Mr. Edgeworth, who was as usual busy building church spires for himself and other people, abandoned his engineering for a time to criticise his daughter’s story, and he advised that the conclusion of the absentee should be a letter from Larry the postilion. ’He wrote one, she wrote another,’ says Mrs. Edgeworth. ’He much preferred hers, which is the admirable finale of the absentee.’ And just about this time Lord Ross is applied to, to frank the Edgeworth manuscripts.
’I cannot by any form of words express how delighted I am that you are none of you angry with me,’ writes modest Maria to her cousin, Miss Ruxton, ’and that my uncle and aunt are pleased with what they have read of the absentee. I long to hear whether their favour continues to the end, and extends to the catastrophe, that dangerous rock upon which poor authors are wrecked.’
‘Are you to be at Lady Clonbrony’s gala next week?’ said Lady Langdale to Mrs. Dareville, whilst they were waiting for their carriages in the crush-room of the opera house.
‘Oh yes! everybody’s to be there, I hear,’ replied Mrs. Dareville. ’Your ladyship, of course?’
’Why, I don’t know—if I possibly can. Lady Clonbrony makes it such a point with me, that I believe I must look in upon her for a few minutes. They are going to a prodigious expense on this occasion. Soho tells me the reception rooms are all to be new furnished, and in the most magnificent style.’
‘At what a famous rate those Clonbronies are dashing on,’ said Colonel Heathcock. ‘Up to anything.’
‘Who are they?—these Clonbronies, that one hears of so much of late’ said her Grace of Torcaster. ’Irish absentees I know. But how do they support all this enormous expense?’
‘The son will have a prodigiously fine estate when some Mr. Quin dies,’ said Mrs. Dareville.
’Yes, everybody who comes from Ireland will have a fine estate when somebody dies,’ said her grace. ‘But what have they at present?’
‘Twenty thousand a year, they say,’ replied Mrs. Dareville.
‘Ten thousand, I believe,’ cried Lady Langdale. ’Make it a rule, you know, to believe only half the world says.’
‘Ten thousand, have they?—possibly,’ said her grace. ’I know nothing about them—have no acquaintance among the Irish. Torcaster knows something of Lady Clonbrony; she has fastened herself, by some means, upon him: but I charge him not to commit me. Positively, I could not for anybody—and much less for that sort of person—extend the circle of my acquaintance.’
‘Now that is so cruel of your grace,’ said Mrs. Dareville, laughing, ’when poor Lady Clonbrony works so hard, and pays so high, to get into certain circles.’
’If you knew all she endures, to look, speak, move, breathe like an Englishwoman, you would pity her,’ said Lady Langdale.