Charles James Lever.

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

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uttei'ed that Donogan had not courage to speak for some time after.
At last he said, " In one thing, your Greeks have an immense
advantauge over us here. In your popular songs you could employ
your own language, and deal with your own wrongs in the accents
that became them. We had to take the tongue of the conqueror,
which was as little suited to our traditions as to our feelings, and
travestied both. Only fancy the Greek vaunting his triumphs or
bewailing his defeats in Turkish ! "

" What do you know of Mr. Walpole ?" asked she, abruptly.

"Very little beyond the fact that he is an agent of the Govern-
ment, who believes that he understands the Irish people."

" Which you are disposed to doubt ?"

" I only know that I am an Irishman, and I do not understand
them. An organ, however, is not less an organ that it has many
* stops.' "

" I am not sure Cecil Walpole does not read you aright. He
thinks that you have a love of intrigue and plot, but without the
conspirator element that Southern people possess ; and that your
native courage grows impatient at the delays of mere knavery, and
always betrays you."

" That distinction was never his — that was your own."

" So it was ; but he adopted it when he heard it."

"That is the way the rising politician is educated," cried
Donogan. " It is out of these petty thefts ho makes all his capital,
and the poor people never suspect how small a creature can be their

" Is not that our village yonder, where I see the smoke ?"

"Yes; and there on the stile sits your little groom awaiting you.
I shall get down here."

" Stay where you are, sir. It is by your blunder, not by your
presence that you might compromise me." And this time her voica
caught a tone of sharp severity that suppressed reply.

( 207 )


The little village of Cruhan-bawn, into which they now drove, v/as,
in every detail of wretchedness, dirt, ruin, and desolation, intensely
Irish. A small branch of the well-known bog-stream, the " Brusna,"
divided one part of the village from the other, and between these
two settlements so separated there raged a most rancorous hatred and
jealousy, and Cruhan-beg, as the smaller collection of hovels was
called, detested Cruhan-bawn with an intensity of dislike that might
have sufficed for a national antipathy, where race, language, and
traditions had contributed their aids to the animosity.

There was, however, one real and valid reason for this inveterate
jealousy. The inhabitants of Cruhan-beg — who lived, as they said
themselves, " beyond the river," — strenuously refused to pay any rent
for their hovels ; while " tlie cis-Brusnaites," as they may be termed,
demeaned themselves to the condition of tenants in so far as to
acknowledge the obligation of rent, though the oldest inhabitant vowed
he had never seen a receipt in his life, nor had the very least
conception of a gale-day.

If, therefore, actually, there was not much to separate them on
the score of principle, they were widely apart in theory, and the
sturdy denizens of the smaller village looked down upon the others
as the ignoble slaves of a Saxon tyranny. The village in its entirety
— for the division was a purely local and arbitrary one — belonged to
Miss Betty O'Shea, forming the extreme edge of her estate as it
merged into the vast bog; and, with the habitual fate of frontier
populations, it contained more people of lawless lives and reckless
habits than were to be found for miles around. There was not a
resource of her ingenuity she had not employed for years back to
bring these refractory subjects into the pale of a respectable tenantry.
Every process of the law had been essayed in turn. They had been
hunted down by the police, unroofed and turned into the wide bog ;
their chattels had been " canted," and themselves — a last resource —
cursed from the altar ; but, with that strange tenacity that pertains
to life where there is little to live for, these creatures survived all'
modes of persecution, and came back into their ruined hovels to defy
the law and beard the Church, and went on living — in some strange,
mysterious way of their own — an open challenge to all political
economy, and a sore puzzle to The Times' commissioner when he camo
to renort on the condition of the cottier in L'eland.


At certain seasons of county excitement — such as an election or
an unusually weiglity assizes — it was not deemed perfectly safe to
visit the village, and even the police would not have adventured on
the step except with a responsible force. x\t other periods, the most
marked feature of the place would be that of utter vacuity and
desolation. A single inhabitant hero and there smoking listlessly at
his door — a gi-oup of women, with their arms concealed beneath their
aprons, crouching under a ruined wall — or a few ragged children,
too miserable and dispirited even for play, would be all that would be

At a spot where the stream was fordable for a horse, the page
Larry had already stationed himself, and now walked into the river,
which rose over his knees, to show the road to his mistress.

" The bailiffs is on them to-day," said he, with a gleeful look in
his eye ; for any excitement, no matter at what cost to others, was
intensely pleasurable to him.

" What is he saying ? " asked Nina.

" They are executing some process of law against these people,"
muttered Donogan. " It's an old story in Ireland ; but I had as soon
you had been spared the sight."

" Is it quite safe for yourself? " whispered she. " Is there not
some danger in being seen here ? "

" Oh, if I could but think that you cared — I mean ever so
slightly," cried he with fervour, " I'd call this moment of my danger
the proudest of my life ! "

Though declarations of this sort — more or less sincere as chance
might make them — were things Nina was well used to, she could not
help marking the impassioned manner of him who now spoke, and
bent her eyes steadily on him.

" It is true," said he, as if answering the interrogation in her
gaze. " A poor outcast as I am — a rebel — a felon — anything you
like to call me — the slightest show of your interest in mo gives my
life a value, and my hope a purpose I never knew till now."

" Such interest would be but ill-bestowed if it only served to
heighten your danger. Arc you known here ? "

" He who has stood in the dock, as I have, is sure to be known
by some one. Not that the people would betray me. There is
poverty and misery enough in that wretched village, and yet there's
not one so hungry or so ragged that he would hand me over to the
law to make himself rich for life."

" Then what do you mean to do ? " asked she, hurriedly.

" Walk boldly through the village at the head of your pony, as I
am now — your guide to Croghau Castle."


•' But we were to have stabled the beast lierc. I iutenclccl to
have goue on foot to Croghan."

" Which you caunot now. Do you know what English law is,
lady? " cried he, fiercely. " This pony and this carriage, if they
had shelter here, are confiscated to the landlord for his rent. It's
little use to say you owe nothing to this owner of the soil : it's
enough that they are found amongst the chattels of his debtors."

" I cannot believe this is law."

"You can prove it — at the loss of your pony ; and it is mercy
and generous dealing when compared with half the enactments our
rulers have devised for us. Follow me. I see the police have not
yet ccme down. I will go on in front and ask the way to Croghan."

There was that sort of peril in the adventure now that stimulated
Nina and excited her ; and as they stoutly wended their way through
the crowd, she was far from insensible to the looks of admiration that
were bent on her from every side.

"What are they saying ? " asked she; "I do not know their

" It is L'ish," said he ; " they are talking of your beauty."

" I should so like to follow their words," said she, with the smile
of one to whom such homage had ever its charm.

" That wild-looking fellow, that seemed to utter an imprecation,
has just pronounced a fervent blessing ; what he has said was, ' May
every glance of your eye be a candle to light you to glory."

A half-insolent laugh at this conceit was all Nina's acknowledg-
ment of it. Short greetings and good wishes were now rapidly
exchanged between Donogan and the people, as the little party made
their way through the crowd — the men standing bareheaded, and the
v'omen uttering words of admiration, some even crossing themselves
piously, at sight of such loveliness, as, to them, recalled the ideal of
all beauty.

" The police are to be here at one o'clock," said Donogan,
translating a phrase of one of the bystanders.

" And is there anything for them to seize on ? " asked she.

" No ; but they can level the cabins," cried he, bitterly. " We
have no more right to shelter than to food."

Moody and sad, he walked along at the pony's head, and did not
speak another word till they had left the village far behind them.

Larry, as usual, had found something to interest him, and dropped
behind in the village, and they were alone.

A passing countryman, to whom Donogan addressed a few words
in Irish, told them that a short distance from Croghan they couli>
stable the pony at a small " shebeen."



On recacLIng this, Nina, who seemed to have accepted Donogan'a
companionship without further question, directed him to unpack the
carriage and take out her easel and her drawing materials. " You'll
have to cany these — fortunately not very far, though," said she,
smiling, " and then you'll have to come back here and fetch this

"It is a very proud slavery — command mc how you will,"
muttered he, not without emotion.

" That," continued she, pointing to the basket, " contains my
breakfast, and luncheon or dinner, and I invite you to be my guest."

"And I accept with rapture. Oh!" cried he, passionately;
" what whispered to my heart this morning that this would be the
happiest day of my life."

" If so fate has scarcely been generous to you." And her lip
curled half-stiperciliously as she spoke.

" I'd not say that. I have lived amidst great hopes, many of
them dashed, it is true, by disappointment ; but who that has been
cheered by glorious day-dreams has not tasted moments at least of
exquisite bliss ? "

" I don't know that I have much sympathy with political
ambitions," said she, pettishly.

" Have you tasted — have you tried them ? Do you know what it

is to feel the heart of a nation throb and beat ? to know that all

that love can do to purify and elevate, can be exercised for the count-
less thousands of one's own race and lineage, and to think that long
after men have forgotten your name, some heritage of freedom will
survive to say that there once lived one who loved his country."

" This is very pretty enthusiasm."

" Oh, how is it that you, who can stimulate one's heart to such
confessions, know nothing of the sentiment ? "

" I have my ambitions," said she, coldl}' — almost sternly.

"Let me hear some of them."

" They are not like yours, though they are perhaps just as
impossible." She spoke in a broken, unconnected manner, like one
who was talking aloud the thoughts that came laggingly ; then with
11, sudden earnestness she said, " I'll tell you one of them. It's to
catch the broad bold light that has just beat on the old castle there,
and brought out all its rich tints of greys and yellows in such a glorious
wealth 01 colour. Place my easel here, under the trees ; spread that
rug for yourself to lie on. No — you won't have it ? Well, fold it
neatly, and place it there for my feet : very nicely done. And now,
Signor Ribello, you may unpack that basket, and arrange our break-
fast, and when you have done all these, throw yourself down on the


grass, and either tell me a -pretty story, or recite some nice verses for
me, or be otherwise amusing and agreeable."

"Shall I do what will best please myself? If so, it will be to
lie here and look at you."

" Be it so," said she, with a sigh. " I have always thought, in
looking at them, how Saints ai'c bored by being worshipped — it adds
fearfully to martyrdom, but happily, I am used to it. ' Oh, the
vanity of that girl ! ' Yes, sir, say it out : tell her frankly that if
she has no friend to caution her against this besetting wile, that you
will be that friend. Tell her that whatever she has of attraction is
spoiled and marred by this self-consciousness, and that just as you
are a rebel without knowing it, so should she be charming and never
suspect it. Is not that coming nicely," said she, pointing to the drawing ;
" see how that tender light is carried down from those grey walls to
the banks beneath, and dies away in that little pool, where the faintest
breath of air is rustling. Don't look at me, sir, look at my drawing."

" True, there is no tender light there," muttered he, gazing at
her eyes, where the enormous size of the pupils had given a ciiaracter
of steadfast brilliancy, quite independent of shape, or size, or colour.

" You know very little about it," said she, saucily ; then, bending
over the drawing, she said, " That middle distance wants a bit of
colour : you shall aid me here."

" How am I to aid you ? " asked he, in sheer simplicity.

" I mean that you should be that bit of colour, there. Take my
scarlet cloak, and perch yourself yonder on that low rock. A few
minutes will do. Was there ever immortality so cheaply purchased !
Your biographer shall tell that you were the figure in that famous
sketch — what will be called, in the cant of art, one of Nina Kostalergi's
earliest and happiest efforts. There, now, dear Mr. Donogan, do as
you are bid."

" Do you know the Greek ballad, where a youth remembers that
the word ' dear ' has beenicoupled with his name — a passing courtesy,
if even so much, but enough to light up a whole chamber in his heart ? "

" I know nothing of Greek ballads. How does it go ? "

" It is a simple melody, in a low-key." And he sang, in a deep
but tremulous voice, to a very plaintive air, —

I took her hand within my own,

I drew her gently nearer.
And whispered almost on her cheek,

"Oh, would that I were dearer."
Dearer ! No, that's not my prayer :

A stranger, e'en the merest.
Might chance to have some value there ;

But / would be the dearest.


" ^Vliat had he done to merit such a hope ? " said she, haughtily..

" Loved her — ouly loved her ! "

" What value you men must attach to this gift of your aflection,
when it can nourish such thouglits as these ! Your very wilfulness
is to win us — is not that your theory ? I expect from the man who
oflers me his heart that he means to share with me his own power
and his own amhition — to make me the partner of a station that is to
give me some pre-eminence I had not known hefore, nor could gain

" And you would call that marrying for love ?"

" Why not ? Who has such a claim upon my life as he who
makes the life worth living for ? Did you hear that shout ? "

" I heard it," said he, standing still to listen.

" It came from the village. What can it mean ?"

"It's the old war-cry of the houseless," said he, mournfully.
" It's a note we are well used to here. I must go down to learn.
I'll be back presently."

"You are not going into danger?" said she; and her cheek
grew paler as she spoke.

" And if I were, who is to care for it ? "

" Have you no mother, sister, sweetheart ? "

" No, not one of the three. Good-by."

" But if I were to say — stay ? "

" I should still go. To have your love, I'd saciifice even my

honour. Without it " he threw up his arms despairingly and

rushed away.

"These are the men whose tempers compromise us," said she,
thoughtfully. " We come to accept their violence as a reason, and
take mere impetuosity for an argument. I am glad that he did not
shake my resolution. There, that was another shout, but it seemed
in joy. There was a ring of gladness in it. Now for my sketch."
And she re-seated herself before her easel. " He shall see when he
comes back how diligently I have worked, and how small a sharo
anxiety has had in my thoughts. The one thing men are not proof
against is our independence of them." And thus talking in broken
sentences to herself, she went on rapidly with her drawing, occa-
sionally stopping to gaze on it, and humming some old Italian ballad
to herself. " His Greek air was pretty. Not that it was Greek ;
these fragments of melody were loft behind them by the Venetians,
who, in all lust of power, made songs about contented poverty and
humble joys. I feel intensely hungry, and if my dangerous guest
does not return soon I shall have to breakfiist alone, — another way
of showing him how little his fate has interested me. My foreground

THE ExouRSIo^r. 213

here does want that 'bit of colour. Why does he not come back? "
As she rose to look at her dravviag, the sound of somebody running
attracted her atteution, aud turning, she saw it was her foot-page
Larry coming at full speed.

" What is it, Larry ? What has happened ? " asked she.

" You are to go — as fast as you can," said he : which being for
him a longer speech than usual, seemed to have exhausted him.

" Go where ? and why ? "

" Yes," said he, with a stolid look, " you are."

" I am to do what ? Speak out, boy ! Who sent you here ? "

" Yes," said he, again.

" Are they in trouble yonder ? Is there fighting at the village ?"

" No." Aud he shook his head, as though he said so regretfully.

" AVill you tell me what you mean, boy ? "

" The pony is ready ? " said he, as he stooped down to pack away
the things in the basket.

" Is that gentleman coming back here — that gentleman whom
you saw with me ? "

" He is gone ; he got away." And here he laughed in a malicious
way, that was more puzzling even than his words.

" And am I to go back home at once ? "

"Yes," replied he, resolutely.

" Do you know why — for what reason ? "

"I do."

*' Come, like a good boy, tell me, and you shall have this." And
she drew a piece of silver from her purse, and held it temptingly
before him. " Why should I go back, now ? "

" Because," muttered he, " because " and it was plain, from

the glance in his eyes, that the bribe had engaged all his faculties.

" So, then, you will not tell me ? " said she, replacing the money
in her purse.

" Yes," said he, in a despondent tone.

"You can have it still, Larry, if you will but say who sent yoa

" He sent me," was the answer.

"Who was he? Do you mean the gentleman who came here
with me ? " A nod assented to this. " And what did he tell you
to say to me ? "

" Yes," said he, with a puzzled look, as though once more the
confusion of his thoughts was mastering him.

" So, then, it is that you will not tell me ?" said she, angi-ily.
He made no answer, but went on packing the plates in the basket.
" Leave those there, and go and fetch me some water from the spring


yonder.'" Aud she c;ave him a jug as she spoke, and now she re-
seated herself on the grass, ile obeyed at once, and returned
speedily ^-ith water.

" Come now, Larry," said she kindly to him, "I'm sure you
mean to be a good boy. You shall breakfast with me. iiet me a
cup, and I'll give you some milk ; here is bread and cold meat."

" Yes," muttered Larry, whose mouth was already too much
engaged for speech.

" You will tell me by-aud-by what they were doing at the village,
and what that shouting meant, — won't yon ? "

"Yes," said he, with a nod. Then suddenly bending his head
to listen, he motioned with his hand to keep silence, and after a long
breath said, " They're coming."

" Who are coming ? " asked she, eagerly ; but at the same instant
a man emerged from the copse below the hill, followed by several
others, whom she saw by their dress aud equipment to belong to the

Approaching with his hat in his hand, aud with that air of servile
civility which marked him, old Gill addressed her. " If it's not
displazin' to ye. Miss, we want to as you a few questions," said he.

" You have no right, sir, to make any such request," said she,
with a haughty air.

" There was a man with you, my lady," he went on, " as you
drove through Cruhan, and we want to know where he is now."

" That concerns you, sir, and not me."

" Maybe it does, my lady," said he with a grin ; " but I sujipose
you know who you were travelling with ? "

" You evidently don't remember, sir, whom you arc talking to."

" The law is the law. Miss, and there's none of us above it," said
he, half-defiantly ; " and when there's some hundred pounds on a
man's head there's few of us such fools as to let him slip through our

" I don't understand you, sir, nor do I care to do so."

" The sergeant there has a warrant against him," said he, in a
whisper he intended to be confidential ; "and it's not to do anything
that your ladyship would think rude that I came up myself. There's
how it is now," muttered he, still lower. " They want to search the
luggage, and examine the baskets there, and maybe, if you don't
object, they'd look through the carriage."

" And if I should object to this insult ? " broke she in.

" Faix, I believe," said he, laughing, " they'd do it all the same.
Eight hundred — I think it's eight — isn't to be made any day of the
year ! "


*' My uucla is a justice of the peace, Mr. Gill ; and you know if
ho will suffer such an outrage to go unpunished."

" There's the more reason that a justice shouldn't harhour a
Fenian, Miss," said he, boldly ; " as he'll know when he sees the

" Get ready the carriage, Larry," said she, turning contemp-
tuously away, " and follow me towards the village."

" The sergeant. Miss, would like to say a word or two," said Gill,
in his accustomed voice of servility.

" I will not speak with him," said she proudly, and swept past

The constables stood to one side, and saluted in military fashion
as she passed down the hill. There was that in her queenlike gesture
and carriage that so impressed them, the men stood as though on

Slowly and thoughtfully as she sauntered along, her thoughts
turned to Donogan. Had he escaped ? was the idea that never left
her. The presence of these men here seemed to favour that impres-
sion ; but there might be others on his track, and if so, how in that
wild bleak space was he to conceal himself ? A single man moving-
miles away on the bog could be seen. There was no covert, no
shelter anywhere ! What an interest did his fate now suggest, and
yet a moment back she believed herself indifferent to him. " Was be
aware of his danger," thought she, " when he lay there talking
carelessly to me ? was that recklessness the bravery of a bold man
who despised peril ? " And if so, what stuff these souls were made
of! These were not of the Kearney stamp, that needed to be stimu-
lated and goaded to any effort in life ; nor like Atlee, the fellow who
relied on trick and knavery for success ; still less such as Walpole,
self- worshippers and triflers. "Yes," said she aloud, "a woman
might feel that with such a man at her side the battle of life need not
affright her. He might venture too far, — he might aspire to much
that was beyond his reach, and strive for the impossible ; but that
grand bold spirit would sustain him, and carry him through all tha
smaller storms of life ; and such a man might be a hero, even to her,
who saw him daily. These are the dreamers, as we call them," said
she. "How strange it would be if they should prove the realists,
and that it was u-e should be the mere shadows ! If these be the
men who move empires and make history, how doubly ignoble are wo
in our contempt of them." And then she bethought her what a
different fiiculty was that great faith that these men had in themselves)
from common vanity ; and in this way she was led again to compare
Donogan and Walpole.


She reached the village before her little carriage had overtaken
her, and saw that the people stood about iu groups aud knots. A
depressing sileuce prevailed over them, and they rarely spoke above
a Avhisper. The same respectful greeting, however, which welcomed
her before met her again ; and as they lifted their hats, she saw,
or thought she saw, that they looked on her with a more tender
interest. Several policemen moved about through the crowd, who,

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 22 of 48)