Charles James Lever.

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

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are the easier of the two to deal with ; — first of all, we don't press
for prompt paj'ment ; and, secondly, we'll not shock Exeter Hall !
Show him that strongly, and tell him that there arc clever fellows
amongst us who'll not compromise him or his party, and will never
desert him on a close division. Oh, dear me, how I wish I was going
in your place."

" So do I, with all my heart; but there's ten striking, and we
shall be late for breakfast."



The train by which Miss Betty O'Shca expected her nephew was late
in its arrival at Moate, and Peter Gill, who had been sent with the
car to fetch him over, was busily discussing his second supper when
the passengers arrived.


" Are you Mr. Gorman O'Sliea, sir ? " asked Peter of a well-
dressed and well-looking young man, who had just taken his luggage
from the train.

" No ; here he is," replied he, pointing to a tall powerful young
fellow, whose tweed suit and billycock-hat could not completely con-
ceal a soldierlike bearing and a sort of compactness that comes of
*' drill."

" That's my name. What do you want with me ? " cried he, in
a loud but pleasant voice.

" Only that Miss Betty has sent me over with the car for your
honour, if it's plazing to you to drive across."

"What about this broiled bone, Miller?" asked O'Shea. "I
rather think I like the notion better than when you proposed it."

" I suspect you do," said the other ; " but we'll have to step over
to the ' Blue Goat.' It's only a few yards off, and they'll be ready,
for I telegraphed them from town to be prepared as the train came in."

" You seem to know the place well."

" Yes. I may say I know something about it. I canvassed this
part of the county once for one of the Idlers, and I secretly determined
if I ever thought of trying for a seat in the House, I'd make the
attempt here. They are a most pretentious set of beggars these small
towns-folk, and they'd rather hear themselves talk politics, and give
their notions of what they think ' good for Ireland,' than actually
pocket bank-notes ; and that, my dear friend, is a virtue in a con-
stituency never to be ignored or forgotten. The moment, then, I

heard of M. 's retirement, I sent off a confidential emissary

down here to get up what is called a requisition, asking me to staud
for the county. Here it is, and the answer, in this morning's Freeman.
You can read it at your leisure. Here we are now at the ' Blue
Goat ; ' and I see they are expecting us."

Not only was there a capital fire in the grate, and the table ready
laid for supper, but a half-dozen or more of the notabilities of Moate
were in waiting to receive the new candidate, and confer with him over
the coming contest.

" My companion is the nephew of an old neighbour of yours,
gentlemen," said Miller; " Captain Gorman O'Shea, of the Imperial
Lancers of Austria. I know you have heard of, if you have not seen

A round of very hearty and demonstrative salutations followed,
and O'Gorman was well pleased at the friendly reception accorded

Austria was a great country, one of the company observed. They
had got liberal institutions and a free press, and they were good



Catholics, who would give those heretical Prussians a fine lesson one
of these days ; and Gorman O'Shea's health, coupled with these
sentiments, was drank with all the honours.

" There's a jolly old face that I ought to remember well," said
Gorman, as he looked up at the portrait of Lord Elilgobbin over the
chimney. " When I entered the service, and came back here on leave,
he gave me the first sword I ever wore, and treated me as kindly as
if I was his son."

The hearty speech elicited no response from the hearers, who only
exchanged significant looks with each other, while Miller, apparently
less under restraint, broke in with, "That stupid adventure the
English newspapers called * The gallant resistance of Kilgobbin
Castle ' has lost that man the esteem of Irishmen."

A perfect burst of approval followed these words ; and while
young O'Shea eagerly pressed for an explanation of an incident of
which he heard for the first time, they one and all proceeded to give
their versions of what had occurred ; but with such contradictions,
corrections, and emendations that the young man might be pardoned
if he comprehended little of the event.

" They say his son will contest the county with you, Mr. Miller,'
cried one.

" Let me have no weightier rival, and I ask no more."

" Faix, if he's going to stand," said another, " his father might
have taken the trouble to ask us for our votes. Would you believe
it sir, it's going on six months since he put his foot in this room ? "

" And do the * Goats ' stand that ? " asked Miller.

" I don't wonder he doesn't care to come into Moate. There's
not a shop in the town he doesn't owe money to."

" And we never refused him credit "

" For anything but his principles," chimed in an old fellow, whose
oratory was heartily relished.

" He's going to stand in the national interest," said one.

*' That's the safe ticket when you have no money," said another,

" Gentlemen," said MUler, who rose to his legs to give greater
importance to his address : — " If we want to make Ireland a country
to live in, the only party to support is the Whig Government ! The
nationalist may open the gaols, give licence to the press, hunt down
the Orangemen, and make the place generally too hot for the English.
But are these the things that you and I want or strive for ? We want
order and quietness in the land, and the best places in it for ourselves
to enjoy these blessings. Is Mr. Casey down there satisfied to keep
the post-ofiice in Moate when he knows he could be the first secretary
in Dublin, at the head-office, with two thousand a year ? Will my


friend Mr. McGloin say that he'd rather pass his life here than be a
Commissioner of Customs, and live in Merrion Square ? Ain't we
men ? Ain't we fathers and husbands ? Have we not sons to
advance and daughters to marry in the world, and how much will
nationalism do for these ?

" I will not tell you that the Whigs love us or have any strong
regard for us ; but they need us, gentlemen, and they know well that,
without the Kadicals, and Scotland, and our party here, they couldn't
keep power for three weeks. Now why is Scotland a great and
prosperous country ? I'll tell you. Scotland has no sentimental
politics. Scotland says, in her own homely adage, ' Ca' me and I'll
ca' thee.' Scotland insists that there should be Scotchmen everywhere
— in the Post Office, in the Privy Council, in the Pipe-water, and in
the Punjaub ! Does Scotland go on vapouring about an extinct
nationality or the right of the Stuarts ? Not a bit of it. She says,
Burn Scotch coal in the navy, though the smoke may blind you and
you never get up steam ! She has no national absurdities : she
neither asks for a flag nor a parliament. She demands only what
will pay. And it is by supporting the Whigs, you will make Ireland
as prosperous as Scotland. Literally, the Fenians, gentlemen, will
never make my friend yonder a baronet, nor put me on the Bench ;
and now that we are met here in secret committee, I can say all this
to you and none of it get abroad.

" Mind, I never told you the Whigs love us, or said that we love
the Whigs ; but we can each of us help the other. When they smash
the Protestant party, they are doing a fine stroke of work for Liberalism
in pulling down a cruel ascendency and righting the Romanists. And
when ice crush the Protestants, we are opening the best places in the
land to ourselves by getting rid of our only rivals. Look at the
Bench, gentlemen, and the high offices of the courts. Have not we
Papists, as they call us, our share in both ? And this is only the
beginning, let me tell you. There is a university in College Green
due to us, and a number of fine palaces that their bishops once lived
in, and grand old cathedrals whose very names show the rightful
ownership ; and when we have got all these — as the Whigs will give
them one day — even then we are only beginning. And now turn the
other side and see what you have to expect from the nationalists.
Some very hard fighting and a great number of broken heads. I give
in that you'll drive the Enghsh out, take the Pigeon-House fort,
capture the Magazine, and carry away the Lord Lieutenant in chains.
And what will you have for it, after all, but another scrimmage
amongst yourselves for the spoils. Mr. Mullen, of the Pike, will
want something that Mr. Darby McKeown, of the Convicted Felony


has.just appropriated ; Tom Casicly, that bunied the Grand ]\Iaster of
the Orangemen, finds that he is not to be pensioned for life ; and
Phil Costigan, that blew up the Lodge in the Park, discovers that he
is not even to get the ruins as building-materials. I tell you, my
friends, it's not in such convulsions as these that you and I, and other
sensible men like us, want to pass our lives. We look for a comfort-
able berth and quarter-day ; that's what we compound for — quarter-
day — and I give it to you as a toast with all the honours."

And certainly the rich volume of cheers that greeted the sentiment
vouched for a hearty and sincere recognition of the toast.

" The chaise is ready at the door, councillor," cried the landlord,
addressing Mr. Miller, and after a friendly shake-hands all round,
Miller slipped his arm through O'Shea's and drew him apart.

"I'll be back this way in about ten days or so, and I'll ask you
to present me to your aunt. She has got above a hundred votes on
her property, and I think I can count upon you to stand by me."

" I can, perhaps, promise you a welcome at the Barn," muttered
the young fellow in some confusion; "but when you have seen my
aunt, you'll understand why I give you no pledges on the score of
political support."

" Oh, is that the way ? " asked Miller, with a knowing laugh.

" Yes, that's the way, and no mistake about it," replied O'Shea,
and they parted.



In less than a week after the events last related, the members of the
" Goat Club " were summoned to an extraordinary and general
meeting, by an invitation from the vice-president, Mr. McGloin, the
chief grocer and hardware dealer of Elbeggan. The terms of this
cu'cular seemed to indicate importance, for it said — " To take into
consideration a matter of vital interest to the society."

Though only the denizen of a very humble country town, McGloin
possessed certain gifts and qualities, which might have graced a
higher station. He was the most self-contained and secret of men ;
he detected mysterious meanings in every — the smallest — event of
life ; and as he divulged none of his discoveries, and only pointed
vaguely and dimly to the consequences, he got credit for the correct-
ness of his unutterod predictions as completely as though he had
registered his prophecies as copyright at Stationers' Hall. It is


needless to say that on every question, religious, social, or political,
he was the paramount authority of the town. It was but rarely
indeed that a rebellious spirit dared to set up an opinion in opposition
to his ; but if such a hazardous event were to occur, he would suppress
it with a dignity of manner which derived no small aid from the
resources of a mind rich in historical parallel ; and it was really
curious for those who believe that history is always repeating itself,
to remark how frequently John McGloin represented the mind and
character of Lycurgus, and how often poor old, dreary, and bog-
suiTounded Moate recalled the image of Sparta and its " sunny

Now, there is one feature of Ireland which I am not quite sure is
very generally known or appreciated on the other side of St. George's
Channel, and this is the fierce spirit of indignation called up in a
county habitually quiet, when the newspapers bring it to public notice
as the scene of some lawless violence. For once there is union
amongst Irishmen. Every class, from the estated proprietor to the
humblest peasant, is loud in asserting that the story is an infamous
falsehood. Magistrates, priests, agents, middlemen, tax-gatherers,
and tax-payers, rush into print to abuse the "blackguard" — he is
always the blackguard — who invented the lie ; and men upwards of
ninety are quoted to show that so long as they could remember, there
never was a man injured, nor a rick burned, nor a heifer hamstrung
in the six baronies round ! Old newspapers are adduced to show how
often the going judge of assize has complimented the grand jury on
the catalogue of crime ; in a word, the whole population is ready to
make oath that the county is little short of a terrestrial paradise,
and that it is a district teeming with gentle landlords, pious priests,
and industrious peasants, without a plague-spot on the face of the
county except it be the police barrack, and the company of lazy
vagabonds with cross-belts and carbines, that lounge before it. When,
therefore, the press of Dublin at first, and afterwards of the empire
at large, related the night attack for arms at Kilgobbin Castle, the
first impulse of the county at large was to rise up in the face of the
nation and deny the slander ! Magistrates consulted together whether
the high-sheriff should not convene a meeting of the county. Priests
took counsel with the bishop, whether notice should not be taken of
the calumny from the altar. The small shopkeepers of the small
towns assuming that their trade would be impaired by these rumours
of disturbance — just as Parisians used to declaim against barricades
in the streets, — are violent in denouncing the malignant falsehoods
upon a quiet and harmless community : so that, in fact, every rank
and condition vied with its neighbour in declaring that the whole story


was a base tissue of lies, and •which could only impose upon those
who knew nothing of the county, nor of the peaceful, happy, and
brother-like creatures who inhabited it.

It was not to be supposed that, at such a crisis, Mr. John
McGloin would be inactive or indifferent. As a man of considerable
influence at elections, he had his weight with a county member, Mr.
Price ; and to him he wrote, demanding that he should ask in the
House what correspondence had passed between Mr. Kearney and
the Castle authorities with reference to this supposed outrage, and
whether the law officers of the Crown, or the adviser of the Viceroy,
or the chiefs of the local police, or — to quote the exact words — " any
sane or respectable man in the county " believed one word of the
story. Lastly, that he would also ask whether any and what cor-
respondence had passed between Mr. Kearney and the Chief Secretary,
with respect to a small house on the Kilgobbin property which Mr.
Kearney had suggested as a convenient police-station, and for which
he asked a rent of twenty-five pounds per annum ; and if such cor-
respondence existed, whether it had any or what relation to the
rumoured attack on Kilgobbin Castle ?

If it should seem strange that a leading member of the " Goat
Club " should assail its president, the explanation is soon made :
Mr. McGloin had long desired to be the chief himself. He and
many others had seen, with some irritation and displeasure, the
growing indifference of Mr. Kearney for the " Goats." For many
months he had never called them together, and several members had
resigned, and many more threatened resignation. It was time, then,
that some energetic steps should be taken. The opportunity for
this was highly favourable. Anything unpatriotic, anything even
unpopular in Kearney's conduct, would, in the then temper of the
club, be sufficient to rouse them to actual rebellion ; and it was to
test this sentiment, and, if necessary, to stimulate it, Mr. McGloin
convened a meeting, which a by-law of the society enabled him to do
at any period when, for the three preceding months, the president had
not assembled the club.

Though the members generally were not a little proud of their
president, and deemed it considerable glory to them to have a viscount
for their chief, and though it gave great dignity to their debates that
the rising speaker should begin " My Lord and Buck Goat," yet they
were not without dissatisfaction at seeing how cavalierly he treated
them, what slight value he appeared to attach to their companionship,
and how perfectly indifferent he seemed to their opinions, their wishes,
or their wants.

There were various theories in circulation to explain this change


of temper iu their chief. Some ascribed it to young Kearney, who
was a "stuck-up" young fellow, and wanted his father to give
himself greater airs and pretensions. Others opinioned it was the
daughter, who, though she played Lady Bountiful among the poor
cottiers, and afiected interest in the people, was iu reality tho
proudest of them all. And last of all, there were some who, in
open defiance of chronology, attributed the change to a post-dated
event, and said that the swells from the Castle, were the ruin of
Mathew Kearney, and that he was never the same man since the day
he saw them.

Whether any of these were the true solution of the difficulty or
not, Kearney's popularity was on the decline at the moment when
this unfortunate naiTative of the attack on his castle aroused the
■whole county and excited their feelings against him. Mr. McGloin
took every step of his proceeding with due measure and caution : and
having secured a certain number of promises of attendance at the meet-
ing, he next notified to his lordship, how, in virtue of a certain section
of a certain law, he had exercised his right of calling the members
together; and that he now begged respectfully to submit to the chief,
that some of the matters which would be submitted to the collective
wisdom would have reference to the " Buck Goat" himself, and that
it would be an act of great courtesy on his part if he should condescend
to be present and aiford some explanation.

That the bare possibility of being called to account by the " Goats "
would drive Kearney into a ferocious passion, if not a fit of the
gout, McGloin knew well ; and that the very last thing on his mind
would be to come amongst them, he was equally sure of: so that in
giving his invitation there was no risk whatever. Mathew Kearney's
temper was no secret ; and whenever the necessity should arise,
that a burst of indiscreet anger should be sufficient to injure a cause,
or damage a situation, "the lord" could be calculated on with a
perfect security. McGloin understood this thoroughly ; nor was it
matter of surprise to him that a verbal reply of " There is no
answer" was returned to his note; while the old servant, instead of
stopping the ass-cart as usual for the weekly supply of groceries
at McGloiu's, repaired to a small shop over the way, where colonial
products were rudely jostled out of their proper places by coils of
rope, sacks of rapeseed, glue, glass, and leather, amid which the
proprietor felt far more at home than amidst mixed pickles and

Mr. McGloin, however, had counted the cost of his policy ; ho
knew well that for the ambition to succeed his lordship as Chief of the
Club, he should have to pay by tho loss of the Kilgobbiu custom ; and


whether it was that the greatness in prospect was too tempting to
resist, or that the sacrifice was smaller than it might have seemed, he
was prepared to risk the venture.

The meeting was in so ftxr a success that it was fully attended.
Such a flock of "Goats" had not been seen by them since the
memoiy of man, nor was the unanimity less remarkable than the
number ; and every paragraph of Mr. McGloin's speech was hailed
with vociferous cheers and applause, the sentiment of the assembly
being evidently highly national, and the feeling that the shame which
the Lord of Kilgobbin had brought down upon their county was a
disgrace that attached personally to each man there present ; and that
if now their once happy and peaceful district was to be proclaimed
under some tyranny of English law, or, worse still, made a mark
for the insult and sarcasm of The Times newspaper, they owed the
disaster and the shame to no other than Mathew Kearney himself.

" I will now conclude with a resolution," said McGloin, who,
having filled the measure of allegati^-n, proceeded to the application.
"I shall move that it is the sentiment of this meeting that Lord
Kilgobbin be called on to disavow, in the newspapers, the whole
narrative which has been circulated of the attack on his house ; that
he declare openly that the supposed incident was a mistake caused
by the timorous fears of his household, during his own absence from
home : terrors aggravated by the unwarrantable anxiety^ of an
English visitor, whose ignorance of Ireland had worked upon an
excited imagination ; and that a copy of the resolution be presented
to his lordship, either in letter or by a deputation, as the meeting shall

While the discussion was proceeding as to the mode in which
this bold resolution should be most becomingly brought under Lord
Kilgobbin's notice a messenger on horseback arrived with a letter for
Mr. McGloiu. The bearer was in the Kilgobbin livery, and a
massive seal, with the noble lord's arms, attested the despatch to be
from himself.

" Shall I put the resolution to the vote, or read this letter first,
gentlemen?" said the chairman.

" Eead ! read!" was the cry, and he broke the seal. It ran
thus : —

" Mr. McGloin, — Will you please to inform the members of the
' Goat Club ' at Moatc that I retire from the presidency, and cease
to be a member of that society ? I was vain enough to believe at
one time that the humanizing element of even one gentleman in the
vulgar circle of a little obscure town, might have elevated the tone of


manners and the spirit of social intercourse. I have lived to discover
my great mistake, and that the leadership of a man like yourself is
far more likely to suit the instincts and chime in with the sentiments
of such a body.

" Your obedient and faithful servant,


The cry which followed the reading of this document can only be
described as a howl. It was like the enraged roar of wild animals,
rather than the union of human voices ; and it was not till after a
considerable interval that McGloin could obtain a hearing. He spoke
with great vigour and fluency. He denounced the letter as an
outrage which should be proclaimed from one end of Europe to the
other ; that it was not their town, or their club, or themselves had
been insulted, but Ireland ! that this mock lord — (cheers) — this
sham viscount — (greater cheers) — this Brummagem peer, whose
nobility their native courtesy and natural urbanity had so long
deigned to accept as real, should now be taught that his pretensions
only existed on sufferance, and had no claim beyond the polite
condescension of men whom it was no stretch of imagination to call
the equals of Mathew Kearney. The cries that received this were
almost deafening, and lasted for some minutes.

" Send the ould humbug his picture there," cried a voice from
the crowd, and the sentiment was backed by a roar of voices ; and it
was at once decreed the portrait should accompany the letter which
the indignant " Goats " now commissioned their chairman to

That same evening saw the gold-framed picture on its way to
Kilgobbin Castle, with an ample-looking document, whose contents
we have no curiosity to transcribe, — nor, indeed, is the whole
incident one which we should have cared to obtrude upon our
readers, save as a feeble illustration of the way in which the smaller
rills of public opinion swell the great streams of life, and how the
little events of existence serve now as impulses, now obstacles to the
larger interests that sway fortune. So long as Mathew Kearney
drank his punch at the "Blue Goat " he was a patriot and a
nationalist ; but when he quarrelled with his flock, ha renounced his
L'ishry, and came out a Whig.




When Dick Kearney waited on Cecil Walpole at his quarters in the
Castle, he was somewhat surprised to find that gentleman more
reserved in manner, and in general more distant, than when he had
seen him as his father's guest.

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 19 of 48)