The Kellys and the O'Kellys, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXXVII

Veni; Vidi; VICI

The two following letters for Lord Ballindine were sent off, in the Grey Abbey post-bag, on the evening of the day on which Mr Armstrong had arrived there. They were from Mr Armstrong and Lord Cashel. That from the former was first opened.

Grey Abbey, April, 1844

Dear Frank,

You will own I have not lost much time. I left Kelly’s Court the day before yesterday and I am already able to send you good news. I have seen Lord Cashel, and have found him anything but uncourteous. I have also seen Miss Wyndham and though she said but little to that little was just what you would have wished her to say. She bade me tell you to come yourself. In obedience to her commands, I do hereby require you to pack yourself up, and proceed forthwith to Grey Abbey. His lordship has signified to me that it is his intention, in his own and Lady Cashel’s name, to request the renewed pleasure of an immediate, and, he hopes, a prolonged visit from your lordship. You will not, my dear Frank, I am sure, be such a fool as to allow your dislike to such an empty butter-firkin as this earl, to stand in the way of your love or your fortune. You can’t expect Miss Wyndham to go to you, so pocket your resentment like a sensible fellow, and accept Lord Cashel’s invitation as though there had been no difference between you.

I have also received an invite, and intend staying here a day or two. I can’t say that, judging from the master of the house, I think that a prolonged sojourn would be very agreeable. I have, as yet, seen none of the ladies, except my embryo Lady Ballindine.

I think I have done my business a little in the veni vidi vici style. What has effected the change in Lord Cashel’s views, I need not trouble myself to guess. You will soon learn all about it from Miss Wyndham.

I will not, in a letter, express my admiration, &c., &c., &c. But I will proclaim in Connaught, on my return, that so worthy a bride was never yet brought down to the far west. Lord Cashel will, of course, have some pet bishop or dean to marry you; but, after what has passed, I shall certainly demand the privilege of christening the heir.

Believe me, dear Frank,

Your affectionate friend,

GEORGE ARMSTRONG.

Lord Cashel’s letter was as follows. It cost his lordship three hours to compose, and was twice copied. I trust, therefore, it is a fair specimen of what a nobleman ought to write on such an occasion.

Grey Abbey, April, 1844.

My dear lord,

Circumstances, to which I rejoice that I need not now more particularly allude, made your last visit at my house a disagreeable one to both of us. The necessity under which I then laboured, of communicating to your lordship a decision which was likely to be inimical to your happiness, but to form which my duty imperatively directed me, was a source of most serious inquietude to my mind. I now rejoice that that decision was so painful to you has been so lastingly painful; as I trust I may measure your gratification at a renewal of your connection with my family, by the acuteness of the sufferings which an interruption of that connexion has occasioned you.

I have, I can assure you, my lord, received much pleasure from the visit of your very estimable friend, the Reverend Mr Armstrong; and it is no slight addition to my gratification on this occasion, to find your most intimate friendship so well bestowed. I have had much unreserved conversation today with Mr Armstrong, and I am led by him to believe that I may be able to induce you to give Lady Cashel and myself the pleasure of your company at Grey Abbey. We shall be truly delighted to see your lordship, and we sincerely hope that the attractions of Grey Abbey may be such as to induce you to prolong your visit for some time.

Perhaps it might be unnecessary for me now more explicitly to allude to my ward; but still, I cannot but think that a short but candid explanation of the line of conduct I have thought it my duty to adopt, may prevent any disagreeable feeling between us, should you, as I sincerely trust you will, do us the pleasure of joining our family circle. I must own, my dear lord, that, a few months since, I feared you were wedded to the expensive pleasures of the turf. Your acceptance of the office of Steward at the Curragh meetings confirmed the reports which reached me from various quarters. My ward’s fortune was then not very considerable; and, actuated by an uncle’s affection for his niece as well as a guardian’s caution for his ward, I conceived it my duty to ascertain whether a withdrawal from the engagement in contemplation between Miss Wyndham and yourself would be detrimental to her happiness. I found that my ward’s views agreed with my own. She thought her own fortune insufficient, seeing that your habits were then expensive: and, perhaps, not truly knowing the intensity of her own affection, she coincided in my views. You are acquainted with the result. These causes have operated in inducing me to hope that I may still welcome you by the hand as my dear niece’s husband. Her fortune is very greatly increased; your character is — I will not say altered is now fixed and established. And, lastly and chiefly, I find I blush, my lord, to tell a lady’s secret that my ward’s happiness still depends on you.

I am sure, my dear lord, I need not say more. We shall be delighted to see you at your earliest convenience. We wish that you could have come to us before your friend left, but I regret to learn from him that his parochial duties preclude the possibility of his staying with us beyond Thursday.

I shall anxiously wait for your reply. In the meantime I beg to assure you, with the joint kind remembrances of all our party, that I am,

Most faithfully yours,

CASHEL.

Mr Armstrong descended to the drawing-room, before dinner, looking most respectable, with a stiff white tie and the new suit expressly prepared for the occasion. He was introduced to Lady Cashel and Lady Selina as a valued friend of Lord Ballindine, and was received, by the former at least, in a most flattering manner. Lady Selina had hardly reconciled herself to the return of Lord Ballindine. It was from no envy at her cousin’s happiness; she was really too high-minded, and too falsely proud, also, to envy anyone. But it was the harsh conviction of her mind, that no duties should be disregarded, and that all duties were disagreeable: she was always opposed to the doing of anything which appeared to be the especial wish of the person consulting her; because it would be agreeable, she judged that it would be wrong. She was most sincerely anxious for her poor dependents, but she tormented them most cruelly. When Biddy Finn wished to marry, Lady Selina told her it was her duty to put a restraint on her inclinations; and ultimately prevented her, though there was no objection on earth to Tony Mara; and when the widow Cullen wanted to open a little shop for soap and candles, having eight pounds ten shillings left to stock it, after the wake and funeral were over, Lady Selina told the widow it was her duty to restrain her inclination, and she did so; and the eight pounds ten shillings drifted away in quarters of tea, and most probably, half noggins of whiskey.

In the same way, she could not bring herself to think that Fanny was doing right, in following the bent of her dearest wishes-in marrying this man she loved so truly. She was weak; she was giving way to temptation; she was going back from her word; she was, she said, giving up her claim to that high standard of feminine character, which it should be the proudest boast of a woman to maintain.

It was in vain that her mother argued the point with her in her own way. ‘But why shouldn’t she marry him, my dear,’ said the countess, ‘when they love each other and now there’s plenty of money and all that; and your papa thinks it’s all right? I declare I can’t see the harm of it.’

‘I don’t say there’s harm, mother,’ said Lady Selina; ‘not absolute harm; but there’s weakness. She had ceased to esteem Lord Ballindine.’

‘Ah, but, my dear, she very soon began to esteem him again. Poor dear! she didn’t know how well she loved him.’

‘She ought to have known, mamma to have known well, before she rejected him; but, having rejected him, no power on earth should have induced her to name him, or even to think of him again. She should have been dead to him; and he should have been the same as dead to her.’

‘Well, I don’t know,’ said the countess; ‘but I’m sure I shall be delighted to see anybody happy in the house again, and I always liked Lord Ballindine myself. There was never any trouble about his dinners or anything.’

And Lady Cashel was delighted. The grief she had felt at the abrupt termination of all her hopes with regard to her son had been too much for her; she had been unable even to mind her worsted-work, and Griffiths had failed to comfort her; but from the moment that her husband had told her, with many hems and haws, that Mr Armstrong had arrived to repeat Lord Ballindine’s proposal, and that he had come to consult her about again asking his lordship to Grey Abbey, she became happy and light-hearted; and, before Griffiths had left her for the night, she had commenced her consultations as to the preparations for the wedding.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43