“Why, that Mr Tierney. I can’t conceive how Lady Cashel can have asked us to meet such a set,” and Matilda descended, pouting, and out of humour.
But on the next day she went through her work much more willingly, if not more carefully.
“That Captain Cokely’s a very nice fellow,” said Matilda; “the best of that Newbridge set, out and out.”
“Well now, I really think he’s not so nice as Mr Battersby,” said Letty. “I’m sure he’s not so good-looking.”
“Oh, Battersby’s only a boy. After all, Letty, I don’t know whether I like officers so much better than other men,”—and she twisted her neck round to get a look at her back in the pier-glass, and gave her dress a little pull just above her bustle.
“I’m sure I do,” said Letty; “they’ve so much more to say for themselves, and they’re so much smarter.”
“Why, yes, they are smarter,” said Matilda; “and there’s nothing on earth so dowdy as an old black coat, But, then, officers are always going away: you no sooner get to know one or two of a set, and to feel that one of them is really a darling fellow, but there, they are off—to Jamaica, China, Hounslow barracks, or somewhere; and then it’s all to do over again.”
“Well, I do wish they wouldn’t move them about quite so much.”
“But let’s go down. I think I’ll do now, won’t I?” and they descended, to begin the evening campaign.
“Wasn’t Miss Wyndham engaged to some one?” said old Mrs Ellison to Mrs Moore. “I’m sure some one told me so.”
“Oh, yes, she was,” said Mrs Moore; “the affair was settled, and everything arranged; but the man was very poor, and a gambler,—Lord Ballindine: he has the name of a property down in Mayo somewhere; but when she got all her brother’s money, Lord Cashel thought it a pity to sacrifice it,—so he got her out of the scrape. A very good thing for the poor girl, for they say he’s a desperate scamp.”
“Well, I declare I think,” said Mrs Ellison, “she’ll not have far to look for another.”
“What, you think there’s something between her and Lord Kilcullen?” said Mrs Moore.
“It looks like it, at any rate, don’t it?” said Mrs Ellison.
“Well, I really think it does,” said Mrs Moore; “I’m sure I’d be very glad of it. I know he wants money desperately, and it would be such a capital thing for the earl.”
“At any rate, the lady does not look a bit unwilling,” said Mrs Ellison. “I suppose she’s fond of rakish young men. You say Lord Ballindine was of that set; and I’m sure Lord Kilcullen’s the same,—he has the reputation, at any rate. They say he and his father never speak, except just in public, to avoid the show of the thing.”
And the two old ladies set to work to a good dish of scandal.
“Miss Wyndham’s an exceedingly fine girl,” said Captain Cokely to Mat Tierney, as they were playing a game of piquet in the little drawing-room.