Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

The fair Irish maid online

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by a wayward and capricious sex. Mr. Fenny was
not so vain of his triumphs as to fail in philosophy,
and he yearned for security. He would have liked
well enough some comfortable little office such as
the ministry in power always had at their disposal
to reward greedy place-seekers as eager of in-
surance as he. But Mr. Fenny could not command
much influence with the ministry, for the Compton
gang were too poor to be popular or powerful, and
though he had uninteresting if influential friends
whose good-will, if carefully solicited, might pos-
sibly have served him well to his ends, the young
man was too incorrigibly idle and too impertinently


fastidious to be at the pains of pursuing a tedious
acquaintanceship even to his own ultimate ad-

It was at the moment when Mr. Fenny was think-
ing most seriously of the future, albeit enjoying most
avidly the present, that the appearance in town of
Grania, her triumph in society and the throwing
open under conditions of unusual opulence and
hospitality of the stately house in St. James's
Square which Lord Cloyne had obtained for her,
seemed to Mr. Fenny like welcome dawn after a
weary night. He lost no time in being presented
to the reigning beauty by Lord Cloyne, who was
his intimate friend, and who was never the man to be
reluctant to do a good turn to a boon companion
at the expense of some one else. Mr. Peregrine
was fortunate enough to please Grania, as he was
used to please all women, by his nimble wit, his
ready speech, his comely person, his airy carriage,
and the slight suggestion of impertinence which
gave a salt to his well-studied and seemingly so
spontaneous gallantry. Then came to Mr. Penny's
alert ears some words about the fair lady's pressing
need of the services of a private secretary. A swift
thought kindled in Peregrine's alert mind, and a
hint very patently given to my Lord Cloyne had
ripened swiftly. In a very short time Mr. Fenny
found himself a daily visitor in St. James's Square,
not as a merely persistent and tolerated acquaint-
ance, but as a recognized and welcome personage


duly installed in the office of private secretary to

As a matter of fact Lord Cloyne could scarcely
have made a better choice for such a post. Mr.
Fenny proved himself an excellent help to the girl.
He knew everything and everybody that was con-
sidered worth knowing in the world in which Grania
now found herself to be the acknowledged queen.
There was nothing to be known about the etiquette
of entertaining which he did not know. The in-
tricacies of the peerage were child's play to him.
He had a consummate knowledge of the whole
scandalous history of the Regency, and his scandal-
mongering had this advantage over that of many
of his rivals in the art that he never made mistakes.
He knew who could be known and who could not
be known to a nicety, and in the art of bringing to
the same table the people who would agree he was
a past master.

If he was immeasurably useful to Grania, she also
found him immeasurably entertaining, and she
accorded him in consequence a degree of intimacy
which many would have deemed unwise, but which
did not seem at all unwise to Grania, who thorough-
ly understood Peregrine within ten minutes of the
first time of meeting him. If at the beginning a
faint hope may have flamed in Mr. Penny's heart
that through his acquaintance with the Irish heiress
might come the solution of his difficulties and that
satisfactory settlement in life which was now his

12 165


ever-present dream, he was soon wise enough to
see his mistake. The first moment that he allowed
any suggestion of earnestness to come into his
graceful gallantry he was so promptly and decisive-
ly made to feel his blunder that he never erred
again. It was quite plain that Grania and her
millions were not for him.

Also, my Lord Cloyne, suspecting maybe some
such ambitions in his friend's mind, was careful to
make it plain to the friend that my Lord Cloyne
very emphatically wished that the young Irish girl
should become the bride of his gallant brother,
Captain Curtius. Having taken the lady's hint,
Mr. Fenny was less inclined to resent my lord's
wishes, and he resigned himself to the very agree-
able conditions in which his new way of life was
cast. Yet his real importance in the life of Grania
proved to be that he was of a certain height and
commanded an extensive wardrobe.


HPHIS narrative is no diurnal of the life of Grania
1 O'Hara, no meticulous record of balls, routs,
masquerades, banquets, card parties, drums, and
all other such high festivities imaginable. She went
to these things; she gave these things; they occu-
pied many hours of many days, and they gave her
pleasure that would have been greater if they had
been shared by the right companion so strangely
lost. You will be pleased therefore or displeased
if by chance your taste finds delectation in any and
every recital of fashionable follies and solemnities
to take for granted the girl's observance of all
the rites and rituals of these ceremonials. The
memoirs and reminiscences of the day, and es-
pecially the Redacre papers and the Journals of
Henry Averill, will meet your need if you hunger
and thirst for the refreshment of further particulars.
Our concern is with but certain and few hours
out of all those multitudinous hours; our concern
is not with the full pageant of Crania's public joys,
but with the events that are definitely linked with
Crania's private sorrow. These are picked out


from the rest; these stand apart with their essential
elements emphasized against the glittering back-
ground of discarded jollities. For these were the
only hours that meant anything to the girl herself;
these burned with the conflagration of sunrise and
sunset, where those did but glow with the pale
flame of candles at a feast. Yet the feast was agree-
able enough for a time, though it staled with repeti-
tion. For Grania its flowers soon lost their fresh-
ness, its fruit their flavors, its lights their luster, its
smiles their sweetness, and its jests their salt. The
wine of life that was drunk at that board seemed to
her to run thin and with a bitter savor, not warm
and generous, as the wine of life should flow. No
painted mummy was borne to that feast with its
message of mortality. Dennis had once told her
of this, and she remembered it now, and reflected,
that no such symbol was needed in a company of
revelers who could scarcely be said to live.

We need not be surprised to learn that Grania
thinking such thoughts found life under the care
of the Cloynes such an incessant whirl of excite-
ment and entertainment that there came moments
when the girl revolted against the ceaseless motion
and insisted upon a measure of relaxation from the
dust and din of the arduous course. The Cloynes,
who were a sharp-witted pair and very much on
the alert where their own interests were concerned,
had learned from the beginning that though Grania
was very amenable to the curious kind of guardian-


ship which she had consented to accept and pleas-
antly yielding to their guidance and tuition, she
was still very clearly conscious that she was the head
of the fellowship, and that in the end, if she found
aught in the conditions of her existence that was
irksome or repugnant to her, it was her will that
was to prevail. It came about thus that Grania,
after the first flush of her interest in the social
world of London had faded, made it a habit to have
one quiet day in the week. The major part of this
day she passed in following her own devices, ever
following on a fruitless quest. The evening was
given up to the quiet reception of a small company
to what was practically a family dinner to the girl
who stood so lonely in the world and had no kin.

Here and now this was one of those days, and
the company that was to assemble at Ashford House
that night numbered only those whom Grania re-
garded as her oldest friends in the world she now
adorned. Mr. Pointdexter, who seldom consented
to appear at the more crowded entertainments for
which Ashford House had newly become famous,
would take his place at the table. Lord and Lady
Cloyne were to be present, as a matter of course.
Captain Curtius, discreetly assiduous, warily play-
ing his waiting game of how to woo yet never seem
to woo, was almost as inevitable, and Mr. Peregrine
Fenny would also be there by virtue, as it were, of
his office. Grania had also asked Lady Doubble,
partly because Lady Cloyne was fond of her, and


partly because Lady Doubble was in a sense alone,
as Sir William was on the Continent on one of his
marauding expeditions in search of monumental

At the first blush Grania had been inclined
to like Lady Doubble. Her somewhat full-blown
comeliness, her free and easy affability, the not ill-
hinted tincture of simplicity in the red wine of her
worldliness, like the squeeze of lemon in a well-
handled punch-bowl, the humor of a girl who,
having lost her first shyness of a strange world, was
beginning to appraise, to catalogue, to weigh, and
after fair deliberation to decide. What she knew
from Lady Doubble's occasional and cheerful frank-
ness, what she guessed and what she was told and
she was told much of Lady Doubble's morals did
not in the least disconcert her nor seriously distress
her. She had swiftly realized that the people amid
whom it had pleased Providence to place her were
for the most part vehemently immoral, and she
was not shocked, because she had not expected to
find them angels. She looked upon them very
much as Mr. Lamb looked upon the figures of the
Restoration comedies; their world seemed unreal
to her if not unamusing. Hers was a creed that did
not countenance easy judgment of others, that left
judgment of others to a higher tribunal than in-
dividual opinion.

What Lady Doubble might be was no affair of
Crania's. If she was no better, she was probably


no worse than the majority of her contemporaries.
All that seemed really to concern Grania was how
Lady Doubble carried herself in the gradually in-
creasing intimacy of a London season, and the one
thing certain was that Lady Doubble diverted
Grania. She was, or seemed to be, always good-
humored, always lively, always ostensibly kind.
No rout or assembly could possibly be dull where
Lady Doubble was a leading figure. Grania, who
was quick in learning, had learned quickly the first
rule in the game of the world, to take people
amiably at their face value so long as there was no
reason for taking them otherwise.

To give the gathering a still more intimate asso-
ciation with the days, that now seemed so infinitely
remote, when Crania's good fortune first dawned,
she had included that stalwart politician and sturdy
disciple of Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, Mr. Rubie, in
her company. She had met Mr. Rubie again soon
after her appearance in London at one of the great
Whig houses, for Grania made no distinction in
English politics, regarding each party with equal
indifference as factions of an alien race, and being
received by each with equal enthusiasm. Mr.
Rubie had hastened to present himself to her, had
ventured to hope that she had not forgotten him,
and seemed amazingly pleased, and for all that
was more pleased than he seemed, to learn that she
remembered him very well and was glad to meet
him again. Indeed, Grania was glad to see him,


for she had liked the man in those first days of her
stay at Cloyne Hall, and what she had seen of
mankind since those days had tended to make her
more lenient toward the worthy man's virtues. It
really seemed a thing commendable in a man to
have some stubborn purpose in life, to be a zealot,
even to weariness, of some high principle, to find
other interests in existence than the cut of a coat,
the choice of a cook, the cast of a card, the muddy
joys of intoxication, and the furtive kisses of in-
trigue. It was, to be sure, a thousand pities that
Mr. Rubie, having so many merits to recommend
him, should dim those merits by being not a little
dull. But Grania had somewhat forgotten the dull-
ness in the interval between now and Cloyne Hall;
she only remembered that he had certain human
qualities which most of the other men she knew
lacked, and were glad to lack. Therefore Grania
was glad to meet Mr. Rubie.

In the course of that first conversation of the
renewed intimacy Mr. Rubie, with an effort to be
jocose, which did not assort very well with his
labored speech and native solemnity, asked Grania if
she had brought any of her friends the fairies with
her from Ireland. Grania smiled and shook her
head as she pointed to the crowd about them, a
glittering crown of beautiful women and dandies
and statesmen and soldiers.

"I think," she said, "the fairies would scarcely
take kindly to this atmosphere. If you were to ask


me for statistics now, Mr. Rubie, I should say
nothing of the little people, but I could tell you
everything that has been doing at Almack's."

Mr. Rubie, who had faintly hoped to rekindle the
fires of that fantastic conversation on the Kerry
hillside, felt a trifle disappointed. "Don't you be-
lieve in the fairies any more ?" he asked, in a voice
that, to his surprise, sounded reproachful. What
would the Clapham coteries, what would the com-
mitteemen, his colleagues, think of him if they
could hear him now ?

"Indeed, indeed, I do," Grania answered, em-
phatically. "But this is never the place for them.
All these people are so stubbornly alive, so eager
for pleasure, and so stupid in their pursuit of it, that
they create an atmosphere too heavy for fairies to
breathe. I am sure you understand that, don't you ?"

Mr. Rubie assured her that he did, and would
have carried on the conversation much longer, but
it was seldom given to any one person to be allowed
to monopolize much of Crania's society. Others
came up, and he presently beat a retreat with a
strange and unfamiliar elation swelling his honest
breast. From thence onward he devoted himself,
much to his surprise, and somewhat against his judg-
ment, to the endeavor to haunt places where he might
meet Grania. He succeeded, being stubborn and de-
termined, and Grania was always very pleasant when
they met; and now she had asked him to dinner, and
Mr. Rubie was unreasonably exultant at the favor.



ON the morning of the day which Grania had
set apart for the calm of her family dinner
Mr. reregrine Fenny, exquisitely attired and out-
wardly imperturbable, however fiercely the fox of
care might be nibbling at his vitals, had made his
usual appearance at Ashford House and was seated
before the stately table which served him for his
secretarial battle-field. As usual, he found that
there was abundance of work waiting for him, and
as usual he attacked it vigorously, with order and
with method. He had diminished very consider-
ably the huge pile of letters that daily came to
Grania, valiantly stamped by the extravagant,
warily franked by the practical, and delivered by
agent or by hand by the economical or the needy.
He had decisively banished the numerous and un-
trustworthy begging letters which always made a
large part of the morning's business,. Having
briskly despatched this part of his task, he had set
aside such few of the appeals as seemed to deserve
some consideration, for Grania always insisted upon
being charitable where she could be conscientiously


convinced that chanty was due, and Mr. Fenny was
not unwilling to aid charity when it could be aided
at no loss to himself. Already, it may be mentioned,
the peasantry of Cloyne had found the world trans-
formed for them from a place of misery to a place
of smooth content by the magic of Crania's gold.
But Mr. Fenny had nothing to do with the admin-
istration of Crania's Irish affairs, and it is not ger-
mane to this narrative.

Mr. Fenny was engaged in studying with the eye
of a strategist the various cards of invitation to
festivities of all kinds for the coming week when a
servant entered the room bearing a card upon a
golden salver and offered the card to Mr. Fenny.
Mr. Fenny paused in his work with the air of a
general interrupted in the planning of a stratagem
by the arrival of an unexpected despatch. He took
the card, looked at it, and read upon the pasteboard
the name of Mr. Heritage. He smiled faintly, for
the name was familiar and evoked no disagreeable
suggestion, laid the card upon the table before him,
and told the servant to show Mr. Heritage in. The
servant disappeared, and Mr. Fenny resumed his
labors with the manner of one to whom even seconds
were precious. A few minutes later the door opened
again and the expected Mr. Heritage made his ap-

Mr. Heritage was quite an important person in
London. Though he could not claim, however much
he might have liked to do so, to be, in the true


sense of the cryptic phrase, in society, he yet had a
great deal to do with society, was of very great use
to society in ministering to one of the most popular
of its many pleasures, and he accordingly was
tolerated and frequently favored by society. Mr.
Heritage was the manager of the Rotundo Theater,
and in his own eyes the management of the Rotundo
Theater was the most delightful office holdable in
the world. If you had questioned him he would
have told you as much, and assured you, expecting
you to believe him, that he would not have ex-
changed it for the position of the Prince Regent
himself. Mr. Heritage was one of those men of
business into the vessel of whose composition a
whimsical destiny had not been content to pour only
the strong spirit of the business man, but had chosen
to mingle that solid liquor with some seemingly in-
appropriate drops of a finer fluid, drops of genius,
poetry, beauty- worship, aspiration, imagination,
illumination, fancy, desire.

The result of the blend was the manager of the
Rotundo Theater, a shrewd, keen man, somewhat
vulgar in his ways, somewhat vulgar in his tastes,
and yet behind his shrewdness and his vulgarity
dimly conscious of fine things and faintly pricked
by fine ambitions. Had he been less shrewd and
less vulgar he might have failed to make the Ro-
tundo Theater the success it was, but undoubtedly
those dim, half-conscious dreamings and imagin-
ings of his had not a little to do with his success.


For undoubtedly he was a success, and people came
to him and his theater and spoke of him and his
theater with an enthusiasm which was as generous as
it was deserved. In person he was short and stout,
with a shining face, an alert manner in spite of his
obesity, and small bright eyes that seemed to view
everybody as a possible player, and to take for his
standard of judgment the figure that he or she or
they would cut on the boards of his theater.

He saluted Mr. Fenny, who rose, and, after a
cordial handclasp, courteously motioned him to a
seat. Mr. Heritage did so, and then, with a gesture
which was, it may be, not undeliberately dramatic,
produced a paper from his breast coat-pocket,
opened it with that elaboration of action then con-
sidered essential to the display of a letter on the
stage, and waved it before Mr. Fenny.

"I received," Mr. Heritage began, "a letter from
your Irish beauty. In it she does me the honor to
ask me to wait upon her this afternoon."

Mr. Fenny nodded. "Yes," he said; "I read the

" Do you know what she wants ?" Mr. Heritage
asked; and then, a sudden smile puckering his
features as a possible though hitherto unconsidered
answer to his question came into his mind, he went
on. "You do not mean to tell me that she has
written a play? Begad! that wouldn't be at all
a bad idea. A play by 'The Fair Irish Maid*
might be a very profitable experiment,"


Peregrine shook his head emphatically. "Miss
O'Hara," he declared, "has no time for writing
plays, I assure you, though I have no doubt that if
she were to make an essay in the field of drama
she would acquit herself as charmingly in that
enterprise as in everything she undertakes."

"What does she want, then ?" Mr. Heritage per-
sisted. He was a little annoyed to find that his
sudden guess was unsuccessful, and his voice 'be-
came a trifle peremptory. It was part of Mr.
Heritage's attitude toward the world that he was
always pressed for time, always very busy, and he
enforced this attitude when anything happened to
cross him. He adopted a brusque, incisive method
of address which might be suited to My Lord
Wellesley in the Peninsular, but sat less convincing-
ly on the theatrical manager.

Again Mr. Fenny shook his head. "I really do
not know," he protested, with entire truth. " But
you need not be long in the dark. I will let her
know that you are here, and she will no doubt tell
you for herself."

Mr. Fenny rose and pulled the bell to summon
a servant, and when the man appeared told him to
let his mistress know that Mr. Heritage was waiting
upon her. When the pair were alone again Heri-
tage resumed the conversation on its former theme,
for his curiosity was too sedulous to be checked.

"I had the privilege," he said, "of meeting the
young lady the other night at Carlton House, where


I was arranging some characters for His Highness."
He paused, and then commented, "She is very

Mr. Fenny did not seem altogether to agree with
him. "My dear sir," he declared, "dashing is
not the word. There is no word existing in the
English language, so far as the English language
is known to me" and, indeed, Mr. Fenny plumed
himself on his curious felicity of speech "that
can properly describe her. There should be a new
and wonderful word, some burning star, some
splendid jewel of a word invented to do her justice.
One day I will think of it, and wake up like My
Lord Byron to find myself famous."

Mr. Heritage, after paying the tribute of a gra-
cious smile to the elaborate pleasantry of Mr. Fenny,
lowered his voice slightly and leaned a little forward.
"Is it really true," he questioned, "that she was
once a peasant girl trotting about Kerry with bare
feet and a shawl ?"

Mr. Fenny denied part of Mr. Heritage's sugges-
tion. "She was never a peasant girl," he declared.
"She derives from a good old Irish family, but as
poor as Methuselah was he poor ? I forget be-
cause of their creed and their politics. I dare say
the bare feet and the shawl are right enough, for she
hadn't a penny piece until the old hunks in the
American colonies I beg their pardons, I mean the
United States left her a fortune."

Mr. Heritage raised admiring hands as if he were


about to applaud some successful spectacle. "What
an astonishing story it all is!" he declared. "There
might be the chance for a piece in it. I must talk
to one of my authors."

"I don't think Miss O'Hara would greatly care
for it," Mr. Fenny answered. "But she undoubt-
edly is the richest young woman in England at this

Mr. Heritage seemed reluctant to surrender his
idea for the proposed play. "Where did she get
her grand manner from?" he asked. "To see her
as I saw her the other night you would think she had
been used to a prince's drawing-room all her life.
She takes the stage better than any one I have ever

"I think she had the grand manner to start with,"
Mr. Fenny answered. "Her dignity and simplicity
are things you must inherit; you can't acquire. But
the native diamond has been polished by clever

Mr. Fenny proceeded to explain to his hearer the
process by which Lord and Lady Cloyne had enabled
the girl from Kerry to carry herself so well. He
told him of the season in Dublin, of the great house
in Stephen's Green, where Miss O'Hara first
learned to preside and to entertain the fashionable
world. He told him of the later visit to Paris, where
the girl again played the hostess in a stately mansion,
in the Faubourg St. Germain, which had seen many
of its noblest leave it for the prison and the guillo-


tine, and which an impoverished heir, newly re-
stored to his own, was glad to let to the Irish beauty.
He told how she was presented to His Majesty King

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Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 10 of 20)