Charles James Lever.

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

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And he was alone !




The family at Kilgobbin Castle were seated at tea when Dick
Kearuey's telegram arrived. It bore the address, " Lord Kilgobbiu,"
and ran thus : — " Walpolc wishes to speak with you, and will como
down with me on Friday ; his stay cannot be beyond one day. —
EiCHAED Kearney."

" What can he want with me ? " cried Kearney, as he tossed over
the despatch to his daughter. " If he wants to talk over the election,
I could tell him per post that I think it a folly and an absurdity.
Indeed, if he is not coming to propose for either my niece or my
daughter, he might spare himself the journey."

" Who is to say that such is not his intention, papa ? " said Kate,
merrily. " Old Catty had a dream about a pie-bald horse and a
haystack on fire, and something about a creel of duck-eggs, and I
trust that every educated person knows what they mean."

"I do not," cried Nina, boldly.

" Marriage, my dear. One is marriage by special licence, with a
bishop or a dean to tie the knot ; another is a runaway match. I
forget what the eggs signify."

" An unbroken engagement," intei-posed Donogan, gravely, " so
long as none of them are smashed."

" On the whole, then, it is very promising tidings," said Kate.

" It may be easy to be more promising than the election," said
the old man.

" I'm not flattered, uncle, to hear that I'm easier to win than a
seat in Parliament."

" That does not imply you are not worth a great deal more," said
Kearney, with an air oi gallantry. " I know if I was a young fellow
which I'd strive most for. Eh, Mr. Daniel ? I see you agree with

Donogan's face, slightly flushed before, became now crimson, as
he sipped his tea in confusion, unable to utter a word.

" And so," resumed Kearney, " he'U only give us a day to make
up our minds ! It's lucky, girls, that you have the telegram there to
tell you what's coming."

"It would have been more piquant, papa, if he had made his
message say, ' I propose for Nina. Reply by wire."

" Or, ' May I marry your daughter ? ' " chimed in Nina, quickly.

" There it is now," broke in Kearney, laughing, " you're fighting


for him already ! Take my word for it, Mr. Daniel, there's no so siiro
way to get a girl for a wife, as to make her believe there's another
only waiting to be asked. It's the threat of the opposition coach on
the road keeps down the fares."

" Papa is all wrong," said Kate. " There is no such conceivable
pleasure as saying No to a man that another woman is ready to
accept. It is about the most refined sort of self-flattery imaginable."

" Not to say that men are utterly ignorant of that freemasonry
among women which gives us all an interest in the man who marries
cue of us," said Nina. " It is only your confirmed old bachelor that
we all agree in detesting."

" Faith, I give you up altogether. You're a puzzle clean beyond
me," said Kearney, with a sigh.

" I think it is Balzac tells us," said Donogan, " that women and
politics are the only two exciting pursuits in life, for you never can
tell where either of them will lead you."

" And who is Balzac ? " asked Kearney.

" Oh, uncle, don't let me hear you ask who is the greatest novelist
that ever lived."

" Faith, my dear, except Tristram Shandy and Tom Jones, and
maybe Robinson Crusoe — if that be a novel — my experience goes a
short way. When I am not reading what's useful — as in the Farmer s
Chronicle or PurcelVs liotation of Crops — I like the ' Accidents ' in
the newspapers, where they give you the name of the gentleman that
was smashed in the train, and tell you how his wife was within ten
days of her third confinement ; how it was only last week he got a
step as a clerk in Somerset House. Haven't you more materials for
a sensation novel there, than any of your three-volume fellows will
give you ? "

" The times we are living in give most of us excitement enough,"
said Donogan. " The man who wants to gamble for life itself need
not be baulked now."

" You mean that a man can take a shot at an Emperor ? " said
Kearney, inquiringly.

" No, not that exactly : though there are stakes of that kind some
men would not shrink from. What are called ' arms of precision '
have had a great influence on modern politics. When there's no
time far a plebiscite there's always time for a pistol."

"Bad morality, Mr. Daniel," said Kearney, gravely.

"I suspect we do not fairly measure what Mr. Daniel says,"
broke in Kate. " He may mean to indicate a revolution, and not
justify it."

*' I mean both ! " said Donogan. ' ' I mean that the mere permission


to live uuder a bad government is too high a price to pay for life a%
all. I'd rather go ' down into the streets,' as they call it, and have
it out, than I'd drudge on, dogged by policemen, and scut to gaol on

" He is right," cried Nina. " If I were a man, I'd think as he

" Then I'm very glad you're not," said Kearney; " though, for
the matter of rebellion, I believe you would be a more dangerous
Fenian as you are. Am I right, Mr. Daniel ? "

" I am disposed to say you are, sir," was his mild reply.

" Ain't we important people this evening ! " cried Kearney, as
the servant entered with anothei telegram. " This is for you, Mr.
Daniel. I hope we're to hear that the Cabinet wants you in Dov.ning

" I'd rather it did not," said he, with a veiy peculiar smile, which
did not escape Kate's keen glance across the table, as he said, " May
I read my despatch ? "

" By all means," said Kearney ; while, to leave him more un-
disturbed, he turned to Nina, with some quizzical remark about her
turn for the telegraph coming nest. " What news would you wish it
should bring you, Nina ? " asked he.

" I scarcely know. I have so many things to wish for, I should
be puzzled which to place first."

" Should you like to be Queen of Greece ? " asked Kate.

" First teil me if there is to be a King, and who is he ? "

" Maybe it's Mr. Daniel there, for I see he has gone off in a great
hurry to say he accepts the crown."

" What should you ask for, Kate," cried Nina, " if fortune were
civil enough to give you a chance ? "

" Two days' rain for my turnips," said Kate, quickly. " I don't
remember wishing for anything so much in all my life."

'• Your turnips ! " cried Nina, contemptuously.

" Why not ? If you were a queen, would you not have to think
of those who depended on you for support and protection ? And how
should I forget my poor heifers and my calves — calves of very tender
years some of them — and all with as great desire to fatten them-
selves as any of us have to do what will as probably lead to our
destruction ? "

"You're not going to have the rain anyhow," said Kearney;
" and you'll not be soriy, Nina, for you wanted a fine day to finish
your sketch of Croghan Castle."

" Oh 1 by the way, has old Bob recovered from his lameness yet,
to be fit to be driven ? "


" Ask Kitty there ; she can tell you perhaps."

" Well, I don't think I'd harness him yet. The smith has
pinched him in the off fore-foot, and he goes tender still."

"So do I when I go afoot, for I hate it," cried Nina ; " and I
want a day in the open air, and I want to finish my old Castle of
Croghan — and last of all," whispered she in liate's ear, " I want to
show my distinguished fi-ieud Mr. Walpole that the prospect of a
visit from him does not induce me to keep the house. So that, from
all the wants put together, I shall take an early breakfast, and start
to-morrow for Cruhan — is not that the name of the little village iu
the bog ? "

" That's Miss Betty's o'^ti towulaud — though I don't know she's
much the richer of her tenants," said Kearney, laughing. " The
oldest inhabitants never remember a rent-day."

" What a happy set of people ! "

" Just the reverse. You never saw misery till you saw them
There is not a cabin fit for a human being, nor is there one creature
in the place with enough rags to cover him."

" They were very civil as I drove through. I remember how a
little basket had fallen out, and a girl followed me ten miles of the
road to restore it," said Nina.

" That they would ; and if it were a purse of gold they'd have
done the same," cried Kate.

"Won't you say that they'd shoot you for half-a-crown, though? "
said Kearney, " and that the worst ' Whiteboys ' of Ireland come out
of the same village ? "

" I do like a people so unlike all the rest of the world," cried
Nina; "whose motives none can guess at, none forecast. I'll go
there to-morrow."

These words were said as Daniel had just re-entered the room,
and he stopped and asked, " Where to ?"

To a Whiteboy village called Cruhan, some ten miles off, close to
an old castle I have been sketching."

"Do you mean to go there to-morrow?" asked he, half-
carelessly; but, not waiting for her answer, and as if fully pre-
occupied, ho turned and left the room.




The little basket-carriage in which Nina made her excursions, and
which courtesy called a phaeton, would scarcely have been taken as
a model at Long Acre. A massive old wicker-cradle constituted the
body, which, from a slight inequality in the wheels, had got an
uncomfortable " lurch to port," while the rumble was supplied by a
narrow shelf, on which her foot-page sat dos-d-dos to herself-^a
position not rendered more dignified by his invariable habit of playing
pitch-and-toss with himself, as a means of distraction in travel.

Except Bob, the sturdy little pony in the shafts, nothing could be
less schooled or disciplined than Larry himself. At sight of a party
at marbles or hop- scotch, he was sure to desert his post, trusting to
short-cuts and speed to catch up his mistress later on.

As for Bob, a tuft of clover or fresh grass on the roadside were
temptations to the full as great to him, and no amount of whipping
could induce him to continue his road leaving these dainties untasted.
As in Mr. Gill's time he had carried that important personage he
had contracted the habit of stopping at every cabin by the way,
giving to each halt the amount of time he believed the colloquy should
have occupied, and then, without any admonition, resuming his
journey. In fact, as an index to the refractory tenants on the estate,
his mode of progression, with its interruptions might have been
employed, and the sturdy fashion in which he would " draw up " at
certain doors might be taken as the forerunner of an ejectment.

The blessed change by wliich the county saw the beast now
driven by a beautiful young lady, instead of bestrode by an inimical
bailiti", added to a popularity which Ireland in her poorest and darkest
hour always accords to beauty ; and they, indeed, who trace points
of resemblance between two distant peoples, have not failed to remark
that the Irish, like the Italians, invariably refer all female loveliness
to that type of surpassing excellence, the Madonna.

Nina had too much of the South in her blood not to like the
heartfelt, outspoken admiration which greeted her as she went ; and
the "God bless you — but you are a lovely crayture ! " delighted,
while it amused her in the way the qualification was ex]:)ressed.

It was soon after sunrise on this Friday morning that she drove
down the approach, and made her way across the bog towards
Cruhan. Though pretending to her uncle to be only eager to finish
her sketch of Croghan Castle, her journey was really prompted by


very different considerations. By Dick's telegram she learned that
Walpole was to arrive that day at Kilgobbiu, and as his stay could
not be prolonged beyond the evening, she secretly determined she
would absent herself so much as she could from home — only returning
to a late dinner — and thus show her distinguished friend how cheaply
she held the occasion of his visit, and what value she attached to the
pleasure of seeing him at the castle.

She knew Walpole thoroughly — she understood the working of
such a nature to perfection, and she could calculate to a nicety the
mortification, and even auger, such a man would experience at being
thus slighted. " These men," thought she, " only feel for what is
done to them before the world ; it is the insult that is passed upon
them in public, the soiifflet that is given in the street, that alone can
wound them to the quick." A woman may grow tired of their
attentions, become capricious and change, she may be piqued by
jealousy, or, what is worse, by indifference ; but, while she makes no
open manifestation of these, they can be borne : the really insupport-
able thing is, that a woman should be able to exhibit a man as a
creature that had no possible concern or interest for her — one who
might come or go, or stay on, utterly unregarded or uncared for.
To have played this game during the long hours of a long day was a
burden she did not fancy to encounter, whereas to fill the part for
the short space of a dinner, and an hour or so in the drawing-room,
she looked forward to rather as an exciting amusement.

" He has had a day to throw away," said she to herself, " and he
will give it to the Greek gii-1. I almost hear him as he says it.
How one learns to know these men in every nook and crevice of their
natures, and how by never relaxing a hold on the one clue of their
vanity, one can trace every emotion of their lives."

In her old life of Rome these small jealousies, these petty passions
of spite, defiance, and wounded sensibility filled a considerable space
of her existence. Her position in society, dependent as she was,
exposed her to small mortifications ; the cold semi- contemptuous
notice of women who saw she was prettier than themselves, and the
half- swaggering carlessness of the men, who felt that a bit of flirtation
with the Titian girl was as irresponsible a thing as might be.

" But here," thought she, " I am the niece of a man of recognized
station ; I am treated in his family with a more than ordinary
deference and respect — his very daughter would cede the place of
honour to me, and my will is never questioned. It is time to teach
this pretentious fine gentleman that our positions are not what they
once were. If I were a man, I should never cease till I had fastened
a quarrel on him ; and being a woman, I could give my love to the


man ■who would avenge me. Avenge me of what ? a mere slight, a
mood of impertinent forgetfulness — nothing more — as if anything
could be more to a woman's heart ! A downright wi'ong can be
forgiven, an absolute injury pardoned — one is raised to self-esteem
by such an act of forgiveness ; but there is no elevation in submitting
patiently to a slight. It is simply the confession that the liberty
taken with you was justifiable, was even natural."

These were the sum of her thoughts, as she went, ever recurring
to the point how Walpole would feel offended by her absence, and how
such a mark of her indifference would pique his vanity, even to insult.

Then she pictured to her mind how this fine gentleman would
feel the boredom of that dreary day. True, it would be but a day ;
l)ut these men were not tolerant of the people who made time pass
heavily with them, and they revenged their own ennui on all around
them. How he would snub the old man for the son's pretensions,
and sneer at the young man for his disproportioued ambition ; and,
last of all, how he would mystify poor Kate, till she never knew
whether he cared to fatten calves and turkeys, or was simply drawing
her on to little details, which he was to dramatize one day in an
after-dinner story.

She thought of the closed pianoforte, and her music on the top —
the songs he loved best ; she had actually left Mendelssohn there to
be seen — a very bait to awaken his passion. She thought she
actually saw the fretful impatience with which he threw the music
aside and walked to the window to hide his auger.

*' This excursion of Mademoiselle Nina was then a sudden
thought, you tell me ; only planned last night ? And is the country
considered safe enough for a young lady to go oft' in this fashion ?
Is it secure — is it decent ? I know he will ask, ' Is it decent ? '
Kate will not feel — she will not see the impertinence with which he
will assure her that she herself may be privileged to do these things ;
that her * Irishry ' was itself a safeguard, but Dick will notice the
sneer. Oh, if he would but resent it ! How little hope there is of
that. These young Irishmen get so overlaid by the English in early
life, they never resist their dominance : they accept everything in a
sort of natural submission. I wonder does the rebel sentiment make
them any bolder ?" And then she bethought her of some of those
national songs Mr. Daniel had been teaching her, and which seemed
to have such an overwhelming influence over his passionate nature.
She had oven seen the tears in his eyes, and twice he could not speak
to her with emotion. What a triumph it would have been to have
made the high-bred Mr. Walpole feel in this wise. Possibly at the
moment, the vulgar Fenian seemed the finer fellow. Scarcely had


the tliought struck her, than there, about fifty yards in advance, and
walking at a tremendous pace, was the very man himself,

" Is not that Mr. Daniel, Larry ? " asked she quickly.

But Larry had already struck off on a short-cut across the bog,
and was miles away.

Yes, it could be none other than Mr. Daniel. The coat thrown
back, the loose-stepping stride, and the occasional flourish of the
stick as he went, all proclaimed the man. The noise of the wheels
on the hard road made him turn his head ; and now, seeing who it
was, he stood uncovered till she drove up beside him.

" Who would have thought to see you here at this hour," said
he, saluting her with deep respect.

" No one is more surprised at it than myself," said she, laughing ;
" but I have a partly done sketch of an old castle, and I thought in
this fine autumn weather I should like to throw in the colour. And
besides, there are now and then with mo unsocial moments when I
fancy I like to be alone. Do you know what these are ? "

" Do I know ? — too well."

" These motives then, not to think of others, led me to plan this
excursion ; and now will you be as candid, and say what is your
project ?"

' ' I am bound for a little village called Cruhan : a very poor
unenticing spot : but I want to see the people there, and hear what
they say of these rumours of new laws about the laud."

" And can they tell you anything that would be likely to interest
you ? "

" Yes, their very mistakes would convey their hopes ; and hopes
have come to mean a great deal in Ireland."

" Our roads are then the same. I am on my way to Croghan

" Croghan is but a mile from my village of Cruhan," said he.

" I am aware of that, and it was in your village of Cruhan, as you
call it, I meant to stable my pony till I had finished my sketch ; but
my gentle page, Larry, I see, has deserted me ; I don't know if I shall
find him again."

" Will you let me be your groom ? I shall be at the village almost
as soon as yourself, and I'll look after your pony."

" Do you think you could manage to seat yourself on that shelf at
the back? "

" It is a gi-eat temptation you offer me, if I were not ashamed to
be a burden."

" Not to me, certainly ; and as for the pony, I scarcely think he'll
mind it."


''At all events I shall walk the hills."

" I helieve there are none. If I rememher aright, it is all through
a level bog."

" You were at tea last night when a certain telegram came ?"

"To be sure I was. I was there, too, when one came for you,
and saw j'ou leave the room immediately after."

" In evident confusion ? " added he, smiling.

" Yes, I should say, in evident confusion. At least, you looked
like one who had got some very unexpected tidings."

" So it was. There is the message." And he drew from his
pocket a slip of paper, with the words, " Walpole is coming for a day.
Take care to he out of the way till he is gone."

" Which means, that he is no friend of yours."

"He is neither friend nor enemy. I never saw him ; but he is
the private secretary, and, I believe, the nephew of the Viceroy, and
would find it very strange company to be domiciled with a rebel."

" And you are a rebel ? "

"At your service. Mademoiselle Kostalergi."

" And a Fenian, and Head-Centre ?"

"A Fenian and a Head-Centre."

" And probably ought to be in prison ?"

" I have been already, and as far as the sentence of English law
goes, should be still there."

" How delighted I am to know that. I mean, what a thrilling
sensation it is to be driving along with a man so dangerous, that the
whole country would be up and in pursuit of him at a mere word."

" That is true. I believe I should be worth some hundred pounds
to any one who would capture me. I suspect it is the only way I
could turn to valuable account."

" What, if I were to drive you into Moate and give you up ?"

" You might. I'll not run away."

" I should go straight to the Podestk, or whatever he is, and
say, * Here is the notorious Daniel Donogan, the rebel you arc all
ufraid of.' "

" How came you by my name ? " asked he curtly.

" By accident. I overheard Dick telling it to his sister. It
dropped from him unawares, and I was on the terrace and caught tho

"I am in your hands completely," said he, in the same calm
voice ; " but I repeat my words : I'll not run away."

" That is, because you trust to my honour."

" It is exactly so — because I trust to your honour."

" But how if I were to have strong convictions in opposition to all


you were doiug — how, if I were to believe that all you intended was
a gross wrong and a fearful cruelty ?"

" Still you would not betray me. You would say, ' This man is
an enthusiast — he imagines scores of impossible things — but, at least,
he is not a self-seeker — a fool, possibly, but not a knave. It would
be hard to hang him.' "

" So it would. I have just thought thnty

" And then you might reason thus : ' How will it serve the other
cause to send one poor wretch to the scaflfold, where there are so many
just as deserving of it ?'"

*' And are there many ? "

" I should say close on two millions at home here, and some
hundred thousand in America."

' ' And if you be as strong as you say, what craven creatures you
must be not to assert your own convictions."

" So we are — I'll not deny it — craven creatures ; but remember
this, Mademoiselle, we are not all like-minded. Some of us would
be satisfied with small concessions, some ask for more, some demand
all ; and as the Government higgles with some, and hangs the others,
they mystify us all, and end by confounding us."

" That is to say, you are terrified."

" Well, if j'ou like that word better, I'll not quarrel about it."

I wonder how men as irresolute ever turn to rebellion. When
our people set out for Crete, they went in another spirit to meet the

" Don't be too sure of that. The boldest fellows in that exploit
were the liberated felons : they fought with desperation, for they had
left the hangman behind."

" How dare you defame a great people ! " cried she, angrily.

" I was with them. Mademoiselle. I saw them and fought amongst
them ; and to prove it, I will speak modern Greek with you, if you
like it."

" Oh ! do," said she. "Let me hear those noble sounds again,
though I shall be sadly at a loss to answer you. I have been years
and years away from Athens."

" I know thai;. I know your story from one who loved to talk of
you, all unworthy as he was of such a theme."

" And who was this ?"

" Atlee — Joe Atlee, whom you saw here some months ago."

" I remember him," said she thoughtfully.

" He was here, if I mistake not, with that other friend of yours
you have so strangely escaped from to-day."

" Mr. Walpole ?"


" Yes, Mr. Walpole ; to meet whom would not have involved you,
at least, in any contrariety."

"Is this a question, sir ? Am I to suppose your curiosity asks
an answer here ?"

"I am not so bold ; but I own my suspicious have mastered my
discretion, and, seeing jom here this morning, I did think you did not
care to meet him."

" Well, sir, you were right. I am not sure that my reasons for
avoiding him were exactly as strong as yours, but they sufficed for

There was something so like reproof in the way these words were

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 21 of 48)