And now, Laertes, what's the news with you?

You told us of some suit: what is't, Laertes?

He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow' leave

By laboursome petition; and at last,

Upon his will I sealed my hard consent.

Horatio. There's no offence, my lord.

Hamlet. Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,

And much offence too.


THE Macnamara had been led away from his companionship in that old oak room by the time his son and Miss Gerald returned from the garden, and the consciousness of his own dignity seemed to have increased considerably since they had left him. This emotion was a variable possession with him: any one acquainted with his habits could without difficulty, from knowing the degree of dignity he manifested at any moment, calculate minutely the space of time, he must of necessity have spent in a room furnished similarly to that he had just now left.

He was talking pretty loudly in the room to which he had been led by Mr. Gerald when Daireen and Standish entered; and beside him was a whitehaired old lady whom Standish greeted as Mrs. Gerald and the girl called grandmamma—an old lady with very white hair but with large dark eyes whose lustre remained yet undimmed.

“Standish will reveal the mystery,” said this old lady, as the young man shook hands with her. “Your father has been speaking in proverbs, Standish, and we want your assistance to read them.”

“He is my son,” said The Macnamara, waving his hand proudly and lifting up his head. “He will hear his father speak on his behalf. Head of the Geralds, Gerald-na-Tor, chief of the hills, the last of The Macnamaras, king's of Munster, Innishdermot, and all islands, comes to you.”

“And I am honoured by his visit, and glad to find him looking so well.” said Mr. Gerald. “I am only sorry you can't make it suit you to come oftener, Macnamara.”

“It's that boy Eugene that's at fault,” said The Macnamara, dropping so suddenly into a colloquial speech from his eloquent Ossianic strain that one might have been led to believe his opening words were somewhat forced. “Yes, my lad,” he continued, addressing Mr. Gerald; “that Eugene is either breaking the springs or the straps or his own bones.” Here he recollected that his mission was not one to be expressed in this ordinary vein. He straightened himself in an instant, and as he went on asserted even more dignity than before. “Gerald, you know my position, don't you? and you know your 'own; but you can't say, can you, that The Macnamara ever held himself aloof from your table by any show of pride? I mixed with you as if we were equals.”

Again he waved his hand patronisingly, but no one showed the least sign of laughter. Standish was in front of one of the windows leaning his head upon his hand as he looked out to the misty ocean. “Yes, I've treated you at all times as if you had been born of the land, though this ground we tread on this moment was torn from the grasp of The Macnamaras by fraud.”

“True, true—six hundred years ago,” remarked Mr. Gerald. He had been so frequently reminded of this fact during his acquaintance with The Macnamara, he could afford to make the concession he now did.

“But I've not let that rankle in my heart,” continued The Macnamara; “I've descended to break bread with you and to drink—drink water with you—ay, at times. You know my son too, and you know that if he's not the same as his father to the backbone, it's not his father that's to blame for it. It was the last wish of his poor mother—rest her soul!—that he should be schooled outside our country, and you know that I carried out her will, though it cost me dear. He's been back these four years, as you know—what's he looking out at at the window?—but it's only three since he found out the pearl of the Lough Suangorm—the diamond of Slieve Docas—the beautiful daughter of the Geralds. Ay, he confessed to me this morning where his soft heart had turned, poor boy. Don't be blushing, Standish; the blood of the Macnamaras shouldn't betray itself in their cheeks.”

Standish had started away from the window before his father had ended; his hands were clenched, and his cheeks were burning with shame. He could not fail to see the frown that was settling down upon the face of Mr. Gerald. But he dared not even glance towards Daireen.

“My dear Macnamara, we needn't talk on this subject any farther just now,” said the girl's grandfather, as the orator paused for an instant.

But The Macnamara only gave his hand another wave before he proceeded. “I have promised my boy to make him happy,” he said, “and you know what the word of a Macnamara is worth even to his son; so, though I confess I was taken aback at first, yet I at last consented to throw over my natural family pride and to let my boy have his way. An alliance between the Macnamaras and the Geralds is not what would have been thought about a few years ago, but The Macnamaras have always been condescending.”

“Yes, yes, you condescend to a jest now and again with us, but really this is a sort of mystery I have no clue to,” said Mr. Gerald.

“Mystery? Ay, it will astonish the world to know that The Macnamara has given his consent to such an alliance; it must be kept secret for a while for fear of its effects upon the foreign States that have their eyes upon all our steps. I wouldn't like this made a State affair at all.”

“My dear Macnamara, you are usually very lucid,” said Mr. Gerald, “but to-day I somehow cannot arrive at your meaning.”

“What, sir?” cried The Macnamara, giving his head an angry twitch. “What, sir, do you mean to tell me that you don't understand that I have given my consent to my son taking as his wife the daughter of the Geralds?—see how the lovely Daireen blushes like a rose.”

Daireen was certainly blushing, as she left her seat and went over to the farthest end of the room. But Standish was deadly pale, his lips tightly closed.

“Macnamara, this is absurd—quite absurd!” said Mr. Gerald, hastily rising. “Pray let us talk no more in such a strain.”

Then The Macnamara's consciousness of his own dignity asserted itself. He drew himself up and threw back his head. “Sir, do you mean to put an affront upon the one who has left his proper station to raise your family to his own level?”

“Don't let us quarrel, Macnamara; you know how highly I esteem you personally, and you know that I have ever looked upon the family of the Macnamaras as the noblest in the land.”

“And it is the noblest in the land. There's not a drop of blood in our veins that hasn't sprung from the heart of a king,” cried The Macnamara.

“Yes, yes, I know it; but—well, we will not talk any further to-day. Daireen, you needn't go away.”

“Heavens! do you mean to say that I haven't spoken plainly enough, that——”

“Now, Macnamara, I must really interrupt you——”

“Must you?” cried the representative of the ancient line, his face developing all the secret resources of redness it possessed. “Must you interrupt the hereditary monarch of the country where you're but an immigrant when he descends to equalise himself with you? This is the reward of condescension! Enough, sir, you have affronted the family that were living in castles when your forefathers were like beasts in caves. The offer of an alliance ought to have come from you, not from me; but never again will it be said that The Macnamara forgot what was due to him and his family. No, by the powers, Gerald, you'll never have the chance again. I scorn you; I reject your alliance. The Macnamara seats himself once more upon his ancient throne, and he tramples upon you all. Come, my son, look at him that has insulted your family—look at him for the last time and lift up your head.”

The grandeur with which The Macnamara uttered this speech was overpowering. He had at its conclusion turned towards poor Standish, and waved his hand in the direction of Mr. Gerald. Then Standish seemed to have recovered himself.

“No, father, it is you who have insulted this family by talking as you have done,” he cried passionately.

“Boy!” shouted The Macnamara. “Recreant son of a noble race, don't demean yourself with such language!”

“It is you who have demeaned our family,” cried the son still more energetically. “You have sunk us even lower than we were before.” Then he turned imploringly towards Mr. Gerald. “You know—you know that I am only to be pitied, not blamed, for my father's words,” he said quietly, and then went to the door.

“My dear boy,” said the old lady, hastening towards him.

“Madam!” cried The Macnamara, raising his arm majestically to stay her.

She stopped in the centre of the room. Daireen had also risen, her pure eyes full of tears as she grasped her grandfather's hand while he laid his other upon her head.

From the door Standish looked with passionate gratitude back to the girl, then rushed out.

But The Macnamara stood for some moments with his head elevated, the better to express the scorn that was in his heart. No one made a motion, and then he stalked after his son.

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