Charles James Lever.

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

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"That fine fellow has done a deal of mischief," said Kate,

" He has escaped, has he not ? " asked Nina.

" We hoioe not — that is, we know that he is about to sail for St.
John's by a clipper now in Belfast, and we shall have a fast steam-
corvette ready to catch her in the Channel. He'll be under Yankee
colours, it is true, and claim an American citizenship ; but we must
run risks sometimes, and this is one of those times."

" But you know where he is now ? Why not apprehend him on
shore ? "

" The very thing we do not know, Mademoiselle. I'd rather be
sure of it than have five thousand pounds in my hand. Some say
he is here, in the neighbourhood ; some that he is gone south ;
others declare that he has reached Liverpool. All we really do know
is about the ship that he means to sail in, and on which the second
mate has informed us."

" And all your boasted activity is at fault," said she insolently,
" when you have to own you cannot track him."

" Nor is it so easy. Mademoiselle, where a whole population
befriend and feel for him."

" And if they do, with what face can you persecute what has the
entire sympathy of a nation ? "

"Don't provoke answers which are sure not to satisfy you, and
which you could but half comprehend ; but tell Mr. Curtis you will
use your influence to make Mr. Walpole forget this mishap."


"But I do want to go to the bottom of this question. I will
insist on learning why people rebel here."

" In that case, I'll go home to breakfast, and I'll be quite satisfied
if I see you at luncheon," said Kate.

" Do, pray, Mr. Curtis, tell me all about it. Why do some people
shoot the others who are just as much Irish as themselves ? Why
do hungry people kill the cattle and never eat them ? And why don't
the English go away and leave a country where nobody likes them ?
If there be a reason for these things, let me hear it."

" By-by," said Kate, waving her hand, as she turned away.

"You are so ungenerous," cried Nina, hurrying after her; "I
am a stranger, and would naturally like to learn all that I could of
the countiy and the people ; here is a gentleman full of the very
knowledge I am seeking. He knows all about these terrible Fenians.
What will they do with Donogan if they take him ? "

" Transport him for life ; they'll not hang him, I think."

*' That's worse than hanging. I mean — that is — Miss Kearney
would rather they'd hang him."

" I have not said so," replied Kate ; " and I don't suspect I think
BO, either."

** Well," said Nina, after a pause, " let us go back to breakfast.
You'll see Mr. Walpole ; he's sure to be down by that time, and I'll
tell him what you wish is, that he must not think any more of the
incident ; that it was a piece of official stupidity, done, of course, out
of the best motives ; and that if he should cut a ridiculous figure at
the end, he has only himself to blame for the worse than ambiguity
of his private papers."

"I do not know that I'd exactly say that," said Kate, who felt
some difficulty in not laughing at the horror-struck expression of
Mr. Curtis's face.

" Well then, I'll say — this was what I wished to tell you, but
my cousin Kate interposed and suggested that a little adroit flattery
of you, and some small coquetries that might make you believe you
were charming, would be the readiest mode to make you forget
anything disagreeable, and she would charge herself with the task."
"Do so," said Kate, calmly; "and let us now go back to





That which the English irreverently call " chaff" enters largely as
an clement into Irish life ; and when Walpole stigmatized the habit
to Joe Atlee as essentially that of the smaller Island, he was not far
wrong. I will not say that it is a high order of wit — very elegant,
or very refined ; but it is a strong incentive to good humour — a vent
to good spirits ; and being a weapon which every Irishman can wield
in some fashion or other, establishes that sort of joust which
prevailed in the melee tournaments, and where each tilted with whom
he pleased.

Any one who has witnessed the progress of an Irish trial, even
when the crime was of the very gravest, cannot fail to have been
struck by the continual clash of smart remark and smarter rejoinder
between the bench and the bar ; showing how men feel the necessity
of ready-wittedness, and a promptitude to repel attack, in which even
the prisoner in the dock takes his share, and cuts his joke at the
most critical moment of his existence.

The Irish theatre always exhibits traits of this national taste ;
but a dinner-party, with its due infusion of barristers, is the best
possible exemplification of this give and take, which, even if it had no
higher merit, is a powerful ally of good humour, and the sworn foe
to everything like over-irritability or morbid self-esteem. Indeed I
could not wish a very conceited man, of a somewhat grave tempera-
ment and distant demeanour, a much heavier punishment than a
course of Irish dinner-parties ; for even though he should come out
scatheless himself, the outrages to his sense of propriety, and the
insults to his ideas of taste, would be a severe suffering.

That breakfast-table at Kilgobbin had some heavy hearts around
the board. There was not, with the exception of Walpole, one there
who had not, in the doubts that beset his future, grave cause for
anxiety ; and yet to look at, still more to listen to them, you would
have said that Walpole alone had any load of care upon lais heart,
and that the others were a light-hearted, happy set of people, with
whom the world went always well. No cloud ! — not even a shadow
to darken the road before them. Of this levity — for I suppose I
must give it a hard name — the source of much that is best and worst
amongst us, our English rulers take no account, and are often as
Toady to charge us with a conviction, which was no more than a
'Caprice, as they are to nail us down to some determination, which


was simply a drollery : and until some intelligent traveller does for
us wliat I lately perceived a clever tourist did for the Japanese, in
explaining their modes of thought, impulses, and passions to the
English, I despair of our heing better known in Downing-street than
we now are-
Captain Ourtis — for it is right to give him his rank — was fearfully
nervous and uneasy, and though he tried to eat his breakfast with
an air of unconcern and carelessness, he broke his egg with a
tremulous hand, and listened with painful eagerness every timeWalpole

" I wish somebody would send us the Standard : when it is known
that the Lord Lieutenant's secretary has turned Fenian," said Kil-
gobbin, '• won't there be a grand Tory outcry over the unprincipled
Whigs ? "

•' The papers need know nothing -whatever of the incident," inter-
posed Curtis, anxiously, " if old Flood is not busy enough to inform

" Who is old Flood ? " asked Walpole.

"A Tory J. P., who has copied out a considerable share of your
correspondence," said Kilgobbin.

"And four letters in a lady's hand," added Dick, "that he
imagines to be a treasonable correspondence by symbol."

" I hope Mr. Walpole," said Kate, "will rather accept felony to
the law than falsehood to the lady."

"You don't mean to say — " began Walpole, angrily; then,
correcting his irritable manner, he added, " Am 1 to suppose my
letters have been read ? "

" Well, roughly looked through," said Curtis. "Just a glance
here and there to catch what they meant."

"Which I must say was quite unnecessary," said Walpole,

" It was a sort of journal of yours," blundered out Curtis, who
had a most unhappy knack of committing himself, " that they opened
first, and they saw an entry with Kilgobbin Castle at the top of it,
and the date last July."

" There was nothing political in that, I'm sure," said Walpole.

" No, not exactly, but a trifle rebellious all the same ; the words
' we this evening learned a Fenian song, " The time to begin," and
rather suspect it is time to leave off; the Greek better-looking than
ever, and more dangerous.' "

Curtis's last words were drowned in the laugh that now shook the
table ; indeed, except Walpole and Nina herself, they actually roared
with laughter, which burst out afresh, as Curtis, in his innocence,


said, " We could uot make out about the Greek, but we hoped we'd
find out later on."

" And I fervently trust you did," said Kilgobbin.

"I'm afraid not; there was something about somebody called
Joe, that the Greek wouldn't have him, or disliked him, or snubbed
him — indeed I forget the words."

" You are quite right, sir, to distrust your memory," said
Walpole ; " it has betrayed you most egregiously already."

" On the contrary," burst in Kilgobbin, " I am delighted with
this proof of the Captain's acuteness ; tell us something more, Curtis."

" There was then ' From the upper castle yard, Maude,' whoever
Maude is, 'says, "Deny it all, and say j^ou never were there," not
so easy as she thinks, with a broken right arm, and a heart not quite
so whole as it ought to be.'"

" There, sir — with the permission of my friends here — I will ask
you to conclude your reminiscences of my private papers, which can
have no possible interest for any one but myself."

" Quite wrong in that," cried Kilgobbin, wiping his eyes, which
had run over with laughter. " There's nothing I'd like so much as
to hear more of them."

" What was that about his heart?" whispered Curtis to Kate;
" was he wounded in the side also ? "

" I believe so," said she, drily; " but I believe" he has got quite
over it by this time."

" Will you say a word or two about me, Miss Kearney ? "
whispered he again ; " I'm not sure I improved my case by talking
BO freely ; but as I saw you all so outspoken, I thought I'd fall into
your ways."

" Captain Curtis is much concerned for any fault he may have
committed in this unhappy business," said Kate; "and he trusts
th'at the agitation and excitement of the Donogan escape will excuse

" That's your policy now," interposed Kilgobbin. " Catch tbe
Fenian fellow, and nobody will remember the other incident."

" We mean to give out that we know he has got clear away to
America," said Curtis, with an air of intense cunning. " And to lull
his suspicions we have notices in print to say that no further rewards
are to be given for his apprehension, so that he'll get a false con-
fidence, and move about as before."

" With such acuteness as yours on his trail, his arrest is certain,"
said Walpole, gravely.

" Well, I hope so, too," said Curtis, in good faith for the com-
pliment. " Didn't I take up nine men for the search of anns here,


though there were ouly five ? One of them turned evidence," added
he, gravely; "he was the fellow that swore Miss Kearney stood
hetween you and the fire after they wounded you."

" You are determined to make Mr. Walpole your friend," whispered
Nina in his ear ; " don't you see, sir, that you are ruining yourself? "

" I have often been puzzled to explain how it was that crime went
unpunished in Ireland," said Walpole, sententiously.

" And you know now ? " asked Curtis.

" Yes ; in a great measure, you have supplied me with the

"I believe it's all right now," muttered the Captain to Kate.
*' If the swell owns that I have put him up to a thing or two, he'll
not throw me over."

" Would you give me three minutes of your time ? " whispered
Gorman O'Shca to Lord Kilgobbin, as they arose from table.

" Half-au-hour, my boy, or more if you want it. Come along
with me now into my study, and we'll be safe there from all inter-



" So then you're in a hobble with your aunt," said Mr. Kearney, as
he believed he had summed up the meaning of a very blundering
explanation by Gorman O'Shea ; isn't that it ? "

" Yes, sir ; I suppose it comes to that."

" The old story, I've no doubt, if we only knew it — as old as the
Patriarchs : the young ones go into debt, and think it very hard that
the elders dislike the paying it."

" No, no ; I have no debts — at least — none to speak of."

" It's a woman, then ? Have you gone and married some good-
looking girl, with no fortune and less family ? Who is she ? "

" Not even that, sir," said he, half impatient at seeing how little
attention had been bestowed on his narrative.

" 'Tis bad enough, no doubt," continued the old man, still in
pursuit of his own reflections ; " not but there's scores of things
worse : for if a man is a good fellow at heart, he'll treat the woman
all the better for what she has cost him. That is one of the good
sides of selfishness ; and when you have lived as long as me, Gorman,
you'll find out how often there's something good to bo squeezed out


of a bad quality, just as though it were a bit of our nature that waa
depraved, but not gone to the devil entirely."

" There is no woman in the case here, sir," said O'Shea, bluntly,
for these speculations only irritated him.

"Ho, ho! I have it then," cried the old man. "You've been
burning your fingers with rebellion. It's the Fenians have got a hold
of you."

" Nothing of the kind, sir. If you'll just read these two letters.
The one is mine, written on the morning I came here : here is my
aunt's. The first is not word for word as I sent it, but as well as I
can remember. At all events, it will show how little I had provoked
the answer. There, that's the document that came along with my
trunks, and I have never heard from her since."

" ' Deak Nephew,' " read out the old man, after patiently
adjusting his spectacles — " ' O'Shea's Barn is not an inn,' — And
more's the pity," added he; "for it would be a model house of
entertainment. You'd say any one could have a sirloin of beef or a
saddle of mutton ; but where Miss Betty gets hers is quite beyond
me. ' Nor are the horses at public livery,' " read he out. " I think
I may say, if they were, that Kattoo won't be hired out again to the
young man that took her over the fences. ' As you seem fond of
warnings,' " continued he, aloud — " Ho, ho ! that's at you for coming
over here to tell me about the search-warrant ; and she tells you tc
mind your own business ; and droll enough it is. We always fancy
we're saying an impertinence to a man when we tell him to attend to
what concerns him most. It shows at least that we think meddling
a luxury. And then she adds, ' Kilgobbin is welcome to you,' and I
can only say you are welcome to Kilgobbin, — ay, and in her own
words — ' with such regularity and order as the meals succeed.' — * All
the luggage belonging to you,' &c. and ' I am very respectfully, your
Aunt.' By my conscience, there was no need to sign it ! That was
old Miss Betty all the world over ! " and he laughed till his eyes ran
over, though the rueful face of young O'Shea was staring at him all
the time. "Don't look so gloomy, O'Shea," cried Kearney: "I
have not so good a cook, nor, I'm sorry to say, so good a cellar, as at
the Barn ; but there are young faces, and young voices and young
laughter, and a light step on the stairs ; and if I know anything, or
rather, if I remember anything, these will warm a heart at your age
better than '44 claret or the crustiest port that ever stained a decanter."

" I am turned out, sir — sent adrift on the world," said the young
man, despondently.

" And it is not so bad a thing after all, take my word for it, boy.
It's a great advantage now and then to begin life as a vagabond. It


takes a deal of snobbery out of a fellow to lie under a haystack, and
there's no better cure for pretension than a dinner of cold potatoes.
Not that I say you need the treatment — far from it — but our distin-
guished friend Mr. Walpole wouldn't be a bit the worse of such an

" If I am left without a shilling in the world ? "

" You must try what you can do on sixpence, — the whole thing
is how you begin. I used not to be able to eat my dinner when I
did not see the fellow in a white tie standing before the sideboard,
and the two flunkies in plush and silk stockings at either side of the
table; and when I perceived that the decanters had taken their
departure, and that it was beer I was given to drink, I felt as if I had
dined, and was ready to go out and have a smoke in the open air ;
but a little time, even without any patience but just time, does it all."

" Time won't teach a man to live upon nothing."

" It would be very hard for him if it did ; let him begin by having
few wants, and work hard to supply means for them."

" Work hard ! why, sir, if I laboured from daylight to dark, I'd
not earn the wages of the humblest peasant, and I'd not know how
to live on it."

" Well, I have given you all the philosophy in my budget, and to
tell you the truth, Gorman, except so far as coming down in the world
in spite of myself, I know mighty little about the fine precepts I have
been giving you ; but this I know, you have a roof over your head
here, and you're heartily welcome to it ; and who knows but your aunt
may come to terms all the sooner, because she sees you here ?"

"You are very generous to me, and I feel it deeply," said the
young man ; but he was almost choked with the words.

'* You have told me already, Gorman, that your aunt gave you no
other reason against coming here than that I had not been to call ou
you ; and I believe you — believe you thoroughly : but tell me nov/,
with the same frankness, was there nothing passing in your own
mind, — had you no suspicions or misgivings, or something of the
same kind, to keep you away ? Be candid with me now, and speak
it out freely."

" None on my honour : I was sorely grieved to be told I must not
come, and thought very often of rebelling, so that indeed, v\-hen I did
rebel, I was in a measure prepared for the penalty, though scarcely
so heavy as this."

"Don't take it to heart. It will come right yet — everything
comes right if we give it time — and there's plenty of time to the
fellow who is not five-and-twenty. It's only the old dogs, like myself,
who are always doing their match against time, are in a hobble. To


feel that every minute of the clock is something very like three weeks
of the almanack, flurries a man, when he wants to be cool and
collected. Put your hat on a peg, and make your home here. If
you want to be of use, Kitty will show you scores of things to do
about the garden, and we never object to see a brace of snipe at the
end of dinner, though there's nobody cares to shoot them ; and the
bog trout — for all their dark colour — are excellent eating, and I know
you can throw a line. All I say is, do something, and something
that takes you into the open air. Don't get to lying about in easy-
chairs and reading novels ; don't get to singing duets and philandering
about with the girls. May I never, if I'd not rather find a brandy
flask in your pocket than Tennyson's poems ! "



"Say it out frankly, Kate," cried Nina, as with flashing eyes and
heightened colour she paced the di-awing-room from end to end, with
that bold sweeping stride which in moments of passion betrayed her.
" Say it out. I know perfectly what you are hinting at."

" I never hint," said the other, gravely ; " least of all with those
I love."

" So much the better. I detest an equivoque. If I am to be
shot, let me look the fire in the face."

" There is no question of shooting at all. I think you are very
angry for nothing."

" Angry for nothing ! Do you call that studied coldness you have
observed towards me all day yesterday nothing ? Is your ceremonious
manner — exquisitely polite, I will not deny — is that nothing ? Is
your chilling salute when we met — I half believe you curtsied —
nothing ? That you shun me, that you take pains not to keep my
company, never to be with me alone, is past denial."

" And I do not deny it," said Kate, with a voice of calm and quiet

" At last, then, I have the avowal. You own that you love me
no longer."

" No, I own nothing of the kind : I love you very dearly; but I
see that our ideas of life are so totally unlike, that unless one should
bend and conform to tlio other, we cannot blend our thoughts in that
harmony which perfect confidence requires. You are so much above


me in mauy things, so much more cultivated and gifted — I was going
to say civilised, and I believe I might "

*' Ta — ta — ta," cried Nina, impatiently. " These flatteries are
very ill-timed."

"So they would be, if they were flatteries; but if you had
patience to hear me out, you'd have learned that I meant a higher
flattery for myself."

" Don't I know it ? don't I guess ? " cried the Greek. " Have
not your downcast eyes told it ? and that look of sweet humility that
says, ' At least I am not a flirt ? ' "

" Nor am I," said Kate, coldly.

" And I am ! Come, now, do confess. You want to say it."

" With all my heart I wish you were not ! " And Kate's eyes
swam as she spoke.

" And what if I tell you that I know it — that in the very
employment of the arts of what you call coquetry, I am but exercising
those powers of pleasing by which men are led to frequent the salon
instead of the cafe, and like the society of the cultivated and refined
better than "

" No, no, no ! " burst in Kate. There is no such mock principle
in the case. You are a flirt because you like the homage it secures
you, and because, as you do not believe in such a thing as an honest
aftection, you have no scruple about trifling with a man's heart."

" So much for captivating that bold hussar," cried Nina.

" For the moment I was not thinking of him."

"Of whom then?"

" Of that poor Captain Curtis, who has just ridden away."

"Oh, indeed!"

" Yes. He has a pretty wife and three nice little girls, and
they are the happiest people in the world. They love each other,
and love their home — so, at least, I am told, for I scarcely know
them myself."

" And what have I done with him ? "

" Sent him away sad and doubtful — very doubtful if the
happiness he believed in was the real article after all, and disposed
to ask himself how it was that his heart was beating in a new fashion,
and that some new sense had been added to his nature, of which he
had no inkling before. Sent him away with the notes of a melody
floating through his brain, so that the merry laugh of his children will
be a discord, and such a memory of a soft glance, that his wife's
bright look will be meaningless."

" And I have done all this ? Poor me ! "

"Yes, and done it so often, that it leaves no remorse behind it."


" And the same, I suppose, with the others ?"

" AVith Mr. Walpolc, and Dick, and Mr. O'Shea, and Mr. Atlee,
too, when he was here, in their several ways."

" Oh, in theirs, not in mine, then ? "

"I am but a bungler in my explanation. I wished to say that
you adapted your fascinations to the tastes of each."

" What a siren ! "

" Well, yes — what a siren : for they're all in love in some fashion
or other ; but I could have forgiven you these, had you spai'ed the
married man."

" So that you actually envy that poor prisoner the gleam of light
and the breath of cold air that comes between his prison bars, — that
one moment of ecstasy that reminds him how he once was fi'ee and at
large, and no manacles to weigh him down ? You will not let him
even touch bliss in imagination ? Are you not more cruel than me ? "

" This is mere nonsense," said Kate boldly. " You either believe
that man was fooling you, or that you have sent him away unhappy ?
take which of these you like."

" Can't your rustic nature see that there is a third case, quite
different from both, and that Harry Curtis went off believing "

" Was he Harry Curtis?" broke in Kate.

" He was dear Hai-ry when I said good-by," said Nina, calmly.

" Oh, then I give up everything, — I throw up my brief."

" So you ought, for j'ou have lost your cause long ago."

" Even that poor Donogau was not spared, and heaven knows he
had troubles enough on his head to have pleaded some pity for him."

" And is there no kind word to say of me, Kate ?"

" Oh, Nina, how ashamed you make me of my violence, when I
dare to blame you ! but if I did not love you so dearly I could better
bear you should have a fault."

" I have only one, then ?"

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 27 of 48)