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CHAPTER XXVI.-THE DINNER-PARTY AT MOUNT-BROWN.
I AWOKE refreshed after half-an-hour's doze, and then every circumstance of the whole day was clear and palpable before me. I remembered each minute particular, and could bring to my mind all the details of the race itself, notwithstanding the excitement they had passed in, and the rapidity with which they succeeded each other.
My first thought was to visit poor Joe, and creeping stealthily to his room, I opened the door. fellow was fast asleep, his features had already become coloured with fever, and a red hectic spot on either cheek told that the work of mischief had begun; yet still his sleep was tranquil, and a half smile curled his bloodless lips. On his bed his old hunting-cap was placed, a bow of white and green ribbons—the colours I wore_fastened gaudily in the front; upon this, doubtless, he had been gazing to the last moment of his waking. I now stole noiselessly back and began a letter to O'Grady, whose anxiety as to the result would, I knew, be considerable.
It was not without pride, I confess, that I narrated the events of the day; yet when I came to that part of my letter in which Joe was to be mentioned, I could not avoid a sense of shame in acknowledging the cruel contrast between my conduct and his gratitude. I did not attempt to theorize upon what he had done ; for I
Vol. XX.-No. 115.
felt that O'Grady's better knowledge of his countrymen would teach him to sound the depths of a motive, the surface of which I could but skim. I told him frankly, that the more I saw of Ireland, the less I found I knew about it: so much of sterling good seemed blended with unsettled notions and unfixed opinions—such warmth of heart, such frank cordiality, with such traits of suspicion and distrust, that I could make nothing of them. Either, thought I, these people are born to present the anomaly of all that is most opposite and contradictory in human nature, or else the fairest gifts that ever graced manhood have been perverted and abused by mismanagement and misguidance.
I had just finished my letter when Bob Mahon drove up, his honest face radiant with smiles and good-humour.
“ Well, Hinton," cried he, “the whole thing is properly settled—the money is paid over, and if you are writing to O'Grady, you may mention, that he can draw on the Limerick bank, at sight if he pleases : there's time enough, however, for all this ; so get up beside me; we've only half an hour to do our five miles, and dress for dinner."
I took my place beside the major, and as we flew fast through the air, the cool breeze and his enlivening conversation rallied and refreshed me. Such was our pace, we had ten mi
nutes to spare, as we entered a dark good a prophetess in saying that you avenue of tall beech trees, and a few would like it?" seconds after arrived at the door of “ If it afforded me but this one a large, old-fashioned-looking manor. minute,” said I, in a half whisper. house, on the steps of which stood “ Dinner,” said the servant; and at Hugh Dillon himself, in all the pleni the same moment that scene of pleatude of a white waistcoat and black sant confusion ensued that precludes silk tights. While he hurried me to the formal descent of a party to the a dressing-room he overwhelmed me dining-room. with felicitations on the result of the The host had gracefully tucked a day. “ You'll think it strange, Mr. large lady under his arm, beside whose Hinton,” said he, “that I should con towering proportion he looked pretty gratulate you, knowing that Mr. Burke much like what architects call “ a leanis a kind of relation of mine-but I to,” superadded to a great building. have heard so much of
kindness He turned his eye towards me to “go to my niece, Louisa, that I cannot but and do likewise,” with a significant rejoice in your success.”
glance at a heaving mass of bugles “I should rather," said I, “ for and ostrich feathers, that sat panting many reasons, had it been more legiti on a sofa. I parried the stroke, howmately obtained ; and, indeed, were I ever, by drawing Miss Bellew's arm not acting for another, I doubt how within mine, while I resigned the post far I should feel justified in consider of honour to my little friend, the ing myself a winner."
major. “ My dear sir," interrupted Dillon, The dinner passed off like all other “ the laws of racing are imperative in dinners: there was the same routine the matter; besides, had you waved of eating and drinking, and pretty your right, all who backed you must much the same ritual of table-talk. have lost their money."
As a kind of commentary on the su“For that matter,” said I laughing periority of natural gifts over the “ the number of my supporters was
affected and imitated graces of society, tolerably limited."
I could not help remarking, that “ No matter for that: and even if those things which figured on the you had not a single bet upon you,
table, of homely origin, were actually Ulick's conduct, in the beginning, de luxurious, while the exotic resources served little favour at your hands." of the cookery were, in every instance,
“ I confess," said 1, " that there miserable failures. Thus the fish was you have touched on the saving clause excellent, and the mutton perfect, to my feeling of shame. Had Mr. while the fricandeau was atrocious, Burke conducted himself in a dif and the petits patés execrable. ferent spirit towards my friend and Should my taste be criticised, that myself, I should feel sorely puzzled with a lovely girl beside me, for whom this minute."
I already felt a strong attachment, I “ Quite right,-quite right,” said could thus set myself to criticise the Dillon; “and now try if you can't cuisine, in lieu of any other more make as much haste with your toi. agreeable occupation, let my apology let, as you did over the clover field.” be, that my reflection was an apropos,
Within a quarter of an hour I called forth by comparing Louisa made my appearance in the drawing Bellew with her cousins, the Dillons. room, now crowded with company, I have said they were handsome girls; the faces of many among whom I re they were more—they were beautiful; membered having seen in the morning. they had all that fine pencilling of the Mr. Dillon was a widower, but his eyebrow, that deep, square orbit, so daughters—three fine, tall, handsome characteristically Irish, and which looking girls_did the honours. While gives an expression to the eye, whatI was making my bows to them, Miss ever be its colour, of inexpressible Bellew came forward, and with an eye softness: their voices, too, albeit the bright with pleasure held out her hand accent was provincial, were soft and towards me.
musical, and their manners quiet and “ I told you, Mr. Hinton, we should lady-like; yet, somehow they stood im. meet in the west. Have I been as measurably apart from her.
I have already ventured on one il every thing I had done, but, assuming lustration from the cookery, may I a warmer interest than I could credit take another from the cellar ? How in my fortunes, she counselled me often in wines of the same vintage, of respecting the future. Supposing even the same cask, do we find one that my success might induce me to bottle, whose bouquet is more aroma further trials of my horsemanship, she tic, whose flavour is richer, whose co cautioned me about being drawn into lour is more purely brilliant. There any matches or wagers. seems to be no reason why this should My cousin, Ulick,” said she, “ is be so, nor is the secret appreciable to one of those who rarely let a prey our senses ; however, the fact is in escape them. I speak frankly to you, contestible. So among women : you for I know I may do so ; therefore, I meet some half-dozen in an evening would beseech you to take care of party, equally beautiful, equally lovely, him, and, above all things, do not come yet will there be found one among the
into collision with him. I have told number, towards whom, without any you, Mr. Hinton, that I wish you to assignable cause, more eyes are turn know my father : for this object it is esed, and more looks bent; around sential you should have no misunderwhose chair more men are found to standing with my cousin; for although linger, and in whose slightest word his whole conduct through life, has been some cunning charm seems ever min such as to grieve and afflict him, yet gled. Why is this so? I confess I the feeling for his only sister's child cannot tell you, but trust me for the has sustained him against all the rufact. If, however, it will satisfy you mours and reports that have reached that I adduce an illustration-Louisa him, and even against his own convicBellew was one of these. With all tions." the advantages of a cultivated mind, “ You have, indeed,” said I,“ sugshe possessed that fearlessness that gested a strong reason for keeping only girls really innocent of worldly well with your cousin: my heart is trickery and deceit, ever have; and not only bent on being known to your thus, while her conversation ranged father, but, if I dare hope it, on being far beyond the limits the cold ordeal liked by him also.” of fashion would prescribe to a Lon “ Yes, yes," said she, quickly, blushdon beauty, the artless enthusiasm of ing while she spoke, “ I am sure he'll her manner was absolutely captivating. like you—and I know you'll like him.
In Dublin, the most marked feature Our house, perhaps I should tell you, about her was an air of lofty pride is not a gay one: we lead a secluded and hauteur, by which, in the mixed and retired life, and this has had its society of Rooney's house, was she effect upon my poor father, giving a alone enabled to repel the obtrusive semblance of discontent-only a semand impertinent attentions it was the blance, though—to a nature, mild, habit of the place to practise. Sur manly, and benevolent." rounded by those who resorted there She paused an instant, and, as if for a lounge, it was a matter of no fearing that she had been led away to common difficulty for her, a young speak of things she should not have and timid girl, to assert her own po touched upon, added, with a more sition, and exact the respect that was lively toneher due. Here, however, in her “ Still, we may contrive to amuse uncle's house, it was quite different. you : you shall have plenty of fishing Relieved from all performance of a and coursing, the best shooting in the part, she was natural, graceful, and west, and, as for scenery, I'll answer easy ; and her spirits, untrammelled for it you are not disappointed.” by the dread of misconstruction, took While we chatted thus, the time their own free and happy flight, with rolled on, and at last, the clock on the out fear and without reproach.
mantel-piece apprized us that it was When we returned to the drawing time to set out for the ball. This, as room, seated beside her, I entered it may be believed, was any thing but into an explanation of all my pro a promise of pleasure to me. With ceedings since my arrival in the coun Louisa Bellew beside me, talking in a try, and had the satisfaction to per tone of confidential intimacy she had ceive, that not only did she approve of never ventured on before, I would