Charles James Lever.

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

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And plume in the gay wind dancing.

I'm certain my cousin would be charmed to see you in all your

" Your cousin will not speak to me for being an Austrian."

" Has she told you so ? "

" Yes ; she said it at breakfast."

" That denunciation does not sound very dangerously ; is it not
■worth your while to struggle against a misconception ? "

" I have had such luck in my present attempt as should scarcely
raise my courage."

" You are too ingenious by for for me, Mr. O'Shea," said she,
carelessly. " I neither remember so well as you, nor have I that
nice subtlety in detecting all the lapses each of us has made, since
long ago. Try, however, if you cannot get on better with Mdlle.
Kostalergi, where there are no antecedents to disturb you."

" I will ; that is if she let me."

" I trust she may, and not the less willingly, perhaps, as she
evidently will not speak to Mr. Walpole."

"Ah, indeed, and is //e here ? " he stopped and hesitated; and
the full, bold look she gave him did not lessen his embarrassment.

" Well, sir," asked she, " go on : is this another reminiscence ? '*


" No, Miss Kearney ; I was only thinking of asking you who this
Mr. Walpolo was."

" Mr. Cecil Walpolo is a nephew or a something to the Lord
Lieutenant, whose private secretary he is. He is very clever, very
amusing — sings, draws, rides, and laughs at the Irish to perfection.
I hope you mean to like him."
" Do you?"

" Of course, or I should not have hespoken your sympathy. My
cousin used to like him, hut somehow he has fallen out of favour
with her."

"Was he absent some time?" asked he, with a half-cunning

" Yes, I believe there was something of that in it. He was not
here for a considerable time, and when we saw him again, we almost
owned we were disappointed. Papa is calling me from the window,
pray excuse me for a moment." She left him as she spoke, and ran
rapidly back to the house, whence she returned almost immediately.
"It was to ask you to stop and dine here, Mr. O'Shea," said she.
" There will be ample time to send back to Miss O'Shea, and if you
care to have your dinner-dress, they can send it."
" This is Mr. Kearney's invitation ?" asked he.
" Of course ; papa is the master at Kilgobbin."
" But will Miss Kearney condescend to say that it is hers also ? "
" Certainly, though I'm not aware what solemnity the engage-
ment gains by my co-operation."

" I accept at once, and if you allow me, I'll go back and send a
line to my aunt to say so."

"Don't you remember Mr. O'Shea, Dick?" asked she, as her
brother lounged up, making his first appearance that day.

" I'd never have known you," said he, surveying him from head
to foot, without, however, any mark of cordiality in the recognition.

"All find me a good deal changed!" said the young fellow,
drawing himself to his full height, and with an air that seemed to
say — " and none the worse for it."

" I used to fancy I was more than your match," rejoined Dick,
smiling, " I suspect it's a mistake I am little likely to incur again."
" Don't, Dick, for he has got a very ugly way of ridding people
of their illusions," said Kate, as she turned once more and walked
rapidly towards the house.




Thebe were a number of bolder achievements Gorman O'Sbea would
have dared rather than write a note ; nor were the cares of the
composition the only difficulties of the undertaking. He knew of
but one style of correspondence — the report to his commanding
officer, and in this he was aided by a formula to be filled up. It was
not, then, till after several eflforts, he succeeded in the following
familiar epistle : —

" Kilgobbin Castle.
" Dear Aunt, — Don't blow up or make a rumpus, but if I had
not taken the mare and come over here this morning, the rascally
police with their search-warrant might have been down upon Mr.
Kearney without a warning. They were all stiff and cold enough at
first : they are nothing to brag of in the way of cordiality even yet —
Dick especially — but they have asked me to stay and dine, and I
take it, it is the right thing to do. Send me over some things to
dress with — and believe me

" Your aflfectionate nephew,

" G. O'Shea.

" I send the mare back, and shall walk home to-morrow morning."
" There's a great Castle swell here, a Mr. Walpolc, but I have
not made his acquaintance yet, and can tell nothing about him."

Towards a late hour of the afternoon a messenger arrived with
an ass-cart and several trunks from O'Shca's Barn, and with the
following note : —

" Deau Nephew Gorman, — O'Shea's Barn is not an inn, nor
are the horses there at public livery. So much for your information.
As you seem fond of ' warnings,' let me give you one, which is. To
mind your own affiiirs in preference to the interests of other people.
The family at Ivilgobbin are perfectly welcome — so far as I am
concerned — to the fascinations of your society at dinner to-day, at
breakfast to-morrow, and so on, with such regularity and order as
the meals succeed. To which end, I have now sent you all tho
luggage belonging to you here.

" I am very respectfully, your aunt,

"Elizabeth O'Shea."


The quaint, oltl-fasliionccl, rugged writing was marked throughout
by a certain distinctness and accuracy that betoken care and attention ;
there was no evidence whatever of haste or passion, and this expres-
sion of a serious determination, duly weighed and resolved on, made
itself very painfully felt by the young man as he read.

" I am turned out — in plain words, turned out ! " said he aloud,
as he sat with the letter spread out before him. " It must have
been no common quarrel — not a mere coldness between the families —
when she resents my coming here in this fashion," That innumerable
differences could separate neighbours in Ireland, even persons with
the same interests and the same religion, he well knew, and he
solaced himself to think how he could get at the source of this
disagreement, and what chance there might be of a reconciliation.

Of one thing he felt certain. Whether his aunt were right or
wrong, whether tyrant or victim, he knew in his heart all the
submission must come from the others. He had only to remember a
few of the occasions in life in which he had to entreat his aunt's
forgiveness for the injustice she had herself inflicted, to anticipate
what humble pie Mathew Kearney must partake of in order to
conciliate Miss Betty's favour.

" Meanwhile," he thought, and not only thought, but said too —
" Meanwhile, I am on the world."

Up to this, she had allowed him a small yearly income. Father
Luke, whose judgment on all things relating to Continental life, was
unimpeachable, had told her that anything like the reputation of
being well off or connected with wealthy people would lead a young
man into ruin in the Austrian service ; that with a sum of 3,000 francs
per annum, — about 120/., — he would be in possession of something
like the double of his pay, or rather more, and that with this he
would be enabled to have all the necessaries and many of the comforts
of his station, and still not be a mark for that high play and reckless
style of living that certain young Hungarians of family and large
fortune affected ; and so far the priest was correct, for the young
Gorman was wasteful and extravagant from disposition, and his
quarter's allowance disappeared almost when it came. His money
out, he fell back at once to the penurious habits of the poorest
subaltern about him, and lived on his florin-and-half per diem till his
resources came round again. He hoped — of course he hoped — that
this momentary fit of temper would not extend to stopping his

" She knows as well as any one," muttered he, " that though the
baker's sou from Prague, or the Amtmann's nephew from a Bavarian
Dorf, may manage to ' come through ' with his pay, the young


Englishman cannot. I can neither piece my own overalls, nor for-
swear stockings, nor can I persuade my stomach that it has had a full
meal by tightening my girth- strap three or four holes.

"I'd go down to the ranks to-morrow rather than live that life of
straggle and contrivance, that reduces a man to playing a dreary
game with himself, by which, while he feels like a pauper, he has to
fancy he felt like a gentleman. No, no, I'll none of this. Scores of
better men have served in the ranks. I'll just change my regiment.
By a lucky chance, I don't know a man in the "Walmoden Cuirassiers.
I'll join them, and nobody will ever be the wiser."

There is a class of men \Yho go through life building very small
castles, and are no more discouraged by the frailty of the architecture
than is a child wdth his toy-house. This was Gorman's case ; and
now that he had found a solution of his difficulties in the Walmoden
Cuirassiers, he really dressed for dinner in very tolerable spirits.
" It's droll enough," thought he, " to go down to dine amongst all
these ' swells,' and to think that the fellow behind my chair is better
off than myself" The very uncertainty of his fate supplied excite-
ment to his spirits, for it is amongst the privileges of the young that
mere fluny can be pleasurable.

When Gorman reached the drawing-room, he found only one
person. This was a young man in a shooting-coat, who, deep in the
recess of a comfortable arm-chair, sat with The Times at his feet,
and to all appearance as if half dozing.

He looked around, however, as young O'Shea came forward, and
said carelessly, " I suj^pose it's time to go and dress — if I could."

O'Shea making no reply, the other added, " That is, if I have
not overslept dinner altogether."

" I hope not, sincerely," rejoined the other, " or I shall be a
partner in the misfortune."

" Ah, you're the Austrian," said Walpole, as he stuck his glass in
his eye and surveyed him.

" Yes ; and you are the private secretary of the Governor."

" Only we don't call him Governor. We say Viceroy here."

" With all my heart. Viceroy be it."

There was a pause now — each, as it were, standing on his guard
to resent any liberty of the other. At last Walpole said, "I don't
think you were in the house when that stupid stipendiary fellow called
here this morning ? "

"No; I was strolling across the fields. Ho came with the
police, I suppose ? "

" Yes, he came on the track of some Fenian leader — a droll
thought enough anywhere out of Ireland, to search for a rebel under


a magistrate's roof; not but there was something still more Irish ia
the incident."

" How was that ? " askcil O'Shea, eagerly.

" I chanced to be out walking with the ladies when the escort
came, and as they failed to find the man they were after, they pro-
ceeded to make diligent search for his papers and letters. That taste
for practical joking that seems an instinct in this country, suggested
to Mr. Kearney to direct the fellows to my room, and what do you
think they have done ? Carried off bodily all my baggage, and left
me with nothing but the clothes I'm wearing ! "

" What a lark ! " cried O'Shea, laughing.

" Yes, I take it that is the national way to look at these things ;
but that passion for absurdity and for ludicrous situations has not the
same hold on us English."

" I know that. You are too well off to be droll."

"Not exactly that; but when we want to laugh we go to the
' Adelphi.' "

" Heaven help you if you have to pay people to make fun for

Before Walpole could make rejoinder, the door opened to admit
the ladies, closely followed by Mr. Kearney and Dick.

" Not mine the fault if I disgrace your dinner-table by such a
costume as this," cried Walpole.

" I'd have given twenty pounds if they'd have carried off yourself
as the rebel!" said the old man, shaking with laughter. "But
there's the soup on the table. Take my niece, Mr. Walpole ; Gorman,
give your arm to my daughter. Dick and I will bring up the rear."



The fatalism of youth, unlike that of age, is all rose-coloured. That
which is coming, and is decreed to come, cannot be veiy disagreeable.
This is the theory of the young, and differs terribly from the ex-
periences of after-life. Gorman O'Shea had gone to dinner with
about as heavy a misfortune as could well befall him, so far as his
future in life was concerned. All he looked forward to and hoped for
was lost to him : the aunt who, for so many years, had stood to him
in place of all family, had suddenly thrown him off, and declared tliat
she would see him no more ; the allowance she had hitherto given



him withdrawn, it was impossible he coukl continue to hohl his place
in his regiment. Should he determine not to return, it was desertion
— should he go back, it must be to declare that he was a rained man,
and could only serve in the ranks. These were the thoughts ho
revolved while he dressed for dinner, and dressed, let it be owned,
with peculiar care ; but when the task had been accomplished, and
he descended to the drawing-room, such was the elasticity of his
young temperament, every thought of coming evil was merged in the
sense of present enjoyment, and the merry laughter which he over-
heard as he opened the door, obliterated all notion that life had
anything before him except what was agreeable and pleasant.

" We want to know if you play croquet, Mr. O'Shea ? " said Nina
as he entered. " And we want also to know, are you a captain, or a
Pdtt-meister, or a major ? You can scarcely be a colonel."

" Your last guess I answer first. I am only a lieutenant, and
even that very lately. As to croquet, if it be not your foreign mode
of pronouncing cricket I never even saw it."

"It is not my foreign mode of pronouncing cricket, Herr Lieu-
tenant," said she pertly, " but I guessed already you had never heard
of it."

" It is an out-of-door affair," said Dick indolently, " made for the
difi"usion of worked petticoats and Balmoral boots."

" I should say it is the game of billiards brought down to universal
suffrage and the million," lisped out Walpole.

"Faith," cried old Kearney, " I'd say it was just football with
a stick."

" At all events," said Kate, " we pui-pose to have a grand match
to-morrow. Mr. Walpole and I are against Nina and Dick, and we
are to draw lots for you, Mr. O'Shea."

" My position, if I understand it aright, is not a flattering one,"
said he, laughing.

" We'll take him," cried Nina, at once. " I'll give him a private
lesson in the morning, and I'll answer for his performance. These
creatures," added she in a whisper, " are so drilled in Austria, you
can teach them anything."

Now, as the words were spoken Gorman caught them, and
drawing close to her, — " I do hope I'll justify that flattering opinion."
But her only recognition was a look of half-defiant astonishment at
his boldness.

A very noisy discussion now ensued as to whether croquet was
worthy to be called a game or not, and what were its laws and
rules — points which Gorman followed with due attention, but very
little profit ; all Kate's good sense and clearcess being cruelly dashed


Ly Niua's ingenious interruptions, and Walpolo's attempts to be
smart and witty, even where opportunity scarcely offered the chance.

" Next to looking on at the game," cried old Kearney at last,
" the most tiresome thing I know of is to hear it talked over. Come,
Nina, and give me a song."

" What shall it be, uncle ? " said she, as she opened the piano.

" Something Irish I'd say, if I were to choose for myself. We've
plenty of old tunes, Mr. Walpole," said Kearney, turning to that
gentleman, "that rebellion, as you call it, has never got hold of.
There's * Cushla Macree ' and the ' Cailan deas cruidhte na Mbo.' "

"Very like hard swearing that," said Walpole to Nina : but his
simper and his soft accent were only met by a cold blank look, as
though she had not understood his liberty in addressing her. Indeed,
in her distant manner, and even repelling coldness, there was what
might have disconcerted any composure less consummate than his
own. It was, however, evidently Walpole's aim to assume that she
felt her relation towards him, and not altogether without some cause :
while she, on her part, desired to repel the insinuation by a show of
utter indifference. She would willingly, in this contingency, have
encouraged her cousin, Dick Kearney, and even led him on to little
displays of attention ; but Dick held aloof, as though not knowing
the moaning of this favourable turn towards him. He would not be
cheated by coquetry. How many men are of this temper, and who
never understand that it is by surrendering ourselves to numberless
little voluntary deceptions of this sort, we arrive at intimacies the
most real and most truthful.

She next tried Gorman, and here her success was complete. All
those womanly prettinesses, which are so many modes of displaying
graceful attraction of voice, look, gesture, or attitude, were especially
dear to him. Not only they gave beauty its chief charm, but they
constituted a sort of game, whose address was quickness of eye,
readiness of perception, prompt reply, and that refined tact that can
follow out one thought in a conversation just as you follow a melody
through a mass of variations.

Perhaps the young soldier did not yield himself the less readily
to these captivations that Kate Kearney's manner towards him was
studiously cold and ceremonious.

" The other girl is more like the old friend," muttered ho, as he
chatted on v/ith her about Rome, and Florence, and Venice,
imperceptibly ghdiug into the language which the names of places

"If any had told me that I ever could have talked thus freely
and openly with an Austrian soldier I'd not have believed him," siiid


she at length, " for all my sympathies in Italy were with the Xatioual

"But we were not the 'Barbari' in your recollection, Made-
moiselle," said he. " We were out of Italy before you could have
any feeling for either party."

" The tradition of all your cruelties has survived you, and I am
sure if you were wearing your white coat still, I'd hate you."

" You are giving me another reason to ask for a longer leave of
absence," said he, bowing courteously.

" And this leave of yours — how long does it last ?"

"I am afraid to own to myself. Wednesday fortnight is the cud
of it ; that is, it gives me four days after that to reach Vienna."

"And, presenting yourself in humble guise before your Colonel,
to say, ' Ich melde mich gehorsamst.'"

" Not exactly that — but something like it."

"I'll be the Herr Oberst Lieutenant," said she, laughing; " so
come forward now and clap your heels together, and let us hear how
you utter your few syllables in true abject fashion. I'll sit here, and
receive you." As she spoke, she threw herself into an arm-chair, and
assuming a look of intense hauteur and defiance, affected to stroke an
imaginary moustache with one hand, while with the other she waved
a haughty gesture of welcome.

"I have outstayed my leave," muttered Gorman, in a tremulous
tone. " I hope my Colonel, with that bland mercy which charac-
terizes him, will forgive my fault, and let mc ask his pardon." And
with this, he knelt down on one knee before her, and kissed her

" What liberties are these, sir ? " cried she, so angrily, that it
was not easy to say whether the anger was not real.

"It is the latest rule introduced into our service," said he, with
mock humility.

" Is that a comedy they are acting yonder," said Walpole, " or is
it a proverb."

" Whatever the drama," replied Kate, coldly, " I don't think they
want a public."

" You may go back to your duty, Herr Lieutenant," said Nina,
proudly, and with a significant glance towards Kate. "Indeed,!
suspect you have been rather neglecting it of late." And with this
she sailed majestically away towards the end of the room.

" I wish I could provoke even that much of jealousy from the
other," muttered Gorman to himself, as he bit his hp in passion.
And certainly if a look and manner of calm unconcern meant anything,
there was little that seemed less likely.


" I am glad you are going to tlio piano, Niua," said Kate. " Mx*.
"Walpole has been asking mc by what artifice you could be induced to
sing something of Mendelssohn."

" I am going to sing an Irish ballad for that Austrian patriot,
who like his national poet, thinks ' Ireland a beautiful country to live
out of.' " Though a haughty toss of her head accompanied these
words, there was a glance in her eye towards Gorman that plainly
invited a renewal of their half-flirting hostilities.

" When I left it, yvu had not been here," said he, with an
obsequious tone, and an air of deference only too marked in its courtesy.

A slight, very faint blush on her cheek showed that she rather
resented than accepted the flattery, but she appeared to be occupied
in looking through the music-books and made no rejoinder.

" We want Mendelssohn, Nina," said Kate.

" Or at least Spohr," added Walpole.

"I never accept dictation about what I sing," muttered Niua,
only loud enough to be overheard by Gorman. " People don't tell
jou what theme you are to talk on ; they don't presume to say, ' Be
serious or be witty.' They don't tell you to come to the aid of their
sluggish natures by passion, or to dispel their dreariness by flights of
fancy ; and why are they to dare all this to iis who speak through
song ? ' '

"Just because you alone can do these things," said Gorman, in
the same low voice as she had spoken in.

" Can I help you in your search, dearest ?" said Kate, coming
over to the piano.

" Might I hope to be of use ? " asked Walpole.

"Mr. O'Shea wants me to sing something for him,'" said Nina,
coldly. " W^hat is it to be ? " asked she of Gorman.

With the readiness of one who could respond to any sudden call
upon his tact, Gorman at once took up a piece of music from the
mass before him, and said "Here is what I have been searching
for." It was a little Neapolitan ballad, of no peculiar beauty, but
one of those simple melodies in which the rapid transition from deep
feeling to a wild, almost reckless gaiety, imparts all the character.

"Yes, I'll sing that," said Nina; and almost in the same
breath the notes came floating through the air, slow and sad at first,
as though labouring under some heavy sorrow ; the very syllables
faltered on her lips like a grief struggling for utterance — when, just
as a thrilling cadence died slowly away, she burst forth into the
wildest and merriest strain, something so impetuous in gaiety,
that the singer seemed to lose all control of expression, and floated
away in sound with every caprice of enraptured imagination. When


in the very whirlwind of this impetuous gladness, as though a memory
of a terrible sorrow had suddenly crossed her, she ceased ; then, in
tones of actual agony, her voice rose to a cry of such utter misery as
despair alone could utter. The sounds died slowly away, as though
lingeringly. Two hold chords followed, and she was silent.

None spoke in the room. Was this real passion, or was it the
mere exhibition of an accomplished artist, who could call up expression
at will, as easily as a painter could heighten colour ? Kate
Kearney evidently believed the former, as her heaving chest and her
tremulous lip betrayed, while the cold, simpering smile on Walpole's
face, and the " brava, hravissima " in which he broke the silence,
vouched how he had interpreted that show of emotion.

" If that is singing, I wonder what is crying," cried old Kearney,
while he wiped his eyes, very angry at his own weakness. " And
now will any one tell me what it was all about ?"

"A young girl, sir," replied Gorman, "who, by a great effort,
has rallied herself to dispel her sorrow and be merry, suddenly
remembers that her sweetheart may not love her, and the more she
dwells on the thought, the more firmly she believes it. That was tho
cry, * He never loved me,' that went to all our hearts."

" Faith, then, if Nina has to say that," said the old man,
" heaven help the others."

" Indeed, uncle, you are more gallant than all these young
gentlemen," said Nina, rising and approaching him.

" Why they are not all at your feet this moment is more than I
can tell. They're always telling me the world is changed, and I

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 25 of 48)