This nobleman, publicly useful as his life had no doubt been, had done little for his own tenants, or his own property. On his father’s death, he had succeeded to about three thousand a-year, and he left about one; and he would have spent or mortgaged this, had he not, on his marriage, put it beyond his own power to do so. It was not only by thriftless extravagance that he thus destroyed a property which, with care, and without extortion, would have doubled its value in the thirty-five years during which it was in his hands; but he had been afraid to come to Ireland, and had been duped by his agent. When he came to the title, Simeon Lynch had been recommended to him as a fit person to manage his property, and look after his interests; and Simeon had managed it well in that manner most conducive to the prosperity of the person he loved best in the world; and that was himself. When large tracts of land fell out of lease, Sim had represented that tenants could not be found—that the land was not worth cultivating—that the country was in a state which prevented the possibility of letting; and, ultimately put himself into possession, with a lease for ever, at a rent varying from half a crown to five shillings an acre.
The courtier lord had one son, of whom he made a soldier, but who never rose to a higher rank than that of Captain. About a dozen years before the date of my story, the Honourable Captain O’Kelly, after numerous quarrels with the Right Honourable Lord of the Bedchamber, had, at last, come to some family settlement with him; and, having obtained the power of managing the property himself, came over to live at his paternal residence of Kelly’s Court.
A very sorry kind of Court he found it,—neglected, dirty, and out of repair. One of the first retainers whom he met was Jack Kelly, the family fool. Jack was not such a fool as those who, of yore, were valued appendages to noble English establishments. He resembled them in nothing but his occasional wit. He was a dirty, barefooted, unshorn, ragged ruffian, who ate potatoes in the kitchen of the Court, and had never done a day’s work in his life. Such as he was, however, he was presented to Captain O’Kelly, as “his honour the masther’s fool.”
“So, you’re my fool, Jack, are ye?” said the Captain.
“Faix, I war the lord’s fool ance; but I’ll no be anybody’s fool but Sim Lynch’s, now. I and the lord are both Sim’s fools now. Not but I’m the first of the two, for I’d never be fool enough to give away all my land, av’ my father’d been wise enough to lave me any.”
Captain O’Kelly soon found out the manner in which the agent had managed his father’s affairs. Simeon Lynch was dismissed, and proceedings at common law were taken against him, to break such of the leases as were thought, by clever attorneys, to have the ghost of a flaw in them. Money was borrowed from a Dublin house, for the purpose of carrying on the suit, paying off debts, and making Kelly’s Court habitable; and the estate was put into their hands. Simeon Lynch built himself a large staring house at Dunmore, defended his leases, set up for a country gentleman on his own account, and sent his only son, Barry, to Eton,—merely because young O’Kelly was also there, and he was determined to show, that he was as rich and ambitious as the lord’s family, whom he had done so much to ruin.