Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 26.

Though Sir Ulick O’Shane contrived to laugh on most occasions where other people would have wept, and though he had pretty well case-hardened his heart, yet he was shocked by the first news of the death of Sir Herbert Annaly. He knew the man must die, he said — so must we all, sooner or later — but for the manner of his death, Sir Ulick could not help feeling a secret pang. He felt conscious of having encouraged, or at least connived at, the practices of those wretches who had roused the generous and just indignation of Sir Herbert, and in pursuit of whom this fine young man had fallen a sacrifice.

Not only the “still small voice,” but the cry of the country, was against Sir Ulick on this occasion. He saw that he must give up the offenders, and show decidedly that he desired to have them punished. Decidedly, then, and easily, as ever prince abandoned secretary or chancellor to save his own popularity, quickly as ever grand seignior gave up grand vizier or chief baker to appease the people, Sir Ulick gave up his “honest rascals,” his “rare rapparees,” and even his “wrecker royal.” Sir Ulick set his magistrate, Mr. M’Crule, at work for once on the side both of justice and law; warrants, committals, and constables, cleared the land. Many fled — a few were seized, escorted ostentatiously by a serjeant and twelve of Sir Ulick’s corps, and lodged in the county jail to stand their trial, bereft of all favour and purtection, bonâ fide delivered up to justice.

A considerable tract of Sir Ulick’s coast estate, in consequence of this, remained untenanted. Some person in whom he could confide must be selected to inhabit the fishing-lodge, and to take care of the cabins and land till they should be relet. Sir Ulick pitched upon Moriarty Carroll for this purpose, and promised him such liberal reward, that all Moriarty’s friends congratulated him upon his “great luck in getting the appointment, against the man, too, that Mr. Marcus had proposed and favoured.”

Marcus, who was jealous in the extreme of power, and who made every trifle a matter of party competition, was vexed at the preference given against an honest man and a friend of his own, in favour of Moriarty, a catholic; a fellow he had always disliked, and a protege of Mr. Ormond. Ormond, though obliged to Sir Ulick for this kindness to Moriarty, was too intent on other things to think much about the matter. When he should see Florence Annaly again, seemed to him the only question in the universe of great importance.

Just at this time arrived letters for Mr. Ormond, from Paris, from M. and Mad. de Connal; very kind letters, with pressing invitations to him to pay them a visit. M. de Connal informed him, “that the five hundred pounds, King Corny’s legacy, was ready waiting his orders. M. de Connal hoped to put it into Mr. Ormond’s hands in Paris in his own hotel, where he trusted that Mr. Ormond would do him the pleasure of soon occupying the apartments which were preparing for him.” It did not clearly appear whether they had or had not heard of his accession of fortune. Dora’s letter was not from Dora— it was from Mad. de Connal. It was on green paper, with a border of Cupids and roses, and store of sentimental devices in the corners. The turn of every phrase, the style, as far as Ormond could judge, was quite French — aiming evidently at being perfectly Parisian. Yet it was a letter so flattering to the vanity of man as might well incline him to excuse the vanity of woman. “Besides,” as Sir Ulick O’Shane observed, “after making due deductions for French sentiment, there remains enough to satisfy an honest English heart that the lady really desires to see you, Ormond; and that now, in the midst of her Parisian prosperity, she has the grace to wish to show kindness to her father’s adopted son, and to the companion and friend of her childhood.” Sir Ulick was of opinion that Ormond could not do better than accept the invitation. Ormond was surprised, for he well recollected the manner in which his guardian had formerly, and not many months ago, written and spoken of Connal as a coxcomb and something worse.

“That is true,” said Sir Ulick; “but that was when I was angry about your legacy, which was of great consequence to us then, though of none now — I certainly did suspect the man of a design to cheat you; but it is clear that I was wrong — I am ready candidly to acknowledge that I did him injustice. Your money is at your order — and I have nothing to say, but to beg M. de Connal ten thousand French pardons. Observe, I do not beg pardon for calling him a coxcomb, for a coxcomb he certainly is.”

“An insufferable coxcomb!” cried Ormond.

“But a coxcomb in fashion,” said Sir Ulick; “and a coxcomb in fashion is a useful connexion. He did not fable about Versailles — I have made particular inquiries from our ambassador at Paris, and he writes me word that Connal is often at court —en bonne odeur at Versailles. The ambassador says he meets the Connals every where in the first circles — how they came there I don’t know.”

“I am glad to hear that, for Dora’s sake,” said Ormond.

“I always thought her a sweet, pretty little creature,” said Sir Ulick, “and no doubt she has been polished up; and dress and fashion make such a difference in a woman — I suppose she is now ten times better — that is, prettier: she will introduce you at Paris, and your own merit— that is, manners, and figure, and fortune — will make your way every where. By-the-bye, I do not see a word about poor Mademoiselle — Oh, yes! here is a Line squeezed in at the edge —‘Mille tendres souvenirs de la part de Mdlle. O’Faley.’”

“Poor Mademoiselle!”

“Poor Mademoiselle!” repeated Sir Ulick.

“Do you mean that thing half Irish, half French, half mud, half tinsel?” said Ormond.

“Very good memory! very sly, Harry! But still in the Irish half of her I dare say there is a heart; and we must allow her the tinsel, in pure gratitude, for having taught you to speak French so well — that will be a real advantage to you in Paris.”

“Whenever I go there, sir,” said Ormond, coldly.

Sir Ulick was very much disappointed at perceiving that Ormond had no mind to go to Paris; but dropping the subject, he turned the conversation upon the Annalys: he praised Florence to the skies, hoped that Ormond would be more fortunate than Marcus had been, for somehow or other, he should never live or die in peace till Florence Annaly was more nearly connected with him. He regretted, however, that poor Sir Herbert was carried off before he had completed the levying of those fines, which would have cut off the entail, and barred the heir-at-law from the Herbert estates. Florence was not now the great heiress it was once expected she should be; indeed she had but a moderate gentlewoman’s fortune — not even what at Smithfield a man of Ormond’s fortune might expect; but Sir Ulick knew, he said, that this would make no difference to his ward, unless to make him in greater impatience to propose for her.

It was impossible to be in greater impatience to propose for her than Ormond was. Sir Ulick did not wonder at it; but he thought that Miss Annaly would not, could not, listen to him yet. Time, the comforter, must come first; and while time was doing this business, love could not decently be admitted.

“That was the reason,” said Ulick, returning by another road to the charge, “why I advised a trip to Paris; but you know best.”

“I cannot bear this suspense — I must and will know my fate — I will write instantly, and obtain an answer.”

“Do so; and to save time, I can tell what your fate and your answer will be: from Florence Annaly, assurance of perfect esteem and regard, as far as friendship, perhaps; but she will tell you that she cannot think of love at present. Lady Annaly, prudent Lady Annaly, will say that she hopes Mr. Ormond will not think of settling for life till he has seen something more of the world. Well, you don’t believe me,” said Sir Ulick, interrupting himself just at the moment when he saw that Ormond began to think there was some sense in what he was saying.

“If you don’t believe me, Harry,” continued he, “consult your oracle, Dr. Cambray: he has just returned from Annaly, and he can tell you how the land lies.”

Dr. Cambray agreed with Sir Ulick that both Lady Annaly and her daughter would desire that Ormond should see more of the world before he settled for life; but as to going off to Paris, without waiting to see or write to them, Dr. Cambray agreed with Ormond that it would be the worst thing he could do — that so far from appearing a proof of his respect to their grief, it would only seem a proof of indifference, or a sign of impatience: they would conclude that he was in haste to leave his friends in adversity, to go to those in prosperity, and to enjoy the gaiety and dissipation of Paris. Dr. Cambray advised that he should remain quietly where he was, and wait till Miss Annaly should be disposed to see him. This was most prudent, Ormond allowed. “But then the delay!” To conquer by delay we must begin by conquering our impatience: now that was what our hero could not possibly do — therefore he jumped hastily to this conclusion, that “in love affairs no man should follow any mortal’s opinion but his own.”

Accordingly he sat down and wrote to Miss Annaly a most passionate letter, enclosed in a most dutiful one to Lady Annaly, as full of respectful attachment and entire obedience, as a son-in-law expectant could devise — beginning very properly and very sincerely, with anxiety and hopes about her ladyship’s health, and ending, as properly, and as sincerely, with hopes that her ladyship would permit him, as soon as possible, to take from her the greatest, the only remaining source of happiness she had in life — her daughter.

Having worded this very plausibly — for he had now learned how to write a letter — our hero despatched a servant of Sir Ulick’s with his epistle; ordering him to wait certainly for an answer, but above all things to make haste back. Accordingly the man took a cross road — a short cut, and coming to a bridge, which he did not know was broken down till he was close upon it, he was obliged to return and to go round, and did not get home till long after dark — and the only answer he brought was, that there was no answer — only Lady Annaly’s compliments.

Ormond could scarcely believe that no answer had been sent; but the man took all the saints in heaven, or in the calendar, to witness, that he would not tell his honour, or any jantleman, a lie.

Upon a cross-examination, the man gave proof that he had actually seen both the ladies. They were sitting so and so, and dressed so and so, in mourning. Farther, he gave undeniable proof that he had delivered the letters, and that they had been opened and read; for —by the same token— he was summoned up to my lady on account of one of Mr. Ormond’s letters, he did not know which, or to who, being dated Monday, whereas it was Wednesday; and he had to clear himself of having been three days on the road.

Ormond, inordinately impatient, could not rest a moment. The next morning he set off at full speed for Annaly, determined to find out what was the matter.

Arrived there, a new footman came to the door with “Not at home, sir.” Ormond could have knocked him down, but he contented himself with striking his own forehead — however, in a genteel proper voice, he desired to see Sir Herbert’s own man, O’Reilly.

“Mr. O’Reilly is not here, sir — absent on business.”

Every thing was adverse. Ormond had one hope, that this new fellow, not knowing him, might by mistake have included him in a general order against morning visitors.

“My name is Ormond, sir.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And I beg you will let Lady Annaly and Miss Annaly know that Mr. Ormond is come to pay his respects to them.”

The man seemed very unwilling to carry any message to his ladies. “He was sure,” he said, “that the ladies would not see anybody.”

“Was Lady Annaly ill?”

“Her ladyship had been but poorly, but was better within the last two days.”

“And Miss Annaly?”

“Wonderful better, too, sir; has got up her spirits greatly to-day.”

“I am very glad to hear it,” said Ormond. “Pray, sir, can you tell me whether a servant from Mr. Ormond brought a letter here yesterday?”

“He did, sir.”

“And was there any answer sent?”

“I really can’t say, sir.”

“Be so good to take my name to your lady,” repeated Ormond.

“Indeed, sir, I don’t like to go in, for I know my lady — both my ladies is engaged, very particularly engaged — however, if you very positively desire it, sir —”

Ormond did very positively desire it, and the footman obeyed. While Ormond was waiting impatiently for the answer, his horse, as impatient as himself, would not stand still. A groom, who was sauntering about, saw the uneasiness of the horse, and observing that it was occasioned by a peacock, who, with spread tail, was strutting in the sunshine, he ran and chased the bird away. Ormond thanked the groom, and threw him a luck token; but not recollecting his face, asked how long he had been at Annaly. “I think you were not here when I was here last?” said Ormond.

“No, sir.” said the man, looking a little puzzled; “I never was here till the day before yesterday in my born days. We bees from England.”

“We!”

“That is, I and master — that is, master and I.” Ormond grew pale; but the groom saw nothing of it — his eyes had fixed upon Ormond’s horse.

“A very fine horse this of yours, sir, for sartain, if he could but stand, sir; he’s main restless at a door. My master’s horse is just his match for that.”

“And pray who is your master, sir?” said Ormond, in a voice which he forced to be calm.

“My master, sir, is one Colonel Albemarle, son of the famous General Albemarle, as lost his arm, sir, you might have heard talk of, time back,” said the groom.

At this moment a window-blind was flapped aside, and before the wind blew it back to its place again, Ormond saw Florence Annaly sitting on a sofa, and a gentleman, in regimentals, kneeling at her feet.

“Bless my eyes!” cried the groom, “what made you let go his bridle, sir? Only you sat him well, sir, he would ha’ thrown you that minute — Curse the blind! that flapped in his eyes.”

The footman re-appeared on the steps. “Sir, it is just as I said — I could not be let in. Mrs. Spencer, my lady’s woman, says the ladies is engaged — you can’t see them.”

Ormond had seen enough.

“Very well, sir,” said he —“Mr. Ormond’s compliments — he called, that’s all.”

Ormond put spurs to his horse, and galloped off; and, fast as he went, he urged his horse still faster.

In the agony of disappointed love and jealousy, he railed bitterly against the whole sex, and against Florence Annaly in particular. Many were the rash vows he made that he would never think of her more — that he would tear her from his heart — that he would show her that he was no whining lover, no easy dupe, to be whiffled off and on, the sport of a coquette.

“A coquette! — is it possible, Florence Annaly? —You— and after all!”

Certain tender recollections obtruded; but he repelled them — he would not allow one of them to mitigate his rage. His naturally violent passion of anger, now that it broke again from the control of his reason, seemed the more ungovernable from the sense of past and the dread of future restraint.

So, when a horse naturally violent, and half trained to the curb, takes fright, or takes offence, and, starting, throws his master, away he gallops; enraged the more by the falling bridle, he rears, plunges, curvets, and lashes out behind at broken girth or imaginary pursuer.

“Good Heavens! what is the matter with you, my dear boy? — what has happened?” cried Sir Ulick, the moment he saw him; for the disorder of Ormond’s mind appeared strongly in his face and gestures — still more strongly in his words.

When he attempted to give an account of what had happened, it was so broken, so exclamatory, that it was wonderful how Sir Ulick made out the plain fact. Sir Ulick, however, well understood the short-hand language of the passions: he listened with eager interest — he sympathized so fully with Ormond’s feelings — expressed such astonishment, such indignation, that Harry, feeling him to be his warm friend, loved him as heartily as in the days of his childhood.

Sir Ulick saw and seized the advantage: he had almost despaired of accomplishing his purpose — now was the critical instant.

“Harry Ormond,” said he, “would you make Florence Annaly feel to the quick — would you make her repent in sackcloth and ashes — would you make her pine for you, ay! till her very heart is sick?”

“Would I? to be sure — show me how! — only show me how!” cried Ormond.

“Look ye, Harry! to have and to hold a woman — trust me, for I have had and held many — to have and to hold a woman, you must first show her that you can, if you will, fling her from you — ay! and leave her there: set off for Paris to-morrow morning — my life upon it, the moment she hears you are gone, she will wish you back again!”

“I’ll set off to-night,” said Ormond, ringing the bell to give orders to his servant to prepare immediately for his departure.

Thus Sir Ulick, seizing precisely the moment when Ormond’s mind was at the right heat, aiming with dexterity and striking with force, bent and moulded him to his purpose.

While preparations for Ormond’s journey were making, Sir Ulick said that there was one thing he must insist upon his doing before he quitted Castle Hermitage — he must look over and settle his guardianship accounts.

Ormond, whose head was far from business at this moment, was very reluctant: he said that the accounts could wait till he should return from France; but Sir Ulick observed that if he, or if Ormond were to die, leaving the thing unsettled, it would be loss of property to the one, and loss of credit to the other. Ormond then begged that the accounts might be sent after him to Paris; he would look over them there at leisure, and sign them. No, Sir Ulick said, they ought to be signed by some forthcoming witness in this country. He urged it so much, and put it upon the footing of his own credit and honour in such a manner, that Ormond could not refuse. He seized the papers, and took a pen to sign them; but Sir Ulick snatched the pen from his hand, and absolutely insisted upon his first knowing what he was going to sign.

“The whole account could have been looked over while we have been talking about it,” said Sir Ulick.

Ormond sat down and looked it over, examined all the vouchers, saw that every thing was perfectly right and fair, signed the accounts, and esteemed Sir Ulick the more for having insisted upon showing, and proving that all was exact.

Sir Ulick offered to manage his affairs for him while he was away, particularly a large sum which Ormond had in the English funds. Sir Ulick had a banker and a broker in London, on whom he could depend, and he had, from his place and connexions, means of obtaining good information in public affairs; he had made a great deal himself by speculations in the funds, and he could buy in and sell out to great advantage, he said, for Ormond. But for this purpose a power of attorney was necessary to be given by Ormond to Sir Ulick.

There was scarcely time to draw one up, nor was Sir Ulick sure that there was a printed form in the house. Luckily, however, a proper power was found, and filled up, and Ormond had just time to sign it before he stepped into the carriage: he embraced his guardian, and thanked him heartily for his care of the interests of his purse, and still more for the sympathy he had shown in the interests of his heart. Sir Ulick was moved at parting with him, and this struck Harry the more, because he certainly struggled to suppress his feelings. Ormond stopped at Vicar’s Dale to tell Dr. Cambray all that had happened, to thank him and his family for their kindness, and to take leave of them.

They were indeed astonished when he entered, saying, “Any commands, my good friends, for London or Paris? I am on my way there — carriage at the door.”

At first they could not believe him to be serious; but when they heard his story, and saw by the agitation of his manner that he was in earnest, they were still more surprised at the suddenness of his determination. They all believed and represented to him that there must be some mistake, and that he was not cool enough to judge sanely at this moment.

Dr. Cambray observed that Miss Annaly could not prevent any man from kneeling to her. Ormond haughtily said, “He did not know what she could prevent, he only knew what she did. She had not vouchsafed an answer to his letter — she had not admitted him. These he thought were sufficient indications that the person at her feet was accepted. Whether he were or not, Ormond would inquire no further. She might now accept or refuse, as she pleased — he would go to Paris.”

His friends had nothing more to say or to do, but to sigh, and to wish him a good journey, and much pleasure at Paris.

Ormond now requested that Dr. Cambray would have the goodness to write to him from time to time, to inform him of whatever he might wish to know during his absence. He was much mortified to hear from the doctor that he was obliged to proceed, with his family, for some months, to a distant part of the north of England; and that, as to the Annalys, they were immediately removing to the sea-coast of Devonshire, for the benefit of a mild climate and of sea-bathing. Ormond, therefore, had no resource but in his guardian. Sir Ulick’s affairs, however, were to take him over to London, from whence Ormond could not expect much satisfactory intelligence with respect to Ireland.

Ormond flew to Dublin, crossed the channel in an express boat, travelled night and day in the mail to London, from thence to Dover — crossed the water in a storm, and travelled with the utmost expedition to Paris, though there was no one reason why he should be in haste; and for so much, his travelling was as little profitable or amusing as possible. He saw, heard, and understood nothing, till he reached Paris.

It has been said that the traveller without sensibility may travel from Dan to Beersheba, without finding any thing worth seeing. The traveller who has too much sensibility often observes as little — of this all persons must be sensible, who have ever travelled when their minds were engrossed with painful feelings, or possessed by any strong passion.

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