Charles James Lever.

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

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underwood in places that barred the passage. Here and there little
patches of cultivation appeared, sometimes flowering plants, but
oftener vegetables. One long alley, with tall hedges of box, had
been preserved, which led to a little mound planted with laurels and
arbutus, and known as " Laurel Hill ; " here a little rustic summer-
house had once stood, and still, though now in ruins, showed where,
in former days, people came to taste the fresh breeze above the tree-
tops, and enjoy the wide range of a \iew that stretched to the
Slieve-Bloom mountains, nearly thirty miles away.

Young Kearney reached this spot, and sat down, to gaze upon a
scene every detail of which was well known to him, but of which he
was utterly unconscious as he looked. " I am turned out to starve,"
cried he, aloud, as though there was a sense of relief in thus pro-
claiming his sorrow to the winds. " I am told to go and work upon
the roads, to live by my daily labour. Treated like a gentleman
until I am bound to that condition by every tie of feeling and
kindred, and then bade to know myself as an outcast. I have not
even Joe Atlee's resource — I have not imbibed the instincts of the
lower orders, so as to be able to give them back to them in fiction or
in song. I cannot either idealize rebellion, or make treason tuneful.

"It is not yet a week since that same Atlee envied me my station
as the son and heir to this place, and owned to me that there was
that in the sense of name and lineage that more than balanced
personal success, and here I am now, a beggar ! I can enlist,
however, blessings on the noble career that ignores character and
defies capacity. I don't know that I'll bring much loyalty to her
Majesty's cause, but I'll lend her the aid of as broad shoulders and


tough sinews as m_v neighbours. " Ami here his voice grew louder
and harsher, aud with a ring of defiance in it. " And no cutting off
the entail, my Lord Kilgohbin ! no escape from that cruel necessity
of an heir ! I may carry my musket in the ranks, but I'll not
surrender my birthright ! "

The thought that he had at length determined on the path ho
should follow aroused his courage and made his heart lighter ; and
then there was that in the manner he was vindicating his station and
his claim that seemed to savour of heroism. He began to fancy his
comrades regarding him with a certain deference, and treating him
•with a respect that recognized his condition. " I know the shame
my father will feel when he sees to what he has driven me. What
an offence to his love of rank and station to behold his son in the
coarse uniform of a private ! An only son, and heir, too ! I can
picture to myself his shock as he reads the letter in which I shall
say good-by, and then turn to tell my sister that her brother is a
common soldier, and in this way lost to her for ever !

" And what is it all about ? What terrible things have I done ?
What entanglements have I contracted ? Where have I forged ?
Whose name have I stolen ? whose daughter seduced ? What is
laid to my charge, beyond that I have lived like a gentleman, and
striven to eat and drink and dress like one ? Aud I'll wager my life
that for one who will blame him, there will be ten — no, not ten,
fifty — to condemn me. I had a kind, trustful, aflectionate father,
restricting himself in scores of ways to give me my education among
the highest class of my contemporaries. I was largely supphed with
means, indulged in every way, aud if I turned my steps towards
home, welcomed with love and aflection."

"Aud fearfully spoiled by all the petting he met with," said a
soft voice leaning over his shoulder, while a pair of veiy liquid grey
eyes gazed into his own.

" What, Nina! — Mademoiselle Xina, I mean," said he, "have
you been long there ? "

" Long enough to hear you make a very pitiful lamentation over
a condition that I, in my ignorance, used to believe was only a little
short of Paradise."

" You fancied that, did you ? "

" Yes, I did so fancy it."

" Might I be bold enough to ask from what circumstance,
though ? I entreat you to tell me, what belongings of mine, what
resources of luxury or pleasure, what incident of my daily life,
suggested this impression of yours?"

"Perhaps, as a matter of strict reasoning, I have little to show

dick's reverie. 109

for my conviction, but if you ask me why I thought as I did, it was
simply from contrasting your condition with my own, and seeing that
in everything where my lot has gloom and darkness, if not worse,
yours, my ungrateful cousin, was all sunshine."

*' Let us see a little of this sunshine, cousin Nina. Sit down
here beside me, and show me, I pray, some of those bright tints that
I am longing to gaze on."

" There's not room for both of us on that bench."

" Ample room ; we shall sit the closer."

** No, cousin Dick ; give me your arm and we'll take a stroll

"Which way shall it be ? "

" You shall choose, cousin."

" If I have the choice then, I'll carry you off, Nina, for I'm
thinking of bidding good-by to the old house and all within it."

" I don't think I'll consent that far," said she, smiling. " I have
had my experience of what it is to be without a home, or something
very nearly that. I'll not willingly recall the sensation. But what
has put such gloomy thoughts in your head ? What, or rather who
is driving you to this ? "

" My father, Nina, my father ! "

" This is past my comprehending."

" I'll make it very intelligible. My father, by way of curbing my
extravagance, tells me I must give up all pretension to the life of a
gentleman, and go into an office as a clerk. I refuse. He insists,
and tells me, moreover, a number of little pleasant traits of my
unfitness to do anything, so that I interrupt him by hinting that I
might possibly break stones on the highway. He seizes the project
with avidity, and offers to supply me with a hammer for my work.
All fact, on my honour ! I am neither adding to nor concealing. I
am relating what occurred little more than an hour ago, and I have
forgotten nothing of the interview. He, as I said, offers to give me
a stone-hammer. And now I ask you, is it for me to accept this
generous offer, or would it be better to wander over that bog yonder,
and take my chance of a deep pool, or the bleak world where immersion
and death are just as sure, though a little slower in coming ? "

" Have you told Kate of this ? "

" No, I have not seen her. I don't know if I had seen her, that
I should have told her. Kate has so grown to believe all my father's
caprices to be absolute wisdom, that even his sudden gusts of passion
seem to her like flashes of a bright intelligence, too quick and too
brilliant for mere reason. She could give me no comfort nor counsel


" I am not of your mind," said she, slowly. " She has the great
gift of what people so mistakiugly call common-sense."

" And she'd recommend me, perhaps, not to quarrel with my
father, and to go and break the stones."

"Were you ever in love, cousin Dick?" asked she, in a tone
every accent of which betokened earnestness and even gravity.

" Perhaps I might say never. I have spooned or flirted, or
W'hatever the name of it might be, but I was never seriously attached
to one girl, and unable to think of anything but her. But what has
your question to do with this ? "

" Everything. If you really loved a girl, — that is, if she filled
eveiy corner of your heart, if she was first in every plan and project
of your life, not alone her wishes and her likings, but her very words
and the sound of her voice, — if you saw her in everything that was
beautiful and heard her in every tone that delighted you, — if to bo
moving in the air she breathed was ecstacy, and that heaven itself
without her was cheerless, — if "

" Oh, don't go on, Nina. None of these ecstasies could ever be
mine. I have no nature to be moved or moulded m this fashion. I
might be very fond of a girl, but she'd never drive me mad if she left
me for another."

" I hope she may then, if it be with such false money you would
buy her," said she fiercely. " Do you know," added she, after a
pause, " I was almost on the verge of saying, go and break the
stones ; the ' metier ' is not much beneath you, after all ! "

" This is scarcely civil, Mademoiselle ; see what my candour has
brought upon me ! "

" Be as candid as you like upon the faults of your nature. Tell
every wickedness that you have done or dreamed of, but don't own
to cold-heartedness. For that there is no sympathy ! "

" Let us go back a bit then," said he, " and let us suppose that
I did love in the same fervent and insane manner you spoke of, what
and how would it help me here ? "

" Of course it would. Of all the ingenuity that plotters talk of,
of all the imagination that poets dream, there is nothing to compare
with love. To gain a plodding subsistence a man will do much. To
win the girl he loves, to make her his own, he will do everything ; he
will strive, and strain, and even starve to win her. Poverty will have
nothing mean if confronted for her, hardship have no suffering if
endured for her sake. With her before him, all the world shows but
one goal ; without her, life is a mere dreary task and himself a hired

" I confess, after all this, that I don't see how breaking stones

dick's reverie. Ill

would be more palatable to me because some pretty girl that I was
fond of saw me hammering away at my limestone ! "

" If you could have loved as I would wish you to love, your
career had never fallen to this. The heart that loved would have
stimulated the head that thought. Don't fancy that people are only
better because they are in love, but they are greater, bolder, brighter,
more daring in danger, and more ready iu every emergency. So
wonder-working is the real passion that even iu the base mockery of
Love men have risen to genius. Look v/hat it made Petrarch, and I
might say Byron too, tho' he never loved worthy of the name."

"And how came you to know all this, cousin mine ? I'm really
curious to know that."

*' I was reared in Italy, cousin Dick, and I have made a deep
study of nature through French novels."

Now there was a laughing devilry in her eye as she said this,
that terribly puzzled the young fellow, for just at the very moment
her enthusiasm had begun to stir his breast, her meny mockery
wafted it away as with a storm-wind.

" I wish I knew if you were serious," said he, gravely.

" Just as serious as you were when you spoke of being ruined."

" I was so, I pledge my honour. The conversation I reported to
you really took place ; and when you joined me I was gravely
deliberating with myself whether I should take a header into a deep
pool or enlist as a soldier."

•' Fie, fie ! how ignoble all that is. You don't know the hundreds
of thousands of things one can do in life. Do you speak French or

" I can read them, but not freely ; but how are they to help me ? "

" You shall see : first of all, let me be your tutor. We shall
take two hours, three if you like, every morning. Are you free now
from all your college studies ?"

" I can be after Wednesday next. I ought to go up for my term

" Well, do so ; but mind, don't bring down Mr. Atlee with you."

*' My chum is no favourite of yours ?"

" That's as it may be," said she, haughtily. " I have only said
let us not have the embarrassment, or, if you like it, the pleasure of
his company. I'll give you a list of books to bring down, and my
life be on it, but my course of study will surpass what you have been
doing at Trinity. Is it agreed ? "

" Give me till to-morrow to think of it, Nina."

" That does not sound like a very wann acceptance ; but be it
so ; till to-morrow."


" Here are some of Kate's (.logs," cried he, angrily. " Down,
Fan, clown ! I say. I'll leave you now before she joins us. Mind,
not a word of what I told you."

And, without another word, he sprang over a low fence, and
speedily disappeared in the copse beyond it.

"Wasn't that Dick I saw making his escape?" cried Kate, as
she came up.

" Yes, we were taking a walk together, and he left me very

"I wish I had not spoiled a tctc-a-tete,'" said Kate, merrily.

"It is no great mischief: we can always renew it."

"Dear Nina," said the other, caressingly, as she drew her arm
around her — " dear, dear Nina, do not, do not, I beseech you."

" Don't what, child? — you must not speak riddles."

" Don't make that poor boy in love with you. You yourself told
me 5'ou could save him from it if you liked."

" And so I shall, Kate, if you don't dictate or order me. Leave
me quite to myself and I shall be most merciful."


MATHEw Kearney's *' study."

Had Mathew Kearney but read the second sheet of his corre-
spondent's letter, it is more than likely that Dick had not taken
such a gloomy view of his condition. Mr. M'Keown's epistle
continued in this fashion : — " That ought to do for him, Mathew, or
my name ain't Tom M'"Keown. It is not that he is any worse or
better than other young fellows of his own stamp, but he has the
greatest scamp in Christendom for his daily associate. Atlee is deep
in all the mischief that goes on in the national press. I believe he
is a head-centre of the Fenians, and I know he has a correspondence
with the French socialists, and that Rights-of-labour-knot of
vagabonds who meet at Geneva. Your boy is not too wise to keep
himself out of these scrapes, and he is just by name and station of
consequence enough to make these fellows make up to and flatter
him. Give him a sound fright then, and when he is thoroughly
alarmed about his failure, send him abroad for a short tour, let him
go study at Halle or Heidelberg — anything, in short, that will take
him away from Ireland, and break oft' his intimacy with this Atleo
and his companions. While ho is with you at Kilgobbin, don t let


him make acquaintance with those Radical fellows in the county
towns. Keep him down, Mathew, keep him down ; and if you fmd
that you cannot do this, make him helieve that you'll be one day
lords of Ivilgobbin, and the more he has to lose the more reluctant
he'll be to risk it. If he'd take to farming, and marry some decent
girl, even a little beneath him in life it would save you all uneasiness ;
but he is just that thing now that brings all the misery on us in
Ireland. He thinks he's a gentleman because he can do nothing ;
and to save himself from the disgrace of incapacity he'd like to be a

If Mr. Tom ]\PKeown's reasonings were at times somewhat
abstruse and hard of comprehension to his friend Kearney, it was
not that he did not bestow on them due thought and reflection ; and
over this private and strictly-confidential page he had now meditated
for hours.

*' Bad luck to me," cried he at last, " if I see what he's at. If
I'm to tell the boy he is ruined to-day, and to-morrow to announce
to him that he is a lord — if I'm to threaten him now with poverty,
and the morning after I'm to send him to Halle or Hell, or where-
ever it is — I'll soon be out of my mind myself through bare confusion.
As to having him ' down,' he's low enough ; but so shall I be too, if
I keep him there. I'm not used to seeing my house uncomfortable,
and I cannot bear it."

Such were some of his reflections over his agent's advice ; and it
may be imagined that the Machiavellian Mr. M*^Keown had fallen
upon a veiy inept pupil.

It must be owned that Mathew Kearney was somewhat out of
temper with his son even before the arrival of this letter. While
the " swells," as he would persist in calling the two English visitors,
were there, Dick took no trouble about them, nor to all seeming
made any impression on them. As Mathew said, " He let Joe
Atlee make all the running, and, signs on it ! Joe Atlee was taken
off to town as Walpole's companion, and Dick not so much as
thought of. Joe, too, did the honours of the house as if it was
his own, and talked to Lockwood about coming down for the
partridge-shooting, as if he was the head of the family. The fellow
was a bad lot, and M''Keown was right so far — the less Dick saw of
him the better."

The trouble and distress these reflections, and others like them,
cost him would more than have recompensed Dick, had he been
hard-hearted enough to desire a vengeance. " For a quarter of an
hour, or maybe twenty minutes," said he, "I can be as angry as
any man in Europe, and, if it was required of me during that time



to do anything desperate — downright wicked — I could be bound to
do it ; and what's more, I'd stand to it afterwards if it cost me the
gallows. But as for keeping up the same mind, as for being able to
say to myself my heart is as hard as ever, I'm just as much bent
on cruelty as I was yesterday — that's clean beyond me ; and the
reason, God help me, is no great comfort to me after all — for it's just
this : that when I do a hard thing, whether distraining a creature
out of his bit of ground, selling a widow's pig, or fining a fellow for
shooting a hare, I lose my appetite and have no heart for my meals ;
and as sure as I go asleep, I dream of all the mifortunes in life
happening to me, and my guardian angel sitting laughing all the
while and saying to me, ' Didn't you bring it on yourself, Mathew
Kearney ? couldn't you bear a little rub without trying to make a
calamity of it ? Must somebody be always punished when anything
goes wrong in life ? Make up your mind to have six troubles every
day of your life, and see how jolly you'll be the day you can only
count five, or may be four.' "

As Mr. Kearney sat brooding in this wise, Peter Gill made his
entrance into the study with the formidable monthly lists and
accounts, whose examination constituted a veritable doomsday to the
unhappy master.

" Wouldn't next Saturday do, Peter ?" asked Kearney, in a tone
of almost entreaty,

" I'm afther ye since Tuesday last, and I don't think I'll be able
to go on much longer."

Now as Mr. Gill meant by this speech to imply that he was
obliged to trust entirely to his memory for all the details which
would have been committed to writing by others, and to a
notched stick for the manifold dates of a vast variety of events,
it was not really a very unfair request he had made for a peremptory

" I vow to the lord," sighed out Kearney, " I believe I'm the
hardest worked man in the three kingdoms."

" Maybe you are," muttered Gill, though certainly the con-
currence scarcely sounded hearty, while he meanwhile arranged the

" Oh, I know well enough what you mean. If a man doesn't
work with a spade or follow the plough, you won't believe that ho
works at all. He must drive, or dig, or drain, or mow. There's no
labour but what strains a man's back, and makes him weary about
the loins; but I'll tell you, Peter Gill, that it's here," — and he
touched his forehead witii his finger — " it's here is the real work-
shop. It's thinking and contriving ; setting this against that ; doing

MATHEW Kearney's " study." 115

one thing that another may happen, and guessing what will come if
we do this and don't do that ; carrying everything in your brain,
and, whether you are sitting over a gLass with a friend or taking a
nap after dinner, thinking away all the time ! What would you call
that, Peter Gill — what would you call that ? "

" Madness, begorra, or mighty near it ! "

" No ; it's just work — brain-work. As much above mere manual
labour as the intellect, the faculty that raises us above the brutes, is
above the — the "

" Yes," said Gill opening the large volume, and vaguely
passing his hand over a page. " It's somewhere there about the
Conacre ! "

" You're little better than a beast! " said Kearney, angrily.

" Maybe I am, and maybe I'm not. Let us finish this, now that
we're about it."

And so saying, he deposited his other books and papers on the
table, and then drew from his breast-pocket a somewhat thick roll of
exceedingly dirty bank-notes, fastened with a leather thong.

" I'm glad to see some money at last, Peter," cried Kearney, as
his eye caught sight of the notes.

" Faix, then, it's little good they'll do ye," muttered the other

" What d'ye mean by that, sir ?" asked he, angrily.

" Just what I said, my lord, the divil a more nor less, and that
the money you see here is no more yours nor it is mine ! It belongs
to the land it came from. Ay, ay, stamp away, and go red in the
face : you must hear the truth, whether you like it or no. The place
we're living in is going to rack and ruin out of sheer bad treatment.
There's not a hedge on the estate ; there isn't a gate that could be
called a gate ; the holes the people live in isn't good enough for
badgers ; there's no water for the mill at the cross-roads ; and the
Loch meadows is drowned with wet — we're dragging for the hay,
like sea-weed ! And you think you've a right to these ' ' — and he
actually shook the notes at him — " to go and squander them on them
' impedint ' Englishmen that was laughing at you ! Didn't I hear
them myself about the tablecloth that one said was the sail of a

"Will you hold your tongue?" cried Kearney, wild with

" I will not ! I'll die on the floore but I'll speak my mind."

This was not only a favourite phrase of Mr. Gill's, but it was so
far significant that it always indicated he was about to give notice to
leave — a menace on his part of no unfrequont occurrence.


" Ye's, going, are ye ? " asked Kearney, jeeringly.

" I just am ; and I'm come to give up the books, and to get my
receipts and my cliarac — ter."

" It won't be hard to give the last, anyway," said Kearney, with
a gi'in.

" So much the better. It will save your honour much writing,
with all that you have to do."

" Do you want me to kick you out of the office, Peter Gill ? "

" No, my lord, I'm going quiet and peaceable. I'm only asking
my rights."

"You're bidding hard to be kicked out, you are ? "

" Am I to leave them here, or will your honour go over the books
with me ? "

" Leave the notes, sir, and go to the devil."

*' I will, my lord ; and one comfort at least I'll have — it won't be
harder to put up with his temper."

Mr. Gill's head barely escaped the heavy account-book which
struck the door above him as he escaped from the room, and Mathew
Kearney sat back in his chair and grasped the arms of it like one
threatened with a fit.

" Where's Miss Kitty — where's my daughter ? " cried he aloud,
as though there was some one within hearing. " Taking the dogs a
walk, I'll be bound," muttered he, " or gone to see somebody's
child with the measles, devil fear her ! She has plenty on her
hands to do anywhere but at home. The place might be going to
rack and ruin for her if there was only a young colt to look at, or a
new litter of pigs ! And so you think to frighten me, Peter Gill !
You've been doing the same thing every Easter, and every harvest,
these fivc-and-twenty years ! I can only say I wish you had kept
your threat long ago, and the property wouldn't have as many tumble-
down cabins and ruined fences as it has now, and my rent-roll, too,
wouldn't have been the worse. I don't believe there's a man in
Ireland more cruelly robbed than myself. There isn't an estate in
the county has not risen in value except my own ! There's not a
landed gentleman hasn't laid by money in the barony but myself, and
if you were to believe the newspapers, I'm the hardest landlord in
the province of Leinster. Is that Mickey Doolan, there ? Mickey ! "
cried he, opening the window, " did you see Miss Kearney anywhere
about ? ' '

" Yes, my lord. I see her coming up the Bog road with Miss

" The worse luck mine," muttered he, as he closed the window,
and leaned his head on his hand.

( 117 )



If Mathew Kearney had been put to the question, he could not have
concealed the fact, that the human being he most feared and dreaded
in life was his neighbour Miss Betty O'Shea.

With two years of seniority over him. Miss Betty had bullied him
as a child, snubbed him as a youth, and opposed and sneered at him
ever after ; and to such an extent did her influence over his character
extend, according to his own belief, that there was not a single good
trait of his nature she had not thwarted by ridicule, nor a single evil
temptation to which he had yielded, that had not come out of sheer,

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 12 of 48)