Charles James Lever.

Lord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time online

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Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 1 of 48)
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fclie sull'cied her hand tu rciuuin.


^ Cixlc oi Jitliinb ill our (Dion ^imc.













[ Tiie right oj irunblatioii is reserved. ]






1 Dcitratc tfjMc "Folumes,






Trieste, January 20, 1872.



I. KiLGOBBiN Castle... 1

n. The Pkince Kostalbrgi „ 8

in. "The Chums" 16

IV. At "Trinity" 23

V. Home Life at the Castle 32

VI. The " Blue Goat " 38

Vn. The Cousins 47

VIII. Showing how Friends mat Differ 51

IX. A Drive through a Bog 55

X. The Seaech for Arms 61

XL "VVhat the Papers said of it 72

XII. The Journey to the Country 77

Xnr. A Sick Eoom 81

XIV. At Dinner 87

XV. In the Garden at Dusk 95

XVI. The Two "Kearneys" lOl

XVII. Dick's Eeverie 107

XVni. Mathew Kearney's " Study " 112

XIX. An Unwelcome Visit 117

XX. A Domestic Discussion 121

XXI. A Small Dinner-Party 12-t

XXII. A Confidential Talk 132

XXIII. A Haphazard Viceroy 140

XXIV. Two Friends at Breakfast 144

XXV. Atlee's Embarrassments 150

XXVI. Dick Kearney's Chambers 153

XXVII. A Crafty Counsellor 162

XXVIII. "On the Leads" 165



XXIX. On a Visit at Kilgobbin 169

XXX. The Moate Station - 17G

XXXI. How THE "Goats" Revolted 180

XXXII. An Unlooked-foe Pleasure ISG

XXXni. Plmnuddji Castle, North Wales 191

XXXIV. At Tea-time 19(i

XXXV. A Drive at Sunrise 200

XXXVI. The Excursion 207

XXXVII. The Eetuen 218

XXXVIII. " O'Shea's Barn" -.. 221

XXXIX. An Early Gallop 229

XL. Old Memories 234

XLI. Two Familiar Epistles 238

XLII. An Evening in the Drawing-eoom 241

XLIII. Some Night-Thoughts 248

XLIV. The Head Constable 254

XLV. Some Irisuries 258

XLVI. Sage Advice 2G1

XLVII. Reproof 264

XLVIII. How Men in Office Make Love 2G9

XLIX. A Cup of Tea 276

L. Cross Purposes ■ 281

LL Awakenings 286

LH. " A Chance Agreement " 292

LIII. " A Scrape " 298

LIV. "How IT Befell" 303

LV. Two J. P.'S 309

LVL Before the Door 314

LVn. A Doctor 318

LVin. In Turkey 322

LIX. A Letter-Bag 327

LX. "A Defeat" 334

LXL A " Change oi- Eront " 339

LXIL With a Pasha 342

LXIII. Atlee on his Travels 345

LXIV. Greek Meets Greek 351

LXV. "In Town" 359

LXVI. Atlee's Message 365




LXVII. "Walpole alone 370

LXVIII. Thoughts on Makriage 374

LXIX. At Kilgobbin Castle 378

LXX. Atlee's Return „ 381

LXXI. The Drive 39C

LXXII. The Saunter in Town 395

LXXni. A Darkened Room 397

LXXIV. An Angry Colloquy 401

LXXV. Matiiew Kearney's Reflections 404

LXXVI. Very Confidential Conversation 409

LXXVII. Two Young Ladies on Matrimony 414

LXXVin. A Miserable Morning 420

LXXIX. Pleasant Congratulations 428

LXXX. A New Arrival 436

LXXXI. An Unlooked-for Correspondent 442

LXXXII. The Breakfast-Room _ 447

LXXXm. The Garden by Moonlight 452

LXXXIV. Next MoR^^NG 463

LXXXV. The End 467


She suffered her hand to remain - . . . Fkoxtispiece

■" What lark have you been on, Master Joe ? " - - - - 17

" One more sitting I must have, Sir, for the hair " - - - 08
" How that song makes me wish we were back again where I

heard it first " (U;

He entered, and Nina arose as he came forward - - - 8-1
"You are right. I see it all," and now he seized her hand and

kissed it 0'.)

Kate, still dressed, had thrown herself on the bed, and was

sound asleep 135

"Is not that as fine as your boasted Campagna .' " - - - lOG

" You wear a ring of great beauty. May I look at it / " - - I'JD
" True, there is no tender light there."' muttered he, gazing at

her eyes 211

He knelt down on one knee beside her 241

Nina came forward at this moment 25.5

Nina Kostalergi was busily engaged in pinning up the skirt of

her dress 288

The balcony creaked and trembled, and at last gave way - - 308

" Just look at the crowd that is watching us already '' - - 317

" I should like to have back my letters " 337

Walpole looked keenly at the other's face as he read the paper 06G

^'I declare you have left a tear upon my cheek,"' said Kate - 462




Some one lias said that almost all that Ireland possesses of picturesque
beauty is to be found on, or in the immediate neighbourhood of, the
seaboard ; and if we except some brief patches of river scenery on
the " Nore " and the " Blackwater," and a part of Lough Erne, the
assertion is not devoid of truth. The dreary expanse called the Bog
of Allen, which occupies a high table-land in the centre of the island,
stretches away for miles flat, sad-coloured, and monotonous, fissured
in every direction by channels of dark-tinted water, in which the very
fish take the same sad colour. This tract is almost without trace of
habitation, save where, at distant intervals, utter destitution has raised
a mud-hovel uudistinguishable from the hillocks of turf around it.

Fringing this broad waste, little patches of cultivation are to be
seen : small potato-gardens, as they are called, or a few roods of oats,
green even in the late autumn ; but, strangely enough, with nothing
to show where the humble tiller of the soil was living, nor, often, any
visible road to these isolated spots of culture. Gradually, however —
but very gradually — the prospect brightens. Fields with enclosures,
and a cabin or two, are to be met with ; a solitary tree, generally an
ash, will be seen ; some rude instrument of husbandry, or an ass-
cart, will show that we are emerging from the region of complete
destitution and approaching a land of at least struggling civilization.
At last, and by a transition that is not always eMy to mark, the
scene glides into those rich pasture-lands and woll-tilled farms that
form the wealth of the Midland Counties. Gentlemen's seats and
waving plantations succeed, and wc are in % country of comfort and

On this border-land between fertility and dostitiation, and on a


tract which had probably ouce been part of tlie Bog itself, there
stood — there stands still — a short, square tower, battlemented at top,
and surmounted with a pointed roof, vrhicli seems to grow out of a
cluster of farm-buildings, so surrounded is its base by roofs of thatch
and slates. Incongruous, vulgar, and ugly in every way, the old
keep appears to look down on them — time-worn and battered as it is
— as might a reduced gentleman regard the unworthy associates with
which an altered fortune had linked him. This is all that remains of
Kilgobbiu Castle.

In the guide-books we read that it was once a place of strength
and importance, and that Hugh de Lacy — the same bold knight " who
had won all Ireland for the English from the Shannon to the sea " —
had taken this castle from a native chieftain called Neal O'Caharney,
whose fomily he had slain, all save one ; and then it adds : " Sir
Hugh came one day, with three Englishmen, that he might show
them the castle, when there came to him a youth of the men of
Meath — a certain Gilla Naher O'Mahey, foster-brother of O'Caharney
himself — with his battle-axe concealed beneath his cloak, and while
De Lacy was reading the petition he gave him, he dealt him such a
blow that his head flew off many yards away, both head and body
being afterwards buried in the ditch of the castle."

The annals of Kilronan further relate that the O'Caharneys
became adherents of the English — dropping their Irish designation,
and calling themselves Kearney ; and in this way were restored to a
part of the lauds and the Castle of Kilgobbin — " by favour of which
act of grace," says the Chronicle, " they were bound to raise a be-
coming monument over the brave knight Hugh de Lacy whom their
kinsman had so treacherously slain ; but they did no more of this
than one large stone of granite, and no inscription thereon : thus
showing that at all times, and with all men, the O'Caharneys were
false knaves and untrue to their word."

In later times, again, the Kearneys returned to the old faith of
their fathers and followed the fortunes of King James ; one of them,
Michael O'Kearney, having acted as aide-de-camp at the " Boyne,"
and conducted the king to Kilgobbin, where he passed the night after
the defeat, and, as the tradition records, held a court the next morn-
ing, at which he thanked the owner of the castle for his hospitality,
and created him on the spot a viscount by the style and title of Lord

It is needless to say that the newly-created noble saw good reason
to keep his elevation to himself. They were somewhat critical times
just then for the adherents of the lost cause, and the followers of
King William were keen at scenting out any disloyalty that might be


turned to good account by a confiscation. The Kearneys, however,
were prudent. They entertained a Dutch officer, Van Straaten, on
King William's stafl", and gave such valuable information besides as
to the condition of the country that no suspicions of disloyalty
attached to them.

To these succeeded more peaceful times, during which the
Kearneys were more engaged in endeavouring to reconstruct the
fallen condition of their fortunes than in political intrigue. Indeed
a very small portion of the original estate now remained to them,
and of what once had produced above four thousand a year, there was
left a property barely worth eight hundred.

The present owner, with whose fortunes we are more immediately
concerned, was a widower. Mathew Kearney's family consisted of a
son and a daughter ; the former about two-and-twenty, the latter four
years younger, though, to all appearance, there did not seem a year
between them.

Mathew Kearney himself was a man of about fifty-four or fifty-
six ; hale, handsome, and powerful ; his snow-white hair and bright
complexion, with his full grey eyes and regular teeth, giving him an
air of genial cordiality at first sight which was fully confirmed by
further acquaintance. So long as the world went well with him,
Mathew seemed to enjoy life thoroughly, and even its rubs he bore with
an easy jocularity that showed what a stout heart he could oppose to
fortune. A long minority had provided him with a considerable sum
on his coming of age, but he spent it freely, and when it was ex-
hausted continued to live on at the same rate as before, till at last,
as creditors grew pressing, and mortgages threatened foreclosure, he
saw himself reduced to something less than one-fifth of his former
outlay ; and though he seemed to address himself to the task with a
bold spirit and a resolute mind, the old habits were too deeply rooted
to be eradicated, and the pleasant companionship of his equals, his
life at the club in Dublin, his joyous conviviality, no longer possible,
he su2"ered himself to descend to an inferior rank, and sought his
associates amongst humbler men, whose flattering reception of him
soon reconciled him to his fallen condition. His companions were
now the small farmers of the neighbourhood and the shopkeepers in
the adjoining town of Moate, to whose habits and modes of thought and
expression he gradually conformed, till it became positively irksome
to himself to keep the company of his equals. Whether, however,
it was that age had breached the stronghold of his good spirits,
or that conscience rebuked him for having derogated from his station,
certain it is that all his buoyancy failed him when away from society,
and that in the quietness of his home he was depressed and dispirited


to a degree ; and to that genial temper, which once he could count
on against every reverse that befell him, there now succeeded an
irritable, peevish spirit, that led him to attribute every annoyance he
met with to some fault or shortcoming of others.

By his neighbours in the town and by his tenantiy he was always
addressed as " My Lord," and treated with all the deference that
pertained to such difference of station. By the gentry, however,
when at rare occasions he met them, he was known as Mr. Kearney ;
and in the village post-office the letters with the name Mathew
Kearney, Esq., were perpetual reminders of what rank was accorded
him by that Avider section of the world that lived beyond the shadow
of Kilgobbin Castle.

Perhaps the impossible task of serving two masters is never more
palpably displayed than when the attempt attaches to a divided
identity — when a man tries to be himself in two distinct parts in life,
without the slightest misgiving of hypocrisy while doing so. Mathew
Kearney not only did not assume any pretension to nobility amongst
his equals, but he would have felt that any reference to his title from
one of them would have been an impertinence, and an impertinence
to be resented ; while, at the same time, had a shopkeeper of Moate,
or one of the tenants, addressed him as other than " My Lord " he
would not have deigned him a notice.

Strangely enough, this divided allegiance did not merely prevail
with the outer world, it actually penetrated within his walls. By his
son, Richard Kearney, he was always called "My Lord"; while
Kate as persistently addressed and spoke of him as Papa. Nor was
this difference without signification as to their separate natures and

Had Mathew Kearney contrived to divide the two parts of his
nature, and bequeathed all his pride, his vanity, and his pretensions
to his son, while he gave his light-heartedness, his buoyancy, and
kindliness to his daughter, the partition could not have been more
perfect. Richard Kearney was full of an insolent pride of birth.
Contrasting the position of his father with that held by his grand-
father, he resented the downfall as the act of a dominant faction,
eager to outrage the old race and the old religion of Ireland. Kate
took a very different view of their condition. She clung, indeed, to
the notion of their good blood ; but as a thing that might assuage
many of the pangs of adverse fortune, not increase nor embitter
them; and "if we are ever to emerge," thought she, "from this
poor state, we shall meet our class without any of the shame of a
mushroom origin. It will be a restoration, and not a new elevation."
^he was a fine, handsome, fearless girl, whom many said ought to


have been a boy ; but this was rather intended as a covert slight on
the narrower nature and peevish temperament of her brother — another
way, indeed, of saying that they shouki have exchanged conditions.

The listless indolence of her father's life, and the almost com-
plete absence from home of her brother, who was pursuing his studies
at the Dublin University, had given over to her charge not only the
household, but no small share of the management of the estate — all,
in fact, that an old land steward, a certain Peter Gill, would permit
her to exercise ; for Peter was a very absolute and despotic grand
Vizier, and if it had not been that he could neither read nor write,
it would have been utterly impossible to have wrested from him a
particle of power over the property. This happy defect in his education
— happy so far as Kate's rule was concerned — gave her the one claim
she could prefer to any superiority over him, and his obstinacy could
never be effectually overcome, except by confronting him with a
written document or a column of figures. Before these, indeed, he
would stand crestfallen and abashed. Some strange terror seemed
to possess him as to the peril of opposing himself to such inscrutable
testimony — a fear, be it said, he never felt in contesting an oral

Peter had one resource, however, and I am not sure that a
similar stronghold has not secured the power of greater men and in
higher functions. Peter's sway was of so varied and complicated a
kind ; the duties he discharged were so various, manifold, and con-
flicting, the measures he took with the people, whose destinies were
committed to him, were so thoroughly devised, by reference to the
peculiar condition of each man — what he could do, or bear, or sub-
mit to — and not by any sense of justice; that a sort of government
grew up over the property full of hitches, contingencies, and com-
pensations, and of which none but he who had invented the machinery
could possibly pretend to the direction. The estate being, to use his
own words, " so like the old coach-harness, so full of knots, splices,
and entanglements, there was not another man in Ireland could make
it work, and if another were to tiy it, it would all come to pieces in
his hands."

Kate was shrewd enough to see this ; and in the same way that
she had admiringly watched Peter as he knotted a trace here and
supplemented a strap there, strengthening a weak point, and pro-
viding for casualties even the least likely, she saw him dealing with
the tenantry on the property ; and in the same spirit that he made
allowance for sickness here and misfortune there, he would be as
prompt to screw up a lagging tenant to the last penny, and secure
the landlord in the share of any season of prosperity.


Had the Government Commissioner, sent to report on the state
of land tenure in Ireland, confined himself to a visit to the estate of
Lord Kilgohbiu — for so we like to call him — it is just possible that
the Cabinet would have found the task of legislation even more difficult
than the)' have already admitted it to be.

First of all, not a tenant on the estate had any certain knowledge
of how much land he held. There had been no survey of the pro-
perty for years. " It will be made up to you," was Gill's phrase
about everything. " What matters if you have an acre more or an
acre less ? " Neither had any one a lease, or, indeed, a writing of
any kind. Gill settled that on the 25th March and 25th September
a certain sum was to be forthcoming, and that was all. When the
lord wanted them they were always to give him a hand, which often
meant with their carts and horses, especially in harvest time. Not
that they were a hard-worked or hard-working population : they took
life very easy, seeing that by no possible exertion could they mate-
rially better themselves ; and even when they hunted a neighbour's
cow out of their wheat, they would execute the eviction with a lazy
indolence and sluggishness that took away from the act all semblance
of ungenerousness.

They were very poor, their hovels were wretched, their clothes
ragged, and their food scanty ; but, with all that, they were not discon-
tented, and very far from unhappy. There was no prosperity at hand
to contrast with their poverty. The world was, on the whole, pretty
much as they always remembered it. They would have liked to be
" better off" if they knew how, but they did not know if there was
a "better off" — much less how to come at it; and if there were,
Peter Gill certainly did not tell them of it.

If a stray visitor to fair or market brought back the news that
there was an agitation abroad for a new settlement of the land, that
popular orators were proclaiming the poor man's rights, and denounc-
ing the cruelties of the landlord, if they heard that men were talking
of repealing the laws which secured property to the owner and only
admitted him to a sort of partnership with the tiller of the soil, old
Gill speedily assured them that these were changes only to be adopted
in Ulster, where the tenants were rack-rented and treated like slaves.
*' Which of you here," would he say, " can come forward and say he
was ever evicted?" Now as the term was one of which none had
the very vaguest conception, — it might, for aught they knew, have
been an operation in surgery, — the appeal was an overwhelming
success. " Sorra doubt of it, but ould Peter's right, and there's
worse places to live in, and worse landlords to live under, than the
Lord." Not but it taxed Gill's skill and cleverness to maintain this


quarantine against the outer world; and lie often felt like Prince
Metternicli in a like strait — that it would only be a question of time,
and, in the long run, the newspaper fellows must win.

From what has been said, therefore, it may be imagined that
Kilgobbin was not a model estate, nor Peter Gill exactly the sort of
witness from which a select committee would have extracted any
valuable suggestions for the construction of a land code.

Anything short of Kate Kearney's fine temper and genial dis-
position would have broken down by daily dealing with this cross-
grained, wrong-headed, and obstinate old fellow, whose ideas of
management all centred in craft and subtlety — outwitting this man,
forestalling that — doing everything by halves, so that no boon came
unassociated with some contingency or other by which he secured to
himself unlimited power and uncontrolled tyranny.

As Gill was in perfect possession of her father's confidence, to
oppose him in anything was a task of no mean difficulty ; and the
mere thought that the old fellow should feel ofi'ended and throw up
his charge — a threat he had more than once half hinted — was a terror
Kilgobbin could not have faced. Nor was this her only care. There
was Dick continually dunning her for remittances, and importuning
her for means to supply his extravagances. "I suspected how it
would be," wrote he once, " with a lady paymaster. And when my
father told me I was to look to you for my allowance, I accepted the
information as a heavy pei'centage taken ofi" my beggarly income.
What could you — what could any young girl — know of the require-
ments of a man going out into the best society of a capital ? To
derive any benefit from associating with these people I must at least
seem to live like them. I am received as the son of a man of con-
dition and property, and you want to bound my habits by those of
my chum, Joe Atlee, whose father is starving somewhere on the pay
of a Presbyterian minister. Even Joe himself laughs at the notion
of gauging my expenses by his.

" If this is to go on — I mean if you intend to persist in this plan
—be frank enough to say so at once, and I will either take pupils, or
seek a clerkship, or go ofi' to Australia ; and I care precious little
which of the three.

" I know what a proud thing it is for whoever manages the revenue
to come forward and show a surplus. Chancellors of the Exchequer
make great reputations in that fashion ; but there are certain econo-
mies that lie close to revolutions ; now don't risk this, nor don't be
above takij»g a hint from one some years older than you, though he
neither rules his father's house nor metes out his pocket-money."

Such, and such like, were the epistles she received from time to


time, and thougli frequency blunted something of their sting, and
their injustice gave her a support against their sarcasm, she read and
thought over them in a spirit of hitter mortification. Of course she
showed none of these letters to her father. He indeed only asked if
Dick were well, or if he were soon going up for that scholarship or
fellowship, — he did not know which nor was he to blame, — "which,
after all, it was hard on a Kearney to stoop to accept, only that times
were changed with us ! and we weren't what we used to be " — a
reflection so overwhelming that he generally felt unable to dwell on it.



Mathew Kearney had once a sister whom he dearly loved, and
whose sad fate lay veiy heavily on his heart, for he was not without
self-accusings on the score of it. Matilda Kearney had been a belle
of the Irish court and a toast at the club when Mathew was a young
fellow in town ; and he had been very proud of her beauty, and tasted
a full share of those attentions which often fall to the lot of brothers
of handsome girls.

Then Matty was an heiress, that is, she had twelve thousand
pounds in her own right ; and Ireland was not such a California as

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 1 of 48)