Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 32.

Both from a sense of justice to the poor people concerned, and from a desire to save Sir Ulick O’Shane’s memory as far as it was in his power from reproach, Ormond determined to pay whatever small debts were due to his servants, workmen, and immediate dependents. For this purpose, when the funeral was over, he had them all assembled at Castle Hermitage. Every just demand of this sort was paid, all were satisfied; even the bare-footed kitchen-maid, the drudge of this great house, who, in despair, had looked at her poor one guinea note of Sir Ulick’s, had that note paid in gold, and went away blessing Master Harry. Happy for all that he is come home to us, was the general feeling. But there was one man, a groom of Sir Ulick’s, who did not join in any of these blessings or praises: he stood silent and motionless, with his eyes on the money which Mr. Ormond had put into his hand.

“Is your money right?” said Ormond.

“It is, sir; but I had something to tell you.”

When all the other servants had left the room, the man said, “I am the groom, sir, that was sent, just before you went to France, with a letter to Annaly: there was an answer to that letter, sir, though you never got it.”

“There was an answer!” cried Ormond, anger flashing, but an instant afterwards joy sparkling in his eyes. “There was a letter! — From whom? — I’ll forgive you all, if you will tell me the whole truth.”

“I will — and not a word of lie, and I beg your honour’s pardon, if —”

“Go on — straight to the fact, this instant, or you shall never have my pardon.”

“Why then I stopped to take a glass coming home; and, not knowing how it was, I had the misfortune to lose the bit of a note, and I thought no more about it till, plase your honour, after you was gone, it was found.”

“Found!” cried Ormond, stepping hastily up to him — where is it?”

“I have it safe here,” said the man, opening a sort of pocket-book “here I have kept it safe till your honour came back.”

Ormond saw and seized upon a letter in Lady Armaly’s hand, directed to him. Tore it open — two notes — one from Florence.

“I forgive you!” said he to the man, and made a sign to him to leave the room.

When Ormond had read, or without reading had taken in, by one glance of the eye, the sense of the letters — he rang the bell instantly.

“Inquire at the post-office,” said he to his servant, “whether Lady Annaly is in England or Ireland? — If in England, where? — if in Ireland, whether at Annaly or at Herbert’s Town? Quick — an answer.”

An answer was quickly brought, “In England — in Devonshire, sir: here is the exact direction to the place, sir. I shall pack up, I suppose, sir?”

“Certainly — directly.”

Leaving a few lines of explanation and affection for Dr. Cambray, our young hero was off again, to the surprise and regret of all who saw him driving away as fast as horses could carry him. His servant, from the box, however, spread as he went, for the comfort of the deploring village, the assurance that “Master and he would soon be back again, please Heaven! — and happier than ever.”

And now that he is safe in the carriage, what was in that note of Miss Annaly’s which has produced such a sensation? No talismanic charm ever operated with more magical celerity than this note. What were the words of the charm?

That is a secret which shall never be known to the world.

The only point which it much imports the public to know is probably already guessed — that the letter did not contain a refusal, nor any absolute discouragement of Ormond’s hopes. But Lady Annaly and Florence had both distinctly told him that they could not receive him at Annaly till after a certain day, on which they said that they should be particularly engaged. They told him that Colonel Albemarle was at Annaly — that he would leave it at such a time — and they requested that Mr. Ormond would postpone his visit till after that time.

Not receiving this notice, Ormond had unfortunately gone upon the day that was specially prohibited.

Now that the kneeling figure appeared to him as a rival in despair, not in triumph, Ormond asked himself how he could ever have been such an idiot as to doubt Florence Annaly.

“Why did I set off in such haste for Paris? — Could not I have waited a day? — Could not I have written again? — Could I not have cross-questioned the drunken servant when he was sober? — Could not I have done any thing, in short, but what I did?”

Clearly as a man, when his anger is dissipated, sees what he ought to have done or to have left undone while the fury lasted; vividly as a man in a different kind of passion sees the folly of all he did, said, or thought, when he was possessed by the past madness; so clearly, so vividly, did Ormond now see and feel — and vehemently execrate, his jealous folly and mad precipitation; and then he came to the question, could his folly be repaired? — would his madness ever be forgiven? Ormond, in love affairs, never had any presumption — any tinge of the Connal coxcombry in his nature: he was not apt to flatter himself that he had made a deep impression; and now he was, perhaps from his sense of the superior value of the object, more than usually diffident. Though Miss Annaly was still unmarried, she might have resolved irrevocably against him. Though she was not a girl to act in the high-flown heroine style, and, in a fit of pride or revenge, to punish the man she liked, by marrying his rival, whom she did not like; yet Florence Annaly, as Ormond well knew, inherited some of her mother’s strength of character; and, in circumstances that deeply touched her heart, might be capable of all her mother’s warmth of indignation. It was in her character decidedly to refuse to connect herself with any man, however her heart might incline towards him, if he had any essential defect of temper; or if she thought that his attachment to her was not steady and strong, such as she deserved it should be, and such as her sensibility and all her hopes of domestic happiness required in a husband. And then there was Lady Annaly to be considered — how indignant she would be at his conduct!

While Ormond was travelling alone, he had full leisure to torment himself with these thoughts. Pressed forward alternately by hope and fear, each urging expedition, he hastened on — reached Dublin — crossed the water — and travelling day and night, lost not a moment till he was at the feet of his fair mistress.

To those who like to know the how, the when, and the where, it should be told that it was evening when he arrived. Florence Annaly was walking with her mother by the seaside, in one of the most beautiful and retired parts of the coasts of Devonshire, when they were told by a servant that a gentleman from Ireland had just arrived at their house, and wished to see them. A minute afterwards they saw —“Could it be?” Lady Annaly said, turning in doubt to her daughter; but the cheek of Florence instantly convinced the mother that it could be none but Mr. Ormond himself.

“Mr. Ormond!” said Lady Annaly, advancing kindly, yet with dignified reserve —“Mr. Ormond, after his long absence, is welcome to his old friend.”

There was in Ormond’s look and manner, as he approached, something that much inclined the daughter to hope that he might prove not utterly unworthy of her mother’s forgiveness; and when he spoke to the daughter, there was in his voice and look something that softened the mother’s heart, and irresistibly inclined her to wish that he might be able to give a satisfactory explanation of his strange conduct. Where the parties are thus happily disposed both to hear reason, to excuse passion, and to pardon the errors to which passion, even in the most reasonable minds, is liable, explanations are seldom tedious, or difficult to be comprehended. The moment Ormond produced the cover, the soiled cover of the letters, a glimpse of the truth struck Florence Annaly; and before he had got farther in his sentence than these words, “I did not receive your ladyship’s letter till within these few days,” all the reserve of Lady Annaly’s manner was dispelled: her smiles relieved his apprehensions, and encouraged him to proceed in his story with happy fluency. The carelessness of the drunken servant, who had occasioned so much mischief, was talked of for a few minutes with great satisfaction.

Ormond took his own share of the blame so frankly and with so good a grace, and described with such truth the agony he had been thrown into by the sight of the kneeling figure in regimentals, that Lady Annaly could not help comforting him by the assurance that Florence had, at the same moment, been sufficiently alarmed by the rearing of his horse at the sight of the flapping window-blind.

“The kneeling gentleman,” said Lady Annaly, “whom you thought at the height of joy and glory, was at that moment in the depths of despair. So ill do the passions see what is even before their eyes!”

If Lady Annaly had had a mind to moralize, she might have done so to any length, without fear of interruption from either of her auditors, and with the most perfect certainty of unqualified submission and dignified humility on the part of our hero, who was too happy at this moment not to be ready to acknowledge himself to have been wrong and absurd, and worthy of any quantity of reprehension or indignation that could have been bestowed upon him.

Her ladyship went, however, as far from morality as possible — to Paris. She spoke of the success Mr. Ormond had had in Parisian society — she spoke of M. and Madame de Connal, and various persons with whom he had been intimate, among others of the Abbé Morellet.

Ormond rejoiced to find that Lady Annaly knew he had been in the Abbé Morellet’s distinguished society. The happiest hopes for the future rose in his mind, from perceiving that her ladyship, by whatever means, knew all that he had been doing in Paris. It seems that they had had accounts of him from several English travellers, who had met him at Paris, and had heard him spoken of in different companies.

Ormond took care — give him credit for it all who have ever been in love — even in these first moments, with the object of his present affection, Ormond took care to do justice to the absent Dora, whom he now never expected to see again. He seized, dexterously, an opportunity, in reply to something Lady Annaly said about the Connals, to observe that Madame de Connal was not only much admired for her beauty at Paris, but that she did honour to Ireland by having preserved her reputation; young, and without a guide, as she was, in dissipated French society, with few examples of conjugal virtues to preserve in her mind the precepts and habits of her British education.

He was glad of this opportunity to give, as he now did with all the energy of truth, the result of his feelings and reflections on what he had seen of the modes of living among the French; their superior pleasures of society, and their want of our domestic happiness.

While Ormond was speaking, both the mother and daughter could not help admiring, in the midst of his moralizing, the great improvement which had been made in his appearance and manners.

With all his own characteristic frankness, he acknowledged the impression which French gaiety and the brilliancy of Parisian society had at first made upon him: he was glad, however, that he had now seen all that the imagination often paints as far more delightful than it really is. He had, thank Heaven, passed through this course of dissipation without losing his taste for better and happier modes of life. The last few months, though they might seem but a splendid or feverish dream in his existence, had in reality been, he believed, of essential service in confirming his principles, settling his character, and deciding for ever his taste and judgment, after full opportunity of comparison, in favour of his own country — and especially of his own countrywomen.

Lady Annaly smiled benignantly, and after observing that this seemingly unlucky excursion, which had begun in anger, had ended advantageously to Mr. Ormond; and after having congratulated him upon having saved his fortune, and established his character solidly, she left him to plead his own cause with her daughter — in her heart cordially wishing him success.

What he said, or what Florence answered, we do not know; but we are perfectly sure that if we did, the repetition of it would tire the reader. Lady Annaly and tea waited for them with great patience to an unusually late, which they conceived to be an unusually early, hour. The result of this conversation was, that Ormond remained with them in this beautiful retirement in Devonshire the next day, and the next, and — how many days are not precisely recorded; a blank was left for the number, which the editor of these memoirs does not dare to fill up at random, lest some Mrs. M’Crule should exclaim, “Scandalously too long to keep the young man there!”— or, “Scandalously too short a courtship, after all!”

It is humbly requested that every young lady of delicacy and feeling will put herself in the place of Florence Annaly — then, imagining the man she most approves of to be in the place of Mr. Ormond, she will be pleased to fill up the blank with what number of days she may think proper.

When the happy day was named, it was agreed that they should return to Ireland, to Annaly; and that their kind friend, Dr. Cambray, should be the person to complete that union which he had so long foreseen and so anxiously desired.

Those who wish to hear something of estates, as well as of weddings, should be told that about the same time Ormond received letters from Marcus O’Shane, and from M. de Connal; Marcus informing him that the estate of Castle Hermitage was to be sold by the commissioners of bankrupts, and beseeching him to bid for it, that it might not be sold under value. M. de Connal also besought his dear friend, Mr. Ormond to take the Black Islands off his hands, for they encumbered him terribly. No wonder, living, as he did, at Paris, with his head at Versailles, and his heart in a faro bank. Ormond could not oblige both the gentlemen, though they had each pressing reasons for getting rid speedily of their property, and were assured that he would be the most agreeable purchaser. Castle Hermitage was the finest estate, and by far the best bargain. But other considerations weighed with our hero. While Sir Ulick O’Shane’s son and natural representative was living, banished by debts from his native country, Ormond could not bear to take possession of Castle Hermitage. For the Black Islands he had a fondness — they were associated with all the tender recollections of his generous benefactor. He should hurt no one’s feelings by this purchase — and he might do a great deal of good, by carrying on his old friend’s improvements, and by farther civilizing the people of the Islands, all of whom were warmly attached to him. They considered Prince Harry as the lawful representative of their dear King Corny, and actually offered up prayers for his coming again to reign over them.

To those who think that the mind is a kingdom of yet more consequence than even that of the Black Islands, it may be agreeable to hear that Ormond continued to enjoy the empire which he had gained over himself; and to maintain that high character, which in spite of his neglected education, and of all the adverse circumstances to which he was early exposed, he had formed for himself by resolute energy.

Lady Annaly with the pride of affection, gloried in the full accomplishment of her prophecies; and was rewarded in the best manner for that benevolent interest which she had early taken in our hero’s improvement, by seeing the perfect felicity that subsisted between her daughter and Ormond.

The End.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/e/edgeworth/maria/ormond/chapter32.html

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