that he and all his train were coming over to pay him a visit; the Irish nobleman, Blank B——, knowing the deplorable condition of his castle, sat down fairly to calculate whether it would cost him most to put the building in good and sufficient repair, fit to receive these English visitors, or to burn it to the ground. He found the balance to be in favour of burning, which was wisely accomplished next day. Perhaps Killpatrick would have done well to follow this example. Resolve me which is worst, to be burnt out of house and home, or to be eaten out of house and home. In this house, above and below stairs, including first and second table, housekeeper's room, lady's maids' room, butler's room, and gentleman's, one hundred and four people sit down to dinner every day, as Petito informs me, besides kitchen boys, and what they call char-women, who never sit down, but who do not eat or waste the less for that; and retainers and friends, friends to the fifth and sixth generation, who 'must get their bit and their sup;' for 'sure, it's only Biddy,' they say;" continued Lady Dashfort, imitating their Irish brogue. "And 'sure, 'tis nothing at all, out of all his honour my lord has. How could he feel it?—Long life to him!—He's not that way: not a couple in all Ireland, and that's saying a great dale, looks less after their own, nor is more off-handeder, or open-hearteder, or greater openhouse-keeper, nor my Lord and my Lady Killpatrick.' Now there's encouragement for a lord and a lady to ruin themselves."
[Footnote 1: Fact.] [Footnote 2: Feel it, become sensible of it, know it.] [Footnote 3: Nor, than.]
Lady Dashfort imitated the Irish brogue in perfection; boasted that "she was mistress of fourteen different brogues, and had brogues for all occasions." By her mixture of mimicry, sarcasm, exaggeration, and truth, she succeeded continually in making Lord Colambre laugh at every thing at which she wished to make him laugh; at every thing, but not at every body: whenever she became personal, he became serious, or at least endeavoured to become serious; and if he could not instantly resume the command of his risible muscles, he reproached himself.
"It is shameful to laugh at these people, indeed, Lady Dashfort, in their own house—these hospitable people, who are entertaining us."
"Entertaining us! true, and if we are entertained, how can we help laughing?"
All expostulation was thus turned off by a jest, as it was her pride to make Lord Colambre laugh in spite of his better feelings and principles. This he saw, and this seemed to him to be her sole object; but there he was mistaken. Off-handed as she pretended to be, none dealt more in the impromptu fait a loisir; and, mentally short-sighted as she affected to be, none had more longanimity for their own interest.
It was her settled purpose to make the Irish and Ireland ridiculous and contemptible to Lord Colambre; to disgust him with his native country; to make him abandon the wish of residing on his own estate. To confirm him an absentee was her object, previously to her ultimate plan of marrying him to her daughter. Her daughter was poor, she would therefore be glad to get an Irish peer for her; but would be very sorry, she said, to see Isabel banished to Ireland; and the young widow declared she could never bring herself to be buried alive in Clonbrony Castle.
In addition to these considerations, Lady Dashfort received certain hints from Mrs. Petito, which worked all to the same point.
"Why, yes, my lady; I heard a great deal about all that, when I was at Lady Clonbrony's," said Petito, one day, as she was attending at her lady's toilette, and encouraged to begin chattering. "And I own I was originally under the universal error that my Lord Colambre was to be married to the great heiress, Miss Broadhurst; but I have been converted and reformed on that score, and am at present quite in another way of thinking."
Petito paused, in hopes that her lady would ask what was her present way of thinking? But Lady Dashfort, certain that she would tell her without being asked, did not take the trouble to speak, particularly as she did not choose to appear violently interested on the subject.
"My present way of thinking," resumed Petito, "is in consequence of my having, with my own eyes and ears, witnessed and overheard his lordship's behaviour and words, the morning he was coming away from Lunnun for Ireland; when he was morally certain nobody was up, nor overhearing nor overseeing him, there did I notice him, my lady, stopping in the antechamber, ejaculating over one of Miss Nugent's gloves, which he had picked up. 'Limerick!' said he, quite loud enough to himself; for it was a Limerick glove, my lady—'Limerick!—dear Ireland! she loves you as well as I do!'—or words to that effect; and then a sigh, and down stairs and off. So, thinks I, now the cat's out of the bag. And I wouldn't give much myself for Miss Broadhurst's chance of that young lord, with all her Bank stock, scrip, and omnum. Now, I see how the land lies, and I'm sorry for it; for she's no fortin; and she's so proud, she never said a hint to me of the matter: but my Lord Colambre is a sweet gentleman; and—"
"Petito! don't run on so; you must not meddle with what you don't understand: the Miss Killpatricks, to be sure, are sweet girls, particularly the youngest."
Her ladyship's toilette was finished; and she left Petito to go down to my Lady Killpatrick's woman, to tell, as a very great secret, the schemes that were in contemplation, among the higher powers, in favour of the youngest of the Miss Killpatricks.
"So Ireland is at the bottom of his heart, is it?" repeated Lady Dashfort to herself: "it shall not be long so."
From this time forward, not a day, scarcely an hour passed, but her ladyship did or said something to depreciate the country, or its inhabitants, in our hero's estimation. With treacherous ability, she knew and followed all the arts of misrepresentation; all those injurious arts which his friend, Sir James Brooke, had, with such honest indignation, reprobated. She knew how, not only to seize the ridiculous points, to make the most respectable people ridiculous, but she knew how to select the worst instances, the worst exceptions; and to produce them as examples, as precedents, from which to condemn whole classes, and establish general false conclusions respecting a nation.
In the neighbourhood of Killpatrick's-town, Lady Dashfort said, there were several squireens, or little squires; a race of men who have succeeded to the buckeens, described by Young and Crumpe. Squireens are persons who, with good long leases, or valuable farms, possess incomes from three to eight hundred a year, who keep a pack of hounds; take out a commission of the peace, sometimes before they can spell (as her ladyship said), and almost always before they know any thing of law or justice. Busy and loud about small matters; jobbers at assizes; combining with one another, and trying upon every occasion, public or private, to push themselves forward, to the annoyance of their superiors, and the terror of those below them.
In the usual course of things, these men are not often to be found in the society of gentry except, perhaps, among those gentlemen or noblemen who like to see hangers-on at their, tables: or who find it for their convenience to have underling magistrates, to protect their favourites, or to propose and carry jobs for them on grand juries. At election times, however, these persons rise into sudden importance with all who have views upon the county. Lady Dashfort hinted to Lord Killpatrick, that her private letters from England spoke of an approaching dissolution of parliament: she knew that, upon this hint, a round of invitations would be sent to the squireens; and she was morally certain that they would be more disagreeable to Lord Colambre, and give him a worse idea of the country, than any other people who could be produced. Day after day some of these personages made their appearance; and Lady Dashfort took care to draw them out upon the subjects on which she knew that they would show the most self-sufficient ignorance, and the most illiberal spirit. They succeeded beyond her most sanguine expectations.
"Lord Colambre! how I pity you, for being compelled to these permanent sittings after dinner!" said Lady Isabel to him one night, when he came late to the ladies from the dining-room.
"Lord Killpatrick insisted upon my staying to help him to push about that never-ending, still-beginning electioneering bottle," said Lord Colambre.
"Oh! if that were all; if these gentlemen would only drink:—but their conversation!" "I don't wonder my mother dreads returning to Clonbrony Castle, if my father must have such company as this. But, surely, it cannot be necessary."
"Oh, indispensable! positively indispensable!" cried Lady Dashfort; "no living in Ireland without it. You know, in every country in the world, you must live with the people of the country, or be torn to pieces: for my part, I should prefer being torn to pieces."
Lady Dashfort and Lady Isabel knew how to take advantage of the contrast between their own conversation, and that of the persons by whom Lord Colambre was so justly disgusted: they happily relieved his fatigue with wit, satire, poetry, and sentiment; so that he every day became more exclusively fond of their company; for Lady Killpatrick and the Miss Killpatricks were mere commonplace people. In the mornings, he rode or walked with Lady Dashfort and Lady Isabel: Lady Dashfort, by way of fulfilling her promise of showing him the people, used frequently to take him into the cabins, and talk to their inhabitants. Lord and Lady Killpatrick, who had lived always for the fashionable world, had taken little pains to improve the condition of their tenants: the few attempts they had made were injudicious. They had built ornamented, picturesque cottages, within view of their park; and favourite followers of the family, people with half a century's habit of indolence and dirt, were promoted to these fine dwellings. The consequences were such as Lady Dashfort delighted to point out: every thing let to go to ruin for the want of a moment's care, or pulled to pieces for the sake of the most surreptitious profit: the people most assisted always appearing proportionally wretched and discontented. No one could, with more ease and more knowledge of her ground, than Lady Dashfort, do the dishonours of a country. In every cabin that she entered, by the first glance of her eye at the head, kerchiefed in no comely guise, or by the drawn-down corners of the mouth, or by the bit of a broken pipe, which in Ireland never characterizes stout labour, or by the first sound of the voice, the drawling accent on "your honour," or, "my lady," she could distinguish the proper objects of her charitable designs, that is to say, those of the old uneducated race, whom no one can help, because they will never help themselves. To these she constantly addressed herself, making them give, in all their despairing tones, a history of their complaints and grievances; then asking them questions, aptly contrived to expose their habits of self-contradiction, their servility and flattery one moment, and their litigious and encroaching spirit the next: thus giving Lord Colambre the most unfavourable idea of the disposition and character of the lower class of the Irish people. Lady Isabel the while standing by, with the most amiable air of pity, with expressions of the finest moral sensibility, softening all her mother said, finding ever some excuse for the poor creatures, and following, with angelic sweetness, to heal the wounds her mother inflicted.
When Lady Dashfort thought she had sufficiently worked upon Lord Colambre's mind to weaken his enthusiasm for his native country; and when Lady Isabel had, by the appearance of every virtue, added to a delicate preference, if not partiality for our hero, ingratiated herself into his good opinion, and obtained an interest in his mind, the wily mother ventured an attack of a more decisive nature; and so contrived it was, that if it failed, it should appear to have been made without design to injure, and in total ignorance.
One day, Lady Dashfort, who, in fact, was not proud of her family, though she pretended to be so, was herself prevailed on, though with much difficulty, by Lady Killpatrick, to do the very thing she wanted to do, to show her genealogy, which had been beautifully blazoned, and which was to be produced in evidence in the lawsuit that brought her to Ireland. Lord Colambre stood politely looking on and listening, while her ladyship explained the splendid intermarriages of her family, pointing to each medallion that was filled gloriously with noble, and even with royal names, till at last she stopped short, and covering one medallion with her finger, she said, "Pass over that, dear Lady Killpatrick. You are not to see that, Lord Colambre—that's a little blot in our scutcheon. You know, Isabel, we never talk of that prudent match of great uncle John's: what could he expect by marrying into that family, where, you know, all the men were not sans peur, and none of the women sans reproche?"
"Oh, mamma!" cried Lady Isabel, "not one exception!"
"Not one, Isabel," persisted Lady Dashfort: "there was Lady ——, and the other sister, that married the man with the long nose; and the daughter again, of whom they contrived to make an honest woman, by getting her married in time to a blue riband, and who contrived to get herself into Doctors' Commons the very next year."
"Well, dear mamma, that is enough, and too much. Oh! pray don't go on," cried Lady Isabel, who had appeared very much distressed during her mother's speech. "You don't know what you are saying: indeed, ma'am, you don't."
"Very likely, child; but that compliment I can return to you on the spot, and with interest; for you seem to me, at this instant, not to know either what you are saying, or what you are doing. Come, come, explain."
"Oh, no, ma'am—Pray say no more; I will explain myself another time."
"Nay, there you are wrong, Isabel; in point of good-breeding, any thing is better than hints and mystery. Since I have been so unlucky as to touch upon the subject, better go through with it, and, with all the boldness of innocence, I ask the question, Are you, my Lord Colambre, or are you not, related to or connected with any of the St. Omars?"
"Not that I know of," said Lord Colambre; "but I really am so bad a genealogist, that I cannot answer positively."
"Then I must put the substance of my question into a new form. Have you, or have you not, a cousin of the name of Nugent?"
"Miss Nugent!—Grace Nugent!—Yes," said Lord Colambre, with as much firmness of voice as he could command, and with as little change of countenance as possible; but, as the question came upon him so unexpectedly, it was not in his power to answer with an air of absolute indifference and composure.
"And her mother was—" said Lady Dashfort.
"My aunt, by marriage; her maiden name was Reynolds, I think. But she died when I was quite a child. I know very little about her. I never saw her in my life; but I am certain she was a Reynolds."
"Oh, my dear lord," continued Lady Dashfort; "I am perfectly aware that she did take and bear the name of Reynolds; but that was not her maiden name—her maiden name was—; but perhaps it is a family secret that has been kept, for some good reason, from you, and from the poor girl herself; the maiden name was St. Omar, depend upon it. Nay, I would not have told this to you, my lord, if I could have conceived that it would affect you so violently," pursued Lady Dashfort, in a tone of raillery; "you see you are no worse off than we are. We have an intermarriage with the St. Omars. I did not think you would be so much shocked at a discovery, which proves that our family and yours have some little connexion."
Lord Colambre endeavoured to answer, and mechanically said something about "happy to have the honour." Lady Dashfort, truly happy to see that her blow had hit the mark so well, turned from his lordship without seeming to observe how seriously he was affected; and Lady Isabel sighed, and looked with compassion on Lord Colambre, and then reproachfully at her mother. But Lord Colambre heeded not her looks, and heard none of her sighs; he heard nothing, saw nothing, though his eyes were intently fixed on the genealogy, on which Lady Dashfort was still descanting to Lady Killpatrick. He took the first opportunity he could of quitting the room, and went out to take a solitary walk.
"There he is, departed, but not in peace, to reflect upon what has been said," whispered Lady Dashfort to her daughter. "I hope it will do him a vast deal of good."
"None of the women sans reproche! None!—without one exception," said Lord Colambre to himself; "and Grace Nugent's mother a St. Omar!—Is it possible? Lady Dashfort seems certain. She could not assert a positive falsehood—no motive. She does not know that Miss Nugent is the person to whom I am attached—she spoke at random. And I have heard it first from a stranger,—not from my mother. Why was it kept secret from me? Now I understand the reason why my mother evidently never wished that I should think of Miss Nugent—why she always spoke so vehemently against the marriages of relations, of cousins. Why not tell me the truth? It would have had the strongest effect, had she known my mind."
Lord Colambre had the greatest dread of marrying any woman whose mother had conducted herself ill. His reason, his prejudices, his pride, his delicacy, and even his limited experience were all against it. All his hopes, his plans of future happiness, were shaken to their very foundation; he felt as if he had received a blow that stunned his mind, and from which he could not recover his faculties. The whole of that day he was like one in a dream. At night the painful idea continually recurred to him; and whenever he was fallen asleep, the sound of Lady Dashfort's voice returned upon his ear, saying the words, "What could he expect when he married one of the St. Omars? None of the women sans reproche."
In the morning he rose early; and the first thing he did was to write a letter to his mother, requesting (unless there was some important reason for her declining to answer the question) that she would immediately relieve his mind from a great uneasiness (he altered the word four times, but at last left it uneasiness). He stated what he had heard, and besought his mother to tell him the whole truth without reserve.
One morning Lady Dashfort had formed an ingenious scheme for leaving Lady Isabel and Lord Colambre tete-a-tete; but the sudden entrance of Heathcock disconcerted her intentions. He came to beg Lady Dashfort's interest with Count O'Halloran, for permission to hunt and shoot on his grounds next season.—"Not for myself, 'pon honour, but for two officers who are quartered at the next town here, who will indubitably hang or drown themselves if they are debarred from sporting."
"Who is this Count O'Halloran?" said Lord Colambre.
Miss White, Lady Killpatrick's companion, said, "he was a great oddity;" Lady Dashfort, "that he was singular;" and the clergyman of the parish, who was at breakfast, declared "that he was a man of uncommon knowledge, merit, and politeness."
"All I know of him," said Heathcock, "is, that he is a great sportsman, with a long queue, a gold-laced hat, and long skirts to a laced waistcoat."
Lord Colambre expressed a wish to see this extraordinary personage; and Lady Dashfort, to cover her former design, and, perhaps thinking absence might be as effectual as too much propinquity, immediately offered to call upon the officers in their way, and carry them with Heathcock and Lord Colambre to Halloran Castle.
Lady Isabel retired with much mortification, but with becoming grace; and Major Benson and Captain Williamson were taken to the count's. Major Benson, who was a famous whip, took his seat on the box of the barouche; and the rest of the party had the pleasure of her ladyship's conversation for three or four miles: of her ladyship's conversation—for Lord Colambre's thoughts were far distant; Captain Williamson had not any thing to say; and Heathcock nothing but "Eh! re'lly now!—'pon honour!"
They arrived at Halloran Castle—a fine old building, part of it in ruins, and part repaired with great judgment and taste. When the carriage stopped, a respectable-looking man-servant appeared on the steps, at the open hall-door.
Count O'Halloran was out fishing; but his servant said that he would he at home immediately, if Lady Dashfort and the gentlemen would be pleased to walk in.
On one side of the lofty and spacious hall stood the skeleton of an elk; on the other side, the perfect skeleton of a moose-deer, which, as the servant said, his master had made out, with great care, from the different bones of many of this curious species of deer, found in the lakes in the neighbourhood. The leash of officers witnessed their wonder with sundry strange oaths and exclamations.—"Eh! 'pon honour—re'lly now!" said Heathcock; and, too genteel to wonder at or admire any thing in the creation, dragged out his watch with some difficulty, saying, "I wonder now whether they are likely to think of giving us any thing to eat in this place?" And, turning his back upon the moose-deer, he straight walked out again upon the steps, called to his groom, and began to make some inquiry about his led horse. Lord Colambre surveyed the prodigious skeletons with rational curiosity, and with that sense of awe and admiration, by which a superior mind is always struck on beholding any of the great works of Providence.
"Come, my dear lord!" said Lady Dashfort; "with our sublime sensations, we are keeping my old friend, Mr. Ulick Brady, this venerable person, waiting to show us into the reception-room."
The servant bowed respectfully—more respectfully than servants of modern date.
"My lady, the reception-room has been lately painted,—the smell of paint may be disagreeable; with your leave, I will take the liberty of showing you into my master's study."
He opened the door, went in before her, and stood holding up his finger, as if making a signal of silence to some one within. Her ladyship entered, and found herself in the midst of an odd assembly: an eagle, a goat, a dog, an otter, several gold and silver fish in a glass globe, and a white mouse in a cage. The eagle, quick of eye but quiet of demeanour, was perched upon his stand; the otter lay under the table, perfectly harmless; the Angora goat, a beautiful and remarkably little creature of its kind, with long, curling, silky hair, was walking about the room with the air of a beauty and a favourite; the dog, a tall Irish greyhound—one of the few of that fine race, which is now almost extinct—had been given to Count O'Halloran by an Irish nobleman, a relation of Lady Dashfort's. This dog, who had formerly known her ladyship, looked at her with ears erect, recognized her, and went to meet her the moment she entered. The servant answered for the peaceable behaviour of all the rest of the company of animals, and retired. Lady Dashfort began to feed the eagle from a silver plate on his stand; Lord Colambre examined the inscription on his collar; the other men stood in amaze. Heathcock, who came in last, astonished out of his constant "Eh! re'lly now!" the moment he put himself in at the door, exclaimed, "Zounds! what's all this live lumber?" and he stumbled over the goat, who was at that moment crossing the way. The colonel's spur caught in the goat's curly beard; the colonel shook his foot, and entangled the spur worse and worse; the goat struggled and butted; the colonel skated forward on the polished oak floor, balancing himself with outstretched arms.
The indignant eagle screamed, and, passing by, perched on Heathcock's shoulders. Too well bred to have recourse to the terrors of his beak, he scrupled not to scream, and flap his wings about the colonel's ears. Lady Dashfort, the while, threw herself back in her chair, laughing, and begging Heathcock's pardon. "Oh, take care of the dog, my dear colonel!" cried she; "for this kind of dog seizes his enemy by the back, and shakes him to death." The officers, holding their sides, laughed and begged—no pardon; while Lord Colambre, the only person who was not absolutely incapacitated, tried to disentangle the spur, and to liberate the colonel from the goat, and the goat from the colonel; an attempt in which he at last succeeded, at the expense of a considerable portion of the goat's beard. The eagle, however, still kept his place; and, yet mindful of the wrongs of his insulted friend the goat, had stretched his wings to give another buffet. Count O'Halloran entered; and the bird, quitting his prey, flew down to greet his master. The count was a fine old military-looking gentleman, fresh from fishing: his fishing accoutrements hanging carelessly about him, he advanced, unembarrassed, to Lady Dashfort; and received his other guests with a mixture of military ease and gentlemanlike dignity.
Without adverting to the awkward and ridiculous situation in which he had found poor Heathcock, he apologized in general for his troublesome favourites. "For one of them," said he, patting the head of the dog, which lay quiet at Lady Dashfort's feet, "I see I have no need to apologize; he is where he ought to be. Poor fellow! he has never lost his taste for the good company to which he was early accustomed. As to the rest," said he, turning to Lady Dashfort, "a mouse, a bird, and a fish, are, you know, tribute from earth, air, and water, to a conqueror—"
"But from no barbarous Scythian!" said Lord Colambre, smiling. The count looked at Lord Colambre, as at a person worthy his attention; but his first care was to keep the peace between his loving subjects and his foreign visitors. It was difficult to dislodge the old settlers, to make room for the new comers: but he adjusted these things with admirable facility; and, with a master's hand and master's eye, compelled each favourite to retreat into the back settlements. With becoming attention, he stroked and kept quiet old Victory, his eagle, who eyed Colonel Heathcock still, as if he did not like him; and whom the colonel eyed as if he wished his neck fairly wrung off. The little goat had nestled himself close up to his liberator, Lord Colambre, and lay perfectly quiet, with his eyes closed, going very wisely to sleep, and submitting philosophically to the loss of one half of his beard. Conversation now commenced, and was carried on by Count O'Halloran with much ability and spirit, and with such quickness of discrimination and delicacy of taste, as quite surprised and delighted our hero. To the lady the count's attention was first directed: he listened to her as she spoke, bending with an air of deference and devotion. She made her request for permission for Major Benson and Captain Williamson to hunt and shoot in his grounds next season: this was instantly granted.
Her ladyship's requests were to him commands, the count said.—His gamekeeper should be instructed to give the gentlemen, her friends, every liberty, and all possible assistance.
Then, turning to the officers, he said, he had just heard that several regiments of English militia had lately landed in Ireland; that one regiment was arrived at Killpatrick's-town. He rejoiced in the advantages Ireland, and he hoped he might be permitted to add, England, would probably derive from the exchange of the militia of both countries: habits would be improved, ideas enlarged. The two countries have the same interest; and, from the inhabitants discovering more of each other's good qualities, and interchanging little good offices in common life, their esteem and affection for each other would increase, and rest upon the firm basis of mutual utility.
To all this Major Benson answered only, "We are not militia officers."
"The major looks so like a stuffed man of straw," whispered Lady Dashfort to Lord Colambre, "and the captain so like the king of spades, putting forth one manly leg."
Count O'Halloran now turned the conversation to field sports, and then the captain and major opened at once.
"Pray now, sir," said the major, "you fox-hunt in this country, I suppose; and now do you manage the thing here as we do? Over night, you know, before the hunt, when the fox is out, stopping up the earths of the cover we mean to draw, and all the rest for four miles round. Next morning we assemble at the cover's side, and the huntsman throws in the hounds. The gossip here is no small part of the entertainment: but as soon as we hear the hounds give tongue—"
"The favourite hounds," interposed Williamson.
"The favourite hounds, to be sure," continued Benson: "there is a dead silence till pug is well out of cover, and the whole pack well in: then cheer the hounds with tally-ho! till your lungs crack. Away he goes in gallant style, and the whole field is hard up, till pug takes a stiff country: then they who haven't pluck lag, see no more of him, and, with a fine blazing scent, there are but few of us in at the death."
"Well, we are fairly in at the death, I hope," said Lady Dashfort: "I was thrown out sadly at one time in the chase."
Lord Colambre, with the count's permission, took up a book in which the count's pencil lay, "Pasley on the Military Policy of Great Britain;" it was marked with many notes of admiration, and with hands pointing to remarkable passages.
"That is a book that leaves a strong impression on the mind," said the count.
Lord Colambre read one of the marked passages, beginning with "All that distinguishes a soldier in outward appearance from a citizen is so trifling—" but at this instant our hero's attention was distracted by seeing in a black-letter book this title of a chapter: "Burial-place of the Nugents."
"Pray now, sir," said Captain Williamson, "if I don't interrupt you, as you are a fisherman too; now in Ireland do you, Mr.—"
A smart pinch on his elbow from his major, who stood behind him, stopped the captain short, as he pronounced the word Mr. Like all awkward people, he turned directly to ask, by his looks, what was the matter.
The major took advantage of his discomfiture, and, stepping before him, determined to have the fishing to himself, and went on with, "Count O'Halloran, I presume you understand fishing, too, as well as hunting?"
The count bowed: "I do not presume to say that, sir."
"But pray, count, in this country, do you arm your hook this ways? Give me leave;" taking the whip from Williamson's reluctant hand, "this ways, laying the outermost part of your feather this fashion next to your hook, and the point next to your shank, this wise, and that wise; and then, sir,—count, you take the hackle of a cock's neck—"
"A plover's topping's better," said Williamson.
"And work your gold and silver thread," pursued Benson, "up to your wings, and when your head's made, you fasten all."
"But you never showed how your head's made," interrupted Williamson.
"The gentleman knows how a head's made; any man can make a head, I suppose: so, sir, you fasten all."
"You'll never get your head fast on that way, while the world stands," cried Williamson.
"Fast enough for all purposes; I'll bet you a rump and dozen, captain: and then, sir,—count, you divide your wings with a needle."
"A pin's point will do," said Williamson.
The count, to reconcile matters, produced from an Indian cabinet, which he had opened for Lady Dashfort's inspection, a little basket containing a variety of artificial flies of curious construction, which, as he spread them on the table, made Williamson and Benson's eyes almost sparkle with delight. There was the dun-fly, for the month of March; and the stone-fly, much in vogue for April; and the ruddy-fly, of red wool, black silk, and red capon's feathers.
Lord Colambre, whose head was in the burial-place of the Nugents, wished them all at the bottom of the sea.
"And the green-fly, and the moorish-fly!" cried Benson, snatching them up with transport; "and, chief, the sad-yellow-fly, in which the fish delight in June; the sad-yellow-fly, made with the buzzard's wings, bound with black braked hemp, and the shell-fly, for the middle of July, made of greenish wool, wrapped about with the herle of a peacock's tail, famous for creating excellent sport." All these and more were spread upon the table before the sportsmen's wondering eyes.
"Capital flies! capital, faith!" cried Williamson.
"Treasures, faith, real treasures, by G—!" cried Benson.
"Eh! 'pon honour! re'lly now," were the first words which Heathcock had uttered since his battle with the goat.
"My dear Heathcock, are you alive still?" said Lady Dashfort: "I had really forgotten your existence."
So had Count O'Halloran, but he did not say so.
"Your ladyship has the advantage of me there," said Heathcock, stretching himself; "I wish I could forget my existence, for, in my mind, existence is a horrible bore."
"I thought you was a sportsman," said Williamson.
"And a fisherman?"
"Why look you there, sir," pointing to the flies, "and tell a body life's a bore."
"One can't always fish or shoot, I apprehend, sir," said Heathcock.
"Not always—but sometimes," said Williamson, laughing; "for I suspect shrewdly you've forgot some of your sporting in Bond-street."
"Eh! 'pon honour! re'lly now!" said the colonel, retreating again to his safe entrenchment of affectation, from which he never could venture without imminent danger.
"'Pon honour," cried Lady Dashfort, "I can swear for Heathcock, that I have eaten excellent hares and ducks of his shooting, which, to my knowledge," added she, in a loud whisper, "he bought in the market."
"Emptum aprum!" said Lord Colambre to the count, without danger of being understood by those whom it concerned.
The count smiled a second time; but politely turning the attention of the company from the unfortunate colonel, by addressing himself to the laughing sportsmen, "Gentlemen, you seem to value these," said he, sweeping the artificial flies from the table into the little basket from which they had been taken; "would you do me the honour to accept of them? They are all of my own making, and consequently of Irish manufacture." Then, ringing the bell, he asked Lady Dashfort's permission to have the basket put into her carriage.
Benson and Williamson followed the servant, to prevent them from being tossed into the boot. Heathcock stood still in the middle of the room, taking snuff.
Count O'Halloran turned from him to Lord Colambre, who had just got happily to the burial-place of the Nugents, when Lady Dashfort, coming between them, and spying the title of the chapter, exclaimed, "What have you there?—Antiquities! my delight!—but I never look at engravings when I can see realities."
Lord Colambre was then compelled to follow, as she led the way, into the hall, where the count took down golden ornaments, and brass-headed spears, and jointed horns of curious workmanship, that had been found on his estate; and he told of spermaceti wrapped in carpets, and he showed small urns, enclosing ashes; and from among these urns he selected one, which he put into the hands of Lord Colambre, telling him, that it had been lately found in an old abbey-ground in his neighbourhood, which had been the burial-place of some of the Nugent family.
"I was just looking at the account of it, in the book which you saw open on my table.—And as you seem to take an interest in that family, my lord, perhaps," said the count, "you may think this urn worth your acceptance."
Lord Colambre said, "It would be highly valuable to him—as the Nugents were his near relations."
Lady Dashfort little expected this blow; she, however, carried him off to the moose-deer, and from moose-deer to round-towers, to various architectural antiquities, and to the real and fabulous history of Ireland, on all which the count spoke with learning and enthusiasm. But now, to Colonel Heathcock's great joy and relief, a handsome collation appeared in the dining-room, of which Ulick opened the folding-doors.
"Count, you have made an excellent house of your castle," said Lady Dashfort.
"It will be, when it is finished," said the count. "I am afraid," added he, smiling, "I live like many other Irish gentlemen, who never are, but always to be, blessed with a good house. I began on too large a scale, and can never hope to live to finish it."
"'Pon honour! here's a good thing, which I hope we shall live to finish," said Heathcock, sitting down before the collation; and heartily did he eat of eel-pie, and of Irish ortolans , which, as Lady Dashfort observed, "afforded him indemnity for the past, and security for the future."
[Footnote 1: As it may be satisfactory to a large portion of the public, and to all men of taste, the editor subjoins the following account of the Irish ortolan, which will convince the world that this bird is not in the class of fabulous animals:
"There is a small bird, which is said to be peculiar to the Blasquet Islands, called by the Irish, Gourder, the English name of which I am at a loss for, nor do I find it mentioned by naturalists. It is somewhat larger than a sparrow; the feathers of the back are dark, and those of the belly are white; the bill is straight, short, and thick; and it is web-footed: they are almost one lump of fat; when roasted, of a most delicious taste, and are reckoned to exceed an ortolan; for which reason the gentry hereabouts call them the Irish Ortolan. These birds are worthy of being transmitted a great way to market; for ortolans, it is well known, are brought from France to supply the markets of London."—See Smith's Account of the County of Kerry, p. 186.]
"Eh! re'lly now! your Irish ortolans are famous good eating," said Heathcock.
"Worth being quartered in Ireland, faith! to taste 'em," said Benson.
The count recommended to Lady Dashfort some of "that delicate sweetmeat, the Irish plum."
"Bless me, sir,—count!" cried Williamson, "it's by far the best thing of the kind I ever tasted in all my life: where could you get this?"
"In Dublin, at my dear Mrs. Godey's; where only, in his majesty's dominions, it is to be had," said the count.
The whole vanished in a few seconds.
"'Pon honour! I do believe this is the thing the queen's so fond of," said Heathcock.
Then heartily did he drink of the count's excellent Hungarian wines; and, by the common bond of sympathy between those who have no other tastes but eating and drinking, the colonel, the major, and the captain, were now all the best companions possible for one another.
Whilst "they prolonged the rich repast," Lady Dashfort and Lord Colambre went to the window to admire the prospect: Lady Dashfort asked the count the name of some distant hill.
"Ah!" said the count, "that hill was once covered with fine wood; but it was all cut down two years ago."
"Who could have been so cruel?" said her ladyship.
"I forget the present proprietor's name," said the count; "but he is one of those who, according to the clause of distress in their leases, lead, drive, and carry away, but never enter their lands; one of those enemies to Ireland—those cruel absentees!"
Lady Dashfort looked through her glass at the mountain:—Lord Colambre sighed, and, endeavouring to pass it off with a smile, said frankly to the count, "You are not aware, I am sure, count, that you are speaking to the son of an Irish absentee family. Nay, do not be shocked, my dear sir; I tell you only because I thought it fair to do so: but let me assure you, that nothing you could say on that subject could hurt me personally, because I feel that I am not, that I never can be, an enemy to Ireland. An absentee, voluntarily, I never yet have been; and as to the future, I declare—"
"I declare you know nothing of the future," interrupted Lady Dashfort, in a half peremptory, half playful tone—"you know nothing: make no rash vows, and you will break none."
The undaunted assurance of Lady Dashfort's genius for intrigue gave her an air of frank imprudence, which prevented Lord Colambre from suspecting that more was meant than met the ear. The count and he took leave of one another with mutual regard; and Lady Dashfort rejoiced to have got our hero out of Halloran Castle.
Lord Colambre had waited with great impatience for an answer to the letter of inquiry which he had written about Miss Nugent's mother. A letter from Lady Clonbrony arrived: he opened it with the greatest eagerness—passed over "Rheumatism—warm weather—warm bath—Buxton balls—Miss Broadhurst—your friend, Sir Arthur Berryl, very assiduous!" The name of Grace Nugent he found at last, and read as follows:—
"Her mother's maiden name was St. Omar; and there was a faux pas, certainly. She was, I am told, (for it was before my time,) educated at a convent abroad; and there was an affair with a Captain Reynolds, a young officer, which her friends were obliged to hush up. She brought an infant to England with her, and took the name of Reynolds—but none of that family would acknowledge her: and she lived in great obscurity, till your Uncle Nugent saw, fell in love with her, and (knowing her whole history) married her. He adopted the child, gave her his name, and, after some years, the whole story was forgotten. Nothing could be more disadvantageous to Grace than to have it revived: this is the reason we kept it secret."
Lord Colambre tore the letter to bits.
From the perturbation which Lady Dashfort saw in his countenance, she guessed the nature of the letter which he had been reading, and for the arrival of which he had been so impatient.
"It has worked!" said she to herself. "Pour le coup Philippe je te tiens!"
Lord Colambre appeared this day more sensible than he had ever yet seemed to the charms of the fair Isabel.
"Many a tennis-ball, and many a heart, is caught at the rebound," said Lady Dashfort. "Isabel! now is your time!"
And so it was—or so, perhaps, it would have been, but for a circumstance which her ladyship, with all her genius for intrigue, had never taken into her consideration. Count O'Halloran came to return the visit which had been paid to him; and, in the course of conversation, he spoke of the officers who had been introduced to him, and told Lady Dashfort that he had heard a report which shocked him much—he hoped it could not be true—that one of these officers had introduced his mistress as his wife to Lady Oranmore, who lived in the neighbourhood. This officer, it was said, had let Lady Oranmore send her carriage for this woman; and that she had dined at Oranmore with her ladyship and her daughters. "But I cannot believe it! I cannot believe it to be possible, that any gentleman, that any officer could do such a thing!" said the count.
"And is this all?" exclaimed Lady Dashfort. "Is this all the terrible affair, my good count, which has brought your face to this prodigious length?"
The count looked at Lady Dashfort with astonishment.
"Such a look of virtuous indignation," continued she, "did I never behold on or off the stage. Forgive me for laughing, count; but, believe me, comedy goes through the world better than tragedy, and, take it all in all, does rather less mischief. As to the thing in question, I know nothing about it; I dare say it is not true: but, now, suppose it were—it is only a silly quiz of a raw young officer upon a prudish old dowager. I know nothing about it, for my part: but, after all, what irreparable mischief has been done? Laugh at the thing, and then it is a jest—a bad one, perhaps, but still only a jest—and there's an end of it: but take it seriously, and there is no knowing where it might end—in this poor man's being broke, and in half a dozen duels, may be."
"Of that, madam," said the count, "Lady Oranmore's prudence and presence of mind have prevented all danger. Her ladyship would not understand the insult. She said, or she acted as if she said, 'Je ne veux rien voir, rien ecouter, rien savoir.' Lady Oranmore is one of the most respectable—"
"Count, I beg your pardon!" interrupted Lady Dashfort; "but I must tell you, that your favourite, Lady Oranmore, has behaved very ill to me; purposely omitted to invite Isabel to her ball; offended and insulted me:—her praises, therefore, cannot be the most agreeable subject of conversation you can choose for my amusement; and as to the rest, you, who have such variety and so much politeness, will, I am sure, have the goodness to indulge my caprice in this instance."
"I shall obey your ladyship, and be silent, whatever pleasure it might give me to speak on that subject," said the count; "and I trust Lady Dashfort will reward me by the assurance, that, however playfully she may have just now spoken, she seriously disapproves, and is shocked."
"Oh, shocked! shocked to death! if that will satisfy you, my dear count."
The count, obviously, was not satisfied: he had civil, as well as military courage, and his sense of right and wrong could stand against the raillery and ridicule of a fine lady.
The conversation ended: Lady Dashfort thought it would have no farther consequences; and she did not regret the loss of a man like Count O'Halloran, who lived retired in his castle, and who could not have any influence upon the opinion of the fashionable world. However, upon turning from the count to Lord Colambre, who she thought had been occupied with Lady Isabel, and to whom she imagined all this dispute was uninteresting, she perceived, by his countenance, that she had made a great mistake. Still she trusted that her power over Lord Colambre was sufficient easily to efface whatever unfavourable impression this conversation had made upon his mind. He had no personal interest in the affair; and she had generally found that people are easily satisfied about any wrong or insult, public or private, in which they have no immediate concern. But all the charms of her conversation were now tried in vain to reclaim him from the reverie into which he had fallen.
His friend Sir James Brooke's parting advice occurred to our hero: his eyes began to open to Lady Dashfort's character; and he was, from this moment, freed from her power. Lady Isabel, however, had taken no part in all this—she was blameless; and, independently of her mother, and in pretended opposition of sentiment, she might have continued to retain the influence she had gained over Lord Colambre, but that a slight accident revealed to him her real disposition.
It happened, on the evening of this day, that Lady Isabel came into the library with one of the young ladies of the house, talking very eagerly, without perceiving Lord Colambre, who was sitting in one of the recesses reading.
"My dear creature, you are quite mistaken," said Lady Isabel, "he was never a favourite of mine; I always detested him; I only flirted with him to plague his wife. Oh, that wife! my dear Elizabeth, I do hate," cried she, clasping her hands, and expressing hatred with all her soul, and with all her strength. "I detest that Lady de Cressy to such a degree, that, to purchase the pleasure of making her feel the pangs of jealousy for one hour, look, I would this moment lay down this finger and let it be cut off."
The face, the whole figure of Lady Isabel, at this moment, appeared to Lord Colambre suddenly metamorphosed; instead of the soft, gentle, amiable female, all sweet charity and tender sympathy, formed to love and to be loved, he beheld one possessed and convulsed by an evil spirit—her beauty, if beauty it could be called, the beauty of a fiend. Some ejaculation, which he unconsciously uttered, made Lady Isabel start. She saw him—saw the expression of his countenance, and knew that all was over.
Lord Colambre, to the utter astonishment and disappointment of Lady Dashfort, and to the still greater mortification of Lady Isabel, announced this night that it was necessary he should immediately pursue his tour in Ireland. We pass over all the castles in the air which the young ladies of the family had built, and which now fell to the ground. We pass all the civil speeches of Lord and Lady Killpatrick; all the vehement remonstrances of Lady Dashfort; and the vain sighs of Lady Isabel. To the last moment Lady Dashfort said, "He will not go."
But he went; and, when he was gone, Lady Dashfort exclaimed, "That man has escaped from me." After a pause, turning to her daughter, she, in the most taunting and contemptuous terms, reproached her as the cause of this failure, concluding by a declaration, that she must in future manage her own affairs, and had best settle her mind to marry Heathcock, since every one else was too wise to think of her.
Lady Isabel of course retorted. But we leave this amiable mother and daughter to recriminate in appropriate terms, and we follow our hero, rejoiced that he has been disentangled from their snares. Those who have never been in similar peril will wonder much that he did not escape sooner; those who have ever been in like danger will wonder more that he escaped at all. They who are best acquainted with the heart or imagination of man will be most ready to acknowledge that the combined charms of wit, beauty, and flattery, may, for a time, suspend the action of right reason in the mind of the greatest philosopher, or operate against the resolutions of the greatest of heroes.
Lord Colambre pursued his way to Halloran Castle, desirous, before he quitted this part of the country, to take leave of the count, who had shown him much civility, and for whose honourable conduct and generous character he had conceived a high esteem, which no little peculiarities of antiquated dress or manner could diminish. Indeed, the old-fashioned politeness of what was formerly called a well-bred gentleman pleased him better than the indolent or insolent selfishness of modern men of the ton. Perhaps, notwithstanding our hero's determination to turn his mind from every thing connected with the idea of Miss Nugent, some latent curiosity about the burial-place of the Nugents might have operated to make him call upon the count. In this hope he was disappointed; for a cross miller, to whom the abbey-ground was let, on which the burial-place was found, had taken it into his head to refuse admittance, and none could enter his ground.
Count O'Halloran was much pleased by Lord Colambre's visit. The very day of his arrival at Halloran Castle, the count was going to Oranmore; he was dressed, and his carriage was waiting: therefore Lord Colambre begged that he might not detain him, and the count requested his lordship to accompany him.
"Let me have the honour of introducing you, my lord, to a family, with whom, I am persuaded, you will he pleased; by whom you will be appreciated; and at whose house you will have an opportunity of seeing the best manner of living of the Irish nobility."
Lord Colambre accepted the invitation, and was introduced at Oranmore. The dignified appearance and respectable character of Lady Oranmore; the charming unaffected manners of her daughters; the air of domestic happiness and comfort in her family; the becoming magnificence, free from ostentation, in her whole establishment; the respect and affection with which she was treated by all who approached her, delighted and touched Lord Colambre; the more, perhaps, because he had heard this family so unjustly abused; and because he saw Lady Oranmore and her daughter in immediate contrast with Lady Dashfort and Lady Isabel.
A little circumstance which occurred during this visit, increased his interest for the family. When Lady de Cressy's little boys came in after dinner, one of them was playing with a seal, which had just been torn from a letter. The child showed it to Lord Colambre, and asked him to read the motto. The motto was, "Deeds, not words." His friend Sir James Brooke's motto, and his arms. Lord Colambre eagerly inquired if this family was acquainted with Sir James, and he soon perceived that they were not only acquainted with him, but that they were particularly interested about him.