"Did he but know his bliss!" repeated Lord Colambre; "but is not he the best judge of his own bliss?"
"And am not I the best judge of mine?" said Miss Nugent: "I go no farther."
"You are; and I have no right to go farther. Yet, this much permit me to say, my dear Grace, that it would give me sincere pleasure, that is, real satisfaction, to see you happily—established."
"Thank you, my dear Lord Colambre; but you spoke that like a man of seventy at least, with the most solemn gravity of demeanour."
"I meant to be serious, not solemn," said Lord Colambre, endeavouring to change his tone.
"There now," said she, in a playful tone, "you have seriously accomplished the task my good uncle set you; so I will report well of you to him, and certify that you did all that in you lay to exhort me to marry; that you have even assured me that it would give you sincere pleasure, that is, real satisfaction, to see me happily established."
"Oh, Grace, if you knew how much I felt when I said that, you would spare this raillery."
"I will be serious—I am most seriously convinced of the sincerity of your affection for me; I know my happiness is your object in all you have said, and I thank you from my heart for the interest you take about me. But really and truly I do not wish to marry. This is not a mere commonplace speech; but I have not yet seen any man I could love. I am happy as I am, especially now we are all going to dear Ireland, home, to live together: you cannot conceive with what pleasure I look forward to that."
Lord Colambre was not vain; but love quickly sees love, or foresees the probability, the possibility, of its existence. He saw that Miss Nugent might love him tenderly, passionately; but that duty, habit, the prepossession that it was impossible she could marry her cousin Colambre,—a prepossession instilled into her by his mother—had absolutely prevented her from ever yet thinking of him as a lover. He saw the hazard for her, he felt the danger for himself. Never had she appeared to him so attractive as at this moment, when he felt the hope that he could obtain return of love.
"But St. Omar!—Why! why is she a St. Omar?—illegitimate!—'No St. Omar sans reproche.' My wife she cannot be—I will not engage her affections."
Swift as thoughts in moments of strong feeling pass in the mind without being put into words, our hero thought all this, and determined, cost what it would, to act honourably.
"You spoke of my returning to Ireland, my dear Grace. I have not yet told you my plans."
"Plans! are not you returning with us?" said she, precipitately; "are not you going to Ireland—home—with us?"
"No:—I am going to serve a campaign or two abroad. I think every young man in these times—
"Good Heavens! What does this mean? What can you mean?" cried she, fixing her eyes upon his, as if she would read his very soul. "Why? what reason?—Oh, tell me the truth—and at once."
His change of colour—his hand that trembled, and withdrew from hers—the expression of his eyes as they met hers—revealed the truth to her at once. As it flashed across her mind, she started back; her face grew crimson, and, in the same instant, pale as death.
"Yes—you see, you feel the truth now," said Lord Colambre. "You see, you feel, that I love you—passionately."
"Oh, let me not hear it!" said she; "I must not—ought not. Never till this moment did such a thought cross my mind—I thought it impossible—Oh, make me think so still."
"I will—it is impossible that we can ever he united."
"I always thought so," said she, taking breath with a deep sigh. "Then, why not live as we have lived?"
"I cannot—I cannot answer for myself—I will not run the risk; and therefore I must quit you, knowing, as I do, that there is an invincible obstacle to our union; of what nature I cannot explain; I beg you not to inquire."
"You need not beg it—I shall not inquire—I have no curiosity—none," said she in a passive, dejected tone; "that is not what I am thinking of in the least. I know there are invincible obstacles; I wish it to be so. But, if invincible, you who have so much sense, honour, and virtue—"
"I hope, my dear cousin, that I have honour and virtue. But there are temptations to which no wise, no good man will expose himself. Innocent creature! you do not know the power of love. I rejoice that you have always thought it impossible—think so still—it will save you from—all I must endure. Think of me but as your cousin, your friend—give your heart to some happier man. As your friend, your true friend, I conjure you, give your heart to some more fortunate man. Marry, if you can feel love—marry, and be happy. Honour! virtue! Yes, I have both, and I will not forfeit them. Yes, I will merit your esteem and my own—by actions, not words; and I give you the strongest proof, by tearing myself from you at this moment. Farewell!"
"The carriage at the door, Miss Nugent, and my lady calling for you," said her maid. "Here's your key, ma'am, and here's your gloves, my dear ma'am."
"The carriage at the door, Miss Nugent," said Lady Clonbrony's woman, coming eagerly with parcels in her hand, as Miss Nugent passed her, and ran down stairs; "and I don't know where I laid my lady's numbrella, for my life—do you, Anne?"
"No, indeed—but I know here's my own young lady's watch that she has left. Bless me! I never knew her to forget any thing on a journey before."
"Then she is going to be married, as sure as my name's Le Maistre, and to my Lord Colambre; for he has been here this hour, to my certain Bible knowledge. Oh, you'll see she will be Lady Colambre."
"I wish she may, with all my heart," said Anne; "but I must run down—they're waiting."
"Oh, no!" said Mrs. Le Maistre, seizing Anne's arm, and holding her fast; "stay—you may safely—for they're all kissing and taking leave, and all that, you know; and my lady is talking on about Mr. Soho, and giving a hundred directions about legs of tables, and so forth, I warrant—she's always an hour after she's ready before she gets in—and I'm looking for the numbrella. So stay, and tell me—Mrs. Petito wrote over word it was to be Lady Isabel; and then a contradiction came—it was turned into the youngest of the Killpatricks; and now here he's in Miss Nugent's dressing-room to the last moment. Now, in my opinion, that am not censorious, this does not look so pretty; but, according to my verdict, he is only making a fool of Miss Nugent, like the rest; and his lordship seems too like what you might call a male cocket, or a masculine jilt."
"No more like a masculine jilt than yourself, Mrs. Le Maistre," cried Anne, taking fire. "And my young lady is not a lady to be made a fool of, I promise you; nor is my lord likely to make a fool of any woman."
"Bless us all! that's no great praise for any young nobleman, Miss Anne."
"Mrs. Le Maistre! Mrs. Le Maistre! are you above?" cried a footman from the bottom of the stairs: "my lady's calling for you."
"Very well! Very well!" said sharp Mrs. Le Maistre; "Very well! and if she is—manners, sir!—Come up for one, can't you, and don't stand bawling at the bottom of the stairs, as if one had no ears to be saved. I'm coming as fast as I can—conveniently can."
Mrs. Le Maistre stood in the door-way, so as to fill it up, and prevent Anne from passing.
"Miss Anne! Miss Anne! Mrs. Le Maistre!" cried another footman; "my lady's in the carriage, and Miss Nugent."
"Miss Nugent!—is she?" cried Mrs. Le Maistre, running down stairs, followed by Anne. "Now, for the world in pocket-pieces wouldn't I have missed seeing him hand Miss Nugent in; for by that I could have judged definitively."
"My lord, I beg pardon!—I'm afeard I'm late," said Mrs. Le Maistre, as she passed Lord Colambre, who was standing motionless in the hall. "I beg a thousand pardons; but I was hunting, high and low, for my lady's numbrella." Lord Colambre did not hear or heed her: his eyes were fixed, and they never moved.
Lord Clonbrony was at the open carriage-door, kneeling on the step, and receiving Lady Clonbrony's "more last words" for Mr. Soho. The two waiting-maids stood together on the steps.
"Look at our young lord, how he stands," whispered Mrs. Le Maistre to Anne, "the image of despair! And she, the picture of death!—I don't know what to think."
"Nor I: but don't stare, if you can help it," said Anne. "Get in, get in, Mrs. Le Maistre," added she, as Lord Clonbrony now rose from the step, and made way for them.
"Ay, in with you—in with you, Mrs. Le Maistre," said Lord Clonbrony. "Good bye to you, Anne, and take care of your young mistress at Buxton: let me see her blooming when we meet again; I don't half like her looks, and I never thought Buxton agreed with her."
"Buxton never did any body harm," said Lady Clonbrony: "and as to bloom, I'm sure, if Grace has not bloom enough in her cheeks this moment to please you, I don't know what you'd have, my dear lord—Rouge?—Shut the door, John! Oh, stay!—Colambre!—Where upon earth's Colambre?" cried her ladyship, stretching from the farthest side of the coach to the window.—"Colambre!"
Colambre was forced to appear.
"Colambre, my dear! I forgot to say, that, if any thing detains you longer than Wednesday se'nnight, I beg you will not fail to write, or I shall be miserable."
"I will write: at all events, my dearest mother, you shall hear from me."
"Then I shall be quite happy. Go on!"
The carriage drove on.
"I do believe Colambre's ill: I never saw a man look so ill in my life—did you, Grace?—as he did the minute we drove on. He should take advice. I've a mind," cried Lady Clonbrony, laying her hand on the cord, to stop the coachman, "I've a mind to turn about—tell him so—and ask what is the matter with him."
"Better not!" said Miss Nugent: "he will write to you, and tell you—if any thing is the matter with him. Better go on now to Buxton!" continued she, scarcely able to speak. Lady Clonbrony let go the cord.
"But what is the matter with you, my dear Grace? for you are certainly going to die too!"
"I will tell you—as soon as I can; but don't ask me now, my dear aunt!"
"Grace, Grace! pull the cord!" cried Lady Clonbrony—"Mr. Salisbury's phaeton!—Mr. Salisbury, I'm happy to see you! We're on our way to Buxton—as I told you."
"So am I," said Mr. Salisbury. "I hope to be there before your ladyship: will you honour me with any commands?—of course, I will see that every thing is ready for your reception."
Her ladyship had not any commands. Mr. Salisbury drove on rapidly.
Lady Clonbrony's ideas had now taken the Salisbury channel. "You didn't know that Mr. Salisbury was going to Buxton to meet you, did you, Grace?" said Lady Clonbrony.
"No, indeed, I did not!" said Miss Nugent; "and I am very sorry for it."
"Young ladies, as Mrs. Broadhurst says, 'never know, or at least never tell, what they are sorry or glad for,'" replied Lady Clonbrony. "At all events, Grace, my love, it has brought the fine bloom back to your cheeks; and I own I am satisfied."
"Gone! for ever gone from me!" said Lord Colambre to himself, as the carriage drove away. "Never shall I see her more—never will I see her more, till she is married."
Lord Colambre went to his own room, locked the door, and was relieved in some degree by the sense of privacy; by the feeling that he could now indulge his reflections undisturbed. He had consolation—he had done what was honourable—he had transgressed no duty, abandoned no principle—he had not injured the happiness of any human being—he had not, to gratify himself, hazarded the peace of the woman he loved—he had not sought to win her heart. Of her innocent, her warm, susceptible heart, he might, perhaps, have robbed her—he knew it—but he had left it untouched, he hoped entire, in her own power, to bless with it hereafter some man worthy of her. In the hope that she might be happy, Lord Colambre felt relief; and in the consciousness that he had made his parents happy, he rejoiced; but, as soon as his mind turned that way for consolation, came the bitter reflection, that his mother must be disappointed in her hopes of his accompanying her home, and of his living with her in Ireland: she would be miserable when she should hear that he was going abroad into the army—and yet it must be so—and he must write, and tell her so. "The sooner this difficulty is off my mind, the sooner this painful letter is written, the better," thought he. "It must be done—I will do it immediately."
He snatched up his pen, and began a letter.
"My dear mother, Miss Nugent—" He was interrupted by a knock at his door.
"A gentleman below, my lord." said a servant, "who wishes to see you."
"I cannot see any gentleman. Did you say I was at home?"
"No, my lord, I said you was not at home; for I thought you would not choose to be at home, and your own man was not in the way for me to ask—so I denied you: but the gentleman would not be denied; he said I must come and see if you was at home. So, as he spoke as if he was a gentleman not used to be denied, I thought it might be somebody of consequence, and I showed him into the front drawing-room. I think he said he was sure you'd be at home for a friend from Ireland."
"A friend from Ireland! Why did not you tell me that sooner?" said Lord Colambre, rising, and running down stairs. "Sir James Brooke, I dare say."
No, not Sir James Brooke; but one he was almost as glad to see—Count O'Halloran!
"My dear count! the greater pleasure for being unexpected."
"I came to London but yesterday," said the count; "but I could not be here a day, without doing myself the honour of paying my respects to Lord Colambre."
"You do me not only honour, but pleasure, my dear count. People, when they like one another, always find each other out, and contrive to meet, even in London."
"You are too polite to ask what brought such a superannuated militaire as I am," said the count, "from his retirement into this gay world again. A relation of mine, who is one of the ministry, knew that I had some maps, and plans, and charts, which might be serviceable in an expedition they are planning. I might have trusted my charts across the channel, without coming myself to convoy them, you will say. But my relation fancied—young relations, you know, if they are good for any thing, are apt to overvalue the heads of old relations—fancied that mine was worth bringing all the way from Halloran Castle to London, to consult with tete-a-tete. So, you know, when this was signified to me by a letter from the secretary in office, private, most confidential, what could I do, but do myself the honour to obey? For though honour's voice cannot provoke the silent dust, yet 'flattery soothes the dull cold ear of age.'—But enough and too much of myself," said the count: "tell me, my dear lord, something of yourself. I do not think England seems to agree with you so well as Ireland; for, excuse me, in point of health, you don't look like the same man I saw some weeks ago."
"My mind has been ill at ease of late," said Lord Colambre.
"Ay, there's the thing! The body pays for the mind—but those who have feeling minds, pain and pleasure altogether computed, have the advantage; or at least they think so; for they would not change with those who have them not, were they to gain by the bargain the most robust body that the most selfish coxcomb, or the heaviest dunce extant, ever boasted. For instance, would you now, my lord, at this moment, change altogether with Major Benson, or Captain Williamson, or even with our friend, 'Eh, really now, 'pon honour'—would you?—I'm glad to see you smile."
"I thank you for making me smile, for I assure you I want it. I wish—if you would not think me encroaching upon your politeness in honouring me with this visit—You see," continued he, opening the doors of the back drawing-room, and pointing to large packages, "you see we are all preparing for a march: my mother has left town half an hour ago—my father engaged to dine abroad—only I at home—and, in this state of confusion, could I even venture to ask Count O'Halloran to stay and dine with me, without being able to offer him Irish ortolans or Irish plums—in short, will you let me rob you of two or three hours of your time? I am anxious to have your opinion on a subject of some importance to me, and on one where you are peculiarly qualified to judge and decide for me."
"My dear lord, frankly, I have nothing half so good or so agreeable to do with my time; command my hours. I have already told you how much it flatters me to be consulted by the most helpless clerk in office; how much more about the private concerns of an enlightened young-friend, will Lord Colambre permit me to say? I hope so; for, though the length of our acquaintance might not justify the word, yet regard and intimacy are not always in proportion to the time people have known each other, but to their mutual perception of certain attaching qualities, a certain similarity and suitableness of character."
The good count, seeing that Lord Colambre was in much distress of mind, did all he could to soothe him by kindness: far from making any difficulty about giving up a few hours of his time, he seemed to have no other object in London, and no purpose in life, but to attend to our hero. To put him at ease, and to give him time to recover and arrange his thoughts, the count talked of indifferent subjects.
"I think I heard you mention the name of Sir James Brooke."
"Yes, I expected to have seen him when the servant first mentioned a friend from Ireland; because Sir James had told me that, as soon as he could get leave of absence, he would come to England."
"He is come; is now at his estate in Huntingdonshire; doing, what do you think? I will give you a leading hint; recollect the seal which the little De Cressy put into your hands the day you dined at Oranmore. Faithful to his motto, 'Deeds, not words,' he is this instant, I believe, at deeds, title deeds; making out marriage settlements, getting ready to put his seal to the happy articles."
"Happy man! I give him joy," said Lord Colambre: "happy man! going to be married to such a woman—daughter of such a mother."
"Daughter of such a mother! That is indeed a great addition and a great security to his happiness," said the count. "Such a family to marry into; good from generation to generation; illustrious by character as well as by genealogy; 'all the sons brave, and all the daughters chaste.'"
Lord Colambre with difficulty repressed his feelings. "If I could choose," said the count, "I would rather that a woman I loved were of such a family than that she had for her dower the mines of Peru."
"So would I," cried Lord Colambre.
"I am glad to hear you say so, my lord, and with such energy; so few young men of the present day look to what I call good connexion. In marrying, a man does not, to be sure, marry his wife's mother; and yet a prudent man, when he begins to think of the daughter, would look sharp at the mother; ay, and back to the grandmother too, and along the whole female line of ancestry."
"True—most true—he ought—he must."
"And I have a notion," said the count, smiling, "your lordship's practice has been conformable to your theory."
"I!—mine!" said Lord Colambre, starting, and looking at the count with surprise.
"I beg your pardon," said the count; "I did not intend to surprise your confidence. But you forget that I was present, and saw the impression which was made on your mind by a mother's want of a proper sense of delicacy and propriety—Lady Dashfort."
"Oh, Lady Dashfort! she was quite out of my head."
"And Lady Isabel?—I hope she is quite out of your heart."
"She never was in it," said Lord Colambre. "Only laid siege to it," said the count. "Well, I am glad your heart did not surrender at discretion, or rather without discretion. Then I may tell you, without fear or preface, that the Lady Isabel, who talks of 'refinement, delicacy, sense,' is going to stoop at once, and marry—Heathcock." Lord Colambre was not surprised, but concerned and disgusted, as he always felt, even when he did not care for the individual, from hearing any thing which tended to lower the female sex in public estimation.
"As to myself," said he, "I cannot say I have had an escape, for I don't think I ever was in much danger."
"It is difficult to measure danger when it is over—past danger, like past pain, is soon forgotten," said the old general. "At all events, I rejoice in your present safety."
"But is she really going to be married to Heathcock?" said Lord Colambre.
"Positively: they all came over in the same packet with me, and they are all in town now, buying jewels, and equipages, and horses. Heathcock, you know, is as good as another man for all those purposes: his father is dead, and has left him a large estate. Que voulez-vous? as the French valet said to me on the occasion, c'est que monsieur est un homme de bien: il a des biens, a ce qu'on dit."
Lord Colambre could not help smiling.
"How they got Heathcock to fall in love is what puzzles me," said his lordship. "I should as soon have thought of an oyster's falling in love as that being."
"I own I should have sooner thought," replied the count, "of his falling in love with an oyster; and so would you, if you had seen him, as I did, devouring oysters on shipboard.
"'Say, can the lovely heroine hope to vie With a fat turtle or a ven'son pie?'
"But that is not our affair; let the Lady Isabel look to it."
Dinner was announced; and no farther conversation of any consequence passed between the count and Lord Colambre till the cloth was removed and the servants had withdrawn. Then our hero opened on the subject which was heavy at his heart.
"My dear count—I have a mind to serve a campaign or two, if I could get a commission in a regiment going to Spain; but I understand so many are eager to go at this moment, that it is very difficult to get a commission in such a regiment."
"It is difficult," said the count. "But," added he, after thinking for a moment, "I have it! I can get the thing done for you, and directly. Major Benson, who is in danger of being broke, in consequence of that affair, you know, about his mistress, wants to sell out; and that regiment is to be ordered immediately to Spain: I will have the thing done for you, if you request it."
"First, give me your advice, Count O'Halloran: you are well acquainted with the military profession, with military life. Would you advise me—I won't speak of myself, because we judge better by general views than by particular cases—would you advise a young man at present to go into the army?"
The count was silent for a few minutes, and then replied: "Since you seriously ask my opinion, my lord, I must lay aside my own prepossessions, and endeavour to speak with impartiality. To go into the army in these days, my lord, is, in my sober opinion, the most absurd and base, or the wisest and noblest thing a young man can do. To enter into the army, with the hope of escaping from the application necessary to acquire knowledge, letters, and science—I run no risk, my lord, in saying this to you—to go into the army, with the hope of escaping from knowledge, letters, science, and morality; to wear a red coat and an epaulette; to be called captain; to figure at a ball; to lounge away time in country sports, at country quarters, was never, even in times of peace, creditable; but it is now absurd and base. Submitting to a certain portion of ennui and contempt, this mode of life for an officer was formerly practicable—but now cannot be submitted to without utter, irremediable disgrace. Officers are now, in general, men of education and information; want of knowledge, sense, manners, must consequently be immediately detected, ridiculed, and despised, in a military man. Of this we have not long since seen lamentable examples in the raw officers who have lately disgraced themselves in my neighbourhood in Ireland—that Major Benson and Captain Williamson. But I will not advert to such insignificant individuals, such are rare exceptions—I leave them out of the question—I reason on general principles. The life of an officer is not now a life of parade, of coxcombical or of profligate idleness—but of active service, of continual hardship and danger. All the descriptions which we see in ancient history of a soldier's life, descriptions which in times of peace appeared like romance, are now realized; military exploits fill every day's newspapers, every day's conversation. A martial spirit is now essential to the liberty and the existence of our own country. In the present state of things, the military must be the most honourable profession, because the most useful. Every movement of an army is followed wherever it goes, by the public hopes and fears. Every officer must now feel, besides this sense of collective importance, a belief that his only dependence must be on his own merit—and thus his ambition, his enthusiasm, are raised; and, when once this noble ardour is kindled in the breast, it excites to exertion, and supports under endurance. But I forget myself," said the count, checking his enthusiasm; "I promised to speak soberly. If I have said too much, your own good sense, my lord, will correct me, and your good nature will forgive the prolixity of an old man, touched upon his favourite subject—the passion of his youth."
Lord Colambre, of course, assured the count that he was not tired. Indeed, the enthusiasm with which this old officer spoke of his profession, and the high point of view in which he placed it, increased our hero's desire to serve a campaign abroad. Good sense, politeness, and experience of the world preserved Count O'Halloran from that foible with which old officers are commonly reproached, of talking continually of their own military exploits. Though retired from the world, he had contrived, by reading the best books, and corresponding with persons of good information, to keep up with the current of modern affairs; and he seldom spoke of those in which he had been formerly engaged. He rather too studiously avoided speaking of himself; and this fear of egotism diminished the peculiar interest he might have inspired: it disappointed curiosity, and deprived those with whom he conversed of many entertaining and instructive anecdotes. However, he sometimes made exceptions to his general rule in favour of persons who peculiarly pleased him, and Lord Colambre was of this number.
He this evening, for the first time, spoke to his lordship of the years he had spent in the Austrian service; told him anecdotes of the emperor; spoke of many distinguished public characters whom he had known abroad; of those officers who had been his friends and companions. Among others he mentioned, with particular regard, a young English officer who had been at the same time with him in the Austrian service, a gentleman of the name of Reynolds.
The name struck Lord Colambre: it was the name of the officer who had been the cause of the disgrace of Miss St. Omar—of—Miss Nugent's mother. "But there are so many Reynoldses."
He eagerly asked the age—the character of this officer.
"He was a gallant youth," said the count, "but too adventurous—too rash. He fell, after distinguishing himself in a glorious manner, in his twentieth year—died in my arms."
"Married or unmarried?" cried Lord Colambre.
"Married—he had been privately married, less than a year before his death, to a very young English lady, who had been educated at a convent in Vienna. He was heir to a considerable property, I believe, and the young lady had little fortune; and the affair was kept secret, from the fear of offending his friends, or for some other reason—I do not recollect the particulars."
"Did he acknowledge his marriage?" said Lord Colambre.
"Never, till he was dying—then he confided his secret to me."
"Do you recollect the name of the young lady he married?"
"Yes—a Miss St. Omar."
"St. Omar!" repeated Lord Colambre, with an expression of lively joy in his countenance. "But are you certain, my dear count, that she was really married, legally married, to Mr. Reynolds? Her marriage has been denied by all his friends and relations—hers have never been able to establish it—her daughter is—My dear count, were you present at the marriage?"
"No," said the count, "I was not present at the marriage; I never saw the lady; nor do I know any thing of the affair, except that Mr. Reynolds, when he was dying, assured me that he was privately married to a Miss St. Omar, who was then boarding at a convent in Vienna. The young man expressed great regret at leaving her totally unprovided for; but said that he trusted his father would acknowledge her, and that her friends would be reconciled to her. He was not of age, he said, to make a will; but I think he told me that his child, who at that time was not born, would, even if it should be a girl, inherit a considerable property. With this I cannot, however, charge my memory positively; but he put a packet into my hands which, he told me, contained a certificate of his marriage, and, I think he said, a letter to his father: this he requested that I would transmit to England by some safe hand. Immediately after his death, I went to the English ambassador, who was then leaving Vienna, and delivered the packet into his hands: he promised to have it safely delivered. I was obliged to go the next day, with the troops, to a distant part of the country. When I returned, I inquired at the convent what had become of Miss St. Omar—I should say Mrs. Reynolds; and I was told that she had removed from the convent to private lodgings in the town, some time previous to the birth of her child. The abbess seemed much scandalized by the whole transaction; and I remember I relieved her mind by assuring her that there had been a regular marriage. For poor young Reynolds' sake, I made farther inquiries about the widow, intending, of course, to act as a friend, if she were in any difficulty or distress. But I found, on inquiry at her lodgings, that her brother had come from England for her, and had carried her and her infant away. The active scenes," continued the count, "in which I was immediately afterwards engaged, drove the whole affair from my mind. Now that your questions have recalled them, I feel certain of the facts I have mentioned; and I am ready to establish them by my testimony."
Lord Colambre thanked him with an eagerness that showed how much he was interested in the event. It was clear, he said, that either the packet left with the ambassador had not been delivered, or that the father of Mr. Reynolds had suppressed the certificate of the marriage, as it had never been acknowledged by him or by any of the family. Lord Colambre now frankly told the count why he was so anxious about this affair; and Count O'Halloran, with all the warmth of youth, and with all the ardent generosity characteristic of his country, entered into his feelings, declaring that he would never rest till he had established the truth.
"Unfortunately," said the count, "the ambassador who took the packet in charge is dead. I am afraid we shall have difficulty."
"But he must have had some secretary," said Lord Colambre: "who was his secretary?—we can apply to him."
"His secretary is now charge d'affaires in Vienna—we cannot get at him."
"Into whose hands have that ambassador's papers fallen—who is his executor?" said Lord Colambre.
"His executor!—now you have it," cried the count. "His executor is the very man who will do your business—your friend Sir James Brooke is the executor. All papers, of course, are in his hands; or he can have access to any that are in the hands of the family. The family seat is within a few miles of Sir James Brooke's, in Huntingdonshire, where, as I told you before, he now is."
"I'll go to him immediately—set out in the mail this night. Just in time!" cried Lord Colambre, pulling out his watch with one hand, and ringing the bell with the other.
"Run and take a place for me in the mail for Huntingdon. Go directly," said Lord Colambre to the servant.
"And take two places, if you please, sir," said the count. "My lord, I will accompany you."
But this Lord Colambre would not permit, as it would be unnecessary to fatigue the good old general; and a letter from him to Sir James Brooke would do all that the count could effect by his presence: the search for the papers would be made by Sir James, and if the packet could be recovered, or if any memorandum or mode of ascertaining that it had actually been delivered to old Reynolds could be discovered, Lord Colambre said he would then call upon the count for his assistance, and trouble him to identify the packet; or to go with him to Mr. Reynolds to make farther inquiries; and to certify, at all events, the young man's dying acknowledgment of his marriage and of his child.
The place in the mail, just in time, was taken. Lord Colambre sent a servant in search of his father, with a note, explaining the necessity of his sudden departure. All the business which remained to be done in town he knew Lord Clonbrony could accomplish without his assistance. Then he wrote a few lines to his mother, on the very sheet of paper on which, a few hours before, he had sorrowfully and slowly begun,
"My dear mother—Miss Nugent."
He now joyfully and rapidly went on,
"My dear mother and Miss Nugent,
"I hope to be with you on Wednesday se'nnight; but if unforeseen circumstances should delay me, I will certainly write to you again. Dear mother, believe me,
"Your obliged and grateful son,
The count, in the mean time, wrote a letter for him to Sir James Brooke, describing the packet which he had given to the ambassador, and relating all the circumstances that could lead to its recovery. Lord Colambre, almost before the wax was hard, seized the letter; the count seeming almost as eager to hurry him off as he was to set out. He thanked the count with few words, but with strong feeling. Joy and love returned in full tide upon our hero's soul; all the military ideas, which but an hour before filled his imagination, were put to flight: Spain vanished, and green Ireland reappeared.
Just as they shook hands at parting, the good old general, with a smile, said to him, "I believe I had better not stir in the matter of Benson's commission till I hear more from you. My harangue, in favour of the military profession, will, I fancy, prove, like most other harangues, a waste of words."
In what words of polite circumlocution, or of cautious diplomacy, shall we say, or hint, that the deceased ambassador's papers were found in shameful disorder. His excellency's executor, Sir James Brooke, however, was indefatigable in his researches. He and Lord Colambre spent two whole days in looking over portfolios of letters, and memorials, and manifestoes, and bundles of paper of the most heterogeneous sorts; some of them without any docket or direction to lead to a knowledge of their contents; others written upon in such a manner as to give an erroneous notion of their nature; so that it was necessary to untie every paper separately. At last, when they had opened, as they thought, every paper, and, wearied and in despair, were just on the point of giving up the search, Lord Colambre spied a bundle of old newspapers at the bottom of a trunk.
"They are only old Vienna Gazettes; I looked at them," said Sir James.
Lord Colambre, upon this assurance, was going to throw them into the trunk again; but observing that the bundle had not been untied, he opened it, and withinside of the newspapers he found a rough copy of the ambassador's journal, and with it the packet directed to Ralph Reynolds, sen., Esq., Old Court, Suffolk, per favour of his excellency Earl *****—a note on the cover, signed O'Halloran, stating when received by him, and, the date of the day when delivered to the ambassador—seals unbroken. Our hero was in such a transport of joy at the sight of this packet, and his friend Sir James Brooke so full of his congratulations, that they forgot to curse the ambassador's carelessness, which had been the cause of so much evil.
The next thing to be done was to deliver the packet to Ralph Reynolds, Old Court, Suffolk. But when Lord Colambre arrived at Old Court, Suffolk, he found all the gates locked, and no admittance to be had. At last an old woman came out of the porter's lodge, who said Mr. Reynolds was not there, and she could not say where he was. After our hero had opened her heart by the present of half a guinea, she explained, that she "could not justly say where he was, because that he never let any body of his own people know where he was any day; he had several different houses and places in different parts, and far off counties, and other shires, as she heard, and by times he was at one, and by times at another. The names of two of the places, Toddrington and Little Wrestham, she knew; but there were others to which she could give no direction. He had houses in odd parts of London, too, that he let; and sometimes, when the lodgers' time was out, he would go, and be never heard of for a month, may be, in one of them. In short, there was no telling or saying where he was or would be one day of the week, by where he had been the last."
When Lord Colambre expressed some surprise that an old gentleman, as he conceived Mr. Ralph Reynolds to be, should change places so frequently, the old woman answered, "that though her master was a deal on the wrong side of seventy, and though, to look at him, you'd think he was glued to his chair, and would fall to pieces if he should stir out of it, yet he was as alert, and thought no more of going about, than if he was as young as the gentleman who was now speaking to her. It was old Mr. Reynolds' delight to come down and surprise his people at his different places, and see that they were keeping all tight."
"What sort of a man is he?—Is he a miser?" said Lord Colambre.
"He is a miser, and he is not a miser," said the woman. "Now he'd think as much of the waste of a penny as another man would of a hundred pounds, and yet he would give a hundred pounds easier than another would give a penny, when he's in the humour. But his humour is very odd, and there's no knowing where to have him; he's cross-grained, and more positiver-like than a mule; and his deafness made him worse in this, because he never heard what nobody said, but would say on his own way—he was very odd, but not cracked—no, he was as clear-headed, when he took a thing the right way, as any man could be, and as clever, and could talk as well as any member of parliament—and good-natured, and kind-hearted, where he would take a fancy—but then, may be, it would be to a dog (he was remarkably fond of dogs), or a cat, or a rat even, that he would take a fancy, and think more of 'em than he would of a Christian. But, poor gentleman, there's great allowance," said she, "to be made for him, that lost his son and heir—that would have been heir to all, and a fine youth that he doted upon. But," continued the old woman, in whose mind the transitions from great to little, from serious to trivial, were ludicrously abrupt, "that was no reason why the old gentleman should scold me last time he was here, as he did, for as long as ever he could stand over me, only because I killed a mouse who was eating my cheese; and, before night, he beat a boy for stealing a piece of that same cheese; and he would never, when down here, let me set a mouse-trap."
"Well, my good woman," interrupted Lord Colambre, who was little interested in this affair of the mouse-trap, and nowise curious to learn more of Mr. Reynolds' domestic economy, "I'll not trouble you any farther, if you can be so good as to tell me the road to Toddrington, or to Little Wickham, I think you call it."
"Little Wickham!" repeated the woman, laughing—"Bless you, sir, where do you come from? It's Little Wrestham: sure every body knows, near Lantry; and keep the pike till you come to the turn at Rotherford, and then you strike off into the by-road to the left, and then turn again at the ford to the right. But, if you are going to Toddrington, you don't go the road to market, which is at the first turn to the left, and the cross country road, where there's no quarter, and Toddrington lies—but for Wrestham, you take the road to market."
It was some time before our hero could persuade the old woman to stick to Little Wrestham, or to Toddrington, and not to mix the directions for the different roads together—he took patience, for his impatience only confused his director the more. In process of time he made out, and wrote down, the various turns that he was to follow, to reach Little Wrestham; but no human power could get her from Little Wrestham to Toddrington, though she knew the road perfectly well; but she had, for the seventeen last years, been used to go "the other road," and all the carriers went that way, and passed the door, and that was all she could certify.
Little Wrestham, after turning to the left and right as often as his directory required, our hero happily reached: but, unhappily, he found no Mr. Reynolds there; only a steward, who gave nearly the same account of his master as had been given by the old woman, and could not guess even where the gentleman might now be. Toddrington was as likely as any place—but he could not say.
"Perseverance against fortune." To Toddrington our hero proceeded, through cross country roads—such roads!—very different from the Irish roads. Waggon ruts, into which the carriage wheels sunk nearly to the nave—and, from time to time, "sloughs of despond," through which it seemed impossible to drag, walk, wade, or swim, and all the time with a sulky postilion. "Oh, how unlike my Larry!" thought Lord Colambre.
At length, in a very narrow lane, going up a hill, said to be two miles of ascent, they overtook a heavy laden waggon, and they were obliged to go step by step behind it, whilst, enjoying the gentleman's impatience much, and the postilion's sulkiness more, the waggoner, in his embroidered frock, walked in state, with his long sceptre in his hand.
The postilion muttered "curses not loud, but deep." Deep or loud, no purpose would they have answered; the waggoner's temper was proof against curse in or out of the English language; and from their snail's pace neither Dickens, nor devil, nor any postilion in England could make him put his horses. Lord Colambre jumped out of the chaise, and, walking beside him, began to talk to him; and spoke of his horses, their bells, their trappings; the beauty and strength of the thill-horse—the value of the whole team, which his lordship happening to guess right within ten pounds, and showing, moreover, some skill about road-making and waggon-wheels, and being fortunately of the waggoner's own opinion in the great question about conical and cylindrical rims, he was pleased with the young chap of a gentleman; and, in spite of the chuffiness of his appearance and churlishness of his speech, this waggoner's bosom being "made of penetrable stuff," he determined to let the gentleman pass. Accordingly, when half way up the hill, and the head of the fore-horse came near an open gate, the waggoner, without saying one word or turning his head, touched the horse with his long whip—and the horse turned in at the gate, and then came, "Dobbin!—Jeho!" and strange calls and sounds, which all the other horses of the team obeyed; and the waggon turned into the farm-yard.
"Now, master! while I turn, you may pass."
The covering of the waggon caught in the hedge as the waggon turned in; and as the sacking was drawn back, some of the packages were disturbed—a cheese was just rolling off on the side next Lord Colambre; he stopped it from falling: the direction caught his quick eye—"To Ralph Reynolds, Esq."—"Toddrington" scratched out; "Red Lion Square, London," written in another hand below.
"Now I have found him! And surely I know that hand!" said Lord Colambre to himself, looking more closely at the direction.
The original direction was certainly in a hand-writing well known to him—it was Lady Dashfort's.
"That there cheese, that you're looking at so cur'ously," said the waggoner, "has been a great traveller; for it came all the way down from Lon'on, and now its going all the way up again back, on account of not finding the gentleman at home; and the man that booked it told me as how it came from foreign parts."
Lord Colambre took down the direction, tossed the honest waggoner a guinea, wished him good night, passed, and went on. As soon as he could, he turned into the London road—at the first town, got a place in the mail—reached London—saw his father—went directly to his friend, Count O'Halloran, who was delighted when he beheld the packet. Lord Colambre was extremely eager to go immediately to old Reynolds, fatigued as he was; for he had travelled night and day, and had scarcely allowed himself, mind or body, one moment's repose.
"Heroes must sleep, and lovers too; or they soon will cease to be heroes or lovers!" said the count. "Rest, rest, perturbed spirit! this night; and to-morrow morning we'll finish the adventures in Red Lion Square, or I will accompany you when and where you will; if necessary, to earth's remotest bounds."
The next morning Lord Colambre went to breakfast with the count. The count, who was not in love, was not up, for our hero was half an hour earlier than the time appointed. The old servant Ulick, who had attended his master to England, was very glad to see Lord Colambre again, and, showing him into the breakfast parlour, could not help saying, in defence of his master's punctuality, "Your clocks, I suppose, my lord, are half an hour faster than ours: my master will be ready to the moment."
The count soon appeared—breakfast was soon over, and the carriage at the door; for the count sympathized in his young friend's impatience. As they were setting out, the count's large Irish dog pushed out of the house-door to follow them; and his master would have forbidden him, but Lord Colambre begged that he might be permitted to accompany them; for his lordship recollected the old woman's having mentioned that Mr. Reynolds was fond of dogs.
They arrived in Red Lion Square, found the house of Mr. Reynolds, and, contrary to the count's prognostics, found the old gentleman up, and they saw him in his red night-cap at his parlour window. After some minutes' running backwards and forwards of a boy in the passage, and two or three peeps taken over the blinds by the old gentleman, they were admitted.
The boy could not master their names; so they were obliged reciprocally to announce themselves—"Count O'Halloran and Lord Colambre." The names seemed to make no impression on the old gentleman; but he deliberately looked at the count and his lordship, as if studying what rather than who they were. In spite of the red night-cap, and a flowered dressing-gown, Mr. Reynolds looked like a gentleman, an odd gentleman—but still a gentleman.
As Count O'Halloran came into the room, and as his large dog attempted to follow, the count's look expressed—
"Say, shall I let him in, or shut the door?"
"Oh, let him in, by all means, sir, if you please! I am fond of dogs; and a finer one I never saw: pray, gentlemen, be seated," said he—a portion of the complacency, inspired by the sight of the dog, diffusing itself over his manner towards the master of so fine an animal, and even extending to the master's companion, though in an inferior degree. Whilst Mr. Reynolds stroked the dog, the count told him that "the dog was of a curious breed, now almost extinct—the Irish greyhound; only one nobleman in Ireland, it is said, has a few of the species remaining in his possession—Now, lie down, Hannibal," said the count. "Mr. Reynolds, we have taken the liberty, though strangers, of waiting upon you—"
"I beg your pardon, sir," interrupted Mr. Reynolds; "but did I understand you rightly, that a few of the same species are still to be had from one nobleman in Ireland? Pray, what is his name?" said he, taking out his pencil.
The count wrote the name for him, but observed, that "he had asserted only that a few of these dogs remained in the possession of that nobleman; he could not answer for it that they were to be had."
"Oh, I have ways and means," said old Reynolds; and, rapping his snuff-box, and talking, as it was his custom, loud to himself, "Lady Dashfort knows all those Irish lords: she shall get one for me—ay! ay!"
Count O'Halloran replied, as if the words had been addressed to him, "Lady Dashfort is in England."
"I know it, sir; she is in London," said Mr. Reynolds, hastily. "What do you know of her?"
"I know, sir, that she is not likely to return to Ireland, and that I am; and so is my young friend here: and if the thing can be accomplished, we will get it done for you."
Lord Colambre joined in this promise, and added, that, "if the dog could be obtained, he would undertake to have him safely sent over to England."
"Sir—gentlemen! I'm much obliged; that is, when you have done the thing I shall be much obliged. But, may be, you are only making me civil speeches!"
"Of that, sir," said the count, smiling with much temper, "your own sagacity and knowledge of the world must enable you to judge."
"For my own part, I can only say," cried Lord Colambre, "that I am not in the habit of being reproached with saying one thing and meaning another."
"Hot! I see," said old Reynolds, nodding as he looked at Lord Colambre: "Cool!" added he, nodding at the count. "But a time for every thing; I was hot once: both answers good for their ages."
This speech Lord Colambre and the count tacitly agreed to consider as another apart, which they were not to hear, or seem to hear. The count began again on the business of their visit, as he saw that Lord Colambre was boiling with impatience, and feared that he should boil over, and spoil all. The count commenced with, "Mr. Reynolds, your name sounds to me like the name of a friend; for I had once a friend of that name: I once had the pleasure (and a very great pleasure it was to me) to be intimately acquainted abroad, on the continent, with a very amiable and gallant youth—your son!"
"Take care, sir," said the old man, starting up from his chair, and instantly sinking down again, "take care! Don't mention him to me—unless you would strike me dead on the spot!"
The convulsed motions of his fingers and face worked for some moments; whilst the count and Lord Colambre, much shocked and alarmed, stood in silence.
The convulsed motions ceased; and the old man unbuttoned his waistcoat, as if to relieve some sense of oppression; uncovered his gray hairs; and, after leaning back to rest himself, with his eyes fixed, and in reverie for a few moments, he sat upright again in his chair, and exclaimed, as he looked round, "Son!—Did not somebody say that word? Who is so cruel to say that word before me? Nobody has ever spoken of him to me—but once, since his death! Do you know, sir," said he, fixing his eyes on Count O'Halloran, and laying his cold hand on him, "do you know where he was buried, I ask you, sir? do you remember how he died?"
"Too well! too well!" cried the count, so much affected as to be scarcely able to pronounce the words; "he died in my arms: I buried him myself!"
"Impossible!" cried Mr. Reynolds. "Why do you say so, sir?" said he, studying the count's face with a sort of bewildered earnestness. "Impossible! His body was sent over to me in a lead coffin; and I saw it—and I was asked—and I answered, 'In the family vault.' But the shock is over," said he: "and, gentlemen, if the business of your visit relates to that subject, I trust I am now sufficiently composed to attend to you. Indeed, I ought to be prepared; for I had reason, for years, to expect the stroke; and yet, when it came, it seemed sudden!—it stunned me—put an end to all my worldly prospects—left me childless, without a single descendant, or relation near enough to be dear to me! I am an insulated being!"
"No, sir, you are not an insulated being," said Lord Colambre: "You have a near relation, who will, who must, be dear to you; who will make you amends for all you have lost, all you have suffered—who will bring peace and joy to your heart: you have a grand-daughter."
"No, sir; I have no grand-daughter," said old Reynolds, his face and whole form becoming rigid with the expression of obstinacy. "Rather have no descendant than be forced to acknowledge an illegitimate child."
"My lord, I entreat as a friend—I command you to be patient," said the count, who saw Lord Colambre's indignation suddenly rise.
"So, then, this is the purpose of your visit," continued old Reynolds: "and you come from my enemies, from the St. Omars, and you are in a league with them," continued old Reynolds: "and all this time it is of my eldest son you have been talking."
"Yes, sir," replied the count; "of Captain Reynolds, who fell in battle, in the Austrian service, about nineteen years ago—a more gallant and amiable youth never lived."
Pleasure revived through the dull look of obstinacy in the father's eyes.
"He was, as you say, sir, a gallant, an amiable youth, once—and he was my pride, and I loved him, too, once—but did not you know I had another?"
"No, sir, we did not—we are, you may perceive, totally ignorant of your family and of your affairs—we have no connexion whatever or knowledge of any of the St. Omars."
"I detest the sound of the name," cried Lord Colambre.
"Oh, good! good!—Well! well! I beg your pardon, gentlemen, a thousand times—I am a hasty, very hasty old man; but I have been harassed, persecuted, hunted by wretches, who got a scent of my gold; often in my rage I longed to throw my treasure-bags to my pursuers, and bid them leave me to die in peace. You have feelings, I see, both of you, gentlemen; excuse, and bear with my temper."
"Bear with you! Much enforced, the best tempers will emit a hasty spark," said the count, looking at Lord Colambre, who was now cool again; and who, with a countenance full of compassion, sat with his eyes fixed upon the poor—no, not the poor, but the unhappy old man.
"Yes, I had another son," continued Mr. Reynolds, "and on him all my affections concentrated when I lost my eldest, and for him I desired to preserve the estate which his mother brought into the family. Since you know nothing of my affairs, let me explain to you: that estate was so settled, that it would have gone to the child, even the daughter of my eldest son, if there had been a legitimate child. But I knew there was no marriage, and I held out firm to my opinion. 'If there was a marriage,' said I, 'show me the marriage certificate, and I will acknowledge the marriage, and acknowledge the child:' but they could not, and I knew they could not; and I kept the estate for my darling boy," cried the old gentleman, with the exultation of successful positiveness again appearing strong in his physiognomy: but, suddenly changing and relaxing, his countenance fell, and he added, "but now I have no darling boy. What use all!—all must go to the heir at law, or I must will it to a stranger—a lady of quality, who has just found out she is my relation—God knows how! I'm no genealogist—and sends me Irish cheese, and Iceland moss, for my breakfast, and her waiting gentlewoman to namby-pamby me. Oh, I'm sick of it all—see through it—wish I was blind—wish I had a hiding-place, where flatterers could not find me—pursued, chased—must change my lodgings again to-morrow—will, will—I beg your pardon, gentlemen, again: you were going to tell me, sir, something more of my eldest son; and how I was led away from the subject, I don't know; but I meant only to have assured you that his memory was dear to me, till I was so tormented about that unfortunate affair of his pretended marriage, that at length I hated to hear him named; but the heir at law, at last, will triumph over me."
"No, my good sir, not if you triumph over yourself, and do justice," cried Lord Colambre; "if you listen to the truth, which my friend will tell you, and if you will read and believe the confirmation of it, under your son's own hand, in this packet."
"His own hand indeed! His seal—unbroken. But how—when—where—why was it kept so long, and how came it into your hands?"
Count O'Halloran told Mr. Reynolds that the packet had been given to him by Captain Reynolds on his death-bed; related the dying acknowledgment which Captain Reynolds had made of his marriage; and gave an account of the delivery of the packet to the ambassador, who had promised to transmit it faithfully. Lord Colambre told the manner in which it had been mislaid, and at last recovered from among the deceased ambassador's papers. The father still gazed at the direction, and re-examined the seals.
"My son's hand-writing—my son's seals! But where is the certificate of the marriage?" repeated he; "if it is withinside of this packet, I have done great in—but I am convinced it never was a marriage. Yet I wish now it could be proved—only, in that case, I have for years done great—"
"Won't you open the packet, sir?" said Lord Colambre.
Mr. Reynolds looked up at him with a look that said, "I don't clearly know what interest you have in all this." But, unable to speak, and his hands trembling so that he could scarcely break the seals, he tore off the cover, laid the papers before him, sat down, and took breath. Lord Colambre, however impatient, had now too much humanity to hurry the old gentleman: he only ran for the spectacles, which he espied on the chimney-piece, rubbed them bright, and held them ready. Mr. Reynolds stretched his hand out for them, put them on, and the first paper he opened was the certificate of the marriage: he read it aloud, and, putting it down, said, "Now I acknowledge the marriage. I always said, if there is a marriage there must be a certificate. And you see now there is a certificate—I acknowledge the marriage."
"And now," cried Lord Colambre, "I am happy, positively happy. Acknowledge your grand-daughter, sir—acknowledge Miss Nugent."
"Acknowledge whom, sir?"
"Acknowledge Miss Reynolds—your grand-daughter; I ask no more—do what you will with your fortune."
"Oh, now I understand—I begin to understand, this young gentleman is in love—but where is my grand-daughter? how shall I know she is my grand-daughter? I have not heard of her since she was an infant—I forgot her existence—I have done her great injustice."
"She knows nothing of it, sir," said Lord Colambre, who now entered into a full explanation of Miss Nugent's history, and of her connexion with his family, and of his own attachment to her; concluding the whole by assuring Mr. Reynolds that his grand-daughter had every virtue under heaven. "And as to your fortune, sir, I know that she will, as I do, say—"
"No matter what she will say," interrupted old Reynolds; "where is she? When I see her, I shall hear what she says. Tell me where she is—let me see her. I long to see whether there is any likeness to her poor father. Where is she? Let me see her immediately."
"She is one hundred and sixty miles off, sir, at Buxton."
"Well, my lord, and what is a hundred and sixty miles? I suppose you think I can't stir from my chair, but you are mistaken. I think nothing of a journey of a hundred and sixty miles—I am ready to set off to-morrow—this instant."
Lord Colambre said, that he was sure Miss Reynolds would obey her grandfather's slightest summons, as it was her duty to do, and would be with him as soon as possible, if this would be more agreeable to him. "I will write to her instantly," said his lordship, "if you will commission me."
"No, my lord, I do not commission—I will go—I think nothing, I say, of a journey of a hundred and sixty miles—I'll go—and set out to-morrow morning."
Lord Colambre and the count, perfectly satisfied with the result of their visit, now thought it best to leave old Reynolds at liberty to rest himself, after so many strong and varied feelings. They paid their parting compliments, settled the time for the next day's journey, and were just going to quit the room, when Lord Colambre heard in the passage a well-known voice—the voice of Mrs. Petito.
"Oh, no, my Lady Dashfort's best compliments, and I will call again."
"No, no," cried old Reynolds, pulling his bell; "I'll have no calling again—I'll be hanged if I do! Let her in now, and I'll see her—Jack! let in that woman now or never."
"The lady's gone, sir, out of the street door."
"After her, then—now or never, tell her."
"Sir, she was in a hackney coach."
Old Reynolds jumped up, and went to the window himself, and, seeing the hackney coachman just turning, beckoned at the window, and Mrs. Petito was set down again, and ushered in by Jack, who announced her as, "the lady, sir." The only lady he had seen in that house.
"My dear Mr. Reynolds, I'm so obliged to you for letting me in," cried Mrs. Petito, adjusting her shawl in the passage, and speaking in a voice and manner well mimicked after her betters. "You are so very good and kind, and I am so much obliged to you."
"You are not obliged to me, and I am neither good nor kind," said old Reynolds.
"You strange man," said Mrs. Petito, advancing graceful in shawl drapery; but she stopped short. "My Lord Colambre and Count O'Halloran, as I hope to be saved!"
"I did not know Mrs. Petito was an acquaintance of yours, gentlemen," said Mr. Reynolds, smiling shrewdly.
Count O'Halloran was too polite to deny his acquaintance with a lady who challenged it by thus naming him; but he had not the slightest recollection of her, though it seems he had met her on the stairs when he visited Lady Dashfort at Killpatricks-town. Lord Colambre was "indeed undeniably an old acquaintance:" and as soon as she had recovered from her first natural start and vulgar exclamation, she with very easy familiarity hoped "my Lady Clonbrony, and my Lord, and Miss Nugent, and all her friends in the family, were well;" and said, "she did not know whether she was to congratulate his lordship or not upon Miss Broadhurst, my Lady Berryl's marriage, but she should soon have to hope for his lordship's congratulations for another marriage in her present family—Lady Isabel to Colonel Heathcock, who was come in for a large portion, and they are buying the wedding clothes—sights of clothes—and the di'monds, this day; and Lady Dashfort and my Lady Isabel sent me especially, sir, to you, Mr. Reynolds, and to tell you, sir, before any body else; and to hope the cheese come safe up again at last; and to ask whether the Iceland moss agrees with your chocolate, and is palatable? it's the most diluent thing upon the universal earth, and the most tonic and fashionable—the Duchess of Torcaster takes it always for breakfast, and Lady St. James too is quite a convert, and I hear the Duke of V*** takes it too."
"And the devil may take it too, for any thing that I care," said old Reynolds.
"Oh, my dear, dear sir! you are so refractory a patient."
"I am no patient at all, ma'am, and have no patience either: I am as well as you are, or my Lady Dashfort either, and hope, God willing, long to continue so."
Mrs. Petito smiled aside at Lord Colambre, to mark her perception of the man's strangeness. Then, in a cajoling voice, addressing herself to the old gentleman, "Long, long, I hope, to continue so, if Heaven grants my daily and nightly prayers, and my Lady Dashfort's also. So, Mr. Reynolds, if the ladies' prayers are of any avail, you ought to be purely, and I suppose ladies' prayers have the precedence in efficacy. But it was not of prayers and death-bed affairs I came commissioned to treat—but of weddings my diplomacy was to speak: and to premise my Lady Dashfort would have come herself in her carriage, but is hurried out of her senses, and my Lady Isabel could not in proper modesty; so they sent me as their double, to hope you, my dear Mr. Reynolds, who is one of the family relations, will honour the wedding with your presence."
"It would be no honour, and they know that as well as I do," said the intractable Mr. Reynolds. "It will be no advantage, either; but that they do not know as well as I do. Mrs. Petito, to save you and your lady all trouble about me in future, please to let my Lady Dashfort know that I have just received and read the certificate of my son Captain Reynolds' marriage with Miss St. Omar. I have acknowledged the marriage. Better late than never; and to-morrow morning, God willing, shall set out with this young nobleman for Buxton, where I hope to see, and intend publicly to acknowledge, my grand-daughter—provided she will acknowledge me."
"Crimini!" exclaimed Mrs. Petito, "what new turns are here? Well, sir, I shall tell my lady of the metamorphoses that have taken place, though by what magic I can't guess. But, since it seems annoying and inopportune, I shall make my finale, and shall thus leave a verbal P.P.C.—as you are leaving town, it seems, for Buxton so early in the morning. My Lord Colambre, if I see rightly into a millstone, as I hope and believe I do on the present occasion, I have to congratulate your lordship (haven't I?) upon something like a succession, or a windfall, in this denewment. And I beg you'll make my humble respects acceptable to the ci-devant Miss Grace Nugent that was; and I won't derrogate her by any other name in the interregnum, as I am persuaded it will only be a temporary name, scarce worth assuming, except for the honour of the public adoption; and that will, I'm confident, be soon exchanged for a viscount's title, or I have no sagacity or sympathy. I hope I don't (pray don't let me) put you to the blush, my lord."
Lord Colambre would not have let her, if he could have helped it.
"Count O'Halloran, your most obedient! I had the honour of meeting you at Killpatricks-town," said Mrs. Petito, backing to the door, and twitching her shawl. She stumbled, nearly fell down, over the large dog—caught by the door, and recovered herself—Hannibal rose and shook his ears. "Poor fellow! you are of my acquaintance, too." She would have stroked his head; but Hannibal walked off indignant, and so did she.
Thus ended certain hopes: for Mrs. Petito had conceived that her diplomacy might be turned to account; that in her character of an ambassadress, as Lady Dashfort's double, by the aid of Iceland moss in chocolate, of flattery properly administered, and of bearing with all her dear Mr. Reynolds' oddnesses and rough-nesses, she might in time—that is to say, before he made a new will—become his dear Mrs. Petito; or (for stranger things have happened and do happen every day), his dear Mrs. Reynolds! Mrs. Petito, however, was good at a retreat; and she flattered herself that at least nothing of this underplot had appeared: and at all events she secured, by her services in this embassy, the long looked-for object of her ambition, Lady Dashfort's scarlet velvet gown—"not yet a thread the worse for the wear!" One cordial look at this comforted her for the loss of her expected octogenaire; and she proceeded to discomfit her lady, by repeating the message with which strange old Mr. Reynolds had charged her. So ended all Lady Dashfort's hopes of his fortune.
Since the death of his youngest son, she had been indefatigable in her attentions, and sanguine in her hopes: the disappointment affected both her interest and her pride, as an intrigante. It was necessary, however, to keep her feelings to herself; for if Heathcock should hear any thing of the matter before the articles were signed, he might "be off!"—so she put him and Lady Isabel into her coach directly—drove to Rundell and Bridges', to make sure at all events of the jewels.
In the mean time Count O'Halloran and Lord Colambre, delighted with the result of their visit, took leave of Mr. Reynolds, after having arranged the journey, and appointed the hour for setting off the next day. Lord Colambre proposed to call upon Mr. Reynolds in the evening, and introduce his father, Lord Clonbrony; but Mr. Reynolds said, "No, no! I'm not ceremonious. I have given you proofs enough of that, I think, in the short time we've been already acquainted. Time enough to introduce your father to me when we are in a carriage, going our journey: then we can talk, and get acquainted: but merely to come this evening in a hurry, and say, 'Lord Clonbrony, Mr. Reynolds;—Mr. Reynolds, Lord Clonbrony'—and then bob our two heads at one another, and scrape one foot back, and away!—where's the use of that nonsense at my time of life, or at any time of life? No, no! we have enough to do without that, I dare say.—Good morning to you, Count O'Halloran! I thank you heartily. From the first moment I saw you, I liked you: lucky too, that you brought your dog with you! 'Twas Hannibal made me first let you in; I saw him over the top of the blind. Hannibal, my good fellow! I'm more obliged to you than you can guess."
"So are we all," said Lord Colambre.
Hannibal was well patted, and then they parted. In returning home they met Sir James Brooke.
"I told you," said Sir James, "I should be in London almost as soon as you. Have you found old Reynolds?"
"Just come from him."
"How does your business prosper? I hope as well as mine."
A history of all that had passed up to the present moment was given, and hearty congratulations received.
"Where are you going now, Sir James?—cannot you come with us?" said Lord Colambre and the count.
"Impossible," replied Sir James;—"but, perhaps, you can come with me—I'm going to Rundell and Bridges', to give some old family diamonds either to be new set or exchanged. Count O'Halloran, I know you are a judge of these things; pray come and give me your opinion."
"Better consult your bride elect!" said the count.
"No; she knows little of the matter—and cares less," replied Sir James.
"Not so this bride elect, or I mistake her much," said the count, as they passed by the window, at Rundell and Bridges', and saw Lady Isabel, who, with Lady Dashfort, had been holding consultation deep with the jeweller; and Heathcock, playing personnage muet.
Lady Dashfort, who had always, as old Reynolds expressed it, "her head upon her shoulders,"—presence of mind where her interests were concerned, ran to the door before the count and Lord Colambre could enter, giving a hand to each—as if they had all parted the best friends in the world.
"How do? how do?—Give you joy! give me joy! and all that. But mind! not a word," said she, laying her finger upon her lips, "not a word before Heathcock of old Reynolds, or of the best part of the old fool—his fortune!"
The gentlemen bowed, in sign of submission to her ladyship's commands; and comprehended that she feared Heathcock might be off, if the best part of his bride (her fortune, or her expectations) were lowered in value or in prospect.
"How low is she reduced," whispered Lord Colambre, "when such a husband is thought a prize—and to be secured by a manoeuvre!" He sighed.
"Spare that generous sigh!" said Sir James Brooke: "it is wasted."
Lady Isabel, as they approached, turned from a mirror, at which she was trying on a diamond crescent. Her face clouded at the sight of Count O'Halloran and Lord Colambre, and grew dark as hatred when she saw Sir James Brooke. She walked away to the farther end of the shop, and asked one of the shopmen the price of a diamond necklace, which lay upon the counter.
The man said he really did not know; it belonged to Lady Oranmore; it had just been new set for one of her ladyship's daughters, "who is going to be married to Sir James Brooke—one of the gentlemen, my lady, who are just come in."
Then, calling to his master, he asked him the price of the necklace: he named the value, which was considerable.
"I really thought Lady Oranmore and her daughters were vastly too philosophical to think of diamonds," said Lady Isabel to her mother, with a sort of sentimental sneer in her voice and countenance. "But it is some comfort to me to find, in these pattern-women, philosophy and love do not so wholly engross the heart, that they
"'Feel every vanity in fondness lost.'"
"'Twould be difficult, in some cases," thought many present.
"'Pon honour, di'monds are cursed expensive things, I know!" said Heathcock. "But, be that as it may," whispered he to the lady, though loud enough to be heard by others, "I've laid a damned round wager, that no woman's diamonds married this winter, under a countess, in Lon'on, shall eclipse Lady Isabel Heathcock's! and Mr. Rundell here's to be judge."
Lady Isabel paid for this promise one of her sweetest smiles; one of those smiles which she had formerly bestowed upon Lord Colambre, and which he had once fancied expressed so much sensibility—such discriminative and delicate penetration.
Our hero felt so much contempt, that he never wasted another sigh of pity for her degradation. Lady Dashfort came up to him as he was standing alone; and, whilst the count and Sir James were settling about the diamonds, "My Lord Colambre," said she, in a low voice, "I know your thoughts, and I could moralize as well as you, if I did not prefer laughing—you are right enough; and so am I, and so is Isabel; we are all right. For look here: women have not always the liberty of choice, and therefore they can't be expected to have always the power of refusal."
The mother, satisfied with her convenient optimism, got into her carriage with her daughter, her daughter's diamonds, and her precious son-in-law, her daughter's companion for life.
"The more I see," said Count O'Halloran to Lord Colambre, as they left the shop, "the more I find reason to congratulate you upon your escape, my dear lord."
"I owe it not to my own wit or wisdom," said Lord Colambre; "but much to love, and much to friendship," added he, turning to Sir James Brooke: "here was the friend who early warned me against the siren's voice; who, before I knew the Lady Isabel, told me what I have since found to be true, that
"'Two passions alternately govern her fate—Her business is love, but her pleasure is hate,'"
"That is dreadfully severe, Sir James," said Count O'Halloran; "but, I am afraid, is just."
"I am sure it is just, or I would not have said it," replied Sir James Brooke. "For the foibles of the sex, I hope, I have as much indulgence as any man, and for the errors of passion as much pity; but I cannot repress the indignation, the abhorrence I feel against women cold and vain, who use their wit and their charms only to make others miserable."
Lord Colambre recollected at this moment Lady Isabel's look and voice, when she declared that she would let her little finger be cut off to purchase the pleasure of inflicting on Lady De Cressy, for one hour, the torture of jealousy.
"Perhaps," continued Sir James Brooke, "now that I am going to marry into an Irish family, I may feel, with peculiar energy, disapprobation of this mother and daughter on another account; but you, Lord Colambre, will do me the justice to recollect, that before I had any personal interest in the country, I expressed, as a general friend to Ireland, antipathy to those who return the hospitality they received from a warm-hearted people, by publicly setting the example of elegant sentimental hypocrisy, or daring disregard of decorum, by privately endeavouring to destroy the domestic peace of families, on which, at last, public as well as private virtue and happiness depend. I do rejoice, my dear Lord Colambre, to hear you say that I had any share in saving you from the siren; and now I will never speak of these ladies more. I am sorry you cannot stay in town to see—but why should I be sorry—we shall meet again, I trust, and I shall introduce you; and you, I hope, will introduce me to a very different charmer. Farewell!—you have my warm good wishes, wherever you go."
Sir James turned off quickly to the street in which Lady Oranmore lived, and Lord Colambre had not time to tell him that he knew and admired his intended bride. Count O'Halloran promised to do this for him.
"And now," said the good count, "I am to take leave of you; and I assure you I do it with so much reluctance, that nothing less than positive engagements to stay in town would prevent me from setting off with you to-morrow; but I shall be soon, very soon, at liberty to return to Ireland; and Clonbrony Castle, if you will give me leave, I will see before I see Halloran Castle."
Lord Colambre joyfully thanked his friend for this promise.
"Nay, it is to indulge myself. I long to see you happy—long to behold the choice of such a heart as yours. Pray do not steal a march upon me—let me know in time. I will leave every thing—even my friend the minister's secret expedition—for your wedding. But I trust I shall be in time."
"Assuredly you will, my dear count; if ever that wedding—"
"If," repeated the count.
"If," repeated Lord Colambre. "Obstacles which, when we last parted, appeared to me invincible, prevented my having ever even attempted to make an impression on the heart of the woman I love: and if you knew her, count, as well as I do, you would know that her love could 'not unsought be won.'"
"Of that I cannot doubt, or she would not be your choice; but when her love is sought, we have every reason to hope," said the count, smiling, "that it may, because it ought to be, won by tried honour and affection. I only require to be left in hope."
"Well, I leave you hope," said Lord Colambre: "Miss Nugent—Miss Reynolds, I should say, has been in the habit of considering a union with me as impossible; my mother early instilled this idea into her mind. Miss Nugent thought that duty forbad her to think of me; she told me so: I have seen it in all her conduct and manners. The barriers of habit, the ideas of duty, cannot, ought not, to be thrown down, or suddenly changed, in a well-regulated female mind. And you, I am sure, know enough of the best female hearts, to be aware that time—"
"Well, well, let this dear good charmer take her own time, provided there's none given to affectation, or prudery, or coquetry; and from all these, of course, she must be free; and of course I must be content. Adieu."
As Lord Colambre was returning home, he was overtaken by Sir Terence O'Fay.
"Well, my lord," cried Sir Terence, out of breath, "you have led me a pretty dance all over the town: here's a letter somewhere down in my safe pocket for you, which has cost me trouble enough. Phoo! where is it now?—it's from Miss Nugent," said he, holding up the letter. The direction to Grosvenor-square, London, had been scratched out; and it had been re-directed by Sir Terence to the Lord Viscount Colambre, at Sir James Brooke's, Bart., Brookwood, Huntingdonshire, or elsewhere, with speed, "But the more haste the worse speed; for away it went to Brookwood, Huntingdonshire, where I knew, if any where, you was to be found; but, as fate and the post would have it, there the letter went coursing after you, while you were running round, and back, and forwards, and every where, I understand, to Toddrington and Wrestham, and where not, through all them English places, where there's no cross-post: so I took it for granted that it found its way to the dead-letter office, or was sticking up across a pane in the d——d postmaster's window at Huntingdon, for the whole town to see, and it a love-letter, and some puppy to claim it, under false pretence; and you all the time without it, and it might breed a coolness betwixt you and Miss Nugent."
"But, my dear Sir Terence, give me the letter now you have me."
"Oh, my dear lord, if you knew what a race I have had, missing you here by five minutes, and there by five seconds—but I have you at last, and you have it—and I'm paid this minute for all I liquidated of my substance, by the pleasure I have in seeing you crack the seal and read it. But take care you don't tumble over the orange-woman—orange barrows are a great nuisance, when one's studying a letter in the streets of London, or the metropolis. But never heed; stick to my arm, and I'll guide you, like a blind man, safe through the thick of them."
Miss Nugent's letter, which Lord Colambre read in spite of the jostling of passengers, and the incessant talking of Sir Terence, was as follows:—
"Let me not be the cause of banishing you from your home and your country, where you would do so much good, and make so many happy. Let me not be the cause of your breaking your promise to your mother; of your disappointing my dear aunt so cruelly, who has complied with all our wishes, and who sacrifices, to oblige us, her favourite tastes. How could she be ever happy in Ireland—how could Clonbrony Castle be a home to her without her son? If you take away all she had of amusement and pleasure, as it is called, are not you bound to give her, in their stead, that domestic happiness, which she can enjoy only with you, and by your means? If, instead of living with her, you go into the army, she will be in daily, nightly anxiety and alarm about you; and her son will, instead of being a comfort, be a source of torment to her.
"I will hope that you will do now, as you have always hitherto done, on every occasion where I have seen you act, what is right, and just, and kind. Come here on the day you promised my aunt you would; before that time I shall be in Cambridgeshire, with my friend Lady Berryl; she is so good as to come to Buxton for me—I shall remain with her, instead of returning to Ireland. I have explained my reasons to my dear aunt—Could I have any concealment from her, to whom, from my earliest childhood, I owe every thing that kindness and affection could give? She is satisfied—she consents to my living henceforward with Lady Berryl. Let me have the pleasure of seeing by your conduct, that you approve of mine.
"Your affectionate cousin
This letter, as may be imagined by those who, like him, are capable of feeling honourable and generous conduct, gave our hero exquisite pleasure. Poor, good-natured Sir Terence O'Fay enjoyed his lordship's delight; and forgot himself so completely, that he never even inquired whether Lord Colambre had thought of an affair on which he had spoken to him some time before, and which materially concerned Sir Terence's interest. The next morning, when the carriage was at the door, and Sir Terence was just taking leave of his friend Lord Clonbrony, and actually in tears, wishing them all manner of happiness, though he said there was none left now in London, or the wide world even, for him—Lord Colambre went up to him, and said, "Sir Terence, you have never inquired whether I have done your business."
"Oh, my dear, I'm not thinking of that now—time enough by the post—I can write after you; but my thoughts won't turn for me to business now—no matter."
"Your business is done," replied Lord Colambre.
"Then I wonder how you could think of it, with all you had upon your mind and heart. When any thing's upon my heart, good morning to my head, it's not worth a lemon. Good-bye to you, and thank you kindly, and all happiness attend you."
"Good-bye to you, Sir Terence O'Fay," said Lord Clonbrony; "and, since it's so ordered, I must live without you."
"Oh! you'll live better without me, my lord; I am not a good liver, I know, nor the best of all companions, for a nobleman, young or old; and now you'll be rich, and not put to your shifts and your wits, what would I have to do for you?—Sir Terence O'Fay, you know, was only the poor nobleman's friend, and you'll never want to call upon him again, thanks to your jewel, your Pitt's-diamond of a son there. So we part here, and depend upon it you're better without me—that's all my comfort, or my heart would break. The carriage is waiting this long time, and this young lover's aching to be off. God bless you both!—that's my last word."
They called in Red Lion-square, punctual to the moment, on old Mr. Reynolds, but his window-shutters were shut; he had been seized in the night with a violent fit of the gout, which, as he said, held him fast by the leg. "But here," said he, giving Lord Colambre a letter, "here's what will do your business without me. Take this written acknowledgment I have penned for you, and give my grand-daughter her father's letter to read—it would touch a heart of stone—touched mine—wish I could drag the mother back out of her grave, to do her justice—all one now. You see, at last, I'm not a suspicious rascal, however, for I don't suspect you of palming a false grand-daughter upon me."
"Will you," said Lord Colambre, "give your grand-daughter leave to come up to town to you, sir! You would satisfy yourself, at least, as to what resemblance she may bear to her father: Miss Reynolds will come instantly, and she will nurse you."
"No, no; I won't have her come. If she comes, I won't see her—sha'n't begin by nursing me—not selfish. As soon as I get rid of this gout, I shall be my own man, and young again, and I'll soon be after you across the sea, that sha'n't stop me: I'll come to—what's the name of your place in Ireland?—and see what likeness I can find to her poor father in this grand-daughter of mine, that you puffed so finely yesterday. And let me see whether she will wheedle me as finely as Mrs. Petito would. Don't get ready your marriage settlements, do you hear? till you have seen my will, which I shall sign at—what's the name of your place? Write it down there; there's pen and ink; and leave me, for the twinge is coming, and I shall roar."
"Will you permit me, sir, to leave my own servant with you to take care of you? I can answer for his attention and fidelity."