Lord Cashel firmly believed, when he left the room, that he had shown great tact in discovering Frank’s mercenary schemes, and in laying them open before Fanny; and that she had firmly and finally made up her mind to have nothing more to do with him. He had not long been re-seated in his customary chair in the book-room, before he began to feel a certain degree of horror at the young lord’s baseness, and to think how worthily he had executed his duty as a guardian, in saving Miss Wyndham from so sordid a suitor. From thinking of his duties as a guardian, his mind, not unnaturally, recurred to those which were incumbent on him as a father, and here nothing disturbed his serenity. It is true that, from an appreciation of the lustre which would reflect back upon himself from allowing his son to become a decidedly fashionable young man, he had encouraged him in extravagance, dissipation, and heartless worldliness; he had brought him up to be supercilious, expensive, unprincipled, and useless. But then, he was gentlemanlike, dignified, and sought after; and now, the father reflected, with satisfaction, that, if he could accomplish his well-conceived scheme, he would pay his son’s debts with his ward’s fortune, and, at the same time, tie him down to some degree of propriety and decorum, by a wife. Lord Kilcullen, when about to marry, would be obliged to cashier his opera-dancers and their expensive crews; and, though he might not leave the turf altogether, when married he would gradually he drawn out of turf society, and would doubtless become a good steady family nobleman, like his father. Why, he Lord Cashel himself wise, prudent, and respectable as he was example as he knew himself to be to all peers, English, Irish, and Scotch, had had his horses, and his indiscretions, when he was young. And then he stroked the calves of his legs, and smiled grimly; for the memory of his juvenile vices was pleasant to him.
Lord Cashel thought, as he continued to reflect on the matter, that Lord Ballindine was certainly a sordid schemer; but that his son was a young man of whom he had just reason to be proud, and who was worthy of a wife in the shape of a hundred thousand pounds. And then, he congratulated himself on being the most anxious of guardians and the best of fathers; and, with these comfortable reflections, the worthy peer strutted off, through his ample doors, up his lofty stairs, and away through his long corridors, to dress for dinner. You might have heard his boots creaking till he got inside his dressing-room, but you must have owned that they did so with a most dignified cadence.
It was pleasant enough, certainly, planning all these things; but there would be some little trouble in executing them. In the first place, Lord Kilcullen though a very good son, on the whole, as the father frequently remarked to himself was a little fond of having a will of his own, and maybe, might object to dispense with his dancing-girls. And though there was, unfortunately, but little doubt that the money was indispensably necessary to him, it was just possible that he might insist on having the cash without his cousin. However, the proposal must be made, and, as the operations necessary to perfect the marriage would cause some delay, and the money would certainly be wanted as soon as possible, no time was to be lost. Lord Kilcullen was, accordingly, summoned to Grey Abbey; and, as he presumed his attendance was required for the purpose of talking over some method of raising the wind, he obeyed the summons. I should rather have said of raising a storm, for no gentle puff would serve to watt him through his present necessities.
Down he came, to the great delight of his mother, who thought him by far the finest young man of the day, though he usually slighted, snubbed, and ridiculed her and of his sister, who always hailed with dignified joy the return of the eldest scion of her proud family to the ancestral roof. The earl was also glad to find that no previous engagement detained him; that is, that he so far sacrificed his own comfort as to leave Tattersall’s and the Figuranti of the Opera-House, to come all the way to Grey Abbey, in the county of Kildare. But, though the earl was glad to see his son, he was still a little consternated: the business interview could not be postponed, as it was not to be supposed that Lord Kilcullen would stay long at Grey Abbey during the London season; and the father had yet hardly sufficiently crammed himself for the occasion. Besides, the pressure from without must have been very strong to have produced so immediate a compliance with a behest not uttered in a very peremptory manner, or, generally speaking, to a very obedient child.
On the morning after his arrival, the earl was a little uneasy in his chair during breakfast. It was rather a sombre meal, for Fanny had by no means recovered her spirits, nor did she appear to be it the way to do so. The countess tried to chat a little to her son, but he hardly answered her; and Lady Selina, though she was often profound, was never amusing. Lord Cashel made sundry attempts at general conversation, but as often failed. It was, at last, however, over; and the father requested the son to come with him into the book-room.
When the fire was poked, and the chairs were drawn together over the rug, there were no further preliminaries which could be decently introduced and the earl was therefore forced to commence.
‘Well, Kilcullen, I’m glad you’re come to Grey Abbey. I’m afraid, however, we shan’t induce you to stay with us long, so it’s as well perhaps to settle our business at once. You would, however, greatly oblige your mother, and I’m sure I need not add, myself, if you could make your arrangements so as to stay with us till after Easter. We could then return together.’
‘Till after Easter, my lord! I should be in the Hue and Cry before that time, if I was so long absent from my accustomed haunts. Besides I should only put out your own arrangements, or rather, those of Lady Cashel. There would probably be no room for me in the family coach.’.
‘The family coach won’t go, Lord Kilcullen. I am sorry to say, that the state of my affairs at present renders it advisable that the family should remain at Grey Abbey this season. I shall attend my parliamentary duties alone.’
This was intended as a hit the first at the prodigal son, but Kilcullen was too crafty to allow it to tell. He merely bowed his head, and opened his eyes, to betoken his surprise at such a decision, and remained quiet.
‘Indeed,’ continued Lord Cashel, ‘I did not even intend to have gone myself, but the unexpected death of Harry Wyndham renders it necessary. I must put Fanny’s affairs in a right train. Poor Harry! did you see much of him during his illness?’
‘Why, no I can’t say I did. I’m not a very good hand at doctoring or nursing. I saw him once since he got his commission, glittering with his gold lace like a new weather-cock on a Town Hall. He hadn’t time to polish the shine off.’
‘His death will make a great difference, as far as Fanny is concerned eh?’
‘Indeed it will: her fortune now is considerable; a deuced pretty thing, remembering that it’s all ready money, and that she can touch it the moment she’s of age. She’s entirely off with Ballindine, isn’t she?’
‘Oh, entirely,’ said the earl, with considerable self-complacency; ‘that affair is entirely over.’
‘I’ve stated so everywhere publicly; but I dare say, she’ll give him her money, nevertheless. She’s not the girl to give over a man, if she’s really fond of him.’
‘But, my dear Kilcullen, she has authorised me to give him a final answer, and I have done so. After that, you know, it would be quite impossible for her to to ’
‘You’ll see she’ll marry Lord Ballindine. Had Harry lived, it might have been different; but now she’s got all her brother’s money, she’ll think it a point of honour to marry her poor lover. Besides, her staying this year in the country will be in his favour: she’ll see no one here and she’ll want something to think of. I understand he has altogether thrown himself into Blake’s hands the keenest fellow in Ireland, with as much mercy as a foxhound. He’s a positive fool, is Ballindine.’
‘I’m afraid he is I’m afraid he is. And you may be sure I’m too fond of Fanny that is, I have too much regard for the trust reposed in me, to allow her to throw herself away upon him.’
‘That’s all very well; but what can you do?’
‘Why, not allow him to see her; and I’ve another plan in my head for her.’
‘Ah! but the thing is to put the plan into her head. I’d be sorry to hear of a fine girl like Fanny Wyndham breaking her heart in a half-ruined barrack in Connaught, without money to pay a schoolmaster to teach her children to spell. But I’ve too many troubles of my own to think of just at present, to care much about hers;’ and the son and heir got up, and stood with his back to the fire, and put his arms under his coat-laps. ‘Upon my soul, my lord, I never was so hard up in my life!’
Lord Cashel now prepared himself for action. The first shot was fired, and he must go on with the battle.
‘So I hear, Kilcullen; and yet, during the last four years, you’ve had nearly double your allowance; and, before that, I paid every farthing you owed. Within the last five years, you’ve had nearly forty thousand pounds! Supposing you’d had younger brothers, Lord Kilcullen supposing that I had had six or eight sons instead of only one; what would you have done? How then would you have paid your debts?’
‘Fate having exempted me and your lordship from so severe a curse, I have never turned my mind to reflect what I might have done under such an infliction.’
‘Or, supposing I had chosen, myself, to indulge in those expensive habits, which would have absorbed my income, and left me unable to do more for you, than many other noblemen in my position do for their sons do you ever reflect how impossible it would then have been for me to have helped you out of your difficulties?’
‘I feel as truly grateful for your self-denial in this respect, as I do in that of my non-begotten brethren.’
Lord Cashel saw that he was laughed at, and he looked angry; but he did not want to quarrel with his son, so he continued:
‘Jervis writes me word that it is absolutely necessary that thirty thousand pounds should be paid for you at once; or, that your remaining in London or, in fact, in the country at all, is quite out of the question.’
‘Indeed, my lord, I’m afraid Jervis is right.’
‘Thirty thousand pounds! Are you aware what your income is?’
‘Why, hardly. I know Jervis takes care that I never see much of it.’
‘Do you mean that you don’t receive it?’
‘Oh, I do not at all doubt its accurate payment. I mean to say, that I don’t often have the satisfaction of seeing much of it at the right side of my banker’s book.’
‘Thirty thousand pounds! And will that sum set you completely free in the world?’
‘I am sorry to say it will not nor nearly.’
‘Then, Lord Kilcullen,’ said the earl, with most severe, but still most courteous dignity, ‘may I trouble you to be good enough to tell me what, at the present moment, you do owe?’
‘I’m afraid I could not do so with any accuracy; but it is more than double the sum you have named.’
‘Do you mean, that you have no schedule of your debts? no means of acquainting me with the amount? How can you expect that I can assist you, when you think it too much trouble to make yourself thoroughly acquainted with the state of your own affairs?’
‘A list could certainly be made out, if I had any prospect of being able to settle the amount. If your lordship can undertake to do so at once, I will undertake to hand you a correct list of the sums due, before I leave Grey Abbey. I presume you would not require to know exactly to whom all the items were owing.’
This effrontery was too much, and Lord Cashel was very near to losing his temper.
‘Upon my honour, Kilcullen, you’re cool, very cool. You come upon me to pay, Heaven knows how many thousands more money, I know, than I’m able to raise; and you condescendingly tell me that you will trouble yourself so far as to let me know how much money I am to give you but that I am not to know what is done with it! No; if I am to pay your debts again, I will do it through Jervis.’
‘Pray remember,’ replied Lord Kilcullen, not at all disturbed from his equanimity, ‘that I have not proposed that you should pay my debts without knowing where the money went; and also that I have not yet asked you to pay them at all.’
‘Who, then, do you expect will pay them? I can assure you I should be glad to be relieved from the honour.’
‘I merely said that I had not yet made any proposition respecting them. Of course, I expect your assistance. Failing you, I have no resource but the Jews. I should regret to put the property into their hands; especially as, hitherto, I have not raised money on post obits.’
‘At any rate, I’m glad of that,’ said the father, willing to admit any excuse for returning to his good humour. ‘That would be ruin; and I hope that anything short of that may be may be may be done something with.’
The expression was not dignified, and it pained the earl to make it; but it was expressive, and he didn’t wish at once to say that he had a proposal for paying off his son’s debts. ‘But now, Kilcullen, tell me fairly, in round figures, what do you think you owe? as near as you can guess, without going to pen and paper, you know?’
‘Well, my lord, if you will allow me, I will make a proposition to you. If you will hand over to Mr Jervis fifty thousand pounds, for him to pay such claims as have already been made upon him as your agent, and such other debts as I may have sent in to him: and if you will give myself thirty thousand, to pay such debts as I do not choose to have paid by an agent, I will undertake to have everything settled.’
‘Eighty thousand pounds in four years! Why, Kilcullen, what have you done with it? where has it gone? You have five thousand a-year, no house to keep up, no property to support, no tenants to satisfy, no rates to pay five thousand a-year for your own personal expenses and, in four years, you have got eighty thousand in debt! The property never can stand that, you know. It never can stand at that rate. Why, Kilcullen, what have you done with it?’
‘Mr Crockford has a portion of it, and John Scott has some of it. A great deal of it is scattered rather widely so widely that it would be difficult now to trace it. But, my lord, it has gone. I won’t deny that the greater portion of it has been lost at play, or on the turf. I trust I may, in future, be more fortunate and more cautious.’
‘I trust so. I trust so, indeed. Eighty thousand pounds! And do you think I can raise such a sum as that at a week’s warning?’
‘Indeed, I have no doubt as to your being able to do so: it may be another question whether you are willing.’
‘I am not I am not able,’ said the libelled father. ‘As you know well enough, the incumbrances on the property take more than a quarter of my income.’
‘There can, nevertheless, be no doubt of your being able to have the money, and that at once, if you chose to go into the market for it. I have no doubt but that Mr Jervis could get it for you at once at five per cent.’
‘Four thousand a-year gone for ever from the property! and what security am I to have that the same sacrifice will not be again incurred, after another lapse of four years?’
‘You can have no security, my lord, against my being in debt. You can, however, have every security that you will not again pay my debts, in your own resolution. I trust, however, that I have some experience to prevent my again falling into so disagreeable a predicament. I think I have heard your Lordship say that you incurred some unnecessary expenses yourself in London, before your marriage!’
‘I wish, Kilcullen, that you had never exceeded your income more than I did mine. But it is no use talking any further on this subject. I cannot, and I will not I cannot in justice either to myself or to you, borrow this money for you; nor, if I could, should I think it right to do so.’
‘Then what the devil’s the use of talking about it so long?’ said the dutiful son, hastily jumping up from the chair in which he had again sat down. ‘Did you bring me down to Grey Abbey merely to tell me that you knew of my difficulties, and that you could do nothing to assist me?’
‘Now, don’t put yourself into a passion pray don’t!’ said the father, a little frightened by the sudden ebullition. ‘If you’ll sit down, and listen to me, I’ll tell you what I propose. I did not send for you here without intending to point out to you some method of extricating yourself from your present pecuniary embarrassment; and, if you have any wish to give up your course, of I must say, reckless profusion, and commence that upright and distinguished career, which I still hope to see you take, you will, I think, own that my plan is both a safer and a more expedient one than that which you have proposed. It is quite time for you now to abandon the expensive follies of youth; and,’ Lord Cashel was getting into a delightfully dignified tone, and felt himself prepared for a good burst of common-place eloquence; but his son looked impatient, and as he could not take such liberty with him as he could with Lord Ballindine, he came to the point at once, and ended abruptly by saying, ‘and get married.’
‘For the purpose of allowing my wife to pay my debts?’
‘Why, not exactly that; but as, of course, you could not marry any woman but a woman with a large fortune, that would follow as a matter of consequence.’
‘Your lordship proposes the fortune not as the first object of my affection, but merely as a corollary. But, perhaps, it will be as well that you should finish your proposition, before I make any remarks on the subject.’ And Lord Kilcullen, sat down, with a well-feigned look of listless indifference.
‘Well, Kilcullen, I have latterly been thinking much about you, and so has your poor mother. She is very uneasy that you should still still be unmarried; and Jervis has written to me very strongly. You see it is quite necessary that something should be done or we shall both be ruined. Now, if I did raise this sum and I really could not do it I don’t think I could manage it, just at present; but, even if I did, it would only be encouraging you to go on just in the same way again. Now, if you were to marry, your whole course of life would be altered, and you would become, at the same time, more respectable and more happy.’
‘That would depend a good deal upon circumstances, I should think.’
‘Oh! I am sure you would. You are just the same sort of fellow I was when at your age, and I was much happier after I was married, so I know it. Now, you see, your cousin has a hundred thousand pounds; in fact something more than that.’
‘What? Fanny! Poor Ballindine! So that’s the way with him is it! When I was contradicting the rumour of his marriage with Fanny, I little thought that I was to be his rival! At any rate, I shall have to shoot him first.’
‘You might, at any rate, confine yourself to sense, Lord Kilcullen, when I am taking so much pains to talk sensibly to you, on a subject which, I presume, cannot but interest you.’
‘Indeed, my lord, I’m all attention; and I do intend to talk sensibly when I say that I think you are proposing to treat Ballindine very ill. The world will think well of your turning him adrift on the score of the match being an imprudent one; but it won’t speak so leniently of you if you expel him, as soon as your ward becomes an heiress, to make way for your own son.’
‘You know that I’m not thinking of doing so. I’ve long seen that Lord Ballindine would not make a fitting husband for Fanny long before Harry died.’
‘And you think that I shall?’
‘Indeed I do. I think she will be lucky to get you.’
‘I’m flattered into silence: pray go on.’
‘You will be an earl a peer and a man of property. What would she become if she married Lord Ballindine?’
‘Oh, you are quite right! Go on. I wonder it never occurred to her before to set her cap at me.’
‘Now do be serious. I wonder how you can joke on such a subject, with all your debts. I’m sure I feel them heavy enough, if you don’t. You see Lord Ballindine was refused I may say he was refused before we heard about that poor boy’s unfortunate death. It was the very morning we heard of it, three or four hours before the messenger came, that Fanny had expressed her resolution to declare it off, and commissioned me to tell him so. And, therefore, of course, the two things can’t have the remotest reference to each other.’
‘I see. There are, or have been, two Fanny Wyndhams separate persons, though both wards of your lordship. Lord Ballindine was engaged to the girl who had a brother; but he can have no possible concern with Fanny Wyndham, the heiress, who has no brother.’
‘How can you he so unfeeling? but you may pay your debts in your own way. You won’t ever listen to what I have to say! I should have thought that, as your father, I might have considered myself entitled to more respect from you.’
‘Indeed, my lord, I’m all respect and attention, and I won’t say one more word till you’ve finished.’
‘Well you must see, there can be no objection on the score of Lord Ballindine?’
‘Oh, none at all.’
‘And then, where could Fanny wish for a better match than yourself? it would be a great thing for her, and the match would be, in all things, so so respectable, and just what it ought to be; and your mother would be so delighted, and so should I, and ’
‘Her fortune would so nicely pay all my debts.’
‘Exactly. Of course, I should take care to have your present income five thousand a year settled on her, in the shape of jointure; and I’m sure that would he treating her handsomely. The interest of her fortune would not be more than that.’
‘And what should we live on?’
‘Why, of course, I should continue your present allowance.’
‘And you think that that which I have found so insufficient for myself, would be enough for both of us?’
‘You must make it enough, Kilcullen in order that there may be something left to enable you to keep up your title when I am gone.’
By this time, Lord Kilcullen appeared to be as serious, and nearly as solemn, as his father, and he sat, for a considerable time, musing, till his father said, ‘Well, Kilcullen, will you take my advice?’
‘It’s impracticable, my lord. In the first place, the money must be paid immediately, and considerable delay must occur before I could even offer to Miss Wyndham; and, in the next place, were I to do so, I am sure she would refuse me.’
‘Why; there must be some delay, of course. But I suppose, if I passed my word, through Jervis, for so much of the debts as are immediate, that a settlement might be made whereby they might stand over for twelve months, with interest, of course. As to refusing you, it’s not at all likely: where would she look for a better offer?’
‘I don’t know much of my cousin; but I don’t think she’s exactly the girl to take a man because he’s a good match for her.’
‘Perhaps not. But then, you know, you understand women so well, and would have such opportunities; you would be sure to make yourself agreeable to her, with very little effort on your part.’
‘Yes, poor thing she would be delivered over, ready bound, into the lion’s den.’ And then the young man sat silent again, for some time, turning the matter over in his mind. At last, he said ‘Well, my lord; I am a considerate and a dutiful son, and I will agree to your proposition: but I must saddle it with conditions. I have no doubt that the sum which I suggested should be paid through your agent, could be arranged to be paid in a year, or eighteen months, by your making yourself responsible for it, and I would undertake to indemnify you. But the thirty thousand pounds I must have at once. I must return to London, with the power of raising it there, without delay. This, also, I would repay you out of Fanny’s fortune. I would then undertake to use my best endeavours to effect a union with your ward. But I most positively will not agree to this nor have any hand in the matter, unless I am put in immediate possession of the sum I have named, and unless you will agree to double my income as soon as I am married.’
To both these propositions the earl, at first, refused to accede; but his son was firm. Then, Lord Cashel agreed to put him in immediate possession of the sum of money he required, but would not hear of increasing his income. They argued, discussed, and quarrelled over the matter, for a long time; till, at last, the anxious father, in his passion, told his son that he might go his own way, and that he would take no further trouble to help so unconscionable a child. Lord Kilcullen rejoined by threatening immediately to throw the whole of the property, which was entailed on himself, into the hands of the Jews.
Long they argued and bargained, till each was surprised at the obstinacy of the other. They ended, however, by splitting the difference, and it was agreed, that Lord Cashel was at once to hand over thirty thousand pounds, and to take his son’s bond for the amount; that the other debts were to stand over till Fanny’s money was forthcoming; and that the income of the newly married pair was to be seven thousand five hundred a-year.
‘At least,’ thought Lord Kilcullen to himself, as he good-humouredly shook hands with his father at the termination of the interview ‘I have not done so badly, for those infernal dogs will be silenced, and I shall get the money. I could not have gone back without that. I can go on with the marriage, or not, as I may choose, hereafter. It won’t be a bad speculation, however.’
To do Lord Cashel justice, he did not intend cheating his son, not did he suspect his son of an intention to cheat him. But the generation was deteriorating.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01