The Absentee, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 17.

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

“and friend,

“GRACE NUGENT.”

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.”

“Let me see his face, and I’ll tell you.”

Lord Colambre’s servant was summoned.

“Yes, I like his face. God bless you! — Leave me.”

Lord Colambre gave his servant a charge to bear with Mr. Reynolds’ rough manner and temper, and to pay the poor old gentleman every possible attention. Then our hero proceeded with his father on his journey, and on this journey nothing happened worthy of note. On his first perusal of the letter from Grace, Lord Colambre had feared that she would have left Buxton with Lady Berryl before he could reach it; but, upon recollection, he hoped that the few lines he had written, addressed to his mother and Miss Nugent, with the assurance that he should be with them on Wednesday, would be sufficient to show her that some great change had happened, and consequently sufficient to prevent her from quitting her aunt, till she could know whether such a separation would be necessary. He argued wisely, more wisely than Grace had reasoned; for, notwithstanding this note, she would have left Buxton before his arrival, but for Lady Berryl’s strength of mind, and positive determination not to set out with her till Lord Colambre should arrive to explain. In the interval, poor Grace was, indeed, in an anxious state of suspense; and her uncertainty, whether she was doing right or wrong, by staying to see Lord Colambre, tormented her most.

“My dear, you cannot help yourself: be quiet,” said Lady Berryl: “I will take the whole upon my conscience; and I hope my conscience may never have any thing worse to answer for.”

Grace was the first person who, from her window, saw Lord Colambre, the instant the carriage drove to the door. She ran to her friend Lady Berryl’s apartment. “He is come! — Now, take me away.”

“Not yet, my sweet friend! Lie down upon this sofa, if you please; and keep yourself tranquil, whilst I go and see what you ought to do; and depend upon me for a true friend, in whose mind, as in your own, duty is the first object.”

“I depend on you entirely,” said Grace, sinking down on the sofa: “and you see I obey you!”

“Many thanks to you for lying down, when you can’t stand.”

Lady Berryl went to Lord Clonbrony’s apartment; she was met by Sir Arthur. “Come, my love! come quick! — Lord Colambre is arrived.”

“I know it; and does he go to Ireland? Speak instantly, that I may tell Grace Nugent.”

“You can tell her nothing yet, my love; for we know nothing. Lord Colambre will not say a word till you come; but I know, by his countenance, that he has good and extraordinary news.”

They passed rapidly along the passage to Lady Clonbrony’s room.

“Oh, my dear, dear Lady Berryl, come! or I shall die with impatience,” cried Lady Clonbrony, in a voice and manner between laughing and crying. “There, now you have congratulated, are very happy, and very glad, and all that — now, for mercy’s sake, sit down, Lord Clonbrony! for Heaven’s sake, sit down — beside me here — or any where! Now, Colambre, begin; and tell us all at once!”

But as nothing is so tedious as a twice told tale, Lord Colambre’s narrative need not here be repeated. He began with Count O’Halloran’s visit, immediately after Lady Clonbrony had left London; and went through the history of the discovery that Captain Reynolds was the husband of Miss St. Omar, and the father of Grace: the dying acknowledgment of his marriage; the packet delivered by Count O’Halloran to the careless ambassador — how recovered, by the assistance of his executor, Sir James Brooke; the travels from Wrestham to Toddrington, and thence to Red Lion-square; the interview with old Reynolds, and its final result: all was related as succinctly as the impatient curiosity of Lord Colambre’s auditors could desire.

“Oh, wonder upon wonder! and joy upon joy!” cried Lady Clonbrony. “So my darling Grace is as legitimate as I am, and an heiress after all. Where is she? where is she? In your room, Lady Berryl? — Oh, Colambre! why wouldn’t you let her be by? — Lady Berryl, do you know, he would not let me send for her, though she was the person of all others most concerned!”

“For that very reason, ma’am; and that Lord Colambre was quite right, I am sure you must be sensible, when you recollect, that Grace has no idea that she is not the daughter of Mr. Nugent: she has no suspicion that the breath of blame ever lighted upon her mother. This part of the story cannot be announced to her with too much caution; and, indeed, her mind has been so much harassed and agitated, and she is at present so far from strong, that great delicacy —.”

“True! very true, Lady Berryl,” interrupted Lady Clonbrony; “and I’ll be as delicate as you please about it afterwards: but, in the first and foremost place, I must tell her the best part of the story — that she’s an heiress; that never killed any body!”

So, darting through all opposition, Lady Clonbrony made her way into the room where Grace was lying —“Yes, get up! get up! my own Grace, and be surprised — well you may! — you are an heiress, after all.”

“Am I, my dear aunt?” said Grace.

“True, as I’m Lady Clonbrony — and a very great heiress — and no more Colambre’s cousin than Lady Berryl here. So now begin and love him as fast as you please — I give my consent — and here he is.”

Lady Clonbrony turned to her son, who just appeared at the door.

“Ob, mother! what have you done?”

“What have I done?” cried Lady Clonbrony, following her son’s eyes:—“Lord bless me! — Grace fainted dead — Lady Berryl! Oh, what have I done? My dear Lady Berryl, what shall we do?”

Lady Berryl hastened to her friend’s assistance.

“There! her colour’s coming again,” said Lord Clonbrony; “come away, my dear Lady Clonbrony, for the present, and so will I— though I long to talk to the darling girl myself; but she is not equal to it yet.”

When Grace came to herself, she first saw Lady Berryl leaning over her, and, raising herself a little, she said, “What has happened? — I don’t know yet — I don’t know whether I am happy or not. — Explain all this to me, my dear friend; for I am still as if I were in a dream.”

With all the delicacy which Lady Clonbrony deemed superfluous, Lady Berryl explained. Nothing could surpass the astonishment of Grace, on first learning that Mr. Nugent was not her father. When she was told of the stigma that had been cast on her birth; the suspicions, the disgrace, to which her mother had been subjected for so many years — that mother, whom she had so loved and respected; who had, with such care, instilled into the mind of her daughter the principles of virtue and religion; that mother whom Grace had always seen the example of every virtue she taught; on whom her daughter never suspected that the touch of blame, the breath of scandal, could rest — Grace could express her sensations only by repeating, in tones of astonishment, pathos, indignation —“My mother! — my mother! — my mother!”

For some time she was incapable of attending to any other idea, or of feeling any other sensations. When her mind was able to admit the thought, her friend soothed her, by recalling the expressions of Lord Colambre’s love — the struggle by which he had been agitated, when he fancied a union with her opposed by an invincible obstacle.

Grace sighed, and acknowledged that, in prudence, it ought to have been an invincible obstacle — she admired the firmness of his decision, the honour with which he had acted towards her. One moment she exclaimed, “Then, if I had been the daughter of a mother who had conducted herself ill, he never would have trusted me!” The next moment she recollected, with pleasure, the joy she had just seen in his eyes — the affection, the passion, that spoke in every word and look; then dwelt upon the sober certainty, that all obstacles were removed. “And no duty opposes my loving him! — And my aunt wishes it! my kind aunt! and my dear uncle! should not I go to him? — But he is not my uncle, she is not my aunt. I cannot bring myself to think that they are not my relations, and that I am nothing to them.”

“You may be every thing to them, my dear Grace,” said Lady Berryl:—“whenever you please, you may be their daughter.”

Grace blushed, and smiled, and sighed, and was consoled. But then she recollected her new relation, Mr. Reynolds, her grandfather, whom she had never seen, who had for years disowned her — treated her mother with injustice. She could scarcely think of him with complacency: yet, when his age, his sufferings, his desolate state, were represented, she pitied him; and, faithful to her strong sense of duty, would have gone instantly to offer him every assistance and attention in her power. Lady Berryl assured her that Mr. Reynolds had positively forbidden her going to him; and that he had assured Lord Colambre he would not see her if she went to him. After such rapid and varied emotions, poor Grace desired repose, and her friend took care that it should be secured to her for the remainder of the day.

In the mean time, Lord Clonbrony had kindly and judiciously employed his lady in a discussion about certain velvet furniture, which Grace had painted for the drawing-room at Clonbrony Castle.

In Lady Clonbrony’s mind, as in some bad paintings, there was no keeping; all objects, great and small, were upon the same level.

The moment her son entered the room, her ladyship exclaimed, “Every thing pleasant at once! Here’s your father tells me, Grace’s velvet furniture’s all packed: really Soho’s the best man in the world of his kind, and the cleverest — and so, after all, my dear Colambre, as I always hoped and prophesied, at last you will marry an heiress.”

“And Terry,” said Lord Clonbrony, “will win his wager from Mordicai.”

“Terry!” repeated Lady Clonbrony, “that odious Terry! — I hope, my lord, that he is not to be one of my comforts in Ireland.”

“No, my dear mother; he is much better provided for than we could have expected. One of my father’s first objects was to prevent him from being any encumbrance to you. We consulted him as to the means of making him happy; and the knight acknowledged that he had long been casting a sheep’s eye at a little snug place, that will soon be open in his native country — the chair of assistant barrister at the sessions. Assistant barrister!’ said my father; ‘but, my dear Terry, you have been all your life evading the laws, and very frequently breaking the peace; do you think this has qualified you peculiarly for being a guardian of the laws?’ Sir Terence replied, ‘Yes, sure; set a thief to catch a thief is no bad maxim. And did not Mr. Colquhoun, the Scotchman, get himself made a great justice, by his making all the world as wise as himself, about thieves of all sorts, by land and by water, and in the air too, where he detected the mud-larks? — And is not Barrington chief-justice of Botany Bay?”

“My father now began to be seriously alarmed, lest Sir Terence should insist upon his using his interest to make him an assistant barrister. He was not aware that five years’ practice at the bar was a necessary accomplishment for this office; when, fortunately for all parties, my good friend, Count O’Halloran, helped us out of the difficulty, by starting an idea full of practical justice. A literary friend of the count’s had been for some time promised a lucrative situation under government: but, unfortunately, he was a man of so much merit and ability, that they could not find employment for him at home, and they gave him a commission, I should rather say a contract abroad, for supplying the army with Hungarian horses. Now the gentleman had not the slightest skill in horse-flesh; and, as Sir Terence is a complete jockey, the count observed that he would be the best possible deputy for his literary friend. We warranted him to be a thorough going friend; and I do think the coalition will be well for both parties. The count has settled it all, and I left Sir Terence comfortably provided for, out of your way, my dear mother; and as happy as he could be, when parting from my father.”

Lord Colambre was assiduous in engaging his mother’s attention upon any subject, which could for the present draw her thoughts away from her young friend; but at every pause in the conversation, her ladyship repeated, “So Grace is an heiress after all — so, after all, they know they are not cousins! Well, I prefer Grace, a thousand times over, to any other heiress in England. No obstacle, no objection. They have my consent. I always prophesied Colambre would marry an heiress; but why not marry directly?”

Her ardour and impatience to hurry things forward seemed now likely to retard the accomplishment of her own wishes; and Lord Clonbrony, who understood rather more of the passion of love than his lady ever had felt or understood, saw the agony into which she threw her son, and felt for his darling Grace. With a degree of delicacy and address of which few would have supposed Lord Clonbrony capable, his lordship co-operated with his son in endeavouring to keep Lady Clonbrony quiet, and to suppress the hourly thanksgivings of Grace’s turning out an heiress. On one point, however, she vowed she would not be overruled — she would have a splendid wedding at Clonbrony Castle, such as should become an heir and heiress; and the wedding, she hoped, would be immediately on their return to Ireland: she should announce the thing to her friends directly on her arrival at Clonbrony Castle.

“My dear,” said Lord Clonbrony, “we must wait, in the first place, the pleasure of old Mr. Reynolds’ fit of the gout.”

“Why, that’s true, because of his will,” said her ladyship; “but a will’s soon made, is not it? That can’t be much delay.”

“And then there must be settlements,” said Lord Clonbrony; “they take time. Lovers, like all the rest of mankind, must submit to the law’s delay. In the mean time, my dear, as these Buxton baths agree with you so well, and as Grace does not seem to be over and above strong for travelling a long journey, and as there are many curious and beautiful scenes of nature here in Derbyshire — Matlock, and the wonders of the Peak, and so on — which the young people would be glad to see together, and may not have another opportunity soon — why not rest ourselves a little? For another reason, too,” continued his lordship, bringing together as many arguments as he could — for he had often found, that though Lady Clonbrony was a match for any single argument, her understanding could be easily overpowered by a number, of whatever sort —“besides, my dear, here’s Sir Arthur and Lady Berryl come to Buxton on purpose to meet us; and we owe them some compliment, and something more than compliment, I think: so I don’t see why we should be in a hurry to leave them, or quit Buxton — a few weeks sooner or later can’t signify — and Clonbrony Castle will be getting all the while into better order for us. Burke is gone down there; and if we stay here quietly, there will be time for the velvet furniture to get there before us, and to be unpacked, and up in the drawing-room.”

“That’s true, my lord,” said Lady Clonbrony; “and there is a great deal of reason in all you say — so I second that motion, as Colambre, I see, subscribes to it.”

They stayed some time in Derbyshire, and every day Lord Clonbrony proposed some pleasant excursion, and contrived that the young people should be left to themselves, as Mrs. Broadhurst used so strenuously to advise; the recollection of whose authoritative maxims fortunately still operated upon Lady Clonbrony, to the great ease and advantage of the lovers.

Happy as a lover, a friend, a son; happy in the consciousness of having restored a father to respectability, and persuaded a mother to quit the feverish joys of fashion for the pleasures of domestic life; happy in the hope of winning the whole heart of the woman he loved, and whose esteem, he knew, he possessed and deserved; happy in developing every day, every hour, fresh charms in his destined bride — we leave our hero, returning to his native country.

And we leave him with the reasonable expectation that he will support through life the promise of his early character; that his patriotic views will extend with his power to carry wishes into action; that his attachment to his warm-hearted countrymen will still increase upon further acquaintance; and that he will long diffuse happiness through the wide circle, which is peculiarly subject to the influence and example of a great resident Irish proprietor.

LETTER FROM LARRY TO HIS BROTHER, PAT BRADY, AT MR. MORDICAI’S, COACH MAKER, LONDON.

“MY DEAR BROTHER,

“Yours of the 16th, enclosing the five pound note for my father, came safe to hand Monday last; and with his thanks and blessing to you, he commends it to you herewith enclosed back again, on account of his being in no immediate necessity, nor likelihood to want in future, as you shall hear forthwith; but wants you over with all speed, and the note will answer for travelling charges; for we can’t enjoy the luck it has pleased God to give us, without yees; put the rest in your pocket, and read it when you’ve time.

“Old Nick’s gone, and St. Dennis along with him, to the place he come from — praise be to God! The ould lord has found him out in his tricks; and I helped him to that, through the young lord that I driv, as I informed you in my last, when he was a Welshman, which was the best turn ever I did, though I did not know it no more than Adam that time. So Ould Nick’s turned out of the agency clean and clear; and the day after it was known, there was surprising great joy through the whole country; not surprising, either, but just what you might, knowing him, rasonably expect. He (that is, Old Nick and St. Dennis) would have been burnt that night — I mane, in effigy, through the town of Clonbrony, but that the new man, Mr. Burke, came down that day too soon to stop it, and said, ‘it was not becoming to trample on the fallen,’ or something that way, that put an end to it; and though it was a great disappointment to many, and to me in particular, I could not but like the jantleman the better for it any how. They say he is a very good jantleman, and as unlike Old Nick or the saint as can be; and takes no duty fowl, nor glove, nor sealing money; nor asks duty work nor duty turf. Well, when I was disappointed of the effigy, I comforted myself by making a bonfire of Old Nick’s big rick of duty turf, which, by great luck, was out in the road, away from all dwelling-house, or thatch, or yards, to take fire: so no danger in life, or objection. And such another blaze! I wished you’d seed it — and all the men, women, and children, in the town and country, far and near, gathered round it, shouting and dancing like mad! — and it was light as day quite across the bog, as far as Hartley Finnigan’s house. And I heard after, they seen it from all parts of the three counties, and they thought it was St. John’s Eve in a mistake — or couldn’t make out what it was; but all took it in good part, for a good sign, and were in great joy. As for St. Dennis and Ould Nick, an attorney had his foot upon ’em with an habere, a latitat, and three executions hanging over ’em: and there’s the end of rogues! and a great example in the country. And — no more about it; for I can’t be wasting more ink upon them that don’t deserve it at my hands, when I want it for them that do, as you shall see. So some weeks past, and there was great cleaning at Clonbrony Castle, and in the town of Clonbrony; and the new agent’s smart and clever: and he had the glaziers, and the painters, and the slaters, up and down in the town wherever wanted; and you wouldn’t know it again. Thinks I, this is no bad sign! Now, cock up your ears, Pat! for the great news is coming, and the good. The master’s come home, long life to him! and family come home yesterday, all entirely! The ould lord and the young lord, (ay, there’s the man, Paddy!) and my lady, and Miss Nugent. And I driv Miss Nugent’s maid and another; so I had the luck to be in it along wid ’em, and see all, from first to last. And first, I must tell you, my young Lord Colambre remembered and noticed me the minute he lit at our inn, and condescended to beckon me out of the yard to him, and axed me —’ Friend Larry,’ says he, ‘did you keep your promise?’—‘My oath again the whiskey, is it?’ says I. ‘My lord, I surely did,’ said I; which was true, as all the country knows I never tasted a drop since. ‘And I’m proud to see your honour, my lord, as good as your word, too, and back again among us.’ So then there was a call for the horses; and no more at that time passed betwix’ my young lord and me, but that he pointed me out to the ould one, as I went off. I noticed and thanked him for it in my heart, though I did not know all the good was to come of it. Well, no more of myself, for the present.

“Ogh, it’s I driv ’em well; and we all got to the great gate of the park before sunset, and as fine an evening as ever you see; with the sun shining on the tops of the trees, as the ladies noticed; the leaves changed, but not dropped, though so late in the season. I believe the leaves knew what they were about, and kept on, on purpose to welcome them; and the birds were singing, and I stopped whistling, that they might hear them; but sorrow bit could they hear when they got to the park gate, for there was such a crowd, and such a shout, as you never see — and they had the horses off every carriage entirely, and drew ’em home, with blessings, through the park. And, God bless ’em! when they got out, they didn’t go shut themselves up in the great drawing-room, but went straight out to the tirrass, to satisfy the eyes and hearts that followed them. My lady laning on my young lord, and Miss Grace Nugent that was, the beautifullest angel that ever you set eyes on, with the finest complexion, and sweetest of smiles, laning upon the ould lord’s arm, who had his hat off, bowing to all, and noticing the old tenants as he passed by name. Oh, there was great gladness and tears in the midst; for joy I could scarce keep from myself.

“After a turn or two upon the tirrass, my Lord Colambre quit his mother’s arm for a minute, and he come to the edge of the slope, and looked down and through all the crowd for some one.

“‘Is it the Widow O’Neil, my lord?’ says I; ‘she’s yonder, with the white kerchief, betwixt her son and daughter, as usual.’

“Then my lord beckoned, and they did not know which of the tree would stir; and then he gave tree beckons with his own finger, and they all tree came fast enough to the bottom of the slope forenent my lord: and he went down and helped the widow up, (oh, he’s the true jantleman!) and brought ’em all tree up on the tirrass, to my lady and Miss Nugent; and I was up close after, that I might hear, which wasn’t manners, but I couldn’t help it. So what he said I don’t well know, for I could not get near enough, after all. But I saw my lady smile very kind, and take the Widow O’Neil by the hand, and then my Lord Colambre ’troduced Grace to Miss Nugent, and there was the word namesake, and something about a check curtain; but, whatever it was, they was all greatly pleased: then my Lord Colambre turned and looked for Brian, who had fell back, and took him, with some commendation, to my lord his father. And my lord the master said, which I didn’t know till after, that they should have their house and farm at the ould rent; and at the surprise, the widow dropped down dead; and there was a cry as for ten berrings. ‘Be qui’te,’ says I, ‘she’s only kilt for joy;’ and I went and lift her up, for her son had no more strength that minute than the child new born; and Grace trembled like a leaf, as white as the sheet, but not long, for the mother came to, and was as well as ever when I brought some water, which Miss Nugent handed to her with her own hand.

“‘That was always pretty and good,’ said the widow, laying her hand upon Miss Nugent, ‘and kind and good to me and mine.’

“That minute there was music from below. The blind harper, O’Neil, with his harp, that struck up ‘Gracey Nugent.’

“And that finished, and my Lord Colambre smiling, with the tears standing in his eyes too, and the ould lord quite wiping his, I ran to the tirrass brink to bid O’Neil play it again; but as I run, I thought I heard a voice call ‘Larry!’

“‘Who calls Larry?’ says I.

“‘My Lord Colambre calls you, Larry,’ says all at once; and four takes me by the shoulders and spins me round. ‘There’s my young lord calling you, Larry — run for your life.’

“So I run back for my life, and walked respectful, with my hat in my hand, when I got near.

“‘Put on your hat, my father desires it,’ says my Lord Colambre. The ould lord made a sign to that purpose, but was too full to speak. ‘Where’s your father?’ continues my young lord. ‘He’s very ould, my lord,’ says I. —’ I didn’t ax you how ould he was,’ says he; ‘but where is he?’—‘He’s behind the crowd below, on account of his infirmities; he couldn’t walk so fast as the rest, my lord,’ says I; ‘but his heart is with you, if not his body.’—‘I must have his body too: so bring him bodily before us; and this shall be your warrant for so doing,’ said my lord, joking: for he knows the natur of us, Paddy, and how we love a joke in our hearts, as well as if he had lived all his life in Ireland; and by the same token will, for that rason, do what he pleases with us, and more may be than a man twice as good, that never would smile on us.

“But I’m telling you of my father. ‘I’ve a warrant for you, father,’ says I; ‘and must have you bodily before the justice, and my lord chief justice.’ So he changed colour a bit at first; but he saw me smile. ‘And I’ve done no sin,’ said he; ‘and, Larry, you may lead me now, as you led me all my life.’

“And up the slope he went with me as light as fifteen; and when we got up, my Lord Clonbrony said, ‘I am sorry an old tenant, and a good old tenant, as I hear you were, should have been turned out of your farm.’

“‘Don’t fret, it’s no great matter, my lord,’ said my father. ‘I shall be soon out of the way; but if you would be so kind to speak a word for my boy here, and that I could afford, while the life is in me, to bring my other boy back out of banishment.’

“‘Then,’ says my Lord Clonbrony, ‘I’ll give you and your sons three lives, or thirty-one years, from this day, of your former farm. Return to it when you please. And,’ added my Lord Clonbrony, ‘the flaggers, I hope, will be soon banished.’ Oh, how could I thank him — not a word could I proffer — but I know I clasped my two hands, and prayed for him inwardly. And my father was dropping down on his knees, but the master would not let him; and obsarved that posture should only be for his God. And, sure enough, in that posture, when he was out of sight, we did pray for him that night, and will all our days.

“But, before we quit his presence, he called me back, and bid me write to my brother, and bring you back, if you’ve no objections, to your own country.

“So come, my dear Pat, and make no delay, for joy’s not joy complate till you’re in it — my father sends his blessing, and Peggy her love. The family entirely is to settle for good in Ireland, and there was in the castle yard last night a bonfire made by my lord’s orders of the ould yellow damask furniture, to plase my lady, my lord says. And the drawing-room, the butler was telling me, is new hung; and the chairs with velvet as white as snow, and shaded over with natural flowers by Miss Nugent. Oh! how I hope what I guess will come true, and I’ve rason to believe it will, for I dreamt in my bed last night it did. But keep yourself to yourself — that Miss Nugent (who is no more Miss Nugent, they say, but Miss Reynolds, and has a new-found grandfather, and is a big heiress, which she did not want in my eyes, nor in my young lord’s), I’ve a notion, will be sometime, and may be sooner than is expected, my Lady Viscountess Colambre — so haste to the wedding. And there’s another thing: they say the rich ould grandfather’s coming over; — and another thing, Pat, you would not be out of the fashion — and you see it’s growing the fashion not to be an Absentee.

“Your loving brother,

“LARRY BRADY.”

This web edition published by:

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http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/e/edgeworth/maria/absentee/chapter17.html

Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 14:01