Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 31.

Ormond was wakened at the proper hour — went immediately to ——‘s bank. It was but just open, and beginning to do business. He had never been there before — his person was not known to any of the firm. He entered a long narrow room, so dark at the entrance from the street that he could at first scarcely see what was on either side of him — a clerk from some obscure nook, and from a desk higher than himself, put out his head, with a long pen behind his ear, and looked at Ormond as he came in. “Pray, sir, am I right? — Is this Mr. ——‘s bank?”

“Yes, sir.”

With mercantile economy of words, and a motion of his head, the clerk pointed out to Ormond the way he should go — and continued casting up his books. Ormond walked down the narrow aisle, and it became light as he advanced towards a large window at the farther end, before which three clerks sat at a table opposite to him. A person stood with his back to Ormond, and was speaking earnestly to one of the clerks, who leaned over the table listening. Just as Ormond came up he heard his own name mentioned — he recollected the voice — he recollected the back of the figure — the very bottle-green coat — it was Patrickson — Ormond stood still behind him, and waited to hear what was going on.

“Sir,” said the clerk, “it is a very sudden order for a very large sum.”

“True, sir — but you see my power — you know Mr. Ormond’s handwriting, and you know Sir Ulick O’Shane’s —”

“Mr. James,” said the principal clerk, turning to one of the others, “be so good to hand me the letters we have of Mr. Ormond. As we have never seen the gentleman sign his name, sir, it is necessary that we should be more particular in comparing.”

“Oh! sir, no doubt — compare as much as you please — no doubt people cannot be too exact and deliberate in doing business.”

“It certainly is his signature,” said the clerk.

“I witnessed the paper,” said Patrickson.

“Sir, I don’t dispute it,” replied the clerk; “but you cannot blame us for being cautious when such a very large sum is in question, and when we have no letter of advice from the gentleman.”

“But I tell you I come straight from Mr. Ormond; I saw him last Tuesday at Paris —”

“And you see him now, sir,” said Ormond, advancing.

Patrickson’s countenance changed beyond all power of control.

“Mr. Ormond! — I thought you were at Paris.”

“Mr. Patrickson! — I thought you were at Havre de Grace — what brought you here so suddenly?”

“I acted for another,” hesitated Patrickson: “I therefore made no delay.”

“And, thank Heaven!” said Ormond, “I have acted for myself! — but just in time! — Sir,” continued he, addressing himself to the principal clerk, “Gentlemen, I have to return you my thanks for your caution — it has actually saved me from ruin — for I understand —”

Ormond suddenly stopped, recollecting that he might injure Sir Ulick O’Shane essentially by a premature disclosure, or by repeating a report which might he ill-founded.

He turned again to speak to Patrickson, but Patrickson had disappeared.

Then continuing to address himself to the clerks. “Gentlemen,” said Ormond, speaking carefully, “have you heard any thing of or from Sir Ulick O’Shane lately, except what you may have heard from this Mr. Patrickson?”

“Not from but of Sir Ulick O’Shane we heard from our Dublin correspondent — in due course we have heard,” replied the head clerk. “Too true, I am afraid, sir, that his bank had come to paying in sixpences on Saturday.”

The second clerk seeing great concern in Ormond’s countenance, added, “But Sunday, you know, is in their favour, sir; and Monday and Tuesday are holidays: so they may stand the run, and recover yet.”

With the help of this gentleman’s thirty thousand, they might have recovered, perhaps — but Mr. Ormond would scarcely have recovered it.

As to the ten thousand pounds in the Three per Cents., of which Sir Ulick had obtained possession a month ago, that was irrecoverable, if his bank should break —“If.”— The clerks all spoke with due caution; but their opinion was sufficiently plain. They were honestly indignant against the guardian who had thus attempted to ruin his ward.

Though almost stunned and breathless with the sense of the danger he had so narrowly escaped, yet Ormond’s instinct of generosity, if we may use the expression, and his gratitude for early kindness, operated; he would not believe that Sir Ulick had been guilty of a deliberate desire to injure him. At all events, he determined that, instead of returning to France, as he had intended, he would go immediately to Ireland, and try if it were possible to assist Sir Ulick, without materially injuring himself.

Having ordered horses, he made inquiry wherever he thought he might obtain information with respect to the Annalys. All that he could learn was, that they were at some sea-bathing place in the south of England, and that Miss Annaly was still unmarried. A ray of hope darted into the mind of our hero — and he began his journey to Ireland with feelings which every good and generous mind will know how to appreciate.

He had escaped at Paris from a temptation which it was scarcely possible to resist. He had by decision and activity preserved his fortune from ruin — he had under his protection an humble friend, whom he had saved from banishment and disgrace, and whom he hoped to restore to his wretched wife and family. Forgetful of the designs that had been meditated against him by his guardian, to whose necessities he attributed his late conduct, he hastened to his immediate assistance; determined to do every thing in his power to save Sir Ulick from ruin, if his difficulties arose from misfortune, and not from criminality: if, on the contrary, he should find that Sir Ulick was fraudulently a bankrupt, he determined to quit Ireland immediately, and to resume his scheme of foreign travel.

The system of posting had at this time been carried to the highest perfection in England. It was the amusement and the fashion of the time, to squander large sums in hurrying from place to place, without any immediate motive for arriving at the end of a journey, but that of having the satisfaction of boasting in what a short time it had been performed; or, as it is expressed in one of our comedies, “to enter London like a meteor, with a prodigious tail of dust.”

Moriarty Carroll, who was perched upon the box with Ormond’s servant, made excellent observations wherever he went. His English companion could not comprehend how a man of common sense could be ignorant of various things, which excited the wonder and curiosity of Moriarty. Afterwards, however, when they travelled in Ireland, Moriarty had as much reason to be surprised at the impression which Irish manners and customs made upon his companion. After a rapid journey to Holyhead, our hero found to his mortification that the packet had sailed with a fair wind about half an hour before his arrival.

Notwithstanding his impatience, he learned that it was impossible to overtake the vessel in a boat, and that he must wait for the sailing of the next day’s packet.

Fortunately, however, the Lord–Lieutenant’s secretary arrived from London at Holyhead time enough for the tide; and as he had an order from the post-office for a packet to sail whenever he should require it, the intelligent landlord of the inn suggested to Ormond that he might probably obtain permission from the secretary to have a berth in this packet.

Ormond’s manner and address were such as to obtain from the good-natured secretary the permission he required; and, in a short time, he found himself out of sight of the coast of Wales. During the beginning of their voyage the motion of the vessel was so steady, and the weather so fine, that every body remained on deck; but on the wind shifting and becoming more violent, the landsmen soon retired below decks, and poor Moriarty and his English companion slunk down into the steerage, submitting to their fate. Ormond was never sea-sick; he walked the deck, and enjoyed the admirable manoeuvring of the vessel. Two or three naval officers, and some other passengers, who were used to the sea, and who had quietly gone to bed during the beginning of the voyage, now came from below, to avoid the miseries of the cabin. As one of these gentlemen walked backwards and forwards upon deck, he eyed our hero from time to time with looks of anxious curiosity — Ormond perceiving this, addressed the stranger, and inquired from him whether he had mistaken his looks, or whether he had any wish to speak to him. “Sir,” said the stranger, “I do think that I have seen you before, and I believe that I am under considerable obligations to you — I was supercargo to that vessel that was wrecked on the coast of Ireland, when you and your young friend exerted yourselves to save the vessel from plunder. After the shipwreck, the moment I found myself on land, I hastened to the neighbouring town to obtain protection and assistance. In the mean time, your exertions had saved a great deal of our property, which was lodged in safety in the neighbourhood. I had procured a horse in the town to which I had gone, and had ridden back to the shore with the utmost expedition. Along with the vessel which had been shipwrecked there had sailed another American sloop. We were both bound from New York to Bourdeaux. In the morning after the shipwreck, our consort hove in sight of the wreck, and sent a boat on shore, to inquire what had become of the crew, and of the cargo, but they found not a human creature on the shore, except myself. The plunderers had escaped to their hiding~places, and all the rest of the inhabitants had accompanied the poor young gentleman, who had fallen a sacrifice to his exertions in our favour.

“It was of the utmost consequence to my employers, that I should arrive as soon as possible at Bourdeaux, to give an account of what had happened. I therefore, without hesitation, abandoned my horse, with its bridle and saddle, and I got on board the American vessel without delay. In my hurry I forgot my great coat on the shore, a loss which proved extremely inconvenient to me — as there were papers in the pockets which might be necessary to produce before my employers.

“I arrived safely at Bourdeaux, settled with my principals to their satisfaction, and I am now on my way to Ireland, to reclaim such part of my property, and that of my employers, as was saved from the savages who pillaged us in our distress.”— This detail, which was given with great simplicity and precision, excited considerable interest among the persons upon the deck of the packet. Moriarty, who was pretty well recovered from his sickness, was now summoned upon deck. Ormond confronted him with the American supercargo, but neither of them had the least recollection of each other. “And yet,” said Ormond to the American, “though you do not know this man, he is at this moment under sentence of transportation for having robbed you, and he very narrowly escaped being hanged for your murder. A fate from which he was saved by the patience and sagacity of the judge who tried him.”

Moriarty’s surprise was expressed with such strange contortions of delight, and with a tone, and in a phraseology, so peculiarly his own, as to astonish and entertain the spectators. Among these was the Irish secretary, who, without any application being made to him, promised Moriarty to procure for him a free pardon.

On Ormond’s landing in Dublin, the first news he heard, and it was repeated a hundred times in a quarter of an hour, was that “Sir Ulick O’Shane was bankrupt — that his bank shut up yesterday.” It was a public calamity, a source of private distress, that reached lower and farther than any bankruptcy had ever done in Ireland. Ormond heard of it from every tongue, it was written in every face — in every house it was the subject of lamentation, of invective. In every street, poor men, with ragged notes in their hands, were stopping to pore over the names at the back of the notes, or hurrying to and fro, looking up at the shop-windows for “half price given here for O’Shane’s notes.” Groups of people, of all ranks, gathered — stopped — dispersed, talking of Sir Ulick O’Shane’s bankruptcy — their hopes — their fears — their losses — their ruin — their despair — their rage. Some said it was all owing to Sir Ulick’s shameful extravagance: “His house in Dublin, fit for a duke! — Castle Hermitage full of company to the last week — balls — dinners — the most expensive luxuries — scandalous!”

Others accused Sir Ulick’s absurd speculations. Many pronounced the bankruptcy to be fraudulent, and asserted that an estate had been made over to Marcus, who would live in affluence on the ruin of the creditors.

At Sir Ulick’s house in town every window-shutter was closed. Ormond rang and knocked in vain — not that he wished to see Sir Ulick — no, he would not have intruded on his misery for the world; but Ormond longed to inquire from the servants how things were with him. No servant could be seen. Ormond went to Sir Ulick’s bank. Such crowds of people filled the street that it was with the utmost difficulty and after a great working of elbows, that in an hour or two he made his way to one of the barred windows. There was a place where notes were handed in and accepted, as they called it, by the clerks, who thus for the hour soothed and pacified the sufferers, with the hopes that this acceptance would be good, and would stand in stead at some future day. They were told that when things should come to a settlement, all would be paid. There was property enough to satisfy the creditors, when the commissioners should look into it. Sir Ulick would pay all honourably — as far as possible — fifteen shillings in the pound, or certainly ten shillings — the accepted notes would pass for that any where. The crowd pressed closer and closer, arms crossing over each other to get notes in at the window, the clerks’ heads appearing and disappearing. It was said they were laughing while they thus deluded the people.

All the intelligence that Ormond, after being nearly suffocated, could obtain from any of the clerks, was, that Sir Ulick was in the country. “They believed at Castle Hermitage — could not be certain — had no letters for him to-day — he was ill when they heard last — so ill he could do no business — confined to his bed.”

The people in the street hearing these answers replied, “Confined in his bed, is he? — In the jail, it should be, as many will be along of him. Ill, is he, Sir Ulick? — Sham sickness, may be — all his life a sham.” All these and innumerable other taunts and imprecations, with which the poor people vented their rage, Ormond heard as he made his way out of the crowd.

Of all who had suffered, he who had probably lost the most, and who certainly had been on the brink of losing the greatest part of what he possessed, was the only individual who uttered no reproach.

He was impatient to get down to Castle Hermitage, and if he found that Sir Ulick had acted fairly, to be some comfort to him, to be with him at least when deserted by all the rest of the world.

At all the inns upon the road, as he went from Dublin to Castle Hermitage, even at the villages where he stopped to water the horses, every creature, down to the hostlers, were talking of the bankruptcy — and abusing Sir Ulick O’Shane and his son. The curses that were deep, not loud, were the worst — and the faces of distress worse than all. Gathering round his carriage, wherever it stopped, the people questioned him and his servants about the news, and then turned away, saying they were ruined. The men stood in unutterable despair. The women crying, loudly bewailed “their husbands, their sons, that must waste in the jail or fly the country; for what should they do for the rents that had been made up in Sir Ulick’s notes, and no good now?”

Ormond felt the more on hearing these complaints, from his sense of the absolute impossibility of relieving the universal distress.

He pursued his melancholy journey, and took Moriarty into the carriage with him, that he might not be recognized on the road.

When he came within sight of Castle Hermitage, he stopped at the top of the hill at a cottage, where many a time in his boyish days he had rested with Sir Ulick out hunting. The mistress of the house, now an old woman, came to the door.

“Master Harry dear!” cried she, when she saw who it was. But the sudden flash of joy in her old face was over in an instant.

“But did you hear it?” cried she, “and the great change it caused him — poor Sir Ulick O’Shane? I went up with eggs on purpose to see him, but could only hear — he was in his bed — wasting with trouble — nobody knows any thing more — all is kept hush and close. Mr. Marcus took off all he could rap, and ran, even to —”

“Well, well, I don’t want to hear of Marcus — can you tell me whether Dr. Cambray is come home?”

“Not expected to come till Monday.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh! not a morning but I’m there the first thing, asking, and longing for them.”

“Lie back, Moriarty, in the carriage, and pull your hat over your face,” whispered Ormond: “postilions, drive on to that little cabin, with the trees about it, at the foot of the hill.” This was Moriarty’s cabin. When they stopped, poor Peggy was called out. Alas! how altered from the dancing, sprightly, blooming girl, whom Ormond had known so few years since in the Black Islands! How different from the happy wife, whom he had left, comfortably settled in a cottage suited to her station and her wishes! She was thin, pale, and haggard — her dress was neglected — an ill-nursed child, that she had in her arms she gave to a young girl near her. Approaching the carriage, and seeing Harry Ormond, she seemed ready to sink into the earth: however, after having drank some water, she recovered sufficiently to be able to answer Ormond’s inquiries.

“What do you intend to do, Peggy?”

“Do, sir! — go to America, to join my husband sure; every thing was to have been sold, Monday last — but nobody has any money — and I am tould it will cost a great deal to get across the sea.”

At this she burst into tears and cried most bitterly; and at this moment the carriage door flew open — Moriarty’s impatience could be no longer restrained — he flung himself into the arms of his wife.

Leaving this happy and innocent couple to enjoy their felicity we proceed to Castle Hermitage.

Ormond directed the postilions to go the back way to the house. They drove down the old avenue.

Presently they saw a boy, who seemed to be standing on the watch, run back towards the castle, leaping over hedge and ditch with desperate haste. Then came running from the house three men, calling to one another to shut the gates for the love of God!

They all ran towards the gateway through which the postilions were going to drive, reached it just as the foremost horses turned, and flung the gate full against the horses’ heads. The men, without looking or caring, went on locking the gate. Ormond jumped out of the carriage — at the sight of him, the padlock fell from the hand of the man who held it.

“Master Harry himself! — and is it you? — We ask your pardon, your honour.”

The men were three of Sir Ulick’s workmen — Ormond forbad the carriage to follow. “For perhaps you are afraid of the noise disturbing Sir Ulick?” said be.

“No, plase your honour,” said the foremost man, “it will not disturb him — as well let the carriage come on — only,” whispered he, “best to send the hack postilions with their horses always to the inn, afore they’d learn any thing.”

Ormond walked on quickly, and as soon as he was out of hearing of the postilions again asked the men, “What news? — how is Sir Ulick?”

“Poor gentleman! he has had a deal of trouble — and no help for him,” said the man.

“Better tell him plain,” whispered the next. “Master Harry, Sir Ulick O’Shane’s trouble is over in this world, sir.”

“Is he —”

“Dead, he is, and cold, and in his coffin — this minute — and thanks be to God, if he is safe there even from them that are on the watch to seize on his body! — In the dread of them creditors, orders were given to keep the gates locked. He is dead since Tuesday, sir — but hardly one knows it out of the castle — except us.”

Ormond walked on silently, while they followed, talking at intervals.

“There is a very great cry against him, sir, I hear, in Dublin — and here in the country, too,” said one.

“The distress, they say, is very great, he caused; but they might let his body rest any way — what good can that do them?”

“Bad or good, they sha’n’t touch it,” said the other: “by the blessing, we shall have him buried safe in the morning, afore they are stirring. We shall carry the coffin through the under ground passage, that goes to the stables, and out by the lane to the churchyard asy — and the gentleman, the clergyman, has notice all will be ready, and the housekeeper only attending.”

“Oh! the pitiful funeral,” said the eldest of the men, “the pitiful funeral for Sir Ulick O’Shane, that was born to better.”

“Well, we can only do the best we can,” said the other, “let what will happen to ourselves; for Sir Marcus said he wouldn’t take one of his father’s notes from any of us.”

Ormond involuntarily felt for his purse.

“Oh! don’t be bothering the gentleman, don’t be talking,” said the old man.

“This way, Master Harry, if you please, sir, the underground way to the back yard. We keep all close till after the burying, for fear — that was the housekeeper’s order. Sent all off to Dublin when Sir Ulick took to his bed, and Lady Norton went off.”

Ormond refrained from asking any questions about his illness, fearing to inquire into the manner of his death. He walked on more quickly and silently. When they were going through the dark passage, one of the men, in a low voice, observed to Mr. Ormond that the housekeeper would tell him all about it.

When they got to the house, the housekeeper and Sir Ulick’s man appeared, seeming much surprised at the sight of Mr. Ormond. They said a great deal about the unfortunate event, and their own sorrow and distress; but Ormond saw that theirs were only the long faces, dismal tones, and outward show of grief. They were just a common housekeeper and gentleman’s gentleman, neither worse nor better than ordinary servants in a great house. Sir Ulick had only treated them as such.

The housekeeper, without Ormond’s asking a single question, went on to tell him that “Castle Hermitage was as full of company, even to the last week, as ever it could hold, and all as grand as ever; the first people in Ireland — champagne and burgundy, and ices, and all as usual — and a ball that very week. Sir Ulick was very considerate, and sent Lady Norton off to her other friends; he took ill suddenly that night with a great pain in his head: he had been writing hard, and in great trouble, and he took to his bed, and never rose from it — he was found by Mr. Dempsey, his own man, dead in his bed in the morning — of a broken heart, to be sure! — Poor gentleman! — Some people in the neighbourhood was mighty busy talking how the coroner ought to be sent for; but that blew over, sir. But then we were in dread of the seizure of the body for debt, so the gates was kept locked; and now you know all we know about it, sir.”

Ormond said he would attend the funeral. There was no attempt to seize upon the body; only the three workmen, the servants, a very few of the cottagers, and Harry Ormond, attended to the grave the body of the once popular Sir Ulick O’Shane. This was considered by the country people as the greatest of all the misfortunes that had befallen him; the lowest degradation to which an O’Shane could be reduced. They compared him with King Corny, and “see the difference!” said they; “the one was the true thing, and never changed— and after all, where is the great friends now? — the quality that used to be entertained at the castle above? Where is all the favour promised him now? What is it come to? See, with all his wit, and the schemes upon schemes, broke and gone, and forsook and forgot, and buried without a funeral, or a tear, but from Master Harry.” Ormond was surprised to hear, in the midst of many of their popular superstitions and prejudices, how justly they estimated Sir Ulick’s abilities and character.

As the men filled up his grave, one of them said, “There lies the making of an excellent gentleman — but the cunning of his head spoiled the goodness of his heart.”

The day after the funeral an agent came from Dublin to settle Sir Ulick O’Shane’s affairs in the country.

On opening his desk, the first thing that appeared was a bundle of accounts, and a letter, directed to H. Ormond, Esq. He took it to his own room and read —

“ORMOND,

“I intended to employ your money to re-establish my falling credit, but I never intended to defraud you.

“ULICK O’SHANE.”

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