‘SAW Eskdale just now,’ said Mr. Cassilis, at White’s, ‘going down to the Duke of Bellamont’s. Great doings there: son comes of age at Easter. Wonder what sort of fellow he is? Anybody know anything about him?’
‘I wonder what his father’s rent-roll is?’ said Mr. Ormsby.
‘They say it is quite clear,’ said Lord Fitz–Heron. ‘Safe for that,’ said Lord Milford; ‘and plenty of ready money, too, I should think, for one never heard of the present duke doing anything.’
‘He does a good deal in his county,’ said Lord Valentine.
‘I don’t call that anything,’ said Lord Milford; ‘but I mean to say he never played, was never seen at Newmarket, or did anything which anybody can remember. In fact, he is a person whose name you never by any chance hear mentioned.’
‘He is a sort of cousin of mine,’ said Lord Valentine; ‘and we are all going down to the coming of age: that is, we are asked.’ ‘Then you can tell us what sort of fellow the son is.’
‘I never saw him,’ said Lord Valentine; ‘but I know the duchess told my mother last year, that Montacute, throughout his life, had never occasioned her a single moment’s pain.’
Here there was a general laugh.
‘Well, I have no doubt he will make up for lost time,’ said Mr. Ormsby, demurely.
‘Nothing like mamma’s darling for upsetting a coach,’ said Lord Milford. ‘You ought to bring your cousin here, Valentine; we would assist the development of his unsophisticated intelligence.’
‘If I go down, I will propose it to him.’
‘Why if?’ said Mr. Cassilis; ‘sort of thing I should like to see once uncommonly: oxen roasted alive, old armour, and the girls of the village all running about as if they were behind the scenes.’
‘Is that the way you did it at your majority, George?’ said Lord Fitz–Heron.
‘Egad! I kept my arrival at years of discretion at Brighton. I believe it was the last fun there ever was at the Pavilion. The poor dear king, God bless him! proposed my health, and made the devil’s own speech; we all began to pipe. He was Regent then. Your father was there, Valentine; ask him if he remembers it. That was a scene! I won’t say how it ended; but the best joke is, I got a letter from my governor a few days after, with an account of what they had all been doing at Brandingham, and rowing me for not coming down, and I found out I had kept my coming of age the wrong day.’
‘Did you tell them?’
‘Not a word: I was afraid we might have had to go through it over again.’
‘I suppose old Bellamont is the devil’s own screw,’ said Lord Milford. ‘Rich governors, who have never been hard up, always are.’
‘No: I believe he is a very good sort of fellow,’ said Lord Valentine; ‘at least my people always say so. I do not know much about him, for they never go anywhere.’
‘They have got Leander down at Montacute,‘said Mr. Cassilis. ‘Had not such a thing as a cook in the whole county. They say Lord Eskdale arranged the cuisine for them; so you will feed well, Valentine.’
‘That is something: and one can eat before Easter; but when the balls begin ——’
‘Oh! as for that, you will have dancing enough at Montacute; it is expected on these occasions: Sir Roger de Coverley, tenants’ daughters, and all that sort of thing. Deuced funny, but I must say, if I am to have a lark, I like Vauxhall.’
‘I never met the Bellamonts,’ said Lord Milford, musingly. ‘Are there any daughters?’
‘That is a bore. A single daughter, even if there be a son, may be made something of; because, in nine cases out of ten, there is a round sum in the settlements for the younger children, and she takes it all.’
‘That is the case of Lady Blanche Bickerstaffe,’ said Lord Fitz–Heron. ‘She will have a hundred thousand pounds.’
‘You don’t mean that!’ said Lord Valentine; ‘and she is a very nice girl, too.’
‘You are quite wrong about the hundred thousand, Fitz,’ said Lord Milford; ‘for I made it my business to inquire most particularly into the affair: it is only fifty.’
‘In these cases, the best rule is only to believe half,’ said Mr. Ormsby.
‘Then you have only got twenty thousand a-year, Ormsby,’ said Lord Milford, laughing, ‘because the world gives you forty.’
‘Well, we must do the best we can in these hard times,’ said Mr. Ormsby, with an air of mock resignation. ‘With your Dukes of Bellamont and all these grandees on the stage, we little men shall be scarcely able to hold up our heads.’
‘Come, Ormsby,’ said Lord Milford; ‘tell us the amount of your income tax.’
‘They say Sir Robert quite blushed when he saw the figure at which you were sacked, and declared it was downright spoliation.’
‘You young men are always talking about money,’ said Mr. Ormsby, shaking his head; ‘you should think of higher things.’
‘I wonder what young Montacute will be thinking of this time next year,’ said Lord Fitz–Heron.
‘There will be plenty of people thinking of him,’ said Mr. Cassilis. ‘Egad! you gentlemen must stir yourselves, if you mean to be turned off. You will have rivals.’
‘He will be no rival to me,’ said Lord Milford; ‘for I am an avowed fortune-hunter, and that you say he does not care for, at least, at present.’
‘And I marry only for love,’ said Lord Valentine, laughing; ‘and so we shall not clash.’
‘Ay, ay; but if he will not go to the heiresses, the heiresses will go to him,’ said Mr. Ormsby. ‘I have seen a good deal of these things, and I generally observe the eldest son of a duke takes a fortune out of the market. Why, there is Beaumanoir, he is like Valentine; I suppose he intends to marry for love, as he is always in that way; but the heiresses never leave him alone, and in the long run you cannot withstand it; it is like a bribe; a man is indignant at the bare thought, refuses the first offer, and pockets the second.’
‘It is very immoral, and very unfair,’ said Lord Milford, ‘that any man should marry for tin who does not want it.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53