Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 17.

A boy passing by saw what had happened, and ran to the house, calling as he went to some workmen, who hastened to the place, where they heard the howling of the dogs. Ormond neither heard nor saw — till Moriarty said, “He must be carried home;” and some one approaching to lift the body, Ormond started up, pushed the man back, without uttering a syllable — made a sign to Moriarty, and between them they carried the body home. Sheelah and the women came out to meet them, wringing their hands, and uttering loud lamentations. Ormond, bearing his burden as if insensible of what he bore, walked onward, looking at no one, answering none, but forcing his way straight into the house, and on — till they came to O’Shane’s bedchamber, which was upon the ground-floor — there laid him on his bed. The women had followed, and all those who had gathered on the way rushed in to see and to bewail. Ormond looked up, and saw the people about the bed, and made a sign to Moriarty to keep them away, which he did, as well as he could. But they would not be kept back — Sheelah, especially, pressed forward, crying loudly, till Moriarty, with whom she was struggling, pointed to Harry. Struck with his fixed look, she submitted at once. “Best leave him!“ said she. She put every body out of the room before her, and turning to Ormond, said, they would leave him “a little space of time till the priest should come, who was at a clergy dinner, but was sent for.”

When Ormond was left alone he locked the door, and kneeling beside the dead, offered up prayers for the friend he had lost, and there remained some time in stillness and silence, till Sheelah knocked at the door, to let him know that the priest was come. Then retiring, he went to the other end of the house, to be out of the way. The room to which he went was that in which they had been reading the letters just before they went out that morning. There was the pen which Harry had taken from his hand, and the answer just begun.

“Dear General, I hope my young friend, Harry Ormond —”

That hand could write no more! — that warm heart was cold! The certainty was so astonishing, so stupifying, that Ormond, having never yet shed a tear, stood with his eyes fixed on the paper, he knew not how long, till he felt some one touch his hand. It was the child, little Tommy, of whom O’Shane was so fond, and who was so fond of him. The child, with his whistle in his hand, stood looking up at Harry, without speaking. Ormond gazed on him for a few instants, then snatched him in his arms, and burst into an agony of tears. Sheelah, who had let the child in, now came and carried him away. “God be thanked for them tears,” said she, “they will bring relief;” and so they did. The necessity for manly exertion — the sense of duty — pressed upon Ormond’s recovered reason. He began directly, and wrote all the letters that were necessary to his guardian and to Miss O’Faley, to communicate the dreadful intelligence to Dora. The letters were not finished till late in the evening. Sheelah came for them, and leaving the door and the outer door to the hall open, as she came in, Ormond saw the candles lighted, and smelt the smell of tobacco and whiskey, and heard the sound of many voices.

“The wake, dear, which is beginning,” said she, hastening back to shut the doors, as she saw him shudder. “Bear with it, Master Harry,” said she: “hard for you! — but bear with us, dear; ’tis the custom of the country; and what else can we do but what the forefathers did? — how else for us to show respect, only as it would be expected, and has always been? — and great comfort to think we done our best for him that is gone, and comfort to know his wake will be talked of long hereafter, over the fires at night, of all the people that is there without — and that’s all we have for it now: so bear with it, dear.”

This night, and for two succeeding nights, the doors of Corny Castle remained open for all who chose to come.

Crowds, as many, and more, than the castle could hold, flocked to King Corny’s wake, for he was greatly beloved.

There was, as Sheelah said, “plenty of cake, and wine, and tea, and tobacco, and snuff — every thing handsome as possible, and honourable to the deceased, who was always open-handed and open-hearted, and with open house too.”

His praises, from time to time, were heard, and then the common business of the country was talked of — and jesting and laughter went on — and all night there were tea-drinkings for the women, and punch for the men. Sheelah, who inwardly grieved most, went about incessantly among the crowd, serving all, seeing that none, especially them who came from a distance, should be neglected — and that none should have to complain afterwards, “or to say that any thing at all was wanting or niggardly.” Mrs. Betty, Sheelah’s daughter, sat presiding at the tea-table, giving the keys to her mother when wanted, but never forgetting to ask for them again. Little Tommy took his cake and hid himself under the table, close by his mother, Mrs. Betty; and could not be tempted out but by Sheelah, whom he followed, watching for her to go in to Mr. Harry: when the door opened, he held by her gown, and squeezed in under her arm — and when she brought Mr. Harry his meals, she would set the child up at the table with him for company— and to tempt him to take something.

Ormond had once promised his deceased friend, that if he was in the country when he died, he would put him into his coffin. He kept his promise. The child hearing a noise, and knowing that Mr. Harry had gone into the room, could not be kept out; the crowd had left that room, and the child looked at the bed with the curtains looped up with black — and at the table at the foot of the bed, with the white cloth spread over it, and the seven candlesticks placed upon it. But the coffin fixed his attention, and he threw himself upon it, clinging to it, and crying bitterly upon King Corny, his dear King Corny, to come back to him.

It was all Sheelah could do to drag him away: Ormond, who had always liked this boy, felt now more fond of him than ever, and resolved that he should never want a friend.

“You are in the mind to attend the funeral, sir, I think you told me?” said Sheelah.

“Certainly,” replied Ormond.

“Excuse me, then,” said Sheelah, “if I mention — for you can’t know what to do without. There will be high mass, may be you know, in the chapel. And as it’s a great funeral, thirteen priests will be there, attending. And when the mass will be finished, it will be expected of you, as first of kin considered, to walk up first with your offering — whatsoever you think fit, for the priests — and to lay it down on the altar; and then each and all will follow, laying down their offerings, according as they can. I hope I’m not too bold or troublesome, sir.”

Ormond thanked her for her kindness — and felt it was real kindness. He, consequently, did all that was expected from him handsomely. After the masses were over, the priests, who could not eat any thing before they said mass, had breakfast and dinner joined. Sheelah took care “the clergy was well served.” Then the priests — though it was not essential that all should go, did all, to Sheelah’s satisfaction, accompany the funeral the whole way, three long miles, to the burying-place of the O’Shanes; a remote old abbey-ground, marked only by some scattered trees, and a few sloping grave-stones. King Corny’s funeral was followed by an immense concourse of people, on’ horseback and on foot; men, women, and children: when they passed by the doors of cabins, a set of the women raised the funeral cry — not a savage howl, as is the custom in some parts of Ireland, but chanting a melancholy kind of lament, not without harmony, simple and pathetic. Ormond was convinced, that in spite of all the festivity at the wake, which had so disgusted him, the poor people mourned sincerely for the friend they had lost.

We forgot to mention that Dr. Cambray went to the Black Islands the day after O’Shane’s death, and did all he could to prevail upon Ormond to go to his house while the wake was going on, and till the funeral should be over. But Ormond thought it right to stay where he was, as none of the family were there, and there was no way in which he could so strongly mark, as Sheelah said, his respect for the dead. Now that it was all over, he had at least the consolation of thinking that he had not shrunk from any thing that was, or that he conceived to be, his duty. Dr. Cambray was pleased with his conduct, and at every moment he could spare went to see him, doing all he could to console him, by strengthening in Ormond’s mind the feelings of religious submission to the will of Heaven, and of pious hope and confidence. Ormond had no time left him for the indulgence of sorrow — business pressed upon him.

Cornelius O’Shane’s will, which Sir Ulick blamed Harry for not mentioning in the first letter, was found to be at his banker’s in Dublin. All his property was left to his daughter, except the farm, which he had given to Ormond; this was specially excepted, with legal care: also a legacy of five hundred pounds was left to Harry; a trifling bequest to Sir Ulick, being his cousin; and legacies to servants. Miss O’Faley was appointed sole executrix — this gave great umbrage to Sir Ulick O’Shane, and appeared extraordinary to many people; but the will was in due form, and nothing could be done against it, however much might be said.

Miss O’Faley, without taking notice of any thing Ormond said of the money, which had been lodged in the bank to pay for his commission, wrote as executrix to beg of him to do various business for her — all which he did; and fresh letters came with new requests, inventories to be taken, things to be sent to Dublin, money to be received and paid, stewards’ and agents’ accounts to be settled, business of all kinds, in short, came pouring in — upon him, a young man unused to it, and with a mind peculiarly averse from it at this moment. But when he found that he could be of service to any one belonging to his benefactor, he felt bound in gratitude to exert himself to the utmost. These circumstances, however disagreeable, had an excellent effect upon his character, giving him habits of business which were ever afterwards of use to him. It was remarkable that the only point in his letters which had concerned his own affairs still continued unanswered. Another circumstance hurt his feelings — instead of Miss O’Faley’s writing to make her own requests, Mr. Connal was soon deputed by Mademoiselle to write for her. He spoke of the shock the ladies had felt, and the distressing circumstances in which they were; all in commonplace phrases, which Ormond despised, and from which he could judge nothing of Dora’s real feelings.

“The marriage must, of course,” Mr. Connal said, “be put off for some time; and as it would be painful to the ladies to return to Corny Castle, he had advised their staying in Dublin; and they and he feeling assured that, from Mr. Ormond’s regard for the family, they might take the liberty of troubling him, they requested so and so, and the executrix begged he would see this settled and that settled at last, with gradually forgotten apologies, falling very much into the style of a person writing to an humble friend or dependent, bound to consider requests as commands.”

Our young hero’s pride was piqued on the one side, as much as his gratitude was alive on the other.

Sir Ulick O’Shane wrote to Harry that he was at this time peculiarly engaged with affairs of his own. He said, that as to the material point of the money lodged for the commission, he would see the executrix, and do what he could to have that settled; but as to all lesser points, Sir Ulick said, he really had not leisure to answer letters at present. He enclosed a note to Dr. Cambray, whom he recommended it to his ward to consult, and whose advice and assistance he now requested for him in pressing terms.

In consequence of this direct application from the young gentleman’s guardian, Dr. Cambray felt himself authorized and called upon to interfere, where, otherwise, delicacy might have prevented him. It was fortunate for Ormond that he had Dr. Cambray’s counsel to guide him, or else he would, in the first moments of feeling, have yielded too much to the suggestions of both gratitude and pride.

In the first impulse of generous pride, Ormond wanted to give up the farm which his benefactor had left him, because he wished that no possible suspicion of interested motives having influenced his attachment to Cornelius O’Shane should exist, especially with Mr. Connal, who, as the husband of Dora, would soon be the lord of all in the Black Islands.

On the other hand, when Mr. Connal wrote to him, that the executrix, having no written order from the deceased to that effect, could not pay the five hundred pounds, lodged in the bank, for his commission, Ormond was on the point of flying out with intemperate indignation. “Was not his own word sufficient? Was not the intention of his benefactor apparent from the letters? Would not this justify any executor, any person of common sense or honour?”

Dr. Cambray, his experienced and placid counsellor, brought all these sentiments to due measure by mildly showing what was law and justice, and what was fit and proper in each case; putting jealous honour, and romantic generosity, as they must be put, out of the question in business.

He prevented Ormond from embroiling himself with Connal about the legacy, and from giving up his farm. He persuaded him to decline having any thing to do with the affairs of the Black Islands.

A proper agent was appointed, who saw Ormond’s accounts settled and signed, so that no blame or suspicion could rest upon him.

“There seems no probability, Mr. Ormond,” said Dr. Cambray, “of your commission being immediately purchased. Your guardian, Sir Ulick O’Shane, will be detained some time longer, I understand, in Dublin. You are in a desolate situation here — you have now done all that you ought to do — leave these Black Islands, and come to Vicar’s Dale: you will find there a cheerful family, and means of spending your time more agreeably, perhaps more profitably, than you can have here. I am sensible that no new friends can supply to you the place of him you have lost; but you will find pleasure in the perception, that you have, by your own merit, attached to you one friend in me, who will do all in his power to soothe and serve you. — Will you trust yourself to me?” added he, smiling, “You have already found that I do not flatter. Will you come to us? — The sooner the better — to-morrow, if you can.”

It scarcely need be said, that this invitation was most cordially accepted. Next day Ormond was to leave the Black Islands. Sheelah was in despair when she found he was going: the child hung upon him so that he could hardly get out of the house, till Moriarty promised to return for the boy, and carry him over in the boat often, to see Mr. Ormond. Moriarty would not stay in the islands himself, he said, after Harry went: he let the cabin and little tenement which O’Shane had given him, and the rent was to be paid him by the agent. Ormond went, for the last time, that morning, to Ormond’s Vale, to settle his own affairs there: he and Moriarty took an unusual path across this part of the island to the waterside, that they might avoid that which they had followed the last time they were out, on the day of Corny’s death. They went, therefore, across a lone tract of heath-bog, where, for a considerable time, they saw no living being.

On this bog, of which Cornelius O’Shane had given Moriarty a share, the grateful poor fellow had, the year before, amused himself with cutting in large letters of about a yard long the words

“LONG LIVE KING CORNY.”

He had sowed the letters with broom-seed in the spring, and had since forgotten ever to look at them; but they were now green, and struck the eye.

“Think then of this being all the trace that’s left of him on the face of the earth!” said Moriarty. “I’m glad that I did even that same.”

After crossing this lone bog, when they came to the waterside, they found a great crowd of people, seemingly all the inhabitants of the islands, assembled there, waiting to take leave of Master Harry; and each of them was cheered by a kind word and a look, before they would let him step into the boat.

“Ay, go to the continent,” said Sheelah, “ay, go to fifty continents, and in all Ireland you’ll not find hearts warmer to you than those of the Black Islands, that knows you best from a child, Master Harry dear.”

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

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