Ormond, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 18.

Ormond was received with much kindness in Dr. Cambray’s family, in which he felt himself at ease, and soon forgot that he was a stranger: his mind, however, was anxious about his situation, as he longed to get into active life. Every morning, when the post came in, he hoped there would be a letter for him with his commission; and he was every morning regularly surprised and disappointed, on finding that there was none. In the course of each ensuing day, however, he forgot his disappointment, and said he believed he was happier where he was than he could be any where else. The regular morning question of “Any letters for me?” was at last answered by “Yes; one franked by Sir Ulick O’Shane.” “Ah! no commission — I feel no enclosure — single letter — no! double.” Double or single, it was as follows:—


“At last I have seen the executrix and son-in-law, whom that great genius deceased, my well-beloved cousin in folly, King Corny, chose for himself. As to that thing, half mud, half tinsel, half Irish, half French, Miss, or Mademoiselle, O’Faley, that jointed doll, is — all but the eyes, which move of themselves in a very extraordinary way — a mere puppet, pulled by wires in the hands of another. The master showman, fully as extraordinary in his own way as his puppet, kept, while I was by, as much as possible behind the scenes. The hand and ruffle of the French petit-maitre, and the prompter’s voice, however, were visible and audible enough for me. In plain English, I suppose it is no news to you to hear that Mdlle. O’Faley is a fool, and Monsieur de Connal, Captain O’Connal, Black Connal, or by whatever other alias he is to be called, is properly a puppy. I am sorry, my dear boy, to tell you that the fool has let the rogue get hold of the five hundred pounds lodged in the bank — so no hopes of your commission for three months, or at the least two months to come. My dear boy, your much-lamented friend and benefactor (is not that the style?), King Corny, who began, I think, by being, years ago, to your admiration, his own tailor, has ended, I fear to your loss, by being his own lawyer: he has drawn his will so that any attorney could drive a coach and six through it — so ends ‘every man his own lawyer.’ Forgive me this laugh, Harry. By-the-bye, you, my dear ward, will be of age in December, I think — then all my legal power of interference ceases.

“Meantime, as I know you will be out of spirits when you read this, I have some comfort for you and myself, which I kept for a bonne-bouche — you will never more see Lady O’Shane, nor I either. Articles of separation — and I didn’t trust myself to be my own lawyer — have been signed between us: so I shall see her ladyship sail for England this night — won’t let any one have the pleasure of putting her on board but myself — I will see her safe off, and feel well assured nothing can tempt her to return — even to haunt me — or scold you. This was the business which detained me in Dublin — well worth while to give up a summer to secure, for the rest of one’s days, liberty to lead a bachelor’s merry life, which I mean to do at Castle Hermitage or elsewhere, now and from henceforth — Miss Black in no ways notwithstanding. Miss Black, it is but justice to tell you, is now convinced of my conjugal virtues, and admires my patience as much as she used to admire Lady O’Shane’s. She has been very useful to me in arranging my affairs in this separation —in consequence, I have procured a commission of the peace for a certain Mr. M’Crule, a man whom you may remember to have seen or heard at the bottom or corner of the table at Castle Hermitage, one of the Cromwellians, a fellow with the true draw-down of the mouth, and who speaks, or snorts, through his nose. I have caused him, not without some difficulty, to ask Miss Black to be his helpmate (Lord help him and forgive me!); and Miss Black, preferring rather to stay in Ireland and become Mrs. M’Crule than to return to England and continue companion to Lady O’Shane, hath consented (who can blame her?) to marry on the spur of the occasion — to-morrow — I giving her away — you may imagine with what satisfaction. What with marriages and separations, the business of the nation, my bank, my canal, and my coal-mines, you may guess my hands have been full of business. Now, all for pleasure! next week I hope to be down enjoying my liberty at Castle Hermitage, where I shall be heartily glad to have my dear Harry again. Marcus in England still — the poor Annalys in great distress about the son, with whom, I fear, it is all over. No time for more. Measure my affection by the length of this, the longest epistle extant in my hand-writing.

“My dear boy, yours ever,

“Ulick O’Shane.”

The mixed and crossing emotions which this letter was calculated to excite having crossed, and mixed, and subsided a little, the predominating feeling was expressed by our young hero with a sigh, and this reflection: “Two months at the least! I must wait before I can have my commission — two months more in idleness the fates have decreed.”

“That last is a part of the decree that depends on yourself, not on the fates. Two months you must wait, but why in idleness?” said Dr. Cambray.

The kind and prudent doctor did not press the question — he was content with its being heard, knowing that it would sink into the mind and produce its effect in due season. Accordingly, after some time, after Ormond had exhaled impatience, and exhausted invective, and submitted to necessity, he returned to reason with the doctor. One evening, when the doctor and his family had returned from walking, and as the tea-urn was just coming in bubbling and steaming, Ormond set to work at a corner of the table, at the doctor’s elbow.

“My dear doctor, suppose I was now to read over to you my list of books.”

“Suppose you were, and suppose I was to fall asleep,” said the doctor.

“Not the least likely, sir, when you are to do any thing kind for a friend — may I say friend?”

“You may. Come, read on — I am not proof against flattery, even at my age — well, read away.”

Ormond began; but at that moment there drove past the windows a travelling chariot and four.

“Sir Ulick O’Shane, as I live!” cried Ormond, starting up. “I saw him — he nodded to me. Oh! no, impossible — he said he would not come till next week — Where’s his letter? — What’s the date? — Could it mean this week? — No, he says next week quite plainly — What can be the reason?”

A note for Mr. Ormond was brought in, which had been left by one of Sir Ulick O’Shane’s servants as they went by.

“My commission, after all,” cried Harry. “I always knew, I always said, that Sir Ulick was a good friend.”

“Has he purchased the commission?” said Dr. Cambray.

“He does not actually say so, but that must be what his note means,” said Ormond.

“Means! but what does it say? — May I see it?”

“It is written in such a hurry, and in pencil, you’ll not be able to make it out.”

The doctor, however, read aloud —

“If Mr. Harry Ormond will inquire at Castle Hermitage, he will hear of something to his advantage.


“Go off this minute,” said Mrs. Cambray, “and inquire at Castle Hermitage what Mr. Harry Ormond may hear to his advantage, and let us learn it as soon as possible.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Harry; and ere the words were well uttered, a hundred steps were lost.

With more than his usual cordiality, Sir Ulick O’Shane received him, came out into the hall to meet his dear Harry, his own dear boy, to welcome him again to Castle Hermitage.

“We did not expect you, sir, till next week — this is a most agreeable surprise. Did you not say —”

“No matter what I said — you see what I have done,” interrupted Sir Ulick; “and now I must introduce you to a niece of mine, whom you have never yet seen — Lady Norton, a charming, well-bred, pleasant little widow, whose husband died, luckily for her and me, just when they had run out all their large fortune. She is delighted to come to me, and is just the thing to do the honours of Castle Hermitage — used to the style; but observe, though she is to rule my roast and my boiled, she is not to rule me or my friends — that is a preliminary, and a special clause for Harry Ormond’s being a privileged ami de la maison. Now, my dear fellow, you understand how the land lies; and depend upon it, you’ll like her, and find her every way of great advantage to you.”

So, thought Harry, is this all the advantage I am to hear of?

Sir Ulick led on to the drawing-room, and presented him to a fashionable~looking lady, neither young nor old, nothing in any respect remarkable.

“Lady Norton, Harry Ormond — Harry Ormond, my niece, Lady Norton, who will make this house as pleasant to you, and to me, and to all my friends, as it has been unpleasant ever since — in short, ever since you were out of it, Harry.”

Lady Norton, with gracious smile and well-bred courtesy, received Harry in a manner that promised the performance of all for which Sir Ulick had engaged. Tea came; and the conversation went on chiefly between Sir Ulick and Lady Norton on their own affairs, about invitations and engagements they had made, before they left Dublin, with various persons who were coming down to Castle Hermitage. Sir Ulick asked, “When are the Brudenells to come to us, my dear? — Did you settle with the Lascelles? — and Lady Louisa, she must be here with the vice-regal party — arrange that, my dear.”

Lady Norton had settled every thing; she took out an elegant memorandum~book, and read the arrangements to Sir Ulick. Between whiles, Sir Ulick turned to Ormond and noted the claims of those persons to distinction, and as several ladies were named, exclaimed, “Charming woman! — delightful little creature! — The Darrells; Harry, you’ll like the Darrells too! — The Lardners, all clever, pleasant, and odd, will entertain you amazingly, Harry! — But Lady Millicent is the woman — nothing at all has been seen in this country like her! — most fascinating! Harry, take care of your heart.”

Then, as to the men — this man was clever — and the other was quite a hero — and the next the pleasantest fellow — and the best sportsman — and there were men of political eminence — men who had distinguished themselves on different occasions by celebrated speeches — and particularly promising rising young; men, with whom he must make Ormond intimately acquainted. Now Sir Ulick closed Lady Norton’s book, and taking it from her hand, said, “I am tiring you, my dear — that’s enough for to-night — we’ll settle all the rest to-morrow: you must be tired after your journey — I whirled you down without mercy — you look fatigued and sleepy.”

Lady Norton said, “Indeed, she believed she was a little tired, and rather sleepy.”

Her uncle begged she would not sit up longer from compliment; accordingly, apologizing to Mr. Ormond, and “really much fatigued,” she retired. Sir Ulick walked up and down the room, meditating for some moments, while Harry renewed his intimacy with an old dog, who, at every pause in the conversation, jumping up on him, and squealing with delight, had claimed his notice.

“Well, my boy,” exclaimed Sir Ulick, stopping short, “aren’t you a most extraordinary fellow? Pray did you get my note?”

“Certainly, sir, and came instantly in consequence.”

“And yet you have never inquired what it is that you might hear to your advantage.”

“I— I thought I had heard it, sir.”

“Heard it, sir!” repeated Sir Ulick: “what can you mean?”

“Simply, sir, that I thought the advantage you alluded to was the introduction you did me just now the favour to give me to Lady Norton; you said, her being here would be a great advantage to me, and that led me to conclude —”

“Well, well! you were always a simple good fellow — confiding in my friendship — continue the same — you will, I am confident. But had you no other thought?”

“I had,” said Harry, “when first I read your note, I had, I own, another thought.”

“And what might it be?”

“I thought of my commission, sir.”

“What of your commission?”

“That you had procured it for me, sir.”

“Since you ask me, I tell you honestly, that if it had been for your interest, I would have purchased that commission long ago; but there is a little secret, a political secret, which I could not tell you before — those who are behind the scenes cannot always speak — I may tell it to you now confidentially, but you must not repeat it, especially from me — that peace is likely to continue; so the army is out of the question.”

“Well, sir, if that be the case — you know best.”

“I do — it is, trust me; and as things have turned out — though I could not possibly foresee what has happened — every thing is for the best: I have come express from town to tell you news that will surprise you beyond measure.”

“What can you mean, sir?”

“Simply, sir, that you are possessed, or soon will be possessed of — But come, sit down quietly, and in good earnest let me explain to you. You know your father’s second wife, the Indian woman, the governor’s mahogany~coloured daughter — she had a prodigious fortune, which my poor friend, your father, chose, when dying, to settle upon her, and her Indian son; leaving you nothing but what he could not take from you, the little paternal estate of three hundred pounds a year. Well, it has pleased Heaven to take your mahogany-coloured step-mother and your Indian brother out of this world; both carried off within a few days of each other by a fever of the country — much regretted, I dare say, in the Bombay Gazette, by all who knew them.

“But as neither you nor I had that honour, we are not, upon this occasion, called upon for any hypocrisy, farther than a black coat, which I have ordered for you at my tailor’s. Have also noted and answered, in conformity, the agent’s letter of 26th July, received yesterday, containing the melancholy intelligence: farther, replied to that part of his last, which requested to know how and where to transmit the property, which, on the Indian mother and brother’s demise, falls, by the will of the late Captain Ormond, to his European son, Harry Ormond, esq., now under the guardianship of Sir Ulick O’Shane, Castle Hermitage, Ireland.”

As he spoke, Sir Ulick produced the agent’s letter, and put it into his ward’s hand, pointing to the “useful passages.” Harry, glancing his eye over them, understood just enough to be convinced that Sir Ulick was in earnest, and that he was really heir to a very considerable property.

“Well! Harry Ormond, esq.,” pursued Sir Ulick, “was I wrong when I told you that if you would inquire at Castle Hermitage you would hear of something to your advantage?”

“I hope in Heaven,” said Ormond, “and pray to Heaven that it may be to my advantage! — I hope neither my head nor my heart may be turned by sudden prosperity.”

“Your heart — oh! I’ll answer for your heart, my noble fellow,” said Sir Ulick; “but I own you surprise me by the coolness of head you show.”

“If you’ll excuse me,” said Ormond, “I must run this minute to tell Dr. Cambray and all my friends at Vicar’s Dale.”

“Certainly — quite right,” said Sir Ulick —“I won’t detain you a moment,” said he — but he still held him fast. “I let you go to-night, but you must come to me to-morrow.”

“Oh! sir, certainly.”

“And you will bid adieu to Vicar’s Dale, and take up your quarters at Castle Hermitage, with your old guardian.”

“Thank you, sir — delightful! But I need not bid adieu to Vicar’s Dale — they are so near, I shall see them every day.”

“Of course,” said Sir Ulick, biting his lip; “but I was thinking of something.”

“Pray,” continued Sir Ulick, “do you like a gig, a curricle, or a phaeton best, or what carriage will you have? there is Tom Darrel’s in London now, who can bring it over for you. Well, we can settle that to-morrow.”

“If you please — thank you, kind Sir Ulick — how can you think so quickly of every thing?”

“Horses, too — let me see,” said Sir Ulick, drawing Harry back to the fire-place —“Ay, George Beirne is a judge of horses — he can choose for you, unless you like to choose for yourself. What colour — black or bay?”

“I declare, sir, I don’t know yet — my poor head is in such a state — and the horses happen not to be uppermost.”

“I protest, Harry, you perfectly astonish me, by the sedateness of your mind and manner. You are certainly wonderfully formed and improved since I saw you last — but, how! in the name of wonder, in the Black Islands, how I cannot conceive,” said Sir Ulick.

“As to sedateness, you know, sir, since I saw you last, I may well be sobered a little, for I have suffered — not a little,” said Harry.

“Suffered! how?” said Sir Ulick, leaning his arm on the mantel-piece opposite to him, and listening with an air of sympathy —“suffered! I was not aware —”

“You know, sir, I have lost an excellent friend.”

“Poor Corny — ay, my poor cousin, as far as he could, I am sure, he wished to be a friend to you.”

“He wished to be, and was,” said Ormond.

“It would have been better for him and his daughter too,” resumed Sir Ulick, “if he had chosen you for his son-in-law, instead of the coxcomb to whom Dora is going to be married: yet I own, as your guardian, I am well pleased that Dora, though a very pretty girl, is out of your way — you must look higher — she was no match for you.”

“I am perfectly sensible, sir, that we should never have been happy together.”

“You are a very sensible young man, Ormond — you make me admire you, seriously — I always foresaw what you would be Ah! if Marcus — but we’ll not talk of that now. Terribly dissipated — has spent an immensity of money already — but still, when he speaks in parliament he will make a figure. But good bye, good night; I see you are in a hurry to get away from me.”

From you! Oh! no, sir, you cannot think me so ungrateful. I have not expressed, because I have not words — when I feel much, I never can say any thing; yet believe me, sir, I do feel your kindness, and all the warm fatherly interest you have this night shown that you have for me:— but I am in a hurry to tell my good friends the Cambrays, who I know are impatient for my return, and I fear I am keeping them up beyond their usual hour.”

“Not at all — besides — good Heavens! can’t they sit up a quarter of an hour, if they are so much interested? — Stay, you really hurry my slow wits — one thing more I had to say — pray, may I ask to which of the Miss Cambrays is it that you are so impatient to impart your good fortune?”

“To both, sir,” said Ormond —“equally.”

“Both! — you unconscionable dog, polygamy is not permitted in these countries — Both! no, try again for a better answer; though that was no bad one at the first blush.”

“I have no other answer to give than the plain truth, sir: I am thinking neither of polygamy nor even of marriage at present. These young ladies are both very amiable, very handsome, and very agreeable; but, in short, we are not thinking of one another — indeed, I believe they are engaged.”

“Engaged! — Oh! then you have thought about these young ladies enough to find that out. Well, this saves your gallantry — good night.”

Sir Ulick had this evening taken a vast deal of superfluous pains to sound a mind, which lay open before him, clear to the very bottom; but because it was so clear, be could not believe that he saw the bottom. He did not much like Dr. Cambray — Father Jos was right there. Dr. Cambray was one of those simple characters which puzzled Sir Ulick — the idea of these Miss Cambrays, of the possibility of his ward’s having formed an attachment that might interfere with his views, disturbed Sir Ulick’s rest this night. His first operation in the morning was to walk down unexpectedly early to Vicar’s Dale. He found Ormond with Dr. Cambray, very busy, examining a plan which the doctor had sketched for a new cottage for Moriarty — a mason was standing by, talking of sand, lime, and stones. “But the young ladies, where are they?” Sir Ulick asked.

Ormond did not know. Mrs. Cambray, who was quietly reading, said she supposed they were in their gardens; and not in the least suspecting Sir Ulick’s suspicions, she was glad to see him, and gave credit to his neighbourly good-will for the earliness of this visit, without waiting even for the doctor to pay his respects first, as he intended to do at Castle Hermitage.

“Oh! as to that,” Sir Ulick said, “he did not intend to live on terms of ceremony with Dr. Cambray — he was impatient to take the first opportunity of thanking the doctor for his attentions to his ward.”

Sir Ulick’s quick eye saw on the table in Harry’s handwriting the list of books to be read. He took it up, looked it over, and with a smile asked, “Any thoughts of the church, Harry?”

“No, sir; it would be rather late for me to think of the church. I should never prepare myself properly.”

“Besides,” said Sir Ulick, “I have no living in my gift; but if,” continued he, in a tone of irony, “if, as I should opine from the list I hold in my hand — you look to a college living, my boy — if you are bent upon reading for a fellowship — I don’t doubt but with Dr. Cambray’s assistance, and with some grinder and crammer, we might get you cleverly through all the college examinations. And doctor, if he did not, in going through some of the college courses, die of a logical indigestion, or a classical fever, or a metaphysical lethargy, he might shine in the dignity of Trin. Coll. Dub., and, mad Mathesis inspiring, might teach eternally how the line AB is equal to the line CD— or why poor X Y Z are unknown quantities. Ah! my dear boy, think of the pleasure, the glory of lecturing classes of ignoramuses, and dunces yet unborn!”

Harry, no way disconcerted, laughed good-humouredly with his guardian, and replied, “At present, sir, my ambition reaches no farther than to escape myself from the class of dunces and ignoramuses. I am conscious that at present I am very deficient.”

In what, my dear boy? — To make your complaint English, you must say deficient in some thing or other —’tis an Iricism to say in general that you are very deficient.

“There is one of my particular deficiencies then you see, sir — I am deficient in English.”

“You are not deficient in temper, I am sure,” said Sir Ulick: “come, come, you may be tolerably well contented with yourself.”

“Ignorant as I am! — No,” said Ormond, “I will never sit down content in ignorance. Now that I have the fortune of a gentleman, it would be so much the more conspicuous, more scandalous — now that I have every way the means, I will, by the blessing of Heaven, and with the help of kind friends, make myself something more and something better than I am.”

“Gad! you are a fine fellow, Harry Ormond,” cried Sir Ulick: “I remember having once, at your age, such feelings and notions myself.”

“Very unlike the first thoughts and feelings many young men would have on coming into unexpected possession of a fortune,” said Dr. Cambray.

“True,” said Sir Ulick, “and we must keep his counsel, that he may not be dubbed a quiz — not a word of this sort, Harry, for the Darrells, the Lardners, or the Dartfords.”

“I don’t care whether they dub me a quiz or not,” said Harry, hastily: “what are Darrells, Lardners, or Dartfords to me?”

“They are something to me,” said Sir Ulick.

“Oh! I beg pardon, sir — I didn’t know that — that makes it quite another affair.”

“And, Harry, as you are to meet these young men, I thought it well to try how you could bear to be laughed at — I have tried you in this very conversation, and found you, to my infinite satisfaction, ridicule proof — better than even bullet proof— much better. No danger that a young man of spirit should be bullied out of his opinion and principles, but great danger that he might be laughed out of them — and I rejoice, my dear ward, to see that you are safe from this peril.”

Benevolent pleasure shone in Dr. Cambray’s countenance, when he heard Sir Ulick speak in this manner.

“You will dine with us, Dr. Cambray?” said Sir Ulick. “Harry, you will not forget Castle Hermitage?”

“Forget Castle Hermitage! as if I could, where I spent my happy childhood — that paradise, as it seemed to me the first time — when, a poor little orphan boy, I was brought from my smoky cabin. I remember the day as well as if it were this moment — when you took me by the hand, and led me in, and I clung to you.”

“Cling to me still! cling to me ever,” interrupted Sir Ulick, “and I will never fail you — no, never,” repeated he, grasping Harry’s hand, and looking upon him with an emotion of affection, strongly felt, and therefore strongly expressed.

“To be sure I will,” said Harry.

“And I hope,” added Sir Ulick, recovering the gaiety of his tone, “that at Castle Hermitage a paradise will open for your youth as it opened for your childhood.”

Mrs. Cambray put in a word of hope and fear about Vicar’s Dale. To which Ormond answered, “Never fear, Mrs. Cambray — trust me — I know my own interest too well.”

Sir Ulick turning again as he was leaving the room, said with an air of frank liberality, “We’ll settle that at once — we’ll divide Harry between us — or we’ll divide his day thus: the mornings I leave you to your friends and studies for an hour or two Harry, in this Vale of Eden — the rest of the day we must have you — men and books best mixed — see Bacon, and see every clever man that ever wrote or spoke. So here,” added Sir Ulick, pointing to a map of history, which lay on the table, “you will have The Stream of Time, and with us Le Courant du Jour.“

Sir Ulick departed. During the whole of this conversation, and of that of the preceding night, while he seemed to be talking at random of different things, unconnected and of opposite sorts, he had carefully attended to one object. Going round the whole circle of human motives — love, ambition, interest, ease, pleasure, he had made accurate observation on his ward’s mind; and reversing the order, he went round another way, and repeated and corrected his observations. The points he had strongly noted for practical use were, that for retaining influence over his ward, he must depend not upon interested motives of any kind, nor upon the force of authority or precedent, nor yet on the power of ridicule, but principally upon feelings of honour, gratitude, and generosity. Harry now no longer crossed any of his projects, but was become himself the means of carrying many into execution. The plan of a match for Marcus with Miss Annaly was entirely at an end. That young lady had given a decided refusal; and some circumstances, which we cannot here stop to explain, rendered Marcus and his father easy under that disappointment. No jealousy or competition existing, therefore, any longer between his son and ward, Sir Ulick’s affection for Ormond returned in full tide; nor did he reproach himself for having banished Harry from Castle Hermitage, or for having formerly neglected, and almost forgotten him for two or three years. Sir Ulick took the matter up just as easily as he had laid it down — he now looked on Harry not as the youth whom he had deserted, but as the orphan boy whom he had cherished in adversity, and whom he had a consequent right to produce and patronize in prosperity. Beyond, or beneath all this, there was another reason why Sir Ulick took so much pains, and felt so much anxiety, to establish his influence over his ward. This reason cannot yet be mentioned — he had hardly revealed it to himself — it was deep down in his soul — to be or not to be — as circumstances, time, and the hour, should decide.


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