Charles James Lever.

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

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" I know of no great one but this. I mean, I know of none that
endangers good nature and right feeling."

" And are you so sure that this does ? Are you so sure that
what you are faulting is not the manner and the way of a world you
have not seen ? that all these levities, as j'ou would call them, are
not the ordinary wear of people whose lives are passed where there is
more tolerance and less rain ? "

" l'>e serious, Nina, for a moment, and own that it was by
intention you v.'ere in the approach when Captain Curtis rode away, —
that you said something to him, or looked something — perhaps
both — on which he got down from his horse and walked beside you
for full a mile ? "


"All true," said Nina, calmly. " I confess to every part of it."

" I'd far rather that you said you were sorry for it."

" But I am not ; I'm very glad — I'm very proud of it. Yes,
look as reproachfully as you like, Kate ! ' very proud ' was what I said."

" Then I am indeed sorry," said Kate, growing pale as she spoke.

" I don't think after all this sharp lecturing of me that you
deserve much of my confidence, and if I make you any, Kate, it is not
by way of exculpation : for I do not accept your blame : it is simply
out of caprice — mind that, and that I am not thinking of defending

" I can easily believe that," said Kate drily.

And the other continued: — " When Captain Curtis was talking
to your father, and discussing the chances of capturing Donogan, he
twice or thrice mentioned Harper and Fry — names which somehow
seemed familiar to me ; and on thinking the matter over when I went
to my room, I opened Donogan's pocket-book and there found how
these names had become known to me. Harper and Fry were
tanners, in Cork Street, and theirs was one of the addresses by which,
if I had occasion to warn Donogan, I could write to him. On
hearing these names from Curtis, it struck me that there might be
treachery somewhere. Was it that these men themselves had
turned traitors to the cause ? or had another betrayed them ?
Whichever way the matter went, Donogan was evidently in great
danger : for this was one of the places he regarded as perfectly safe.

" What was to be done ? I dared not ask advice on any side.
To reveal the suspicions which were tormenting me required that I
should produce this pocket-book, and to whom could I impart this
man's secret ? I thought of your brother Dick, but he was from
home, and even if he had not been, I doubt if I should have told him.
I should have come to you, Kate, but that grand rebukeful tone you
had taken up this last twenty-four hours repelled me ; and, finally, I
took counsel with myself. I set off just before Captain Curtis started,
to what you have called waylay him in the avenue.

" Just below the beech-copse he came up ; and then that small
flirtation of the drawing-room, which has caused you so much anger
and me such a sharp lesson, stood me in good stead, and enabled me
to arrest his progress by some chance word or two, and at last so far
to interest him that he got down and walked along at my side. I
shall not shock you by recalling the little tender ' nothings ' that
passed between us, nor dwell on the small mockeries of sentiment
which we exchanged — I hope very harmlessly — but proceed at
once to what I felt my object. He was profuse of his gratitude for
what I had done for liim with Walpole, and firmly believed that my


intercession alone had saved him ; and so I went on to say that the
best reparation he could make for his blunder would be some exercise
of well-directed activity when occasion should offer. ' Suppose, for
instance,' said I, ' you could capture this man Donogan ? '

" ' The very thing I hope to do,' cried he. ' The train is laid
already. One of my constables has a brother in a well-known house iu
Dublin, the members of which, men of large wealth and good position
have long been suspected of holding intercourse with the rebels.
Through his brother, himself a Fenian, this man has heard that a
secret committee will meet at this place on Monday evening next, at
which Donogan will be present. MoUoy, another head-centre, will
also be there, and Cummiugs, who escaped from Carrickfergus.' I
took dovra all the names, Kate, the moment we parted, and while they
were fresh in my memory. ' We'll draw the net on them all,' said
he ; * and such a haul has not been made since '98. The rewards
alone will amount to some thousands.' It was then I said, ' And is
there no danger, Harry ? ' "

" Oh, Nina ! "

" Yes, darling, it was very dreadful, and I felt it so ; but some-
how one is carried away by a burst of feeling at certain moments,
and the shame only comes too late. Of course it was wrong of me
to call him Harry, and he, too, with a wife at home, and five little
girls — or three, I forget which — should never have sworn that he
loved me, nor said all that mad nonsense about what he felt in that
region where chief constables have their hearts ; but I own to great
tenderness and a very touching sensibility on either side. Indeed, I
may add here, that the really sensitive natures amongst men are
never fuund under forty-five ; but for genuine, uncalculating aflection,
for the sort of devotion that flings consequences to the winds, I'd say,
give me fifty-eight or sixty."

" Nina, do not make me hate you," said Kate, gravely.

" Certainly not, dearest, if a little hypocrisy will avert such a
misfortune. And so, to return to my narrative, I learned as accurately
as a gentleman so much in love could condescend to inform me, of
all the steps taken to secure Donogan at this meeting, or to capture
him later on if he should try to make his escape by sea."

" You mean, then, to write to Donogan and apprise him of his
danger ? "

" It is done. I wrote the moment I got back here. I addressed
him as Mr. James Bredin, care of Jonas MuUory, Esq., 41, New
Street, which was the first address in the list he gave me. I told him
of the peril he ran, and what his friends were also threatened by, and
I recounted the absurd seizure of Mr. Walpole's effects here ; and,


last of all, what a dangerous rival he had in this Captain Curtis, -who
was ready to desert wife, children, and the constabulary to-morrow
for me ; and assuring him confidentially that I was well worth greater
sacrifices of better men, I signed my initials in Greek letters."

"Marvellous caution and great discretion," said Kate, solemnly.

" And now come over to the drawing-room, where I have pro-
mised to sing for Mr. O'Shca some little ballad that he dreamed over
all the night through ; and then there's something else — what is it ?
what is it ? "

" How should I know, Nina ? I was not present at your

"Never mind ; I'll remember it presently. It will come to my
recollection while I'm singing that song."

" If emotion is not too much for you."

" Just so, Kate — sensibilities permitting ; and, indeed," she said,
" I remember it already. It was luncheon."



" Is it true they have captured Donogan ?" said Nina, coming hur-
riedly into the library, where Walpole was busily engaged with his
correspondence, and sat before a table covered not only with official
documents, but a number of printed placards and handbills.

He looked up, surprised at her presence, and by the tone of
familiarity in her question, for which he was in no way prepared, and
for a second or two actually stared at without answering her.

" Can't you tell me ? Are they coi-rect in saying he has been
caught?" cried she impatiently.

" Very far from it. There are the police returns up to last night
from Meath, Kildare, and Dublin ; and though he was seen at Naas,
passed some hours in Dublin, and actually attended a night meeting
at Kells, all trace of him has been since lost, and he has completely
bafiled us. By the Viceroy's orders, I am now doubling the reward
for his apprehension, and am prepared to ofi"er a free pardon to any
who shall give information about him, who may not actually have
committed a felony."

" Is he so very dangerous, then ?"

" Eveij man who is so daring is dangerous here. The people
have a sort of idolatry for reckless courage. It is not only that he


has ventured to come back to the country where his life is sacrificed
to the law, but he declares openlj' he is ready to offer himself as a
representative for an Irish county, and to test in his own person
whether the English will have the temerity to touch the man — the
choice of the Irish people."

"He is bold," said she, resolutely.

" And I trust he will pay for his boldness ! Our law officers are
prepared to treat him as a felon, irrespective of all claim to his
character as a Member of Parliament."

" The danger will not deter him."

"You think so?"

" I know it," was the calm reply.

" Indeed," said he, bending a steady look at her. " What
opportunities, might I ask, have you had to form this same opinion ? "

" Are not the public papers full of him ? Have we not an almost
daily record of his exploits ? Do not your own rewards for his
capture impart an almost fabulous value to his life ?"

"His portrait, too, may lend some interest to his story," said he,
with a half- sneering smile. " They say this is very like him." And
he handed a photograph as he spoke.

" This was done in New York," said she, turning to the back of
the card, the better to hide an emotion she could not entirely repress.

" Yes, done by a brother Fenian, long since in our pay."

" How base all that sounds ! how I detest such treachery ! "

"How deal with treason without it? Is it like him?" asked
he, artlessly.

" How should I know ? " said she, in a slightly hurried tone.
" It is not like the portrait in the Illustrated Netcs."

" I wonder which is the more like," added he thoughtfully, " and
I fervently hope we shall soon know. There is not a man he confides
in who has not engaged to betray him."

" I trust you feel proud of your achievement."

" No, not proud, but vei-y anxious for its success. The perils of
this country are too great for mere sensibilites. He who would
extirpate a tenible disease must not fear the knife."

" Not if he even kill the patient ?" asked she.

" That might happen, and would be to be deplored," said he, in
the same unmoved tone. " But might I ask, whence has come all
this interest for this cause, and how have you learned so much
sympathy with these people ? "

" I read the newspapers," said she, drily.

"You must read those of only one colour, then," said he, slily;
" or perhaps it is the tone of comment you hear about you. Are


your sentiments such as you daily listen to from Lord Kilgobbin and
his family ?"

"I don't know that they are. I suspect I'm more of a rebel
than he is ; but I'll ask him if you wish it."

"On no account, I entreat you. It would compromise me
seriously to hear such a discussion even in jest. Remember who I
am, Mademoiselle, and the office I hold."

" Your great frankness, Mr. Walpole, makes me sometimes forget
both," said she, with well-acted humility.

" I wish it would do something more," said he, eagerly, " I wish
it would inspire a little emulation, and make you deal as openly with
me as I long to do with you."

" It might embarrass you very much, perhaps."

" As how ?" asked he, with a touch of tenderness ia his voice.

For a second or two she made no answer, and then, faltering at
each word, she said, " What if some rebel leader — this man Donogan,
for instance — drawn towards you by some secret magic of trustful-
ness — moved by, I know not what need of your sympathy — for there
is such a craving void now and then felt in the heart — should tell you
some secret thought of his nature — something that he could utter
alone to himself — would you bring yourself to use it against him ?
Could you turn round and say, ' I have your inmost soul in my
keeping. You are mine now — mine — mine ?' "

" Do I understand you aright ? " said he, earnestly. "Is it just
possible, even possible, that you have that to confide to me which
would show that you regard me as a dear friend ? "

" Oh ! Mr. Walpole," burst she out, passionately, " do not by
the greater power of your intellect seek the mastery over mine. Let
the loneliness and isolation of my life here rather appeal to you to
pity than suggest the thought of influencing and dominating me."

" Would that I might. What would I not give or do to have
that power that you speak of."

" Is this true ?" said she.

"It is."

"Will you swear it ? "

" Most solemnly."

She paused for a moment, and a slight tremor shook her mouth ;
but whether the motion expressed a sentiment of acute pain or a
movement of repressed sarcasm, it was very difficult to determine.

"What is it, then, that you w^ould swear?" asked she calmly
and even coldly.

" Swear that I have no hope so high, no ambition so great, as to
win your heart."


" Indeed ! And that other heart that you have won — what is to
become of it ?"

" Its owner has recalled it. In fact, it was never in vnj keeping
but as a loan."

" How strange ! At least, how strange to me this sounds. I,
in my ignorance, thought that people pledged their very lives in these

" So it ought to he, aud so it would be, if this world were not a
web of petty interests and mean ambitions ; aud these, I grieve to
say, will find their way into hearts that should be the home of very
different sentiments. It was of this order was that compact with my
cousin — for I will speak openly to you, knowing it is her to whom
you allude. We were to have been married. It was an old engage-
ment. Our friends — that is, I believe, the way to call them — liked
it. They thought it a good thing for each of us. Indeed, making
the dependants of a good family intermarry is an economy of
patronage — the same plank rescues two from drowning. I believe —
that is, I fear — we accepted all this in the same spirit. We were to
love each other as much as we could, and our relations were to do
their best for us."

" And now it is all over ?"

" All — and for ever."

" How came this about ? "

" At first by a jealousy about tjou."

" A jealousy about me ! You surely never dared — " and here
her voice trembled with real passion, while her eyes flashed angrily.

" No, no. I am guiltless in the matter. It was that cur Atlee
made the mischief. In a moment of weak trustfulness, I sent him
over to Wales to assist my uncle in his correspondence. He, of
course, got to know Lady Maude Bickcrstaffe — by what arts he
ingratiated himself into her confidence, I cannot say. Indeed, I had
trusted that the fellow's vulgarity would form an impassable barrier
between them, and prevent all intimacy ; but, apparently, I was
wrong. He seems to have been the companion of her rides and
drives, and, under the pretext of doing some commissions for her in
the bazaars of Constantinople, he got to correspond with her. So
artful a fellow would well know what to make of such a privilege."

"And is he your successor now?" asked she, with a look of
almost undisguised insolence.

" Scarcely that," said he, with a supercilious smile. " I think,
if you bad ever seen my cousin, you would scarcely have asked the

" But I have seen her. I saw her at the Odescalchi Palace at


Rome. I remember the stare she was pleased to bestow on me as
she swept past me. I remember more, her words as she asked, ' Is
this your Titian girl I have heard so much of?' "

" And may hear more of," muttered he, almost unconsciously.

" Yes — even that too ; but not, perhaps, in the sense you mean."
Then, as if correcting herself, she went on, " It was a bold ambition
of Mr. Atlee. I must say I like the very daring of it."

" He never dared it — take my word for it."

An insolent laugh was her first reply. " How little you men
know of each other, and how less than little you know of us ! You
sneer at the people who are moved by sudden impulse, but you forget
it is the squall upsets the boat."

" I believe I can follow what you mean. You would imply that
my cousin's breach with 7ne might have impelled her to listen to Atlee ? "

" Not so much that as, by establishing himself as her confidant,
he got the key of her heart, and let himself in as he pleased."

"I suspect ho found little to interest him there."

" The insufierable insolence of that speech ! Can you men
never be brought to see that we are not all alike to each of you ; that
our natures have their separate watchwords, and that the soul which
would vibrate with tenderness to this, is to that, a dead and senseless
thing, with no trace nor touch of feeling about it ? "

" I only believe this in part."

" Believe it wholly, then, or own that you know nothing of love —
no more than do those countless thousands who go through life and
never taste its real ecstacy, nor its real sorrow; who accept con-
venience, or caprice, or flattered vanity as its counterfeit, and live
out the delusion in lives of discontent. You have done wrong to
break with your cousin. It is clear to me you suited each other."

" This is sarcasm."

*' If it is, I am sorry for it. I meant it for sincerity. In your
career, ambition is everything. The woman that could aid you on
your road would be the real helpmate. She who would simply cross
your path by her sympathies, or her affections, would be a mere
embarrassment. Take the very case before us. Would not Lady
Maude point out to you how, by the capture of this rebel, you might
so aid your friends as to establish a claim for recompense ? Would
she not impress you with the necessity of showing how your activity
redounded to the credit of your party ? She would neither interpose
with ill-timed appeals to your pity or a misplaced sympathy. She
would help the politician, while another might hamper the man."

" All that might be true, if the game of political life were played
as it seems to be on the surface, and my cousin was exactly the sort



of woman to use ordinary faculties v.ith abilitj' and acuteness ; but
there are scores of things in which her interference would have been
hurtful, and her secrecy dubious. I will give you an instance, and
it will serve to show my implicit confidence in yourself. Now with
respect to this man, Donogan, there is nothing we wish less than to
take him. To capture means to try — to try means to hang him —
and how much better, or safer, or stronger are we when it is done ?
These fellows, right or wrong, represent opinions that are never
controverted by the scaffold, and every man who dies for his convic-
tions leaves a thousand disciples who never believed in him before.
It is only because he braves us that we pursue him, and in the face
of our opponents and Parliament we cannot do less. So that while
we arc offering large rewards for his apprehension we would willingly
give double the sum to know he had escaped. Talk of the supremacy
of the Law — the more you assert that here, the more ungovernable
is this country by a Party. An active Attorney- General is another
word for three more regiments in Ireland."

" I follow you with some difficulty ; but I see that you would like
this man to get away, and how is that to be done ?"

" Easily enough, when once he knows that it will be safe for him
to go north. He naturally fears the Orangemen of the northern
counties. They will, however, do nothing without the police, and
the police have got their orders throughout Antrim and Derry. Here
— on this strip of paper — here are the secret instructions : — * To
George Dargan, Chief Constable, Letterkenny district. Private and
confidential. — It is, for many reasons, expedient that the convict
Donogan, on a proper understanding that he will not return to
Ireland, should be suffered to escape. If you are, therefore, in a
position to extort a pledge from him to this extent — and it should be
explicit and beyond all cavil — you will, taking due care not to com-
promise your authority in your office, aid him to leave the country,
even to the extent of moneyed assistance.' To this are appended
directions how he is to proceed to carry out these instructions ; what
he may, and what he may not do, with whom he may seek for co-
operation, and where he is to maintain a guarded and careful secrecy.
Now, in telliug you all this, Mdlle. Kostalergi, I have given you the
strongest assurance in my power of the unlimited trust I have in you.
I see how the questions that agitate this country interest you, I read
the eagerness with which you watch them, but I want you to see more.
I want you to see that the men who purpose to themselves the great
task of extricating Ireland from her difficulties must be politicians
in the highest sense of the word, and that you should see in us
statesmen of an order that can weigh human passions and human


•emotions — and see that liopo and fear, and terror and gratitude,
sway the hearts of men who, to less ohscrvaut eyes, seem to have no
phace in their natures but for rebellion. That this mode of governing
Ireland is the one charm to the Celtic heart, all the Tory rule of the
last fifty years, with its hangings and banishments, and other terrible
blunders, will soon convince you. The Priest alone has felt the pulse
of this people, and we are the only Ministers of England who have
taken the Priest into our confidence. I own to you I claim some
credit for myself in this discovery. It was in long reflecting over the
ills of Ireland that I came to see that where the malady has so much
in its nature that is sensational and emotional, so must the remedy be
sensational too. The Tories were ever bent on extirpating — we
devote ourselves to ' healing measures.' Do you follow me ? "

" I do," said she, thoughtfully,

" Do I interest you ? " asked he, more tenderly.

" Intensely," was the reply.

" Oh, if I could but think that I If I could bring myself to believe
that the day would come, not only to secure your interest, but your
aid and your assistance in this great task ! I have long sought the
opportunity to tell you that we, who hold the destinies of our people
in our keeping, are not inferior to our great trust, that we are not
mere creatures of a state department, small deities of the Olympus of
office, but actual statesmen and rulers. Fortune has given me the
wishcd-for moment, let it complete my happiness, let it tell me that
you see in this noble work one worthy of your genius and your
generosity, and that you would accept me as a fellow-labourer in the

The fervour which he threw into the utterance of these words
contrasted strongly and strangely with the words themselves ; so
unlike the declaration of a lover's passion.

" I do — not — know," said she, falteringly.

" What is that you do not know ? " asked he with tender eager-

" I do not know if I understand you aright, and I do not know
what answer I should give you."

" Will not your heart tell you ? "

She shook her- head.

" You will not crush me with the thought that there is no pleading
for me there."

" If you had desired in honesty my regard you should not have
prejudiced me ; you began here by enlisting my sympathies in your
Task; you told me of your ambitions. I like these ambitions."

" Why not share them ? " cried he, passionately.


" You seem to forget whnt you ask. A woman does not give her
heart as a man joins a party or an administration. It is no question
of an advantage based upon a compromise. There is no sentiment
of gratitude, or recompense, or reward in the gift. She simply gives
that wliich is no longer hers to retain ! She trusts to what her mind
will not stop to question — she goes where she cannot help hut follow."

" How immeasurably greater your every word makes the prize of
your love."

"It is in no vanity that I say, I know it," said she, calmly.
" Let us speak no more on this now."

" But you will not refuse to listen to me, Nina ? "

" I will read you if you write to me," and with a wave of good-by
she slowly left the room.

" She is my master, even at my own game," said Walpole, as he
sat down, and rested his head between his hands. " Still, she is
mistaken ; I can write just as vaguely as I can speak, and if I could
not, it would have cost me my freedom this many a day. With such

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 28 of 48)