CHAPTER XVI

I Provide Nobly for My Family

The next day when I went back, my fears were realised: the door was refused to me — my Lady was not at home. This I knew to be false: I had watched the door the whole morning from a lodging I took at a house opposite.

‘Your lady is not out,’ said I: ‘she has denied me, and I can’t, of course, force my way to her. But listen: you are an Englishman?’ ‘That I am,’ said the fellow, with an air of the utmost superiority. ‘Your honour could tell that by my HACCENT.’

I knew he was, and might therefore offer him a bribe. An Irish family servant in rags, and though his wages were never paid him, would probably fling the money in your face.

‘Listen, then,’ said I. ‘Your lady’s letters pass through your hands, don’t they?

A crown for every one that you bring me to read. There is a whisky-shop in the next street; bring them there when you go to drink, and call for me by the name of Dermot.’

‘I recollect your honour at SPAR,’ says the fellow, grinning: ‘seven’s the main, hey?’ and being exceedingly proud of this reminiscence, I bade my inferior adieu.

I do not defend this practice of letter-opening in private life, except in cases of the most urgent necessity: when we must follow the examples of our betters, the statesmen of all Europe, and, for the sake of a great good, infringe a little matter of ceremony. My Lady Lyndon’s letters were none the worse for being opened, and a great deal the better; the knowledge obtained from the perusal of some of her multifarious epistles enabling me to become intimate with her character in a hundred ways, and obtain a power over her by which I was not slow to profit. By the aid of the letters and of my English friend, whom I always regaled with the best of liquor, and satisfied with presents of money still more agreeable (I used to put on a livery in order to meet him, and a red wig, in which it was impossible to know the dashing and elegant Redmond Barry), I got such an insight into the widow’s movements as astonished her.

I knew beforehand to what public places she would go; they were, on account of her widowhood, but few: and wherever she appeared, at church or in the park, I was always ready to offer her her book, or to canter on horseback by the side of her chariot.

Many of her Ladyship’s letters were the most whimsical rodomontades that ever blue-stocking penned. She was a woman who took up and threw off a greater number of dear friends than any one I ever knew. To some of these female darlings she began presently to write about my unworthy self, and it was with a sentiment of extreme satisfaction I found at length that the widow was growing dreadfully afraid of me; calling me her bete noire, her dark spirit, her murderous adorer, and a thousand other names indicative of her extreme disquietude and terror.

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