On the appointed day, or rather on the night of the appointed day, Lord Kilcullen reached Grey Abbey; for it was about eleven o’clock when his travelling-pha‰ton rattled up to the door. He had been expected to dinner at seven, and the first attempts of Murray in the kitchens of Grey Abbey had been kept waiting for him till half-past eight; but in vain. At that hour the earl, black with ill-humour, ordered dinner; and remarked that he considered it criminal in any man to make an appointment, who was not sufficiently attached to veracity to keep
The evening was passed in moody silence. The countess was disappointed, for she always contrived to persuade herself that she was very anxious to see her son. Lady Selina was really vexed, and began to have her doubts as to her brother’s coming at all: what was to be done, if it turned out that all the company had been invited for nothing? As to Fanny, though very indifferent to the subject of her cousin’s coming, she was not at all in a state of mind to dissipate the sullenness which prevailed. The ladies went to bed early, the countess grumbling at her lot, in not being allowed to see her son, and her daughter and niece marching off with their respective candlesticks in solemn silence. The earl retired to his book-room soon afterwards; but he had not yet sat down, when the quick rattle of the wheels was heard upon the gravel before the house.
Lord Cashel walked out into the hall, prepared to meet his son in a befitting manner; that is, with a dignified austerity that could not fail to convey a rebuke even to his hardened heart. But he was balked in his purpose, for he found that Lord Kilcullen was not alone; Mat Tierney had come down with him. Kilcullen had met his friend in Dublin, and on learning that he also was bound for Grey Abbey on the day but one following, had persuaded him to accelerate his visit, had waited for him, and brought him down in his own carriage. The truth was, that Lord Kilcullen had thought that the shades of Grey Abbey would be too much for him, without some genial spirit to enlighten them: he was delighted to find that Mat Tierney was to be there, and was rejoiced to be able to convey him with him, as a sort of protection from his father’s eloquence for the first two days of the visit.
‘Lord Kilcullen, your mother and I—’ began the father, intent on at once commenting on the iniquity of the late arrival; when he saw the figure of a very stout gentleman, amply wrapped up in travelling habiliments, follow his son into the inner hall.
‘Tierney, my lord,’ said the son, ‘was good enough to come down with me. I found that he intended to be here tomorrow, and I told him you and my mother would be delighted to see him today instead.’
The earl shook Mr. Tierney’s hand, and told him how very welcome he was at all times, and especially at present unexpected pleasures were always the most agreeable; and then the earl bustled about, and ordered supper and wine, and fussed about the bedrooms, and performed the necessary rites of hospitality, and then went to bed, without having made one solemn speech to his son. So far, Lord Kilcullen had been successful in his manoeuvre; and he trusted that by making judicious use of Mat Tierney, he might be able to stave off the evil hour for at any rate a couple of days.
But he was mistaken. Lord Cashel was now too much in earnest to be put off his purpose; he had been made too painfully aware that his son’s position was desperate, and that lie must at once be saved by a desperate effort, or given over to utter ruin. And, to tell the truth, so heavy were the new debts of which he heard from day to day, so insurmountable seemed the difficulties, that he all but repented that he had not left him to his fate. The attempt, however, must again be made; he was there, in the house, and could not be turned out; but Lord Cashel determined that at any rate no time should be lost.
The two new arrivals made their appearance the next morning, greatly to Lady Cashel’s delight; she was perfectly satisfied with her son’s apology, and delighted to find that at any rate one of her expected guests would not fail her in her need. The breakfast went over pleasantly enough, and Kilcullen was asking Mat to accompany him into the stables, to see what novelties they should find there, when Lord Cashel spoiled the arrangement by saying,
‘Could you spare me half-an-hour in tile bookroom first, Kilcullen?’
This request, of course, could not be refused; and the father and son walked off, leaving Mat Tierney to the charity of the ladies.
There was much less of flippant overbearing impudence now, about Lord Kilcullen, much less of arrogance and insult from the son towards the father, than there had been in the previous interview which has been recorded. He seemed to be somewhat in dread, to be cowed, and ill at ease; he tried, however, to assume his usual manner, and followed his father into the book-room with an affected air of indifference, which very ill concealed his real feelings.
‘Kilcullen,’ began the earl, ‘I was very sorry to see Tierney with you last night. It would have been much better that we should have been alone together, at any rate for one morning. I suppose you are aware that there is a great deal to be talked over between us?’
‘I suppose there is,’ said the son; ‘but I couldn’t well help bringing the man, when he told me he was coming here.’
‘He didn’t ask you to bring him, I suppose? but we will not talk about that. Will you do me the favour to inform me what your present plans are?’
‘My present plans, my lord? Indeed, I’ve no plans! It’s a long time since I had a plan of my own. I am, however, prepared to acquiesce entirely in any which you may propose. I have come quite prepared to throw at Miss Wyndham’s feet myself and my fortune.’
‘And do you expect her to accept you?’
‘You said she would, my lord: so I have taken that for granted. I, at any rate, will ask her; if she refuses me, your lordship will perhaps be able to persuade her to a measure so evidently beneficial to all parties.’
‘The persuading must be with yourself; but if you suppose you can carry her with a high hand, without giving yourself the trouble to try to please her, you are very much mistaken. If you think she’ll accept you merely because you ask her, you might save yourself the trouble, and as well return to London at once.’
‘Just as you please, my lord; but I thought I came in obedience to your express wishes.’
‘So you did; but, to tell you the truth your manner in coming is very different from what I would wish it to be. Your ’
‘Did you want me to crawl here on my hands and knees?’
‘I wanted you to come, Kilcullen, with some sense of what you owe to those who are endeavouring to rescue you from ruin: with some feeling of, at any rate, sorrow for the mad extravagance of your past career. Instead of that, you come gay, reckless, and unconcerned as ever; you pick up the first jovial companion you meet, and with him disturb the house at a most unseasonable hour. You are totally regardless of the appointments you make; and plainly show, that as you come here solely for your own pleasure, you consider it needless to consult my wishes or my comfort .Are you aware that you kept your mother and myself two hours waiting for dinner yesterday?’
The pathos with which Lord Cashel terminated his speech and it was one the thrilling effect of which he intended to be overwhelming almost restored Lord Kilcullen to his accustomed effrontery.
‘My lord,’ he said, ‘I did not consider myself of sufficient importance to have delayed your dinner ten minutes.’
‘I have always endeavoured, Kilcullen, to show the same respect to you in my house, which my father showed to me in his; but you do not allow me the opportunity. But let that pass; we have more important things to speak of. When last we were here together why did you not tell me the whole truth?’
‘What truth, my lord?’
‘About your debts, Kilcullen: why did you conceal from me their full amount? Why, at any rate, did you take pains to make me think them so much less than they really are?’
‘Conceal, my lord? that is hardly fair, considering that 1 told you expressly I could not give you any idea what was the amount I owed. I concealed nothing; if you deceived yourself, the fault was not mine.’
‘You could not but have known that the claims against you were much larger than I supposed them to be double, I suppose. Good heaven! why in ten years more, at this rate, you would more than consume the lee simple of the whole property! What can I say to you, Kilcullen, to make you look on your own conduct in the proper light?’
‘I think you have said enough for the purpose; you have told me to marry, and I have consented to do so.’
‘Do you think, Kilcullen, you have spent the last eight years in a way which it can please a father to contemplate? Do you think I can look back on your conduct with satisfaction or content? And yet you have no regret to express for the past no promises to make for the future. I fear it is all in vain. I fear that what I am doing what I am striving to do, is now all in vain. I fear it is hopeless to attempt to recall you from the horrid, reckless, wicked mode of life you have adopted.’ The sombre mantle of expostulatory eloquence had now descended on the earl, and he continued, turning full upon his victim, and raising and lowering his voice with monotonous propriety. ‘I fear it is to no good purpose that I am subjecting your mother and myself to privation, restraint, and inconvenience; that I am straining every nerve to place you again in a position of respectability, a position suitable to my fortune and your own rank. I am endeavouring to retrieve the desperate extravagance the I must say though I do not wish to hurt your feelings, yet I must say, disgraceful ruin of your past career. And how do you help me? what regret do you show? what promises of amendment do you afford? You drive up to my hall-door at midnight with your boon companion; you disturb the whole household at most unseasonable hours, and subject my family to the same disreputable irregularity in which you have yourself so long indulged. Can such doings, Kilcullen, give me any hopes for the future? Can ’
‘My lord I am extremely sorry for the dinner: what can I say more? And as for Mat Tierney, he is your own guest or her ladyship’s not mine. It is my misfortune to have come in the same carriage with him, but that is the extent of my offence.’
‘Well, Kilcullen; if you think your conduct has always been such as it ought to be, it is of little use for me to bring up arguments to the contrary.’
‘I don’t think so, my lord. What can I say more? I have done those things which I ought not to have done. Were I to confess my transgressions for the hour together, I could not say more; except that I have left undone the things which I ought to have done. Or, do you want me to beat my breast and tear my hair?’
‘I want you, Lord Kilcullen, to show some sense of decency some filial respect.’
‘Well, my lord, here I am, prepared to marry a wife of your own choosing, and to set about the business this morning, if you please. I thought you would have called that decent, filial, and respectable.’
The earl could hardly gainsay this; but still he could not bring himself to give over so soon the unusual pleasure of blowing up his only son. It was so long since Lord Kilcullen had been regularly in his power, and it might never occur again. So he returned from consideration of the future to a further retrospect on the past.
‘You certainly have played your cards most foolishly; you have thrown away your money rather, I should say, my money, in a manner which nothing can excuse or palliate. You might have made the turf a source of gratifying amusement; your income was amply sufficient to enable you to do so; but you have possessed so little self-control, so little judgment, so little discrimination, that you have allowed yourself to be plundered by every blackleg, and robbed by every everybody in short, who chose to rob you. The same thing has been the case in all your other amusements and pursuits ’
‘Well, my lord, I confess it all; isn’t that enough?’
‘Enough, Kilcullen!’ said the earl, in a voice of horrified astonishment, ‘how enough? how can anything be enough after such a course so wild, so mad, so ruinous!’
‘For Heaven’s sake, my lord, finish the list of my iniquities, or you’ll make me feel that I am utterly unfit to become my cousin’s husband.’
‘I fear you are indeed I fear you are. Are the horses disposed of yet, Kilcullen?’
‘Indeed they are not, my lord; nor can I dispose of them. There is more owing for them than they are worth; you may say they belong to the trainer now.’
‘Is the establishment in Curzon Street broken up?’
‘To tell the truth, not exactly; but I’ve no thoughts of returning there. I’m still under rent for the house.’
The cross-examination was continued for a considerable time till the earl had literally nothing more to say, and Lord Kilcullen was so irritated that he told his father he would not stand it any longer. Then they went into money affairs, and the earl spoke despondingly about ten thousands and twenty thousands, and the viscount somewhat flippantly of fifty thousands and sixty thousands; and this was continued till the earl felt that his son was too deep in the mire to be pulled out, and the son thought that, deep as he was there, it would be better to remain and wallow in it than undergo so disagreeable a process as that to which his father subjected him in extricating him from it. It was settled, however, that Mr. Jervis, Lord Cashel’s agent, should receive full authority to deal summarily in all matters respecting the horses and their trainers, the house in Curzon Street, and its inhabitants, and all other appendages and sources of expense which Lord Kilcullen had left behind him; and that he, Kilcullen, should at once commence his siege upon his cousin’s fortune. And on this point the son bargained that, as it would be essentially necessary that his spirits should be light and easy, he was not, during the operation, to be subjected to any of his father’s book-room conversations: for this he stipulated as an absolute sine qua non in the negotiation, and the clause was at last agreed to, though not without much difficulty.
Both father and son seemed to think that the offer should be made at once. Lord Cashel really feared that his son would be arrested at Grey Abbey, and he was determined to pay nothing further for him, unless he felt secure of Fanny’s fortune; and whatever were Lord Kilcullen’s hopes and fears as to his future lot, he was determined not to remain long in suspense, as far as his projected marriage was concerned. He was determined to do his best to accomplish it, for he would have done anything to get the command of ready money; if he was not successful, at any rate he need not remain in the purgatory of Grey Abbey. The Queen’s Bench would be preferable to that. He was not, however, very doubtful; he felt but little confidence in the constancy of any woman’s affection, and a great deal in his own powers of fascination: he had always been successful in his appeals to ladies’ hearts, and did not doubt of being so now, when the object of his adoration must, as he thought, be so dreadfully in want of some excitement, something to interest her. Any fool might have her now, thought he, and she can’t have any violent objection to being Lady Kilcullen for the present, and Lady Cashel in due time. He felt, however, something like remorse at the arrangement to which he was a party; it was not that he was about to make a beautiful creature, his own cousin, miserable for life, by uniting her to a spendthrift, a rou‚, and a gambler such was the natural lot of women in the higher ranks of life but he felt that he was robbing her of her money. He would have thought it to be no disgrace to carry her off had another person been her guardian. She would then have had fair play, and it would be the guardian’s fault if her fortune were not secure. But she had no friend now to protect her: it was her guardian himself who was betraying her to ruin.
However, the money must he had, and Lord Kilcullen was not long in quieting his conscience.
‘Tierney,’ said Kilcullen, meeting his friend after his escape from the book-room; ‘you are not troubled with a father now, I believe do you recollect whether you ever had one?’
‘Well, I can’t say I remember just at present,’ said Mat; ‘but I believe I had a sort of one, once.’
‘I’m a more dutiful son than you,’ said the other; ‘I never can forget mine. I have no doubt an alligator on the banks of the Nile is a fearful creature a shark when one’s bathing, or a jungle tiger when one’s out shooting, ought, I’m sure, to be avoided; but no creature yet created, however hungry, or however savage, can equal in ferocity a governor who has to shell out his cash! I’ve no wish for a tˆte-…-tˆte with any bloody-minded monster; but I’d sooner meet a starved hyena, single-handed in the desert, than be shut up for another hour with my Lord Cashel in that room of his on the right-band side of the hall. If you hear of my having beat a retreat from Grey Abbey, without giving you or any one else warning of my intention, you will know that I have lacked courage to comply with a second summons to those gloomy realms. If I receive another invite such as that I got this morning, I am off.’
Lady Cashel’s guests came on the day appointed; the carriages were driven up, one after another, in quick succession, about an hour before dinner-time; and, as her ladyship’s mind became easy on the score of disappointments, it was somewhat troubled as to the multitude of people to be fed and entertained. Murray had not yet forgiven the injury inflicted on him when the family dinner was kept waiting for Lord Kilcullen, and Richards was still pouting at her own degraded position. The countess had spent the morning pretending to make arrangements, which were in fact all settled by Griffiths; and when she commenced the operation of dressing herself, she declared she was so utterly exhausted by what she had gone through during the last week, as to be entirely unfit to entertain her company. Poor dear Lady Cashel! Was she so ignorant of her own nature as to suppose it possible that she should ever entertain anybody?
However, a glass of wine, and some mysterious drops, and a little paint; a good deal of coaxing, the sight of her diamonds, and of a large puce-coloured turban, somewhat revivified her; and she was in her drawing-room in due time, supported by Lady Selina and Fanny, ready to receive her visitors as soon as they should descend from their respective rooms.
Lady Cashel had already welcomed Lord George, and shaken hands with the bishop: and was now deep in turnips and ten-pound freeholders with the gouty colonel, who had hobbled into the room on a pair of crutches, and was accommodated with two easy chairs in a corner one for himself, and the other for his feet.
‘Now, my dear Lady George,’ said the countess, ‘you must not think of returning to Mountains tonight: indeed, we made sure of you and Lord George for a week.’
‘My dear Lady Cashel, it’s impossible; indeed, we wished it of all things, and tried it every way: but we couldn’t manage it; Lord George has so much to do: there’s the Sessions tomorrow at Dunlavin, and he has promised to meet Sir Glenmalure Aubrey, about a road, or a river, or a bridge I forget which it is; and they must attend to those things, you know, or the tenants couldn’t get their corn to market. But you don’t know how sorry we are, and such a charming set you have got here!’
‘Well, I know it’s no use pressing you; but I can’t tell you how vexed I am, for I counted on you, above all, and Adolphus will be so sorry. You know Lord Kilcullen’s come home, Lady George?’
‘Yes; I was very glad to hear we were to meet him.’
‘Oh, yes! He’s come to stay here some time, I believe; he’s got quite fond of Grey Abbey lately.
He and his father get on so well together, it’s quite a delight to me.’
‘Oh, it must be, I’m sure,’ said Lady George; and the countess sidled off to the bishop’s fat wife.
‘Well, this is very kind of you and the bishop, to come at so short a notice: indeed I hardly dared expect it. I know he has so much to do in Dublin with those horrid boards and things.’
‘He is busy there, to be sure, Lady Cashel; but he couldn’t deny himself the pleasure of coming to Grey Abbey; he thinks so very much of the earl. Indeed, he’d contrive to be able to come here, when he couldn’t think of going anywhere else.’
‘I’m sure Lord Cashel feels how kind he is; and so do I, and so does Adolphus. Lord Kilcullen will be delighted to meet you and the bishop.’
The bishop’s wife assured the countess that nothing on earth, at the present moment, would give the bishop so much pleasure as meeting Lord Kilcullen.
‘You know the bishop christened him, don’t you?’ said Lady Cashel.
‘No! did he though?’ said the bishop’s wife; ‘how very interesting!’
‘Isn’t it? And Adolphus longs to meet him. He’s so fond of everything that’s high-minded and talented, Adolphus is: a little sarcastic perhaps I don’t mind saying so to you; but that’s only to inferior sort of people not talented, you know: some people are stupid, and Adolphus can’t bear that.’
‘Indeed they are, my lady. I was dining last week at Mrs. Prijean’s, in Merrion Square; you know Mrs. Prijean?’
‘I think I met her at Carton, four years ago.’
‘Well, she is very heavy: what do you think, Lady Cashel, she ’ ‘Adolphus can’t bear people of that sort, but he’ll be delighted with the bishop: it’s so delightful, his having christened him. Adolphus means to live a good deal here now. Indeed, he and his father have so much in common that they can’t get on very well apart, and I really hope he and the bishop’ll see a good deal of each other;’ and the countess left the bishop’s wife and sat herself down by old Mrs. Ellison.
‘My dear Mrs. Ellison, I am so delighted to see you once again at Grey Abbey; it’s such ages since you were here!’
‘Indeed it is, Lady Cashel, a very long time; but the poor colonel suffers so much, it’s rarely he’s fit to be moved; and, indeed, I’m not much better myself. I was not able to move my left shoulder from a week before Christmas-day till a few days since!’
‘You don’t say so! Rheumatism, I suppose?’
‘Oh, yes all rheumatism: no one knows what I suffer.’
‘And what do you use for it?’
‘Oh, there’s nothing any use. I know the very nature of rheumatism now, I’ve had it so long and it minds nothing at all: there’s no preventing it, and no curing it. It’s like a bad husband, Lady Cashel; the best way is to put up with it.’
‘And how is the dear colonel, Mrs. Ellison?’
‘Why, he was just able to come here, and that was all; but he was dying to see Lord Cashel. He thinks the ministers’ll be shaken about this business of O’Connell’s; and if so, that there’ll be a general election, and then what’ll they do about the county?’
‘I’m sure Lord Cashel wanted to see the colonel on that very subject; so does Adolphus Lord Kilcullen, you know. I never meddle with those things; but I really think Adolphus is thinking of going into Parliament. You know he’s living here at present: his father’s views and his own are so exactly the same on all those sort of things, that it’s quite delightful. He’s taking a deal of interest about the county lately, is Adolphus, and about Grey Abbey too: he’s just the same his father used to be, and that kind of thing is so pleasant, isn’t it, Mrs Ellison?’
Mrs Ellison said it was, and at the same moment groaned, for her shoulder gave her a twinge.
The subject of these eulogiums, in the meantime, did not make his appearance till immediately before dinner was announced, and certainly did not evince very strongly the delight which his mother had assured her friends he would feel at meeting them, for he paid but very little attention to any one but Mat Tierney and his cousin Fanny; he shook hands with all the old gentlemen, bowed to all the old ladies, and nodded at the young ones. But if he really felt that strong desire, which his mother had imputed to him, of opening his heart to the bishop and the colonel respecting things temporal and spiritual, he certainly very successfully suppressed his anxiety.
He had, during the last two or three days, applied himself to the task of ingratiating himself with Fanny. He well knew how to suit himself to different characters, and to make himself agreeable when he pleased; and Fanny, though she had never much admired her dissipated cousin, certainly found his conversation a relief after the usual oppressive tedium of Grey Abbey society.
He had not begun by making love to her, or expressing admiration, or by doing or saying anything which could at all lead her to suspect his purpose, or put her on her guard. He had certainly been much more attentive to her, much more intimate with her, than he usually had been in his flying visits to Grey Abbey; but then he was now making his first appearance as a reformed rake; and besides, he was her first cousin, and she therefore felt no inclination to repel his advances.
He was obliged, in performance of a domestic duty, to walk out to dinner with one of Lady George’s daughters, but he contrived to sit next to Fanny and, much to his father’s satisfaction, talked to her during the whole ceremony.
‘And where have you hidden yourself all the morning, Fanny,’ said he, ‘that nobody has seen anything of you since breakfast?’
‘Whither have you taken yourself all the day, rather, that you had not a moment to come and look after us? The Miss O’Joscelyns have been expecting you to ride with them, walk with them, talk with them, and play la grace with them. They didn’t give up the sticks till it was quite dark, in the hope of you and Mr Tierney making your appearance.’
‘Well, Fanny, don’t tell my mother, and I’ll tell you the truth: promise now.’
‘Oh, I’m no tell-tale.’
‘Well then,’ and he whispered into her ear ‘I was running away from the Miss O’Joscelyns.’ ‘But that won’t do at all; don’t you know they were asked here for your especial edification and amusement?’
‘Oh, I know they were. So were the bishop, and the colonel, and Lord George, and their respective wives, and Mr Hill. My dear mamma asked them all here for my amusement; but, you know, one man may lead a horse to water a hundred can’t make him drink. I cannot, cannot drink of the Miss O’Joscelyns, and the Bishop of Maryborough.’
‘For shame, Adolphus! you ought at any rate to do something to amuse them.’
‘Amuse them! My dear Fanny, who ever heard of amusing a bishop? But it’s very easy to find fault; what have you done, yourself, for their amusement?’
‘I didn’t run away from them; though, had I done so, there would have been more excuse for me than for you.’
‘So there would, Fanny,’ said Kilcullen, feeling that she had alluded to her brother’s death; ‘and I’m very, very sorry all these people are here to bore you at such a time, and doubly sorry that they should have been asked on my account. They mistake me greatly, here. They know that I’ve thought Grey Abbey dull, and have avoided it; and now that I’ve determined to get over the feeling, because I think it right to do so, they make it ten times more unbearable than ever, for my gratification! It’s like giving a child physic mixed in sugar; the sugar’s sure to be the nastiest part of the dose. Indeed I have no dislike to Grey Abbey at present; though I own I have no taste for the sugar in which my kind mother has tried to conceal its proper flavour.’
‘Well, make the best of it; they’ll all be gone in ten days.’
‘Ten days! Are they to stay ten days? Will you tell me, Fanny, what was the object in asking Mat Tierney to meet such a party?’
‘To help you to amuse the young ladies.’
‘Gracious heavens! Does Lady Cashel really expect Mat Tierney to play la grace with the Miss O’Joscelyns? Well, the time will come to an end, I suppose. But in truth I’m more sorry for you than for any one. It was very ill-judged, their getting such a crowd to bore you at such a time,’ and Lord Kilcullen contrived to give his voice a tone of tender solicitude.
‘Kilcullen,’ said the earl, across the table, ‘you don’t hear the bishop. His lordship is asking you to drink wine with him.’
‘I shall be most proud of the honour,’ said the son, and bobbed his head at the bishop across the table.
Fanny was on the point of saying something respecting her brother to Lord Kilcullen, which would have created a kind of confidence between them, but the bishop’s glass of wine broke it off, and from that time Lord Kilcullen was forced by his father into a general conversation with his guests.
In the evening there was music and singing. The Miss O’Joscelyns, and Miss Fitzgeralds, and Mr Hill, performed: even Mat Tierney condescended to amuse the company by singing the ‘Coronation’, first begging the bishop to excuse the peculiar allusions to the ‘clargy’, contained in one of the verses; and then Fanny was asked to sing. She had again become silent, dull, and unhappy, was brooding over her miseries and disappointments, and she declined. Lord Kilcullen was behind her chair, and when they pressed her, he whispered to her, ‘Don’t sing for them, Fanny; it’s a shame that they should tease you at such a time; I wonder how my mother can have been so thoughtless.’
Fanny persisted in declining to sing and Lord Kilcullen again sat down beside her. ‘Don’t trouble yourself about them, Fanny,’ said he, ‘they’re just fit to sing to each other; it’s very good work for them.’
‘I should think it very good work, as you call it, for myself, too, another time; only I’m hardly in singing humour at present, and, therefore, obliged to you for your assistance and protection.’
‘Your most devoted knight as long as this fearful invasion lasts! your Amadis de Gaul your Bertrand du Guesclin! And no paladin of old ever attempted to defend a damsel from more formidable foes.’
‘Indeed, Adolphus, I don’t think them so formidable. Many of them are my own friends.’
‘Is Mrs Ellison your own friend? or Mrs Moore?’
‘Not exactly those two, in particular.’
‘Who then? Is it Miss Judith O’Joscelyn? or is the Reverend Mr Hill one of those to whom you give that sweetest of all names?’
‘Yes; to both of them. It was only this morning I had a long tˆte-…-tˆte
‘What, with Mr Hill?’
‘No, not with Mr Hill though it wouldn’t be the first even with him, but with Judith O’Joscelyn. I lent her a pattern for worsted work.’
‘And does that make her your friend? Do you give your friendship so easily?’
‘You forget that I’ve known her for years.’
‘Well, now, I’ve not. I’ve seen her about three times in my life, and spoken two words to her perhaps twice; and yet I’ll describe her character to you; and if you can say that the description is incorrect, I will permit you to call her your friend.’
‘Well, let’s hear the character.’
‘It wouldn’t be kind in me, though, to laugh at your friend.’
‘Oh, she’s not so especially and particularly my friend that you need mind that.’ ‘Then you’ll promise not to be angry?’
‘Oh no, I won’t be angry.’
‘Well, then; she has two passions: they are for worsted and hymn-books. She has a moral objection to waltzing. Theoretically she disapproves of flirtations: she encourages correspondence between young ladies; always crosses her letters, and never finished one for the last ten years without expressing entire resignation to the will of God as if she couldn’t be resigned without so often saying so. She speaks to her confidential friends of young men as a very worthless, insignificant race of beings; she is, however, prepared to take the very first that may be unfortunate enough to come in her way; she has no ideas of her own, but is quick enough at borrowing those of other people; she considers herself a profound theologian; dotes on a converted papist, and looks on a Puseyite as something one shade blacker than the devil. Now isn’t that sufficiently like for a portrait?’
‘It’s the portrait of a set, I fear, rather than an individual. I don’t know that it’s particularly like Miss O’Joscelyn, except as to the worsted and hymn-books.’
‘What, not as to the waltzing, resignation, and worthless young men? Come, are they not exactly her traits? Does she waltz?’
‘No, she does not.’
‘And haven’t you heard her express a moral objection to it?’
‘Well, I believe I have.’
‘Did you ever get a letter from her, or see a letter of hers?’
‘I don’t remember; yes, I did once, a long time ago.’
‘And wasn’t she very resigned in it?’
‘Well, I declare I believe she was; and it’s very proper too; people ought to be resigned.’
‘Oh, of course. And now doesn’t she love a convert and hate a Puseyite?’
‘All Irish clergyman’s daughters do that.’
‘Well, Fanny, you can’t say but that it was a good portrait; and after that, will you pretend to say you call Miss O’Joscelyn your friend?’
‘Not my very friend of friends; but, as friends go, she’s as good as most others.’
‘And who is the friend of friends, Fanny?’
‘Come, you’re not my father confessor. I’m not to tell you all. If I told you that, you’d make another portrait.’
‘I’m sure I couldn’t draw a disparaging picture of anybody you would really call your friend. But indeed I pity you, living among so many such people. There can be nobody here who understands you.’
‘Oh, I’m not very unintelligible.’
‘Much more so than Miss O’Joscelyn. I shouldn’t wish to have to draw your portrait.’
‘Pray don’t; if it were frightful I should think you uncivil; and if you made it handsome, I should know you were flattering. Besides, you don’t know enough of me to tell me my character.’
‘I think I do; but I’ll study it a little more before I put it on the canvass. Some likenesses are very hard to catch.’
Fanny felt, when she went to bed, that she had spent a pleasanter evening than she usually did, and that it was a much less nuisance to talk to her cousin Adolphus than to either his father, mother, or sister; and as she sat before her fire, while her maid was brushing her hair, she began to think that she had mistaken his character, and that he couldn’t be the hard, sensual, selfish man for which she had taken him. Her ideas naturally fell back to Frank and her hove, her difficulties and sorrows; and, before she went to sleep, she had almost taught herself to think that she might make Lord Kilcullen the means of bringing Lord Ballindine back to Grey Abbey.
She had, to be sure, been told that her cousin had spoken ill of Frank; that it was he who had been foremost in decrying Lord Ballindine’s folly and extravagance; but she had never heard him do so; she had only heard of it through Lord Cashel; and she quite ceased to believe anything her guardian might say respecting her discarded lover. At any rate she would try. Some step she was determined to take about Lord Ballindine; and, if her cousin refused to act like a cousin and a friend, she would only be exactly where she was before.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01