Charles James Lever.

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for funds to carry on the suit, it would seem, they were
pressed."

" You didn't hear a second time ?"

" No, I've told you that I never answered this letter.
I was quite willing, I am so at this hour, to be of any
service to my dear cousin, Lady Eleanor Darcy, and to
aid her to the fullest extent ; but, to prosecute a hopeless
lawsuit, to throw away some thousands in an interminable
Equity investigation to measure purses, too, against one
of the richest men in Ireland, as I hear their antagonist
is this, I could never think of."

" But who has pronounced this claim hopeless?" said
Forester, impatiently.

A cold shrug of the shoulders was all Lord Netherby's
reply.

" Not Miss Daly, certainly," rejoined Forester, " who
was willing to peril everything she possessed in the world
upon the issue."

The sarcasm intended by this speech was deeply felt by
Lord Netherby, as with an unwonted concession to ill-
humour, he replied,



316 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

"There is nothing so courageous as indigence!"

" Better never be rich then," cried Forester, "if cowardice
be the first lesson it teaches. But I think better of afflu-
ence than this. I saw that same Knight of Gwynne when
at the head of a princely fortune, and I never, in any rank
of life, under any circumstances, saw the qualities which
grace and adorn the humblest, more eminently displayed."

" I quite agree with you; a more perfectly conducted
household it is impossible to conceive."

" I speak not of his retinue, nor of his graceful hospi-
talities, my lord, nor even of his generous munificence
nnd benevolence ; these are rich men's gifts everywhere.
I speak of his trusting, confiding temper ; the hopeful
trust he entertained of something good in men's natures
at the moment he was smarting from their perfidy and
ingratitude ; the forgiveness towards those that injured,
the unvarying kindness towards those that forgot him."

"I declare," said Lord Netherby, smiling, "I must
interdict a continuance of this panegyric, now that we
have arrived, for you know Colonel Darcy was a first love
of Lady Netherby."

Nothing but a courtier of Lord Netherby's stamp could
have made such a speech, and while Forester became
scarlet with shame and anger, a new light suddenly broke
upon him, and the rancour of his mother respecting the
Knight and his family was at once explained.

"Now to announce you," said Lord Netherby, gaily;
" let that be my task." And so saying, he lightly tripped
up the stairs before Forester.



817



CHAPTER XXX.

A BOUDOIR.

WHEN, having passed through a suite of gorgeously fur-
nished rooms, Forester entered the dimly-lighted boudoir
where his lady-mother reclined, his feelings were full of
troubled emotion. The remembrance of the last time he
had been there was present to his mind, mingled with
anxious fears as to his approaching reception. Had he
been more conversant with the " world," he needed not
to have suffered these hesitations. There are few con-
ditions in life between which so wide a gulf yawns, as that
of the titled heir of a house and the younger brother. He
was, then, as little prepared for the affectionate greeting
that met him, as for the absence of all trace of illness in
her ladyship's appearance. Both were very grateful to
his feelings as he drew his chair beside her sofa, and a
soft remembrance of former days of happiness stole over
his pleased senses. Lord Netherby, with a fitting con-
sideration, had left them to enjoy this interview alone,
and thus their emotions were unrestrained by the presence
of the only one who had witnessed their parting. Perhaps
the most distinguishing trait of the closest affection is,
that the interruptions to its course do not involve the
misery of reconciliation to enable us to return to our own
place in the heart ; but that the moment of grief, or anger,
or doubt, over, we feel that we have a right to resume our
influence in the breast whose thoughts have so long
mingled with our own. The close ties of filial and parental
love are certainly of this nature, and it must be a stubborn
heart whose instincts do not tend to that forgiveness which
as much blots out as it pardons past errors. Such was
not Lady Netherby 's. Pride of station, the ambition of



318 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

leadership in certain circles, had so incorporated them-
selves with the better dictates of her mind, that she rarely,
if ever, permitted mere feeling to influence her ; but if,
for a moment, it did get the ascendancy, her heart could
feel as acutely as though it had been accustomed to such
indulgence. In a word, she was as affectionate as the
requirements of her rank permitted oh ! this Rank this
Rank ! how do its conventionalities twine and twist
themselves round our natures till love and friendship are
actually subject to the cold ordinance of a fashion ! How
many hide the dark spots of their heart behind the false
screen they call their " Rank ! " The rich man, in the
Bible, clothed in his purple, and faring sumptuously, was
but acting in conformity with his " Rank ! " nay, more,
he was charitable as became his " Rank," for the poor
were fed with the crumbs from his table.

Forester was well calculated by natural advantages to
attract a mother's pride. He was handsome and well-
bred, had even more than a fair share of abilities, which
gained credit for something higher from a native quickness
of apprehension, and even already, the adventurous cir-
cumstances of his first campaign had invested his character
with a degree of interest that promised well for his success
in the world. If her manner to him was then kind and
affectionate, it was mingled also with something of admira-
tion, which her woman's heart yielded to the romantic
traits of the youth.

She listened with eager pleasure to the animated de-
scription he gave of the morning at Aboukir, and the
brilliant panorama of the attack, nor was the enjoyment
marred by the mention of the only name that could have
pained her, the last words of Lord Netherby having sealed
Forester's lips with respect to the Knight of Gwynne.

The changeful fortunes of his life as a prisoner were
mingled with the recital of the news by which his exchange
was effected, and this brought back once more the subjject
by which their interview was opened the death of his
elder brother. Lady Netherby perhaps felt she had done
enough for sorrow, for she dwelt but passingly on the
theme, and rather addressed herself to the future which
was now about to open before her remaining son, carefully



A BOUDOIR. 819

avoiding, however, the slightest phrase that should imply
dictation, and only seeming to express the natural expec-
tation "the world " had formed of what his career should be.

" Lord Netherby tells me," said she, " that the Duke of
York will, in all likelihood, name you as an extra aide-de-
camp, in which case you probably would remain in the
service. It is an honour that could not well be declined."

" I scarcely like to form fixed intentions which have no
fixed foundations," said Forester; "but if I might give
way to my own wishes, it would be to indulge in perfect
liberty to have no master."

" Nor any mistress either, to control yon, for some time,
I suppose," rejoined she, smiling, as if carelessly, but
watching how her words were taken. Forester affected to
partake in the laugh, but could not conceal a slight degree
of confusion. Lady Netherby was too clever a tactician
to let even a momentary awkwardness interrupt the inter-
view, and resumed : " You will be dreadfully worried by
all the 'lionizing ' in store for you, I'm certain ; you are
to be feasted and f6 ted to any extent, and will be fortunate
if the gratulations on your recovery do not bring back
your illness."

" I shall get away from it all, at once," said Forester,
rising, and walking up and down, as if the thought had
suggested the impatient movement.

" You cannot avoid presenting yourself at the levee,"
said Lady Netherby, anxiously, for already a dread of her
son's wilful temper came over her. " His Royal High-
ness's inquiries after you do not leave an option on this
matter."

" What if I'm too ill ?" said he, doggedly ; " what if
I should not be in town ?"

"But where else could you be, Richard?" said she,
with a resumption of her old imperiousness of tone and
manner.

" In Ireland, madam," said Forester, coldly.

" In Ireland ! And why, for any sake, in Ireland ?"

Forester hesitated, and grew scarlet ; he did not know
whether to evade inquiry by a vague reply, or at once
avow his secret determination. At length, with a falter-
ing, uncertain voice, he said : " A matter of business will



320 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

bring me to that country ; I have already conversed with.
Lord Castlereagh on the subject. Lord Netherby was
present."

" I'm sure he could never concur I'm certain." So
far her ladyship had proceeded, when a sudden fear came
over her that she had ventured too far, and turning
hastily, she rang the bell beside her. " Davenport," said
she to the grave-looking groom of the chambers, who as
instantaneously appeared, " is my lord at home ?"

" His lordship is in the library, my lady."

" Alone ? "

" No, my lady, a gentleman from Ireland is with his
lordship."

" A gentleman from Ireland ! " repeated she, half aloud,
as though the very mention of that country were destined
to persecute her ; then quickly added, " Say I wish to
speak with him here."

The servant bowed and withdrew ; and now a perfect
silence reigned in the apartment. Forester felt that he
had gone too far to retreat, even were he so disposed, and
although dreading nothing more than a " scene," awaited,
without speaking, the course of events. As much yield-
ing to an involuntary impatience as to relieve the awk-
wardness of the interval, he arose and walked into the
adjoining drawing-room, carelessly tossing over books
and prints upon the tables, and trying to affect an ease
he was very far from experiencing.

It was while he was thus engaged that Lord Netherby
entered the boudoir, and seeing her ladyship alone, was
about to speak in his usual tone, when, at a gesture from
her, he was made aware of Forester's vicinity, and hastily
subdued his voice to a whisper. Whatever the nature of
the tidings which, in a hurried and eager tone, his lord-
ship retailed, her manner on hearing evinced a mingled
astonishment and delight, if the word dare be applied to
an emotion whose source was in anything rather than
an amiable feeling.

" It seems too absurd too monstrous in every way,"
exclaimed she, at the end of an explanation which took
several minutes to recount. " And why address himself
to you? That seems also inexplicable."



A BOUDOIR. 821

" This," rejoined Lord Netherby, aloud " this was hia
own inspiration. He candidly acknowledges that no one
either counselled or is even aware of the step he has
taken."

" Perhaps the apropos may do us good service," whis-
pered she, with a glance darted at the room where Forester
was now endeavouring, by humming an air, to give token
of his vicinity, as well as assume an air of indifference.

" I thought of that," said Lord Netherby, in the same
low voice. " Would you see him ? A few moments would
be enough."

Lady Netherby made no answer, but with closed eyes
and compressed lips seemed to reflect deeply for several
minutes. At last she said, " Yes, let him come. I'll
detain Richard in the drawing-room ; he shall hear every-
thing that is said. If I know anything of him the insult
to his pride will do far more than all our arguments and
entreaties."

" Don't chill my little friend by any coldness of man-
ner," said his lordship, smiling, as he moved towards the
door ; " I have only got him properly thawed within the
last few minutes."

" My dear Richard," said she, as the door closed after
Lord Netherby, " I must keep you prisoner in the draw-
ing-room for a few minutes, while I receive a visitor of
Lord Netherby's. Don't close the doors ; I can't endure
heat, and this room becomes insupportable without a
slight current of air. Besides, there is no secret, I fancy,
in the communication. As well as I understand the mat-
ter, it does not concern us ; but Netherby is always doing
some piece of silly good-nature, for which no one thanks
him!"

The last reflection was half soliloquy, but said so that
Forester could and did hear every word of it. While her
ladyship, therefore, patiently awaited the arrival of her
visitor in one room, Forester threw himself into a chair,
and taking up a book at hazard, endeavoured to pass the
interval without further thought about the matter.

Sitting with his back towards the door of the boudoir,
Forester accidentally had placed himself in such a posi-
tion, that a large mirror between the windows reflected

VOL. u. Y



THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

to him a considerable portion of the scene within. It
was then with an amount of astonishment far above
ordinary, that he beheld the strange-looking figure who
followed Lord Netherby into the apartment of his mother.
He was a short, dumpy man, with a bald head, over which
the long hairs of either side were studiously combed into
an ingenious kind of network, and meeting at an angle
above the cranium, looked like the uncovered rafters of a
new house. Two fierce-looking grey eyes that seemed
ready for fun or malice, rolled and revolved unceasingly
over the various decorations of the chamber, while a lai-ge
thick-lipped mouth, slightly opened at either end, vouched
for one who neglected no palpable occasion for self-indul-
gence or enjoyment. There was, indeed, throughout his
appearance, a look of racy satisfaction and contentment,
that consorted but ill with his costume, which was a suit
of deep mourning; his clothes having all the gloss and
shine of a recent domestic loss, and made, as seems some-
thing to be expected on these occasions, considerably too
large for him, as though to imply that the defunct should
not be defrauded in the full measure of sorrow. Deep
crape weepers encircled his arms to the elbows, and a
very banner of black hung mournfully from his hat.

" Mr. " Here Lord Netherby hesitated, forgetful

of his name.

" Dempsey, Paul Dempsey, your Grace," said the little
man, as, stepping forward, he performed the salutation
before Lady Netherby, by which he was accustomed to
precede an invitation to dance.

" Pray be seated, Mr. Dempsey. I have just briefly
mentioned to her ladyship the circumstances of our in-
teresting conversation, and with your permission will
proceed with my recital, begging, that if I fall into any
error, you will kindly set me right. This will enable Lady
Netherby, who is still an invalid, to support the fatigue of
an interview, wherein her advice and counsel will be of
great benefit to us both."

Mr. Dempsey bowed several times, not sorry, perhaps,
that in such an awful presence he was spared the office of
chief orator.

" I told you, my dear, 1 ' said Lord Netherby, turning



A BOUDOIR. 328

towards her ladyship, " that this gentleman had for a con-
siderable time back enjoyed the pleasure of intimacy with
our worthy relative Lady Eleanor Darcy "

The fall of a heavy book in the adjoining room inter-
rupted his lordship, between whom and Lady Netherby a
most significant interchange of glances took place. He
resumed, however, without a pause

" Lady Eleanor and her accomplished daughter. If the
more urgent question were not now before us, it would gra-
tify you to learn, as I have just done, the admirable patience
she has exhibited under the severe trials she has met the
profound insight she obtained into the condition, hopeless
as it proves to be, of their unhappy circumstances arid
the resignation in which, submitting to changed fortune,
she not only has, at once, abandoned the modes of living
she was habituated to, but actually descended to what I
can fancy must have been the hardest infliction of all
vulgar companionship, and the society of a boarding-
house."

" A most respectable establishment, though," broke in
Paul; " Fumbally's is known all over Ulster "

A very supercilious smile from Lady Netherby cut
short a panegyric Mr. Dempsey would gladly have ex-
tended.

" No doubt, sir, it was the best thing of the kind," re-
sumed his lordship ; " but remember who Lady Eleanor
Darcy was; ay, and is. Think of the station she had
always held, and then fancy her in daily intercourse with
those people "

" Oh ! it is very horrid, indeed," broke in Lady
Netherby, leaning back, and looking overcome even at
the bare conception of the enormity.

" The little miserable notorieties of a fishing vil-
lage "

" Coleraine, my lord Coleraine," cried Dempsey.

" Well, be it so. What is Coleraine ? "

" A very thriving town on the river Bann, with a smart
trade in yarn, two breweries, three meeting-houses, a
pound, and a Sunday-school," repeated Paul, as rapidly as
though reading from a volume of a topographical dic-
tionary.

y 2



824 THE KNIGHT OF GWTNNE.

" All very commendable and delightful institutions, on
which I beg heartily to offer my congratulations: but,
you will allow me to remark, scarcely enough to compen-
sate for the accustomed appliances of a residence at
Gwynne Abbey. But I see we are trespassing on Lady
Netherby's strength. You seem faint, my dear."

" It's nothing it will pass over in a moment or so.
This sad account of these poor people has distressed me
greatly."

" Well, then, we must hasten on. Mr. Dempsey be-
came acquainted with our poor friends in this their exile:
and although from his delicacy and good taste he will not
dwell on the circumstance, it is quite clear to me, has
shown them many attentions; I might use a stronger
word, and say kindnesses."

" Oh ! by Jove, I did nothing. I could do nothing"

" Nay, sir, you are unjust to yourself; the very inten-
tions by which you set out on your present journey are
the shortest answer to that question. It would appear,
my dear, that my fair relative, Miss Darcy, has not for-
feited the claim she possessed to great beauty and attrac-
tion : for here, in the gentleman before us, is an evidence
of their existence. Mr. Dempsey, who ' never told his
Jove,' as the poet says, waited in submission himself for
the hour of his changing fortune; and until the death of
his mother "

" No, my lord ; my uncle. Bob Dempsey, of Dempsey's
Grove."

"His uncle, I mean. Mr. Dempsey of Dempsey's
Hole."

" Grove Dempsey's Grove," interpolated Paul, redden-
ing.

" Grove, I should say," repeated Lord Netherby, un-
moved. " By which he has succeeded to a very comfort-
able independence, and is now in a position to make an
offer of his hand and fortune."

" Under the conditions, my lord tinder the conditions,"
whispered Paul.

" I have not forgotten them," resumed Lord Netherby,
aloud. " It would be ungenerous not to remember them,
even for your sake, Mr. Dempsey, seeing how much my



A BOUDOIR. 325

poor, dear relative, Lady Eleanor, is bent on prosecuting
this unhappy suit, void of all hope, as it seems to be, and
not having any money of her own "

" Ready money cash," interposed Paul.

"So I mean ready money to make the advances
necessary Mr. Dempsey wishes to raise a certain sum
by loan, on the security of his property, which may
enable the Darcys to proceed with their claim ; this deed
to be executed on his marriage with Miss Darcy. Am I
correct, sir ?"

" Quite correct, my lord ; you've only omitted, that, to
save expensive searches, lawyers' fees, and other devil-
ments of the like nature, that your lordship should ad-
vance the blunt yourself ? "

" I was coming to that point. Mr. Dempsey opines
that, taking the interest it is natural we should do in our
poor friends, he has a kind of claim to make this pro-
position to us. He is aware of our relationship mine, I
mean to Lady Eleanor. She spoke to you, 1 believe, on
that subject, Mr. Dempsey ?"

" Not exactly to me" said Paul, hesitating, and recalling
the manner in which he became cognisant of the circum-
stance ; " but I heard her say that your lordship was
under very deep obligation to her own father that you
were, so to say, a little out at elbows once, very like
myself before Bob died, and that, then "

"We all lived together like brothers and sisters," said
his lordship, reddening. " I'm sure I can't forget how
happily the time went over."

" Then Lady Eleanor, I presume, sir, did not advert
to those circumstances as a reason for your addressing
yourself to Lord Netherby ? " said her ladyship, with
a look of stern severity.

" Why, my lady, she knows nothing about my coming
here. Lord bless us! I wouldn't have told her for a
thousand pounds ! "

" Nor Miss Darcy, either ? "

" ( Not a bit of it ! Oh, by Jove ! if you think they're
not as proud as ever they were, you are much mistaken ;
and, indeed, on this very same subject I heard her say
that nothing would induce her to accept a favour from



326 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

your lordship, if even so very impi'obable an event should
occur as your offering one."

" So that we owe the honour of your visit to the most
single-minded of motives, sir," said Lady Netherby, whose
manner had now assumed all its stateliness.

" Yes, my lady, I came as you see Dempsius cum
Dempsio so that if I succeed, I can say like that fellow
in the play, 'Alone, I did it.' "

Lord Netherby, who probably felt that the interview
had lasted sufficiently long for the only purpose he had des-
tined or endured it, was now becoming somewhat desi-
rous of terminating the audience, nor was his impatience
allayed by those sportive sallies of Mr. Dempsey in allusion
to his own former condition as a dependent.

At length he said, "You must be aware, Mr. Dempsey,
that this is a matter demanding much time and considera-
tion. The Knight of Gwynne is absent."

" That's the reason there is not an hour to lose," inter-
posed Paul.

" I am at a loss for your meaning."

" I mean, that if he comes home before it's all settled, that
the game is up. He would never consent, I'm certain."

" So you think that the ladies regard you with more
favourable eyes?" said her ladyship, smiling a mixture
of superciliousness and amusement.

" I have my own reasons to think so," said Paul, with
great composure.

" Perhaps you take too hopeless a view of your case,
sir," resumed Lord Netherby, blandly ; " I am, unhappily,
very ignorant of Irish family rank : but I feel assured
that Mr. Dempsey, of Dempsey's Hole "

" Grove Dempsey's Grove," said Paul, with a look of
anger.

" I ask your pardon, humbly I would say of Dempsey's
Grove might be an accepted suitor in the very highest,
quarters. At all events, from news I have heard this
morning it is more than likely that the Knight will be in
London before many weeks, and I dare not assume either
the responsibility of favouring your views, or incurring his
displeasure by an act of interference. I think her ladyship
concurs with me."



A BOUDOIB. 327

"Perfectly. The case is really one which, however we
may, and do, feel the liveliest interest in, lies quite beyond
our influence or control."

" Mr. Derapsey may rest assured that, even from so
brief an acquaintance, we have learned to appreciate
some of his many excellent qualities of head and heart."

Lady Netherby bowed an aquiescence cold and stately;
and his lordship rising at the same time, Paul saw that
the audience drew to a close. He arose then slowly, and
with a faint sigh for he thought of his long and dreary
journey, made to so little profit.

" So 1 may jog back again as I came," muttered he, as
ho drew on his gloves. " Well, well, Lady Eleanor knew
him better than I did. Good morning, my lady. I hope
you are about to enjoy better health. Good-by, my
lord."

" Do you make any stay in town, Mr. Dempsey ? "
inquired his lordship, in that bland voice that best be-
came him.

" 'Till I pack my portmanteau, my lord, and pay my
bill at the 'Tavistock' not an hour longer."

" I'm sorry for that. I had hoped, and Lady Netherby
also expected, we should have the pleasure of seeing you
again."

" Very grateful, my lord ; but I see how the land lies
as well as if I was here a month." And with this signi-
ficant speech Mr. Dempsey repeated his salutations and
withdrew.

" What presumption ! " exclaimed Lady Netherby, as
the door closed behind him. " But how needlessly Lady
Eleanor Darcy must have lowered herself to incur such,
acquaintanceship ! "

Lord Netherby made no reply, but gave a glance to-
wards the still open door of the drawing-room. Her



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 27 of 35)