Charles James Lever.

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

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Gill's conciliatory policy ! The Regans, for having been twice in
gaol, and once indicted, and nearly convicted of liibbonism, have
established a claim to live rent-free ! This I will promise to
rectify." — " I shall make no more allowances for improvements
without a guarantee, and a penalty besides on non-completion."
And last of all came these ominous words : —

"It will thus be seen that our rent-roll since 'G4 has been
progressively decreasing, and that we have only been able to supply
our expenses by sales of property. Dick must be spoken to on this,
and at once."

Several entries had been already rubbed out, and it was clear that
she had been occupied in the task of erasion on that very night.
Poor girl ! her sleep was the heavy repose of one utterly exhausted ;
and her closely clasped lips and corrugated brow showed in what
frame of intense thought she had sunk to rest. He closed the book
noiselessly, 'as he looked at her, replaced the various objects on the
table, and rose to steal quietly away.

The accidental movement of a chair, however, startled her; she
turned, and leaning on her elbow, she saw him as he tried to move
away. "Don't go, Dick; don't go. I'm awake, and quite fresh
again. Is it late ?"

" It's not far from one o'clock," said he, half-roughly, to hide his
emotion ; for her worn and wearied features struck him now more
forcibly than when she slept.

"And are you only returned now ? How hungry you must be.
Poor fellow — have you dined to-day ?"

"Yes; I got to Owen Molloy's as they were straining the
potatoes, and sat down with them, and ate very heartily, too."

" Weren't they proud of it ? Won't they tell how the young
lord shared their meal with them ? "

" I don't think they are as cordial as they used to be, Kate ;
they did not talk so openly, nor seem at their ease, as I once knew
them. And they did one thing significant enough in its way, that
I did not like. They quoted the county newspaper twice or thrice
when we talked of the land."

" I am aware of that, Dick; they have got other counsellors
than their landlords now," said she mournfully, " and it is our own
fault if they have."

" What, are you turning nationalist, Kitty ?" said he, laughing.

" I was always a nationalist in one sense," said she, " and mean


to continue so ; but let us not get upon this theme. Do you know
that Peter Gill has left us ? "

" What, for America ? " '

"No; for ' O'Shea's Barn.' Miss Betty has taken him. She
came here to-day to * have it out ' with papa, as she said ; and she
has kept her word. Indeed, not alone with him, but with all of
us — even Nina did not escape."

" lusufierable old woman. What did she dare to say to Nina ? "

" She got off the cheapest of us all, Dick," said she, laughing.
** It was only some stupid remark she made her about looking like a
boy, or being dressed like a rope-dancer. A small civility of this
sort was her share of the general attention."

" And how did Nina take the insolence ? "

"With great good temper, or good breeding. I don't know
exactly which covered the indifference she displayed, till Miss Betty,
when taking her leave, renewed the impertinence in the hall, by
saying something about the triumphant success such a costume
would achieve in the circus, when Nina curtsied, and said, — 'I am
charmed to hear you say so, madam, and shall weaf it for my
benefit ; and, if I could only secure the appearance of yourself and
your little groom, my triumph would be, indeed, complete.' I did
not dare to wait for more, but hurried out to affect to busy myself'
with the saddle, and pretend that it was not tightly girthed."

" I'd have given twenty pounds, if I had it, to have seen the old
woman's face. No one ever ventured before to pay her back with
her own money."

" But I give you such a wrong version of it, Dick. I only
convey the coarseness of the rejoinder, and I can give you no idea
of the ineffable grace and delicacy which made her words sound like
a humble apology. Her eyelids drooped as she curtsied, and when
she looked up again, in a way that seemed humility itself, to have
reproved her would have appeared downright cruelty."

"She is a finished coquette," said he, bitterly; "a finished

Kate made no answer, though he evidently expected one ; and
after waiting a while, he went on. " Not but her high accomplish-
ments are clean thrown away in such a place as this, and amongst
such people. What chance of fitting exercise have they with my
father ov myself ? Or is it on Joe Atlee she would try the range of
her artilleiy ? "

" Not so very impossible this, after all," muttered Kate, quietly.

" What, and is it to that her high ambitions tend ? Is he the
prize she would strive to win ?"


" I cau be no guide to you in this matter, Dick. She makes no
confidences with me, and of myself I see uothiug."

" You have, however, some influence over her."

" No ; not much."

"I did not say much; but enough to induce her to yield to a
strong entreaty, as when, for instance, you implored her to spare
your brother — that poor fellow about to fall so hopelessly in love "

" I'm not sure that my request did not come too late after all,"
Baid she, with a laughing malice in her eye.

" Don't be too sure of that," retorted he, almost fiercely.

" Oh, I never bargained for what you might do in a moment of
passion or resentment."

" There is neither one nor the other here. I am perfectly cool,
calm, and collected, and I tell you this, that whoever your pretty
Greek friend is to make a fool of, it shall not be Dick Kearney."

" It might be very nice fooling, all the same, Dick."

" I know — that is, I believe I know — what you mean. You
have listened to some of those high heroics she ascends to in showing
what the exaltation of a great passion can make of any man who has
a breast capable of the emotion, and you want to see the experiment
tried in its least favourable conditions, on a cold, soul-less, selfish
fellow of my own order ; but, take my word for it, Kate, it would
prove a sheer loss of time to us both. Whatever she might make of
me, it would not be a hero ; and whatever I should strive for, it
would not be her lore."

" I don't think I'd say that if I were a man."

He made no answer to these words, but arose and walked the
room with hasty steps. " It was not about these things I came here
to talk to you, Kitty," said he earnestly. " I had my head full of
other things, and now I cannot remember them. Only one occurs
to me. Have you got any money ? I mean a mere trifle — enough
to pay my fare to town ? "

"To be sure I have that much, Dick ; but you are surely not
going to leave us ? "

" Yes. I suddenly remembered I must be up for the last day of
term in Trinity. Knocking about here — I'll scarcely say amusing
myself— I had forgotten all about it. Atlee used to jog my memory
on these things when he was near me, and now, being away, I have
contrived to let the whole escape me. You can help me, however,
with a few pounds ? "

" I have got five of my own, Dick ; but if you want more "

" No, no ; I'll borrow the five of your own, and don't blend it
with more, or I may cease to regard it as a debt of honour."



" And if you should, my poor dear Dick-

" I'd be only pretty much what I have ever been, but scarcely
wish to be any longer," and he added the last words in a whisper.
" It's only to be a brief absence, Kitty," said he, kissing her ; " so
say good-by for me to the others, and that I shall be soon back

" Shall I kiss Nina for you, Dick ? "

" Do ; and tell her that I gave you the same commission for
Miss O'Shea, and was grieved that both should have been done by
deputy ! "

And with this he hurried away.



When the Government came into office, they were sorely puzzled
where to find a Lord Lieutenant for Ireland. It is, unhappily, a
post that the men most fitted for generally refuse, while the Cabinet
is besieged by a class of applicants whose highest qualification is a
taste for mock royalty combined with an encumbered estate.

Another great requisite, beside fortune and a certain amount of
ability, was at this time looked for. The Premier was about, as
newspapers call it, " to inaugurate a new policy," and he wanted a
man who knew nothing about Ireland ! Now, it might be carelessly
imagined that here was one of those essentials very easily supplied.
Any man frequenting club-life or dining out in town could have safely
pledged himself to tell off a score or two of eligible viceroys, so far
as this qualification went. The Minister, however, wanted more
than mere ignorance : he wanted that sort of indificrence on which a
character for impartiality could so easily be constructed. Not alone
a man unacquainted with Ireland, but actually incapable of being
influenced by an Irish motive or affected by an Irish view of anything.

Good luck would have it that he met such a man at dinner. He
was an ambassador at Constantinople, on leave from his post, and so
utterly dead to Irish topics as to be uncertain whether O'Donovan
Piossa was a Fenian or a Queen's counsel, and whether he whom he
had road of as the "Lion of Judah " was the king of beasts or
the Archbishop of Tuam !

The Minibtcr was pleased with his new acquaintance, and talked
much to him, and long. He talked well, and not the less well that


his listener was a fresh audience, who heard everything for the first
time, and with all the interest that attaches to a new topic. Lord
Danesbury was, indeed, that " sheet of white paper " the head of the
Cabinet had long been searching for, and he hastened to inscribe him
with the characters he wished,

" You must go to Ireland for me, my lord," said the Minister.
" I have met no one as yet so rightly imbued with the necessities of
the situation. You must be our viceroy."

Now, though a very high post and with great surroundings, Lord
Danesbury had no desire to exchange his position as an ambassador,
even to become a Lord Lieutenant. Like most men who have passed
their lives abroad, he grew to like the ways and habits of the
Continent. He liked the easy indulgences in many things, he liked
the cosmopolitanism that surrounds existence, and even in its little-
ness is not devoid of a cei-tain breadth ; and best of all he liked the
vast interests at stake, the large questions at issue, the fortunes of
States, the fate of Dynasties ! To come down from the great game,
as played by kings and kaisers, to the small traffic of a local govern-
ment wrangling over a road-bill, or disputing over a harbour, seemed
too horrible to confront, and he eagerly begged the Minister to allow
him to return to his post, and not risk a hard-earned reputation on a
new and untried career,

"It is precisely from the fact of its being new and untried I need
you," was the reply, and his denial was not accepted.

Refusal was impossible ; and, with all the reluctance a man
consents to what his convictions are more opposed to even than his
reasons. Lord Danesbury gave in, and accepted the viceroyalty of

He was deferential to humility in listening to the great aims and
noble conceptions of the mighty Minister, and pledged himself — as
he could safely do — to become as plastic as wax in the powerful hands
which were about to remodel Ii'eland.

He was gazetted in due course, went over to Dublin, made a state
entrance, received the usual deputations, complimented every one,
from the Provost of Trinity College to the Chief Commissioner of
Pipewater ; praised the coast, the corporation, and the city ; declared
that he had at length reached the highest goal of his ambition ;
entertained the high dignitaries at dinner, and the week after retired
to his ancestral seat in North Wales, to recruit after his late fatigue,
and throw off the effects of that damp, moist climate which already
he fancied had affected him.

He had been sworn in with every solemnity of the occasion ; he
had sat on the throne of state, named the officers of his household,


made a master of the liorse, ami a state steward, and a grand
chamberlain ; and, till stopped by hearing that lie could not create
ladies and maids of honour, he fancied himself every inch a king ;
but now that he had got over to the tranquil quietude of his mountain
home, his thoughts Avent away to the old channels, and he began to
dream of the Russians in the Ealcan and the Greeks in Thessaly.
Of all the precious schemes that had taken him months to weave,
what was to come of them vow ? How and with what would his
successor, whoever he should be, oppose the rogueries of Sumayloff
or the chicanery of Ignatief ; what would any man not trained to the
especial watchfulness of this subtle game know of the steps by which
men advanced ? "Who was to watch Bulgaria and see how far Russian
gold was embellishing the life of Athens ? There was not a hungry
agent that lounged about the Russian embassy in Greek petticoats
and pistols whose photograph the English ambassador did not possess,
with a biographical note at the back to tell the fellow's name and
birthplace, what he was meant for and what he cost. Of every inter-
view of his countrymen with the Grand Vizier, he was kept fully
informed, and whether a forage magazine was established on the
Pruth, or a new frigate laid down at Nickolief, the news reached him
by the time it arrived at St. Petersburg. It is true he was aware
how hopeless it was to write home about these things. The ambas-
sador who WT.-ites disagreeable despatches is a bore or an old woman.
He who dares to shake the security by which we daily boast we are
surrounded, is an alarmist, if not worse. Notwithstanding this, he
held his cards well " up," and played them shrewdly. And now he
was to turn from this crafty game, with all its excitement, to pore
over constabulary reports and snub justices of the peace !

But there was worse than this. There was an Albanian spy,
who had been much employed by him of late, a clever fellow, with
access to society, and great facilities for obtaining information.
Seeing that Lord Danesbury should not return to the embassy, would
this fellow go over to the enemy ? If so, there were no words for
the mischief he might effect. By a subordinate position in a Greek
government office, he had often been selected to convey despatches to
Constantinople, and it was in this way his lordship first met him ;
and as the fellow frankly presented himself with a very momentous
piece of news, he at once showed how he trusted to British faith not
to betray him. It was not alone the incalculable mischief such a man
might do by change of allegiance, but the whole fabric on which Lord
Danesbury's reputation rested was in this man's keeping ; and of all
that wondrous prescience on which he used to pride himself before
the world, all the skill with which he baffled an adversary, and


all the tact with wliich he overwhelmed a colleague, this same
" Spcridionides " could give the secret and show the trick.

How much more constantly, then, did his Lordship's thoughts
revert to the Bosphorus than the Liffy ! All this home news was
mean, common-place, and vulgar. The whole drama — scenery,
actors, plot — all were low and ignohle ; and as for this " something
that was to he done for Ireland," it would of course be some slowly
germinating policy to take root now, and blossom in another half-
centuiy : one of those blessed parliamentary enactments which men
who dealt in heroic remedies like himself regarded as the chronic
placebo of the political Quack.

" I am well aware," cried he, aloud, " for what they are sending
me over. I am to ' make a case ' in Ireland for a political legislation,
and the bill is already drawn and ready ; and while I am demon-
strating to Irish Churchmen that they will be more pious without a
religion, and the landlords richer without rent, the Russians will be
mounting guard at the Golden Horn, and the last British squadron
steaming down the Levant."

It was in a temper kindled by these reflections he wrote this
note : —

" Plmnuddm Castle, North Wales.

" Dear Walpole, — I can make nothing out of the papers you
have sent me ; nor am I able to discriminate between what you admit
to be newspaper slander and the attack on the castle with the
unspeakable name. At all events your account is far too graphic for
the Treasury lords, who have less of the pictorial about them than
Mr. Mudie's subscribers. If the Irish peasants are so impatient to
assume their rights that they will not wait for the ' Hatt-Houma'ioun,'
or Bill in Parliament that is to endow them, I suspect a little further
show of energy might save us a debate and a third reading. I am,
however, far more eager for news from Therapia. Tolstai has been
twice over with despatches ; and Boustikoff, pretending to have
sprained his ankle, cannot leave Odessa, though I have ascertained
that he has laid down new lines of fortification, and walked over
twelve miles per day. You may have heard of the great ' Spcridionides,'
a scoundrel that supplied me with intelligence. I should like much
to get him over here while I am on my leave, confer with him, and,
if possible, save him from the necessiti/ of other engagements. It is
not every one could be trusted to deal with a man of this stamp, nor
would the fellow himself easily hold relations with any but a gentle-
man. Are you sufficiently recovered from your sprained arm to
undertake this journey for mo ? K so, come over at once, that I


may give you all necessary iudicatious as to the man and his where-

" Maude has been ' on the sick list,' but is better, and able to
ride out to-day. I cannot fill the law appointments till I go over,
nor shall I go over till I cannot help it. The Cabinet is scattered
over the Scotch lakes. C. alone in town, and preparing for the War
Ministry by practising the goose-step. Telegraph, if possible, that
you are coming, and believe me yours,

" Danesbury."



Irishmen may reasonably enough travel for climate, they need
scarcely go abroad in search of scenery. Within even a very short
distance from the capital, there are landscapes which, for fonn,
outline, and colour, equal some of the most celebrated spots of
continental beauty.

One of these is the view from Bray Head over the wide expanse
of the Bay of Dublin, with Howth and Lambay in the far distance.
Nearer at hand lies the sweep of that graceful shore to Killiney, with
the Dalky Islands dotting the calm sea ; while inland, in wild
confusion, are grouped the Wicklow mountains, massive with wood
and teeming with a rich luxuriance.

When sunlight and stillness spread colour over the blue mirror
of the sea — as is essential to the scene — I know of nothing — not
even Naples or Amalfi, can surpass this marvellous picture.

It was on a terrace that commanded this view that Walpole and
Atlee sat at breakfast on a calm autumnal morning ; the white-sailed
boats scarcely creeping over their shadows ; and the whole scene, in
its silence and softened eflfect, presenting a picture of almost rapturous

" With half a dozen days like this," said Atlee, as he smoked
his cigarette, in a sort of languid grace, "one would not say O'Connell
was wrong in his glowing admiration for Lush sceneiy. If I were to
awake every day for a week to this, I suspect I should grow somewhat
crazy myself about the green island."

** And dash the description with a little treason too," said the
other superciliously. " I have always remarked the ingenious
connection with which Irishmen bind up a love of the picturesque
with a hate of the Saxon."


" Why not ? they arc bound together in the same romance. Can
you look on the Parthenon, and not think of the Turk ? "

" Apropos of the Turk," said the other, laying his hand on a
folded letter which lay before him, " here's a long letter from Lord
Danesbury about that wearisome ' Eastern question,' as they call the
ten thousand issues that await the solution of the Bosphorus. Do
you take interest in these things ?"

" Immensely. After I have blown myself with a sharp burst on
Home politics, I always take a canter among the Druses and the
Lebanites ; and I am such an authority on the ' Grand Idea,' that
Kangabe refers to me as ' the illustrious statesman whose writings
relieve England from the stain of universal ignorance about Greece.' "

" And do you know anything on the subject '? "

" About as much as the present Cabinet does of Ireland. I know
all the clap-traps ; the grand traditions that have sunk down into a
present barbarism^ — of course, thi-ough ill government ; the noble
instincts depraved by gross ill-usage ; I know the inherent love of
freedom we cherish, which makes men resent rents as well as laws,
and teaches that taxes are as great a tyranny as the rights of

" Ajid do the Greeks take this view of it ? "

" Of course they do ; and it was in experimenting on them that
your great Ministers learned how to deal with Ireland. There was
but one step from Thebes to Tipperary. Corfu was ' pacified ' —
that's the phrase for it — by abolishing the landlords. The peasants
were told they might spare a little if they liked to the ancient
possessor of the soil ; and so they took the ground, and they gave
him the olive-trees. You may imagine how fertile these were, when
the soil around them was utilized to the last fraction of productive-

" Is that a fair statement of the case ? "

" Can you ask the question ? I'll show it to you in print."

" Perhaps written by yourself."

'* And why not ? What convictions have not broken on my mind
by reading my own writings ? You smile at this : but how do you
know your face is clean till you look in a glass ? "

Walpole, however, had ceased to attend to the speaker, and was
deeply engaged with the letter before him.

" I see here," cried he, " his Excellency is good enough to say
that some mark of royal favour might be advantageously extended to
those Kilgobbin people, in recognition of their heroic defence. What
should it be, is the question."

" Confer on him the peerage, perhaps."



" That is totally out of the question."

" It was Kate Kearney made the defence ; why not give her a
commission in the army ? — make it another ' woman's right.' "

" You are absurd, Mr. Atlee."

" Suppose you endowed her out of the Consolidated Fund ? Give
her twenty thousand pounds, and I can almost assure you that a very
clever fellow I know will marry her."

" A strange reward for good conduct."

" A prize of virtue. They have that sort of thing in France, and
they say it gives a great support to purity of morals."

" Young Kearney might accept something, if we knew what to
offer him."

" I'd say a pair of black trousers ; for I think I'm now wearing
his last in that line."

" Mr. Atlee," said the other, grimly, " let me remind you once
again, that the habit of light jesting — ' persiflage ' — is so essentially
Irish, you should keep it for your countrymen ; and if you persist in
supposing the career of a private secretary suits you, this is an
incongruity that will totally unfit you for the walk."

" I am sure you know your countrymen, sir, and I am grateful
for the rebuke."

Walpole's cheek flushed at this, and it was plain that there was
a hidden meaning in the words which he felt, and resented.

"I do not know," continued Walpole, "if I am not asking you
to curb one of the strongest impulses of your disposition ; but it rests
entirely with yourself whether my counsel be worth following."

" Of course it is, sir. I shall follow your advice to the letter,
and keep all my good spirits and my bad manners for my country-

It was evident that Walpole had to exercise some strong self-
control not to reply sharply ; but he refrained, and turned ouce more
to Lord Danesbury's letter, in which he was soon deeply occupied.
At last he said : " His Excellency wants to send me out to Turkey,
to confer with a man with whom he has some confidential relations.
It is quite impossible that, in my present state of health, I could do
this. Would the thing suit you, Atlee — that is, if, on consideration,
I should opine that you would suit it / "

" I suspect," replied Atlee, but with every deference in his
manner, " if you would entertain the last part of the contingency

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 15 of 48)