Charles James Lever.

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

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"He is insufferable. I don't know that the man ever dined in
the company of ladies before ; did you remark that he did not open
the door as we left the dinner-room ? and if your brother had not
come over, I should have had to open it for myself. I declare I'm
not sure he stood up as we passed."

" Oh, yes ; I saw him rise from his chair."


" I'll tell you what you dul uot see. You did not see liim open
his napkin at dinner. Ho stole his roll of bread very slyly from the
folds, and then placed the napkin, carefully folded, beside him."

" You seem to have observed him closely, Nina."

" I did so, because I saw enough in his manner to excite suspicion
of his class, and I want to know what Dick means by introducing
him here."

" Papa liked him; at least ho said that after we left the room a
good deal of his shyness wore ofl', and that he conversed pleasantly
and well. Above all, he seems to know Ireland perfectly."

" Indeed ! " said she, half- disdainfully.

" So much so that I was heartily sorry to leave the room when I
heard them begin the topic ; but I saw papa wished to have some
talk with him, and I went."

" They were gallant enough not to join us afterwards, though I
think we waited tea till ten."

" Till nigh eleven, Nina ; so that I am sure they must have been
interested in their conversation."

" I hope the explanation excuses them."

"I don't know that they are aware they needed an apology.
Perhaps they were affecting a little of that British insouciance you
spoke of "

" They had better not. It will sit most awkwardly on their Irish

" Some day or other I'll give you a formal battle on this score,
Nina, and I warn you you'll not come so well out of it."

" Whenever you like. I accept the challenge. Make this
brilliant companion of your brother's the type, and it will test your
cleverness, I promise you. Do you even know his name ? "

" Mr. Daniel, my brother called him ; but I know nothing of his
country or of his belongings."

" Daniel is a Christian name, uot a family name, is it not ? We
have scores of people like that — Tommasini, Riccardi, and such like
— in Italy, but they mean nothing,"

" Our friend below-stairs looks as if that was not his failing. I
should say that he means a good deal."

" Oh, I know you are laughing at my stupid phrase — no matter ;
you understood me, at all events. I don't like that man."

"Dick's friends are not fortunate with you. I remember how
unfavourably you judged of Mr. Atlee from his portrait."

" Well, he looked rather better than his picture — less false, I
mean ; or perhaps it was that he had a certain levity of manner
that carried off" the perfidy."


*' What an amiable sort of levity ! "

"You are too critical on me by half this evening ' said Nina,
pettishly ; and she arose and strolled out upon the leads.

For some time Kate was scarcely aware she had gone. Her
head was full of cares, and she sat trying to think some of them
" out," and sec her way to deal with them. At last the door of the
room slowly and noiselessly opened, and Dick put in his head.

"I was afraid you might be asleep, Kate," said he, entering,
" finding all so still and quiet here."

" No. Nina and I were chatting here — squabbling, I believe, if
I were to tell the truth ; and I can't tell when she left me."

"What could you be quarrelling about?" asked he, as he sat
do\vn beside her.

" I think it was with that strange friend of yours. We were not
quite agreed whether his manners were perfect, or his habits those
of the well-bred world. Then we wanted to know more of him, and
each was dissatisfied that the other was so ignorant ; and, lastly, we
were canvassing that very peculiar taste you appear to have in
friends, and were wondering where you find your odd people."

" So then you don't like Donogan ? " said he, hurriedly.

" Like whom ? And you call him Donogan ! "

" The mischief is out," said he. " Not that I wanted to have
secrets from you ; but all the same, I am a precious bungler. His
name is Donogan, and what's more, it's Daniel Donogan. He was
the same who figured in the dock at, I believe, sixteen years of age,
with Smith O'Brien and the others, and was afterwards seen in
England in '59, known as a head-centre, and apprehended on
suspicion in 'GO, and made his escape from Dartmoor the same year.
There's a xcry pretty biography in skeleton, is it not ? "

" But, my dear Dick, how arc you connected with him ? "

" Not very seriously. Don't be afraid. I'm not compromised in
any way, nor does he desire that I should be. Here is the whole
story of our acquaintance."

And now he told what the reader already knows of their first
meeting and the intimacy that followed it.

" All that will take nothing from the danger of harbouring a man
charged as he is," said she, gravely.

" That is to say, if he be tracked and discovered."

" It is what I mean."

" Well, one has only to look out of that window, and see where
we arc, and what lies around us on every side, to be tolerably easy
on that score."

And, as he spoke, he arose, and walked out upon the terrace.

" ON TUE LExiDS." 109

" What, were you here all this time ? " asked he, as ho saw Nina
seated on the battlement, and throwing dried leaves carelessly to the

" Yes ; I have been here this half-hour, perhaps longer."

"And heard what we have been saying within there ? "

" Some chance words reached me, but I did not follow them."

" Oh, it was here you were then, Nina ! " cried Kate. " I am
ashamed to say I did not know it."

" We got so warm in discussing your friend's merits or demerits,
that we parted in a sort of huff," said Nina. " I wonder was he
worth quarrelling for?"

" What should you say ? " asked Dick, inquiringly, as he scanned
her face.

" In any other land I might say he was — thai is, that some
interest might attach to him ; but here, in Ireland, you all look
so much brighter, and wittier, and more impetuous, and more oiit of
the common than you really are, that I give up all divination of you,
and own I cannot read you at all."

" I hope you like the explanation," said Kate to her brother,

"I'll tell my friend of it in the morning," said Dick; "and
as he is a great national champion, perhaps he'll accept it as a

" You do not frighten by the threat," said Nina, calmly.

Dick looked from her face to his sister's and back again to hers,
to discern if he might how much she had overheard ; but he could
read nothing in her cold and impassive bearing, and he went his way
in doubt and confusion.



Befoee Kearney had risen from his bed the next morning, Donogan
was in his room, his look elated and his cheek glowing with recent
exercise. " I have had a burst of two hours' sharp walking over the
bog," cried he ; " and it has put me in such spirits as I have not
known for many a year. Do you know, Mr. Kearney, that what with
the fantastic effects of the morning mists, as they lift themselves over
these vast wastes — the glorious patches of blue heather and purple
anemone that the sun displays through the fog — and, better than all,
the springiness of a soil that sends a thrill to the heart, like a throb


of youth itself — there is no walking in the world can compare with a
bog at sunrise ! There's a sentiment to open a paper on nationalities !
I came up with the postboy, and took his letters to save him a couple
of miles. Here's one for you, I think from Atlee ; and this is also
to j'our address, from Dublin ; and here's the last number of the Pike,
and you'll see they have lost no time. There's a few lines about
you. ' Our readers will be grateful to us for the tidings we announce
to-day, with authority, — that Richard Kearney, Esq., son of Mathew
Kearney, of Kilgobbin Castle, will contest his native county at the
approaching election. It will be a proud day for Ireland when she
shall see her representation in the names of those who dignify the
exalted station they hold in virtue of their birth and blood, by claims
of admitted talent and recognized ability. Mr. Kearney, junior, has
swept the university of its prizes, and the College gate has long seen
his name at the head of her prizemen. He contests the seat in tho
National interest. It is needless to say all our sympathies, and
hopes, and best wishes go with him.' "

Dick shook with laughing while the other read out the paragraph
in a high-sounding and pretentious tone.

"I hope," said Kearney, at last, " that the information as to my
college successes is not vouched for on authority."

"Who cares a fig about them? The phrase rounds off a
sentence,. and nobody treats it Hke an affidavit."

" But some one may take the trouble to remind the readers that
my victories have been defeats, and that in my last examination but
one I got ' cautioned.' "

" Do you imagine, Mr. Kearney, the House of Commons in any
way reflects college distinction ? Do you look for senior-wranglers
and double-firsts on the Treasury bench ? and are not tho men who
cany away distinction the men of breadth, not depth ? Is it not the
wide acquaintance with a large field of knowledge, and the subtle
power to know how other men regard these topics, that make the
popular leader of the present day ? and remember, it is talk, and not
oratory, is the mode. You must be commonplace, and even vulgar,
practical, dashed with a small morality, so as not to be classed with
the low Radical ; and if then you have a bit of high falutin for the
peroration, you'll do. The morning papers will call you a young
man of great promise, and the whip will never pass you without a

" But there are good speakers."

" There is Bright — I don't think I know another — and he only
at times. Take my word for it, the secret of success with ' the
collective wisdom ' is reiteration. Tell them tho same thing, not


once or twice or eveu ten, but fifty times, and clou't vary very much
even the way you tell it. Go on repeating your platitudes, and by
the time you find you are cursing your own stupid persistence, you
may swear you have made a convert to your opinions. If you are
bent on variety, and must indulge it, ring your changes on the man
who brought these views before them — yourself, but beyond these
never soar. O'Connell, who had a variety at will for his own
countrymen, never tried it in England : he knew better. The
chawbacons that we sneer at are not always in smock-frocks, take
my word for it ; they many of them wear wide-brimmed hats and
broadcloth, and sit above the gangway. Ay, sir," cried he, warming
with the theme, " once I can get my countrymen fully awakened to
the fact of who and what are the men who rule them, I'll ask for no
Catholic Associations, or Repeal Committees, or Nationalist Clubs —
the card-house of British supremacy will tumble of itself ; there will
be no conflict, but simply submission."

" We're a long day's journey from these convictions, I suspect,"
said Kearney, doubtfully.

" Not so far, perhaps, as you think. Do you remark how little
the English press deal in abuse of us to what was once their custom ?
They have not, I admit, come down to civility ; but they don't deride
us in the old fashion, nor tell us, as I once saw, that we are
intellectually and physically stamped with inferiority. If it was
true, Mr. Kearney, it was stupid to tell it to us."

" I think we could do better than dwell upon these things."

" I deny that : deny it in toto. The moment you forget, in your
dealings with the, the cheap estimate he entertains, not
alone of your brains and your skill, but of your resolution, your
persistence, your strong will, ay, your very integrity, that moment, I
say, places him in a position to treat you as something below him.
Bear in mind, however, how he is striving to regard you, and it's
your own fault if you're not his equal, and something more perhaps.
There was a man more than the master of them all, and his name
was Edmund Burke ; and how did they treat him ? How insolently
did they behave to O'Connell in the House till he put his heel on
them ? Were they generous to Sheil ? Were they just to Plunkett ?
No, no. The element that they decry in our people they know they
have not got, and they'd like to crush the race, when they cannot
extinquish the quality."

Donogan had so excited himself now that he walked up and down
the room, his voice ringing with emotion, and his arms wildly tossing
in all the extravagance of passion. " This is from Joe Atlee," said
Kearney, as he tore open the envelope : —


" * Deai: Dick, — I cannot account for the madness that seems to
have seized you, except that Dan Donogan, the most rabid dog I
knoAV, has bitten you. If so, for heaven's sake have the piece cut
out at once, and use the strongest cautery of common sense, if you
know of any one who has a little to spare. I only remembered
yesterday that I ought to have told you I had sheltered Dan in our
rooms, but I can already detect that you have made his acquaintance.
He is not a bad fellow. He is sincere in his opinions, and
incorruptible, if that be the name for a man who, if bought to-morrow,
would not be worth sixpence to his owner.

"'Though I resigned all respect for my own good sense in
telling it, I was obliged to let H. E. know the contents of your
despatch, and then, as I saw he had never heard of Kilgobbin, or the
great Kearney family, I told more lies of your estated property, your
county station, your influence generally, and your abilities individu-
ally, than the fee-simple of your property, converted into masses, will
see me safe through purgatory ; and I have consequently baited the
trap that has caught myself ; for, persuaded by my eloquent advocacy
of you all, H. E. has written to Walpole to make certain inquiries
concerning you, which if satisfactory, he, Walpole, will put himself
in communication with you, as to the extent and the mode to which
the Government will support you. I think I can see Dan Donogan 's
fine hand in that part of your note which foreshadows a threat, and
hints that the Walpole story would, if published abroad, do enormous
damage to the Ministry. This, let me assure you, is a fatal error,
and a blunder which could only be committed by an outsider in
political life. The days are long past since a scandal could smash
an administration ; and we are so strong now that arson or forgery
could not hurt, and I don't think that infanticide would aifect us.

" ' If you are really bent on this wild exploit, you should see
Walpole, and confer with him. You don't talk well, but you write
worse, so avoid correspondence, and do all your indiscretions verbally.
Be angry if you like with my candour, but follow my council.

" ' Sec him, and show him, if you are able, that, all questions of
nationality apart, he may count upon your vote ; that there are
certain impracticable and impossible conceits in politics — like repeal,
subdivision of land, restoration of the confiscated estates, and such
like — on which Irishmen insist on being free to talk balderdash, and
air their patriotism ; but that, rightfully considered, they are as
harmless and mean just as little as a discussion on the Digamma, or
a debate on perpetual motion. The stupid Tories could never be
brought to see this. Like genmine dolts, they would have an army
of supporters, •one-minded with them in everything. We know better.


and hence we buy the Radical vote by a little coquetting with
communism, ami the model working-man and the rebel by aa
occasional gaol-delivery, and the Papist by a sop to the Holy Father.
Bear in mind, Dick — and it is the grand secret of political life — it
takes all sort of people to make a "party." When you have
thoroughly digested this aphorism, you are fit to start in the world.

" * If j-ou were not so full of what I am sure you would call your
"legitimate ambitions," I'd like to tell you the glorious life we lead
in this place. Disraeli talks of "the well-sustained splendour of
their stately lives," and it is just the phrase for an existence in which
all the appliances to ease and enjoyment are supplied by a sort of
magic, that never shows its machinery, nor lets you hear the sound
of its working. The saddle-horses know when I want to ride by the
same instinct that makes the butler give me the exact wine I wish
at my dinner. And so on throughout the day, " the sustained
splendour " being an ever-present luxuriousness, that I drink in with
a thirst that knows no slaking.

" ' I have made a hit with H. E., and, from copying some rather
muddle-headed despatches, I am now promoted to writing short
skeleton sermons on politics, which, duly filled out and fattened with
official nutriment, will one day astonish the Irish Office, and make
one of the Nestors of bureaucracy exclaim, " See how Danesbury has
got up the Irish question."

" ' I have a charming coUaborateur, my lord's niece, who was
acting as his private secretary up to the time of my arrival, and
whose explanation of a variety of things I found to be so essential
that, from being at first in the continual necessity of seeking her out,
I have now arrived at a point at which we write in the same room,
and pass our mornings in the library till luncheon. She is stunningly
handsome, as tall as the Greek cousin, and with a stately grace of
manner and a cold dignity of demeanour I'd give my heart's blood to
subdue to a mood of womanly tenderness and dependence. Up to
this, my position is that of a very humble courtier in the presence of
a queen, and she takes care that by no momentary forgetfulness shall
I lose sight of the " situation."

" ' She is engaged, they say, to be married to Walpole ; but as I
have not heard that he is heir-apparent, or has even the reversion to
the crown of Spain, I cannot perceive what the contract means.

" ' I rode out with her to-day by special invitation, or permis-
sion — which was it ? — and in the few words that passed between us,
she asked me if I had long known Mr. Walpole, and put her horse
into a canter without waiting for my answer.

" 'With H. E. I can talk away freely, and without constraint.


I am never very sure that he docs not know the things he questions
me on better than myself — a practice some of his order rather
cultivate ; hut, on the whole, our intercourse is easy. I know he is
not a little puzzled ahout me, and I intend that he should remain so.

" ' When you have seen and spoken with Walpole, write me what
has taken place between you ; and though I am fully convinced that
what you intend is unmitigated folly, I see so many difficulties in the
way, such obstacles, and such almost impossibilities to be overcome,
that I think Fate will be more merciful to you than your ambitions,
and spare you, by an early defeat, from a crushing disappointment.

" ' Had you ambitioned to be a governor of a colony, a bishoj),
or a Queen's messenger, — they are the only irresponsible people I
can think of, — I might have helped you ; but this conceit to be a
Parliament man is such irredeemable folly, one is powerless to deal
with it.

" ' At all events, your time is not worth much, nor is your public
character of a very grave importance. Give them both, then, freely
to the effort, but do not let it cost you money, nor let Donogan
persuade you that you are one of those men who can make patriotism

" ' H. E. hints at a very confidential mission on which he desires
to employ me ; and though I should leave this place now, with much
regret, and a more tender sorrow than I could teach you to compre-
hend, I shall hold myself at his orders for Japan if he wants me.
Meanwhile, write to me what takes place with Walpole, and put your
faith firmly in the goodwill and efficiency of

" ' Yours truly

" ' Joe Atlee.'"

" 'If you think of taking Donogan down with you to Kilgobbin,
I ought to tell you that it would be a mistake. Women invariably
dislike him, and he would do you no credit.' "

Dick Kearney, who had begun to read this letter aloud, saw
himself constrained to continue, and went on boldly, without stop or
hesitation, to the last word.

"I am very grateful to you, Mr. Kearney, for this mark of
trustfulness, and I'm not in the least sore about all Joe has said of

" He is not over complimentary to myself," said Kearney, and
the irritation he felt was not to be concealed.

" There's one passage in his letter," said the other, thoughtfully,
" well worth all the stress he lays on it. He tells you never to forget
it ' takes all sorts of men to make a party.' Nothing can moro


painfully prove the fact thau that we need Joe Atlee amongst our-
selves ! And it is true, ]\Ii*. Kearney," said he, sternly, "treason
must now, to have any chance at all, be many-handed. We want
not only all sorts of men, but in all sorts of places ; and at tables
where rebel opinions dared not be boldly announced and defended,
we want people who can coquet with felony, and get men to talk over
treason with little if any ceremony., Joe can do this — he can write,
and, what is better, sing you a Fenian ballad, and if he sees he has
made a mistake, he can quizz himself and his song as cavalierly as
he has sung it ! And now, on my solemn oath, I say it, I don't
know that anything worse has befallen us thau the fact that there
are such men as Joe Atlee amongst us, and that we need them — ay,
sir, we need them ! "

"This is brief enough, at any rate," said Kearney, as ho broke
open the second letter : —

" ' Dublin Castle, Wednesday Evening.

" ' Deae Sir, — Would you do me the great favour to call on me
here at your earliest convenient moment ? I am still an invalid, and
confined to a sofa, or would ask for permission to meet you at your

" ' Believe me, yours faithfully,

" ' Cecil Walpole.' "

" That cannot be delayed, I suppose ? " said Kearney, in the tone
of a question.

" Certainly not."

"I'll go up by the night mail. You'll remain where you are,
and where I hope you feel you are with a welcome."

" I feel it, sir — I feel it more than I can say." And his face
was blood-red as he spoke.

" There are scores of things you can do while I am away. You'll
have to study the county in all its baronies and subdivisions. There,
my sister can help you ; and you'll have to learn the names and
places of our great county swells, and mark such as may be likely to
assist us. You'll have to stroll about in our own neighbourhood, and
learn what the people near home say of the intention, and pick up
what you can of public opinion in our towns of Moate and Kilbeggan."

"I have bethought me of all that " He paused here and

seemed to hesitate if he should say more ; and, after an effort, he
went on : " You'll not take amiss what I'm going to say, Mr. Kearney.
You'll make full allowance for a man placed as I am ; but I want,
before you go, to learn from you in what way, or as what, you have
presented me to your family ? Am I a poor sizar of Trinity, whoso


hard struggle with poverty has caught your sym^^athy ? Am I a
chance acquaintance, whose only claim on you is heing known to Joe
Atlee ? I'm sure I need not ask you, have you called me hy my real
name and given me my real character ? "

Kearney flushed up to the eyes, and laying his hand on the
other's shoulder — " This is exactly what I have done. I have told
my sister that you are the noted Daniel Donogan — United Irishman
and rebel."

" But only to your sister ? "

" To none other."

" Shell not betray me, I know that."

" You are right there, Donogan. Here's how it happened, for it
was not intended." And now he related how the name had escaped

" So that the cousin knows nothing ? "

" Nothing whatever. My sister Kate is not one to make rash
confidences, and you may rely on it she has not told her."

" I hope and trust that this mistake will serve you for a lesson,
Mr. Kearney, and show you that to keep a secret, it is not enough
to have an honest intention, but a man must have a watch over his
thoughts and a padlock on his tongue. And now to something of
more importance. In your meeting with Walpole, mind one thing :
no modesty, no humility ; make your demands boldly, and declare
that your price is well worth the paying ; let him feel that, as he
must make a choice between the priests and the nationalists, that we

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 18 of 48)