Lord Ballindine left Grey Abbey, and rode homewards, towards Handicap Lodge, in a melancholy and speculative mood. His first thoughts were all of Harry Wyndham. Frank, as the accepted suitor of his sister, had known him well and intimately, and had liked him much; and the poor young fellow had been much attached to him. He was greatly shocked to hear of his death. It was not yet a month since he had seen him shining in all the new-blown splendour of his cavalry regimentals, and Lord Ballindine was unfeignedly grieved to think how short a time the lad had lived to enjoy them. His thoughts, then, naturally turned to his own position, and the declaration which Lord Cashel had made to him respecting himself. Could it be absolutely true that Fanny had determined to give him up altogether? After all her willing vows, and assurances of unalterable affection, could she be so cold as to content herself with sending him a formal message, by her uncle, that she did not wish to see him again? Frank argued with himself that it was impossible; he was sure he knew her too well. But still, Lord Cashel would hardly tell him a downright lie, and he had distinctly stated that the rejection came from Miss Wyndham herself.
Then, he began to feel indignant, and spurred his horse, and rode a little faster, and made a few resolutions as to upholding his own dignity. He would run after neither Lord Cashel nor his niece; he would not even ask her to change her mind, since she had been able to bring herself to such a determination as that expressed to him. But he would insist on seeing her; she could not refuse that to him, after what had passed between them, and he would then tell her what he thought of her, and leave her for ever. But no; he would do nothing to vex her, as long as she was grieving for her brother. Poor Harry! she loved him so dearly! Perhaps, after all, his sudden rejection was, in some manner, occasioned by this sad event, and would be revoked as her sorrow grew less with time. And then, for the first time, the idea shot across his mind, of the wealth Fanny must inherit by her brother’s death.
It certainly had a considerable effect on him, for he breathed slow awhile, and was some little time before he could entirely realise the conception that Fanny was now the undoubted owner of a large fortune. ‘That is it,’ thought he to himself, at last; ‘that sordid earl considers that he can now be sure of a higher match for his niece, and Fanny has allowed herself to be persuaded out of her engagement: she has allowed herself to. be talked into the belief that it was her duty to give up a poor man like me.’ And then, he felt very angry again. ‘Heavens!’ said he to himself ‘is it possible she should be so servile and so mean? Fanny Wyndham, who cared so little for the prosy admonitions of her uncle, a few months since, can she have altered her disposition so completely? Can the possession of her brother’s money have made so vile a change in her character? Could she be the same Fanny who had so entirely belonged to him, who had certainly loved him truly once? Perish her money I he had sought her from affection alone; he had truly and fondly loved her; he had determined to cling to her, in spite of the advice of his friends! And then, he found himself deserted and betrayed by her, because circumstances had given her the probable power of making a better match!’
Such were Lord Ballindine’s thoughts; and he flattered himself with the reflection that he was a most cruelly used, affectionate, and disinterested lover. He did not, at the moment, remember that it was Fanny’s twenty thousand pounds which had first attracted his notice; and that he had for a considerable time wavered, before he made up his mind to part with himself at so low a price. It was not to be expected that he should remember that, just at present; and he rode on, considerably out of humour with all the world except himself.
As he got near to Handicap Lodge, however, the genius of the master-spirit of that classic spot came upon him, and he began to bethink himself that It ‘would be somewhat foolish of him to give up the game just at present. He reflected that a hundred thousand pounds would work a wondrous change and improvement at Kelly’s Court and that, if he was before prepared to marry Fanny Wyndham in opposition to the wishes of her guardian, he should now be doubly determined to do so, even though all Grey Abbey had resolved to the contrary. The last idea in his mind, as he got off his horse at his friend’s door was, as to what Dot Blake would think, and say, of the tidings he brought home with him?
It was dark when he reached Handicap Lodge, and, having first asked whether Mr Blake was in, and heard that he was dressing for dinner, he went to perform the same operation himself. When he came down, full of his budget, and quite ready, as usual, to apply to Dot for advice, he was surprised, and annoyed, to find two other gentlemen in the room, together with Blake. What a bore! to have to make one of a dinner-party of four, and the long protracted rubber of shorts which would follow it, when his mind was so full of other concerns! However, it was not to be avoided.
The guests were, the fat, good-humoured, ready-witted Mat Tierney, and a little Connaught member of Parliament, named Morris, who wore a wig, played a very good rubber of whist, and knew a good deal about selling hunters. He was not very bright, but he told one or two good stories of his own adventures in the world, which he repeated oftener than was approved of by his intimate friends; and he drank his wine plentifully and discreetly for, if he didn’t get a game of cards after consuming a certain quantum, he invariably went to sleep.
There was something in the manner in which the three greeted him, on entering the room, which showed him that they had been speaking of him and his affairs. Dot was the first to address him.
‘Well, Frank, I hope I am to wish you joy. I hope you’ve made a good morning’s work of it?’
Frank looked rather distressed: before he could answer, however, Mat Tierney said,
‘Well, Ballindine, upon my soul I congratulate you sincerely, though, of course, you’ve seen nothing at Grey Abbey but tears and cambric handkerchiefs. I’m very glad, now, that what Kilcullen told me wasn’t true. He left Dublin for London yesterday, and I suppose he won’t hear of his cousin’s death before he gets there.’
‘Upon my honour, Lord Ballindine,’ said the horse-dealing member, ‘you are a lucky fellow. I believe old Wyndham was a regular golden nabob, and I suppose, now, you’ll touch the whole of his gatherings.’
Dot and his guests had heard of Harry Wyndham’s death, and Fanny’s accession of fortune; but they had not heard that she had rejected her lover, and that he had been all but turned out of her guardian’s house. Nor did he mean to tell them; but he did not find himself pleasantly situated in having to hear their congratulations and listen to their jokes, while he himself felt that the rumour which he had so emphatically denied to Mat Tierney, only two days since, had turned out to be true.
Not one of the party made the slightest reference to the poor brother from whom Fanny’s new fortune had come, except as the lucky means of conveying it to her. There was no regret even pretended for his early death, no sympathy expressed with Fanny’s sorrow. And there was, moreover, an evident conviction in the minds of all the three, that Frank, of course, looked on the accident as a piece of unalloyed good fortune a splendid windfall in his way, unattended with any disagreeable concomitants. This grated against his feelings, and made him conscious that he was not yet heartless enough to be quite fit for, the society in which he found himself.
The party soon went into the dining-room; and Frank at first got a little ease, for Fanny Wyndham seemed to be forgotten in the willing devotion which was paid to Blake’s soup; the interest of the fish, also, seemed to be absorbing; and though conversation became more general towards the latter courses, still it was on general subjects, as long as the servants were in the room. But, much to his annoyance, his mistress again came on the tapis, together with the claret.
‘You and Kilcullen don’t hit it of together eh, Ballindine?’ said Mat.
‘We never quarrelled,’ answered Frank; ‘we never, however, were very intimate.’
‘I wonder at that, for you’re both fond of the turf. There’s a large string of his at Murphy’s now, isn’t there, Dot?’
‘Too many, I believe,’ said Blake. ‘If you’ve a mind to be a purchaser, you’ll find him a very pleasant fellow especially if you don’t object to his own prices.’
‘Faith I’ll not trouble him,’ said Mat; ‘I’ve two of them already, and a couple on the turf and a couple for the saddle are quite enough to suit me. But what the deuce made him say, so publicly, that your match was off, Ballindine? He couldn’t have heard of Wyndham’s death at the time, or I should think he was after the money himself.’
‘I cannot tell; he certainly had not my authority,’ said Frank.
‘Nor the lady’s either, I hope.’
‘You had better ask herself, Tierney; and, if she rejects me, maybe she’ll take you.’
‘There’s a speculation for you,’ said Blake; ‘you don’t think yourself too old yet, I hope, to make your fortune by marriage? and, if you don’t, I’m sure Miss Wyndham can’t.’
‘I tell you what, Dot, I admire Miss Wyndham much, and I admire a hundred thousand pounds more. I don’t know anything I admire more than a hundred thousand pounds, except two; but, upon my word, I wouldn’t take the money and the lady together.’
‘Well, that’s kind of him, isn’t it, Frank? So, you’ve a chance left, yet.’
‘Ah! but you forget Morris,’ said Tierney; ‘and there’s yourself, too. If Ballindine is not to be the lucky man, I don’t see why either of you should despair.’
‘Oh! as for me, I’m the devil. I’ve a tail, only I don’t wear it, except on state occasions; and I’ve horns and hoofs, only people can’t see them. But I don’t see why Morris should not succeed: he’s the only one of the four that doesn’t own a racehorse, and that’s much in his favour. What do you say, Morris?’
‘I’d have no objection,’ said the member; ‘except that I wouldn’t like to stand in Lord Ballindine’s way.’
‘Oh! he’s the soul of good-nature. You wouldn’t take it ill of him, would you, Frank?’
‘Not the least,’ said Frank, sulkily; for he didn’t like the conversation, and he didn’t know how to put a stop to it.
‘Perhaps you wouldn’t mind giving him a line of introduction to Lord Cashel,’ said Mat.
‘But, Morris,’ aid Blake, ‘I’m afraid your politics would go against you. A Repealer would never go down at Grey Abbey.’
‘Morris’ll never let his politics harm him,’ said Tierney. ‘Repeal’s a very good thing the other side of the Shannon; or one might, carry it as far as Conciliation Hall, if one was hard pressed, and near an election. Were you ever in Conciliation Hall yet, Morris?’
‘No, Mat; but I’m going next Thursday. Will you go with me?’
‘Faith, I will not: but I think you should go; you ought to do something for your country, for you’re a patriot. I never was a public man.’
‘Well, when I can do any good for my country, I’ll go there. Talking of that, I saw O’Connell in town yesterday, and I never saw him looking so well. The verdict hasn’t disturbed him much. I wonder what steps the Government will take now? They must be fairly bothered. I don’t think they dare imprison him.’
‘Not dare!’ said Blake ‘and why not? When they had courage to indict him, you need not fear but what they’ll dare to go on with a strong hand, now they have a verdict.’
‘I’ll tell you what, Dot; if they imprison the whole set,’ said Mat, ‘and keep them in prison for twelve months, every Catholic in Ireland will be a Repealer by the end of that time.’
‘And why shouldn’t they all be Repealers?’ said Morris. ‘It seems to me that it’s just as natural for us to be Repealers, as it is for you to be the contrary.’
‘I won’t say they don’t dare to put them in prison,’ continued Mat; ‘but I will say they’ll be great fools to do it. The Government have so good an excuse for not doing so: they have such an easy path out of the hobble. There was just enough difference of opinion among the judges just enough irregularity in the trial, such as the omissions of the names from the long panel to enable them to pardon the whole set with a good grace.’
‘If they did,’ said Blake, ‘the whole high Tory party in this country peers and parsons would be furious. They’d lose one set of supporters, and wouldn’t gain another. My opinion is, they’ll lock the whole party up in the stone jug for some time, at least.’
‘Why,’ said Tierney, ‘their own party could not quarrel with them for not taking an advantage of a verdict, as to the legality of which there is so much difference of opinion even among the judges. I don’t know much about these things, myself; but, as far as I can understand, they would have all been found guilty of high treason a few years back, and probably have been hung or beheaded; and if they could do that now, the country would be all the quieter. But they can’t: the people will have their own way; and if they want the people to go easy, they shouldn’t put O’Connell into prison. Rob them all of the glories of martyrdom, and you’d find you’ll cut their combs and stop their crowing.’
‘It’s not so easy to do that now, Mat,’ said Morris. ‘You’ll find that the country will stick to O’Connell, whether he’s in prison or out of it; but Peel will never dare to put him there. They talk of the Penitentiary; but I’ll tell you what, if they put him there, the people of Dublin won’t leave one stone upon another; they’d have it all down in a night.’
‘You forget, Morris, how near Richmond barracks are to the Penitentiary.’
‘No, I don’t. Not that I think there’ll be any row of the kind, for I’ll bet a hundred guineas they’re never put in prison at all.’
‘Done,’ said Dot, and his little book was out ‘put that down, Morris, and I’ll initial it: a hundred guineas, even, that O’Connell is not in prison within twelve months of this time.’
‘Very well: that is, that he’s not put there and kept there for six months, in consequence of the verdict just given at the State trials.’
‘No, my boy; that’s not it. I said nothing about being kept there six months. They’re going to try for a writ of error, or what the devil they call it, before the peers. But I’ll bet you a cool hundred he is put in prison before twelve months are over, in consequence of the verdict. If he’s locked up there for one night, I win. Will you take that?’
‘Well, I will,’ said Morris; and they both went to work at their little books.
‘I was in London,’ said Mat, ‘during the greater portion of the trial and it’s astonishing what unanimity of opinion there was at the club that the whole set would be acquitted. I heard Howard make bet, at the Reform Club, that the only man put in prison would be the Attorney-General.’
‘He ought to have included the Chief Justice,’ said Morris. ‘By the bye, Mat, is that Howard the brother of the Honourable and Riverind Augustus?’
‘Upon my soul, I don’t know whose brother he is. Who is the Riverind Augustus?’
‘Morris wants to tell a story, Mat,’ said Blake; ‘don’t spoil him, now.’
‘Indeed I don’t,’ said the member: ‘I never told it to any one till I mentioned it to you the other day. It only happened the other day, but it is worth telling.’
‘Out with it, Morris,’ said Mat, ‘it isn’t very long, is it? because, if it is, we’ll get Dot to give us a little whiskey and hot water first. I’m sick of the claret.’
‘Just as you like, Mat,’ and Blake rang the bell, and the hot water was brought.
‘You know Savarius O’Leary,’ said Morris, anxious to tell his story, ‘eh, Tierney?’
‘What, Savy, with the whiskers?’ said Tierney, ‘to be sure I do. Who doesn’t know Savy?’
‘You know him, don’t you, Lord Ballindine?’ Morris was determined everybody should listen to him.
‘Oh yes, I know him; he comes from County Mayo his property’s close to mine; that is, the patch of rocks and cabins which he has managed to mortgage three times over, and each time for more than its value which he still calls the O’Leary estate.’
‘Well; some time ago that is, since London began to fill, O’Leary was seen walking down Regent Street, with a parson. How the deuce he’d ever got hold of the parson, or the parson of him, was never explained; but Phil Mahon saw him, and asked him who his friend in the white choker was. “Is it my friend in black, you mane?” says Savy, “thin, my frind was the Honourable and the Riverind Augustus Howard, the Dane.” “Howard the Dane,” said Mahon, “how the duce did any of the Howards become Danes?” “Ah, bother!” said Savy, “it’s not of thim Danes he is; it’s not the Danes of Shwaden I mane, at all, man; but a rural Dane of the Church of England.”
Mat Tierney laughed heartily at this, and even Frank forgot that his dignity had been hurt, and that he meant to be sulky; and he laughed also: the little member was delighted with his success, and felt himself encouraged to persevere.
‘Ah, Savy’s a queer fellow, if you knew him,’ he continued, turning to Lord Ballindine, ‘and, upon my soul, lie’s no fool. Oh, if you knew him as well ’
‘Didn’t you hear Ballindine say he was his next, door neighbour in Mayo?’ said Blake, ‘or, rather, next barrack neighbour; for they dispense with doors in Mayo eh, Frank? and their houses are all cabins or barracks.’
‘Why, we certainly don’t pretend to all the Apuleian luxuries of Handicap Lodge; but we are ignorant enough to think ourselves comfortable, and swinish enough to enjoy our pitiable state.’
‘I beg ten thousand pardons, my dear fellow. I didn’t mean to offend your nationality. Castlebar, we must allow, is a fine provincial city though Killala’s the Mayo city, I believe; and Claremorris, which is your own town I think, is, as all admit, a gem of Paradise: only it’s a pity so many of the houses have been unroofed lately. It adds perhaps to the picturesque effect, but it must, I should think, take away from the comfort.’
‘Not a house in Claremorris belongs to me,’ said Lord Ballindine, again rather sulky, ‘or ever did to any of my family. I would as soon own Claremorris, though, as I would Castleblakeney. Your own town is quite as shattered-looking a place.’
‘That’s quite true but I have some hopes that Castleblakeney will be blotted out of the face of creation before I come into possession.’
‘But I was saying about Savy O’Leary,’ again interposed Morris, ‘did you ever hear what he did?’ But Blake would not allow his guest the privilege of another story. ‘If you encourage Morris,’ said he, “we shall never get our whist,’ and with that he rose from the table and walked away into the next room. They played high. Morris always played high if he could, for he made money by whist. Tierney was not a gambler by profession; but the men he lived among all played, and he, therefore, got into the way of it, and played the game well, for he was obliged to do so in his own defence. Blake was an adept at every thing of the kind; and though the card-table was not the place where his light shone brightest, still he was quite at home at it.
As might be supposed, Lord Ballindine did not fare well among the three. He played with each of them, one after the other, and lost with them all. Blake, to do him justice, did not wish to see his friend’s money go into the little member’s pocket, and, once or twice, proposed giving up; but Frank did not second the proposal, and Morris was inveterate. The consequence was that, before the table was broken up, Lord Ballindine had lost a sum of money which he could very ill spare, and went to bed in a very unenviable state of mind, in spite of the brilliant prospects on which his friends congratulated him.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14