Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 22.

Upon his arrival at Annaly, Ormond found that Dr. Cambray and all his family were there.

“Yes, all your friends,” said Lady Annaly, as Ormond looked round with pleasure, “all your friends, Mr. Ormond — you must allow me an old right to be of that number — and here is my son, who is as well inclined, as I hope you feel, to pass over the intermediate formality of new acquaintanceship, and to become intimate with you as soon as possible.”

Sir Herbert Annaly confirmed, by the polite cordiality of his manner, all that his mother promised; adding that their mutual friend Dr. Cambray had made him already so fully acquainted with Mr. Ormond, that though he had never had the pleasure of seeing him before, he could not consider him as a stranger.

Florence Annaly was beautiful, but not one of those beauties who strike at first sight. Hers was a face which neither challenged nor sued for admiration. There was no expression thrown into the eyes or the eyebrows, no habitual smile on the lips — the features were all in natural repose; the face never expressed any thing but what the mind really felt. But if any just observation was made in Miss Annaly’s company, any stroke of genius, that countenance instantly kindled into light and life: and if any noble sentiment was expressed, if any generous action was related, then the soul within illumined the countenance with a ray divine. When once Ormond had seen this, his eye returned in hopes of seeing it again — he had an indescribable interest and pleasure in studying a countenance, which seemed so true an index to a noble and cultivated mind, to a heart of delicate, but not morbid sensibility. His manners and understanding had been formed and improved, beyond what could have been expected, from the few opportunities of improvement he had till lately enjoyed. He was timid, however, in conversation with those of whose information and abilities he had a high opinion, so that at first he did not do himself justice; but in his timidity there was no awkwardness; it was joined with such firmness of principle, and such a resolute, manly character, that he was peculiarly engaging to women.

During his first visit at Annaly he pleased much, and was so much pleased with every individual of the family, with their manners, their conversation, their affection for each other, and altogether with their mode of living, that he declared to Dr. Cambray he never had been so happy in his whole existence. It was a remarkable fact, however, that he spoke much more of Lady Annaly and Sir Herbert than of Miss Annaly.

He had never before felt so very unwilling to leave any place, or so exceedingly anxious to be invited to repeat his visit. He did receive the wished-for invitation; and it was given in such a manner as left him no doubt that he might indulge his own ardent desire to return, and to cultivate the friendship of this family. His ardour for foreign travel, his desire to see more of the world, greatly abated; and before he reached Castle Hermitage, and by the time he saw his guardian, he had almost forgotten that Sir Ulick had traced for him a course of travels through the British islands and the most polished parts of the Continent.

He now told Sir Ulick that it was so far advanced in the season, that he thought it better to spend the winter in Ireland.

“In Dublin instead of London?” said Sir Ulick, smiling; “very patriotic, and very kind to me, for I am sure I am your first object; and depend upon it few people, ladies always excepted, will ever like your company better than I do.”

Then Sir Ulick went rapidly over every subject, and every person, that could lead his ward farther to explain his feelings; but now, as usual, he wasted his address, for the ingenuous young man directly opened his whole heart to him.

“I am impatient to tell you, sir,” said he, “how very kindly I was received by Lady Annaly.”

“She is very kind,” said Sir Ulick: “I suppose, in general, you have found yourself pretty well received wherever you have gone — not to flatter you too much on your mental or personal qualifications, and, no disparagement to Dr. Cambray’s letters of introduction or my own, five or six thousand a~year are, I have generally observed, a tolerably good passport into society, a sufficient passe-partout.” “Passe-partout! — not partout— not quite sufficient at Annaly, you cannot mean, sir —”

“Oh! I cannot mean any thing, but that Annaly is altogether the eighth wonder of the world,” said Sir Ulick, “and all the men and women in it absolutely angels — perfect angels.”

“No, sir, if you please, not perfect; for I have heard — though I own I never saw it — that perfection is always stupid: now certainly that the Annalys are not.”

“Well, well, they shall be as imperfect as you like — any thing to please you.”

“But, sir, you used to be so fond of the Annalys. I remember.”

“True, and did I tell you that I had changed my opinion?”

“Your manner, though not your words, tells me so.”

“You mistake: the fact is — for I always treat you, Harry, with perfect candour — I was hurt and vexed by their refusal of my son. But, after all,” added he, with a deep sigh, “it was Marcus’s own fault — he has been very dissipated. Miss Annaly was right, and her mother quite right, I own. Lady Annaly is one of the most respectable women in Ireland — and Miss Annaly is a charming girl — I never saw any girl I should have liked so much for my daughter-in-law. But Marcus and I don’t always agree in our tastes — I don’t think the refusal there, was half as great a mortification and disappointment to him, as it was to me.”

“You delight me, dear sir,” cried Ormond; “for then I may feel secure that if ever in future — I don’t mean in the least that I have any present thought — it would be absurd — it would be ridiculous — it would be quite improper — you know I was only there ten days; but I mean if, in future, I should ever have any thoughts — any serious thoughts —”

“Well, well,” said Sir Ulick, laughing at Ormond’s hesitation and embarrassment, “I can suppose that you will have thoughts of some kind or other, and serious thoughts in due course; but, as you justly observe, it would be quite ridiculous at present.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” interrupted Harry, “but it would even at present be an inexpressible satisfaction to me to know, that if in future such a thing should occur, I should be secure, in the first place, of your approbation.”

“As to that, my dear boy,” said Sir Ulick, “you know in a few days you will be at years of discretion — then my control ceases.”

“Yes, sir; but not my anxiety for your approbation, and my deference for your opinion.”

“Then,” said Sir Ulick, “and without circumlocution or nonsense, I tell you at once, Harry Ormond, that Florence Annaly is the woman in the world I should like best to see your wife.”

“Thank you, sir, for this explicit answer — I am sure towards me nothing can have been more candid and kind than your whole conduct has ever been.”

“That’s true, Harry,” exclaimed Sir Ulick. “Tell me about this duel — you have fought a duel in defence of my conduct and character, I understand, since I saw you. But, my dear fellow, though I am excessively obliged to you, I am exceedingly angry with you: how could you possibly be so hot-heated and silly as to take up any man for relishing the Ulysseana? Bless ye! I relish it myself — I only laugh at such things: believe me, ’tis The best way.”

“I am sure of it, sir, if one can; and, indeed, I have had pretty good proof that one should despise reports and scandal of all kinds — easier for oneself sometimes than for one’s friends.”

“Yes, my dear Ormond, by the time you have been half as long living in the great and the political world as I have been, you will be quite case-hardened, and will hear your friends abused, without feeling it in the least. Believe me, I once was troubled with a great deal of susceptibility like yours — but after all, ’tis no bad thing for you to have fought a duel — a feather in your cap with the ladies, and a warning to all impertinent fellows to let you alone — but you were wounded, the newspaper said — I asked you where, three times in my letters — you never condescended to answer me — answer me now, I insist upon it.”

“In my arm, sir — a slight scratch.”

“Slight scratch or not, I must hear all about it — come, tell me exactly how the thing began and ended — tell me all the rascals said of me. — You won’t? — then I’ll tell you: they said, ‘I am the greatest jobber in Ireland — that I do not mind how I throw away the public money — in short, that I am a sad political profligate.’— Well! well! I am sure, after all, they did me the justice to acknowledge, that in private life no man’s honour is more to be depended on.”

“They did do you that justice, sir,” said Ormond; “but pray ask me no farther questions — for, frankly, it is disagreeable to me — and I will tell you no more.”

“That’s frank,” said Sir Ulick, “and I as frankly assure you I am perfectly satisfied.”

“Then, to return to the Annalys,” said Ormond, “I never saw Sir Herbert till now — I like him — I like his principles — his love of his country — and his attachment to his family.”

“He’s a very fine fellow — no better fellow than Herbert Annaly. But as for his attachment to his family, who thanks him for that? Who could help it, with such a family? And his love for his country — every body loves his country.”

“More or less, I suppose,” said Ormond.

“But, upon my word, I entirely agree with you about Sir Herbert, though I know he is prejudiced against me to the last degree”

“If he be, I don’t know it, sir — I never found it out.”

“He will let it out by and by — I only hope he will not prejudice you against me.”

“That is not very easily done, sir.”

“As you have given some proof, my dear boy, and I thank you for it. But the Annalys would go more cautiously to work — I only put you on your guard — Marcus and Sir Herbert never could hit it off together; and I am afraid the breach between us and the Annalys must he widened, for Marcus must stand against Sir Herbert at the next election, if he live — Pray how is he?”

“Not strong, sir — he has a hectic colour — as I was very sorry to see.”

“Ay, poor fellow — he broke some blood-vessel, I think Marcus told me, when they were in England.”

“Yes, sir — so Lady Annaly told me — it was in over-exerting himself to extinguish a fire.”

“A very fine spirited fellow he is, no doubt,” said Sir Ulick; “but, after all, that was rather a foolish thing, in his state of health. By-the-by, as your guardian, it is my duty to explain the circumstances of this family — in case you should hereafter have any serious thoughts; as you say, you should know what comforted Marcus in his disappointment there. There is, then, some confounded flaw in that old father’s will, through which the great Herbert estate slips to an heir-at-law, who has started up within this twelvemonth. Miss Annaly, who was to have been a nonpareil of an heiress in case of the brother’s death, will have but a moderate fortune; and the poor dowager will be but scantily provided for, after all the magnificence which she has been used to, unless he lives to make up something handsome for them. I don’t know the particulars, but I know that a vast deal depends on his living till he has levied certain fines, which he ought to have levied, instead of amusing himself putting out other people’s fires. But I am excessively anxious about it, and now on your account as well as theirs; for it would make a great difference to you, if you seriously have any thoughts of Miss Annaly.”

Ormond declared this could make no difference to him, since his own fortune would be sufficient for all the wishes of such a woman as he supposed Miss Annaly to be. The next day Marcus O’Shane arrived from England. This was the first time that Ormond and he had met since the affair of Moriarty, and the banishment from Castle Hermitage. The meeting was awkward enough, notwithstanding Sir Ulick’s attempts to make it otherwise: Marcus laboured under the double consciousness of having deserted Harry in past adversity, and of being jealous of his present prosperity. Ormond at first went forward to meet him more than half way with great cordiality, but the cold politeness of Marcus chilled him; and the heartless congratulations, and frequent allusions in the course of the first hour, to Ormond’s new fortune and consequence, offended our young hero’s pride. He grew more reserved, the more complimentary Marcus became, especially as in all his compliments there was a mixture of persiflage, which Marcus supposed, erroneously, that Ormond’s untutored, unpractised ear would not perceive.

Harry sat silent, proudly indignant. He valued himself on being something, and somebody, independently of his fortune — he had worked hard to become so — he had the consciousness about him of tried integrity, resolution, and virtue; and was it to be implied that he was somebody, only in consequence of his having chanced to become heir to so many thousands a year? Sir Ulick, whose address was equal to most occasions, was not able to manage so as to make these young men like one another. Marcus had an old jealousy of Harry’s favour with his father, of his father’s affection for Harry: and at the present moment, he was conscious that his father was with just cause much displeased with him. Of this Harry knew nothing, but Marcus suspected that his father had told Ormond every thing, and this increased the awkwardness and ill-humour that Marcus felt; and notwithstanding all his knowledge of the world, and conventional politeness, he showed his vexation in no very well-bred manner. He was now in particularly bad humour, in consequence of a scrape, as he called it, which he had got into, during his last winter in London, respecting an intrigue with a married lady of rank. Marcus, by some intemperate expressions, had brought on the discovery, of which, when it was too late, he repented. A public trial was likely to be the consequence — the damages would doubtless be laid at the least at ten thousand pounds. Marcus, however, counting, as sons sometimes do in calculating their father’s fortune, all the credit, and knowing nothing of the debtor side of the account, conceived his father’s wealth to be inexhaustible. Lady O’Shane’s large fortune had cleared off all debts, and had set Sir Ulick up in a bank, which was in high credit; then he had shares in a canal and in a silver mine — he held two lucrative sinecure places — and had bought estates in three counties: but the son did not know, that for the borrowed purchase-money of two of the estates Sir Ulick was now paying high and accumulating interest; so that the prospect of being called upon for ten thousand pounds was most alarming. In this exigency Sir Ulick, who had long foreseen how the affair was likely to terminate, had his eye upon his ward’s ready money. It was for this he had been at such peculiar pains to ingratiate himself with Ormond. Affection, nevertheless, made him hesitate; he was unwilling to injure or to hazard his property — very unwilling to prey upon his generosity — still more so after the late handsome manner in which Ormond had hazarded his life in defence of his guardian’s honour.

Sir Ulick, who perceived the first evening that Marcus and Ormond met, that the former was not going the way to assist these views, pointed out to him how much it was for his interest to conciliate Ormond, and to establish himself in his good opinion; but Marcus, though he saw and acknowledged this, could not submit his pride and temper to the necessary restraint. For a few hours he would display his hereditary talents, and all his acquired graces; but the next hour his ill-humour would break out towards his inferiors, his father’s tenants and dependents, in a way which Ormond’s generous spirit could not bear. Before he went to England, even from his boyish days, his manners had been habitually haughty and tyrannical to the lower class of people. Ormond and he had always differed and often quarrelled on this subject. Ormond hoped to find his manners altered in this respect by his residence in a more polished country. But the external polish he had acquired had not reached the mind: high-bred society had taught him only to be polite to his equals; he was now still more disposed to be insolent to his inferiors, especially to his Irish inferiors. He affected to consider himself as more than half an Englishman; and returning from London in all the distress and disgrace to which he had reduced himself by criminal indulgence in the vices of fashionable, and what he called refined, society, he vented his ill-humour on the poor Irish peasants — the natives, as he termed them in derision. He spoke to them as if they were slaves — he considered them as savages. Marcus had, early in life, almost before he knew the real distinctions, or more than the names of the different parties in Ireland, been a strong party man. He called himself a government man; but he was one of those partisans, whom every wise and good administration in Ireland has discountenanced and disclaimed. He was, in short, one of those who make their politics an excuse to their conscience for the indulgence of a violent temper.

Ormond was indignant at the inveterate prejudice that Marcus showed against a poor man, whom he had injured, but who had never injured him. The moment Marcus saw Moriarty Carroll again, and heard his name mentioned, he exclaimed and reiterated, “That’s a bad fellow — I know him of old — all those Carrolls are rascals and rebels.”

Marcus looked with a sort of disdainful spleen at the house which Ormond had fitted up for Moriarty.

“So, you stick to this fellow still! — What a dupe, Ormond, this Moriarty has made of you!” said Marcus; “but that’s not my affair. I only wonder how you wheedled my father out of the ground for the garden here.”

“There was no wheedling in the case,” said Ormond: “your father gave it freely, or I should not have accepted it.”

“You were very good to accept it, no doubt,” said Marcus, in an ironical tone: “I know I have asked my father for a garden to a cottage before now, and have been refused.”

Sir Ulick came up just as this was said, and, alarmed at the tone of voice, used all his address to bring his son back to good temper; and he might have succeeded, but that Peggy Carroll chanced to appear at that instant.

“Who is that?” cried Marcus —“Peggy Sheridan, as I live! is it not?”

“No, please your honour, but Peggy Sheridan that was — Peggy Carroll that is,” said Peggy, curtsying, with a slight blush, and an arch smile.

“So, you have married that Moriarty at last.”

“I have, please your honour — he is a very honest boy — and I’m very happy — if your honour’s pleased.”

“Who persuaded your father to this, pray, contrary to my advice?”

“Nobody at all, plase your honour,” said Peggy, looking frightened.

“Why do you say that, Peggy,” said Ormond, “when you know it was I who persuaded your father to give his consent to your marriage with Moriarty?”

“You! Mr. Ormond! — Oh, I comprehend it all now,” said Marcus, with his sneering look and tone: “no doubt you had good reasons.”

Poor Peggy blushed the deepest crimson.

“I understand it all now,” said Marcus —“I understand you now, Harry.”

Ormond’s anger rose, and with a look of high disdain, he replied, “You understand me, now! No, nor ever will, nor ever can. Our minds are unintelligible to each other.”

Then turning from him, Ormond walked away with indignant speed.

“Peggy, don’t I see something like a cow yonder, getting her bread at my expense?” said Sir Ulick, directing Peggy’s eye to a gap in the hedge by the road-side. “Whose cow is that at the top of the ditch, half through my hedge?”

“I can’t say, please your honour,” said Peggy, “if it wouldn’t be Paddy M’Grath’s — Betty M’Gregor!” cried she, calling to a bare-footed girl, “whose cow is yonder?”

“Oh, marcy! but if it isn’t our own red rogue — and when I tied her legs three times myself, the day!” said the girl, running to drive away the cow.

“Oh! she strays and trespasses strangely, the red cow, for want of the little spot your honour promised her,” said Peggy.

“Well, run and save my hedge from her now, my pretty Peggy, and I will find the little spot for her to-morrow,” said Sir Ulick.

Away ran Peggy after the cow — while lowering Marcus cursed them all three. Pretty Peg he swore ought to be banished the estate — the cow ought to be hamstrung instead of having a spot promised her; “but this is the way, sir, you ruin the country and the people,” said he to his father.

“Be that as it may, I do not ruin myself as you do, Marcus,” replied the cool Sir Ulick. “Never mind the cow — nonsense! I am not thinking of a cow.”

“Nor I neither, sir.”

“Then follow Harry Ormond directly, and make him understand that he misunderstood you,” said Sir Ulick.

“Excuse me, sir — I cannot bend to him,” said Marcus.

“And you expect that he will lend you ten thousand pounds at your utmost need?”

“The money, with your estate, can be easily raised elsewhere, sir,” said Marcus.

“I tell you it cannot, sir,” said the father.

“I cannot bend to Ormond, sir: to any body but him — any thing but that — my pride cannot stoop to that.”

“Your pride! —‘pride that licks the dust,’” thought Sir Ulick. It was in vain for the politic father to remonstrate with the headstrong son. The whole train which Sir Ulick had laid with so much skill, was, he feared, at the moment when his own delicate hand was just preparing to give the effective touch, blown up by the rude impatience of his son. Sir Ulick, however, never lost time or opportunity in vain regret for the past. Even in the moment of disappointment, he looked to the future. He saw the danger of keeping two young men together, who had such incompatible tempers and characters. He was, therefore, glad when he met Ormond again, to hear him propose his returning to Annaly, and he instantly acceded to the proposal.

“Castle Hermitage, I know, my dear boy, cannot be as pleasant to you just now, as I could wish to make it: we have nobody here now, and Marcus is not all I could wish him,” said Sir Ulick, with a sigh. “He had always a jealousy of my affection for you, Harry — it cannot be helped — we do not choose our own children — but we must abide by them — you must perceive that things are not going on quite rightly between my son and me.”

“I am sorry for it, sir; especially as I am convinced I can do no good, and therefore wish not to interfere.”

“I believe you are right — though I part from you with regret.”

“I shall be within your reach, sir, you know: whenever you wish for me, if ever I can be of the least use to you, summon me, and I am at your orders.”

“Thank you! but stay one moment,” said Sir Ulick, with a sudden look of recollection: “you will be of age in a few days, Harry — we ought to settle accounts, should not we?”

“Whenever you please, sir — no hurry on my part — but you have advanced me a great deal of money lately — I ought to settle that.”

“Oh, as to that — a mere trifle. If you are in no hurry, I am in none; for I shall have business enough on my hands during these few days, before Lady Norton fills the house again with company — I am certainly a little hurried now.”

“Then, sir, do not think of my business — I cannot be better off, you know, than I am — I assure you I am sensible of that. Never mind the accounts — only send for me whenever I can be of any use or pleasure to you. I need not make speeches: I trust, my dear guardian — my father, when I was left fatherless — I trust you believe I have some gratitude in me.”

“I do,” cried Sir Ulick, much moved; “and, by Heaven, it is impossible to — I mean — in short, it is impossible not to love you, Harry Ormond.”

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