Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

The fair Irish maid online

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the Cloynes were in Dublin she begged Mr. Point-
dexter, who had business in London, to make
such inquiries as he could with a view to finding
out Dennis's whereabouts. This Mr. Pointdexter
readily promised to do, and Grania was carried to
Paris cheered by the hope that she should soon have
news of her lover. She had been quite candid with
Mr. Pointdexter about Dennis Tirowen, and Mr.
Pointdexter had listened with a grave air of sym-
pathy and had expressed no personal opinion on the
matter. To the Cloynes Grania had said nothing
of Dennis. She knew well enough that they would
never understand her feelings, that they would and
could only regard a rich woman's affection for a poor
man of a lower class than herself as a monstrous
madness. Grania meant very steadily to have her
own way and to follow her own heart's inclining, but
she did not care to waste time and energy in useless
disputation, so she shrewdly kept her sweet secret
to herself, and Lady Cloyne watching the child's
triumphs in Dublin and in Paris never dreamed that
she was other than fancy-free.

Grania did indeed triumph in Paris as she had
triumphed in Dublin, but the ache at her heart grew
daily greater, for Mr. Pointdexter wrote often, but
always with no news of Dennis. It was naturally
not easy to trace an obscure stranger in a great city
like London, but Mr. Pointdexter did his best and
preached patience. There was no help for it, and
Grania carried a smiling face into the great houses


of Paris while care was gnawing at her heart. She
was glad when the Cloynes decided that the time
had come to quit Paris and to make the memorable
descent upon London. Dennis had gone to London;
Dennis must be in London; she would be nearer to
him, would surely be guided to find him. She was
strangely sure that Dennis was alive. Whatever
had happened to keep him from writing to her, he
lived. This confidence supported her in her anx-
iety, and in that confidence she came to London.



IF Crania had risen like a moon upon Dublin and
shone like a star upon Paris, she blazed upon
London like a comet, a portent beautiful and be-
wildering, prodigious and magnificent. The bruit
of her strange story preceded her arrival and pre-
pared her triumph. Countless paragraphs in the
newspapers had related at great length and with
staggering inaccuracy the tale of her misfortunes
and her fortune. The romantic history of her
family was blown abroad in ceaseless whispers along
the gossipy corridors of the Temple of Notoriety.
All the tongues of rumor tattled, all the ears of
credulity pricked, all the mouths of wonder gaped.
She was famous for her wealth before she set foot
on English soil, famous for her beauty, two things
which it was hard even for report to magnify; fa-
mous, too, according to report, for the multitude of
hearts she had already enslaved in the capital of
Ireland and the capital of France. No fantastically
capricious heroine of Neapolitan fairy tale or Vene-
tian fairy play had been more adored, or more hope-
lessly. She was credited with a list of suitors a mile


long, and the wildest stories were repeated, amplified,
and, when occasion called, invented by Mr. Bowley,
of The Scourge; Mr. Shadd, of The Whistle, and
their kind, concerning the extravagancies to which
the golden youth of Dublin and the golden youth of
Paris resorted in the hope of winning her favor or
at least her regard.

All the curiosity and it was intense that could
be kindled by the pens of the journals and they
were busy was more than gratified when, as the
fitting climax to her resplendent apparitions in
Dublin -and in Paris, Grania at length made her
appearance in London with Lord and Lady Cloyne
as her sponsors and introducers. Never in the
memory of the oldest man-about-town, or most
reminiscent dowager, had any young woman made
so instantaneous and so Amazing a mark upon
society. Her name was never out of the personal
paragraphs in the newspapers; her name was
never off the lips of those that had only talked of
the latest fashions in clothes, in women, and in
wine. Her portrait was rapidly painted by Sir
Thomas Lawrence, limner to the king, who pre-
tended to be hopelessly in love with his lovely
sitter, but who did not allow his passion to prevent
him from charging an extravagant price for his

The picture was exhibited in Bond Street, because
public impatience could not wait for the opening
of the Royal Academy. It was shown all by itself


in a room at the back of Longhi's shop, which was
hung with green satin in honor of the lady's nation-
ality. The amount of money which the public
paid to see the picture was enormous. On the
frame of the picture the painter had set no name,
only the words, "The Fair Irish Maid," and the
title took the fancy of the town and was repeated
everywhere. Whenever men and women spoke of
Grania O'Hara and in the fashionable circles just
then people spoke of little else they spoke of her
always as "The Fair Irish Maid." Poets wrote
verses to "The Fair Irish Maid"; musicians dedi-
cated songs to "The Fair Irish Maid"; enterpris-
ing potters reproduced her lineaments on plates
and dishes. All sets and cliques of society, how-
ever hostile they might have been before, agreed
to unite in doing "The Fair Irish Maid" homage.
There was no young man who respected himself
who did no profess the profoundest passion for the
beautiful stranger, and to declare himself heart-
broken over the hopelessness of his case. Even the
ladies that had believed themselves to be queens
of London and peerless in beauty before her com-
ing forbore to be jealous, being so dazzled by the
golden atmosphere of Crania's wealth that they
could consent to blink at her loveliness.

At first, indeed, there had been those who were
inclined to be skeptical as to the vast extent of
Crania's fortune, but a very few inquiries judi-
ciously put to Sir William Doubble and Sir William

11 149


Doubble's wife soon convinced the most incredu-
lous that rumor, which is generally credited with
the tendency .to treble or quadruple the fortunes
of the rich, for once had underrated rather than
overrated the greatness of the wealth that had
suddenly been placed at the command of a girl.
The most exclusive sets rejoiced to welcome her
into their temples, the exacting and imperious
committee of Almack's welcomed her with a rap-
turous cordiality, and the most dignified duchess
and most exclusive countess regarded the presence
of Grania at her house as a compliment. As for
the Prince's set, they were boisterously enthusiastic
in their praises of "The Fair Irish Maid." Not a
man of them all but paid her the floridest compli-
ments and competed eagerly for a smile. They
toasted her beauty early and late. They vied with
one another for the favor of her hand at a dance,
and declared that to sit next to her at dinner or
supper was the most enviable of human privileges.
Captain Morris made rhymes about her, of which
one verse was very popular:

Cleopatra of Egypt was comely,

And Helen was handsome, 'tis said,

But there's one here that makes them look

One angel, "The Fair Irish Maid."

Even my Lord Coleraine emerged from his retire-
ment at Somers Town to get a glimpse of the girl,


protesting with a flourish of his shillalah to the
gatherers in the tap-room of the Sol Arms, in
Tottenham Court Road, or to the cognoscenti in
the studio of Mr. Nollekens, that "The Fair Irish
Maid" was the loveliest thing that had ever come
out of Ireland. Carlton House and its royal resi-
dent were metaphorically at her feet, and his Royal
Highness would have welcomed her daily to his
hospitable mansion if he could have persuaded her
to come so often. At the Prince Regent's supper
parties "The Fair Irish Maid" was always drunk
with all the honors at an early season of the evening
in order that the company might be sufficiently
sober fittingly to honor the occasion.

Many of those that went into raptures over
Crania's beauty did so in terms that would have
scarcely edified the girl if she had heard them. But
she did not hear them, and if any hint of them had
been reported to her she was wise enough to know
that the language of admiration varies according to
its environment. As it was, she went on her way
delightfully unspoiled by the incense that was burned
so lavishly on her public altars. She was honest
enough to admit that it gave her pleasure, but she
would have given it all gladly for the sight of one
man's face, for the sound of one man's voice.



IT is not to be supposed that Grania, after a visit
to Dublin, a visit to Paris, and a visit to Lon-
don, all under the chaperonage of the inestimable
Lady Cloyne, was converted as if by magic into a
perfect copy of a typical lady of fashion. No such
metamorphosis was possible and no such metamor-
phosis was desirable. Grania remained herself in
London as in Paris, and in Paris as in Dublin. She
carried with her everywhere the untutored charm of
the free life she had lived, and she carried into
crowded drawing-rooms the air of a sylvan goddess.
She disdained to train her tongue into a mimicry
of the London way of speech, and her admirers one
and all protested that her Irish accent was the most
delightful thing ever heard. Had Grania been de-
liberately resolved to play a part in order to gain
social success she could not have done better than
she did. There was something so naively refresh-
ing, so distracting and daintily eccentric, in the sud-
den appearance in the social world of this beautiful
savage for so some of the wits were pleased to
style her that it insured from the first her triumph.


ButGrania played no part, acted with no purpose;
she simply followed her natural impulses, and re-
mained frankly and gallantly herself.

She was, however, at no such disadvantage in this
new world wherein she moved as must have impeded
the path of another less curiously situated. For all
that Grania had lived the life of a peasant, worn a
peasant's wear, and eaten a peasant's bread, she had
never forgotten, and, indeed, had never been allowed
to forget, that she was an O'Hara, the daughter of an
ancient race. The old nurse that had taken charge
of her after the ruin of Ninety-eight kept alive in her
the sense of the privilege of her birth, and had, as
well as she was able, brought her up with that care
and deference to which true gentility was entitled.
The peasants with whom Grania came in contact
from her earliest days, with whom she played as a
child, with whom she danced as a girl, never forgot
for a moment that the child, the girl, who seemed to
be one of themselves was in reality a maiden that if
she had her rights would reign like a queen over
them. The terms of familiarity on which they
lived were always guided by an extreme deference
and respect on the part of Crania's companions and
by the gracious dignity of Grania herself.

Thus from the first dawn of her consciousness of
the world Grania had been accustomed in spite of
her poverty to receive and to accept homage. When
therefore she was so suddenly and fantastically up-
lifted from the comradeship of the Cloyne peasantry


to the fellowship of the great she took her place
among them with a calm, an ease, and a distinction
that not a little surprised those who were unac-
quainted with the circumstances of her upbringing.
The homage to which she had always been accus-
tomed troubled her no more because those who paid
it bore titles and were lords and ladies than it had
troubled her when it was paid by men that wore
coats of ragged frieze. The last of the O' Haras
had been queen of her little corner of the world and
her little handful of companions. "The Fair Irish
Maid" that was the toast of London was still the
last of the O'Haras, and still found it natural to be
a queen, although her kingdom was changed, and
changed, too, the condition of her subjects

If Grania was welcomed as a kind of uncrowned
queen in London, she certainly carried on the busi-
ness of her reign in a right regal manner. Acting
cheerfully in her interests and their own the
Cloynes spent her money lavishly, without any check
upon their expenditure from either Grania or Mr.
Pointdexter. The Cloynes had never known the
pleasures and privileges attached to the spending of
apparently unlimited money, and they enjoyed their
amazing opportunity to the top of their bent. Their
instructions as delivered to them by the American
lawyer were to do everything possible to place
Grania in the best imaginable position in the social
world of London, and they obeyed their instructions
with a joyous alacrity which was happily governed


by a genuine intelligence. Lord Cloyne made an
excellent majordomo and his wife an admirable
lady of the palace.

Palace was indeed the word to apply to Crania's
abode. Lord Clyne secured, regardless of cost, the
great house of the Marquis of Ashford in St.
James's Square, which was rightly reputed to be
one of the most beautiful houses in the metropolis.
Lord Ashford had been playing, as he confessed to
Lord Cloyne, who was perfectly aware of the fact,
"damnably deep." If Lord Cloyne had not ap-
peared upon the scene with his purse of Fortuna in
his fingers there seemed every likelihood of Ashford
House being put upon the market and all its accu-
mulated treasures being dispersed. Lord Cloyne
prevented that catastrophe. He sent Lord Ashford
to the Continent with a small fortune at his com-
mand, and he, as it were, formally occupied Ashford
House in the name of Her Majesty Queen Grania,
and metaphorically ran up her flag there.

The whole matter was arranged very briskly.
Lord Cloyne left his wife and her charge in Paris
enjoying themselves in the atmosphere of a re-
stored monarchy and came to London and the
counsels of Mr. Pointdexter. When my lord re-
turned to Paris it was with the tidings that his
mission had been magnificently successful, and that
a fairy castle was waiting for the presence of the
fairy princess from Erin. Grania on her arrival in
London found that his lordship had been as good


as his word. She had seen nothing in Dublin or in
Paris to compare with Ashford House. She had
never dreamed of a habitation so beautiful or so
sumptuous. The late Marquis of Ashford, father
of the young gentleman who was now merrily en-
gaged in circulating a goodly number of Crania's
guineas, was a man of fine taste, whose ambition it
had been to own the most glorious home in London.
Outside it was no more than a stately and dignified
edifice in a stately and dignified square. Inside it
was almost unbelievably lovely. Its furniture, its
pictures, its statues, its marbles, were all master-
pieces arranged and harmonized by a master hand.
Though it had cost a king's ransom, it was not the
thought of its cost but the thought of its exquisite
charm that first came to the mind of any visitor able
to appreciate its grace.

To Grania, Ashford House appeared an enchanted
mansion, and she moved through its marvels in a
rapture. It might have been conceived and con-
structed this was my Lord Cloyne's fancy and not
Crania's for no other purpose than to serve as the
splendid setting for this girl's beauty. Among its
carved and painted goddesses she walked like a
living goddess, glowing with delight at the wonder-
world in which she found herself. It only lacked
one thing for her companionship, the companion-
ship of her beloved. What bliss it would have been
to make the acquaintance of that marvelous house
for the first time with Dennis Tirowen by her side!


She pleased and grieved herself with thinking how
the heart of her poet lover would have throbbed re-
sponsive to its appeal, how the soul of her poet
lover, inspired by the magic of the place, would have
flowed into some noble song.

But there was no Dennis to attend her, and
Grania sorrowed for him with a smiling face. It
was, of course, impossible for her not to take pleas-
ure, and even much pleasure, in the new life which
had come to her. She was young, she was healthy,
her nature answered blithely to delight. Yet she
longed for Dennis, and never ceased to seek him,
and never ceased to mourn for him in secret, and
never ceased to wonder why he kept aloof and
made no sign, and never ceased to be confident that
he lived and would come to her in the fullness of
time and share in her fair fortune. Daily and
nightly she prayed that the time might be soon, and
daily and nightly she saw him in her waking and
sleeping dreams.

If Ashford House and all its gear were worthy of
its queen, my Lord Cloyne took exemplary care to
see that its organization was ordered on truly royal
lines. His luxury-loving nature reveled in the task
that had so strangely and delightfully been put upon
him. He could plunge both hands into money and
scatter it abroad without a pang, and he indulged
Grania, and, in consequence, Lady Cloyne and him-
self, in a splendor of service and appointments that
made the establishment in St. James's Square re-


semble a mimic court. There was a small army
of carefully chosen and admirably disciplined ser-
vants whose numbers amazed Grania, although she
warily and discreetly kept her amazement to herself.
Their well-drilled numbers served to console Lord
Cloyne for the meager condition of his household at
Cloyne Hall, where a petty following was called upon
to do duty for a whole horde, and did it very badly.
In the semi-royal regime at Ashford House the Cloyne
family found agreeable employment.

Not only was Lord Cloyne the majordomo and
Lady Cloyne his able lieutenant, but Captain Cur-
tius, too, had a finger in the pie. Captain Curtius,
as a recognized authority on good living, cheerfully
accepted his brother's suggestion to act as a sort
of Minister of the Home Department, and see that
the cellar was excellent and the master cook the
best in London. This office the gallant captain
accepted with the more alacrity, because it not
merely excused but justified him in an attendance
at Ashford House which was little less than in-
cessant. Lord Cloyne approved this attendance;
Captain Curtius agreed heartily, and Grania made
no objection, because she found Captain Curtius a
very pleasant companion.

Through all the splendor and glitter and brave
show of Ashford House, through those rooms always
filled with noble works of art, and often crowded
with the best of London's wealth and youth and
rank and beauty, Mr. Pointdexter moved at his


pleasure, a grim, almost sinister, figure against so
gorgeous a background. He had a suite of rooms
set apart for him in the house which he used as he
pleased and when he pleased. He was always con-
sulted by Lord Cloyne in any of the many steps
that he took for the enhancing of the grandeur of
Crania's residence, and Mr. Pointdexter raised no
objection to the most lavish expenditure, and
seemed only eager to approve and to encourage
any extravagance which might be incurred on be-
half of Grania. It was, of course, perfectly obvious
to Mr. Pointdexter that Lord Cloyne was a great
gainer by his position with regard to his charge,
and Lord Cloyne was perfectly aware that it must
be perfectly obvious, and made no attempt either to
conceal his consciousness or to allow it to express
itself too markedly.



THE officials of Queen Crania's little court in-
cluded a private secretary, whose work was,
to use a slang phrase, cut out for him. When
Grania first heard Lord Cloyne suggest that a
private secretary was an appointment essential for
her well-being she was inclined to laugh at what
seemed intended for a jest. But his lordship was
most seriously punctilious in all that concerned the
administration of Ashford House, and he assured
Grania very earnestly that a private secretary was
an imperative necessity. Indeed, Grania found
soon enough that a secretary had plenty to do in
dealing with the inevitable correspondence of a
wealthy young lady of fashion. My lord was
prompted in his choice of the man by the voice of
friendship; but his choice proved judicious.

Mr. Peregrine Fenny was a young gentleman
whom faith, with that irony it so often employs at
the expense of the human comedians, had equipped
with every advantage for shining in the social world,
except that of possessing money or the power of
making money. The Fennys were too numerous


to be wealthy, and even if old Lord Compton were
to quit a scene whereon he had lingered so long,
his demise would not advantage Mr. Peregrine.
The younger son of a younger son, his actual in-
come was less than that of many a city clerk, which
was a meager measure for a springal who was en-
dowed with the tastes and desires of a plutocrat.
Mr. Fenny found his poverty the more deplorable
because he was well aware that his person deserved
all that money could do for it. He was tall and
well-figured, sufficiently handsome of face to allure,
sufficiently gallant of carriage to attract, of a ready
wit and graceful deportment. He was excellently
self-possessed, convinced by experience of his
power to please, and he commanded at times an
epigrammatic causticity of expression. He wore
his clothes with an air and ease which came to him
naturally, and which not a few of the elaborate
dandies envied and emulated in vain. There was
nothing of elaborate dandyism about Mr. Fenny,
who managed to be aptly modish without apparent
effort. If he had been compelled to wear old gar-
ments, they would have seemed as good as new on
this comely person; but there were few that had
ever yet seen Peregrine Fenny in anything but the
latest moment of the latest mode. How he per-
suaded tailors and hatters and bootmakers and
hosiers to provide for him was one of the many
mysteries of his existence. But he did persuade,
and was always point-device the beau. There were


those who suggested that he was so highly favored
because he was so admirable an advertisement for
their wares. However that might be, the fact re-
mained that Mr. Fenny was one of the best dressed
men in town.

He played, of course, as every gentleman must
needs play that was privileged to move in fine
society, but he was too cunning to allow the gam-
bler's passion to run away with him. Knowing
that he was poor and hating to be poor, he was
wisely conscious that he of all men could least
afford to run risks at the faro-table. He was wisely
conscious that the goddess of fortune had seldom
favors for the needy and adventurous unless, in-
deed, they condescended to employ the arts of the
Greek. And, according to the rules of the social
game, Mr. Fenny was a man of honor. It was said,
indeed, that his code did not prevent him from
accepting more substantial gifts than mere smiles
and caresses from the ladies and they were many
to whom he paid his generally welcome attentions.
It is true that this way of supplementing a meager
income, at one time the accepted and steady stand-
by of a fine gallant, had somewhat fallen from
fashion since the days of the Merry Monarch, when
Rochester rhymed and Grammont rode away, and
handsome Jack Churchill found his handsomeness
a financial asset. It was no longer publicly reck-
oned and approved of as a creditable source of in-
come for a gentleman afflicted with a lean exchequer.


If it had been as certainly known as it was gen-
erally believed that Peregrine Fenny owed his fine
clothes and his fine linen and his dainty lodgings in
Jermyn Street to the generously given guineas of
the fair rather than to his patrimony, his industry, or
his good fortune at cards, it would not have altered
in any appreciable degree his standing in a society
of which he considered himself, and was, indeed,
largely considered, to be an ornament. But like
the gifts of the goddess that presides over the cut
of the cards and the cast of the ivories, the gifts of
the fair are precarious. Peregrine Fenny sighed,
not for more worlds of women to conquer, but more
prosaically for some more permanent basis for his

A man may always consider himself a lover, but
he may not always be considered an accepted lover

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Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 9 of 20)