Charles James Lever.

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

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" Would it not be better first to sec if he's asleep ?" said she.


" That's true. I'll step up and see."

Lockwood hurried away, aud Joe Atlee, leaning back in his chair,
said, " Well, we gave the Saxon a canter, I think. As you know,
Dick, that fellow is no end of a swell."

" You know nothing about him," said the other, gruffly.

" Only so much as newspapers could tell me. He's Master of
the Horse in the Viceroy's household, and the other fellow is Private
Secretary, and some connection besides. I say, Dick, it's all King
James's times back again. There has not been so much grandeur
here for six or eight generations."

" There has not been a more absurd speech made than that,
within the time."

" And he is really somebody ? " said Nina to Atlee.

"A f/ran signorc davvero,'" said he, pompously. " If you don't
sing your very best for him, I'll swear you are a republican."

*' Come, take my arm, Nina. I may call you Nina, may I not ? "
whispered Kearney.

" Certainly, if I may call you Joe."

" You may, if you hke," said he roughly, " but my name is Dick."

" I am Beppo, and very much at your orders," said Atlee,
stepping forward and leading her away.



They were assembled in the drawing-room before dinner, when Lord
Kilgobbin arrived, heated, dusty, and tired, after his twelve-miles'
drive. " I say, girls," said he, putting his head inside the door, " is
it true that our distinguished guest is not coming down to dinner,
for, if so, I'll not wait to dress ? "

" No, papa ; he said he'd stay with Mr. Walpole. They've been
receiving and despatching telegrams all day, and seem to have the
whole world on their hands," said Kate.

" Well, sir, what did you do at the sessions ? "

"Yes, my lord," broke in Nina, eager to show her more mindful
regard to his rank than Atlee displayed ; " tell us your news ?"

" I suspect we have got two of them, and are on the traces of the
others. They are Louth men, and were sent special here to give me
a lesson, as they call it. That's what our blessed newspapers have
brought us to. Some idle vagabond, at his wits' end for an article,


fastens on some unlucky country gentleman, neither much bettor nor
worse than his neighbours, holds him up to public reprobation,
perfectly sure that within a week's time some rascal who owes him a
grudge — the fellow he has evicted for non-payment of rent, the
blackguard he prosecuted for perjury, or some other of the like
stamp — will write a piteous letter to the editor, relating his wrongs.
The next act of the drama is a notice on the hall- door, with a coffin
at the top ; and the piece closes with a charge of slugs in your body,
as you are on your road to mass. Now, if I had the making of the
laws, the first fellow I'd lay hands on would be the newspaper writer.
Eh, Master Atlee, am I right ? "

" I go with you to the furthest extent, my lord."

" I vote we hang Joe, then," cried Dick. " He is the only
member of the fraternity I have any acquaintance with."

•' What — do you tell me that you write for the papers ? " asked
my lord, slily.

" He's quizzing, sir ; he knows right well I have no gifts of that

"Here's dinner, papa. Will you give Nina your arm? Mr.
Atlee, you are to take me."

" You'll not agree with me, Nina, my dear," said the old man, as
he led her along ; "but I'm heartily glad we have not that great
swell who dined with us yesterday."

" I do agree with you, uncle — I dislike him."

" Perhaps I am unjust to him ; but I thought he treated us all
with a sort of bland pity that I found very offensive."

" Yes; I thought that too. His manner seemed to say, *I am
very sorry for you, but what can be done ? "

" Is the other fellow — the wounded one — as bad '? "

She pursed up her lip, slightly shrugged her shoulders, and then
said, " There's not a great deal to choose between them ; but I think
I like him better."

" How do you like Dick, eh ? " said he, in a whisper.

" Oh, so much," said she, with one of her half downcast looks,
but which never prevented her seeing what passed in her neighbour's

" Well, don't let him fall in love with you," said he, with a smile,
" for it would be bad for you both."

" But why should he ? " said she, with an air of innocence.

" Just because I don't see how he is to escape it. What's Master
Atlee saying to you, Kitty ? "

" He's giving me some hints about horse-breaking," said she,


" Is he, by George ? Well, I'd like to see him follow you over
that fallen timber iu the back lawn. We'll have you out, Master
Joe, and give you a field-day to-morrow," said the old man.

" I vote we do," cried Dick ; " unless, better still, we could
persuade Miss Betty to bring the dogs over and give us a cub-hunt."

" I want to see a cub-hunt," broke in Nina.

" Do you mean that you ride to hounds, cousin Nina ? " asked

" I should think that any one who has taken the ox-fences on the
Koman Campagna, as I have, might venture to face your small
stone-walls here."

" That's plucky, anyhow ; and I hope, Joe, it will put you on
your metal to show yourself worthy of your companionship. What
is old Mathew looking so mysteriously about ? What do you

The old servant thus addressed had gone about the room with the
air of one not fully decided to whom to speak, and at last he leaned
over Miss Kearney's shoulder, and whispered a few words in her ear.
" Of course not. Mat ! " said she, and then turning to her father — ■
"Mat has such an opinion of my medical skill, he wants me to see
Mr. Walpole, who, it seems, has got up, and evidently increased his
pain by it."

" Oh, but is there no doctor near us ? " asked Nina, eagerly.

"I'd go at once," said Kate, frankly, "but my skill does not
extend to surgery."

" I have some little knowledge in that way ; I studied and walked
the hospitals for a couple of years," broke out Joe. " Shall I go up
to him ? "

" By all means," cried several together, and Joe rose and followed
Mathew upstairs.

" Oh, are you a medical man ? " cried Lockwood, as the other

" After a fashion, I may say I am. At least, I can tell you where
my skill will come to its limit, and that is something."

" Look here, then — he would insist on getting up, and I fear he
has displaced the position of the bones. You must be veiy gentle,
for the pain is terrific."

" No ; there's no great mischief done, — the fractured parts are in
a proper position. It is the mere pain of distuiiiauce. Cover it all
over with the ice again, and " — here he felt his pulse — " let him have
some weak brandy-and-water."

" That's sensible advice, — I feel it. I am shivery all over,"
Baid Walpole.


"I'll go and make a brew for you," cried Joe, " and j'ou shall
have it as hot as you can drink it."

He had scarcely left the room, when he returned with the smoking

"You're such a jolly doctor," said Walpole, " I feel sure you'd
not refuse me a cigar ? "

" Certainly not,"

" Only think ! that old barbarian who was here this morning said
I was to have nothing bat weak tea or iced lemonade."

Lockwood selected a mild-looking weed, and handed it to hig
friend, and was about to offer one to Atlee, when he said : —

" But we have taken you from your dinner, — pray go back again."

" No, we were at dessert. I'll stay here and have a smoke, if
you will let me. Will it bore you, though ? "

" On the contrary," said Walpole, " your company will be a great
boon to us ; and as for myself, you have done me good already."

"What would you say, Major Lockwood, to taking my place
belowstairs ? They are just sitting over their wine — some very
pleasant claret, and the young ladies, I perceive, here, give half an
hour of their company before they leave the dining-room."

" Here goes then," said Lockwood. " Now that you remind me of
it, I do want a glass of wine."

Lockwood found the party belowstairs eagerly discussing Joe
Atlee's medical qualifications, and doubting whether, if it was a
knowledge of civil engineering or marine gunnery had been required,
he would not have been equally ready to offer himself for the emergency.

" I'll lay my life on it, if the real doctor arrives, Joe will take the
lead in the consultation," cried Dick : " he is the most unabashable
villain in Europe."

"Well, he has put Cecil all right," said Lockwood: "he has
settled the arm most comfortably on the pillow, the pain is decreasing
every moment, and by his pleasant and jolly talk he is making Walpole
even forget it at times."

This was exactly what Atlee was doing. Watching carefully the
sick man's face, he plied him with just that amount of amusement
that-he could bear without fatigue. He told him the absurd versions
that had got abroad of the incident in the press ; and cautiously
feeling his way, went on to tell how Dick Kearney had started from
town full of the most fiery intentions towards that visitor whom the
newspapers called a " noted profligate" of London celebrity. "If
you had not been shot before, we were to have managed it for you
now," said he.

" Surely these fellows who wrote this had never heard of me."


" Of course they had uot, further than you were on the Viceroy's
staff; but is uot that ample warranty for profligacy ? Besides, tho
real intention was not to assail you, but the people here who admitted
you." Thus talking, he led Walpole to own that he had no acquaint-
anceship with the Kearneys, that a mere passing curiosity to see tho
interesting house had provoked his request, to which the answer,
coming from an old friend, led to his visit. Through this channel
Atlee drew him on to the subject of the Greek girl and her parentage.
As Walpole sketched the society of Rome, Atlee, who had cultivated
the gift of listening fully as much as that of talking, knew where to
seem interested by the views of life thrown out, and where to show a
racy enjoyment of the little humoristic bits of description which the
other was rather proud of his skill in deploying ; and as Atlee always
appeared so conversant with the family history of the people they
were discussing, Walpole spoke with unbounded freedom and openness.

" You must have been astonished to meet the ' Titian girl ' iu
Ireland ? " said Joe, at last, for he had caught up the epithet dropped
accidentally in the other's narrative, and kept it for use.

" Was I not ! but, if my memory had been clearer, I should have
remembered she had Irish connections. I had heard of Lord
lulgobbin on the other side of the Alps."

"I don't doubt that the title would meet a readier acceptance
there than here."

" Ah, you think so ! " cried Walpole. " What is the meaning of
a rank that people acknowledge or deny at pleasure ? Is this peculiar
to Ireland ? "

" If you had asked whether persons anywhere else would like to
maintain such a strange pretension, I might perhaps have answered

" For the few minutes of this visit to me, I liked him ; he seemed
frank, hearty, and genial."

" I suppose he is, and I suspect this folly of the lordship is no
fancy of his own."

" Nor the daughter's then, I'll be bound ? "

"No ; the son, I take it, has all the ambition of the house."

" Do you know them well ? "

" No, I never saw them till yesterday. The son and I are chums ;
we live together, and have done so these three years."

" You like your visit here, however ? "

" Yes. It's rather good fun on the whole. I was afraid of the
indoor life when I was coming down, but it's pleasanter than I looked

** When I asked you the question it was not out of idle curiosity.


I had a strong personal interest iu j-our answer. In fact, it was
another way of inquiring whether it would be a great sacrifice to tear
yourself away from this."

" No, inasmuch as the tearing-away process must take place in a
couple of days — three at farthest."

" That makes what I have to propose all the easier. It is a
matter of great urgency for me to reach Dublin at once. This unlucky
incident has been so represented by the newspapers as to give consider-
able uneasiness to the Government, and they are even threatened
with a discussion on it in the House. Now, I'd start to-morrow, if I
thought I could travel with safety. You have so impressed me with
your skill, that, if I dared, I'd ask you to convoy me up. Of course
I mean as my physician."

" But I'm not one, nor ever intend to be."

" You studied, however ? "

" As I have done scores of things. I know a little bit of criminal
law — have done some shipbuilding — rode haute e'cole in Cooke's circus
— and, after M. Dumas, I am considered the best amateur macaroni-
maker in Europe."

" And which of these careers do you intend to abide by ? "

" None, not one of them. ' Financing ' is the only pursuit that
pays largely. I intend to go in for money."

" I should like to hear your ideas on that subject."

" So you shall, as we travel up to town."

" You accept my ofi'er then ? "

" Of course I do. I am delighted to have so many hours in your
company. I believe I can safely say I have that amount of skill to
be of service to you. One begins his medical experience with fractures.
They are the pot-hooks and hangers of surgery, and I have gone that
far. Now, what are your plans ? "

" My plans are to leave this early to-morrow, so as to rest during
the hot hours of the day, and reach Dublin by nightfall. Why do
you smile ? "

" I smile at your notion of climate ; but I never knew any man
who had been once iu Italy able to disabuse himself of the idea that
there were three or four hours every summer day to be passed with
closed shutters and iced drinks."

" Well, I believe I was thinking of a fiercer sun and a hotter soil
than these. To return to my project : we can find means of posting,
carriage and horses, iu the village. I forget its name."

" I'll take care of all that. At what hour will you start ? "

*• I should say by six or seven. I shall not sleep ; and I shall be
all impatience till we are away."


" Well, is there anything else to be thought of ? "
•• There is — that is, I have something on my mind, and I am
debating with myself how far, on a half-hour's acquaintance, I can
make you a partner in it."

" I cannot help you by my advice. I can only say that if you
like to trust me, I'll know how to respect the confidence."

Walpole looked steadily and steadfastly at him, and the examina-
tion seemed to satisfy him, for he said, " I will trust you, not that the
matter is a secret in any sense that involves consequences ; but it is
a thing that needs a little tact and discretion, a slight exercise of a
light hand, which is what my friend Lockwood fails in. Now you
could do it."

" If I can, I will. What is it?"

" Well, the matter is this. I have wi'itten a few lines here, very
illegibly and badly, as you may believe, for they were with my left
hand ; and besides having the letter conveyed to its address, I need
a few words of explanation."

" The Titian girl," muttered Joe, as though thinking aloud.
" Why do you say so ? "

" Oh, it was easy enough to see her greater anxiety and uneasiness
about you. There was an actual flash of jealousy across her features
when Miss Kearney proposed coming up to see you."
" And was this remarked, think you ? "

" Only by me. I saw and let her see I saw it, and we understood
each other from that moment."

" I mustn't let you mistake me. You are not to suppose that
there is anything between Mdlle. Kostalergi and myself. I knew a
good deal about her father, and there were family circumstances in
which I was once able to be of use ; and I wished to let her know
that if at any time she desired to communicate with me, I could
procure an address, under which she could write with freedom."

"As for instance : 'J. Atlee, 48, Old Square, Trinity College,
Dublin.' "

"Well, I did not think of that at the moment," said Walpole,
smiling. " Now," continued he, " though I have written all this, it
is so blotted and disgraceful generally — done with the left hand, and
while in great pain — that I think it would be as well not to send the

letter, but simply a message "

Alice nodded, and Walpole went on : "A message to say that
I was wishing to write, but unable ; and that if I had her permission,
so soon as my fingers could hold a pen, to finish — yes, to finish that
communication I had ah'eady begun, and if she felt there was no
inconvenience in writing to me, under cover to your care, I should


pledge myself to devote all my zeal aud my best services to her

" In fact, I am to lead her to suppose she ought to have the
most implicit confidence in you, and to believe in me, because I
say so."

" I do not exactly see that these are my instructions to you."

" Well, 5'ou certainly want to write to her."

" I don't know that I do."

" At all events, you want her to write to yow."

" You are nearer the mark now."

" That ought not to be very difficult to arrange. I'll go down
now and have a cup of tea, and I may, I hope, come up and see you
again before bedtime."

" Wait one moment," cried Walpole, as the other was about to
leave the room. " Do you see a small tray on that table yonder,
with some trinkets ? Yes, that is it. Well will you do me the
favour to choose something amongst them as your -fee ? Come,
come, you know you are my doctor now, and I insist on this.
There's nothing of any value there, and you will have no mis-

" Am I to take it haphazard ? " asked Atlee.

" Whatever you like," said the other indolently.

" I have selected a ring," said Atlee, as he drew it on his finger.

"Not an opal ?"

•' Yes, it is an opal with brilliants round it."

" I'd rather you'd taken all the rest than that. Not that I ever
wear it, but somehow it has a bit of memory attached to it ! "

*' Do you know," said Atlee, gravely, " you are adding immensely
to the value I desired to see in it ? I wanted something as a
Eouvenir of you — what the Germans call an Andenkm, and here is
evidently what has some secret clue to your affections. It was not
an old love-token ?"

" No ; or I should certainly not part with it."

" It did not belong to a friend now no more ?"

"Nor that either," said he, smiling at the others' persistent

" Then if it be neither the gift of an old love, nor a lost friend,
I'll not relinquish it," cried Joe.

"Be it so," said Walpole, half carelessly. "Mine was a mere
caprice after all. It is linked with a reminiscence — there's the whole
of it ; but if you care for it, pray keep it."

" I do care for it, and I will keep it."

It was a very peculiar smile that curled Walpole's lip as he heard


this speech, and there was an expression in his eyes that seemed to
say, " What manner of man is this, what sort of nature, new and
strange to me, is he made of ? "

"By-by!" said Atlee, carelessly, and he strolled away.



When Atlee quitted Walpole's room, he was far too full of doubt
and speculation to wish to join the company in the drawing-room.
He had need of time to collect his thoughts, too, and arrange his
plans. This sudden departure of his would, he well knew, displease
Kearney. It would savour of a degree of impertinence, in treating
their hospitality so cavalierly, that Dick was certain to resent, and
not less certain to attribute to a tuft-hunting weakness on Atlee's
part of which he had frequently declared he detected signs in Joe's

"Be it so. I'll only say, you'll not see me cultivate * swells '
for the pleasure of their society, or even the charms of their cookery.
If I turn them to no better uses than display, Master Dick, you may
sneer freely at me. I have long wanted to make acquaintance with
one of these fellows, and luck has now given me the chance. Let us
see if I know how to profit by it."

And, thus muttering to himself, he took his way to the farm-yard,
to find a messenger to despatch to Kilgobbin for post-horses.

The fact that he was not the owner of a half-crown in the world
veiy painfully impressed itself on a negotiation, which, to be prompt,
should be prepaid, and which he was endeavouring to explain to two
or three very idle but very incredulous listeners — not one of whom
could be induced to accept a ten miles' tramp of a drizzling night
without the prompting of a tip in advance.

" Its every step of eight miles," cried one.

" No ; but it's ten," asseverated another with energy, " by rayson
that you must go by the road. There's nobody would venture across
the bog in the dark."

" Wid five shillings in my hand "

" And five more when ye come back," continued another, who
was terrified at the low estimate so rashly adventured.

" If one had even a shilling or two to pay for a drink when he
got in to Kilbeggan wet through and shivering "


The speaker was not permitted to finish his ignominiously low
proposal, and a low growl of disapprobation smothered his words.

" Do you mean to tell me," said Joe, angrily, " that there's
not a man here will step over to the town to order a chaise and
post-horses ? "

" And if yer honour will put his hand in his pocket and tempt us
with a couple of crown pieces, there's no saying what we wouldn't
do," said a little bandy old fellow, who was washing his face at a

" And are crown-pieces so plentiful with you down here that you
can earn them so easily ?" said Atlee, with a sneer.

"Be me sowle, yer honor, it's thinking' that they're not so asy
to come at, makes us a bit lazy this evening 1 " said a ragged
fellow, with a grin, which was quickly followed by a hearty laugh
from those around him.

Something that sounded like a titter above his head made Atlee
look up, and there, exactly over where he stood, was Nina, leaning
over a little stone balcony in front of a window, an amused witness
of the scene beneath.

" I have two words for yourself," cried he to her in Italian.
*' Will you come down to the garden for one moment ? "

" Cannot the two words be said in the drawing-room?" asked
she, half- saucily, in the same language.

" No ; they cannot be said in the drawing-room," continued he,

" It's dropping rain. I should get wet."

" Take an umbrella then, but come. Mind me, Signora Nina,
I am the bearer of a message for you."

There was something almost disdainful in the toss of her head as
she heard these words, and she hastily retired from the balcony and
entered the room.

Atlee watched her, by no means certain what her gesture might
portend. Was she indignant with him for the liberty he had taken ?
or was she about to comply with his request, and meet him. He
knew too little of her to determine which was the more likely ; and
he could not help feeling that, had he even known her longer, his
doubt might have been just as great. Her mind, thought he, is
perhaps, like my own ; it has many turnings, and she's never very
certain which one of them she will follow. Somehow, this imputed
wilfulness gave her, to his eyes, a charm scarcely second to that of
her exceeding beauty. And what beauty it was ! The very per-
fection of symmetry in every feature when at rest, while the varied
expressions of her face as she spoke, or smiled, or listened, imparted


a fascination which only needed the charm of her low liquid voice to
be irresistihle.

How she vulgarizes that pretty girl, her cousin, by mere
contrast ! What subtle essence is it, apart from hair, and eyes,
and skin, that spreads an atmosphere of conquest over these natures,
and how is it that men have no ascendencies of this sort — nothing
that imparts to their superiority the sense that worship of them is iu
itself an ecstacy ?

" Take my message into town," said he, to a fellow near, " and
you shall have a sovereign when you come back with the horses ; "
and with this he strolled away across a little paddock and entered
the garden. It was a large, ill-cultivated space, more orchard than
garden, with patches of smooth turf, through which daffodils and
lilies were scattered, and little clusters of carnations occasionally
showed, where flower-beds had once existed. " What would I not
give," thought Joe, as he strolled along the velvety sward, over
which a clear moonlight had painted the forms of many a straggling
branch — " What would I not give to be the son of a house like this,
with an old and honoured name, with an ancestry strong enough to

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 10 of 48)