I Pay Court to My Lady Lyndon

As my uncle’s attainder was not reversed for being out with the Pretender in 1745, it would have been inconvenient for him to accompany his nephew to the land of our ancestors; where, if not hanging, at least a tedious process of imprisonment, and a doubtful pardon, would have awaited the good old gentleman.

In any important crisis of my life, his advice was always of advantage to me, and I did not fail to seek it at this juncture, and to implore his counsel as regarded my pursuit of the widow.

I told him the situation of her heart, as I have described it in the last chapter; of the progress that young Poynings had made in her affections, and of her forgetfulness of her old admirer; and I got a letter, in reply, full of excellent suggestions, by which I did not fail to profit. The kind Chevalier prefaced it by saying, that he was for the present boarding in the Minorite convent at Brussels; that he had thoughts of making his salut there, and retiring for ever from the world, devoting himself to the severest practices of religion. Meanwhile he wrote with regard to the lovely widow: it was natural that a person of her vast wealth and not disagreeable person should have many adorers about her; and that, as in her husband’s lifetime she had shown herself not at all disinclined to receive my addresses, I must make no manner of doubt I was not the first person whom she had so favoured; nor was I likely to be the last.

‘I would, my dear child,’ he added, ‘that the ugly attainder round my neck, and the resolution I have formed of retiring from a world of sin and vanity altogether, did not prevent me from coming personally to your aid in this delicate crisis of your affairs; for, to lead them to a good end, it requires not only the indomitable courage, swagger, and audacity, which you possess beyond any young man I have ever known’ (as for the ‘swagger,’ as the Chevalier calls it, I deny it in toto, being always most modest in my demeanour); ‘but though you have the vigour to execute, you have not the ingenuity to suggest plans of conduct for the following out of a scheme that is likely to be long and difficult of execution. Would you have ever thought of the brilliant scheme of the Countess Ida, which so nearly made you the greatest fortune in Europe, but for the advice and experience of a poor old man, now making up his accounts with the world, and about to retire from it for good and all?

‘Well, with regard to the Countess of Lyndon, your manner of winning her is quite en l’air at present to me; nor can I advise day by day, as I would I could, according to circumstances as they arise. But your general scheme should be this.

If I remember the letters you used to have from her during the period of the correspondence which the silly woman entertained you with, much high-flown sentiment passed between you; and especially was written by her Ladyship herself: she is a blue-stocking, and fond of writing; she used to make her griefs with her husband the continual theme of her correspondence (as women will do).