’’Pon honour! here’s a good thing, which I hope we shall live to finish,’ said Heathcock, sitting down before the collation; and heartily did he eat of grouse pie, and of Irish ortolans, which, as Lady Dashfort observed, ’afforded him indemnity for the past, and security for the future.’
‘Eh! re’lly now! your Irish ortolans are famous good eating,’ said Heathcock.
’Worth being quartered in Ireland, faith! to taste ’em,’ said Benson.
The count recommended to Lady Dashfort some of ’that delicate sweetmeat, the Irish plum.’
‘Bless me, sir—count!’ cried Williamson, ’it’s by far the best thing of the kind I ever tasted in all my life: where could you get this?’
’In Dublin, at my dear Mrs. Godey’s; where only, in his Majesty’s dominions, it is to be had,’ said the count. The whole dish vanished in a few seconds. ’’Pon honour! I do believe this is the thing the queen’s so fond of,’ said Heathcock.
Then heartily did he drink of the count’s excellent Hungarian wines; and, by the common bond of sympathy between those who have no other tastes but eating and drinking, the colonel, the major, and the captain were now all the best companions possible for one another.
Whilst ‘they prolonged the rich repast,’ Lady Dashfort and Lord Colambre went to the window to admire the prospect; Lady Dashfort asked the count the name of some distant hill.
‘Ah!’ said the count, ’that hill was once covered with fine wood; but it was all cut down two years ago.’
‘Who could have been so cruel?’ said her ladyship.
‘I forget the present proprietor’s name,’ said the count; ’but he is one of those who, according to the Clause of distress in their leases, lead, drive, and carry away, but never enter their lands; one of those enemies to Ireland—these cruel absentees!’ Lady Dashfort looked through her glass at the mountain; Lord Colambre sighed, and, endeavouring to pass it off with a smile, said frankly to the count—
’You are not aware, I am sure, count, that you are speaking to the son of an Irish absentee family.—Nay, do not be shocked, my dear sir; I tell you only, because I thought it fair to do so; but let me assure you, that nothing you could say on that subject could hurt me personally, because I feel that I am not, that I never can be, an enemy to Ireland. An absentee, voluntarily, I never yet have been; and as to the future, I declare—’
‘I declare you know nothing of the future,’ interrupted Lady Dashfort, in a half-peremptory, half-playful tone—’you know nothing; make no rash vows, and you will break none.’
The undaunted assurance of Lady Dashfort’s genius for intrigue gave her an air of frank imprudence, which prevented Lord Colambre from suspecting that more was meant than met the ear. The count and he took leave of one another with mutual regard; and Lady Dashfort rejoiced to have got our hero out of Halloran Castle.