The Absentee, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 2.

Full of what he had heard, and impatient to obtain farther information respecting the state of his father’s affairs, Lord Colambre hastened home; but his father was out, and his mother was engaged with Mr. Soho, directing, or rather being directed, how her apartments should be fitted up for her gala. As Lord Colambre entered the room, he saw his mother, Miss Nugent, and Mr. Soho, standing at a large table, which was covered with rolls of paper, patterns, and drawings of furniture: Mr. Soho was speaking in a conceited, dictatorial tone, asserting that there was no “colour in nature for that room equal to the belly-o’-the fawn;” which belly-o’-the fawn he so pronounced, that Lady Clonbrony understood it to be la belle uniforme, and, under this mistake, repeated and assented to the assertion, till it was set to rights, with condescending superiority, by the upholsterer. This first architectural upholsterer of the age, as he styled himself, and was universally admitted to be by all the world of fashion, then, with full powers given to him, spoke en maître. The whole face of things must be changed. There must be new hangings, new draperies, new cornices, new candelabras, new every thing! —

“The upholsterer’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,

Glances from ceiling to floor, from floor to ceiling;

And, as imagination bodies forth

The form of things unknown, the upholsterer’s pencil

Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a NAME.”

Of the value of a NAME no one could be more sensible than Mr. Soho.

“Your la’ship sees — this is merely a scratch of my pencil. Your la’ship’s sensible — just to give you an idea of the shape, the form of the thing. You fill up your angles here with encoinières— round your walls with the Turkish tent drapery— a fancy of my own — in apricot cloth, or crimson velvet, suppose, or, en flute, in crimson satin draperies, fanned and riched with gold fringes, en suite— intermediate spaces, Apollo’s head with gold rays — and here, ma’am, you place four chancelières, with chimeras at the corners, covered with blue silk and silver fringe, elegantly fanciful — with my STATIRA CANOPY here — light blue silk draperies — aërial tint, with silver balls — and for seats here, the SERAGLIO OTTOMANS, superfine scarlet — your paws — griffin — golden — and golden tripods, here, with antique cranes — and oriental alabaster tables here and there — quite appropriate, your la’ship feels.

“And let me reflect. For the next apartment, it strikes me — as your la’ship don’t value expense — the Alhambra hangings— my own thought entirely — Now, before I unrol them, Lady Clonbrony, I must beg you’ll not mention I’ve shown them. I give you my sacred honour, not a soul has set eye upon the Alhambra hangings except Mrs. Dareville, who stole a peep; I refused, absolutely refused, the Duchess of Torcaster — but I can’t refuse your la’ship — So see, ma’am — (unrolling them)— scagliola porphyry columns supporting the grand dome — entablature, silvered and decorated with imitative bronze ornaments: under the entablature, a valence in pelmets, of puffed scarlet silk, would have an unparalleled grand effect, seen through the arches — with the TREBISOND TRELLICE PAPER, Would make a tout ensemble, novel beyond example. On that trebisond trellice paper, I confess, ladies, I do pique myself.

“Then, for the little room, I recommend turning it temporarily into a Chinese pagoda, with this Chinese pagoda paper, with the porcelain border, and josses, and jars, and beakers, to match; and I can venture to promise one vase of pre-eminent size and beauty. — Oh, indubitably! if your la’ship prefers it, you can have the Egyptian hieroglyphic paper, with the ibis border to match! — The only objection is, one sees it every where — quite antediluvian — gone to the hotels even; but, to be sure, if your la’ship has a fancy — at all events, I humbly recommend, what her grace of Torcaster longs to patronise, my MOON CURTAINS, with candlelight draperies. A demi-saison elegance this — I hit off yesterday — and — True, your la’ship’s quite correct — out of the common completely. And, of course, you’d have the sphynx candelabras, and the phoenix argands — Oh! nothing else lights now, ma’am! — Expense! — Expense of the whole! — Impossible to calculate here on the spot! — but nothing at all worth your ladyship’s consideration!”

At another moment, Lord Colambre might have been amused with all this rhodomontade, and with the airs and voluble conceit of the orator; but, after what he had heard at Mr. Mordicai’s, this whole scene struck him more with melancholy than with mirth. He was alarmed by the prospect of new and unbounded expense; provoked, almost past enduring, by the jargon and impertinence of this upholsterer; mortified and vexed to the heart, to see his mother the dupe, the sport of such a coxcomb.

“Prince of puppies! — Insufferable! — My own mother!” Lord Colambre repeated to himself, as he walked hastily up and down the room.

“Colambre, won’t you let us have your judgment — your teeste?” said his mother.

“Excuse me, ma’am — I have no taste, no judgment in these things.”

He sometimes paused, and looked at Mr. Soho, with a strong inclination to —. But knowing that he should say too much if he said any thing, he was silent; never dared to approach the council table — but continued walking up and down the room, till he heard a voice which at once arrested his attention and soothed his ire. He approached the table instantly, and listened, whilst Miss Nugent said every thing he wished to have said, and with all the propriety and delicacy with which he thought he could not have spoken. He leaned on the table, and fixed his eyes upon her — years ago he had seen his cousin — last night he had thought her handsome, pleasing, graceful — but now he saw a new person, or he saw her in a new light. He marked the superior intelligence, the animation, the eloquence of her countenance, its variety, whilst alternately, with arch raillery, or grave humour, she played off Mr. Soho, and made him magnify the ridicule, till it was apparent even to Lady Clonbrony. He observed the anxiety lest his mother should expose her own foibles; he was touched by the respectful, earnest kindness — the soft tones of persuasion with which she addressed her — the care not to presume upon her own influence — the good sense, the taste, she showed, yet not displaying her superiority — the address, temper, and patience, with which she at last accomplished her purpose, and prevented Lady Clonbrony from doing any thing preposterously absurd, or exorbitantly extravagant.

Lord Colambre was actually sorry when the business was ended — when Mr. Soho departed — for Miss Nugent was then silent; and it was necessary to remove his eyes from that countenance on which he had gazed unobserved. Beautiful and graceful, yet so unconscious was she of her charms, that the eye of admiration could rest upon her without her perceiving it — she seemed so intent upon others as totally to forget herself. The whole train of Lord Colambre’s thoughts was so completely deranged, that, although he was sensible there was something of importance he had to say to his mother, yet when Mr. Soho’s departure left him opportunity to speak, he stood silent, unable to recollect any thing but — Grace Nugent.

When Miss Nugent left the room, after some minutes’ silence, and some effort, Lord Colambre said to his mother, “Pray, madam, do you know any thing of Sir Terence O’Fay?”

“I!” said Lady Clonbrony, drawing up her head proudly; “I know he is a person I cannot endure. He is no friend of mine, I can assure you — nor any such sort of person.”

“I thought it was impossible!” cried Lord Colambre, with exultation.

“I only wish your father, Colambre, could say as much,” added Lady Clonbrony.

Lord Colambre’s countenance fell again; and again he was silent for some time.

“Does my father dine at home, ma’am?”

“I suppose not; he seldom dines at home.”

“Perhaps, ma’am, my father may have some cause to be uneasy about —”

“About?” said Lady Clonbrony, in a tone, and with a look of curiosity, which convinced her son that she knew nothing of his debts or distresses, if he had any. “About what?” repeated her ladyship.

Here was no receding, and Lord Colambre never had recourse to artifice.

“About his affairs, I was going to say, madam. But, since you know nothing of any difficulties or embarrassments, I am persuaded that none exist.”

“Nay, I cawnt tell you that, Colambre. There are difficulties for ready money, I confess, when I ask for it, which surprise me often. I know nothing of affairs — ladies of a certain rank seldom do, you know. But, considering your father’s estate, and the fortune I brought him,” added her ladyship, proudly, “I cawnt conceive it at all. Grace Nugent, indeed, often talks to me of embarrassments and economy; but that, poor thing! is very natural for her, because her fortune is not particularly large, and she has left it all, or almost all, in her uncle and guardian’s hands. I know she’s often distressed for odd money to lend me, and that makes her anxious.”

“Is not Miss Nugent very much admired, ma’am, in London?”

“Of course — in the company she is in, you know, she has every advantage. And she has a natural family air of fashion — Not but what she would have got on much better, if, when she first appeared in Lon’on, she had taken my advice, and wrote herself on her cards Miss de Nogent, which would have taken off the prejudice against the Iricism of Nugent, you know; and there is a Count de Nogent.”

“I did not know there was any such prejudice, ma’am. There may be among a certain set; but, I should think, not among well-informed, well-bred people.”

“I big your pawdon, Colambre; surely I, that was born in England, an Henglishwoman bawn, must be well infawmed on this pint, any way.”

Lord Colambre was respectfully silent.

“Mother,” resumed he, “I wonder that Miss Nugent is not married.”

“That is her own fau’t entirely; she has refused very good offers — establishments that I own I think, as Lady Langdale says, I was to blame to allow her to let pass: but young ledies, till they are twenty, always think they can do better. Mr. Martingale, of Martingale, proposed for her, but she objected to him on account of he’es being on the turf; and Mr. St. Albans’ 7000l. a-year, because — I reelly forget what — I believe only because she did not like him — and something about principles. Now there is Colonel Heathcock, one of the most fashionable young men you see, always with the Duchess of Torcaster and that set — Heathcock takes a vast deal of notice of her, for him; and yet, I’m persuaded, she would not have him to-morrow if he came to the pint, and for no reason, reelly now, that she can give me, but because she says he’s a coxcomb. Grace has a tincture of Irish pride. But, for my part, I rejoice that she is so difficult; for I don’t know what I should do without her.”

“Miss Nugent is indeed — very much attached to you, mother, I am convinced,” said Lord Colambre, beginning his sentence with great enthusiasm, and ending it with great sobriety.

“Indeed, then, she’s a sweet girl, and I am very partial to her, there’s the truth,” cried Lady Clonbrony, in an undisguised Irish accent, and with her natural warm manner. But, a moment afterwards, her features and whole form resumed their constrained stillness and stiffness, and in her English accent she continued, “Before you put my idears out of my head, Colambre, I had something to say to you — Oh! I know what it was — we were talking of embarrassments — and I wish to do your father the justice to mention to you, that he has been uncommon liberal to me about this gala, and has reelly given me carte blanche; and I’ve a notion — indeed I know — that it is you, Colambre, I am to thank for this.”

“Me, ma’am!”

“Yes: did not your father give you any hint?”

“No, ma’am; I have seen my father but for half an hour since I came to town, and in that time he said nothing to me — of his affairs.”

“But what I allude to is more your affair.”

“He did not speak to me of any affairs, ma’am — he spoke only of my horses.”

“Then I suppose my lord leaves it to me to open the matter to you. I have the pleasure to tell you, that we have in view for you — and, I think I may say, with more than the approbation of all her family — an alliance —”

“Oh, my dear mother! you cannot be serious,” cried Lord Colambre; “you know I am not of years of discretion yet — I shall not think of marrying these ten years, at least.”

“Why not? Nay, my dear Colambre, don’t go, I beg — I am serious, I assure you — and, to convince you of it, I shall tell you candidly, at once, all your father told me: that now you’ve done with Cambridge, and are come to Lon’on, he agrees with me in wishing that you should make the figure you ought to make, Colambre, as sole heir apparent to the Clonbrony estate, and all that sort of thing; but, on the other hand, living in Lon’on, and making you the handsome allowance you ought to have, are, both together, more than your father can afford, without inconvenience, he tells me.”

“I assure you, mother, I shall be content —”

“No, no; you must not be content, child, and you must hear me: you must live in a becoming style, and make a proper appearance. I could not present you to my friends here, nor be happy, if you did not, Colambre. Now the way is clear before you: you have birth and title, here is fortune ready made — you will have a noble estate of your own when old Quin dies, and you will not be any encumbrance or inconvenience to your father or any body. Marrying an heiress accomplishes all this at once — and the young lady is every thing we could wish besides — you will meet again at the gala. Indeed, between ourselves, she is the grand object of the gala — all her friends will come en masse, and one should wish that they should see things in proper style. You have seen the young lady in question, Colambre — Miss Broadhurst — Don’t you recollect the young lady I introduced you to last night after the opera?”

“The little plain girl, covered with diamonds, who was standing beside Miss Nugent?”

“In di’monds, yes — But you won’t think her plain when you see more of her — that wears off — I thought her plain, at first — I hope —”

“I hope,” said Lord Colambre, “that you will not take it unkindly of me, my dear mother, if I tell you, at once, that I have no thoughts of marrying at present — and that I never will marry for money: marrying an heiress is not even a new way of paying old debts — at all events, it is one to which no distress could persuade me to have recourse; and as I must, if I outlive old Mr. Quin, have an independent fortune, there is no occasion to purchase one by marriage.”

“There is no distress that I know of in the case,” cried Lady Clonbrony. “Where is your imagination running, Colambre? But merely for your establishment, your independence.”

“Establishment, I want none — independence I do desire, and will preserve. Assure my father, my dear mother, that I will not be an expense to him — I will live within the allowance he made me at Cambridge — I will give up half of it — I will do any thing for his convenience — but marry for money, that I cannot do.”

“Then, Colambre, you are very disobliging,” said Lady Clonbrony, with an expression of disappointment and displeasure; “for your father says if you don’t marry Miss Broadhurst, we can’t live in Lon’on another winter.”

This said — which had she been at the moment mistress of herself, she would not have betrayed — Lady Clonbrony abruptly quitted the room. Her son stood motionless, saying to himself, “Is this my mother? — How altered!”

The next morning he seized an opportunity of speaking to his father, whom he caught with difficulty just when he was going out, as usual, for the day. Lord Colambre, with all the respect due to his father, and with that affectionate manner by which he always knew how to soften the strength of his expressions, made nearly the same declarations of his resolution, by which his mother had been so much surprised and offended. Lord Clonbrony seemed more embarrassed, but not so much displeased. When Lord Colambre adverted, as delicately as he could, to the selfishness of desiring from him the sacrifice of liberty for life, to say nothing of his affections, merely to enable his family to make a splendid figure in London, Lord Clonbrony exclaimed, “That’s all nonsense! — cursed nonsense! That’s the way we are obliged to state the thing to your mother, my dear boy, because I might talk her deaf before she would understand or listen to any thing else; but, for my own share, I don’t care a rush if London was sunk in the salt sea. Little Dublin for my money, as Sir Terence O’Fay says.”

“Who is Sir Terence O’Fay, may I ask, sir?”

“Why, don’t you know Terry? — Ay, you’ve been so long at Cambridge — I forgot. And did you never see Terry?”

“I have seen him, sir. — I met him yesterday at Mr. Mordicai’s, the coachmaker’s.”

“Mordicai’s!” exclaimed Lord Clonbrony, with a sudden blush, which he endeavoured to hide, by taking snuff. “He is a damned rascal, that Mordicai! I hope you didn’t believe a word he said — nobody does that knows him.”

“I am glad, sir, that you seem to know him so well, and to be upon your guard against him,” replied Lord Colambre; “for, from what I heard of his conversation, when he was not aware who I was, I am convinced he would do you any injury in his power.”

“He shall never have me in his power, I promise him. We shall take care of that — But what did he say?”

Lord Colambre repeated the substance of what Mordicai had said, and Lord Clonbrony reiterated, “Damned rascal! — damned rascal! — I’ll get out of his hands — I’ll have no more to do with him.” But, as he spoke, he exhibited evident symptoms of uneasiness, moving continually, and shifting from leg to leg, like a foundered horse.

He could not bring himself positively to deny that he had debts and difficulties; but he would by no means open the state of his affairs to his son: “No father is called upon to do that,” said he to himself; “none but a fool would do it.”

Lord Colambre, perceiving his father’s embarrassment, withdrew his eyes, respectfully refrained from all further inquiries, and simply repeated the assurance he had made to his mother, that he would put his family to no additional expense; and that, if it was necessary, he would willingly give up half his allowance.

“Not at all, not at all, my dear boy,” said his father: “I would rather cramp myself than that you should be cramped, a thousand times over. But it is all my Lady Clonbrony’s nonsense. If people would but, as they ought, stay in their own country, live on their own estates, and kill their own mutton, money need never be wanting.”

For killing their own mutton, Lord Colambre did not see the indispensable necessity; but he rejoiced to hear his father assert that people should reside in their own country.

“Ay,” cried Lord Clonbrony, to strengthen his assertion, as he always thought it necessary to do, by quoting some other person’s opinion —“so Sir Terence O’Fay always says, and that’s the reason your mother can’t endure poor Terry — You don’t know Terry? No, you have only seen him; but, indeed, to see him is to know him; for he is the most off-hand, good fellow in Europe.”

“I don’t pretend to know him yet,” said Lord Colambre. “I am not so presumptuous as to form my opinion at first sight.”

“Oh, curse your modesty!” interrupted Lord Clonbrony; “you mean, you don’t pretend to like him yet; but Terry will make you like him. I defy you not — I’ll introduce you to him — him to you, I mean — most warm-hearted, generous dog upon earth — convivial — jovial — with wit and humour enough, in his own way, to split you — split me if he has not. You need not cast down your eyes, Colambre. What’s your objection?”

“I have made none, sir — but, if you urge me, I can only say, that, if he has all these good qualities, it is to be regretted that he does not look and speak a little more like a gentleman.”

“A gentleman! — he is as much a gentleman as any of your formal prigs — not the exact Cambridge cut, may be — Curse your English education! ’twas none of my advice — I suppose you mean to take after your mother in the notion, that nothing can be good or genteel but what’s English.”

“Far from it, sir; I assure you I am as warm a friend to Ireland as your heart could wish. You will have no reason, in that respect, at least, nor, I hope, in any other, to curse my English education — and, if my gratitude and affection can avail, you shall never regret the kindness and liberality with which you have, I fear, distressed yourself to afford me the means of becoming all that a British nobleman ought to be.”

“Gad! you distress me now,” said Lord Clonbrony, “and I didn’t expect it, or I wouldn’t make a fool of myself this way,” added he, ashamed of his emotion, and whiffling it off. “You have an Irish heart, that I see, which no education can spoil. But you must like Terry — I’ll give you time, as he said to me, when first he taught me to like usquebaugh — Good morning to you.”

Whilst Lady Clonbrony, in consequence of her residence in London, had become more of a fine lady, Lord Clonbrony, since he left Ireland, had become less of a gentleman. Lady Clonbrony, born an Englishwoman, disclaiming and disencumbering herself of all the Irish in town, had, by giving splendid entertainments, at an enormous expense, made her way into a certain set of fashionable company. But Lord Clonbrony, who was somebody in Ireland, who was a great person in Dublin, found himself nobody in England, a mere cipher in London. Looked down upon by the fine people with whom his lady associated, and heartily weary of them, he retreated from them altogether, and sought entertainment and self-complacency in society beneath him, indeed, both in rank and education, but in which he had the satisfaction of feeling himself the first person in company. Of these associates, the first in talents, and in jovial profligacy, was Sir Terence O’Fay — a man of low extraction, who had been knighted by an Irish lord-lieutenant in some convivial frolic. No one could tell a good story, or sing a good song, better than Sir Terence; he exaggerated his native brogue, and his natural propensity to blunder, caring little whether the company laughed at him or with him, provided they laughed —“Live and laugh — laugh and live,” was his motto; and certainly he lived on laughing, as well as many better men can contrive to live on a thousand a-year.

Lord Clonbrony brought Sir Terence home with him next day, to introduce him to Lord Colambre; and it happened that, on this occasion, Terence appeared to peculiar disadvantage, because, like many other people, “Il gâtoit l’esprit qu’il avoit, en voulant avoir celui qu’il n’avoit pas.”

Having been apprised that Lord Colambre was a fine scholar, fresh from Cambridge, and being conscious of his own deficiencies of literature, instead of trusting to his natural talents, he summoned to his aid, with no small effort, all the scraps of learning he had acquired in early days, and even brought before the company all the gods and goddesses with whom he had formed an acquaintance at school. Though embarrassed by this unusual encumbrance of learning, he endeavoured to make all subservient to his immediate design, of paying his court to Lady Clonbrony, by forwarding the object she had most anxiously in view — the match between her son and Miss Broadhurst.

“And so, Miss Nugent,” said he, not daring, with all his assurance, to address himself directly to Lady Clonbrony, “and so, Miss Nugent, you are going to have great doings, I’m told, and a wonderful grand gala. There’s nothing in the wide world equal to being in a good handsome crowd. No later now than the last ball at the Castle, that was before I left Dublin, Miss Nugent, the apartments, owing to the popularity of my lady lieutenant, was so throng — so throng — that I remember very well, in the doorway, a lady — and a very genteel woman she was, too — though a stranger to me, saying to me, ‘Sir, your finger’s in my ear.’—‘I know it, madam,” says I; ‘but I can’t take it out till the crowd give me elbow-room.’

“But it’s the gala I’m thinking of now — I hear you are to have the golden Venus, my Lady Clonbrony, won’t you?”

“Sir!”

This freezing monosyllable notwithstanding, Sir Terence pursued his course fluently. “The golden Venus! — sure, Miss Nugent, you that are so quick, can’t but know I would apostrophize Miss Broadhurst that is — but that won’t be long so, I hope. My Lord Colambre, have you seen much yet of that young lady?”

“No, sir.”

“Then I hope you won’t be long so. I hear great talk now of the Venus of Medici, and the Venus of this and that, with the Florence Venus, and the sable Venus, and that other Venus, that’s washing of her hair, and a hundred other Venuses, some good, some bad. But, be that as it will, my lord, trust a fool — ye may, when he tells you truth — the golden Venus is the only one on earth that can stand, or that will stand, through all ages and temperatures; for gold rules the court, gold rules the camp, and men below, and heaven above.”

“Heaven above! — Take care, Terry! Do you know what you are saying?” interrupted Lord Clonbrony.

“Do I? — Don’t I?” replied Terry. “Deny, if you please, my lord, that it was for a golden pippin that the three goddesses fit— and that the Hippomenes was about golden apples — and did not Hercules rob a garden for golden apples? — and did not the pious Æneas himself take a golden branch with him to make himself welcome to his father in hell?” said Sir Terence, winking at Lord Colambre.

“Why, Terry, you know more about books than I should have suspected,” said Lord Clonbrony.

“Nor you would not have suspected me to have such a great acquaintance among the goddesses neither, would you, my lord? But, apropos, before we quit, of what material, think ye, was that same Venus’s famous girdle, now, that made roses and lilies so quickly appear? Why, what was it but a girdle of sterling gold, I’ll engage? — for gold is the only true thing for a young man to look after in a wife.”

Sir Terence paused, but no applause ensued.

“Let them talk of Cupids and darts, and the mother of the Loves and Graces — Minerva may sing odes and dythambrics, or whatsoever her wisdomship pleases. Let her sing, or let her say, she’ll never get a husband, in this world or the other, without she had a good thumping fortin, and then she’d go off like wildfire.”

“No, no, Terry, there you’re out: Minerva has too bad a character for learning to be a favourite with gentlemen,” said Lord Clonbrony.

“Tut — Don’t tell me! — I’d get her off before you could say Jack Robinson, and thank you too, if she had 50,000l. down, or 1,000l. a-year in land. Would you have a man so d —— d nice as to balk, when house and land is agoing — a going — a going! — because of the incumbrance of a little learning? But, after all, I never heard that Miss Broadhurst was any thing of a learned lady.”

“Miss Broadhurst!” said Miss Nugent: “how did you get round to Miss Broadhurst?”

“Oh! by the way of Tipperary,” said Lord Colambre.

“I beg your pardon, my lord, it was apropos to good fortune, which, I hope, will not be out of your way, even if you went by Tipperary. She has, besides 100,000l. in the funds, a clear landed property of 10,000l. per annum. Well! some people talk of morality, and some of religion, bat give me a little snug PROPERTY. — But, my lord, I’ve a little business to transact this morning, and must not be idling and indulging myself here.” So, bowing to the ladies, he departed.

“Really, I am glad that man is gone,” said Lady Clonbrony. “What a relief to one’s ears! I am sure I wonder, my lord, how you can bear to carry that strange creature always about with you — so vulgar as he is.”

“He diverts me,” said Lord Clonbrony; “while many of your correct-mannered fine ladies or gentlemen put me to sleep. What signifies what accent people speak in, that have nothing to say, hey, Colambre?”

Lord Colambre, from respect to his father, did not express his opinion; but his aversion to Sir Terence O’Fay was stronger even than his mother’s, though Lady Clonbrony’s detestation of him was much increased by perceiving that his coarse hints about Miss Broadhurst had operated against her favourite scheme.

The next morning, at breakfast, Lord Clonbrony talked of bringing Sir Terence with him that night to her gala — she absolutely grew pale with horror.

“Good Heavens! — Lady Langdale, Mrs. Dareville, Lady Pococke, Lady Chatterton, Lady D— — Lady G— — His Grace of V——; what would they think of him! And Miss Broadhurst, to see him going about with my Lord Clonbrony!”— It could not be. No — her ladyship made the most solemn and desperate protestation, that she would sooner give up her gala altogether — tie up the knocker — say she was sick — rather be sick, or be dead, than be obliged to have such a creature as Sir Terence O’Fay at her gala.

“Have it your own way, my dear, as you have every thing else,” cried Lord Clonbrony, taking up his hat, and preparing to decamp; “but, take notice, if you won’t receive him, you need not expect me. So a good morning to you, my Lady Clonbrony. You may find a worse friend in need yet, than that same Sir Terence O’Fay.”

“I trust I shall never be in need, my lord,” replied her ladyship. “It would be strange indeed if I were, with the fortune I brought.”

“Oh, that fortune of hers!” cried Lord Clonbrony, stopping both his ears as he ran out of his room: “shall I never hear the end of that fortune, when I’ve seen the end of it long ago?”

During this matrimonial dialogue, Miss Nugent and Lord Colambre never once looked at each other. She was very diligently trying the changes that could be made in the positions of a china-mouse, a cat, a dog, a cup, and a brahmin, on the mantel-piece; Lord Colambre as diligently reading the newspaper.

“Now, my dear Colambre,” said Lady Clonbrony, “put down the paper, and listen to me. Let me entreat you not to neglect Miss Broadhurst to-night, as I know that the family come here chiefly on your account.”

“My dear mother, I never can neglect any one of your guests; but I shall be careful not to show any particular attention to Miss Broadhurst, for I never will pretend what I do not feel.”

“But, my dear Colambre, Miss Broadhurst is every thing you could wish, except being a beauty.”

“Perhaps, madam,” said Lord Colambre, fixing his eyes on Miss Nugent, “you think that I can see no farther than a handsome face?”

The unconscious Grace Nugent now made a warm eulogium of Miss Broadhurst’s sense, and wit, and independence of character.

“I did not know that Miss Broadhurst was a friend of yours, Miss Nugent?”

“She is, I assure you, a friend of mine; and, as a proof, I will not praise her at this moment. I will go farther still — I will promise that I never will praise her to you till you begin to praise her to me.”

Lord Colambre smiled, and now listened as if he wished that she should go on speaking, even of Miss Broadhurst.

“That’s my sweet Grace!” cried Lady Clonbrony. “Oh! she knows how to manage these men — not one of them can resist her!”

Lord Colambre, for his part, did not deny the truth of this assertion.

“Grace,” added Lady Clonbrony, “make him promise to do as we would have him.”

“No — promises are dangerous things to ask or to give,” said Grace. “Men and naughty children never make promises, especially promises to be good, without longing to break them the next minute.”

“Well, at least, child, persuade him, I charge you, to make my gala go off well. That’s the first thing we ought to think of now. Ring the bell! — And all heads and hands I put in requisition for the gala.”

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