The Absentee, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 9.

Lord Colambre had waited with great impatience for an answer to the letter of inquiry which he had written about Miss Nugent’s mother. A letter from Lady Clonbrony arrived: he opened it with the greatest eagerness — passed over “Rheumatism — warm weather — warm bath — Buxton balls — Miss Broadhurst — your friend, Sir Arthur Berryl, very assiduous!” The name of Grace Nugent he found at last, and read as follows:—

“Her mother’s maiden name was St. Omar; and there was a faux pas, certainly. She was, I am told, (for it was before my time,) educated at a convent abroad; and there was an affair with a Captain Reynolds, a young officer, which her friends were obliged to hush up. She brought an infant to England with her, and took the name of Reynolds — but none of that family would acknowledge her: and she lived in great obscurity, till your Uncle Nugent saw, fell in love with her, and (knowing her whole history) married her. He adopted the child, gave her his name, and, after some years, the whole story was forgotten. Nothing could be more disadvantageous to Grace than to have it revived: this is the reason we kept it secret.”

Lord Colambre tore the letter to bits.

From the perturbation which Lady Dashfort saw in his countenance, she guessed the nature of the letter which he had been reading, and for the arrival of which he had been so impatient.

“It has worked!” said she to herself. “Pour le coup Philippe je te tiens!”

Lord Colambre appeared this day more sensible than he had ever yet seemed to the charms of the fair Isabel.

“Many a tennis-ball, and many a heart, is caught at the rebound,” said Lady Dashfort. “Isabel! now is your time!”

And so it was — or so, perhaps, it would have been, but for a circumstance which her ladyship, with all her genius for intrigue, had never taken into her consideration. Count O’Halloran came to return the visit which had been paid to him; and, in the course of conversation, he spoke of the officers who had been introduced to him, and told Lady Dashfort that he had heard a report which shocked him much — he hoped it could not be true — that one of these officers had introduced his mistress as his wife to Lady Oranmore, who lived in the neighbourhood. This officer, it was said, had let Lady Oranmore send her carriage for this woman; and that she had dined at Oranmore with her ladyship and her daughters. “But I cannot believe it! I cannot believe it to be possible, that any gentleman, that any officer could do such a thing!” said the count.

“And is this all?” exclaimed Lady Dashfort. “Is this all the terrible affair, my good count, which has brought your face to this prodigious length?”

The count looked at Lady Dashfort with astonishment.

“Such a look of virtuous indignation,” continued she, “did I never behold on or off the stage. Forgive me for laughing, count; but, believe me, comedy goes through the world better than tragedy, and, take it all in all, does rather less mischief. As to the thing in question, I know nothing about it; I dare say it is not true: but, now, suppose it were — it is only a silly quiz of a raw young officer upon a prudish old dowager. I know nothing about it, for my part: but, after all, what irreparable mischief has been done? Laugh at the thing, and then it is a jest — a bad one, perhaps, but still only a jest — and there’s an end of it: but take it seriously, and there is no knowing where it might end — in this poor man’s being broke, and in half a dozen duels, may be.”

“Of that, madam,” said the count, “Lady Oranmore’s prudence and presence of mind have prevented all danger. Her ladyship would not understand the insult. She said, or she acted as if she said, ‘Je ne veux rien voir, rien écouter, rien savoir.’ Lady Oranmore is one of the most respectable —”

“Count, I beg your pardon!” interrupted Lady Dashfort; “but I must tell you, that your favourite, Lady Oranmore, has behaved very ill to me; purposely omitted to invite Isabel to her ball; offended and insulted me:— her praises, therefore, cannot be the most agreeable subject of conversation you can choose for my amusement; and as to the rest, you, who have such variety and so much politeness, will, I am sure, have the goodness to indulge my caprice in this instance.”

“I shall obey your ladyship, and be silent, whatever pleasure it might give me to speak on that subject,” said the count; “and I trust Lady Dashfort will reward me by the assurance, that, however playfully she may have just now spoken, she seriously disapproves, and is shocked.”

“Oh, shocked! shocked to death! if that will satisfy you, my dear count.”

The count, obviously, was not satisfied: he had civil, as well as military courage, and his sense of right and wrong could stand against the raillery and ridicule of a fine lady.

The conversation ended: Lady Dashfort thought it would have no farther consequences; and she did not regret the loss of a man like Count O’Halloran, who lived retired in his castle, and who could not have any influence upon the opinion of the fashionable world. However, upon turning from the count to Lord Colambre, who she thought had been occupied with Lady Isabel, and to whom she imagined all this dispute was uninteresting, she perceived, by his countenance, that she had made a great mistake. Still she trusted that her power over Lord Colambre was sufficient easily to efface whatever unfavourable impression this conversation had made upon his mind. He had no personal interest in the affair; and she had generally found that people are easily satisfied about any wrong or insult, public or private, in which they have no immediate concern. But all the charms of her conversation were now tried in vain to reclaim him from the reverie into which he had fallen.

His friend Sir James Brooke’s parting advice occurred to our hero: his eyes began to open to Lady Dashfort’s character; and he was, from this moment, freed from her power. Lady Isabel, however, had taken no part in all this — she was blameless; and, independently of her mother, and in pretended opposition of sentiment, she might have continued to retain the influence she had gained over Lord Colambre, but that a slight accident revealed to him her real disposition.

It happened, on the evening of this day, that Lady Isabel came into the library with one of the young ladies of the house, talking very eagerly, without perceiving Lord Colambre, who was sitting in one of the recesses reading.

“My dear creature, you are quite mistaken,” said Lady Isabel, “he was never a favourite of mine; I always detested him; I only flirted with him to plague his wife. Oh, that wife! my dear Elizabeth, I do hate,” cried she, clasping her hands, and expressing hatred with all her soul, and with all her strength. “I detest that Lady de Cressy to such a degree, that, to purchase the pleasure of making her feel the pangs of jealousy for one hour, look, I would this moment lay down this finger and let it be cut off.”

The face, the whole figure of Lady Isabel, at this moment, appeared to Lord Colambre suddenly metamorphosed; instead of the soft, gentle, amiable female, all sweet charity and tender sympathy, formed to love and to be loved, he beheld one possessed and convulsed by an evil spirit — her beauty, if beauty it could be called, the beauty of a fiend. Some ejaculation, which he unconsciously uttered, made Lady Isabel start. She saw him — saw the expression of his countenance, and knew that all was over.

Lord Colambre, to the utter astonishment and disappointment of Lady Dashfort, and to the still greater mortification of Lady Isabel, announced this night that it was necessary he should immediately pursue his tour in Ireland. We pass over all the castles in the air which the young ladies of the family had built, and which now fell to the ground. We pass all the civil speeches of Lord and Lady Killpatrick; all the vehement remonstrances of Lady Dashfort; and the vain sighs of Lady Isabel. To the last moment Lady Dashfort said, “He will not go.”

But he went; and, when he was gone, Lady Dashfort exclaimed, “That man has escaped from me.” After a pause, turning to her daughter, she, in the most taunting and contemptuous terms, reproached her as the cause of this failure, concluding by a declaration, that she must in future manage her own affairs, and had best settle her mind to marry Heathcock, since every one else was too wise to think of her.

Lady Isabel of course retorted. But we leave this amiable mother and daughter to recriminate in appropriate terms, and we follow our hero, rejoiced that he has been disentangled from their snares. Those who have never been in similar peril will wonder much that he did not escape sooner; those who have ever been in like danger will wonder more that he escaped at all. They who are best acquainted with the heart or imagination of man will be most ready to acknowledge that the combined charms of wit, beauty, and flattery, may, for a time, suspend the action of right reason in the mind of the greatest philosopher, or operate against the resolutions of the greatest of heroes.

Lord Colambre pursued his way to Halloran Castle, desirous, before he quitted this part of the country, to take leave of the count, who had shown him much civility, and for whose honourable conduct and generous character he had conceived a high esteem, which no little peculiarities of antiquated dress or manner could diminish. Indeed, the old-fashioned politeness of what was formerly called a well-bred gentleman pleased him better than the indolent or insolent selfishness of modern men of the ton. Perhaps, notwithstanding our hero’s determination to turn his mind from every thing connected with the idea of Miss Nugent, some latent curiosity about the burial-place of the Nugents might have operated to make him call upon the count. In this hope he was disappointed; for a cross miller, to whom the abbey-ground was let, on which the burial-place was found, had taken it into his head to refuse admittance, and none could enter his ground.

Count O’Halloran was much pleased by Lord Colambre’s visit. The very day of his arrival at Halloran Castle, the count was going to Oranmore; he was dressed, and his carriage was waiting: therefore Lord Colambre begged that he might not detain him, and the count requested his lordship to accompany him.

“Let me have the honour of introducing you, my lord, to a family, with whom, I am persuaded, you will he pleased; by whom you will be appreciated; and at whose house you will have an opportunity of seeing the best manner of living of the Irish nobility.”

Lord Colambre accepted the invitation, and was introduced at Oranmore. The dignified appearance and respectable character of Lady Oranmore; the charming unaffected manners of her daughters; the air of domestic happiness and comfort in her family; the becoming magnificence, free from ostentation, in her whole establishment; the respect and affection with which she was treated by all who approached her, delighted and touched Lord Colambre; the more, perhaps, because he had heard this family so unjustly abused; and because he saw Lady Oranmore and her daughter in immediate contrast with Lady Dashfort and Lady Isabel.

A little circumstance which occurred during this visit, increased his interest for the family. When Lady de Cressy’s little boys came in after dinner, one of them was playing with a seal, which had just been torn from a letter. The child showed it to Lord Colambre, and asked him to read the motto. The motto was, “Deeds, not words.” His friend Sir James Brooke’s motto, and his arms. Lord Colambre eagerly inquired if this family was acquainted with Sir James, and he soon perceived that they were not only acquainted with him, but that they were particularly interested about him.

Lady Oranmore’s second daughter, Lady Harriet, appeared particularly pleased by the manner in which Lord Colambre spoke of Sir James. And the child, who had now established himself on his lordship’s knee, turned round, and whispered in his ear, “’Twas aunt Harriet gave me the seal; Sir James is to be married to aunt Harriet, and then he will be my uncle.”

Some of the principal gentry of this part of the country happened to dine at Oranmore on one of the days Lord Colambre was there. He was surprised at the discovery, that there were so many agreeable, well-informed, and well-bred people, of whom, while he was at Killpatrick’s-town, he had seen nothing. He now discerned how far he had been deceived by Lady Dashfort.

Both the count, and Lord and Lady Oranmore, who were warmly attached to their country, exhorted him to make himself amends for the time he had lost, by seeing with his own eyes, and judging with his own understanding, of the country and its inhabitants, during the remainder of the time he was to stay in Ireland. The higher classes, in most countries, they observed, were generally similar; but, in the lower class, he would find many characteristic differences.

When he first came to Ireland, he had been very eager to go and see his father’s estate, and to judge of the conduct of his agents, and the condition of his tenantry; but this eagerness had subsided, and the design had almost faded from his mind, whilst under the influence of Lady Dashfort’s misrepresentations. A mistake, relative to some remittance from his banker in Dublin, obliged him to delay his journey a few days, and during that time, Lord and Lady Oranmore showed him the neat cottages, and well-attended schools, in their neighbourhood. They showed him not only what could be done, but what had been done, by the influence of great proprietors residing on their own estates, and encouraging the people by judicious kindness.

He saw — he acknowledged the truth of this; but it did not come home to his feelings now as it would have done a little while ago. His views and plans were altered: he had looked forward to the idea of marrying and settling in Ireland, and then every thing in the country was interesting to him; but since he had forbidden himself to think of a union with Miss Nugent, his mind had lost its object and its spring; he was not sufficiently calm to think of the public good; his thoughts were absorbed by his private concerns. He knew and repeated to himself, that he ought to visit his own and his father’s estates, and to see the condition of his tenantry; he desired to fulfil his duties, but they ceased to appear to him easy and pleasurable, for hope and love no longer brightened his prospects.

That he might see and hear more than he could as heir-apparent to the estate, he sent his servant to Dublin to wait for him there. He travelled incognito, wrapped himself in a shabby great-coat, and took the name of Evans. He arrived at a village, or, as it was called, a town, which bore the name of Colambre. He was agreeably surprised by the air of neatness and finish in the houses and in the street, which had a nicely swept paved footway. He slept at a small but excellent inn — excellent, perhaps, because it was small, and proportioned to the situation and business of the place. Good supper, good bed, good attendance; nothing out of repair; no things pressed into services for which they were never intended by nature or art. No chambermaid slipshod, or waiter smelling of whiskey; but all tight and right, and every body doing their own business, and doing it as if it were their every day occupation, not as if it were done by particular desire, for the first or last time this season. The landlord came in at supper to inquire whether any thing was wanted. Lord Colambre took this opportunity of entering into conversation with him, and asked him to whom the town belonged, and who were the proprietors of the neighbouring estates.

“The town belongs to an absentee lord — one Lord Clonbrony, who lives always beyond the seas, in London; and who had never seen the town since it was a town, to call a town.”

“And does the land in the neighbourhood belong to this Lord Clonbrony?”

“It does, sir; he’s a great proprietor, but knows nothing of his property, nor of us. Never set foot among us, to my knowledge, since I was as high as the table. He might as well be a West India planter, and we negroes, for any thing he knows to the contrary — has no more care, nor thought about us, than if he were in Jamaica, or the other world. Shame for him! But there’s too many to keep him in countenance.”

Lord Colambre asked him what wine he could have; and then inquired who managed the estate for this absentee.

“Mr. Burke, sir. And I don’t know why God was so kind to give so good an agent to an absentee like Lord Clonbrony, except it was for the sake of us, who is under him, and knows the blessing, and is thankful for the same.”

“Very good cutlets,” said Lord Colambre.

“I am happy to hear it, sir. They have a right to be good, for Mrs. Burke sent her own cook to teach my wife to dress cutlets.”

“So the agent is a good agent, is he?”

“He is, thanks be to Heaven! And that’s what few can boast, especially when the landlord’s living over the seas: we have the luck to have got a good agent over us, in Mr. Burke, who is a right bred gentleman; a snug little property of his own, honestly made; with the good-will, and good wishes, and respect of all.”

“Does he live in the neighbourhood?”

“Just convanient.5 At the end of the town; in the house on the hill as you passed, sir; to the left, with the trees about it, all of his own planting, grown too; for there’s a blessing on all he does, and he has done a deal. — There’s salad, sir, if you are partial to it. Very fine lettuce. Mrs. Burke sent us the plants herself.”

5 Convenient, near.]

“Excellent salad! So this Mr. Burke has done a great deal, has he? In what way?”

“In every way, sir — sure was not it he that had improved, and fostered, and made the town of Colambre? — no thanks to the proprietor, nor to the young man whose name it bears, neither!”

“Have you any porter, pray, sir?”

“We have, sir, as good, I hope, as you’d drink in London, for it’s the same you get there, I understand, from Cork. And I have some of my own brewing, which, they say, you could not tell the difference between it and Cork quality — if you’d be pleased to try. — Harry, the corkscrew.”

The porter of his own brewing was pronounced to be extremely good; and the landlord observed it was Mr. Burke encouraged him to learn to brew, and lent him his own brewer for a time to teach him.

“Your Mr. Burke, I find, is apropos to porter, apropos to salad, apropos to cutlets, apropos to every thing,” said Lord Colambre, smiling: “he seems to be a very uncommon agent I suppose you are a great favourite of his, and you do what you please with him.”

“Oh, no, sir, I could not say that; Mr. Burke does not have favourites any way; but, according to my deserts, I trust I stand well enough with him; for, in truth, he is a right good agent.”

Lord Colambre still pressed for particulars; he was an Englishman, and a stranger, he said, and did not exactly know what was meant in Ireland by a good agent.

“Why, he is the man that will encourage the improving tenant; and show no favour or affection, but justice, which comes even to all, and does best for all at the long run; and, residing always in the country, like Mr. Burke, and understanding country business, and going about continually among the tenantry, he knows when to press for the rent, and when to leave the money to lay out upon the land; and, according as they would want it, can give a tenant a help or a check properly. Then no duty work called for, no presents, nor glove money, nor sealing money even, taken or offered; no underhand hints about proposals, when land would be out of lease; but a considerable preference, if desarved, to the old tenant, and if not, a fair advertisement, and the best offer and tenant accepted: no screwing of the land to the highest penny, just to please the head landlord for the minute, and ruin him at the end, by the tenant’s racking the land, and running off with the year’s rent; nor no bargains to his own relations or friends did Mr. Burke ever give or grant, but all fair between landlord and tenant; and that’s the thing that will last; and that’s what I call the good agent.”

Lord Colambre poured out a glass of wine, and begged the innkeeper to drink the good agent’s health, in which he was heartily pledged. “I thank your honour:— Mr. Burke’s health! and long may he live over and amongst us; he saved me from drink and ruin, when I was once inclined to it, and made a man of me and all my family.”

The particulars we cannot stay to detail; this grateful man, however, took pleasure in sounding the praises of his benefactor, and in raising him in the opinion of the traveller.

“As you’ve time, and are curious about such things, sir, perhaps you’d walk up to the school that Mrs. Burke has for the poor children; and look at the market house, and see how clean he takes a pride to keep the town: and any house in the town, from the priest to the parson’s, that you’d go into, will give you the same character as I do of Mr. Burke; from the brogue to the boot, all speak the same of him, and can say no other. God for ever bless and keep him over us!”

Upon making further inquiries, every thing the innkeeper had said was confirmed by different inhabitants of the village. Lord Colambre conversed with the shopkeepers, with the cottagers; and, without making any alarming inquiries, he obtained all the information he wanted. He went to the village-school — a pretty, cheerful house, with a neat garden and a play-green; met Mrs. Burke; introduced himself to her as a traveller. The school was shown to him: it was just what it ought to be — neither too much nor too little had been attempted; there was neither too much interference nor too little attention. Nothing for exhibition; care to teach well, without any vain attempt to teach in a wonderfully short time. All that experience proves to be useful, in both Dr. Bell’s and Mr. Lancaster’s modes of teaching, Mrs. Burke had adopted; leaving it to “graceless zealots” to fight about the rest. That no attempts at proselytism had been made, and that no illiberal distinctions had been made in his school, Lord Colambre was convinced, in the best manner possible, by seeing the children of protestants and catholics sitting on the same benches, learning from the same books, and speaking to one another with the same cordial familiarity. Mrs. Burke was an unaffected, sensible woman, free from all party prejudices, and without ostentation, desirous and capable of doing good. Lord Colambre was much pleased with her, and very glad that she invited him to tea.

Mr. Burke did not come in till late; for he had been detained portioning out some meadows, which were of great consequence to the inhabitants of the town. He brought home to tea with him the clergyman and the priest of the parish, both of whom he had taken successful pains to accommodate with the land which suited their respective convenience. The good terms on which they seemed to be with each other, and with him, appeared to Lord Colambre to do honour to Mr. Burke. All the favourable accounts his lordship had received of this gentleman were confirmed by what he saw and heard. After the clergyman and priest had taken leave, upon Lord Colambre’s expressing some surprise, mixed with satisfaction, at seeing the harmony which subsisted between them, Mr. Burke assured him that this was the same in many parts of Ireland. He observed, that “as the suspicion of ill-will never fails to produce it,” so he had often found, that taking it for granted that no ill-will exists, has the most conciliating effect. He said, to please opposite parties, he used no arts; but he tried to make all his neighbours live comfortably together, by making them acquainted with each other’s good qualities; by giving them opportunities of meeting sociably, and, from time to time, of doing each other little services and good offices. Fortunately, he had so much to do, he said, that he had no time for controversy. He was a plain man, made it a rule not to meddle with speculative points, and to avoid all irritating discussions: he was not to rule the country, but to live in it, and make others live as happily as he could.

Having nothing to conceal in his character, opinions, or circumstances, Mr. Burke was perfectly open and unreserved in his manner and conversation; freely answered all the traveller’s inquiries, and took pains to show him every thing he desired to see. Lord Colambre said he had thoughts of settling in Ireland; and declared, with truth, that he had not seen any part of the country he should like better to live in than this neighbourhood. He went over most of the estate with Mr. Burke, and had ample opportunities of convincing himself that this gentleman was indeed, as the innkeeper had described him, “a right good gentleman, and a right good agent.”

He paid Mr. Burke some just compliments on the state of the tenantry, and the neat and flourishing appearance of the town of Colambre.

“What pleasure it will give the proprietor when he sees all you have done!” said Lord Colambre.

“Oh, sir, don’t speak of it! — that breaks my heart; he never has shown the least interest in any thing I have done: he is quite dissatisfied with me, because I have not ruined his tenantry, by forcing them to pay more than the land is worth; because I have not squeezed money from them, by fining down rents; and — but all this, as an Englishman, sir, must be unintelligible to you. The end of the matter is, that, attached as I am to this place and the people about me, and, as I hope, the tenantry are to me — I fear I shall he obliged to give up the agency.

“Give up the agency! How so? you must not,” cried Lord Colambre, and, for the moment, he forgot himself; but Mr. Burke took this only for an expression of good-will.

“I must, I am afraid,” continued he. “My employer, Lord Clonbrony, is displeased with me — continual calls for money come upon me from England, and complaints of my slow remittances.”

“Perhaps Lord Clonbrony is in embarrassed circumstances,” said Lord Colambre.

“I never speak of my employer’s affairs, sir,” replied Mr. Burke; now for the first time assuming an air of reserve.

“I beg pardon, sir — I seem to have asked an indiscreet question.” Mr. Burke was silent.

“Lest my reserve should give you a false impression, I will add, sir,” resumed Mr. Burke, “that I really am not acquainted with the state of his lordship’s affairs in general. I know only what belongs to the estate under my own management. The principal part of his lordship’s property, the Clonbrony estate, is under another agent, Mr. Garraghty.”

“Garraghty!” repeated Lord Colambre; “what sort of a person is he? But I may take it for granted, that it cannot fall to the lot of one and the same absentee to have two such agents as Mr. Burke.”

Mr. Burke bowed, and seemed pleased with the compliment, which he knew he deserved — but not a word did he say of Mr. Garraghty; and Lord Colambre, afraid of betraying himself by some other indiscreet question, changed the conversation.

The next night the post brought a letter to Mr. Burke, from Lord Clonbrony, which he gave to his wife as soon as he had read it, saying, “See the reward of all my services!”

Mrs. Burke glanced her eye over the letter, and being extremely fond of her husband, and sensible of his deserving far different treatment, burst into indignant exclamations —“See the reward of all your services, indeed! — What an unreasonable, ungrateful man! — So, this is the thanks for all you have done for Lord Clonbrony!”

“He does not know what I have done, my dear. He never has seen what I have done.”

“More shame for him!”

“He never, I suppose, looks over his accounts, or understands them.”

“More shame for him!”

“He listens to foolish reports, or misrepresentations, perhaps. He is at a distance, and cannot find out the truth.”

“More shame for him!”

“Take it quietly, my dear; we have the comfort of a good conscience. The agency may be taken from me by this lord; but the sense of having done my duty, no lord or man upon earth can give or take away.”

“Such a letter!” said Mrs. Burke, taking it up again. “Not even the civility to write with his own hand! — only his signature to the scrawl — looks as if it was written by a drunken man, does not it, Mr. Evans?” said she, showing the letter to Lord Colambre, who immediately recognized the writing of Sir Terence O’Fay.

“It does not look like the hand of a gentleman, indeed,” said Lord Colambre.

“It has Lord Clonbrony’s own signature, let it be what it will,” said Mr. Burke, looking closely at it; “Lord Clonbrony’s own writing the signature is, I am clear of that.”

Lord Clonbrony’s son was clear of it, also; but he took care not to give any opinion on that point.

“Oh, pray read it, sir, read it,” said Mrs. Burke; “read it, pray; a gentleman may write a bad hand, but no gentleman could write such a letter as that to Mr. Burke — pray read it, sir; you who have seen something of what he has done for the town of Colambre, and what he has made of the tenantry and the estate of Lord Clonbrony.”

Lord Colambre read, and was convinced that his father had never written or read the letter, but had signed it, trusting to Sir Terence O’Fay’s having expressed his sentiments properly.

“SIR,

“As I have no farther occasion for your services, you will take notice, that I hereby request you will forthwith hand over, on or before the 1st of November next, your accounts, with the balance due of the hanging-gale (which, I understand, is more than ought to be at this season) to Nicholas Garraghty, Esq., College-green, Dublin, who, in future, will act as agent, and shall get, by post, immediately, a power of attorney for the same, entitling him to receive and manage the Colambre, as well as the Clonbrony estate, for,

“Sir, your obedient humble servant,

“CLONBRONY.

Grosvenor-square.”

Though misrepresentation, caprice, or interest, might have induced Lord Clonbrony to desire to change his agent, yet Lord Colambre knew that his father never could have announced his wishes in such a style; and, as he returned the letter to Mrs. Burke, he repeated, he was convinced that it was impossible that any nobleman could have written such a letter; that it must have been written by some inferior person; and that his lordship had signed it without reading it.

“My dear, I’m sorry you showed that letter to Mr. Evans,” said Mr. Burke; “I don’t like to expose Lord Clonbrony; he is a well-meaning gentleman, misled by ignorant or designing people; at all events, it is not for us to expose him.”

“He has exposed himself,” said Mrs. Burke; “and the world should know it.”

“He was very kind to me when I was a young man,” said Mr. Burke; “we must not forget that now, because we are angry, my love.”

“Why, no, my love, to be sure we should not; but who could have recollected it just at this minute but yourself? And now, sir,” turning to Lord Colambre, “you see what kind of a man this is: now is it not difficult for me to bear patiently to see him ill-treated?”

“Not only difficult, but impossible, I should think, madam,” said Lord Colambre; “I know even I, who am a stranger, cannot help feeling for both of you, as you must see I do.”

“But half the world, who don’t know him,” continued Mrs. Burke, “when they hear that Lord Clonbrony’s agency is taken from him, will think perhaps that he is to blame.”

“No, madam,” said Lord Colambre, “that you need not fear; Mr. Burke may safely trust to his character: from what I have within these two days seen and heard, I am convinced that such is the respect he has deserved and acquired, that no blame can touch him.”

“Sir, I thank you,” said Mrs. Burke, the tears coming into her eyes: “you can judge — you do him justice; but there are so many who don’t know him, and who will decide without knowing any of the facts.”

“That, my dear, happens about every thing to every body,” said Mr. Burke; “but we must have patience; time sets all judgments right, sooner or later.”

“But the sooner the better,” said Mrs. Burke. “Mr. Evans, I hope you will be so kind, if ever you hear this business talked of —”

“Mr. Evans lives in Wales, my dear.”

“But he is travelling through Ireland, my dear, and he said he should return to Dublin, and, you know, there he certainly will hear it talked of; and I hope he will do me the favour to state what he has seen and knows to be the truth.”

“Be assured that I will do Mr. Burke justice — as far as it is in my power,” said Lord Colambre, restraining himself much, that he might not say more than became his assumed character. He took leave of this worthy family that night, and, early the next morning, departed.

“Ah!” thought he, as he drove away from this well-regulated and flourishing place, “how happy I might be, settled here with such a wife as — her of whom I must think no more.”

He pursued his way to Clonbrony, his father’s other estate, which was at a considerable distance from Colambre: he was resolved to know what kind of agent Mr. Nicholas Garraghty might be, who was to supersede Mr. Burke, and, by power of attorney, to be immediately entitled to receive and manage the Colambre as well as the Clonbrony estate.

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