Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 10.

One day when Harry Ormond was out shooting with Moriarty Carroll, Moriarty abruptly began with, “Why then, ’tis what I am thinking, Master Harry, that King Corny don’t know as much of that White Connal as I do.” “What do you know of Mr. Connal?” said Harry, loading his piece. “I didn’t know you had ever seen him.” “Oh! but I did, and no great sight to see. Unlike the father, old Connal, of Glynn, who is the gentleman to the last, every inch, even with the coat dropping off his back; and the son, with the best coat in Christendom, has not the look of a gentleman at-all — at-all — nor hasn’t it in him, inside no more than outside.” “You may be mistaken there, as you have never been withinside of him, Moriarty,” said Ormond. “Oh! faith, and if I have not been withinside of him, I have heard enough from them that seen him turned inside out, hot and cold. Sure I went down there last summer, to his country, to see a shister of my own that’s married in it; and lives just by Connal’s Town, as the man calls that sheep farm of his.” “Well, let the gentleman call his own place what he will —” “Oh! he may call it what he plases for me — I know what the country calls him; and lest your honour should not ax me, I’ll tell you: they call him White Connal the negre! — Think of him that would stand browbating the butcher an hour, to bate down the farthing a pound in the price of the worst bits of the mate, which he’d bespake always for the servants; or stand, he would — I’ve seen him with my own eyes — higgling with the poor child with the apron round the neck, that was sent to sell him the eggs —” “Hush! Moriarty,” said Ormond, who did not wish to hear any farther particulars of Mr. Connal’s domestic economy: and he silenced Moriarty, by pointing to a bird. But the bird flew away, and Moriarty returned to his point. “I wouldn’t be telling the like of any jantleman, but to show the nature of him. The minute after he had screwed the halfpenny out of the child, he’d throw down, may be, fifty guineas in gould, for the horse he’d fancy for his own riding: not that he rides better than the sack going to the mill, nor so well; but that he might have it to show, and say he was better mounted than any man at the fair: and the same he’d throw away more guineas than I could tell, at the head of a short-horned bull, or a long-horned bull, or some kind of a bull from England, may be, just becaase he’d think nobody else had one of the breed in all Ireland but himself.” “A very good thing, at least, for the country, to improve the breed of cattle.” “The country! —’Tis little the man thinks of the country that never thought of any thing but himself, since his mother sucked him.” “Suckled him, you mean,” said Harry. “No matter — I’m no spaker — but I know that man’s character nevertheless: he is rich; but a very bad character the poor gives him up and down.” “Perhaps, because he is rich.” “Not at all; the poor loves the rich that helps with the kind heart. Don’t we all love King Corny to the blacking of his shoes? — Oh! there’s the difference! — who could like the man that’s always talking of the craturs, and yet, to save the life of the poorest cratur that’s forced to live under him, wouldn’t forbear to drive, and pound, and process, for the little con acre, the potatoe ridge, the cow’s grass, or the trifle for the woman’s peck of flax, was she dying, and sell the woman’s last blanket? — White Connal is a hard man, and takes all to the uttermost farthing the law allows.” “Well, even so, I suppose the law does not allow him more than his due,” said Ormond. “Oh! begging your pardon, Master Harry,” said Moriarty, “that’s becaase you are not a lawyer.” “And are you?” said Harry.

“Only as we all are through the country. And now I’ll only just tell you, Master Harry, how this White Connal sarved my shister’s husband, who was an under-tenant to him:— see, the case was this —” “Oh! don’t tell me a long case, for pity’s sake. I am no lawyer — I shall not understand a word of it.” “But then, sir, through the whole consarning White Connal, what I’m thinking of, Master Harry,” said Moriarty, “is, I’m grieving that a daughter of our dear King Corny, and such a pretty likely girl as Miss Dora —” “Say no more, Moriarty, for there’s a partridge.” “Oh! is it so with you?” thought Moriarty —“that’s just what I wanted to know — and I’ll keep your secret: I don’t forget Peggy Sheridan — and his goodness.”

Moriarty said not a word more about White Connal, or Miss Dora; and he and Harry shot a great many birds this day.

It is astonishing how quickly, and how justly, the lower class of people in Ireland discover and appreciate the characters of their superiors, especially of the class just above them in rank.

Ormond hoped that Moriarty had been prejudiced in his account of White Connal, and that private feelings had induced him to exaggerate. Harry was persuaded of this, because Cornelius O’Shane had spoken to him of Connal, and had never represented him to be a hard man. In fact, O’Shane did not know him. White Connal had a property in a distant county, where he resided, and only came from time to time to see his father. O’Shane had then wondered to see the son grown so unlike the father; and he attributed the difference to White Connal’s having turned grazier. The having derogated from the dignity of an idle gentleman, and having turned grazier was his chief fault in King Corny’s eyes: so that the only point in Connal’s character and conduct, for which he deserved esteem, was that for which his intended father-in-law despised him. Connal had early been taught by his father’s example, who was an idle, decayed, good gentleman, of the old Irish stock, that genealogies and old maps of estates in other people’s possessions, do not gain quite so much respect in this world as solid wealth. The son was determined, therefore, to get money; but in his horror of his father’s indolence and poverty, he ran into a contrary extreme — he became not only industrious, but rapacious.

In going lately to Dublin to settle with a sales master, he had called on Dora at her aunt’s in Dublin, and he had been “greatly struck,” as he said, “with Miss O’Shane; she was as fine a girl as any in Ireland — turn out who they could against her; all her points good. But, better than beauty, she would be no contemptible fortune: with her aunt’s assistance, she would cut up well; she was certain of all her father’s Black Islands — fine improvable land, if well managed.”

These considerations had their full effect. Connal, knowing that the young lady was his destined bride, had begun by taking the matter coolly, and resolving to wait for the properest time to wed; yet the sight of Dora’s charms had so wrought upon him, that he was now impatient to conclude the marriage immediately. Directly after seeing Dora in Dublin, he had gone home and “put things in order and in train to bear his absence,” while he should pay a visit to the Black Islands. Business, which must always be considered before pleasure, had detained him at home longer than he had foreseen: but now certain rumours he heard of gay doings in the Black Islands, and a letter from his father, advising him not to delay longer paying his respects at Corny Castle, determined him to set out. He wrote to Mr. O’Shane to announce his intention, and begged to have the answer directed to his father’s at Glynn.

One morning as Miss O’Faley, Mr. O’Shane, and Ormond, were at breakfast, Dora, who was usually late, not having yet appeared, Miss O’Faley saw a little boy running across the fields towards the house. “That boy runs as if he was bringing news,” said she.

“So he has a right to do,” said Corny: “if I don’t mistake that’s the post; that is, it is not the post, but a little special of my own — a messenger I sent off to catch post.”

“To do what?” said Mademoiselle.

“Why, to catch post,” said Corny. “I bid him gallop off for the life and put across (lake understood) to the next post town, which is Ballynaslugger, and to put in the letters that were too late here at that office there; and to bring back whatever he found, with no delay — but gallop off for the bare life.”

This was an operation which the boy performed, whenever requisite, at the imminent hazard of his neck every time, to say nothing of his chance of drowning.

“Well, Catch-post, my little rascal,” said King Corny, “what have you for us the day?”

“I got nothing at all, only a wetting for myself, plase your honour, and one bit of a note for your honour, which I have here for you as dry as the bone in my breast.”

He produced the bit of a note, which, King Corny’s hands being at that time too full of the eggs and the kettle to receive graciously, was laid down on the corner of the table, from which it fell, and Miss O’Faley picking it up, and holding it by one corner, exclaimed, “Is this what you call dry as a bone, in this country? And mighty clean, too — faugh! When will this entire nation leave off chewing tobacco, I wonder! This is what you style clean, too, in this country?”

“Why, then,” said the boy, looking close at the letter, “I thought it was clane enough when I got it — and give it — but ’tis not so clane now, sure enough; this corner — whatever come over it — would it be the snuff, my lady?”

The mark of Miss O’Faley’s thumb was so visible, and the snuff so palpable, and the effort to brush it from the wet paper so disastrous, that Miss O’Faley let the matter rest where it was. King Corny put silver into the boy’s hand, bidding him not be too much of a rogue; the boy, smiling furtively, twitched the hair on his forehead, bobbed his head in sign of thanks, and drawing, not shutting, the door after him, disappeared.

“As sure as I’m Cornelius O’Shane, this is White Connal in propria persona,” said he, opening the note.

“Mon Dieu! Bon Dieu! Ah, Dieu!” cried Mdlle. O’Faley.

“Hush! Whisht!” cried the father —“here’s Dora coming.” Dora came in. “Any letter for me?” “Ay, darling, one for you.”

“Oh, give it me! I’m always in a desperate hurry for my letters: where is it?”

“No — you need not hold out your pretty hand; the letter is for you, but not to you,” said King Corny; “and now you know — ay, now you guess — my quick little blusher, who ’tis from.”

“I guess? not I, indeed — not worth my guessing,” cried Dora, throwing herself sideways into a chair. “My tea, if you please, aunt.” Then, taking the cup, without adverting to Harry, who handed it to her, she began stirring the tea, as if it and all things shared her scorn.

“Ma chère! mon chat!” said Mdlle. O’Faley, “you are quite right to spare yourself the trouble of guessing; for I give it you in two, I give it you in four, I give it you in eight, and you would never guess right. Figure to yourself only, that a man, who has the audacity to call himself a lover of Miss O’Shane’s, could fold, could seal, could direct a letter in such a manner as this, which you here behold.”

Dora, who during this speech had sat fishing for sugar in her tea-cup, raised her long eyelashes, and shot a scornful glance at the letter; but intercepting a crossing look of Ormond’s, the expression of her countenance suddenly changed, and with perfect composure she observed, “A man may fold a letter badly, and be nevertheless a very good man.”

“That nobody can possibly contradict,” said her father; “and on all occasions ’tis a comfort to be able to say what no one can contradict.”

“No well-bred person will never contradict nothing,” said Miss O’Faley. “But, without contradicting you, my child.” resumed Miss O’Faley, “I maintain the impossibility of his being a gentleman who folds a letter so.”

“But if folding a letter is all a man wants of being a gentleman,” said Dora, “it might be learnt, I should think; it might be taught —”

“If you were the teacher, Dora, it might, surely,” said her father.

“But Heaven, I trust, will arrange that better,” said mademoiselle.

“Whatever Heaven arranges must be best,” said Dora.

“Heaven and your father, if you please, Dora,” said her father: “put that and that together, like a dutiful daughter, as you must be.”

“Must!” said Dora, angrily.

“That offensive must slipped out by mistake, darling; I meant only being you, you must be all that’s dutiful and good.”

“Oh!” said Dora, “that’s another view of the subject.”

“You have a very imperfect view of the subject, yet,” said her father; “for you have both been so taken up with the manner, that you have never thought of inquiring into the matter of this letter.”

“And what is the matter?” said Miss O’Faley.

Form!” continued the father, addressing himself to his daughter; “form, I acknowledge, is one thing, and a great thing in a daughter’s eyes.”

Dora blushed. “But in a father’s eyes substance is apt to be more.”

Dora raised her cup and saucer together to her lips at this instant, so that the substance of the saucer completely hid her face from her father.

“But,” said Miss O’Faley, “you have not told us yet what the man says.”

“He says he will be here whenever we please.”

“That’s never,” said Miss O’Faley: “never, I’d give for answer, if my pleasure is to be consulted.”

“Luckily, there’s another person’s pleasure to be consulted here,” said the father, keeping his eyes fixed upon his daughter.

“Another cup of tea, aunt, if you please.”

“Then the sooner the better, I say,” continued her father; “for when a disagreeable thing is to be done — that is, when a thing that’s not quite agreeable to a young lady, such as marriage —” Dora took the cup of tea from her aunt’s hand, Harry not interfering —“I say,” persisted her father, “the sooner it’s done and over, the better.”

Dora saw that Ormond’s eyes were fixed upon her: she suddenly tasted, and suddenly started back from her scalding tea; Harry involuntarily uttered some exclamation of pity; she turned, and seeing his eyes still fixed upon her, said, “Very rude, sir, to stare at any one so.”

“I only thought you had scalded yourself.”

“Then you only thought wrong.”

“At any rate, there’s no great occasion to be angry with me, Dora.”

“And who is angry, pray, Mr. Ormond? What put it in your head that I was doing you the honour to be angry with you?”

“The cream! the cream!” cried Miss O’Faley.

A sudden motion, we must not say an angry motion of Dora’s elbow, had at this moment overset the cream ewer; but Harry set it up again, before its contents poured on her new riding-habit.

“Thank you,” said she, “thank you; but,” added she, changing the places of the cream ewer and cups and saucers before her, “I’d rather manage my own affairs my own way, if you’d let me, Mr. Ormond — if you’d leave me — I can take care of myself my own way.”

“I beg your pardon for saving your habit from destruction, for that is the only cause of offence that I am conscious of having given. But I leave you to your own way, as I am ordered,” said he, rising from the breakfast table.

“Sparring! sparring again, you two!” said Dora’s father: “but, Dora, I wonder whether you and White Connal were sparring that way when you met.”

“Time enough for that, sir, after marriage,” said Dora.

Our hero, who had stood leaning on the back of his chair, fearing that he had been too abrupt in what he had said, cast a lingering look at Dora, as her father spoke about White Connal, and as she replied; but there was something so unfeminine, so unamiable, so decided and bold, he thought, in the tone of her voice, as she pronounced the word marriage, that he then, without reluctance, and with a feeling of disgust, quitted the room, and left her “to manage her own affairs, and to take her own way.”


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54