He paused, and there was a momentary silence.
"There spoke the true thing! and the rael gentleman; my own heart's satisfied," said Brian, folding his arms, and standing erect.
"Then so is mine," said Grace, taking breath, with a deep sigh.
The widow advancing, put on her spectacles, and, looking up close at Lord Colambre's face—"Then it's a wonder I didn't know the family likeness."
Lord Colambre, now recollecting that he still wore the old great coat, threw it off.
"Oh, bless him! Then now I'd know him any where. I'm willing to die now, for we'll all be happy."
"My lord, since it is so—my lord, may I ask you," said Mr. Garraghty, now sufficiently recovered to be able to articulate, but scarcely to express his ideas; "if what your lordship hinted just now—"
"I hinted nothing, sir; I spoke plainly."
"I beg pardon, my lord," said Old Nick; "respecting vice, was levelled at me; because, if it was, my lord," trying to stand erect; "let me tell your lordship, if I could think it was—"
"If it did not hit you, sir, no matter at whom it was levelled."
"And let me ask, my lord, if I may presume, whether, in what you suggested by the word fraud, your lordship had any particular meaning?" said St. Dennis.
"A very particular meaning, sir—feel in your pocket for the key of this widow's house, and deliver it to her."
"Oh, if that's all the meaning, with all the pleasure in life. I never meant to detain it longer than till the leases were signed," said St. Dennis.
"And I'm ready to sign the leases this minute," said the brother.
"Do it, sir, this minute; I have read them; I will be answerable to my father."
"Oh, as to that, my lord, I have power to sign for your father."
He signed the leases; they were duly witnessed by Lord Colambre.
"I deliver this as my act and deed," said Mr. Garraghty:
"My lord," continued he, "you see, at the first word from you; and had I known sooner the interest you took in the family, there would have been no difficulty; for I'd make it a principle to oblige you, my lord."
"Oblige me!" said Lord Colambre, with disdain.
"But when gentlemen and noblemen travel incognito, and lodge in cabins," added St. Dennis, with a satanic smile, glancing his eye on Grace, "they have good reasons, no doubt."
"Do not judge my heart by your own, sir," said Lord Colambre, coolly; "no two things in nature can, I trust, be more different. My purpose in travelling incognito has been fully answered: I was determined to see and judge how my father's estates were managed; and I have seen, compared, and judged. I have seen the difference between the Clonbrony and the Colambre property; and I shall represent what I have seen to my father."
"As to that, my lord, if we are to come to that—but I trust your lordship will suffer me to explain these matters. Go about your business, my good friends; you have all you want; and, my lord, after dinner, when you are cool, I hope I shall be able to make you sensible that things have been represented to your lordship in a mistaken light; and, I flatter myself, I shall convince you, I have not only always acted the part of a friend to the family, but am particularly willing to conciliate your lordship's good-will," said he, sweeping the rouleaus of gold into a bag; "any accommodation in my power, at any time."
"I want no accommodation, sir—were I starving, I would accept of none from you. Never can you conciliate my good-will; for you can never deserve it."
"If that be the case, my lord, I must conduct myself accordingly: but it's fair to warn you, before you make any representation to my Lord Clonbrony, that, if he should think of changing his agent, there are accounts to be settled between us—that may be a consideration."
"No, sir; no consideration—my father never shall be the slave of such a paltry consideration."
"Oh, very well, my lord; you know best. If you choose to make an assumpsit, I'm sure I shall not object to the security. Your lordship will be of age soon, I know—I'm sure I'm satisfied—but," added he, with a malicious smile, "I rather apprehend you don't know what you undertake: I only premise that the balance of accounts between us is not what can properly be called a paltry consideration."
"On that point, perhaps, sir, you and I may differ."
"Very well, my lord, you will follow your own principles, if it suits your convenience."
"Whether it does or not, sir, I shall abide by my principles."
"Dennis! the letters to the post—When do you go to England, my lord?"
"Immediately, sir," said Lord Colambre: his lordship saw new leases from his father to Mr. Dennis Garraghty, lying on the table, unsigned.
"Immediately!" repeated Messrs. Nicholas and Dennis, with an air of dismay. Nicholas got up, looked out of the window, and whispered something to his brother, who instantly left the room.
Lord Colambre saw the postchaise at the door, which had brought Mrs. Raffarty to the castle, and Larry standing beside it: his lordship instantly threw up the sash, and holding between his finger and thumb a six shilling piece, cried, "Larry, my friend, let me have the horses."
"You shall have 'em—your honour," said Larry.
Mr. Dennis Garraghty appeared below, speaking in a magisterial tone. "Larry, my brother must have the horses."
"He can't, plase your honour—they're engaged."
"Half a crown!—a crown!—half a guinea!" said Mr. Dennis Garraghty, raising his voice, as he increased his proffered bribe. To each offer Larry replied, "You can't, plase your honour, they're engaged;" and, looking up to the window at Lord Colambre, he said, "As soon as they have ate their oats, you shall have 'em."
No other horses were to be had. The agent was in consternation. Lord Colambre ordered that Larry should have some dinner, and whilst the postilion was eating, and the horses finished their oats, his lordship wrote the following letter to his father, which, to prevent all possibility of accident, he determined to put, with his own hand, into the post-office at Clonbrony, as he passed through the town.
"MY DEAR FATHER,
"I hope to be with you in a few days. Lest any thing should detain me on the road, I write this, to make an earnest request, that you will not sign any papers, or transact any farther business with Messrs. Nicholas or Dennis Garraghty before you see
"Your affectionate son,
The horses came out. Larry sent word he was ready, and Lord Colambre, having first eaten a slice of his own venison, ran down to the carriage, followed by the thanks and blessings of the widow, her son, and daughter, who could hardly make their way after him to the chaise-door, so great was the crowd which had gathered on the report of his lordship's arrival.
"Long life to your honour! Long life to your lordship!" echoed on all sides. "Just come, and going, are you?"
"Good bye to you all, good people!"
"Then good bye is the only word we wouldn't wish to hear from your honour."
"For the sake both of landlord and tenant, I must leave you now, my good friends; but I hope to return to you at some future time."
"God bless you! and speed ye! and a safe journey to your honour!—and a happy return to us, and soon!" cried a multitude of voices.
Lord Colambre stopped at the chaise-door, and beckoned to the widow O'Neil, before whom others had pressed. An opening was made for her instantly.
"There! that was the very way his father stood, with his foot on the step. And Miss Nugent was in it."
Lord Colambre forgot what he was going to say,—with some difficulty recollected. "This pocket-book," said he, "which your son restored to me—I intend it for your daughter—don't keep it as your son kept it for me, without opening it. Let what is withinside," added he, as he got into the carriage, "replace the cloak and gown, and let all things necessary for a bride be bought; 'for the bride that has all things to borrow has surely mickle to do.' Shut the door, and drive on."
"Blessings be wid you," cried the widow, "and God give you grace!"
Larry drove off at full gallop, and kept on at a good rate, till he got out of the great gate, and beyond the sight of the crowd: then, pulling up, he turned to Lord Colambre—"Plase your honour, I did not know nor guess ye was my lord, when I let you have the horses: did not know who you was from Adam, I'll take my affidavit."
"There's no occasion," said Lord Colambre; "I hope you don't repent letting me have the horses, now you do know who I am?"
"Oh! not at all, sure: I'm as glad as the best horse ever I crossed, that your honour is my lord—but I was only telling your honour, that you might not be looking upon me as a timesarver."
"I do not look upon you as a timesarver, Larry; but keep on, that time may serve me."
In two words, he explained his cause of haste; and no sooner explained than understood. Larry thundered away through the town of Clonbrony, bending over his horses, plying the whip, and lending his very soul at every lash. With much difficulty, Lord Colambre stopped him at the end of the town, at the post-office. The post was gone out—gone a quarter of an hour.
"May be, we'll overtake the mail," said Larry: and, as he spoke, he slid down from his seat, and darted into the public-house, re-appearing, in a few moments, with a copper of ale and a horn in his hand: he and another man held open the horses' mouths, and poured the ale through the horn down their throats.
"Now, they'll go with spirit!"
And, with the hope of overtaking the mail, Larry made them go "for life or death," as he said: but in vain! At the next stage, at his own inn-door, Larry roared for fresh horses till he, got them, harnessed them with his own hands, holding the six shilling piece, which Lord Colambre had given him, in his mouth, all the while: for he could not take time to put it into his pocket.
"Speed ye! I wish I was driving you all the way, then," said he. The other postilion was not yet ready. "Then your honour sees," said he, putting his head into the carriage, "consarning of them Garraghties—Old Nick and St. Dennis—the best part, that is, the worst part, of what I told you, proved true; and I'm glad of it, that is, I'm sorry for it—but glad your honour knows it in time. So Heaven prosper you! And may all the saints (barring St. Dennis) have charge of you, and all belonging to you, till we see you here again!—And when will it be?"
"I cannot say when I shall return to you myself, but I will do my best to send your landlord to you soon. In the mean time, my good fellow, keep away from the sign of the Horseshoe—a man of your sense to drink and make an idiot and a brute of yourself!"
"True!—And it was only when I had lost hope I took to it—but now! Bring me the book one of yees, out of the landlady's parlour. By the virtue of this book, and by all the books that ever was shut and opened, I won't touch a drop of spirits, good or bad, till I see your honour again, or some of the family, this time twelvemonth—that long I live on hope,—but mind, if you disappoint me, I don't swear but I'll take to the whiskey for comfort, all the rest of my days. But don't be staying here, wasting your time, advising me. Bartley! take the reins, can't ye?" cried he, giving them to the fresh postilion; "and keep on, for your life, for there's thousands of pounds depending on the race—so off, off, Bartley, with speed of light!"
Bartley did his best; and such was the excellence of the roads, that, notwithstanding the rate at which our hero travelled, he arrived safely in Dublin, just in time to put his letter into the post-office, and to sail in that night's packet. The wind was fair when Lord Colambre went on board, but before they got out of the Bay it changed; they made no way all night: in the course of the next day, they had the mortification to see another packet from Dublin sail past them, and when they landed at Holyhead, were told the packet, which had left Ireland twelve hours after them, had been in an hour before them. The passengers had taken their places in the coach, and engaged what horses could be had. Lord Colambre was afraid that Mr. Garraghty was one of them; a person exactly answering his description had taken four horses, and set out half an hour before in great haste for London. Luckily, just as those who had taken their places in the mail were getting into the coach, Lord Colambre saw among them a gentleman, with whom he had been acquainted in Dublin, a barrister, who was come over during the long vacation, to make a tour of pleasure in England. When Lord Colambre explained the reason he had for being in haste to reach London, he had the good-nature to give up to him his place in the coach. Lord Colambre travelled all night, and delayed not one moment, till he reached his father's house, in London.
"My father at home?"
"Yes, my lord, in his own room—the agent from Ireland with him, on particular business—desired not to be interrupted—but I'll go and tell him, my lord, you are come."
Lord Colambre ran past the servant, as he spoke—made his way into the room—found his father, Sir Terence O'Fay, and Mr. Garraghty—leases open on the table before them; a candle lighted; Sir Terence sealing; Garraghty emptying a bag of guineas on the table, and Lord Clonbrony actually with a pen in his hand, ready to sign.
As the door opened, Garraghty started back, so that half the contents of his bag rolled upon the floor.
"Stop, my dear father, I conjure you," cried Lord Colambre, springing forward, and snatching the pen from his father's hand.
"Colambre! God bless you, my dear boy! at all events. But how came you here?—And what do you mean?" said his father.
"Burn it!" cried Sir Terence, pinching the sealing-wax; "for I burnt myself with the pleasure of the surprise."
Garraghty, without saying a word, was picking up the guineas that were scattered upon the floor.
"How fortunate I am," cried Lord Colambre, "to have arrived just in time to tell you, my dear father, before you put your signature to these papers, before you conclude this bargain, all I know, all I have seen of that man!"
"Nick Garraghty, honest old Nick; do you know him, my lord?" said Sir Terence.
"Too well, sir."
"Mr. Garraghty, what have you done to offend my son? I did not expect this," said Lord Clonbrony.
"Upon my conscience, my lord, nothing to my knowledge," said Mr. Garraghty, picking up the guineas; "but showed him every civility, even so far as offering to accommodate him with cash without security; and where will you find the other agent, in Ireland, or any where else, will do that? To my knowledge, I never did any thing, by word or deed, to offend my Lord Colambre; nor could not, for I never saw him but for ten minutes, in my days; and then he was in such a foaming passion, begging his lordship's pardon, owing to the misrepresentations he met with of me, I presume, from a parcel of blackguards that he went amongst, incognito, he would not let me or my brother Dennis say a word to set him right; but exposed me before all the tenantry, and then threw himself into a hack, and drove off here, to stop the signing of these leases, I perceive. But I trust," concluded he, putting the replenished money-bag down, with a heavy sound on the table, opposite to Lord Clonbrony, "I trust my Lord Clonbrony will do me justice; that's all I have to say."
"I comprehend the force of your last argument fully, sir," said Lord Colambre. "May I ask, how many guineas there are in the bag?—I don't ask whether they are my father's or not."
"They are to be your lordship's father's, sir, if he thinks proper," replied Garraghty. "How many, I don't know that I can justly, positively say—five hundred, suppose."
"And they would be my father's, if he signed those leases—I understand that perfectly, and understand that my father will lose three times that sum by the bargain. My dear father, you start—but it is true—is not this the rent, sir, at which you are going to let Mr. Garraghty have the land?" placing a paper before Lord Clonbrony.
"It is—the very thing."
"And here, sir, written with my own hand, are copies of the proposals I saw from responsible, respectable tenants, offered and refused. Is it so, or is it not, Mr. Garraghty?—deny it, if you can."
Mr. Garraghty grew pale; his lips quivered; he stammered; and, after a shocking convulsion of face, could at last articulate—only, "That there was a great difference between tenant and tenant, his lordship must be sensible—especially for so large a rent."
"As great a difference as between agent and agent, I am sensible—especially for so large a property!" said Lord Colambre, with cool contempt. "You find, sir, I am well informed with regard to this transaction; you will find, also, that I am equally well informed with respect to every part of your conduct towards my father and his tenantry. If, in relating to him what I have seen and heard, I should make any mistakes, you are here; and I am glad you are, to set me right, and to do yourself justice."
"Oh! as to that, I should not presume to contradict any thing your lordship asserts from your own authority: where would be the use? I leave it all to your lordship. But, as it is not particularly agreeable to stay to hear one's self abused—Sir Terence! I'll thank you to hand me my hat!—And if you'll have the goodness, my Lord Clonbrony, to look over finally the accounts before morning, I'll call at your leisure to settle the balance, as you find convenient: as to the leases, I'm quite indifferent." So saying, he took up his money-bag.
"Well, you'll call again in the morning, Mr. Garraghty?" said Sir Terence; "and, by that time, I hope we shall understand this misunderstanding better."
Sir Terence pulled Lord Clonbrony's sleeve: "Don't let him go with the money—it's much wanted."
"Let him go," said Lord Colambre: "money can be had by honourable means."
"Wheugh!—He talks as if he had the bank of England at his command, as every young man does," said Sir Terence.
Lord Colambre deigned no reply. Lord Clonbrony walked undecidedly between his agent and his son—looked at Sir Terence, and said nothing.
Mr. Garraghty departed: Lord Clonbrony called after him from the head of the stairs, "I shall be at home and at leisure in the morning."
Sir Terence ran down stairs after him: Lord Colambre waited quietly for their return.
"Fifteen hundred guineas at a stroke of a goose-quill!—That was a neat hit, narrowly missed, of honest Nick's!" said Lord Clonbrony. "Too bad! too bad, faith!—I am much, very much obliged to you, Colambre, for that hint: by to-morrow morning we shall have him in another tune."
"And he must double the bag, or quit," said Sir Terence.
"Treble it, if you please, Terry. Sure, three times five's fifteen:—fifteen hundred down, or he does not get my signature to those leases for his brother, nor get the agency of the Colambre estate.—Colambre, what more have you to tell of him? for, since he is making out his accounts against me, it is no harm to have a per contra against him, that may ease my balance."
"Very fair! very fair!" said Sir Terence. "My lord, trust me for remembering all the charges against him—every item: and when he can't clear himself, if I don't make him buy a good character dear enough, why, say I am a fool, and don't know the value of character, good or bad!"
"If you know the value of character, Sir Terence," said Lord Colambre, "you know that it is not to be bought or sold." Then turning from Sir Terence to his father, he gave a full and true account of all he had seen in his progress through his Irish estates; and drew a faithful picture both of the bad and good agent. Lord Clonbrony, who had benevolent feelings, and was fond of his tenantry, was touched; and when his son ceased speaking, repeated several times, "Rascal! rascal! How dare he use my tenants so—the O'Neills in particular!—Rascal! bad heart!—I'll have no more to do with him." But, suddenly recollecting himself, he turned to Sir Terence, and added, "That's sooner said than done—I'll tell you honestly, Colambre, your friend Mr. Burke may he the best man in the world—but he is the worst man to apply to for a remittance or a loan, in a HURRY! He always tells me, 'he can't distress the tenants.'"
"And he never, at coming into the agency even," said Sir Terence, "advanced a good round sum to the landlord, by way of security for his good behaviour. Now honest Nick did that much for us at coming in."
"And at going out is he not to be repaid?" said Lord Colambre.
"That's the devil!" said Lord Clonbrony: "that's the very reason I can't conveniently turn him out."
"I will make it convenient to you, sir, if you will permit me," said Lord Colambre. "In a few days I shall be of age, and will join with you in raising whatever sum you want, to free you from this man. Allow me to look over his account; and whatever the honest balance may be, let him have it."
"My dear boy!" said Lord Clonbrony, "you're a generous fellow. Fine Irish heart!—glad you're my son! But there's more, much more, that you don't know," added he, looking at Sir Terence, who cleared his throat; and Lord Clonbrony, who was on the point of opening all his affairs to his son, stopped short.
"Colambre," said he, "we will not say any thing more of this at present; for nothing effectual can be done till you are of age, and then we shall see all about it."
Lord Colambre perfectly understood what his father meant, and what was meant by the clearing of Sir Terence's throat. Lord Clonbrony wanted his son to join him in opening the estate to pay his debts; and Sir Terence feared that if Lord Colambre were abruptly told the whole sum total of the debts, he would never be persuaded to join in selling or mortgaging so much of his patrimony as would be necessary for their payment. Sir Terence thought that the young man, ignorant probably of business, and unsuspicious of the state of his father's affairs, might be brought, by proper management, to any measures they desired. Lord Clonbrony wavered between the temptation to throw himself upon the generosity of his son, and the immediate convenience of borrowing a sum of money from his agent, to relieve his present embarrassments.
"Nothing can be settled," repeated he, "till Colambre is of age; so it does not signify talking of it."
"Why so, sir?" said Lord Colambre. "Though my act, in law, may not be valid till I am of age, my promise, as a man of honour, is binding now; and, I trust, would be as satisfactory to my father as any legal deed whatever."
"Undoubtedly, my dear boy; but—"
"But what?" said Lord Colambre, following his father's eye, which turned to Sir Terence O'Fay, as if asking his permission to explain. "As my father's friend, sir, you ought, permit me to say, at this moment to use your influence to prevail upon him to throw aside all reserve with a son, whose warmest wish is to serve him, and to see him at ease and happy."
"Generous, dear boy," cried Lord Clonbrony. "Terence, I can't stand it; but how shall I bring myself to name the amount of the debts?"
"At some time or other, I must know it," said Lord Colambre: "I cannot be better prepared at any moment than the present; never more disposed to give my assistance to relieve all difficulties. Blindfold, I cannot be led to any purpose, sir," said he, looking at Sir Terence: "the attempt would be degrading and futile. Blindfolded I will not be—but, with my eyes open, I will see, and go straight and prompt as heart can go, to my father's interest, without a look or thought to my own."
"By St. Patrick! the spirit of a prince, and an Irish prince, spoke there," cried Sir Terence: "and if I'd fifty hearts, you'd have all in your hand this minute, at your service, and warm. Blindfold you! After that, the man that would attempt it desarves to be shot; and I'd have no sincerer pleasure in life than shooting him this moment, was he my best friend. But it's not Clonbrony, or your father, my lord, would act that way, no more than Sir Terence O'Fay—there's the schedule of the debts," drawing a paper from his bosom; "and I'll swear to the lot, and not a man on earth could do that but myself."
Lord Colambre opened the paper. His father turned aside, covering his face with both his hands.
"Tut, man," said Sir Terence: "I know him now better than you; he will stand, you'll find, the shock of that regiment of figures—he is steel to the backbone, and proof spirit."
"I thank you, my dear father," said Lord Colambre, "for trusting me thus at once with a view of the truth. At first sight it is, I acknowledge, worse than I expected; but I make no doubt that, when you allow me to examine Mr. Garraghty's accounts and Mr. Mordicai's claims, we shall be able to reduce this alarming total considerably."
"The devil a pound, nor a penny," said Sir Terence; "for you have to deal with a Jew and Old Nick; and, since I'm not a match for them, I don't know who is; and I have no hope of getting any abatement. I've looked over the accounts till I'm sick."
"Nevertheless, you will observe that fifteen hundred guineas have been saved to my father at one stroke, by his not signing those leases."
"Saved to you, my lord; not your father, if you please," said Sir Terence. "For now I'm upon the square with you, I must be straight as an arrow, and deal with you as the son and friend of my friend: before, I was considering you only as the son and heir, which is quite another thing, you know; accordingly, acting for your father here, I was making the best bargain against you I could: honestly, now, I tell you. I knew the value of the lands well enough: I was as sharp as Garraghty, and he knew it; I was to have had for your father the difference from him, partly in cash and partly in balance of accounts—you comprehend—and you only would have been the loser, and never would have known it, may be, till after we all were dead and buried; and then you might have set aside Garraghty's lease easy, and no harm done to any but a rogue that desarved it; and, in the mean time, an accommodation to my honest friend, my lord, your father here. But, as fate would have it, you upset all by your progress incognito through them estates. Well, it's best as it is, and I am better pleased to be as we are, trusting all to a generous son's own heart. Now put the poor father out of pain, and tell us what you'll do, my dear."
"In one word, then," said Lord Colambre, "I will, upon two conditions, either join my father in levying fines to enable him to sell or mortgage whatever portion of his estate is necessary for the payment of these debts; or I will, in whatever mode he can point out, as more agreeable or more advantageous to him, join in giving security to his creditors."
"Dear, noble fellow!" cried Sir Terence: "none but an Irishman could do it."
Lord Clonbrony, melted to tears, could not articulate, but held his arms open to embrace his son.
"But you have not heard my conditions yet," said Lord Colambre.
"Oh, confound the conditions!" cried Sir Terence.
"What conditions could he ask, that I could refuse at this minute?" said Lord Clonbrony.
"Nor I—was it my heart's blood, and were I to be hanged for it," cried Sir Terence. "And what are the conditions?"
"That Mr. Garraghty shall be dismissed from the agency."
"And welcome, and glad to get rid of him—the rogue, the tyrant," said Lord Clonbrony; "and, to be beforehand with you in your next wish, put Mr. Burke into his place."
"I'll write the letter for you to sign, my lord, this minute," cried Terry, "with all the pleasure in life. No; it's my Lord Colambre should do that in all justice."
"But what's your next condition? I hope it's no worse," said Lord Clonbrony.
"That you and my mother should cease to be absentees."
"Oh, murder!" said Sir Terence; "may be that's not so easy; for there are two words to that bargain."
Lord Clonbrony declared that, for his own part, he was ready to return to Ireland next morning, and to promise to reside on his estate all the rest of his days; that there was nothing he desired more, provided Lady Clonbrony would consent to it; but that he could not promise for her; that she was as obstinate as a mule on that point; that he had often tried, but that there was no moving her; and that, in short, he could not promise on her part.
But it was on this condition, Lord Colambre said, he must insist. Unless this condition were granted, he would not engage to do any thing.
"Well, we must only see how it will be when she comes to town; she will come up from Buxton the day you're of age to sign some papers," said Lord Clonbrony; "but," added he with a very dejected look and voice, "if all's to depend on my Lady Clonbrony's consenting to return to Ireland, I'm as far from all hope of being at ease as ever."
"Upon my conscience, we're all at sea again," said Sir Terence.
Lord Colambre was silent; but in his silence there was such an air of firmness, that both Lord Clonbrony and Sir Terence were convinced entreaties would, on this point, be fruitless. Lord Clonbrony sighed deeply.
"But when it's ruin or safety! and her husband and all belonging to her at stake, the woman can't persist in being a mule," said Sir Terence.
"Of whom are you talking, sir?" said Lord Colambre.
"Of whom? Oh, I beg your lordship's pardon—I thought I was talking to my lord; but, in other words, as you are her son, I'm persuaded her ladyship, your mother, will prove herself a reasonable woman—when she sees she can't help it. So, my Lord Clonbrony, cheer up; a great deal may be done by the fear of Mordicai, and an execution, especially now there's no prior creditor. Since there's no reserve between you and I now, my Lord Colambre," said Sir Terence, "I must tell you all, and how we shambled on those months while you were in Ireland. First, Mordicai went to law, to prove I was in a conspiracy with your father, pretending to be prior creditor, to keep him off and out of his own; which, after a world of swearing and law—law always takes time to do justice, that's one comfort—the villain proved at last to be true enough, and so cast us; and I was forced to be paid off last week. So there's no prior creditor, or any shield of pretence that way. Then his execution was coming down upon us, and nothing to stay it till I thought of a monthly annuity to Mordicai, in the shape of a wager. So the morning after he cast us, I went to him: 'Mr. Mordicai,' says I, 'you must be plased to see a man you've beaten so handsomely; and though I'm sore, both for myself and my friend, yet you see I can laugh still, though an execution is no laughing matter, and I'm sensible you've one in petto in your sleeve for my friend Lord Clonbrony. But I'll lay you a wager of a hundred guineas on paper, that a marriage of his son with an heiress, before next Lady-day, will set all to rights, and pay you with a compliment too."
"Good heavens, Sir Terence! surely you said no such thing?"
"I did—but what was it but a wager? which is nothing but a dream; and, when lost, as I am as sensible as you are that it must be, why what is it, after all, but a bonus, in a gentlemanlike form, to Mordicai? which, I grant you, is more than he deserves—for staying the execution till you be of age; and even for my Lady Clonbrony's sake, though I know she hates me like poison, rather than have her disturbed by an execution, I'd pay the hundred guineas this minute out of my own pocket, if I had 'em in it."
A thundering knock at the door was heard at this moment.
"Never heed it; let 'em thunder," said Sir Terence: "whoever it is, they won't get in; for my lord bid them let none in for their life. It's necessary for us to be very particular about the street-door now; and I advise a double chain for it, and to have the footmen well tutored to look before they run to a double rap; for a double rap might be a double trap."
"My lady and Miss Nugent, my lord," said a footman, throwing open the door.
"My mother! Miss Nugent!" cried Lord Colambre, springing eagerly forward.
"Colambre! Here!" said his mother: "but it's all too late now, and no matter where you are."
Lady Clonbrony coldly suffered her son to embrace her; and he, without considering the coldness of her manner, scarcely hearing, and not at all understanding, the words she said, fixed his eyes on his cousin, who, with a countenance all radiant with affectionate joy, held out her hand to him.
"Dear cousin Colambre, what an unexpected pleasure!"
He seized the hand; but, as he was going to kiss it, the recollection of St. Omar crossed his mind: he checked himself, and said something about joy and pleasure, but his countenance expressed neither; and Miss Nugent, much surprised by the coldness of his manner, withdrew her hand, and, turning away, left the room.
"Grace! darling!" called Lord Clonbrony, "whither so fast, before you've given me a word or a kiss?"
She came back, and hastily kissed her uncle, who folded her in his arms. "Why must I let you go? And what makes you so pale, my dear child?"
"I am a little, a little tired—I will be with you again soon."
Her uncle let her go.
"Your famous Buxton baths don't seem to have agreed with her, by all I can see," said Lord Clonbrony.
"My lord, the Buxton baths are no way to blame; but I know what is to blame and who is to blame," said Lady Clonbrony, in a tone of displeasure, fixing her eyes upon her son. "Yes, you may well look confounded, Colambre; but it is too late now—you should have known your own mind in time. I see you have heard it, then—but I am sure I don't know how; for it was only decided the day I left Buxton. The news could hardly travel faster than I did. Pray how did you hear it?"
"Hear what, ma'am?" said Colambre.
"Why, that Miss Broadhurst is going to be married."
"All! Now, Lord Colambre, you reelly are too much for my patience. But I flatter myself you will feel, when I tell you that it is your friend, Sir Arthur Berryl, as I always prophesied, who has carried off the prize from you."
"But for the fear of displeasing my dear mother, I should say, that I do feel sincere pleasure in this marriage—I always wished it: my friend, Sir Arthur, from the first moment, trusted me with the secret of his attachment; he knew that he had my warm good wishes for his success; he knew that I thought most highly of the young lady; but that I never thought of her as a wife for myself."
"And why did not you? that is the very thing I complain of," said Lady Clonbrony. "But it is all over now. You may set your heart at ease, for they are to be married on Thursday; and poor Mrs. Broadhurst is ready to break her heart, for she was set upon a coronet for her daughter; and you, ungrateful as you are, you don't know how she wished you to be the happy man. But only conceive, after all that has passed, Miss Broadhurst had the assurance to expect I would let my niece be her bride's-maid. Oh, I flatly refused; that is, I told Grace it could not be; and, that there might be no affront to Mrs. Broadhurst, who did not deserve it, I pretended Grace had never mentioned it; but ordered my carriage, and left Buxton directly. Grace was hurt, for she is very warm in her friendships. I am sorry to hurt Grace. But reelly I could not let her be bride's-maid:—and that, if you must know, is what vexed her, and made the tears come in her eyes, I suppose—and I'm sorry for it; but one must keep up one's dignity a little. After all, Miss Broadhurst was only a citizen—and reelly now, a very odd girl; never did any thing like any body else; settled her marriage at last in the oddest way. Grace can tell you the particulars. I own, I am tired of the subject, and tired of my journey. My lord, I shall take leave to dine in my own room to-day," continued her ladyship, as she quitted the room.
"I hope her ladyship did not notice me," said Sir Terence O'Fay, coming from behind a window-curtain.
"Why, Terry, what did you hide for?" said Lord Clonbrony.
"Hide! I didn't hide, nor wouldn't from any man living, let alone any woman. Hide! no; but I just stood looking out of the window, behind this curtain, that my poor Lady Clonbrony might not be discomfited and shocked by the sight of one whom she can't abide, the very minute she come home. Oh, I've some consideration—it would have put her out of humour worse with both of you too; and for that there's no need, as far as I see. So I'll take myself off to my coffee-house to dine, and may be you may get her down and into spirits again. But, for your lives, don't touch upon Ireland this night, nor till she has fairly got the better of the marriage. Apropos—there's my wager to Mordicai gone at a slap. It's I that ought to be scolding you, my Lord Colambre; but I trust you will do as well yet, not in point of purse, may be. But I'm not one of those that think that money's every thing—though, I grant you, in this world there's nothing to be had without it—love excepted,—which most people don't believe in—but not I—in particular cases. So I leave you, with my blessing, and I've a notion, at this time, that is better than my company—your most devoted."
[Footnote 1: Leaving any woman out of the question.]
The good-natured Sir Terence would not be persuaded by Lord Clonbrony to stay. Nodding at Lord Colambre as he went out of the room, he said, "I've an eye, in going, to your heart's ease too. When I played myself, I never liked standers-by."
Sir Terence was not deficient in penetration, but he never could help boasting of his discoveries.
Lord Colambre was grateful for his judicious departure; and followed his equally judicious advice, not to touch upon Ireland this night.
Lady Clonbrony was full of Buxton, and he was glad to be relieved from the necessity of talking; and he indulged himself in considering what might be passing in Miss Nugent's mind. She now appeared in remarkably good spirits; for her aunt had given her a hint that she thought her out of humour because she had not been permitted to be Miss Broadhurst's bride's-maid, and she was determined to exert herself to dispel this notion. This it was now easy for her to do, because she had, by this time, in her own imagination, found a plausible excuse for that coldness in Lord Colambre's reception of her, by which she had at first been hurt: she had settled it, that he had taken it for granted she was of his mother's sentiments respecting Miss Broadhurst's marriage, and that this idea, and perhaps the apprehension of her reproaches, had caused this embarrassment—she knew that she could easily set this misunderstanding right. Accordingly, when Lady Clonbrony had talked herself to sleep about Buxton, and was taking her afternoon's nap, as it was her custom to do when she had neither cards nor company to keep her awake, Miss Nugent began to explain her own sentiments, and to give Lord Colambre, as her aunt had desired, an account of the manner in which Miss Broadhurst's marriage had been settled.
"In the first place," said she, "let me assure you, that I rejoice in this marriage: I think your friend, Sir Arthur Berryl, is every way deserving of my friend Miss Broadhurst; and this from me," said she, smiling, "is no slight eulogium. I have marked the rise and progress of their attachment; and it has been founded on the perception of such excellent qualities on each side, that I have no fear for its permanence. Sir Arthur Berryl's honourable conduct in paying his father's debts, and his generosity to his mother and sisters, whose fortunes were left entirely dependent upon him, first pleased my friend. It was like what she would have done herself, and like—in short, it is what few young men, as she said, of the present day would do. Then his refraining from all personal expenses, his going without equipage and without horses, that he might do what he felt to be right, whilst it exposed him continually to the ridicule of fashionable young men, or to the charge of avarice, made a very different impression on Miss Broadhurst's mind; her esteem and admiration were excited by these proofs of strength of character, and of just and good principles."
"If you go on you will make me envious and jealous of my friend," said Lord Colambre.
"You jealous!—Oh, it is too late now—besides, you cannot be jealous, for you never loved."
"I never loved Miss Broadhurst, I acknowledge."
"There was the advantage Sir Arthur Berryl had over you—he loved, and my friend saw it."
"She was clear-sighted," said Lord Colambre.
"She was clear-sighted," repeated Miss Nugent; "but if you mean that she was vain, and apt to fancy people in love with her, I can assure you that you are mistaken. Never was woman, young or old, more clear-sighted to the views of those by whom she was addressed. No flattery, no fashion, could blind her judgment."
"She knew how to choose a friend well, I am sure," said Lord Colambre.
"And a friend for life, too, I am sure you will allow—and she had such numbers, such strange variety of admirers, as might have puzzled the choice and turned the brain of any inferior person. Such a succession of lovers as she has had this summer, ever since you went to Ireland—they appeared and vanished like figures in a magic lantern. She had three noble admirers—rank in three different forms offered themselves First came in, hobbling, rank and gout; next, rank and gaming; then rank, very high rank, over head and ears in debt. All of these were rejected; and, as they moved off, I thought Mrs. Broadhurst would have broken her heart. Next came fashion, with his head, heart, and soul in his cravat—he quickly made his bow, or rather his nod, and walked off, taking a pinch of snuff. Then came a man of wit—but it was wit without worth; and presently came 'worth without wit.' She preferred 'wit and worth united,' which she fortunately at last found, Lord Colambre, in your friend, Sir Arthur Berryl."
"Grace, my girl!" said her uncle, "I'm glad to see you've got up your spirits again, though you were not to be bride's-maid. Well, I hope you'll be bride soon—I'm sure you ought to be—and you should think of rewarding that poor Mr. Salisbury, who plagues me to death, whenever he can catch hold of me, about you. He must have our definitive at last, you know, Grace."
A silence ensued, which neither Miss Nugent nor Lord Colambre seemed able or willing to break.
"Very good company, faith, you three!—One of ye asleep, and the other two saying nothing, to keep one awake. Colambre, have you no Dublin news? Grace, have you no Buxton scandal? What was it Lady Clonbrony told us you'd tell us, about the oddness of Miss Broadhurst's settling her marriage? Tell me that, for I love to hear odd things."
"Perhaps you will not think it odd," said she. "One evening—but I should begin by telling you that three of her admirers, besides Sir Arthur Berryl, had followed her to Buxton, and had been paying their court to her all the time we were there; and at last grew impatient for her decision."
"Ay, for her definitive!" said Lord Clonbrony. Miss Nugent was put out again, but resumed.
"So one evening, just before the dancing began, the gentlemen were all standing round Miss Broadhurst; one of them said, 'I wish Miss Broadhurst would decide—that whoever she dances with to-night should be her partner for life: what a happy man he would be!'
"'But how can I decide?' said Miss Broadhurst.
"'I wish I had a friend to plead for me!' said one of the suitors, looking at me.
"'Have you no friend of your own?' said Miss Broadhurst.
"'Plenty of friends,' said the gentleman.
"'Plenty!—then you must be a very happy man,' replied Miss Broadhurst. 'Come,' said she, laughing, 'I will dance with that man who can convince me that he has, near relations excepted, one true friend in the world! That man who has made the best friend, I dare say, will make the best husband!'
"At that moment," continued Miss Nugent, "I was certain who would be her choice. The gentlemen all declared at first that they had abundance of excellent friends—the best friends in the world! but when Miss Broadhurst cross-examined them, as to what their friends had done for them, or what they were willing to do, modern friendship dwindled into a ridiculously small compass. I cannot give you the particulars of the cross-examination, though it was conducted with great spirit and humour by Miss Broadhurst; but I can tell you the result—that Sir Arthur Berryl, by incontrovertible facts, and eloquence warm from the heart, convinced every body present that he had the best friend in the world; and Miss Broadhurst, as he finished speaking, gave him her hand, and he led her off in triumph—So you see, Lord Colambre, you were at last the cause of my friend's marriage!"
She turned to Lord Colambre as she spoke these words, with such an affectionate smile, and such an expression of open, innocent tenderness in her whole countenance, that our hero could hardly resist the impulse of his passion—could hardly restrain himself from falling at her feet that instant, and declaring his love. "But St. Omar! St. Omar!—It must not be!"
"I must be gone!" said Lord Clonbrony, pulling out his watch. "It is time to go to my club; and poor Terry will wonder what has become of me."
Lord Colambre instantly offered to accompany his father; much to Lord Clonbrony's, and more to Miss Nugent's surprise.
"What!" said she to herself, "after so long an absence, leave me!—Leave his mother, with whom he always used to stay—on purpose to avoid me! What can I have done to displease him? It is clear it was not about Miss Broadhurst's marriage he was offended; for he looked pleased, and like himself, whilst I was talking of that: but the moment afterwards, what a constrained, unintelligible expression of countenance—and leaves me to go to a club which he detests!"
As the gentlemen shut the door on leaving the room, Lady Clonbrony awakened, and, starting up, exclaimed, "What's the matter? Are they gone? Is Colambre gone?"
"Yes, ma'am, with my uncle."
"Very odd! very odd of him to go and leave me! he always used to stay with me—what did he say about me?"
"Well, then, I have nothing to say about him, or about any thing, indeed, for I'm excessively tired and stupid—alone in Lon'on's as bad as any where else. Ring the bell, and we'll go to bed directly—if you have no objection, Grace."
Grace made no objection: Lady Clonbrony went to bed and to sleep in ten minutes. Miss Nugent went to bed; but she lay awake, considering what could be the cause of her cousin Colambre's hard unkindness, and of "his altered eye." She was openness itself; and she determined that, the first moment she could speak to him alone, she would at once ask for an explanation. With this resolution, she rose in the morning, and went down to the breakfast-room, in hopes of meeting him, as it had formerly been his custom to be early; and she expected to find him reading in his usual place.
No—Lord Colambre was not in his accustomed place, reading in the breakfast-room; nor did he make his appearance till both his father and mother had been some time at breakfast.
"Good morning to you, my Lord Colambre," said his mother, in a reproachful tone, the moment he entered; "I am much obliged to you for your company last night."
"Good morning to you, Colambre," said his father, in a more jocose tone of reproach; "I am obliged to you for your good company last night."
"Good morning to you, Lord Colambre," said Miss Nugent; and though she endeavoured to throw all reproach from her looks, and to let none be heard in her voice, yet there was a slight tremulous motion in that voice, which struck our hero to the heart.
"I thank you, ma'am, for missing me," said he, addressing himself to his mother: "I stayed away but half an hour; I accompanied my father to St. James's-street, and when I returned I found that every one had retired to rest."
"Oh, was that the case?" said Lady Clonbrony: "I own I thought it very unlike you to leave me in that sort of way."
"And, lest you should be jealous of that half hour when he was accompanying me," said Lord Clonbrony, "I must remark, that, though I had his body with me, I had none of his mind; that he left at home with you ladies, or with some fair one across the water, for the deuce of two words did he bestow upon me, with all his pretence of accompanying me."
"Lord Colambre seems to have a fair chance of a pleasant breakfast," said Miss Nugent, smiling; "reproaches on all sides."
"I have heard none on your side, Grace," said Lord Clonbrony; "and that's the reason, I suppose, he wisely takes his seat beside you. But come, we will not badger you any more, my dear boy. We have given him as fine a complexion amongst us as if he had been out hunting these three hours: have not we, Grace?"
"When Colambre has been a season or two more in Lon'on, he'll not be so easily put out of countenance," said Lady Clonbrony; "you don't see young men of fashion here blushing about nothing."
"No, nor about any thing, my dear," said Lord Clonbrony; "but that's no proof they do nothing they ought to blush for."
"What they do, there's no occasion for ladies to inquire," said Lady Clonbrony; "but this I know, that it's a great disadvantage to a young man of a certain rank to blush; for no people, who live in a certain set, ever do: and it is the most opposite thing possible to a certain air, which, I own, I think Colambre wants; and now that he has done travelling in Ireland, which is no use in pint of giving a gentleman a travelled air, or any thing of that sort, I hope he will put himself under my conduct for next winter's campaign in town."
Lord Clonbrony looked as if he did not know how to look; and, after drumming on the table for some seconds, said, "Colambre, I told you how it would be: that's a fatal hard condition of yours."
"Not a hard condition, I hope, my dear father," said Lord Colambre.
"Hard it must be, since it can't be fulfilled, or won't be fulfilled, which comes to the same thing," replied Lord Clonbrony, sighing.
"I am persuaded, sir, that it will be fulfilled," said Lord Colambre; "I am persuaded that, when my mother hears the truth, and the whole truth—when she finds that your happiness, and the happiness of her whole family, depend upon her yielding her taste on one subject—"
"Oh, I see now what you are about," cried Lady Clonbrony; "you are coming round with your persuasions and prefaces to ask me to give up Lon'on, and go back with you to Ireland, my lord. You may save yourselves the trouble, all of you; for no earthly persuasions shall make me do it. I will never give up my taste on that pint. My happiness has a right to be as much considered as your father's, Colambre, or anybody's; and, in one word, I won't do it," cried she, rising angrily from the breakfast table.
"There! did not I tell you how it would be?" cried Lord Clonbrony.
"My mother has not heard me yet," said Lord Colambre, laying his hand upon his mother's arm, as she attempted to pass: "hear me, madam, for your own sake. You do not know what will happen, this very day—this very hour, perhaps—if you do not listen to me."
"And what will happen?" said Lady Clonbrony, stopping short.
"Ay, indeed; she little knows," said Lord Clonbrony, "what's hanging over her head."
"Hanging over my head?" said Lady Clonbrony, looking up; "nonsense!—what?"
"An execution, madam!" said Lord Colambre.
"Gracious me! an execution!" said Lady Clonbrony, sitting down again; "but I heard you talk of an execution months ago, my lord, before my son went to Ireland, and it blew over—I heard no more of it."
"It won't blow over now," said Lord Clonbrony; "you'll hear more of it now. Sir Terence O'Fay it was, you may remember, that settled it then."
"Well, and can't he settle it now? Send for him, since he understands these cases; and I will ask him to dinner myself, for your sake, and be very civil to him, my lord."
"All your civility, either for my sake or your own, will not signify a straw, my dear, in this case—any thing that poor Terry could do, he'd do, and welcome, without it; but he can do nothing."
"Nothing!—that's very extraordinary. But I'm clear no one dare to bring a real execution against us in earnest; and you are only trying to frighten me to your purpose, like a child; but it shan't do."
"Very well, my dear; you'll see—too late."
A knock at the house door.
"Who is it?—What is it?" cried Lord Clonbrony, growing very pale.
Lord Colambre changed colour too, and ran down stairs. "Don't let 'em let any body in, for your life, Colambre; under any pretence," cried Lord Clonbrony, calling from the head of the stairs: then running to the window, "By all that's good, it's Mordicai himself! and the people with him."
"Lean your head on me, my dear aunt," said Miss Nugent: Lady Clonbrony leant back, trembling, and ready to faint.
"But he's walking off now; the rascal could not get in—safe for the present!" cried Lord Clonbrony, rubbing his hands, and repeating, "safe for the present!"
"Safe for the present!" repeated Lord Colambre, coming again into the room. "Safe for the present hour."
"He could not get in, I suppose.—Oh, I warned all the servants well," said Lord Clonbrony; "and so did Terry. Ay, there's the rascal Mordicai walking off, at the end of the street; I know his walk a mile off. Gad! I can breathe again. I am glad he's gone. But he will come back and always lie in wait, and some time or other, when we're off our guard (unawares), he'll slide in."
"Slide in! Oh, horrid!" cried Lady Clonbrony, sitting up, and wiping away the water which Miss Nugent had sprinkled on her face.
"Were you much alarmed?" said Lord Colambre, with a voice of tenderness, looking at his mother first, but his eyes fixing on Miss Nugent.
"Shockingly!" said Lady Clonbrony; "I never thought it would reelly come to this."
"It will really come to much more, my dear," said Lord Clonbrony, "that you may depend upon, unless you prevent it."
"Lord! What can I do?—I know nothing of business: how should I, Lord Clonbrony? But I know there's Colambre—I was always told that when he was of age, every thing should be settled; and why can't he settle it when he's upon the spot?"
"And upon one condition, I will," cried Lord Colambre; "at what loss to myself, my dear mother, I need not mention."
"Then I will mention it," cried Lord Clonbrony: "at the loss it will be of nearly half the estate he would have had, if we had not spent it."
"Loss! Oh, I am excessively sorry my son's to be at such a loss—it must not be."
"It cannot be otherwise," said Lord Clonbrony; "nor it can't be this way either, my Lady Clonbrony, unless you comply with his condition, and consent to return to Ireland."
"I cannot—I will not," replied Lady Clonbrony. "Is this your condition, Colambre?—I take it exceedingly ill of you. I think it very unkind, and unhandsome, and ungenerous, and undutiful of you, Colambre; you my son!" She poured forth a torrent of reproaches; then came to entreaties and tears. But our hero, prepared for this, had steeled his mind; and he stood resolved not to indulge his own feelings, or to yield to caprice or persuasion, but to do that which he knew was best for the happiness of hundreds of tenants, who depended upon them—best for both his father and his mother's ultimate happiness and respectability.
"It's all in vain," cried Lord Clonbrony; "I have no resource but one, and I must condescend now to go to him this minute, for Mordicai will be back and seize all—I must sign and leave all to Garraghty."
"Well, sign, sign, my lord, and settle with Garraghty. Colambre, I've heard all the complaints you brought over against that man. My lord spent half the night telling them to me: but all agents are bad, I suppose; at any rate I can't help it—sign, sign, my lord; he has money—yes, do; go and settle with him, my lord."
Lord Colambre and Miss Nugent, at one and the same moment, stopped Lord Clonbrony as he was quitting the room, and then approached Lady Clonbrony with supplicating looks; but she turned her head to the other side, and, as if putting away their entreaties, made a repelling motion with both her hands, and exclaimed, "No, Grace Nugent!—no, Colambre—no—no, Colambre! I'll never hear of leaving Lon'on—there's no living out of Lon'on—I can't, I won't live out of Lon'on, I say."
Her son saw that the Londonomania was now stronger than ever upon her, but resolved to make one desperate appeal to her natural feelings, which, though smothered, he could not believe were wholly extinguished: he caught her repelling hands, and pressing them with respectful tenderness to his lips, "Oh, my dear mother, you once loved your son," said he; "loved him better than any thing in this world: if one spark of affection for him remains, hear him now, and forgive him, if he pass the bounds—bounds he never passed before—of filial duty. Mother, in compliance with your wishes my father left Ireland—left his home, his duties, his friends, his natural connexions, and for many years he has lived in England, and you have spent many seasons in London."
"Yes, in the very best company—in the very first circles," said Lady Clonbrony; "cold as the high-bred English are said to be in general to strangers."
"Yes," replied Lord Colambre, "the very best company (if you mean the most fashionable) have accepted of our entertainments. We have forced our way into their frozen circles; we have been permitted to breathe in these elevated regions of fashion; we have it to say, that the Duke of This, and my Lady That, are of our acquaintance.—We may say more: we may boast that we have vied with those whom we could never equal. And at what expense have we done all this? For a single season, the last winter (I will go no farther), at the expense of a great part of your timber, the growth of a century—swallowed in the entertainments of one winter in London! Our hills to be bare for another half century to come! But let the trees go: I think more of your tenants—of those left under the tyranny of a bad agent, at the expense of every comfort, every hope they enjoyed!—tenants, who were thriving and prosperous; who used to smile upon you, and to bless you both! In one cottage, I have seen—"
Here Lord Clonbrony, unable to restrain his emotion, hurried out of the room.
"Then I am sure it is not my fault," said Lady Clonbrony; "for I brought my lord a large fortune: and I am confident I have not, after all, spent more any season, in the best company, than he has among a set of low people, in his muddling, discreditable way."
"And how has he been reduced to this?" said Lord Colambre. "Did he not formerly live with gentlemen, his equals, in his own country; his contemporaries? Men of the first station and character, whom I met in Dublin, spoke of him in a manner that gratified the heart of his son: he was respectable and respected, at his own home; but when he was forced away from that home, deprived of his objects and his occupations, compelled to live in London, or at watering-places, where he could find no employments that were suitable to him—set down, late in life, in the midst of strangers, to him cold and reserved—himself too proud to bend to those who disdained him as an Irishman—is he not more to be pitied than blamed for—yes, I, his son, must say the word—the degradation which has ensued? And do not the feelings, which have this moment forced him to leave the room, show of what he is capable? Oh, mother!" cried Lord Colambre, throwing himself at Lady Clonbrony's feet, "restore my father to himself! Should such feelings be wasted?—No; give them again to expand in benevolent, in kind, useful actions; give him again to his tenantry, his duties, his country, his home; return to that home yourself, dear mother! leave all the nonsense of high life—scorn the impertinence of these dictators of fashion, who, in return for all the pains we take to imitate, to court them—in return for the sacrifice of health, fortune, peace of mind—bestow sarcasm, contempt, ridicule, and mimicry!"
"Oh, Colambre! Colambre! mimicry—I'll never believe it."
"Believe me—believe me, mother; for I speak of what I know. Scorn them—quit them! Return to an unsophisticated people—to poor, but grateful hearts, still warm with the remembrance of your kindness, still blessing you for favours long since conferred, ever praying to see you once more. Believe me, for I speak of what I know—your son has heard these prayers, has felt these blessings. Here! at my heart felt, and still feel them, when I was not known to be your son, in the cottage of the widow O'Neil."
"Oh, did you see the widow O'Neil! and does she remember me?" said Lady Clonbrony.
"Remember you! and you, Miss Nugent! I have slept in the bed—I would tell you more, but I cannot."
"Well! I never should have thought they would have remembered me so long! poor people!" said Lady Clonbrony.
"I thought all in Ireland must have forgotten me, it is now so long since I was at home."
"You are not forgotten in Ireland by any rank, I can answer for that. Return home, my dearest mother—let me see you once more among your natural friends, beloved, respected, happy!"
"Oh, return! let us return home!" cried Miss Nugent, with a voice of great emotion. "Return, let us return home! My beloved aunt, speak to us! say that you grant our request!" She kneeled beside Lord Colambre, as she spoke.
"Is it possible to resist that voice, that look?" thought Lord Colambre.
"If any body knew," said Lady Clonbrony, "if any body could conceive, how I detest the sight, the thoughts of that old yellow damask furniture, in the drawing-room at Clonbrony Castle—"
"Good Heavens!" cried Lord Colambre, starting up, and looking at his mother in stupified astonishment; "is that what you are thinking of, ma'am?"
"The yellow damask furniture!" said her niece, smiling. "Oh, if that's all, that shall never offend your eyes again. Aunt, my painted velvet chairs are finished; and trust the furnishing that room to me. The legacy lately left me cannot be better applied—you shall see how beautifully it will be furnished."
"Oh, if I had money, I should like to do it myself; but it would take an immensity to new furnish Clonbrony Castle properly."
"The furniture in this house," said Miss Nugent, looking round—
"Would do a great deal towards it, I declare," cried Lady Clonbrony; "that never struck me before, Grace, I protest—and what would not suit one might sell or exchange here—and it would be a great amusement to me—and I should like to set the fashion of something better in that country. And I declare now, I should like to see those poor people, and that widow O'Neil. I do assure you, I think I was happier at home; only that one gets, I don't know how, a notion, one's nobody out of Lon'on. But, after all, there's many drawbacks in Lon'on—and many people are very impertinent, I'll allow—and if there's a woman in the world I hate, it is Mrs. Dareville—and, if I was leaving Lon'on, I should not regret Lady Langdale neither—and Lady St. James is as cold as a stone. Colambre may well say frozen circles—these sort of people are really very cold, and have, I do believe, no hearts. I don't verily think there is one of them would regret me more—Hey! let me see, Dublin—the winter—Merrion-square—new furnished—and the summer—Clonbrony Castle!"
Lord Colambre and Miss Nugent waited in silence till her mind should have worked itself clear. One great obstacle had been removed; and now that the yellow damask had been taken out of her imagination, they no longer despaired.
Lord Clonbrony put his head into the room. "What hopes?—any? if not, let me go." He saw the doubting expression of Lady Clonbrony's countenance—hope in the face of his son and niece. "My dear, dear Lady Clonbrony, make us all happy by one word," said he, kissing her.
"You never kissed me so since we left Ireland before," said Lady Clonbrony. "Well, since it must be so, let us go," said she.
"Did I ever see such joy!" said Lord Clonbrony, clasping his hands: "I never expected such joy in my life!—I must go and tell poor Terry!" and off he ran.
"And now, since we are to go," said Lady Clonbrony, "pray let us go immediately, before the thing gets wind, else I shall have Mrs. Dareville, and Lady Langdale, and Lady St. James, and all the world, coming to condole with me, just to satisfy their own curiosity: and then, Miss Pratt, who hears every thing that every body says, and more than they say, will come and tell me how it is reported every where that we are ruined. Oh! I never could bear to stay and hear all this. I'll tell you what I'll do—you are to be of age soon, Colambre,—very well, there are some papers for me to sign,—I must stay to put my name to them, and, that done, that minute I'll leave you and Lord Clonbrony to settle all the rest; and I'll get into my carriage, with Grace, and go down to Buxton again; where you can come for me, and take me up, when you're all ready to go to Ireland—and we shall be so far on our way. Colambre, what do you say to this?"
"That, if you like it, madam," said he, giving one hasty glance at Miss Nugent, and withdrawing his eyes, "it is the best possible arrangement."
"So," thought Grace, "that is the best possible arrangement which takes us away."
"If I like it!" said Lady Clonbrony; "to be sure I do, or I should not propose it. What is Colambre thinking of? I know, Grace, at all events, what you and I must think of—of having the furniture packed up, and settling what's to go, and what's to be exchanged, and all that. Now, my dear, go and write a note directly to Mr. Soho, and bid him come himself, immediately: and we'll go and make out a catalogue this instant of what furniture I will have packed."
So with her head full of furniture, Lady Clonbrony retired. "I go to my business, Colambre: and I leaven you to settle yours in peace."
In peace!—Never was our hero's mind less at peace than at this moment. The more his heart felt that it was painful, the more his reason told him it was necessary that he should part from Grace Nugent. To his union with her there was an obstacle which his prudence told him ought to be insurmountable; yet he felt that, during the few days he had been with her, the few hours he had been near her, he had, with his utmost power over himself, scarcely been master of his passion, or capable of concealing its object. It could not have been done but for her perfect simplicity and innocence. But how could this be supported on his part? How could he venture to live with this charming girl? How could he settle at home? What resource?
His mind turned towards the army: he thought that abroad, and in active life, he should lose all the painful recollections, and drive from his heart all the sentiments, which could now be only a source of unavailing regret. But his mother—his mother, who had now yielded her own taste to his entreaties, for the good of her family—she expected him to return and live with her in Ireland. Though not actually promised or specified, he knew that she took it for granted; that it was upon this hope, this faith, she consented: he knew that she would be shocked at the bare idea of his going into the army. There was one chance—our hero tried, at this moment, to think it the best possible chance—that Miss Nugent might marry Mr. Salisbury, and settle in England. On this idea he relied, as the only means of extricating him from difficulties.
It was necessary to turn his thoughts immediately to business, to execute his promises to his father. Two great objects were now to be accomplished—the payment of his father's debts, and the settlement of the Irish agent's accounts; and, in transacting this complicated business, he derived considerable assistance from Sir Terence O'Fay, and from Sir Arthur Berryl's solicitor, Mr. Edwards. Whilst acting for Sir Arthur, on a former occasion, Lord Colambre had gained the entire confidence of this solicitor, who was a man of the first eminence. Mr. Edwards took the papers and Lord Clonbrony's title-deeds home with him, saying that he would give an answer the next morning. He then waited upon Lord Colambre, and informed him that he had just received a letter from Sir Arthur Berryl, who, with the consent and desire of his lady, requested that whatever money might be required by Lord Clonbrony should be immediately supplied on their account, without waiting till Lord Colambre should be of age, as the ready money might be of some convenience to him in accelerating the journey to Ireland, which Sir Arthur and Lady Berryl knew was his lordship's object. Sir Terence O'Fay now supplied Mr. Edwards with accurate information as to the demands that were made upon Lord Clonbrony, and of the respective characters of the creditors. Mr. Edwards undertook to settle with the fair claimants; Sir Terence with the rogues: so that by the advancement of ready money from the Berryls, and by the detection of false and exaggerated charges which Sir Terence made among the inferior class, the debts were reduced nearly to one-half of their former amount. Mordicai, who had been foiled in his vile attempt to become sole creditor, had, however, a demand of more than seven thousand pounds upon Lord Clonbrony, which he had raised to this enormous sum in six or seven years, by means well known to himself. He stood the foremost in the list: not from the greatness of the sum; but from the danger of his adding to it the expenses of law. Sir Terence undertook to pay the whole with five thousand pounds. Lord Clonbrony thought it impossible: the solicitor thought it improvident, because he knew that upon a trial a much greater abatement would be allowed; but Lord Colambre was determined, from the present embarrassments of his own situation, to leave nothing undone that could be accomplished immediately.
Sir Terence, pleased with his commission, immediately went to Mordicai.
"Well, Sir Terence," said Mordicai, "I hope you are come to pay me my hundred guineas; for Miss Broadhurst is married!"
"Well, Mister Mordicai, what then? The ides of March are come, but not gone! Stay, if you plase, Mister Mordicai, till Lady-day, when it becomes due: in the mean time, I have a handful, or rather an armful, of bank-notes for you, from my Lord Colambre."
"Humph." said Mordicai: "how's that? he'll not be of age these three days."
"Don't matter for that: he has sent me to look over your accounts, and to hope that you will make some small ABATEMENT in the total."
"Harkee, Sir Terence—you think yourself very clever in things of this sort, but you've mistaken your man: I have an execution for the whole, and I'll be d——d if all your cunning shall MAKE me take up with part!"
"Be aisy, Mister Mordicai!—you sha'n't make me break your bones, nor make me drop one actionable word against your high character; for I know your clerk there, with that long goose-quill behind his ear, would be ready evidence again' me. But I beg to know, in one word, whether you will take five thousand down, and GIVE Lord Clonbrony a discharge?"
"No, Mr. Terence! nor six thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine pounds. My demand is seven thousand one hundred and thirty pounds, odd shillings: if you have that money, pay it; if not, I know how to get it, and along with it complete revenge for all the insults I have received from that greenhorn, his son."
"Paddy Brady!" cried Sir Terence, "do you hear that? Remember that word revenge!—Mind I call you to witness!"
"What, sir, will you raise a rebellion among my workmen?"
"No, Mr. Mordicai, no rebellion; and I hope you won't cut the boy's ears off for listening to a little of the brogue—so listen, my good lad. Now, Mr. Mordicai, I offer you here, before little goosequill, 5000l. ready penny—take it, or leave it: take your money, and leave your revenge; or take your revenge, and lose your money."
"Sir Terence, I value neither your threats nor your cunning. Good morning to you."
"Good morning to you, Mr. Mordicai—but not kindly! Mr. Edwards, the solicitor, has been at the office to take off the execution: so now you may have law to your heart's content! And it was only to plase the young lord that the ould one consented to my carrying this bundle to you," showing the bank-notes.
"Mr. Edwards employed!" cried Mordicai. "Why, how the devil did Lord Clonbrony get into such hands as his? The execution taken off! Well, sir, go to law—I am ready for you. Jack Latitat IS A MATCH for your sober solicitor."
"Good morning again to you, Mr. Mordicai: we're fairly out of your clutches, and we have enough to do with our money."
"Well, Sir Terence, I must allow you have a very wheedling way—Here, Mr. Thompson, make out a receipt for Lord Clonbrony: I never go to law with an old customer, if I can help it."
This business settled, Mr. Soho was next to be dealt with.
He came at Lady Clonbrony's summons; and was taking directions with the utmost sang froid, for packing up and sending off the very furniture for which he was not paid.
Lord Colambre called him into his father's study; and, producing his bill, he began to point out various articles which were charged at prices that were obviously extravagant.
"Why, really, my lord, they are abundantly extravagant: if I charged vulgar prices, I should be only a vulgar tradesman. I, however, am not a broker, nor a Jew. Of the article superintendence, which is only 500l., I cannot abate a doit: on the rest of the bill, if you mean to offer ready, I mean, without any negotiation, to abate thirty per cent., and I hope that is a fair and gentlemanly offer."
"Mr. Soho, there is your money!"
"My Lord Colambre! I would give the contents of three such bills to be sure of such noblemanly conduct as yours. Lady Clonbrony's furniture shall be safely packed, without costing her a farthing."
With the help of Mr. Edwards, the solicitor, every other claim was soon settled; and Lord Clonbrony, for the first time since he left Ireland, found himself out of debt, and out of danger.
Old Nick's account could not be settled in London. Lord Colambre had detected numerous false charges, and sundry impositions: the land, which had been purposely let to run wild, so far from yielding any rent, was made a source of constant expense, as remaining still unset: this was a large tract, for which St. Dennis had at length offered a small rent.
Upon a fair calculation of the profits of the ground, and from other items in the account, Nicholas Garraghty, Esq., appeared at last to be, not the creditor, but the debtor to Lord Clonbrony. He was dismissed with disgrace; which perhaps he might not have felt, if it had not been accompanied by pecuniary loss, and followed by the fear of losing his other agencies, and by the dread of immediate bankruptcy.
Mr. Burke was appointed agent in his stead to the Clonbrony as well as the Colambre estate. His appointment was announced to him by the following letter:—
"TO MRS. BURKE, AT COLAMBRE.
"The traveller whom you so hospitably received some months ago was Lord Colambre; he now writes to you in his proper person. He promised you that he would, as far as it might be in his power, do justice to Mr. Burke's conduct and character, by representing what he had done for Lord Clonbrony in the town of Colambre, and in the whole management of the tenantry and property under his care.
"Happily for my father, my dear madam, he is now as fully convinced as you could wish him to be of Mr. Burke's merits; and he begs me to express his sense of the obligations he is under to him and to you. He entreats that you will pardon the impropriety of a letter, which, as I assured you the moment I saw it, he never wrote or read.
"He hopes that you will forget that such a letter was ever received, and that you will use your influence with Mr. Burke to induce him to continue to our family his regard and valuable services. Lord Clonbrony encloses a power of attorney, enabling Mr. Burke to act in future for him, if Mr. Burke will do him that favour, in managing the Clonbrony as well as the Colambre estate.
"Lord Clonbrony will be in Ireland in the course of next month, and intends to have the pleasure of soon paying his respects in person to Mr. Burke, at Colambre.
"I am, dear madam,
"Your obliged guest,
"And faithful servant,
Lord Colambre was so continually occupied with business, during the days previous to his coming of age, every morning at his solicitor's chambers, every evening in his father's study, that Miss Nugent never saw him but at breakfast or dinner; and, though she watched for it most anxiously, never could find an opportunity of speaking to him alone, or of asking an explanation of the change and inconsistencies of his manner. At last, she began to think, that, in the midst of so much business of importance, by which he seemed harassed, she should do wrong to torment him, by speaking of any small uneasiness that concerned only herself. She determined to suppress her doubts, to keep her feelings to herself, and endeavour, by constant kindness, to regain that place in his affections, which she imagined that she had lost. "Every thing will go right again," thought she, "and we shall all be happy, when he returns with us to Ireland—to that dear home which he loves as well as I do!"
The day Lord Colambre was of age, the first thing he did was, to sign a bond for five thousand pounds, Miss Nugent's fortune, which had been lent to his father, who was her guardian.
"This, sir, I believe," said he, giving it to his father as soon as signed, "this, I believe, is the first debt you would wish to have secured."
"Well thought of, my dear boy!—God bless you!—that has weighed more upon my conscience and heart than all the rest, though I never said any thing about it. I used, whenever I met Mr. Salisbury, to wish myself fairly down at the centre of the earth: not that he ever thought of fortune, I'm sure; for he often told me, and I believed him, he would rather have Miss Nugent without a penny, if he could get her, than the first fortune in the empire. But I'm glad she will not go to him pennyless, for all that; and by my fault, especially. There, there's my name to it—do witness it, Terry. But, Colambre, you must give it to her—you must take it to Grace."
"Excuse me, sir; it is no gift of mine—it is a debt of yours. I beg you will take the bond to her yourself, my dear father."
"My dear son, you must not always have your own way, and hide every thing good you do, or give me the honour of it—I won't be the jay in borrowed feathers. I have borrowed enough in my life, and I've done with borrowing now, thanks to you, Colambre—so come along with me; for I'll be hanged if ever I give this joint bond to Miss Nugent, unless you are with me. Leave Lady Clonbrony here to sign these papers. Terry will witness them properly, and do you come along with me."
"And pray, my lord," said her ladyship, "order the carriage to the door; for, as soon as you have my signature, I hope you'll let me off to Buxton."
"Oh, certainly—the carriage is ordered—every thing ready, my dear."
"And pray tell Grace to be ready," added Lady Clonbrony.
"That's not necessary; for she is always ready," said Lord Clonbrony. "Come, Colambre," added he, taking his son under the arm, and carrying him up to Miss Nugent's dressing-room.
They knocked, and were admitted.
"Ready!" said Lord Clonbrony; "ay, always ready—so I said. Here's Colambre, my darling," continued he, "has secured your fortune to you to my heart's content; but he would not condescend to come up to tell you so, till I made him. Here's the bond; and now, all I have to ask of you, Colambre, is, to persuade her to marry out of hand, that I may see her happy before I die. Now my heart's at ease; I can meet Mr. Salisbury with a safe conscience. One kiss, my little Grace. If any body can persuade you, I'm sure it's that man that's now leaning against the mantel-piece. It's Colambre will, or your heart's not made like mine—so I leave you."
And out of the room walked he, leaving his poor son in as awkward, embarrassing, and painful a situation as could well be conceived. Half a dozen indistinct ideas crossed his mind; quick conflicting feelings made his heart beat and stop. And how it would have ended, if he had been left to himself; whether he would have stood or fallen, have spoken or have continued silent, can never now be known, for all was decided without the action of his will. He was awakened from his trance by these simple words from Miss Nugent: "I'm much obliged to you, cousin Colambre—more obliged to you for your kindness in thinking of me first, in the midst of all your other business, than by your securing my fortune. Friendship—and your friendship—is worth more to me than fortune. May I believe that is secured?"
"Believe it! Oh, Grace, can you doubt it?"
"I will not; it would make me too unhappy, I will not."
"You need not."
"That is enough—I am satisfied—I ask no farther explanation. You are truth itself—one word from you is security sufficient. We are friends for life," said she; "are not we?"
"We are—and therefore sit down, cousin Grace, and let me claim the privilege of friendship, and speak to you of him who aspires to be more than your friend for life, Mr.—"
"Mr. Salisbury!" said Miss Nugent; "I saw him yesterday. We had a very long conversation; I believe he understands my sentiments perfectly, and that he no longer thinks of being more to me than a friend for life."
"You have refused him!"
"Yes. I have a high opinion of Mr. Salisbury's understanding, a great esteem for his character; I like his manners and conversation; but I do not love him, and, therefore, you know, I could not marry him."
"But, my dear Miss Nugent, with a high opinion, a great esteem, and liking his manners and conversation, in such a well-regulated mind as yours, can there be a better foundation for love?"
"It is an excellent foundation," said she; "but I never went any farther than the foundation; and, indeed, I never wished to proceed any farther."
Lord Colambre scarcely dared to ask why; but after some pause he said, "I don't wish to intrude upon your confidence."
"You cannot intrude upon my confidence; I am ready to give it to you entirely, frankly; I hesitated only because another person was concerned. Do you remember, at my aunt's gala, a lady who danced with Mr. Salisbury?"
"Not in the least."
"A lady with whom you and Mr. Salisbury were talking, just before supper, in the Turkish tent."
"Not in the least."
"As we went down to supper, you told me you had had a delightful conversation with her; that you thought her a charming woman."
"A charming woman!—I have not the slightest recollection of her."
"And you told me that she and Mr. Salisbury had been praising me a l'envie l'une de l'autre."
"Oh, I recollect her now perfectly," said Lord Colambre: "but what of her?"
"She is the woman who, I hope, will be Mrs. Salisbury. Ever since I have been acquainted with them both, I have seen that they were suited to each other; I fancy, indeed I am almost sure, that she could love him, tenderly love him—and, I know, I could not. But my own sentiments, you may be sure, are all I ever told Mr. Salisbury."
"But of your own sentiments you may not be sure," said Lord Colambre; "and I see no reason why you should give him up from false generosity."
"Generosity!" interrupted Miss Nugent; "you totally misunderstand me; there is no generosity, nothing for me to give up in the case. I did not refuse Mr. Salisbury from generosity, but because I did not love him. Perhaps my seeing early what I have just mentioned to you prevented me from thinking of him as a lover; but, from whatever cause, I certainly never felt love for Mr. Salisbury, nor any of that pity which is said to lead to love: perhaps," added she, smiling, "because I was aware that he would be so much better off after I refused him—so much happier with one suited to him in age, talents, fortune, and love—'What bliss, did he but know his bliss,' were his.'"