« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
months; I have it from the best authority, though I promised not to betray. Only this much I can tell, that the girl might have been a pretty scholar, before any one in Dunasker would have been the wiser, if I had not come to the bottom of it in time."
Miss Tammy felt that she was rapidly sinking into insignificance; and that unless she made a violent effort to recover her ground, she might ever after hide her diminished head before so well informed a person as Mrs. Kilrummery. She formed her plan in a moment, and answered with a grave and mysterious air.
I may as well speak plainly, Mrs. K. That woman has given me more uneasiness than you and others who have not fathomed her designs, can have any idea of. Knowing what I know, it is no wonder if I care little about such things as you have been speaking about, or, if I pass them over as trifles, without heeding them, while I have such terrible consequences mind, I say, consequences-before my eyes."
"Miss G." cried the other, eagerly, "if you open your mind to me, you may depend upon it, that the whole world night be cross-questioning me for ever, before one word could be got out of me."
"The world, I'm afraid, will know it all too soon," replied the post-mistress, still more mysteriously. "Indeed, Mrs. K., I am surprised at you, that you have been so greatly mistaken, and off your guard. The times are very bad. Spies and emissaries are taking their fling every where, without check or control. You know how the Colonel is brow-beat in the newspapers-you see how the two ruffians, who rescued in the teeth of the captain's warrant, were let out of jail, for the encouragement of lawbreakers. You thought it was the priest who contrived that. Oh! don't deny it-your own lips said, behind your own counter, that Mr. Fannin had the Colonel under his thumb; and that his law was the only law of the land. If you remember, I said nothing, or just agreed with you in a careless kind of way; but all the time I put the saddle on the right horse. I said to myself, Mrs. Smith is the priest -Mrs. Smith is the jesuit-Mrs. Smith is the lord-lieutenant. And, now, I leave it to yourself, which were you or I most likely to be right in our judg
"Oh, 'pon my word, Miss G., I must beg pardon if I seem to contradict you. Sure, you can't forget how you said to me, in your own parlour, that the Colonel was afraid to drive the priest's cousin for his rent, lest he should be broke off the peace for offending a rebel."
"I did say that, I allow; but did I say that Mrs. Smith was worse than the priest? No-but I thought it. I always suspected that she was under pay for some bad purpose. And, can't you understand that she has done some work to her employer's satisfaction, since she is paid so handsomely ?"
"At any rate," said Mrs. Kilrummery, "I ought to be the last to find fault with her, or her money; no matter how she comes by it. She spent more in one half hour, in my shop, than six of my best customers would do in a week."
"Oh! Mrs. Kilrummery !" cried Miss Tammy, rising into something approaching the sublime. "How can you be so blind? How can you be so infatuated as not to see your own destruction, and all our destructions skulking behind that woman at every step she takes! You know I would be glad if you turned a hundred pounds a-day, in the way of business. know it would only make me happy, if she could eat your goods, besides wearing them; and how joyful would I be to think that poor Dunasker would never see her dressed in other clothes than what she could buy in your shop. But, mark my words-for I know what I am saying that we shall see her yet, in a full suit of armour, mounted on her charger, sword in hand, and heading her troop, to take her full revenge on us all!!!"
You terrify the life out of me, Miss Goulding, so you do. What would tempt the woman to revenge herself on them that never injured her? for my part, I could, with a safe conscience, make my affidavit before a bench of magistrates, that in all my dealings with her, I never charged her one penny over and above my lawful profits."
Miss Tammy gained her point. Mrs. Kilrummery felt that her petty tattle faded into insignificance, when compared with the important information which the other had the means of obtaining. She listened with great attention, while the post-mistress proceeded to give, what appeared to her, most excellent reasons for her terrible
anticipations in respect of Mrs. Smith; till, in the end, she became so alarmed, that Miss Goulding found great difficulty in obtaining the intelligence of which she was ignorant. By skilful management she, at length succeeded, without losing an inch of her own importance; and took her leave, at a late hour, cautioning her friend to keep a strict silence on a subject so momentous in its consequences. Mrs.
Kilrummery promised that her lips should be scaled up; and, at the moment, faithfully intended to keep her promise. But, twelve hours had not passed, when she whispered one hint to one customer, and another to a second; and, as is the case in all such confidences, the news rapidly circulated, till Mrs. Smith's secret operations were better known to her neighbours, than they were to herself.
IN WHICH THERE IS A RURAL FETE, AND A RUMOUR OF MARRIAGE.
Every summer Colonel Asker made a gathering of all the visitable people in the country, to a kind of dejeuner à la fourchette, or something of that nature, on one of the islands in Lough Asker, where there was a banquetting house, and other accommodations for entertaining a large party. By such an arrangement, a great number of persons were gratified, and his popularity kept up, at a very trifling expenditure of trouble or money. A second, or third-rate order, who would have been somewhat out of place, had they been invited as regular dinner guests at the castle; or, who would have paid dearly for their annual or half-yearly grandeur, by the dulness and awkwardness attendant upon such visits, were quite at their ease at these rural entertainments. Nobody was asked to sit in a circle or hollow square, before, or after dinner. Nobody was reminded of his place, or painfully anxious lest he had overstepped his bounds; for the rule was, "stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once," any where, and every where that fancy leads you. The hostess kept a little of her state-just so much as became her; and which was rather taken as a compliment by all her guests, than resented as an affront. But the Colonel "mingled with society," and if he did not play "the humble host," did better; for he was frank, and kind, and attentive; and contrived that every individual should feel himself or herself pleased with him, and pleased with themselves.
The day of the fete was as favourable as could be wished. Boats were in readiness to carry the company as they arrived, to the island; and, at an early hour, a large assemblage was collected. The Massingers came in state; and had the gratification of seeing their own guest, Mrs. Merrygrief, acknowledged as the great lady
of the day. For, although the newspapers described the party as a brilliant assemblage of rank, beauty, and fashion, she was the only "honourable" present; and, as such, was a great relief to Colonel Asker, who, on some occasions, found it difficult, with all his tact, to manage between the claims of two or three untitled ladies, in the neighbourhood, to precedence.
All the party to which our readers were introduced at Massinger-hall, were present, with the exception of Mrs. Smallcraft, who objected to such entertainments, though they were not. very different from other large dinner parties, except that they were less formal-that the company wore morning dresses, and separated at an early hour. There were, besides, half a hundred others; but we can only find time to particularize two gentlemen, who are absolutely necessary towards bringing our story to a conclusion. These were Mr. Ravenscroft, rector of Dunasker, and Mr. William Somerville, Ansty Ruhily's champion in the affair of Bryan Garaway.
The former was a man advanced in life-a hard-working, pains-taking clergyman, who had been the means of much good in the parish.
The other was in the very first bloom of manhood-the idol of his mother, the same of his father, and the favourite of the whole world that is, of so much of it as his circle embraced. Even when an ugly wide-mouthed boy, he was universally popular; and deservedly so. His spirits were exuberant to wildness, yet they never led him into mischief. His manners were frank and easy, yet he was never forward; and, though from rapid growth, and the various mischances that boys will often meet with, his clothes were sometimes ill-fitting, or the worse for the wear, he always looked like a
gentleman's son. The ugly boy, in time, grew up into a very handsome young man, with very white teeth, and a fine intelligent countenance; and, what some persons will think more worthy of detail, with sound principles, and irreproachable morals. His mother had always foretold that he would make a figure in the world; and, contrary to the usual fate of such maternal prognostications, in the case of an only son, he began very early to fulfil them. He was an accomplished horseman, and a scientific driver, and a steady shot, and a first-rate cricket player, before he went to school; where fortunately, he succeeded as well with Greek and Latin. In college, his career was brilliant, carrying off all the honours within reach of an under graduate; and was, at this time, at the age of three and twenty, just called to the bar, with the fairest prospect of rising to eminence in his profession. We shall only add, that he was perfectly unaffected. Good sense was the predominant ingredient in his character, which preserved him unhurt in the general conspiracy to spoil him, both as man and boy.
The doors of the banqueting house were, at length, thrown open. The band struck up, "The roast-beef of old England;" and Colonel Asker, with Mrs. Merrygrief leaning on his arm, headed the procession-Lady Anne, supported by Mr. Massinger, bringing up the rere.
We shall not go through the entertainment regularly, but pick up, here and there, in the course of the evening, what may be most amusing to our readers, or, at least, what appears most amusing to ourselves.
Bright," called Colonel Asker from the foot of the table," will you try that ham before you? Mrs. Merrygrief agrees with me that it is excellent; but I wish to have your opinion, knowing that you pique yourself upon your breed of pigs."
"Not I," he answered. "I got rid of all my new light stock, six months ago; for, 1 never was so pestered in my life with such an unruly, mischevious set, as they turned out, when one knew their disposition."
Yet you were quite in love with them last year. You remember advising me to part with my stock, and to provide myself from yours."
"You had no loss in not taking my advice," said Mr. Bright; "though to give them their due, as I think one
ought to do to every body, whether man or brute, they had some good perfections, and plenty of bad ones too. The would grow fat by only looking at, or smelling their victuals. But, then, there was no controlling them. they would tire a race-horse to catch them, once they set fairly in. for a gallop; and, as for mischief, one of them would root up an acre of land, before you could wink with your eyes." "But why not ring them ?" asked a gentleman at the opposite side.
"Ring them! Little you know them. It is then they would have the ball at their foot, indeed. Why, sir, you might as well put a spade into their hand at once."
A burst of laughter from all within hearing, followed this last speech. Mrs. Merrygrief laughed from pure sympathy; for the cause of the merriment was totally unintelligible to her.
"Has Mr. Bright been at Massingerhall, since you came there?" asked Colonel Asker.
"Yes I saw him there once. Miss Massinger introduced him to me.”
"Then you understand his character -so far as it can be understood; for, as you may perceive, he is the oddest compound imaginable."
Rilly, I do not. You must know that I have understood every thing and every body, since I came to Ireland, except Mr. Bright. Miss Massinger told me that he was a character. I, therefore, expected a great deal of cleverness and drollery, and all that kind of thing; but I never heard him speak of any thing but pigs, or his wife. And he uses such extraordinary expressions, and tells such foolish stories of himself, and gives such ridiculous reasons for every thing he does, that, altogether, he appears to me not to be very clever, or, what I should call Irish."
We shall leave Mr. Bright and his eleverness, in Colonel Asker's hands, and attend, for a few minutes, to Lady Anne, who, just then, addressed herself to Mr. Ravenscroft.
"So you have, at last, made an acquaintance with the unaccountable Mrs. Smith. Pray, tell me what sort of person she is ?”
"A lady-like, sensible woman," he answered, "though a little embarrassed in society, from long habits of seclusion; and, apparently, afraid of the sound of her own voice. But I can perceive that she is, or, perhaps, I should rather say, has been well informed;
and also very respectably accomplished -at least, so my daughters suspect."
"Did she allude to her former life, or her connexions? Or had you an opportunity of learning any thing of her, beyond her mere name?"
Nothing. She evidenced no inclination to be communicative about herself; and, you may be sure, we expressed no curiosity on the subject." "No. I suppose not," said her ladyship, looking a little disappointed. "But, Mr. Ravenscroft, I do not like your air of superiority when you say that. I hope you do not pretend now, that you have no curiosity about her; when I have heard you repeatedly express the greatest. For my part, I candidly confess that I feel a strong interest in her affairs, which, I am afraid, arises from nothing else."
'On your ladyship's own showing," he replied, "I have a right to arrogate a little superiority over you. You broadly confess that you feel nothing but curiosity in the case of Mrs. Smith; whereas, I can most conscientiously declare, that putting that feeling entirely out of the question, she has excited a very strong interest in my mind. I shall be quite content to allow the mystery that covers her past life to remain just as it is, provided that she gives me an opportunity of directing her through as much of the remainder of it, as she may spend in my parish."
"So you ought," said Lady Anne; "and there is no necessity of making such a virtue of your self-denial, particularly as there is so little chance of its being put to the proof. However, I shall promise to exercise mine most magnanimously, provided that you promise to satisfy my curiosity the very moment that you have any thing to tell."
No, no," he said. "you ask too much. To tell all that I could, would certainly be in my power; but to satisfy your curiosity might be beyond my utmost capability. To speak seriously-she is a very interesting woman. Her mind is, by no means, a common one. I can see it has been working upon itself in the most important of all considerations-religion ;and, though the system which she formed for herself appears to have been sadly defective-entirely founded upon superstition and will worship-yet, there is such an honest determination in her character, to find out truth, and to be guided by it, that she has been VOL. XI.
preserved from bigotry; and is, I think, slowly, but surely, extricating herself from the difficulties which she had gathered about her."
Mrs. Robarts, a lady from a distant part of the county, who was seated on the other side of Lady Anne Asker, and who had not been attending to the preceding conversation, interrupted it by asking, as she looked over at Mary Vaughan, "if that pretty girl was not going to be married immediately?"
was told so by my maid this morning," said Lady Anne; "and, within this last hour, Mrs. Somerville mentioned it to me, as a report that she believes."
"I never saw the young lady before," said Mrs. Robarts; "but I know the person to whom report says she is to be married; and they appear to me to be not at all suited to each other."
"Is he not quite out of her line ?" enquired Lady Anne from Mr. Ravenscroft. "I have heard the colonel speak of him (for he is a tenant on this property) as a prudent, industrious young man; but I never conceived him to be a person that she could think of marrying."
If you favour me with his name," he answered, I may, perhaps, give you some information as to the gentleman's pretensions-premising, that I have not heard the report; and that I do not believe such a thing to be in contemplation at all."
"He is a Mr. Wilkinson. He lives somewhere on the road to Ballyrahan."
"It is a fabrication from beginning to end," he cried, warmly, "and a very silly one, if not absolutely wicked. It would be a very unprincipled match on the part of the girl. She is no more fitted to be his wife, than I am to be prime minister. Besides, she has had no opportunity of becoming acquainted with him, except seeing him casually at her uncle's house, when he called there on business. I allow full latitude for depravity of taste; but there is an utter impossibility that she could fall in love with his appearance or manners. Your ladyship may rest assured that it is one of Miss Tammy Goulding's surmises, with no better foundation than his having dined at Plant's on the last fair day."
I wish I could think so," said Lady Anne; "but I am afraid there is more in the story than mere gossip. I have been watching Miss Vaughan very closely, since I spoke with Mrs. So
merville; and there is something in her manner, so very unlike herself, that I am, every moment, more inclined to believe the worst. It is exactly that of a person about to make a foolish match-evidently half ashamed, and yet determined to look very happy and self-satisfied. If you have remarked her since we sat down, she has been either abstractedly silent, or talking with affected animation to James Massinger, who, you know, is anything but agreeable." By-the-bye," she added, your neighbour, Mr. Edmonston, who is so intimate at Plantville, will be likely to know everything connected with the family. Ask him if he has heard the report."
Mr. Ravenscroft made the enquiry. "Oh! dear me! yes, to be sure," replied prosing Mr. Edmonston, "it is all settled. Indeed, I quite forgot it, till you put me in mind of it. Her uncle told me all about it, the day that Toby opened his mind. I thought better of Plant ever since; for he was as happy at it as if he was getting off one of his own daughters, who are likely to stick long enough on hands. She is a lucky girl to get a provision these
"A pretty provision !" muttered Mr. Ravenscroft; and then, turning to Lady Anne-" You will find there is some mistake, after all. She could not marry the man. She has very good sense, and good principles; and, putting them aside entirely, has she not eyes?"
"I am surprised that I have not heard more of her," said Mrs. Robarts; " for I have seldom seen a more beautiful girl."
The term 66 'beautiful" has a very extensive meaning. In the family circle it is generally applied to a certain portion of good looks, which one member may possess in a greater degree than the others. In a neighbourhood, it is used pretty much in the same sense -the best looking being always dubbed beautiful. And, in what is called the world, fashion changes its signification so often, that we cannot tell exactly what it means. It cannot be denied that there is such a thing as positive beauty, abstracted from all conventional considerations. But it is very rare, at least in any great degree; as may be collected from the various opinions respecting the same person. The whole world is seldom agreed in its estimate of beauty; therefore, we conclude, that it has seldom seen its impalpable, undeniable perfection.
Now, in the instance of Miss Vaughan, many persons were of the opinion of Mrs. Robarts-Captain Somerville in particular. But his taste was peculiar; for he admired tall people-let their skin, or complexion, or features, be what they might and none others. A man, upwards of six feet, was a magnificent-looking fellow-no matter whether he was like a stuffed boa, or a lubberly combination of big bones, stiff joints, and loose flesh; and a woman might have a gorgon's head on her shoulders, without disparagement to her beauty, provided it enabled her to tower above her sex. Mary Vaughan's quantum of beauty consisted principally in countenance. Not that she had one bad feature; but they were far from faultless-so that some people of a critical taste, and some with no taste at all, passed her over as merely a finelooking girl, rather taller than necessity required. Yet, she was just the creature that a parent might be excused for thinking beautiful, at times ;—and would, most assuredly, have thought so, though the confession might never be made to others. But poor Mary had no father or mother to gaze on her with open delight or secret satisfaction, while they congratulated themselves in having, for their own, a child who promised so fairly for mind, as well as outward form. She had never heard her personal appearance alluded to in her family, except in murmurs against her excessive height, which precluded the possibility of turning her aunt's or cousins' half-worn clothes to account, in her case; and her little accomplishments, which she had picked up in her few leisure hours, never received praise or encouragement. She was required to teach the younger Plants what she knew, without thanks, and without the credit that she well deserved.
Mr. Ravenscroft remained silent for some minutes, while Mrs Robarts continued to express her admiration of the bride elect, and to wonder at her choice. He, at length, said, in an impatient toue, to Lady Anne
"What matter about her looks! she were as ugly as Hecate it would make no difference. I cannot conceive that she could act so foolishly. However, we shall not remain long in doubt
for, immediately on leaving this room, I shall ask her the question simply and plainly."
Do not-pray, do not," she said, earnestly. "I have already engaged Mrs. Somerville, who is sadly grieved