Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 26 of 48)
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begin to see it now."

" I suspect, sir, it s pretty much what it used to be," lisped out
Walpole. " We are only less demonstrative than our fathers."

" Just as I am less extravagant than mine," cried Kilgohbin,
" because I have not got it to spend."

" I hope Mdlle. Nina judges us more mercifully," said Walpole.

"Is that song a favourite of yours?" asked she of Gorman,
without noticing Walpole's remark in any way.

"No," said he, bluntly; "it makes me feel like a fool, and, I
am afraid, look like one, too, when I hear it."

" I'm glad there's even that much blood in you," cried old
Kearney, who had caught the words. " Oh, dear ! oh, dear ! England
need never be afraid of-the young generation."

" That seems to be a very painful thought to you, sir," said

" And so it is," replied he. " The lower we bend, the more
you'll lay on us. It was your language, and what you call your


civilizatiou brolcc us down first, and tlic little spirit that fought against
either is fast dying out of us."

" Do you want Mr. Walpole to become a Fenian, papa ? " asked

"You see, they took him for one to-day," broke in Dick, " when
they came and carried off all his luggage."

" By the way," interposed Walpole, '* we must take care that that
stupid blunder does not get into the local papers, or vcc shall have it
circulated by the London press."

" I have already thought of that," said Dick, " and I shall go
into Moate to-morrow and see about it."

"Does that mean to say that you desert croquet?" said Nina,

" You have got Lieutenant O'Shea in my place, and a better
player than me already."

" I fear I must take my leave to-morrow," said Gorman, with a
touch of real sorrow, for in secret he knew not whither he was going.

*' Would your aunt not spare you to us for a few days ?" said the
old man. " I am in no favour with her just now, but she would
scarcely refuse what we would all deem a great favour."

" My aunt would not think the sacrifice too much for her," said
Gorman, trying to laugh at the conceit.

"You shall stay,"' murmured Nina, in a tone only audible to
him ; and by a shght bow he acknowledged the words as a command.

" I believe my best way," said Gorman, gaily, " will be to outstay
my leave, and take my punishment, whatever it be, when I go back

"That is military morality," said Walpole, in a half-whisper to
Kate, but to be overheard by Nina. " We poor civilians don't
understand how to keep a debtor and creditor account with conscience."

" Could you manage to provoke that man to quarrel with you ?"
said Nina, secretly to Gorman, while her eyes glanced towards

"I think I might; but what then ? He wouldn't fight, and the
rest of England would shun me."

" That is true," said she, slowly. " When any is injured here,
he tries to make money out of it. I don't suppose you want money ? "

" Not earned in that fashion, certainly. But I think they are
saying good-night."

" They're always boasting about the man that found out the
safety-lamp," said old Kearney, as he moved away; " but give me
the fellow that invented a flat candlestick ! "




When Gormau reached his room, into which a rich flood of moon-
light was streaming, he extinguished his candle, and, seating himself
at the open window, lighted his cigar, seriously helieving he was
going to reflect on his present condition, and forecast something of
the future. Though he had spoken so cavalierly of outstaying his
time, and accepting arrest afterwards, the jest was hy no means so
palatable now that he was alone, and could own to himself that the
leave he possessed was the unlimited liberty to he houseless and a
vagabond, to have none to claim, no roof to shelter him.

His aunt's law-agent, the same Mr. M'^Keown who acted for Lord
Ivilgobbiu, had once told Gorman that all the King's County property
of the OSheas was entailed upon him, and that his aunt had no
power to alienate it. It is true the old lady disputed this position,
and so strongly resented even allusion to it, that, for the sake of
inheriting that twelve thousand pounds she possessed in Dutch Stock,
IVMveown warned Gorman to avoid anything that might imply his
being aware of this fact.

AVhether a general distrust of all legal people and their assertions
was the reason, or whether mere abstention from the topic had
impaired the force of its truth, or whether — more likely than either —
he would not suffer himself to question the intentions of one to whom
he owed so much, certain is it young O'Shca almost felt as much
averse to the belief as the old lady herself, and resented the thought
of its being true, as of something that would detract from the spirit
of the aflection she had always borne him, and that he repaid by a
love as faithful.

"No, no. Confound it!" he would say to himself. "Aunt
Betty loves me, and money has no share in the affection I bear her.
If she knew I must be her heir, she'd say so frankly and freely.
She'd scorn the notion of doling out to mc as benevolence what one
day vt'ould be my own by right. She is proud and intolerant enough,
but she is seldom unjust — never so willingly and consciously. If,
then, she has not said 0' Shea's Barn must be mine some time, it is
because she knows well it cannot be true. Besides, this very last
step of hers, this haughty dismissal of me from her house, implies
the possession of a power which she would not dare to exercise if she
were but a life-tenant of the property. Last of all, had she speculated
ever so remotely on my being the proprietor of Irish landed property.


it was most unlikely she would so strenuously have encouraged mo to
pursue my career as an Austrian soldier, and turn all my thoughts to
my prospects under the Empire."

In fact, she never lost the opportunity of reminding him how
unfit he was to live in Ireland or amongst Irishmen.

Such reflections as I have briefly hinted at here took him some
time to arrive at, for his thoughts did not come freely, or rapidly
make place for others. The sum of them, however, was that he was
thrown upon the world, and just at the very threshold of life, and
when it held out its more alluring prospects.

There is something peculiarly galling to the man who is wincing
under the pang of poverty to find that the world regards him as rich
and well ofi", and totally beyond the accidents of fortune. It is not
simply that he feels how his every action will be misinterpreted and
mistaken, and a spirit of thrift, if not actual shabbiness, ascribed to
all that he does, but he also regards himself as a sort of imposition
or sham, who has gained access to a place he has no right to occupy,
and to associate on terms of etjuality with men of tastes and habits
and ambitions totally above his own. It was in this spirit he
remembered Nina's chance expression, " I don't suppose you want
money ! " There could be no other meaning in the phrase than some
foregone conclusion about his being a man of fortune. Of course,
she acquired this notion from those around her. As a stranger to
Ireland, all she knew, or thought she knew, had been conveyed by
others. "I don't suppose you want money" was another way of
saying, " You are 3'our aunt's heir. You are the future owner of the
O'Shea estates. No vast property, it is true ; but quite enough to
maintain the position of a gentleman."

" Who knows how much of this Lord Kilgobbin or his son Dick
believed ? " thought he. " But certainly my old playfellow Kate has
no faith in the matter, or, if she have, it has little weight with her in
her estimate of me.

" It was in this very room I was lodged something like five years
ago. It was at this very window I used to sit at night, weaving
heaven knows what dreams of a future. I was very much in love in
those days, and a very honest and loyal love it was. I wanted to be
very great, and very gallant, and distinguished, and, above all, very
rich ; but only for her, only that she might be surrounded with every
taste and luxury that became her, and that she should share them
with me. I knew well she was better than me — better in every way :
not only purer, and simpler, and more gentle, but more patient, more
enduring, more tenacious of what was true, and more decidedly the
enemy of what was merely expedient. Then, was she not proud ?


not "with the pride of birth or station, or of an old name and a time-
honoured house, but proud that whatever she did or said amongst the
tenantry- or the neighbours, none ever ventured to question or even
qualify the intention that suggested it. The utter impossibility of
ascribing a double motive to her, or of imagining any object in what
she counselled but the avowed one, gave her a pride that accom-
panied her through every hour of life.

" Last of all, she believed in «?c— bchevcd I was going to be one
day something very famous and distinguished : a gallant soldier,
whose very presence gave courage to the men who followed him, and
with a name repeated in honour over Europe. The day was too
short for these fancies, for they grew actually as we fed them, and
the wildest flight of imagination led us on to the end of the time
when there vrould bo but one hope, one ambition, and one heart
between us.

"I am convinced that had any one at that time hinted to her
that I was to inherit the O'Shea estates, he would have dealt a most
dangerous blow to her affection for me. The romance of that unknown
future had a great share in our compact. And then we were so
serious about it all — the very gravity it impressed being an ecstasy to
our young hearts in the thought of self-importance and responsibility.
Nor were we without our little tiffs — those lovers' quarrels that reveal
what a terrible civil war can rage within the heart that rebels against
itself. I know the very spot where we quarrelled ; I could point to
the miles of way we walked side by side without a word ; and oh !
was it not on that very bed I have passed the night, sobbing till I
thought my heart would break, all because I had not fallen at her
feet and begged her forgiveness ere we parted ? Not that she was
without her self-accusings, too ; for I remember one way in which she
expressed sorrow for having done me WT-'ong was to send mo a shower
of rose-leaves from her little terraced garden ; and as they fell in
shoals across my window, what a balm and bliss they shed over my
heart ! Would I not give every hope I have to briug it all back
again ? to live it over once more — to lie at her feet in the grass,
affecting to read to her, but really watching her long black lashes as
they rested on her check, or that quivering lip as it trembled with
emotion. How I used to detest that work which employed the blue-
veined hand I loved to hold within my own, kissing it at every pause
in the reading, or whenever I could pretext a reason to question her !
And now, here I am in the self-same place, amidst the same scenes
and objects. Nothing changed but herself ! She, however, will
remember nothing of the past, or if she does, it is with repugnance
and regret ; her manner to me is a sort of cold defiance, not to dara


to revive our old intimacy, nor to fancy that I can take up our
acquaintanceship from the past. I almost fancied she looked resent-
fully at the Greek girl for the freedom to which she admitted me —
not but there was in the other's coquetry the very stamp of that levity
other women are so ready to take ofience at ; in fact, it constitutes
amongst women exactly the same sort of outrage, the same breach of
honour and loyalty, as cheating at play does amongst men, and the
offenders are as much socially outlawed in one case as in the other.
I wonder, am I what is called falling in love with the Greek — that
is, I wonder, have the charms of her astonishing beauty and the grace
of her manner, and the thousand seductions of her voice, her gestures,
and her walk, above all, so captivated me that I do not want to go
back on the past, and may hope soon to repay Miss Kate Kearney
by an indifference the equal of her own ? I don't think so. Indeed
I feel that even when Nina was interesting me most, I was stealing
seci'et glances towards Kate, and cursing that fellow Walpole for the
way he was engaging her attention. Little the Greek suspected,
when she asked if ' I could not fix a quarrel on him,' with what a
motive it was that my heart jumped at the suggestion ! He is so
studiously ceremonious and distant with me ; he seems to think I am
not one of those to be admitted to closer intimacy. I know that
Englibh theory of ' the unsafe man,' by which people of unquestion-
able courage avoid contact with all schooled to other ways and habits
than their own. I hate it. ' I am unsafe,' to his thinking. Well,
if having no reason to care for safety be sufficient, he is not far
wrong. Dick Kearney, too, is not very cordial. He scarcely
seconded his father's invitation to me, and what he did say was
merely what courtesy obliged. So that, in reality, though the old
lord was hearty and good-natured, I believe I am here now because
Mdlle. Nina commanded me, rather than from any other reason. If
this be true, it is, to say the least, a sorry compliment to my sense of
delicacy. Her words were, 'You shall stay,' and it is upon this I
am staying."

As though the air of the room grew more hard to breathe witli
this thought before him, he arose and leaned half-way out of the

As he did so, his ear caught the sound of voices. It was Kate
and Nina who were talking on the terrace above his head.

" I declare, Nina," said Kate, " you have stripped every leaf
off my poor ivy-geranium ; there's nothing left of it but bare

" There goes the last handful," said the other, as she threw them
over the parapet, some falling on Gorman as he leaned out. ♦' It


M'as a bad habit I learned from yourself, child. I remember when I
came here, j'ou used to do this each night, like a religious rite."

*' I suppose they were the dried or withered leaves that I threw
away," said Kate, with a half irritation in her voice.

" No, they were not. They were oftentimes from your prettiest
roses, and as I watched you, I saw it was in uo distraction or inad-
vertence you were doing this, for you were generally silent and
thoughtful some time before, and tliere was even an air of sadness
about you, as though a painful thought was bringing its gloomy

" What an object of interest I have been to you without suspect-
ing it," said Kate, coldly.

" It is true," said the other, in the same tone ; " they who make
few confidences suggest much ingenuity. If you had a meaning in
this act and told me what it was, it is more than likely I had forgotten
all about it ere now. You preferred secresy, and you made me

" There was nothing to reward curiosity," said she, in the same
measured tone ; then, after a moment, she added, " I'm sure I never
sought to ascribe some hidden motive to you. When you left my
plants leafless I was quite content to believe that you were mischievous
without knowing it."

"I read you, difi"erently," said Nina. " When you do mischief
you mean mischief. Now I became so — so — what shall I call it,
intr'ujuec, about this little ' fetish' of yours, that I remember well the
night you first left off and never resumed it."

" And when was that ? " asked Kate, carelessly.

" On a certain Friday, the night Miss O'Shea dined here last;
was it not a Friday ? "

"Fridays, we fancy, are unlucky days," said Kate, in a voice of
easy indifference.

"I wonder which arc the lucky ones ?" said Nina, sighing.
" They are certainly not put do^^^l in the Irish almanack. By the
way, is not this a Friday ?"

"Mr. O'Shea will not call it amongst his unlucky days," said
Kate, laughingly.

" I almost think I like your Austrian," said the other.

" Only don't call him my Austrian."

" Well, he was yours till you thi-cwhim off. No, don't be angry :
I am only talking in that careless slang wo all use when we mean
nothing, just as people employ counters instead of money at cards ;
but I like him ; he has that easy flippancy in talk that asks for no
efi'urt to follow, and he says his little nothings nicely, and he is not


too eager as to great ones, or too energetic, which you all arc here.
I Hke him."

" I fancied you liked the eager and enthusiastic people, and that
you felt a warm interest in Donogan's fate."

"Yes, I do hope they'll not catch him. It would be too horrid
to think of any one we had known being hanged ! And then, poor
fellow, he was very much in love."

" Poor fellow ! " sighed out Kate.

" Not but it was the only gleam of sunlight in his existence, he
could go away and fancy that, with heaven knows what chances of
fortune, he might have won nic."

" Poor fellow ! " cried Kate, more sorrowfully than before.

"No, far from it, but very ' happy fellow' if he could feed his
heart with such a delusion."

" And you think it fair to let him have this delusion ? "

" Of course I do. I'd no more rob him of it than I'd snatch a
life-buoy from a drowning man. Do you fancy, child, that the
swimmer will always go about with the corks that have saved his life ? "

" These mock analogies are sorry arguments," said Kate.

" Tell me, does your Austrian sing ? I see he understands music,
but I hope he can sing."

" I can tell you next to nothing of my Austrian — if he must be
called so. It is five years since we met, and all I know is how little
like he seems to what he once was."

"I'm sure he is vastly improved; a hundred times better
mannered ; with more ease, more quickness, and more readiness in
conversation. I like him."

" I trust he'll find out his great good fortune — that is, if it be not
a delusion."

For a few seconds there was a silence — a silence so complete that
Gorman could hear the rustle of a dress as Nina moved from her
place, and seated herself on the battlement of the terrace. He
then could catch the low murmuring sounds of her voice, as she
hummed an air to herself, and at length traced it to be the song she
had sung that same evening in' the drawing-room. The notes came
gradually more and more distinct, the tones swelled out into greater
fulness, and at last, with one long-sustained cadence of thrilling
passion, she cried, " Non mi amava — non mi amava ! " with an
expression of heart-breaking sorrow, the last syllables seeming to
linger on the lips as if a hope was deserting them for ever. " Oh,
non mi amava ! " cried she, and her voice trembled as though the
avowal of her despair was the last effort of her strength. Slowly and
faintly the sounds died away, while Gorman, leaning out to the utmost


to catch the dying notes, strainetl his hearing to drink them in. All
was still, and then suddenly with a wild roulade that sounded at first
like the passage of a musical scale, she burst out into a fit of laughter,
crying " Non mi amava," through the sounds, in a half-frantic
mockery. " No, no, non mi amava," laughed she out, as she walked
hack in to the room. The window was now closed with a heavy bang,
and all was silent in the house.

" And these are the affections we break our hearts for ! " cried
Gorman, as he threw himself on his bed, and covered his face with
both his hands.



The Chief Constable, or, to use the irreverent designation of the
neighbourhood, the Head Peeler, who had carried away Walpole's
luggage and papers, no sooner discovered the grave mistake he had
committed, than he hastened to restore them, and was waiting
personally at the Castle to apologize for the blunder, long before any
of the family had come downstairs. His indiscretion might cost him
his place, and Captain Curtis, who had to maintain a wife and family,
three saddle-horses, and a green uniform with more gold on it than
a Field Marshal's, felt duly anxious and uneasy for what he had

" Who is that gone down the road?" asked he, as he stood at
the window, while a woman was setting the room in order.

" Sure it's Miss Kate taking the dogs out. Isn't she always the
first up of a morning." Though the captain had little personal
acf^uaintance with Miss Kearney, ho knew her well by reputation, and
knew therefore that he might safely approach her to ask a favour.
He overtook her at once, and in a few words made known the
difficulty in which he found himself.

" Is it not after all a mere passing mistake, which once apologized
for is forgotten altogether ? " asked she. "Mr. Walpole is surely
not a person to bear any malice for such an incident ? "

" I don't know that, Miss Kearney," said he, doubtingly. "His
papers have been thoroughly ransacked, and old Mr. Flood, the Tory
magistrate, has taken copies of several letters and documents, all of
course under the impression that they formed part of a treasonable



" Was it not very evident that the papers could not have helonged
to a Fenian leader ? Was not any mistake in the matter easily
avoided ? ' '

" Not at once, because there was first of all a sort of account of
the insurrectionary movement here, with a number of queries, such

as, ' Who is M ? ' ' Are F. Y and M'Causlaud the same

person ? ' ' 'Wliat connection exists between the Meath outrages and

the late events in Tipperary ? ' ' How is B to explain his

conduct sufficiently to be retained in the Commission of the Peace ? '
In a word. Miss Kearney, all the troublesome details by which a
Ministry have to keep their own supporters in decent order, are here
hinted at, if not more, and it lies with a batch of red-hot Tories to
make a terrible scandal out of this affair."

"It is graver than I suspected," said she, thoughtfully.

"And I may lose my place," muttered Curtis, "unless, indeed,
you would condescend to say a word for me to Mr. Walpole."

" Willingly, if it were of any use, but I think my cousin, Mdlle.
Kostalergi would be likelier of success, and here she comes."

Nina came forward at that moment, with that indolent grace of
movement, with which she swept the greensward of the lawn as though
it were the carpet of a saloon. With a brief introduction of Mr,
Curtis, her cousin Kate in a few words conveyed the embarrassment
of his present position, and his hope that a kindly intercession might
avert his danger.

" What droll people you must be not to find out that the letters
of a Viceroy's secretary could not be the correspondence of a rebel
leader," said Nina, superciliously.

"I have already told Miss Kearney how that fell out," said he ;
" and I assure you there was enough in those papers to mystify better
and clearer heads."

" But you read the addresses, and saw how the letters began ' My
dear Mr. Walpole,' or ' Dear Walpole ' ? "

" And thought they had been purloined. Have I not found
* Dear Clarendon ' often enough in the same packet with cross-bones
and a coffin ? "

" What a country ! " said Nina, with a sigh.

" Very like Greece, I suppose," said Kate, tartly ; then suddenly,
" Will you undertake to make this gentleman's peace with Mr.
Walpole, and show how the whole was a piece of ill-directed zeal ? "

" Indiscreet zeal."

" Well, indiscreet, if you like it better."

" And you fancied, then, that all the fine linen and pui-ple yen
carried away were the properties of a head-centre ? "


" We thouglit so."

'* And the silver objects of the dressing-table, and the ivory inlaid
•with gold, and the trifles studded with turquoise ? "

" They might have been Douogan's. Do you know. Made-
moiselle, that this same Douogan was a man of fortune, and in all
the society of the first men at Oxford when — a mere boy at the time —
he became a rebel ? "

" How nice of him. What a fine fellow ! "

" I'd say what a fool," continued Curtis. " He had no need to
risk his neck to achieve a station, the thing was done for him. He
had a good house and a good estate in Kilkenny ; I have caught
salmon in the river that washes the foot of his lawn."

" And what has become of it; does he still own it ? "

" Not an acre — not a rood of it ; sold every square yard of it to
throw the money into the Fenian treasury. Rifled artillery, Colt's
revolvers. Remington's, and Parrot guns have walked off with the
broad acres."

" Fine fellow — a fine fellow! " cried Nina, enthusiastically.

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 26 of 48)