Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 15.

Vain of showing that he was not in the slightest degree jealous, Connal talked to Ormond in the freest manner imaginable, touching with indifference even on the very subject which Ormond, from feelings of delicacy and honour, had anxiously avoided. Connal seemed to be perfectly aware how matters had stood before his arrival between Dora and our young hero. “It was all very well,” he said, “quite natural — in the common course of things — impossible it should have been otherwise. A young woman, who saw no one else, must inevitably fall in love with the first agreeable young man who made love to her, or who did not make love to her — it was quite equal to him which. He had heard wonders from his father-in-law elect on that last topic, and he was willing to oblige him, or any other gentleman or lady, by believing miracles.”

Ormond, extremely embarrassed by the want of delicacy and feeling with which this polished coxcomb spoke, had, however, sufficient presence of mind to avoid, either by word or look, making any particular application of what was said.

“You have really prodigious presence of mind, and discretion, and tact, for a young man who has, I presume, had so little practice in these affairs,” said Connal; “but don’t constrain yourself longer. I speak frankly to take off all embarrassment on your part — you see there exists none on mine — never, for a moment: no, how can it possibly signify,” continued he, “to any man of common sense, who, or what a woman liked before she saw him? You don’t think a man, who has seen any thing of the world, would trouble himself to inquire whether he was, or was not, the first love of the woman he is going to marry. To marry— observe the emphasis — distinguish — distinguish, and seriously let us calculate.”

Ormond gave no interruption to his calculations, and the petit-maître, in a tone of philosophic fatuity, asked, “Of the numbers of your English or Irish wives — all excellent — how many, I pray you, do you calculate are now married to the man they first, fell in love with, as they call it? My good sir, not five per cent., depend on it. The thing is morally impossible, unless girls are married out of a convent, as with us in France, and very difficult even then; and after all, what are the French husbands the better for it? I understand English husbands think themselves best off. I don’t pretend to judge; but they seem to prefer what they call domestic happiness to the French esprit de société. Still, this may be prejudice of education — of country: each nation has its taste. Every thing is for the best in this world, for people who know how to make the best of it. You would not think, to look at me, I was so philosophic: but even in the midst of my military career I have thought — thought profoundly. Every body in France thinks now,” said M. de Connal, taking a pinch of snuff with a very pensive air.

Every body in France thinks now!” repeated Ormond.

“Every man of a certain rank, that is to say.”

“That is to say, of your rank,” said Ormond.

“Nay, I don’t give myself as an example; but — you may judge — I own I am surprised to find myself philosophizing here in the Black Islands — but one philosophizes every where.” “And you would have more time for it here, I should suppose, than in Paris?”

“Time, my dear sir — no such thing! Time is merely in idea; but Tais-toi Jean Jacques! Tais-toi Condillac! To resume the chain of our reasoning — love and marriage — I say it all comes to much the same thing in France and in these countries — after all. There is more gallantry, perhaps, before marriage in England, more after marriage in France — which has the better bargain? I don’t pretend to decide. Philosophic doubt for me, especially in cases where ’tis not worth while to determine; but I see I astonish you, Mr. Ormond.”

“You do, indeed,” said Ormond, ingenuously.

“I give you joy — I envy you,” said M. de Connal, sighing.

“After a certain age, if one lives in the world, one can’t be astonished — that’s a lost pleasure.”

“To me who have lived out of the world it is a pleasure, or rather a sensation — I am not sure whether I should call it a, pleasure — that is not likely to be soon exhausted,” said Ormond. “A sensation! and you are not sure whether you should call it a pleasure. Do you know you’ve a genius for metaphysics?”

“I!” exclaimed Ormond.

“Ah! now I have astonished you again. Good! whether pleasurable or not, trust me, nothing is so improving to a young man as to be well astonished. Astonishment I conceive to be a sort of mental electric shock — electric fire; it opens at once and enlightens the understanding: and really you have an understanding so well worth enlightening — I do assure you, that your natural acuteness will, whenever and wherever you appear, make you un homme marquant.“

“Oh! spare me, Mr. Connal,” said Ormond. “I am not used to French compliment.”

“No, upon my honour, without compliment, in all English bonhommie,” (laying his hand upon his heart)—“upon the honour of a gentleman, your remarks have sometimes perfectly astonished me.”

“Really!” said Ormond; “but I thought you had lived so much in the world, you could not be astonished.”

“I thought so, I own,” said Connal; “but it was reserved for M. Ormond to convince me of my mistake, to revive an old pleasure — more difficult still than to invent a new one! In recompense I hope I give you some new ideas — just throw out opinions for you. Accept — reject — reject now — accept an hour, a year hence, perhaps — just as it strikes — merely materials for thinking, I give you.”

“Thank you,” said Ormond; “and be assured they are not lost upon me. You have given me a great deal to think of seriously.”

Seriously! — no; that’s your fault, your national fault. Permit me: what you want chiefly in conversation — in every thing, is a certain degree of — of — you have no English word —lightness.”

Légèreté, perhaps you mean,” said Ormond.

“Precisely. I forgot you understood French so well. Légèreté— untranslatable! — You seize my idea.”

He left Ormond, as he fancied, in admiration of the man who, in his own opinion, possessed the whole theory and practice of the art of pleasing, and the science of happiness.

M. de Connal’s conversation and example might have produced a great effect on the mind of a youth of Ormond’s strong passions, lively imagination, and total ignorance of the world, if he had met this brilliant officer in different society. Had he seen Connal only as a man shining in company, or considered him merely as a companion, he must have been dazzled by his fashion, charmed by his gaiety, and imposed upon by his decisive tone.

Had such a vision lighted on the Black Islands, and appeared to our hero suddenly, in any other circumstances but those in which it did appear, it might have struck and overawed him; and without inquiring “whether from heaven or hell,” he might have followed wherever it led or pointed the way. But in the form of a triumphant rival — without delicacy, without feeling, neither deserving nor loving the woman he had won — not likely to make Dora happy — almost certain to make her father miserable — there was no danger that Black Connal could ever obtain any ascendancy over Ormond; on the contrary, Connal was useful in forming our hero’s character. The electric shock of astonishment did operate in a salutary manner in opening Harry’s understanding: the materials for thinking were not thrown away: he did think — even in the Black Islands; and in judging of Connal’s character, he made continual progress in forming his own: he had motive for exercising his judgment — he was anxious to study the man’s character on Dora’s account.

Seeing his unpolished friend, old Corny, and this finished young man of the world, in daily contrast, Ormond had occasion to compare the real and the factitious, both in matter and manner: he distinguished, and felt often acutely, the difference between that politeness of the heart, which respects and sympathizes with the feelings of others, and that conventional politeness, which is shown merely to gratify the vanity of him by whom it is displayed. In the same way he soon discriminated, in conversation, between Corny’s power of original thinking, and M. de Connal’s knack of throwing old thoughts into new words; between the power of answering an argument, and the art of evading it by a repartee. But it was chiefly in comparing different ideas of happiness and modes of life, that our young hero’s mind was enlarged by Connal’s conversation — whilst the comparison he secretly made between this polished gentleman’s principles and his own, was always more satisfactory to his pride of virtue, than Connal’s vanity could have conceived to be possible.

One day some conversation passed between Connal and his father-in-law elect, as he now always called him, upon his future plans of life.

Good Corny said he did not know how to hope that, during the few years he had to live, Connal would not think of taking his daughter from him to Paris, as, from some words that had dropped from Mademoiselle, he had reason to fear.

“No,” Connal said, “he had formed no such cruel intention: the Irish half of Mademoiselle must have blundered on this occasion. He would do his utmost, if he could with honour, to retire from the service; unless the service imperiously called him away, he should settle in Ireland: he should make it a point even, independently of his duty to his own father, not to take Miss O’Shane from her country and her friends.”

The father, open-hearted and generous himself, was fond to believe what he wished: and confiding in these promises, the old man forgave all that he did not otherwise approve of in his future son-in-law, and thanked him almost with tears in his eyes; still repeating, as his natural penetration remonstrated against his credulity, “But I could hardly have believed this from such a young man as you, Captain Connal. Indeed, how you could ever bring yourself to think of settling in retirement is wonderful to me; but love does mighty things, brings about great changes.”

French commonplaces of sentiment upon love, and compliments on Dora’s charms and his own sensibility, were poured out by Connal, and the father left the room satisfied.

Connal then, throwing himself back in his chair, burst out a laughing, and turning to Ormond, the only person in the room, said, “Could you have conceived this?”

“Conceived what, sir?” said Ormond.

“Conceived this King Corny’s capacity for belief? What! — believe that I will settle in his Black Islands! — I! — As well believe me to be half marble, half man, like the unfortunate in the Black Islands of the Arabian Tales. Settle in the Black Islands! — No: could you conceive a man on earth could be found so simple as to credit such a thing?”

“Here is another man on earth who was simple enough to believe it,” said Ormond, “and to give you credit for it.”

“You!” cried Connal —“That’s too much! — Impossible!”

“But when you said it — when I heard you promise it to Mr. O’Shane —”

“Oh, mercy! — Don’t kill me with laughing!” said he, laughing affectedly: “Oh! that face of yours — there is no standing it. You heard me promise— and the accent on promise. Why, even women, now-a-days, don’t lay such an emphasis on a promise.”

“That, I suppose, depends on who gives it.” said Ormond.

“Rather on who receives it,” said Connal: “but look here, you who understand the doctrine of promises, tell me what a poor conscientious man must do who has two pulling him different ways?”

“A conscientious man cannot have given two diametrically opposite promises.”

Diametrically! — Thank you for that word — it just saves my lost conscience. Commend me always to an epithet in the last resource for giving one latitude of conscience in these nice cases — I have not given two diametrically opposite — no, I have only given four that cross one another. One to your King Corny; another to my angel, Dora; another to the dear aunt; and a fourth to my dearer self. First promise to King Corny, to settle in the Black Islands; a gratuitous promise, signifying nothing — read Burlamaqui: second promise to Mademoiselle, to go and live with her at Paris; with her— on the face of it absurd! a promise extorted too under fear of my life, of immediate peril of being talked to death — see Vatel on extorted promises — void: third promise to my angel, Dora, to live wherever she pleases; but that’s a lover’s promise, made to be broken — see Love’s Calendar, or, if you prefer the bookmen’s authority, I don’t doubt that, under the head of promises made when a man is not in his right senses, some of those learned fellows in wigs would bring me off sain et sauf: but now for my fourth promise — I am a man of honour — when I make a promise intending to keep it, no man so scrupulous; all promises made to myself come under this head; and I have promised myself to live, and make my wife live, wherever I please, or not to live with her at all. This promise I shall bold sacred. Oblige me with a smile, Mr. Ormond — a smile of approbation.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Connal, that is impossible — I am sincere.”

“So am I, and sincerely you are too romantic. See things as they are, as a man of the world, I beseech you.”

“I am not a man of the world, and I thank God for it,” cried Ormond.

“Thank your God for what you please,” said Connal; “but in disdaining to be a man of the world, you will not, I hope, refuse to let me think you a man of common sense.”

“Think what you please of me,” said Ormond, rather haughtily; “what I think of myself is the chief point with me.”

“You will lose this little brusquerie of manner,” said Connal, “when you have mixed more with mankind. Providentially, we are all made dependent on one another’s good opinion. Even I, you see, cannot live without yours.”

Whether from vanity, from the habit of wishing to charm every body in every house he entered, especially any one who made resistance; or whether he was piqued and amused with Ormond’s frank and natural character, and determined to see how far he could urge him, Connal went on, though our young hero gave him no encouragement to hope that he should win his good opinion.

“Candidly,” said he, “put yourself in my place for a moment: I was in England, following my own projects; I was not in love with the girl as you — well, pardon — as anybody might have been — but I was at a distance, that makes all the difference: I am sent for over by two fathers, and I am told that in consequence of my good or evil fortune in being born a twin, and of some inconceivable promise between two Irish fathers over a punch-bowl, I am to have the refusal, I should rather say the acceptance, of a very pretty girl with a very pretty fortune. Now, except just at the moment when the overture reached me, it could not have been listened to for a moment by such a man as I am.”

“Insufferable coxcomb,” said Ormond to himself.

“But, to answer a question, which I omitted to answer just now to my father-in-law — what could induce me to come over and think of settling in the Black Islands? I answer — for I am determined to win your confidence by my candour — I answer in one word, un billard— a billiard-table. To tell you all, I confess —”

“Confess nothing, I beg, Mr. Connal, to me, that you do not wish to be known to Mr. O’Shane: I am his friend — he is my benefactor.”

“You would not repeat — you are a gentleman, and a man of honour.”

“I am; and as such I desire, on this occasion, not to hear what I ought neither to repeat nor to keep secret. It is my duty not to leave my benefactor in the dark as to any point.”

“Oh! come — come,” interrupted Connal, “we had better not take it on this serious tone, lest, if we begin to talk of duty, we should presently conceive it to be our duty to run one another through the body, which would be no pleasure.”

“No pleasure,” said Ormond; “but if it became a duty, I hope, on all occasions, I should be able to do whatever I thought a duty. Therefore to avoid any misunderstanding, Mr. Connal, let me beg that you will not honour me farther with your confidence. I cannot undertake to be the confidant of any one, of whom I have never professed myself to be the friend.”

“Ca suffit,” said Connal, lightly. “We understand one another now perfectly’— you shall in future play the part of prince, and not of confidant. Pardon me, I forgot your highness’s pretensions;” so saying, he gaily turned on his heel, and left the room.

From this time forward little conversation passed between Mr. Connal and Ormond — little indeed between Ormond and Dora. With Mademoiselle, Ormond had long ceased to be a favourite, and even her loquacity now seldom addressed itself to him. He was in a painful situation; — he spent as much of his time as he could at the farm his friend had given him. As soon as O’Shane found that there was no truth in the report of Black Connal’s intended marriage in England, that he claimed in earnest his promise of his daughter, and that Dora herself inclined to the new love, his kind heart felt for poor Harry.

Though he did not know all that had passed, yet he saw the awkwardness and difficulty of Ormond’s present situation, and, whatever it might cost him to part with his young friend, with his adopted son, Corny determined not to detain him longer.

“Harry Ormond, my boy,” said he to him one day, “time for you to see something of the world, also for the world to see something of you; I’ve kept you here for my own pleasure too long: as long as I had any hope of settling you as I wished ’twas a sufficient excuse to myself; but now I have none left — I must part with you: and so, by the blessing, God helping me to conquer my selfishness, and the yearnings of my heart towards you, I will. I mean,” continued he, “to send you far from me — to banish you for your good from the Black Islands entirely. Nay, don’t you interrupt me, nor say a word; for if you do, I shall be too soft to have the heart to do you justice. You know you said yourself, and I felt it for you, that it was best you should leave this. Well, I have been thinking of you ever since, and licking different projects into shape for you — listening too to every thing Connal threw out; but all he says that way is in the air — no substance, when you try to have and to hold — too full of himself, that youngster, to be a friend to another.”

“There is no reason why he should be my friend, sir,” said Ormond —“I do not pretend to be his; and I rejoice in not being under any obligations to him.”

“Right! — and high! — just as I feel for you. After all, I approve of your own wish to go into the British service in preference to any foreign service, and you could not be of the Irish brigade — Harry.”

“Indeed, sir, I infinitely prefer,” said Ormond, “the service of my own country — the service in which my father — I know nothing of my father, but I have always heard him spoken of as a good officer; I hope I shall not disgrace his name. The English service for me, sir, if you please.”

“Why, then, I’m glad you see things as I do, and are not run away with by uniform, and all that. I have lodged the needful in the bank, to purchase a commission for you, my son. Now! no more go to thank me, if you love me, Harry, than you would your own father. I’ve written to a friend to choose a regiment in which there’d be as little danger as possible for you.”

“As little danger as possible!” repeated Harry, surprised.

“Phoo! you don’t think I mean as little danger of fighting. I would not wrong you so. No — but as little danger of gambling. Not that you’re inclined to it, or any thing else that’s bad — but there is no knowing what company might lead the best into; and it is my duty and inclination to look as close to all these things as if for my own son.”

“My kind father — no father could be kinder,” cried Harry, quite overpowered.

“So then you go as soon as the commission comes — that’s settled; and I hope I shall be able to bear it, Harry, old as I am. There may perhaps be a delay of a little time longer than you could wish.”

“Oh! sir, as long as you wish me to stay with you —”

“Not a minute beyond what’s necessary. I mention the cause of delay, that you may not think I’m dallying for my own sake. You remember General Albemarle, who came here one day last year — election time, canvassing — the general that had lost the arm.”

“Perfectly, sir, I remember your answer —‘I will give my interest to this empty sleeve.’”

“Thank you — never a word lost upon you. Well, now I have hopes that this man — this general, will take you by the hand; for he has a hand left yet, and a powerful one to serve a friend; and I’ve requested him to keep his eye upon you, and I have asked his advice: so we can’t stir till we get it, and that will be eight days, or ten, say. My boy, you must bear on as you are — we have the comfort of the workshop to ourselves, and some rational recreation; good shooting we will have soon too, for the first time this season.”

Among the various circumstances which endeared Harry to our singular monarch, his skill and keenness as a sportsman were not inconsiderable: he knew where all the game in the island was to be found; so that, when his good old patron was permitted by the gout to take the field, Harry’s assistance saved him a vast deal of unnecessary toil, and gratified him in his favourite amusement, whilst he, at the same time, sympathized in the sport. Corny, besides being a good shot, was an excellent mechanic: he beguiled the hours, when there was neither hunting nor shooting, in a workshop which was furnished with the best tools. Among the other occupations at the work-bench, he was particularly skilful in making and adjusting the locks of guns, and in boring and polishing the inside of their barrels to the utmost perfection: he had contrived and executed a tool for the enlarging the barrel of a gun in any particular part, so as to increase its effect in adding to the force of the discharge, and in preventing the shot from scattering too widely.

The hope of the success of his contrivance, and the prospect of going out with Harry on the approaching first of September, solaced King Corny, and seemed to keep up his spirits, through all the vexation he felt concerning Connal and this marriage, which evidently was not to his taste. It was to Dora’s, however, and was becoming more evidently so every hour — and soon M. Connal pressed, and Mademoiselle urged, and Dora named — the happy day — and Mademoiselle, in transports, prepared to go to Dublin, with her niece, to choose the wedding-clothes, and, Connal to bespeak the equipages.

Mademoiselle was quick in her operations when dress was in question: the preparations for the delightful journey were soon made — the morning for their departure came — the carriage and horses were sent over the water early — and O’Shane and Harry afterwards accompanied the party in the boat to the other side of the lake, where the carriage waited with the door open. Connal, after handing in Mademoiselle, turned to look for his destined bride — who was taking leave of her father — Harry Ormond standing by. The moment she quitted her father’s embrace, Father Jos poured with both his hands on her head the benedictions of all the saints. Released from Father Jos, Captain Connal hurried her on: Harry held out his hand to her as she passed. “Good bye, Dora — probably I shall never see you again.”

“Oh, Harry!” said she, one touch of natural feeling stopping her short — “Oh, Harry! — Why?” Bursting into tears, she drew her hand from Connal, and gave it to Harry: Harry received the hand openly and cordially, shook it heartily, but took no advantage and no notice of the feelings by which he saw her at that moment agitated.

Forgive!” she began.

“Good bye, dear Dora. God bless you — may you be as happy — half as happy, as I wish you to be!”

“To be sure she will — happy as the day is long,” said Mademoiselle, leaning out of the carriage: “why will you make her cry, Mr. Ormond, spoiling her eyes at parting? Come in to me — Dora, M. de Connal is waiting to hand you, mon enfant.”

“Is her dressing-box in, and all right?” asked Captain Connal, as he handed Dora into the carriage, who was still weeping.

“Bad compliment to M. de Connal, mon amie. Vrai scandale!” said Mademoiselle, pulling up the glass, while Dora sunk back in the carriage, sobbing without restraint.

“Good morning,” said Connal, who had now mounted his Mr. Ormond, “Adieu, Mr. Ormond — command me in any way you please. Drive on!”

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Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 14:02