He snatched up his pen, and began a letter.
My dear mother—Miss Nugent—’
He was interrupted by a knock at his door.
‘A gentleman below, my lord,’ said a servant, ‘who wishes to see you.’
I cannot see any gentleman. Did you say I was at home?’
’No, my lord; I said you was not at home; for I thought you would not choose to be at home, and your own man was not in the way for me to ask—so I denied you; but the gentleman would not be denied; he said I must come and see if you was at home. So, as he spoke as if he was a gentleman not used to be denied, I thought it might be somebody of consequence, and I showed him into the front drawing-room. I think he said he was sure you’d be at home for a friend from Ireland.’
‘A friend from Ireland! Why did not you tell me that sooner?’ said Lord Colambre, rising, and running downstairs. ‘Sir James Brooke, I daresay.’
No, not Sir James Brooke; but one he was almost as glad to see—Count O’Halloran!
‘My dear count! the greater pleasure for being unexpected.’
‘I came to London but yesterday,’ said the count; ’but I could not be here a day, without doing myself the honour of paying my respects to Lord Colambre.’
’You do me not only honour, but pleasure, my dear count. People when they like one another, always find each other out, and contrive to meet even in London.’
’You are too polite to ask what brought such a superannuated militaire as I am,’ said the count, ’from his retirement into this gay world again. A relation of mine, who is one of our Ministry, knew that I had some maps, and plans, and charts, which might be serviceable in an expedition they are planning. I might have trusted my charts across the channel, without coming myself to convoy them, you will say. But my relation fancied—young relations, you know, if they are good for anything, are apt to overvalue the heads of old relations—fancied that mine was worth bringing all the way from Halloran Castle to London, to consult with tete-A-tete. So you know, when this was signified to me by a letter from the secretary in office, private, most confidential, what could I do, but do myself the honour to obey? For though honour’s voice cannot provoke the silent dust, yet “flattery soothes the dull cold ear of age.”—But enough, and too much of myself,’ said the count: ’tell me, my dear lord, something of yourself. I do not think England seems to agree with you so well as Ireland; for, excuse me, in point of health, you don’t look like the same man I saw some weeks ago.’
‘My mind has been ill at ease of late,’ said Lord Colambre.
’Ay, there’s the thing! The body pays for the mind—but those who have feeling minds, pain and pleasure altogether computed, have the advantage; or at least they think so; for they would not change with those who have them not, were they to gain by the bargain the most robust body that the most selfish coxcomb, or the heaviest dunce extant, ever boasted. For instance, would you now, my lord, at this moment change altogether with Major Benson, or Captain Williamson, or even our friend, ’Eh, really now, “pon honour”—would you!—I’m glad to see you smile.’