Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 2.

Lady O’Shane, extremely terrified, had scarcely power to rise. She opened the drawer of the table, and thrust her trembling hand down to the bottom of the silk bag, into which the keys had fallen. Impatient of delay, Ormond pushed open the door, snatched the keys, and disappeared. The whole passed in a few seconds. The music drowned the noise of the opening door, and of the two chairs, which Ormond had thrown down: those who sat near, thought a servant had pushed in and gone out; but, however rapid the movement, the full view of the figure had been seen by Miss Annaly, who was sitting on the opposite side of the room; Sir Ulick was sitting beside her, talking earnestly. Lady Annaly had just retired. “For Heaven’s sake, what’s the matter?” cried he, stopping in the middle of a sentence, on seeing Miss Annaly grow suddenly pale as death. Her eyes were fixed on the door of the green-house; his followed that direction. “Yes,” said he, “we can get out into the air that way — lean on me.” She did so — he pushed his way through the crowd at the bottom of the country dance; and, as he passed, was met by Lady O’Shane and Miss Black, both with faces of horror.

“Sir Ulick, did you see,” pointing to the door, “did you see Mr. Ormond? — There’s blood!”

“There’s mischief, certainly,” said Miss Black. “A quarrel — Mr. Marcus, perhaps.”

“Nonsense! No such thing, you’ll find,” said Sir Ulick, pushing on, and purposely jostling the arm of a servant who was holding a salver of ices, overturning them all; and whilst the surrounding company were fully occupied about their clothes, and their fears, and apologies, he made his way onwards to the green-house — Lady O’Shane clinging to one arm — Miss Annaly supported by the other — Miss Black following, repeating, “Mischief! mischief! you’ll see, sir.”

“Miss Black, open the door, and not another word.”

He edged Miss Annaly on, the moment the door opened, dragged Lady O’Shane after him, pushed Miss Black back as she attempted to follow: but, recollecting that she might spread the report of mischief, if he left her behind, drew her into the green-house, locked the door, and led Miss Annaly out into the air.

“Bring salts! water! something, Miss Black — follow me, Lady O’Shane.”

“When I’m hardly able — your wife! Sir Ulick, you might,” said Lady O’Shane, as she tottered on, “you might, I should have thought—”

“No time for such thoughts, my dear,” interrupted he. “Sit down on the steps — there, she is better now — now what is all this?”

“I am not to speak,” said Miss Black.

Lady O’Shane began to say how Mr. Ormond had burst in, covered with blood, and seized the keys of the gates.

“The keys!” But he had no time for that thought. “Which way did he go?”

“I don’t know; I gave him the keys of both gates.”

The two entrances were a mile asunder. Sir Ulick looked for footsteps on the grass. It was a fine moonlight night. He saw footsteps on the path leading to the gardener’s house. “Stay here, ladies, and I will bring you intelligence as soon as possible.”

“This way, Sir Ulick — they are coming,” said Miss Annaly, who had now recovered her presence of mind.

Several persons appeared from a turn in the shrubbery, carrying some one on a hand-barrow — a gentleman on horseback, with a servant and many persons walking. Sir Ulick hastened towards them; the gentleman on horseback spurred his horse and met him.

“Marcus! — is it you? — thank God! But Ormond — where is he, and what has happened?”

The first sound of Marcus’s voice, when he attempted to answer, showed that he was not in a condition to give a rational account of any thing. His servant followed, also much intoxicated. While Sir Ulick had been stopped by their ineffectual attempts to explain, the people who were carrying the man on the hand-barrow came up. Ormond appeared from the midst of them. “Carry him on to the gardener’s house,” cried he, pointing the way, and coming forward to Sir Ulick. “If he dies, I am a murderer!” cried he.

“Who is he?” said Sir Ulick.

“Moriarty Carroll, please your honour,” answered several voices at once.

“And how happened it?” said Sir Ulick.

“The long and the short of it, sir,” said Marcus, as well as he could articulate, “the fellow was insolent, and we cut him down — and if it were to do again, I’d do it again with pleasure.”

“No, no! you won’t say so, Marcus, when you are yourself,” said Ormond. “Oh! how dreadful to come to one’s senses all at once, as I did — the moment after I had fired that fatal shot — the moment I saw the poor fellow stagger and fall —”

“It was you, then, that fired at him,” interrupted Sir Ulick.

“Yes, oh! yes!” said he, striking his forehead: “I did it in the fury of passion.”

Then Ormond, taking all the blame upon himself, and stating what had passed in the strongest light against himself, gave this account of the matter. After having drunk too much at Mr. Cornelius O’Shane’s, they were returning from the Black Islands, and afraid of being late, they were galloping hard, when at a narrow part of the road they were stopped by some cars. Impatient of the delay, they abused the men who were driving them, insisting upon their getting out of the way faster than they could. Moriarty Carroll made some answer, which Marcus said was insolent; and inquiring the man’s name, and hearing it was Carroll, said all the Carrolls were bad people — rebels. Moriarty defied him to prove that— and added some expressions about tyranny, which enraged Ormond. This part of the provocation Ormond did not state, but merely said he was thrown into a passion by some observation of Moriarty’s; and first he lifted his whip to give the fellow a horsewhipping. Moriarty seized hold of the whip, and struggled to wrest it from his hand; Ormond then snatched a pistol from his holster, telling Moriarty he would shoot him, if he did not let the whip go. Moriarty, who was in a passion himself, struggled, still holding the whip. Ormond cocked the pistol, and before he was aware he had done so, the pistol accidentally went off — the ball entered Moriarty’s breast. This happened within a quarter of a mile of Castle Hermitage. The poor fellow bled profusely; and, in assisting to lift him upon the hand-barrow, Ormond was covered with blood, as has been already described.

“Have you sent for a surgeon?” said Sir Ulick, coolly.

“Certainly — sent off a fellow on my own horse directly. Sir, will you come on to the gardener’s house; I want you to see him, to know what you’ll think. If he die, I am a murderer,” repeated Ormond.

This horrible idea so possessed his imagination, that he could not answer or hear any of the farther questions that were asked by Lady O’Shane and Miss Black; but after gazing upon them with unmeaning eyes for a moment in silence, walked rapidly on: as he was passing by the steps of the green-house, he stopped short at the sight of Miss Annaly, who was still sitting there. “What’s the matter?” said he, in a tone of great compassion, going close up to her. Then, recollecting himself, he hurried forward again.

“As I can be of no use — unless I can be of any use,” said Miss Annaly, “I will, now that I am well enough, return — my mother will wonder what has become of me.”

“Sir Ulick, give me the key of the conservatory, to let Miss Annaly into the ball-room.”

“Miss Annaly does not wish to dance any more to-night, I believe,” said Sir Ulick.

“Dance — oh! no.”

“Then, without exciting observation, you can all get in better at the back door of the house, and Miss Annaly can go up the back stairs to Lady Annaly’s room, without meeting any one; and you, Lady O’Shane,” added he, in a low voice, “order up supper, and say nothing of what has passed. Miss Black, you hear what I desire — no gossiping.”

To get to the back door they had to walk round the house, and in their way they passed the gardener’s. The surgeon had just arrived.

“Go on, ladies, pray,” said Sir Ulick; “what stops you?”

“’Tis I stop the way, Sir Ulick,” said Lady O’Shane, “to speak a word to the surgeon. If you find the man in any dangerous way, for pity’s sake don’t let him die at our gardener’s — indeed, the bringing him here at all I think a very strange step and encroachment of Mr. Ormond’s. It will make the whole thing so public — and the people hereabouts are so revengeful — if any thing should happen to him, it will be revenged on our whole family — on Sir Ulick in particular.”

“No danger — nonsense, my dear.”

But now this idea had seized Lady O’Shane, it appeared to her a sufficient reason for desiring to remove the man even this night. She asked why he could not be taken to his own home and his own people; she repeated, that it was very strange of Mr. Ormond to take such liberties, as if every thing about Castle Hermitage was quite at his disposal. One of the men who had carried the hand-barrow, and who was now standing at the gardener’s door, observed, that Moriarty’s people lived five miles off. Ormond, who had gone into the house to the wounded man, being told what Lady O’Shane was saying, came out; she repeated her words as he re-appeared. Naturally of sudden violent temper, and being now in the highest state of suspense and irritation, he broke out, forgetful of all proper respect. Miss Black, who was saying something in corroboration of Lady O’Shane’s opinion, he first attacked, pronouncing her to be an unfeeling, canting hypocrite: then, turning to Lady O’Shane, he said that she might send the dying man away, if she pleased; but that if she did, he would go too, and that never while he existed would he enter her ladyship’s doors again.

Ormond made this threat with the air of a superior to an inferior, totally forgetting his own dependent situation, and the dreadful circumstances in which he now stood.

“You are drunk, young man! My dear Ormond, you don’t know what you are saying,” interposed Sir Ulick.

At his voice, and the kindness of his tone, Ormond recollected himself. “Forgive me,” said he, in a very gentle tone. “My head certainly is not — Oh! may you never feel what I have felt this last hour! If this man die — Oh! consider.”

“He will not die — he will not die, I hope — at any rate, don’t talk so loud within hearing of these people. My dear Lady O’Shane, this foolish boy — this Harry Ormond is, I grant, a sad scapegrace, but you must bear with him for my sake. Let this poor wounded fellow remain here — I won’t have him stirred to-night — we shall see what ought to be done in the morning. Ormond, you forgot yourself strangely towards Lady O’Shane — as to this fellow, don’t make such a rout about the business; I dare say he will do very well: we shall hear what the surgeon says. At first I was horribly frightened — I thought you and Marcus had been quarrelling. Miss Annaly, are not you afraid of staying out? Lady O’Shane, why do you keep Miss Annaly? Let supper go up directly.”

“Supper! ay, every thing goes on as usual,” said Ormond, “and I—”

“I must follow them in, and see how things are going on, and prevent gossiping, for your sake, my boy,” resumed Sir Ulick, after a moment’s pause. “You have got into an ugly scrape. I pity you from my soul — I’m rash myself. Send the surgeon to me when he has seen the fellow. Depend upon me, if the worst come to the worst, there’s nothing in the world I would not do to serve you,” said Sir Ulick: “so keep up your spirits, my boy — we’ll contrive to bring you through — at the worst, it will only be manslaughter.”

Ormond wrung Sir Ulick’s hand — thanked him for his kindness; but repeated, “it will be murder — it will be murder — my own conscience tells me so! If he die, give me up to justice.”

“You’ll think better of it before morning,” said Sir Ulick, as he left Ormond.

The surgeon gave Ormond little comfort. After extracting the bullet, and examining the wound, he shook his head — he had but a bad opinion of the case; and when Ormond took him aside, and questioned him more closely, he confessed that he thought the man would not live — he should not be surprised if he died before morning. The surgeon was obliged to leave him to attend another patient; and Ormond, turning all the other people out of the room, declared he would sit up with Moriarty himself. A terrible night it was to him. To his alarmed and inexperienced eyes the danger seemed even greater than it really was, and several times he thought his patient expiring, when he was faint from loss of blood. The moments in which Ormond was occupied in assisting him were the least painful. It was when he had nothing left to do, when he had leisure to think, that he was most miserable; then the agony of suspense, and the horror of remorse, were felt, till feeling was exhausted; and he would sit motionless and stupified, till he was wakened again from this suspension of thought and feeling by some moan of the poor man, or some delirious startings. Toward morning the wounded man lay easier; and as Ormond was stooping over his bed to see whether he was asleep, Moriarty opened his eyes, and fixing them on Ormond, said, in broken sentences, but so as very distinctly to be understood, “Don’t be in such trouble about the likes of me — I’ll do very well, you’ll see — and even suppose I wouldn’t — not a friend I have shall ever prosecute — I’ll charge ’em not — so be easy — for you’re a good heart — and the pistol went off unknownst to you — I’m sure there was no malice — let that he your comfort. It might happen to any man, let alone gentleman — don’t take on so. Only think of young Mr. Harry sitting up the night with me! — Oh! if you’d go now and settle yourself yonder on t’other bed, sir — I’d be a grate dale asier, and I don’t doubt but I’d get a taste of sleep myself — while now wid you standing over or forenent me, I can’t close an eye for thinking of you, Mr. Harry.”

Ormond immediately threw himself upon the other bed, that he might relieve Moriarty’s feelings. The good nature and generosity of this poor fellow increased Ormond’s keen sense of remorse. As to sleeping, for him it was impossible; whenever his ideas began to fall into that sort of confusion which precedes sleep, suddenly he felt as if his heart were struck or twinged, and he started with the recollection that some dreadful thing had happened, and wakened to the sense of guilt and all its horrors. Moriarty now lying perfectly quiet and motionless, and Ormond not hearing him breathe, he was struck with the dread that he had breathed his last. A cold tremor came over Ormond — he rose in his bed, listening in acute agony, when to his relief he at last distinctly heard Moriarty breathing strongly, and soon afterwards (no music was ever so delightful to Ormond’s ear) heard him begin to breathe loudly, as if asleep. The morning light dawned soon afterwards, and the crowing of a cock was heard, which Ormond feared might waken him; but the poor man slept soundly through all these usual noises: the heaving of the bed-clothes over his breast went on with uninterrupted regularity. The gardener and his wife softly opened the door of the room, to inquire how things were going on; Ormond pointed to the bed, and they nodded, and smiled, and beckoned to him to come out, whispering that a taste of the morning air would do him good. He suffered them to lead him out, for he was afraid of debating the point in the room with the sleeping patient. The good people of the house, who had known Harry Ormond from a child, and who were exceedingly fond of him, as all the poor people in the neighbourhood were, said every thing they could think of upon this occasion to comfort him, and reiterated about a hundred times their prophecies, that Moriarty would be as sound and good a man as ever in a fortnight’s time.

“Sure, when he’d take the soft sleep he couldn’t but do well.”

Then perceiving that Ormond listened to them only with faint attention, the wife whispered to her husband, “Come off to our work, Johnny — he’d like to be alone — he’s not equal to listen to our talk yet — it’s the surgeon must give him hope — and he’ll soon be here, I trust.”

They went to their work, and left Ormond standing in the porch. It was a fine morning — the birds were singing, and the smell of the honeysuckle with which the porch was covered, wafted by the fresh morning air, struck Ormond’s senses, but struck him with melancholy.

“Every thing in nature is cheerful except myself! Every thing in this world going on just the same as it was yesterday — but all changed for me! — within a few short hours — by my own folly, my own madness! Every animal,” thought he, as his attention was caught by the house dog, who was licking his hand, and as his eye fell upon the hen and chickens, who were feeding before the door, “every animal is happy — and innocent! But if this man die — I shall be a murderer.”

This thought, perpetually recurring, so oppressed him, that he stood motionless, till he was roused by the voice of Sir Ulick O’Shane.

“Well, Harry Ormond, how is it with you, my boy? — The fellow’s alive, I hope?”

“Alive — Thank Heaven! — yes; and asleep.”

“Give ye joy — it would have been an ugly thing — not but what we could have brought you through: I’d go through thick and thin, you know, for you, as if it were for my own son. But Lady O’Shane,” said Sir Ulick, changing his tone, and with a face of great concern, “I must talk to you about her — I may as well speak now, since it must be said.”

“I am afraid,” said Ormond, “that I spoke too hastily last night: I beg your pardon.”

“Nay, nay, put me out of the question: you may do what you please with me — always could, from the time you were four years old; but, you know, the more I love any body, the more Lady O’Shane hates them. The fact is,” continued Sir Ulick, rubbing his eyes, “that I have had a weary night of it — Lady O’Shane has been crying and whining in my ears. She says I encourage you in being insolent, and so forth: in short, she cannot endure you in the house any longer. I suspect that sour one” (Sir Ulick, among his intimates, always designated Miss Black in this manner) “puts her up to it. But I will not give up my own boy — I will take it with a high hand. Separations are foolish things, as foolish as marriages; but I’d sooner part with Lady O’Shane at once than let Harry Ormond think I’d forsake him, especially in awkward circumstances.”

“That, Sir Ulick, is what Harry Ormond can never think of you. He would be the basest, the most suspicious, the most ungrateful — But I must not speak so loud,” continued he, lowering his voice, “lest it should waken Moriarty.” Sir Ulick drew him away from the door, for Ormond was cool enough at this moment to have common sense.

“My dear guardian-father, allow me still to call you by that name,” continued Ormond, “believe me, your kindness is too fully — innumerable instances of your affection now press upon me, so that — I can’t express myself; but depend upon it, suspicion of your friendship is the last that could enter my mind: I trust, therefore, you will do me the same sort of justice, and never suppose me capable of ingratitude — though the time is come when we must part.”

Ormond could hardly pronounce the word.

“Part!” repeated Sir Ulick: “no, by all the saints, and all the devils in female form!”

“I am resolved,” said Ormond, “firmly resolved on one point — never to be a cause of unhappiness to one who has been the source of so much happiness to me: I will no more be an object of contention between you and Lady O’Shane. Give her up rather than me — Heaven forbid! I the cause of separation! — never — never! I am determined, let what will become of me, I will no more be an inmate of Castle Hermitage.”

Tears started into Ormond’s eyes; Sir Ulick appeared much affected, and in a state of great embarrassment and indecision.

He could not bear to think of it — he swore it must not be: then he gradually sunk to hoping it was not necessary, and proposing palliatives and half measures. Moriarty must be moved to-day — sent to his own friends. That point he had, for peace sake, conceded to her ladyship, he said; but he should expect, on her part, that after a proper, a decent apology from Ormond, things might still be accommodated and go on smoothly, if that meddling Miss Black would allow them.

In short he managed so, that whilst he confirmed the young man in his resolution to quit Castle Hermitage, he threw all the blame on Lady O’Shane; Ormond never doubting the steadiness of Sir Ulick’s affection, nor suspecting that he had any secret motive for wishing to get rid of him.

“But where can you go, my dear boy? — What will you do with yourself? — What will become of you?”

“Never mind — never mind what becomes of me, my dear sir: I’ll find means — I have the use of head and hands.”

“My cousin, Cornelius O’Shane, he is as fond of you almost as I am, and he is not cursed with a wife, and is blessed with a daughter,” said Sir Ulick, with a sly smile.

“Oh! yes,” continued he, “I see it all now: you have ways and means — I no longer object — I’ll write — no, you’d write better yourself to King Corny, for you are a greater favourite with his majesty than I am. Fare ye well — Heaven bless you! my boy,” said Sir Ulick, with warm emphasis. “Remember, whenever you want supplies, Castle Hermitage is your bank — you know I have a bank at my back (Sir Ulick was joined in a banking-house)’— Castle Hermitage is your bank, and here’s your quarter’s allowance to begin with.”

Sir Ulick put a purse into Ormond’s hand, and left him.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/e/edgeworth/maria/ormond/chapter2.html

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