Lord Cashel walked out into the hall, prepared to meet his son in a befitting manner; that is, with a dignified austerity that could not fail to convey a rebuke even to his hardened heart. But he was balked in his purpose, for he found that Lord Kilcullen was not alone; Mat Tierney had come down with him. Kilcullen had met his friend in Dublin, and on learning that he also was bound for Grey Abbey on the day but one following, had persuaded him to accelerate his visit, had waited for him, and brought him down in his own carriage. The truth was, that Lord Kilcullen had thought that the shades of Grey Abbey would be too much for him, without some genial spirit to enlighten them: he was delighted to find that Mat Tierney was to be there, and was rejoiced to be able to convey him with him, as a sort of protection from his father’s eloquence for the first two days of the visit.
“Lord Kilcullen, your mother and I—” began the father, intent on at once commenting on the iniquity of the late arrival; when he saw the figure of a very stout gentleman, amply wrapped up in travelling habiliments, follow his son into the inner hall.
“Tierney, my lord,” said the son, “was good enough to come down with me. I found that he intended to be here to-morrow, and I told him you and my mother would be delighted to see him to-day instead.”
The earl shook Mr. Tierney’s hand, and told him how very welcome he was at all times, and especially at present—unexpected pleasures were always the most agreeable; and then the earl bustled about, and ordered supper and wine, and fussed about the bed-rooms, and performed the necessary rites of hospitality, and then went to bed, without having made one solemn speech to his son. So far, Lord Kilcullen had been successful in his manoeuvre; and he trusted that by making judicious use of Mat Tierney, he might be able to stave off the evil hour for at any rate a couple of days.
But he was mistaken. Lord Cashel was now too much in earnest to be put off his purpose; he had been made too painfully aware that his son’s position was desperate, and that he must at once be saved by a desperate effort, or given over to utter ruin. And, to tell the truth, so heavy were the new debts of which he heard from day to day, so insurmountable seemed the difficulties, that he all but repented that he had not left him to his fate. The attempt, however, must again be made; he was there, in the house, and could not be turned out; but Lord Cashel determined that at any rate no time should be lost.
The two new arrivals made their appearance the next morning, greatly to Lady Cashel’s delight; she was perfectly satisfied with her son’s apology, and delighted to find that at any rate one of her expected guests would not fail her in her need. The breakfast went over pleasantly enough, and Kilcullen was asking Mat to accompany him into the stables, to see what novelties they should find there, when Lord Cashel spoiled the arrangement by saying,