In hour or two after Martin Kelly had left Porto Bello in the Ballinasloe fly-boat, our other hero, Lord Ballindine, and his friend Dot Blake, started from Morrison’s hotel, with post horses, for Handicap Lodge; and, as they travelled in Blake’s very comfortable barouche, they reached their destination in time for a late dinner, without either adventure or discomfort. Here they remained for some days, fully occupied with the education of their horses, the attention necessary to the engagements for which they were to run, and with their betting-books.
Lord Ballindine’s horse, Brien Boru, was destined to give the Saxons a dressing at Epsom, and put no one knows how many thousands into his owner’s hands, by winning the Derby; and arrangements had already been made for sending him over to John Scott, the English trainer, at an expense, which, if the horse should by chance fail to be successful, would be of very serious consequence to his lordship. But Lord Ballindine had made up his mind, or rather, Blake had made it up for him, and the thing was to be done; the risk was to be run, and the preparations the sweats and the gallops, the physicking, feeding, and coddling, kept Frank tolerably well employed; though the whole process would have gone on quite as well, had he been absent.
It was not so, however, with Dot Blake. The turf, to him, was not an expensive pleasure, but a very serious business, and one which, to give him his due, he well understood. He himself, regulated the work, both of his horses and his men, and saw that both did what was allotted to them. He took very good care that he was never charged a guinea, where a guinea was not necessary; and that he got a guinea’s worth for every guinea he laid out. In fact, he trained his own horses, and was thus able to assure himself that his interests were never made subservient to those of others who kept horses in the same stables. Dot was in his glory, and in his element on the Curragh, and he was never quite happy anywhere else.
This, however, was not the case with his companion. For a couple of days the excitement attending Brien Boru was sufficient to fill Lord Ballindine’s mind; but after that, he could not help recurring to other things. He was much in want of money, and had been civilly told by is agent’s managing clerk, before he left town, that there was some difficulty in the way of his immediately getting the sum required. This annoyed him, for he could not carry on the game without money. And then, again, he was unhappy to be so near Fanny Wyndham, from day to day, without seeing her. He was truly and earnestly attached to her, and miserable at the threat which had been all but made by her guardian, that the match should be broken off.
It was true that he had made up his mind not to go to Grey Abbey, as long as he remained at Handicap Lodge, and, having made the resolution, he thought he was wise in keeping it; but still, he continually felt that she must be aware that he was in the neighbourhood, and could not but be hurt at his apparent indifference. And then he knew that her guardian would make use of his present employment his sojourn at such a den of sporting characters as his friend Blake’s habitation and his continued absence from Grey Abbey though known to be in its vicinity, as additional arguments for inducing his ward to declare the engagement at an end.
These troubles annoyed him, and though he daily stood by and saw Brien Boru go through his manoeuvres, he was discontented and fidgety.
He had been at Handicap Lodge about a fortnight, and was beginning to feel anything but happy. His horse was to go over in another week, money was not plentiful with him, and tradesmen were becoming obdurate and persevering. His host, Blake, was not a soothing or a comfortable friend, under these circumstances: he gave him a good deal of practical advice, but he could not sympathise with him. Blake was a sharp, hard, sensible man, who reduced everything to pounds shillings and pence. Lord Ballindine was a man of feeling, and for the time, at least, a man of pleasure; and, though they were, or thought themselves friends, they did not pull well together; in fact, they bored each other terribly.
One morning, Lord Ballindine was riding out from the training-ground, when he met, if not an old, at any rate an intimate acquaintance, named Tierney. Mr or, as he was commonly called, Mat Tierney, was a bachelor, about sixty years of age, who usually inhabited a lodge near the Curragh; and who kept a horse or two on the turf, more for the sake of the standing which it gave him in the society he liked best, than from any intense love of the sport. He was a fat, jolly fellow, always laughing, and usually in a good humour; he was very fond of what he considered the world; and the world, at least that part of it which knew him, returned the compliment.
‘Well, my lord,’ said he, after a few minutes of got-up enthusiasm respecting Brien Boru, ‘I congratulate you, sincerely.’
‘What about?’ said Lord Ballindine.
‘Why, I find you’ve got a first-rate horse, and I hear you’ve got rid of a first-rate lady. You’re very lucky, no doubt, in both; but I think fortune has stood to you most, in the latter.’
Lord Ballindine was petrified: he did not know what to reply. He was aware that his engagement with Miss Wyndham was so public that Tierney could allude to no other lady; but he could not conceive how any one could have heard that his intended marriage was broken off at any rate how he could have heard it spoken of so publicly, as to induce him to mention it in that sort of way, to himself. His first impulse was to be very indignant; but he felt that no one would dream of quarrelling with Mat Tierney; so he said, as soon as he was able to collect his thoughts sufficiently,
‘I was not aware of the second piece of luck, Mr Tierney. Pray who is the lady?’
‘Why, Miss Wyndham,’ said Mat, himself a little astonished at Lord Ballindine’s tone.
‘I’m sure, Mr Tierney,’ said Frank, ‘you would say nothing, particularly in connection with a lady’s name, which you intended either to be impertinent, or injurious. Were it not that I am quite certain of this, I must own that what you have just said would appear to be both.’
‘My dear lord,’ said the other, surprised and grieved, ‘I beg ten thousand pardons, if I have unintentionally said anything, which you feel to be either. But, surely, if I am not wrong in asking, the match between you and Miss Wyndham is broken off?’
‘May I ask you, Mr Tierney, who told you so?’
‘Certainly Lord Kilcullen; and, as he is Miss Wyndham’s cousin, and Lord Cashel’s son, I could not but think the report authentic.’
This overset Frank still more thoroughly. Lord Kilcullen would never have spread the report publicly unless he had been authorised to do so by Lord Cashel. Frank and Lord Kilcullen had never been intimate; and the former was aware that the other had always been averse to the proposed marriage; but still, he would never have openly declared that the marriage was broken off, had he not had some authority for saying so.
‘As you seem somewhat surprised,’ continued Mat, seeing that Lord Ballindine remained silent, and apparently at a loss for what he ought to say, ‘perhaps I ought to tell you, that Lord Kilcullen mentioned it last night very publicly at a dinner-party, as an absolute fact. Indeed, from his manner, I thought he wished it to be generally made known. I presumed, therefore, that it had been mutually agreed between you, that the event was not to come off that the match was not to be run; and, with my peculiar views, you know, on the subject of matrimony, I thought it a fair point for congratulation. If Lord Kilcullen had misled me, I heartily beg to apologise; and at the same time, by giving you my authority, to show you that I could not intend anything impertinent. If it suits you, you are quite at liberty to tell Lord Kilcullen all I have told you; and, if you wish me to contradict the report, which I must own I have spread, I will do so.’
Frank felt that be could not be angry with Mat Tierney; he therefore thanked him for his open explanation, and, merely muttering something about private affairs not being worthy of public interest, rode off towards Handicap Lodge.
It appeared very plain to him that the Grey Abbey family must have discarded him that Fanny Wyndham, Lord and Lady Cashel, and the whole set, must have made up their minds to drop him altogether; otherwise, one of the family would not have openly declared the match at an end. And yet he was at a loss to conceive how they could have done so how even Lord Cashel could have reconciled it to himself to do so, without the common-place courtesy of writing to him on the subject. And then, when he thought of her, ‘his own Fanny,’ as he had so often called her, he was still more bewildered: she, with whom he had sat for so many sweet hours talking of the impossibility of their ever forgetting, deserting, or even slighting each other; she, who had been so entirely devoted to him so much more than engaged to him could she have lent her name to such a heartless mode of breaking her faith?
‘If I had merely proposed for her through her guardian,’ thought Frank, to himself ‘if I had got Lord Cashel to make the engagement, as many men do, I should not be surprised; but after all that has passed between us after all her vows, and all her ‘and then Lord Ballindine struck his horse with his heel, and made a cut at the air with his whip, as he remembered certain passages more binding even than promises, warmer even than vows, which seemed to make him as miserable now as they had made him happy at the time of their occurrence. ‘I would not believe it,’ he continued, meditating, ‘if twenty Kilcullens said it, or if fifty Mat Tierneys swore to it!’ and then he rode on towards the lodge, in a state of mind for which I am quite unable to account, if his disbelief in Fanny Wyndham’s constancy was really as strong as he had declared it to be. And, as he rode, many unusual thoughts for, hitherto, Frank had not been a very deep-thinking man crowded his mind, as to the baseness, falsehood, and iniquity of the human race, especially of rich cautious old peers who had beautiful wards in their power.
By the time he had reached the lodge, he had determined that he must now do something, and that, as he was quite unable to come to any satisfactory conclusion on his own unassisted judgment, he must consult Blake, who, by the bye, was nearly as sick of Fanny Wyndham as he would have been had he himself been the person engaged to marry her.
As he rode round to the yard, he saw his friend standing at the door of one of the stables, with a cigar in his mouth.
‘Well, Frank, how does Brien go today? Not that he’ll ever be the thing till he gets to the other side of the water. They’ll never be able to bring a horse out as he should be, on the Curragh, till they’ve regular trained gallops. The slightest frost in spring, or sun in summer, and the ground’s so hard, you might as well gallop your horse down the pavement of Grafton Street.’
‘Confound the horse,’ answered Frank; ‘come here, Dot, a minute. I want to speak to you.’
‘What the d l’s the matter? he’s not lame, is he?’
‘Who? what? Brien Boru? Not that I know of. I wish the brute had never been foaled.’
‘And why so? What crotchet have you got in your head now? Something wrong about Fanny, I suppose?’
‘Why, did you hear anything?’
‘Nothing but what you’ve told me.’
‘I’ve just seen Mat Tierney, and he told me that Kilcullen had declared, at a large dinner-party, yesterday, that the match between me and his cousin was finally broken off.’
‘You wouldn’t believe what Mat Tierney would say? Mat was only taking a rise out of you.’
‘Not at all: he was not only speaking seriously, but he told me what I’m very sure was the truth, as far as Lord Kilcullen was concerned. I mean, I’m sure Kilcullen said it, and in the most public manner he could; and now, the question is, what had I better do?’
‘There’s no doubt as to what you’d better do; the question is what you’d rather do?’
‘But what had I better do? call on Kilcullen for an explanation?’
‘That’s the last thing to think of. No; but declare what he reports to be the truth; return Miss Wyndham the lock of hair you have in your desk, and next your heart, or wherever you keep it; write her a pretty note, and conclude by saying that the “Adriatic’s free to wed another”. That’s what I should do.’
‘It’s very odd, Blake, that you won’t speak seriously to a man for a moment. You’ve as much heart in you as one of your own horses. I wish I’d never come to this cursed lodge of yours. I’d be all right then.’
‘As for my heart, Frank, if I have as much as my horses, I ought to be contented for race-horses are usually considered to have a good deal; as for my cursed lodge, I can assure you I have endeavoured, and, if you will allow me, I will still endeavour, to make it as agreeable to you as I am able; and as to my speaking seriously, upon my word, I never spoke more so. You asked me what I thought you had better do and I began by telling you there would be a great difference between that and what you’d rather do.’
‘But, in heaven’s name, why would you have me break off with Miss Wyndham, when every one knows I’m engaged to her; and when you know that I wish to marry her?’
‘Firstly, to prevent her breaking off with you though I fear there’s hardly time for that; and secondly, in consequence as the newspapers say, of incompatibility of temper.’
‘Why, you don’t even know her!’
‘But I know you, and I know what your joint income would be, and I know that there would be great incompatibility between you, as Lord Ballindine, with a wife and family and fifteen hundred a year, or so. But mind, I’m only telling you what I think you’d better do.’
‘Well, I shan’t do that. If I was once settled down, I could live as well on fifteen hundred a year as any country gentleman in Ireland. It’s only the interference of Lord Cashel that makes me determined not to pull in till I am married. If he had let me have my own way, I shouldn’t, by this time, have had a horse in the world, except one or two hunters or so, down in the country.’
‘Well, Frank, if you’re determined to get yourself married, I’ll give you the best advice in my power as to the means of doing it. Isn’t that what you want?’
‘I want to know what you think I ought to do, just at this minute.’
‘With matrimony as the winning-post?’
‘You know I wish to marry Fanny Wyndham.’
‘And the sooner the better is that it?’
‘Of course. She’ll be of age now, in a few days,’ replied Lord Ballindine.
‘Then I advise you to order a new blue coat, and to buy a wedding-ring.’
‘Confusion!’ cried Frank, stamping his foot; and turning away in a passion; and then he took up his hat, to rush out of the room, in which the latter part of the conversation had taken place.
‘Stop a minute, Frank,’ said Blake, ‘and don’t he in a passion. What I said was only meant to show you how easy I think it is for you to marry Miss Wyndham if you choose.’
‘Easy! and every soul at Grey Abbey turned against me, in consequence of my owning that brute of a horse! I’ll go over there at once, and I’ll show Lord Cashel that at any rate he shall not treat me like a child. As for Kilcullen, if he interferes with me or my name in any way, I’ll ’
‘You’ll what? thrash him?’
‘Indeed, I’d like nothing better!’
‘And then shoot him be tried by your peers and perhaps hung; is that it?’
‘Oh, that’s nonsense. I don’t wish to fight any one, but I am not going to be insulted.’
‘I don’t think you are: I don’t think there’s the least chance of Kilcullen insulting you; he has too much worldly wisdom. But to come back to Miss Wyndham: if you really mean to marry her, and if, as I believe, she is really fond of you, Lord Cashel and all the family can’t prevent it. She is probably angry that you have not been over there; he is probably irate at your staying here, and, not unlikely, has made use of her own anger to make her think that she has quarrelled with you; and hence Kilcullen’s report.’
‘And what shall I do now?’
‘Nothing today, but eat your dinner, and drink your wine. Ride over tomorrow, see Lord Cashel, and tell him but do it quite coolly, if you can exactly what you have heard, and how you have heard it, and beg him to assure Lord Kilcullen that he is mistaken in his notion that the match is off; and beg also that the report may not be repeated. Do this; and do it as if you were Lord Cashel’s equal, not as if you were his son, or his servant. If you are co1lected and steady with him for ten minutes, you’ll soon find that he will become bothered and unsteady.’
‘That’s very easy to say here, but it’s not so easy to do there. You don’t know him as I do: he’s so sedate, and so slow, and so dull especially sitting alone, as he does of a morning, in that large, dingy, uncomfortable, dusty-looking book-room of his. He measures his words like senna and salts, and their tone is as disagreeable.’
‘Then do you drop out yours like prussic acid, and you’ll beat him at his own game. Those are all externals, my dear fellow. When a man knows he has nothing within his head to trust to when he has neither sense nor genius, he puts on a wig, ties up his neck in a white choker, sits in a big chair, and frightens the world with his silence. Remember, if you were not a baby, he would not be a bugbear.’
‘And should I not ask to see Fanny?’
‘By all means. Don’t leave Grey Abbey without seeing and making your peace with Miss Wyndham. That’ll be easy with you, because it’s your m‚tier. I own that with myself it would be the most difficult part of the morning’s work. But don’t ask to see her as a favour. When you’ve done with the lord (and don’t let your conference be very long) when you’ve done with the lord, tell him you’ll say a word to the lady; and, whatever may have been his pre-determination, you’ll find that, if you’re cool, he’ll be bothered, and he won’t know how to refuse; and if he doesn’t prevent you, I’m sure Miss Wyndham won’t.’
‘And if he asks about these wretched horses of mine?’
‘Don’t let him talk more about your affairs than you can help; but, if he presses you and he won’t if you play your game well tell him that you’re quite aware your income won’t allow you to keep up an establishment at the Curragh after you’re married.’
‘But about Brien Boru, and the Derby?’
‘Brien Boru! You might as well talk to him about your washing-bills! Don’t go into particulars-stick to generals. He’ll never ask you those questions unless he sees you shiver and shake like a half-whipped school-boy.’
After a great deal of confabulation, in which Dot Blake often repeated his opinion of Lord Ballindine’s folly in not rejoicing at an opportunity of breaking oft the match, it was determined that Frank should ride over the next morning, and do exactly what his friend proposed. If, however, one might judge from his apparent dread of the interview with Lord Cashel, there was but little chance of his conducting it with the coolness or assurance insisted on by Dot. The probability was, that when the time did come, he would, as Blake said, shiver and shake like a half-whipped school-boy.
‘And what will you do when you’re married, Frank?’ said Blake; ‘for I’m beginning to think the symptoms are strong, and you’ll hardly get out of it now.’
‘Do! why, I suppose I’ll do much the same as others have two children, and live happy ever afterwards.’
‘I dare say you’re right about the two children, only you might say two dozen; but as to the living happy, that’s more problematical. What do you mean to eat and drink?’
‘Eggs potatoes and bacon buttermilk, and potheen. It’s odd if I can’t get plenty of them in Mayo, if I’ve nothing better.’
‘I suppose you will, Frank; but bacon won’t go down well after venison; and a course of claret is a bad preparative for potheen punch. You’re not the man to live, with a family, on a small income, and what the d l you’ll do I don’t know. You’ll fortify Kelly’s Court that’ll be the first step.’
‘Is it against the Repealers?’
‘Faith, no; you’ll join them, of course: but against the sub-sheriff, and his officers an army much more likely to crown their enterprises with success.’
‘You seem to forget, Dot, that, after all, I’m marrying a girl with quite as large a fortune as I had any right to expect.’
‘The limit to your expectations was only in your own modesty; the less you had a right in the common parlance to expect, the more you wanted, and the more you ought to have looked for. Say that Miss Wyndham’s fortune clears a thousand a year of your property, you would never be able to get along on what you’d have. No; I’ll tell you what you’ll do. You’ll shut up Kelly’s Court, raise the rents, take a moderate house in London; and Lord Cashel, when his party are in, will get you made a court stick of, and you’ll lead just such a life as your grandfather. If it’s not very glorious, at any rate it’s a useful kind of life. I hope Miss Wyndham will like it. You’ll have to christen your children Ernest and Albert, and that sort of thing; that’s the worst of it; and you’ll never be let to sit down, and that’s a bore. But you’ve strong legs. It would never do for me. I could never stand out a long tragedy in Drury Lane, with my neck in a stiff white choker, and my toes screwed into tight dress boots. I’d sooner be a porter myself, for he can go to bed when the day’s over.’
‘You’re very witty, Dot; but you know I’m the last man in Ireland, not excepting yourself, to put up with that kind of thing. Whatever I may have to live on, I shall live in my own country, and on my own property.’
‘Very well; if you won’t be a gold stick, there’s the other alternative: fortify Kelly’s Court, and prepare for the sheriff’s officers. Of the two, there’s certainly more fun in it; and you can go out with the harriers on a Sunday afternoon, and live like a “ra’al O’Kelly of the ould times” only the punch’ll kill you in about ten years.’
‘Go on, Dot, go on. You want to provoke me, but you won’t. I wonder whether you’d bear it as well, if I told you you’d die a broken-down black-leg, without a friend or a shilling to bless you.’
‘I don’t think I should, because I should know that you were threatening me with a fate which my conduct and line of life would not warrant any one in expecting.’
‘Upon my word, then, I think there’s quite as much chance of that as there is of my getting shut up by bailiffs in Kelly’s Court, and dying drunk. I’ll bet you fifty pounds I’ve a better account at my bankers than you have in ten years.’
‘Faith, I’ll not take it. It’ll be hard work getting fifty pounds out of you, then! In the meantime, come and play a game of billiards before dinner.’
To this Lord Ballindine consented, and they adjourned to the billiard-room; but, before they commenced playing, Blake declared that if the names of Lord Cashel or Miss Wyndham were mentioned again that evening, he should retreat to his own room, and spend the hours by himself; so, for the rest of that day, Lord Ballindine was again driven back upon Brien Boru and the Derby for conversation, as Dot was too close about his own stable to talk much of his own horses and their performances, except when he was doing so with an eye to business.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14