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The Children of the Abbey

CHAPTER XVI.

Some took him for a tool,

That knaves do work with, call’d a fool,

Fools are known by looking wise,

As men find woodcocks by their eyes.

Hud.

The solitude of Castle Carberry was inter­rupted, in less than a fortnight, by visits and invitations from the neighbouring families. The first they accepted was to dine at Mr. Kilcorban’s; he was a man of large fortune, which, in the opinion of many, compensated for the want of polished manners and a cultivated mind; but, to others of a more liberal way of thinking, could not possibly excuse those deficiencies, which were more apparent from his pretending to every excellence, and more intolerable from his deeming himself authorized by his wealth and consequence, to say and do almost whatever he pleased. His lady was like himself, a compound of ignorance, pride, and vanity; their offspring was numerous, and the three who were sufficiently old to make their appearance, were consi­dered by their parents and themselves as the very models of elegance and perfection. The young heir had been sent to the university, but, being permitted to be his own master, he had profited little by his residence there; enough, however, perhaps he thought for a man of fortune, who wanted not professional knowledge; his face was coarse, his person inelegant, and his taste in adorning himself preposterously ridiculous, 152 fashion, Hoyle, and the looking-glass were his chief studies, and by his family and self, he was consi­dered quite the thing.

The young ladies were supposed to be very accomplished, because they had instructors in almost every branch of education; but, in reality, they understood little more than the names of what they were attempted to be taught: nature had not been lavish of her gifts; of this, however, they were conscious, and patched, powdered, and painted in the very extremity of the mode. Their mornings were generally spent in rolling about in a coach and six, with their mamma, collecting news and paying visits; their evenings were constantly devoted to company, without which they declared they could not exist; they sometimes affected languor and sentiment, talked of friendship, and professed for numbers, the most sincere; yet, to the very girls they pretended to regard, delighted in exhibiting their finery, if certain they could not purchase the same, and would feel mortified by seeing it.

Mr. Kilcorban had indulged his family in a trip to Bath one autumn, and in so doing, had afforded a never-failing subject for conversation: upon every occasion this delightful excursion was mentioned—the novelties they saw, the admiration they excited, the elegant intimacies they formed, the amazing sums they expended, were all described and exaggerated.

Lady Greystock, an ancient widow, was at present on a visit to them. She had known Fitzalan in his youth, and now, with pleasure, renewed her intimacy with him, and the account she gave of his family and connexions prepossessed the neighbourhood in his favour. She was a shrewd, sensible woman; the dignity of her person commanded respect, but the sarcastic expression of her countenance prevented her conciliating esteem.

An old chariot belonging to the Earl of Cherbury, which had been for years unemployed in the coach-house, was brought forth for the purpose of conveying Fitzalan and his daughter on their visits. After a good deal of rubbing and washing, it was found tolerably decent, and they proceeded in it to Mr. Kilcorban’s, which was about two miles from Castle Carberry. A numerous party was already assembled. Whilst Amanda was paying her compli­ments to Mrs. Kilcorban and Lady Greystock, a general whisper relative to her took place among the younger part of the company, who had 153 formed themselves into a group quite distant from the rest. One gentleman swore “she was a devilish fine girl!” he was seconded in the remark by another, who extolled her complexion. “You are a simpleton,” cried a young lady, who was reckoned a great wit; “I’d engage, for half a crown, to get as fine a colour in Dublin.” Her companions laughed, and declared she only spoke truth in saying so. Mr. Bryan Kilcorban, who leaned on her chair, said, “A bill should be brought into the house to tax such complexions; for kill me,” continued he, “the ladies are so irresistible from nature, it is quite uncon­scionable to call in art as an auxiliary.” He then stalked over to Amanda, who sat by Lady Greystock; lolling over her chair, he declared, “he thought the tedious hours would never elapse, till again blessed with her presence; of her,” he said, “it was sufficient to have but one glimpse to make him pant for the second.” A summons to dinner relieved her from his nonsense: luxury and ostentation were conspicuous in the fare and decorations of the table, and Amanda never felt any hours so tedious as those she passed at it; when the ladies returned to the drawing-room, the Miss Kilcorbans and their companions began to examine and admire her dress. “What a pretty pattern this gown is worked in,” said one. “What a sweet, becoming cap this is,” cried a second. “Well, certainly the English milliners have a great deal of taste; my dear,” said Miss Kilcorban, whispering Amanda, “I have a monstrous favour to ask of you,” drawing her at the same instant to the window. “I am sure,” said Amanda, “any in my power to grant, I shall with pleasure.” “Oh, really, then, it is in your power; ’tis only to refuse the pattern of your cap to any girls who may ask you for it, and to give it to me and my sister; you can’t conceive how we doat on being the first time in the fashion; one is so stared at, and so envied; I detest anything when it becomes common; you can’t think how we are teased every summer, when we return from Dublin, for fashions, but we always make it a point to refuse. I must tell you a delightful trick I played a friend of mine; she received a large present of the most beautiful muslins from India, which she laid by till I returned from town, supposing I would let her see my things, as I always told her I was extremely fond of her; well, I lent her a gown, which was quite old-fashioned, but assured her it was the very newest mode; she accordingly had her beautiful muslins cut in imitation of it, and 154 so spoiled them from making any other habit; well, we met at an assize ball, where all the elegant people of the country were assembled, and, I declare I never saw so ridiculous a figure as she made, when she found herself unlike every one in the room; I really thought she would have fainted, and that my sister and I should have expired with laughing; poor thing, the tears absolutely trickled down her cheeks: don’t you think it was a charming trick?” “Very much so,” said Amanda, “I think it gave a striking specimen of your humour.” “Well, my dear,” exclaimed Miss Kilcorban, without minding the marked emphasis of Amanda’s last words, “if you allow us, my sister and I will call upon you to-morrow, and look over your things.” “It would be giving yourselves a great deal of unnecessary trouble,” replied Amanda, coolly, who did not by any means relish this forward proposal; “my things can boast of little but simplicity, and I am always my own milliner.” “Really, well, I protest you have a great deal of taste; my maid, who is very handy, would, I think, be able to make up things in pretty much the same style, if you were obliging enough to give her patterns; if you do, perhaps you will add to the favour, and allow us to say they are the newest Bath fashions. Was you ever at Bath?” “No.” “Oh, then, I assure you, you have a monstrous pleasure to come; ’tis the sweetest place on earth, quite a paradise; I declare I thought I should have died with grief at leaving it; papa has been inexorable ever since to our entreaties for a second trip; he says the first cost too much money; indeed it was an enormous sum; only think how much.” “I am the worst person in the world,” said Amanda, “for guessing,” sick of her impertinent volubility, and moving from the window. The evening was fine, and the grounds about the house beautiful, she therefore proposed a walk. At this proposal, the young ladies, who had hitherto been in deep confab, looked at each other, and remained silent for some minutes; Miss Kilcorban, then, who had no notion of gratifying the inclination of her guest, by the sacrifice of her own, said, “it blew a little, and that her hair would be ruined, and the Marchelle powder blown from it, by such a walk.” Another young lady, looking down at her white satin slippers, vowed she would not venture into the grass for worlds. A third declared that when once dressed, she could not bear to be tumbled. Amanda had too much politeness to repeat her wish, and it was therefore unanimously 155 agreed among the fair coterie, that they should continue in the drawing-room to be in statu quo, for the reappearance of the beaux.

Lady Greystock now beckoned to our heroine to take a seat by her; she gladly obeyed. “Well, my dear,” said her ladyship, “I hope you have had enough of these country misses, these would-be misses of the ton.” Amanda smiled assentingly. “Heaven defend me or any one I like,” continued her ladyship, “from their clack; the confusion of Babel was, I really believe, inferior to that their tongues create; yet some people have the absurdity to reckon these girls accomplished. Poor Mrs. Kilcorban torments one with the perfections of her daughters; against they are disposed of (which she imagines will be very soon) she has a new brood of graces training up to bring out; mercy on me! what a set of hoydens! I’d lay my life, at this very instant they are galloping about the nursery, like a parcel of wild colts, tearing or tormenting an unfortunate French governess, who was formerly fille de chambre to a woman of quality, and does not even understand the grammatical part of her own language.” “Mrs. Kilcorban’s opinion of her children,” said Amanda, “is natural, consi­dering the partiality of a parent.” “Yes; but not more bearable on that account,” replied her ladyship, “and I should endeavor to open her eyes to her folly, if I thought her acquaintance would forgive my depriving them of such a fund of amusement.”

Mr. Bryan Kilcorban, with some gentlemen, now entered the room, and advanced to Amanda. “So,” said he, “you have got by the dowager; hang me, but I would let my beard grow, if all women resembled her in their dispositions.” “By way of appearing sagacious I suppose,” said her ladyship, who was extremely quick, and had caught the last words; “alas! poor youth, no embellish­ments on the exterior would ever be able to make us believe the tenement within well furnished.” Her ladyship was now summoned to a whist table, and Miss Kilcorban immediately took her vacant seat. “My dear creature,” said she, “are you bored to death? Lady Greystock is a queer piece I can assure you: I suppose she was asking some favour from you, such as to work her an apron, or handkerchief: she is noted everywhere for requesting such little jobs, as she calls them; indeed we should never put up with the trouble she gives us, but that she is vastly rich, and papa’s relation, and has no one so nearly 156 connected with her as we are.” “All very good reasons for your complaisance,” replied Amanda, “but should you not be careful in concealing them?” “Oh! Lord no: every one knows them as well as we do ourselves; she was here last summer, and took a fancy to the pattern of an apron of mine, and made me the reasonable request of working one like it for her; all this she pretended was to prevent my being idle. Well, I said I would, and wrote up to the Moravian house, in Dublin, where I had got mine, for one exactly like it; in due time I received it, and presented it to the Dowager, certain that in return I should receive a few of her diamond pins, which she had often heard me admire; they are the prettiest I ever saw, and quite unfit for her, but she had the cruelty to disappoint me.” “Upon my faith,” cried Mrs. Kilcorban, who had taken a chair at the other side of Amanda, and listened with evident pleasure to her daughter’s voluble speech, “Lady Greystock is an odd being; I never met with any one like her in all my travels through England, Ireland and Wales; but she is a great orator, and possesses the gift of the gab in a wonderful degree.”

Ay, indeed, thought Amanda, and you and your fair daughters resemble her in that respect. After tea she was prevailed on to sit down to commerce, but she soon grew as tired of the party as of the game, and lost on purpose to be released; she had hoped for a little more chat with Lady Greystock, but her ladyship was passionately fond of cards, and at all times would have preferred the pleasure of a card-table to the eloquence of a Cicero. Kilcorban, on finding her disengaged, tormented her with absurd compli­ments: a challenge to a brag table at length relieved her from his nonsense, and she loitered about the card table till they broke up for supper.

Amanda always expressed to her father her sentiments of any company she had been in, and those she now delivered on quitting the party, perfectly coincided with his; he laughed at the account which the Kilcorbans had given of Lady Greystock, to whom he knew they paid the most extravagant flattery, in hopes of obtaining some of her large fortune.

Errata: Chapter XVI

By way of appearing sagacious I suppose,”
text has “saga-/ous” at line break

After tea she was prevailed on to sit down to commerce,
text has commence,


Castle Carberry, to which our travellers were going, was a large Gothic pile


The following evening they were engaged at a farmer’s

Introduction and Contents

 

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.