Charles James Lever.

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

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I asked you under ray roof?" said Miss Betty, in anger.

" You need never to have known them now, aunt, if these gentle-
men had not provoked them, nor indeed are they solely mine. I am
only telling you what you would hear from any intelligent foreigner,
even though he chanced to be a liberal in his own country."

" Ah, yes," sighed the priest : " what the young gentleman says
is too true. The Continent is alarmingly infected with such opinions
as these."

"Have you talked on politics with young Kearney?" asked

" He has had no ojiportunity," interposed Miss O'Shea. " My
nephew will be three weeks here on Thursday next, and neither Mathew
nor his son have called on him."

" Scarcely neighbourlike that, I must say," cried Miller.

" I suspect the fault lies on my side," said Gorman boldly.
** When I was little more than a boy, I was never out of that house.
The old man treated me like a son. All the more perhaps, as his
own son was seldom at homo, and the little girl Kitty certainly
regarded me as a brother ; and though we had our fights and
squabbles, we cried very bitterly at parting, and each of us vowed
we should never like any one so much again. And now, after
all, here am I three weeks, within two hours' ride of them, and my
annt insists that my dignity requires I should be first called on.
Confound such dignity say I, if it lose mo the best and the pleasantest
i'rifcnds I ever had in my life."

" I scarcely thought oi your dignity, Gorman O'Shea," said the
old lady, bridling, " though I did bestow some consideration on my

"o'shea's barn." 227

" I'm very sorry for it, auut ; and I tell you fairly — aud there's
no unpolitcness iv the confession — that when I aaked for my leave,
Kilgobbiu Castle had its place in my thoughts as well as O'Shea's

" Why not say it out, young gentleman, aud tell me that the real
charm of coming here was to be within twelve miles of the Kearneys."

"The merits of this house are very independent of contiguity,"
said the priest ; and as he eyed the claret in his glass, it was plain
that the sentiment was an honest one."

" Fifty-six wine, I should say," said Miller, as he laid down his

"Forty-five, if Mr. Barton be a man of his word," said the old
lady, reprovingly.

"Ah," sighed the priest, plaintively, "how rarely one meets
these old full-bodied clarets now-a-days. The free admission of
French wines has corrupted taste and impaired palate. Our cheap
Gladstones have come upon us hke universal suffrage."

" The masses, however, benefit," remarked Miller.

" Only in the first moment of acquisition, and in the novelty of
the gain," continued Father Luke, " and then they sufier irreparably
in the loss of that old guidance, which once directed appreciation when
there was something to appreciate."

" We want the priest again, in fact," broke in Gorman.

" You must admit they understand wine to perfection, though I
would humbly hope, young gentleman," said the Father, modestly,
" to engage your good opinion of them on higher grounds."

" Give yourself no trouble in the matter, Father Luke," broke in
Miss Betty. " Gorman's Austrian lessons have placed him beyond
your teaching."

" My dear aunt, you are giving the Imperial Government a
credit it never deserved. They taught me as a cadet to groom my
horse and pipeclay my uniform, to be respectful to my corporal, and
to keep my thumb on the seam of my trousers when the captain's eye
was on me ; but as to what passed inside my mind, if I had a mind
at all, or what I thought of Pope, Kaiser, or Cardinal, they no more
eared to know it than the name of my sweetheart."

" What a blessing to that benighted country would be one liberal
statesman ! " exclaimed Miller : " one man of the mind and capacity
of our present Premier ! "

" Heaven forbid ! " cried Gorman. " We have confusion cnouf;b,
■without the reflection of being governed by what you call here
■* healing measures.' "

"I should like to discuss that point with you," said Miller.


" Not now, I beg," interposed Miss O'Sliea. " Gorman, will you
decant another bottle ? "

" I believe I ought to protest against more wine," said the priest,
in his most insinuating voice ; "but there are occasions where the
yielding to temptation conveys a moral lesson."

"I suspect that I cultivate my nature a good deal in that
fashion," said Gorman, as he opened a fresh bottle,

" This is perfectly delicious," said Miller as he sipped his glass;
" and if I could venture to presume so far, I would ask leave to
propose a toast."

" You have my permission, sir," said Miss Betty, with stateliness.

"I drink, then," said he, reverently, "I drink to the long life,
the good health, and the unbroken courage of the Holy Father."

There was something peculiarly sly in the twinkle of the priest's
black eye as he filled his bumper, and a twitching motion of the
corner of his mouth continued even as he said, " To the Pope."

" The Pope," cried Gorman as he eyed his wine —

*' Der Papst lebt heiTlich in der Welt."

" What are you muttering there ?" asked his aunt, fiercely.

" The line of an old song, aunt, that tells us how his Holiness
has a jolly time of it."

*' I fear me it must have been written in other days," said Father

" There is no intention to desert or abandon him, I assure you,"
said Miller, addressing him in a low but eager tone. "I could
never — no Irishman couLl — ally himself to an administration which
should sacrifice the Holy See. With the bigotry that prevails in
England, the question requires most delicate handling ; and even a
pledge cannot be given, except in language so vague and unprecise as
to admit of many readings."

" Why not bring in a Bill to give him a subsidy, a something per
annum, or a round sum down ?" cried Gorman.

" Mr. Miller has just shown us that Exeter Hall might become
dangerous. English intolerance is not a thing to be rashly aroused."

"If I had to deal with him, I'd do as Bright proposed with your
landlords here. I'd buy him out, give him a handsome sum for his
interest, and let him go."

"And how would you deal with the Church, sir?" asked the

" I have not thought of that ; but I suppose one might put it into
commission, as they say, or manage it by a Board, with a First Lord,
like the Admiralty."

"o'siiea's barn." 229

** I will give you some tea, gentlemen, when you appear in the
drawing-room," said Miss Betty, rising with dignity, as though her
condescension in sitting so long with the party had been ill rewarded
hy her nephew's sentiments.

The priest, however, oflered his arm, and the others followed as
he left the room.



Mathew Kearney had risen early, an unusual thing with him of
late ; but he had some intention of showing his guest Mr. Walpole
over the farm after breakfast, and was anxious to give some
preliminary orders to have everything *' ship-shape " for the inspection.

To make a very disorderly and much-neglected Irish farm assume
an air of discipline, regularity, and neatness at a moment's notice,
was pretty much such an exploit as it would have been to muster an
Indian tribe, and pass them before some Prussian martinet as a
regiment of guards.

To make the ill-fenced and mis-shapen fields seem trim paddocks,
wavering and serpentining furrows appear straight and regular lines
of tillage, weed-grown fields look marvels of cleanliness and care,
while the lounging and ragged population were to be passed off as a
thriving and industrious peasantry, well paid and contented, were
difficulties that Mr. Kearney did not propose to confront. Indeed,
to do him justice, he thought there was a good deal of pedantic and
"model-farming humbug" about all that English passion for
neatness he had read of in public journals, and as our fathers —
better gentlemen, as he called them, and more hospitable fellows than
any of us — had got on without steam-mowing and threshing, and
bone-crushing, he thought we might farm our properties without
being either blacksmiths or stokers.

" God help us," he would say. " I suppose we'll be chewing our
food by steam one of these days, and filling our stomachs by hydraulic
pressure. But for my own part, I like something to work for me
that I can swear at when it goes wrong. There's little use in cursing
a cylinder."

To have heard him amongst his labourers that morning, it was
plain to see that they were not in the category of machinery. On one
pretext or another, however, they had slunk away one by one, so that
at last he found himself storming alone in a stubble-field, with no


other companion tlian one of Kate's terriers. The shaq) barkin" of
this dog aroused him in tlie midst of his imprecations, and looking
over the dry-stono wall that enclosed the field, he saw a horseman
coming along at a sharp canter, and taking the fences as they came
like a man in a hunting-field. He rode well, and was mounted upon
a strong wiry hacknej- — a cross-bred horse, and of little moneyed
value, but one of those active cats of horseflesh that a knowing hand
can appreciate. Now, little as Kearney liked the liberty of a man
riding over his ditches and his turnips, when out of hunting season,
his old love of good horsemanship made him watch the rider with
interest and even pleasure. " May I never ! " muttered he to himself,
" if he's not coming at this wall." And as the enclosure in question
was built of large jagged stones, without mortar, and fully four feet
in height, the upper course being formed of a sort of coping in which
the stones stood edgewise, the attempt did look somewhat rash. Not
taking the wall where it was slightly breached, and v»-here some loose
stones had fallen, the rider rode boldly at one of the highest portions,
but where the ground was good on either side.

" He knows what he's at ! " muttered Kearney, as the horse came
bounding over and alighted in perfect safety in the field.

" Well done ! whoever you are," cried Kearney delighted, as the
rider removed his hat and turned round to salute him.

" And don't you know me, sir ? " asked he.

"Faith I do not," replied Kearney; "but somehow I think I
know the chestnut. To be sure I do. There's the old mark on her
knee, how ever she found the man who could throw her down. Isn't
she Miss 0' Shea's Kattoo ? "

*' That she is, sir, and I'm her nephew."

" Ai-e you ? ". said Kearney, drily.

The young fellow was so terribly pulled up by the unexpected
repulse — more marked even by the look than the words of the other,
that he sat unable to utter a syllable. " I had hoped, sir," said he
at last, " that I had not outgrown your recollection, as I can promise
none of your former kindness to me has outgrown mine."

" But it took you three weeks to recall it, all the same," said

"It is true, sir, I am very nearly so long here; but my aunt,
whose guest I am, told me I must be called on first ; that — I'm sure
I can't say for whose benefit it was suj)posed to be — I should not
make the first visit : — in fact, there was somo rule about the matter,
and that I must not contravene it. And although I yielded with a
very bad grace, I was in a measure under orders, and dared not


" She told you, of course, tliat we were not on our old terms ;
that there was a coldness between the families, and we had seea
uothing of each other lately ? "

" Not a word of it, sir."

" Nor of any reason why you should not come here as of old ? "

" None, on my honour ; beyond this piece of stupid etiquette, I
never heard of anything like a reason."

*' I am all the better pleased with my old neighbour," said
Kearney, in his more genial tone. " Not, indeed, that I ought ever

to have distrusted her, but for all that Well, never mind,"

muttered he, as though debating the question with himself, and unable
to decide it, " you are here now — eh ! You are here now."

" You almost make me suspect, sir, that I ought not to be here

" At all events, if you were waiting for me you wouldn't be here.
Is not that true, young gentleman ? "

*' Quite true, sir, but not impossible to explain." And he now
flung himself to the ground, and with the rein over his arm, came up
to Kearney's side. " I suppose, but for an accident, I should have
gone on waiting for that visit you had no intention to make me, and
canvassing with myself how long you were taking to make up your
mind to call on me, when I heard only last night that some noted
rebel — I'll remember his name in a minute or two — was seen in the
neighbourhood, and that the police were on his track with a warrant,
and even intended to search for him here."

"In my house — in Kilgobbin Castle ? "

" Yes, here in your house, where, from a sure information, he
had been harboured for some days. This fellow — a head-centre, or
leader, with a large sum on his head — has, they say, got away ; but
the hope of finding some papers, some clue to him here, will certainly
lead them to search the castle, and I thought I'd come over and
apprise you of it at all events, lest the surprise should prove too much
for your temper."

"Do they forget I'm in the commission of the peace?" said
Kearney, in a voice trembling with passion.

" You know far better than me how far party spirit tempers life
in this country, and are better able to say whether some private
intention to insult is couched under this attempt."

" That's true," cried the old man, ever ready to regard himself as
the object of some secret malevolence. " You cannot remember this
rebel's name, can you ? "

" It was Daniel something — that's all I know."

A long, fine whistle was Kearney's rejoinder, and after a second


or two he said : "I can trust you, Gorman ; and I may tell you they
may be not so great fools as I took them for. Not that I was
harbouring the fellow, mind you ; but there came a college friend of
Dick's here a few days back — a clever fellow he was, and knew
Ireland well — and we called him Mr. Daniel, and it was but yesterday
he left us and did not return. I have a notion now he was the head-
centre they're looking for."

" Do you know if he has left any baggage or papers behind him ? "

" I know nothing about this, whatever, nor do I know how far
Dick was in his secret."

"You will be cool and collected, I am sure, sir, when they come
here with the search-warrant. You'll not give them even the passing
triumph of seeing that you are annoyed or offended ? "

" That I will, my lad. I'm prepared now, and I'll take them as
easy as if it was a morning call. Come in and have your breakfast
with us, and say nothing about what we've been talking over."

" Many thanks, sir, but I think — indeed, I feel sure — I ought to
go back at once. I have come here without my aunt's knowledge,
and now that I have seen you and put you on your guard, I ought to
get back as fast as I can."

" So you shall when you feed your beast and take something
yourself. Poor old Kattoo isn't used to this sort of cross-country
work, and she's panting there badly enough. That mare is twenty-
one years of age."

" She's fresh on her legs — not a curb nor a spavin, nor even a
wind-gall about her," said the young man.

" And the reward for it all is to be ridden like a steeplechaser ! "
sighed old Kearney. " Isn't that the world over ? Break down
early, and you are a good-for-nothing. Carry on your spirit and your
pluck and your endurance to a green old age, and maybe they won't
take it out of you ! — always contrasting you, however, with yourself
long ago, and telling the bystanders what a rare beast you were in
your good days. Do you think they had dared to pass this insult
upon 7)ie when I was five-and-twenty or thirty ? Do you think there's
a man in the county would have come on this errand to search
Kilgobbiu when I was a young man, Mr. O'Shea ? "

" I think you can afl'ord to treat it with the contempt you have
detei'mined to show it."

"That's all very fine now," said Kearney; "but there was a
time I'd rather have chucked the chief constable out of the window
and sent the sergeant after him."

" I don't know whether that would havo been better," said
Gorman, with a faint smile.


" Neither do I ; but I kuow that I m_yself would have felt better
and easier iu my mind after it. I'd have eaten my breakfast with a
good appetite, and gone about my day's work, whatever it was, with
a free heart and fearless iu my conscience ! Ay, ay," muttered he
to himself, " poor old Ireland isn't what it used to be ! "

" I'm very sorry, sir, but though I'd like immensely to go back
■^'ith you, don't you think I ought to return home ? "

" I don't think anything of the sort. Your aunt and I had a tiff
the last time we met, and that was some mouths ago. We're both
of us old and cross-grained enough to keep up the grudge for the rest
of our lives. Let us, then, make the most of the accident that has
led you here, and when you go home you shall be the bearer of the
most submissive message I can invent to my old friend, and there
shall be no terms too humble for me to ask her pardon."

" That's enough, sir. I'll breakfast here."

"Of course you'll say nothing of what brought you over here.
But I ought to warn you not to drop anything carelessly about politics
in the county generally, for we have a young relative and a private
secretary of the Lord Lieutenant's visiting us, and it's as well to be
cautious before him."

The old man mentioned this circumstance in the cursory tone of
an ordinary remark, but he could not conceal the pride he felt in the
rank and condition of his guest. As for Gorman, perhaps it was his
foreign breeding, perhaps his ignorance of all home matters generally,
but he simply assented to the force of the caution, and paid no other
attention to the incident.

"His name is Walpole, and he is related to half the peerage,"
said the old man, with some irritation of manner.

A mere nod acknowledged the information, and he went on : —

" This was the young fellow who was with Kitty on the night
they attacked the castle, and he got both bones of his fore arm
smashed with a shot."

'* An ugly wound," was the only rejoinder.

" So it was, and for a while they thought he'd lose the arm.
Kitty says he behaved beautifully, cool and steady all through."

Another nod, but this time Gorman's lips were firmly compi-essed.

" There's no denying it," said the old man, with a touch of
saancss in his voice — " there's no denying it, the English have
courage, though," added he afterwards, " it's in a cold, sluggish way
of their own, which we don't like here. There he is, now, that young
fellow that has just parted from the two girls. The tall one is my
uiece, — I must present you to her."




Though both Kate Kearney and young O'Sliea had greatly outgrown
each other's recollection, there were still traits of feature remaining,
and certain tones of voice, by which they were carried back to old
times and old associations.

Amongst the strange situations in life, there are few stranger,
or, in certain respects, more painful, than the meeting after long
absence of those who, when they had parted years before, were on
terms of closest intimacy, and who now see each other changed by
time, with altered habits and manners, and impressed in a variety of
ways with influences and associations which impart their own stamp
on character.

It is very difficult at such moments to remember how far we
ourselves have changed in the interval, and how much of what we
regard as altered in another may not simply be the new standpoint
from which we are looking, and thus our friend may be graver, or
sadder, or more thoughtful, or, as it may happen, seem less reflective
and less considerative than we have thought him, all because the
world has been meantime dealing with ourselves in such wise that
qualities we once cared for have lost much of their value, and others
that we had deemed of slight account have grown into importance
with us.

Most of us know the painful disaj^pointment of revisiting scenes
v/hich had impressed us strongly in early life : how the mountain we
regarded with a wondering admiration had become a mere hill, and
the romantic tam a pool of sluggish water ; and some of this same
awakening pursues us in our renewal of old intimacies, and we find
ourselves continually warring with our recollections.

Besides this, there is another source of uneasiness that presses
unceasingly. It is in imputing every change we discover, or think
we discover in our friend, to some unknown influences that have
asserted their power over him in our absence, and thus when we find
that our arguments have lost their old force, and our persuasions can
be stoutly resisted, we begin to think that some other must have
nsui'ped our place, and that there is treason in the heart we had
ieemed to be loyally our own.

How far Kate and Gorman sufi'ered under these iiTitations, I do
not stop to inquire, but certain it is, that all their renewed intercourse
■was little other than snappish reminders of unfavourable change in


each, and assurances more frank than flattering that they had not
improved in the interval.

"How well I know every tree and alley of this old garden! "
said he, as they strolled along one of the walks in advance of the
others. " Nothing is changed here but the people."

" And do you think we are ? " asked she, quietly.

" I should think I do ! Not so much for your father, perhaps.
I suppose men of his time of life change little, if at all ; but you are
as ceremonious as if I had been introduced to you this morning."

"You addressed me so deferentially as Miss Kearney, and with
such an assuring little intimation that you were not either very
certain of that, that I should have been very courageous indeed to
remind you that I once was Kate."

"No, not Kate — Kitty," rejoined he, quickly.

" Oh, yes, perhaps, when you were young, but we grew out of

" Did we '? And when ? "

" When we gave up climbing cherry-trees, and ceased to pull
each other's hair when we were angry."

" Oh dear ! " said he, drearily, as his head sunk heavily,

" You seem to sigh over those blissful times, Mr. O'Shea," said
she, " as if they were terribly to be regretted."

" So they are. So I feel them."

" I never knew before that quarrelling left such pleasant associa-

" My memory is good enough to remember times when we were
not quarrelling — when I used to think you were nearer an angel,
than a human creature — ay, when I have had the boldness to tell
you so."

" You don't mean that ? "

"I do mean it, and I should like to know why I should not
mean it ? "

"For a great many reasons — one amongst the number, that it
would have been highly indiscreet to turn a poor child's head with a
stupid flattery."

" But were you a child ? If I'm right, you were not very far
from fifteen at the time I speak of."

" How shocking that you should remember a young lady's age ! "
" That is not the point at all," said he, as though she had been
endeavouring to introduce another issue.

" And what is the point, pray ? " asked she, haughtily.
" Well, it is this — how many have uttered what you call stupid
flatteries since that time, and how have they been taken."


" Is this a question ? " asked she. " I mean a question seeking
to be answered ? "

" I hope so."

"Assuredly, then, Mr. O'Shea, however time has been deahng
with me, it has contrived to take marvellous liberties with you since
"we met. Do you know, sir, that this is a speech you would not have
uttered long ago for worlds ?"

" If I have forgotten myself as well as you," said he, with deep
humility, "I very humbly crave pardon. Not but there were days,"
added he, " when my mistake, if I made one, would have been
forgiven without my asking."

" There's a slight touch of presumption, sir, in telling me what
a wonderful person I used to think you long ago."

" So you did," cried he, eagerly. " In return for the homage I
laid at your feet — as honest an adoration as ever a heart beat with,
you condescended to let me build my ambitions before you, and I
must own you made the edifice very dear to me."

" To be sure, I do remember it all, and I used to play or sing,
* Mein Schatz ist ein Reiter,' and take your word that you were going
to be a Lancer —

In file arrayed,
With helm and blade,

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 24 of 48)