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6 Let us
and bear our tiresomeness with bland urbanity ? ” said Jack. only hope, for all our sakes, that his trial may not be a long one.”
“ Just to think of such a country!” exclaimed Marion; "there is absolutely no one we could have to meet him.”
“What's the name of that half-pay captain who called here t'other morning ?--the fellow who sat from luncheon till nigh dusk ?” asked Jack.
" Captain Craufurd," replied Marion. “I hope nobody thinks of inviting him ; he is insufferably vulgar, and presuming besides."
“Wasn't that the man, Marion, who told you that as my father and Lady Augusta didn't live together the county gentry couldn't be expected to call on us ? ” asked Augustus, laughing.
“ He did more : he entered into an explanation of the peculiar tenets of the neighbourhood, and told me if we had had the good luck to have settled in the south or west of Ireland they'd not have minded it, but here,' he added, we are great sticklers for morality.'”
“And what reply did you make him, Marion ? " asked Jack.
“I was so choked with passion that I couldn't speak, or if I did say anything I have forgotten it. At all events he set me off laughing immediately after, as he said,—As for myself, I don't care a rush. I'm a bachelor, and a bachelor can go anywhere.'
She gave these words with such a close mimicry of his voice and manner, that a general burst of laughter followed them.
• There's the very fellow we want," cried Jack. " That's the man to meet our distinguished guest; he'll not let him escape without a wholesome hint or two."
“I'd as soon see a gentleman exposed to the assault of a mastiff as to the insulting coarseness of such a fellow as that,” said Temple, passionately.
“ The mischief's done already ; I heard the governor say, as he took leave, — Captain Craufurd, are you too straitlaced to dine out on a Sunday ? if not, will you honour us with your company at eight o'clock?' And though he repeated the words 'eight o'clock' with a groan like a protest, he muttered something about being happy, a phrase that evidently cost him dearly, for he went shuffling down the avenue afterwards with his hat over his eyes, and gesticulating with his hands as if some new immorality had suddenly broke in upon his mind.”
“You mean to say that he is coming to dinner here next Sunday ? ” asked Temple, horrified.
“A little tact and good management are always sufficient to keep these sort of men down," said Augustus.
“I hope we don't ask a man to dinner with the intention to 'keep him down,'” said Jack, sturdily.
" At all events," cried Temple," he nced not be presented to Lord Culduff.”
“I suspect you will see very little of him after dinner," observed Harding, in his meek fashion. " That wonderful '32 port will prove a detainer impossible to get away from.”
“I'll keep him company then. I rather like to meet one of these cross-grained dogs occasionally.”
“ Not impossibly you'll learn something more of that same public opinion' of our neighbours regarding us,” said Marion, haughtily.
“With all my heart," cried the sailor, gaily; "they'll not ruffle my temper, even if they won't fatter my vanity.”
“ Have you asked the L'Estranges, Marion ? ” said Augustus.
“ We always ask them after church ; they are sure to be disengaged,” said she. “I wish, Nelly, that you, who are such a dear friend of Julia's, would try and persuade her to wear something else than that eternal black silk. She is so intently bent on being an Andalusian. Some one unluckily said she looked so Spanish, that she has got up the dress, and the little fan coquetry, and the rest of it, in the most absurd fashion."
“Her grandmother was a Spaniard,” broke in Nelly, warmly.
“There's a good deal of style about her," said Temple, with the tone of one who was criticizing what he understood. "She sings prettily."
“ Prettily ? ” groaned Jack. “Why where, except amongst professionals, did you ever hear her equal ? ”
“She sings divinely,” said Ellen ; " and it is, after all, one of her least attractions."
“No heroics, for heaven's sake; leave that to your brothers, Nelly, who are fully equal to it. I really meant my remark about her
for good nature.”
“She's a nice girl,” said Augustus, " though she is certainly a bit of a coquette.”
* True ; but it's very good coquetry,” drawled out Temple. “It's not that jerking, uncertain, unpurpose-like style of affectation your English coquette displays. It is not the eternal demand for attention or admiration. It is simply a desire to please thrown into a thousand little graceful ways, each too slight, and too faint, to be singled out for notice, but making up a whole of wonderful captivation.”
“Well done, diplomacy; egad, I didn't know there was that much blood in the Foreign Office,” cried Jack, laughing; “ and now I'm off to look after my night lines. I quite forgot all about them till this minute."
“ Take me with you, Jack," said Nelly, and hastened after him, hat in hand.
THE ARRIVAL OF A GREAT MAN. It was within a quarter of eight o'clock-forty-five minutes after the usual dinner-hour—when Lord Culduff's carriage dro
up to the door. “ The roads are atrocious down here," said Temple, apologizing in advance for an offence which his father rarely, if ever forgave. " Don't you think you ought to go out to meet him, sir ?” asked he, half timidly.
“ It would only create more delay; he'll appear, I take it, when he is dressed," was the curt rejoinder, but it was scarcely uttered when the door was thrown wide open, and Lord Culduff and Mr. Cutbill were announced.
Seen in the subdued light of a drawing-room before dinner, Lord Culduff did not appear more than half his real age, and the jaunty stride and the bland smile he wore, -as he made his round of acquaintance, might have passed muster for five-and-thirty ; nor was the round vulgar figure of the engineer, awkward and familiar alternately, a bad foil for the very graceful attractions of his lordship’s manner.
“ We should have been here two hours ago," said he, “but friend here insisted on our coming coastwise to see a wonderful bay—a natural harbour one might call it. What's the name, Cutbill ?”
“Portness, my lord."
“I am proud to say it is. I have seen nothing finer in the kingdom," said Bramleigh ; "and if Ireland were anything but Ireland, that harbour would be crowded with shipping, and this coast one of the most prosperous and busy shores of the island.”
" Who knows if we may not live to see it such ? Cutbill's projects are very grand, and I declare that though I deemed them Arabian Night stories a few weeks back, I am a convert now. Another advantage we gained," said he, turning to Marion ; " we came up through a new shrubbery, which we were told had been all planned by you."
“ My sister designed it,” said she, as she smiled and made a gesture towards Ellen.
“May I offer you my most respectful compliments on your success? I am an enthusiast about landscape-gardening, and though our English climate gives us many a sore rebuff in our attempts, the soil and the varied nature of the surface lend themselves happily to the pursuit. I think you were at the Hague with me, Bramleigh ?” asked he of Temple.
“ Does he know how late it is ? ” whispered Augustus to his father. “Does he know we are waiting dinner ?”
“I'll tell him," and Colonel Bramleigh walked forward from his place before the fire. “I'm afraid, my lord, the cold air of our hills has not given you an appetite ?"
“Quite the contrary, I assure you. I am very hungry.”
“By Jove, and so are we !” blurted out Jack; " and it's striking eight this instant.
“ What is your dinner-hour ? "
Cutbill muttered something below his breath, and turned away; and Lord Culduff laughingly said, “ I declare I don't perceive the connection. My friend, Colonel Bramleigh, opines that a French cook always means nine-o'clock dinner. I'm horrified at this delay : let us make a hasty toilette, and repair our fault at once.”
“Let me show you where you are lodged,” said Temple, not sorry to escape from the drawing-room at a moment when his friend's character and claims were likely to be sharply criticized.
“Cutty's a vulgar dog,” said Jack, as they left the room. “ But I'll be shot if he's not the best of the two."
A haughty toss of Marion's head showed that she was no concurring party to the sentiment.
“I'm amazed to see so young a man,” said Colonel Bramleigh. 6 In look at least, he isn't forty."
“It's all make-up,” cried Jack.
“ He can't be a great deal under seventy, taking the list of his services. He was at Vienna as a private secretary to Lord Borchester- -" As Augustus pronounced the words Lord Culduff entered the room in a fragrance of perfume and a brilliancy of colour that was quite effective ; for he wore his red ribbon, and his blue coat was lined with white silk, and his cheeks glowed with a bloom that youth itself could not rival.
“ Who talks of old Borchester ?” said he gaily. “ My father used to tell me such stories of him. They sent him over to Hanover once, to report on the available princesses, to marry the Prince: and, egad ! he played his part so well that one of them—Princess Helena, I think it was -fell in love with him ; and if it wasn't that he had been married already, ---May I offer my arm ?” And the rest of the story was probably told as he led Miss Bramleigh in to dinner.
Mr. Cutbill only arrived as they took their places, and slunk into a seat beside Jack, whom, of all the company, he judged would be the person he could feel most at ease with.
“What a fop!” whispered Jack, with a glance at the peer.
“ Isn't ho an old humbug ?” muttered Cutbill. “Do you know how he managed to appear in so short a time? We stopped two hours at a little inn on the road while he made his toilette ; and the whole getup-paint and padding and all—was done then. That great fur pelisse in which he made his entrance into the drawing-room removed, he was in full dinner dress underneath. He's the best actor living.".
“ Have you known him long?"
“Oh, yes ! I know all of them,” said he, with a little gesture of his hand : “that is, they take devilish good care to know me.”
“ Indeed !" exclaimed Jack, in the tone which seemed to ask for some explanation.
“ You see, here's how it is,” said Cutbill, as he bent over his plate and talked in a tone cautiously subdued : "all those swells—especially that generation yonder-are pretty nigh aground. They have been living for forty or fifty years at something like five times their income ; and if it hadn't been for this sudden rush of prosperity in England, caused by railroads, mines, quarries, or the like, these fellows would have been swept clean away. He's watching me now. I'll go on by-and-by. Have you any good hunting down here, Colonel Bramleigh ?” asked he of the host, who sat half hid by a massive centre-piece.
“ You'll have to ask my sons what it's like, and I take it they'll give you a mount too.”
“With pleasure, Mr. Cutbill," cried Augustus. “ If we have no frost, we'll show you some sport on Monday next.”
Delighted,—I like hunting of all things." “ And you, my lord, is it a favourite sport of yours?” asked Temple.
“A long life out of England,—which has unfortunately been my case, -makes a man sadly out of gear in all these things; but I ride, of course," and he said the last words as though he meant to imply “because I do everything."
“I'll send over to L'Estrange," said Augustus ; “he's sure to know where the meet is for Monday.”
“Who is L'Estrange ? ” asked his lordship.
“Our curate here," replied Colonel Bramleigh, smiling. “An excellent fellow, and a very agreeable neighbour."
Our only one, by Jove !” cried Jack.
“And now, my lord,” chimed in Jack, “you know the whole neighbourhood, if we don't throw in a cross-grained old fellow, a half-pay lieutenant of the Buffs.”
“Small but select,” said Lord Culduff quietly. “May I venture to ask you, Colonel Bramleigh, what determined you in your choice of a residence here?"
“I suppose I must confess it was mainly a money consideration. The bank held some rather heavy mortgages over this property, which they were somewhat disposed to consider as capable of great improvement, and as I was growing a little wearied of City life, I fancied I'd come over here and-"
“Regenerate Ireland, eh?"
“I may be permitted to doubt that part of the experiment," said Lord Culduff, as his eyes ranged over the table set forth in all the splendour that plate and glass could bestow.