Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 29 of 48)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 29 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a woman one might venture high, but heaven help him when he
ceased to climb the mountain ! "



It was so rare an event of late for Nina to seek her cousin in her ovnx
room, that Kate was somewhat surprised to see Nina enter with all
her old ease of manner, and flinging away her hat carelessly, say,
" Let me have a cup of tea, dearest, for I want to have a clear head
and a calm mind for at least the next half-hour."

"It is almost time to dress for dinner, especially for you, Nina,
who make a careful toilette."

" Perhaps I shall make less to-day, perhaps not go down to dinner
at all. Do you know, child, I have every reason for agitation, and
maiden bashfulness besides ? Do you know I have had a proposal —
a proposal in all form — from ? — but you shall guess whom."

" Mr. O'Shea, of course."

" No, not Mr. O'Shea, though I am almost prepared for such a
step on his part — nor from your brother Dick, who has been falling in
and out of love with me for the last three months or more. My present
conquest is the supremely arrogant, but now condescending, Mr.
Walpole, who, for reasons of state and exigencies of party, has been


led to believe that a pretty wife, with a certain amount of natural
astuteness, might advance his interests, and tend to his promotion in
public life ; and with his old instincts as a gambler, he is actually
ready to risk his fortunes on a single card, and I, the portionless
Greek girl, with about the same advantages of family as of fortune —
I am to be that queen of trumps, on which he stands to win. And
now, darling, the cup of tea, the cup of tea, if you want to hear more."

While Kate was busy arranging the cups of a little tea-service
that did duty in her dressing-room, Nina walked impatiently to and
fro, talking with rapidity all the time.

"The man is a greater fool than I thought him, and mistakes
his native weakness of mind for originality. If you had heard the
imbecile nonsense he talked to me for political shi'ewdness, and when
he had shown me what a very poor creature he was, he made me the
offer of himself ! This was so far honest and above-board. It was
saying, in so many words, ' You see, I am a bankrupt.' Now, I don't
like bankrupts, either of mind or money. Could he not 'have seen
that he who seeks my favour must sue in another fashion ? "

" And so you refused him ? " said Kate, as she poured out her tea.

" Far from it — I rather listened to his suit. I was so far curious
to hear what he could plead in his behalf, that I bade him write it.
Yes, dearest ; it was a maxim of that very acute man my papa, that,
when a person makes you any dubious proposition in words, you
oblige him to commit it to writing. Not necessarily to be used
against him afterwards, but for this reason — and I can almost quote
my papa's phrase on the occasion — in the homage of his self-love, a
man will rarely write himself such a knave as he will dare to own
•when he is talking, and in that act of weakness is the gain of the
other party to the compact."

" I don't think I understand you."

" I'm sure you do not ; and you have put no sugar in my tea,
which is worse. Do you mean to say that your clock is right, and
that it is already nigh seven ? Oh dear ! and I, who have not told
you one-half of my news, I must go and dress. I have a certain green
silk with white roses which I mean to wear, and with my hair in that
crimson Neapolitan net, it is a toilette it la minute."

" You know how it becomes you," said Kate, half-slyly.

" Of course I do, or'in this critical moment of my life I should
not risk it. It will have its own suggestive meaning too. It will
recall ce cher Cecil to days at Baia, or wandering along the coast at
Portici. I have known a fragment of lace, a flower, a few bars of a
song, do more to link the broken chain of memory than scores of more
laboured recollections ; and then these little paths that lead you back


are so simple, so free from all premeditation. Don't you think so,

" I do not know, and if it were not rude, I'd say I do not care."

"If my cup of tea were not so good, I should be offended, and
leave the room after such a speech. But you do not know, you conld
not guess, the interesting things that I could tell you," cried she,
■with an almost breathless rapidity. " Just imagine that deep states-
man, that profound plotter, telling me that they actually did not wish
to capture Donogan — that they would rather that he should escape ! "

" He told you this ? "

" He did more ; he showed me the secret instructions to his police
creatures — I forget how they are called — shomng what they might
do to connive at his escape, and how they should — if they could —
induce him to give some written pledge to leave Ireland for ever."

" Oh, this is impossible !" cried Kate.

" I could prove it to you, if I had not just sent off the veritable
bit of writing by post. Yes, stare and look horrified if you like ; it
is all true. I stole the piece of paper with the secret directions, and
sent it straight to Donogan, under cover to Archibold Casey, Esq.,
9, Lower Gardner Street, Dublin."

" How could you have done such a thing ? "

" Say, how could I have done otherwise. Donogan now knows
whether it will become him to sign this pact with the enemy. If
he deem his life worth having at the price it is well that / should
know it."

" It is then of yourself you were thinking all the while."

" Of myself and of him. I do not say I love this man ; but I
do say his conduct now shall decide if he be worth loving. There's
the bell for dinner. You shall hear all I have to say this evening.
What an interest it gives to life, even this much of plot and peril !
Short of being with the rebel himself, Kate, and sharing his dangers,
I know of nothing could have given me such delight."

She turned back as she left the door, and said, " Make Mr.
Walpole take you down to dinner to-day ; I shall take Mr. O'Shea's
arm, or your brother's."

The address of Archibold Casey, which Nina had used on this
occasion, was that of a well-known solicitor in Dublin, whose Con-
servative opinions placed him above all suspicion or distrust. One
of his clients, however — a certain Mr. Mahcr — had been permitted
to have letters occasionally addressed to him to Casey's care ; and
Maher, being an old college friend of Donogan's, afforded him this
mode of receiving letters in times of unusual urgency or danger.
Maher shared very slightly in Donogan's opinions. He thought tho


men of the National party not only dangerous in themselves, but that
they aflbrded a reason for many of the repressive laws which English-
men passed with reference to Ireland. A friendship of early life,
when both these young men were college students, had overcome
such scruples, and Donogan had been permitted to have many letters
marked simply with a D., which were sent under cover to Maher.
This facility had, however, been granted so far back as '47, and had
not been renewed in the interval, during which time the Archibold
Casey of that period had died, and been succeeded by a son with the
same name as his father.

When Nina, on looking over Donogan's note-book, came upon,
this address, she saw, also, some almost illegible words, which
implied that it was only to be employed as the last resort, or had
been so used — a phrase she could not exactly determine what it
meaned. The present occasion — so emergent in everyway — appeared
to warrant both haste and security ; and so, under cover to S. Maher,
she wrote to Donogan in these words : —

" I send you the words in the original handwriting, of the
instructions with regard to you. You will do what your honour and
your conscience dictate. Do not write to me ; the public papers will
inform me what your decision has been, and I shall be satisfied,
however it incline. I rely upon you to burn the enclosure."

A suit-at-law in which Casey acted as Maher's attorney at this
period required that the letters addressed to his house for Maher
should be opened and read ; and though the letter D. on the outside
might have suggested a caution, Casey either overlooked or misunder-
stood it, and broke the seal. Not knowing what to think of this
document, which was without signature, and had no clue to the writer
except the post-mark of Kilgobbin, Casey hastened to lay the letter
as it stood before the barrister who conducted Maher's cause, and
to ask his advice. The Right Hon. Paul Hartigan was an ex- Attorney-
General of the Tory party — a zealous, active, but somewhat rash
member of his party ; still in the House, a Member for Mallow, and
far more eager for the return of his friends to power than the great
man who dictated the tactics of the Opposition, and who with more
of responsibility could calculate the chances of success.

Paul Hartigan's estimate of the Whigs was such that it would
have in no wise astonished him to discover that Mr. Gladstone was
in close correspondence with O'Donovan Rossa, or that Chichester
Fortescue had been sworn in as a Head- Centre. That the whole
Cabinet were secretly Papists, and held weekly confession at the feet
of Dr. Manning, he was prepared to prove. He did not vouch for
Mr. Lowe ; but he could produce the form of scapular worn by IVIr.


Gladstone, and Lad a facsimile of the scourge by whicli Mr. Cardwell
diurnally chastened his natural instincts.

If, then, he expressed but small astonishment at this "traffic of
the Government with rebellion," — for so he called it — he lost no
time in endeavouring to trace the writer of the letter, and ascertaining,
so far as he might, the authenticity of the enclosure.

" It's all true, Casey," said he, a few days after his receipt of
the papers. " The instructions are written by Cecil Walpole, the
private secretary of Lord Dancsbury. I have obtained several
specimens of his writing. There is no attempt at disguise or con-
cealment in this. I have learned, too, that the police-constable
Dargan is one of their most trusted agents ; and the only thing now
to find out is, who is the writer of the letter, for up to this all wo
know is, the hand is a woman's."

Now it chanced that when Mr. Hartigan — who had taken great
pains and bestowed much time to learn the story of the night-attack
on Kilgobbin, and wished to make the presence of Mr. Walpole on
the scene the ground of a question in Parliament — had consulted the
leader of the Opposition on the subject, he had met not only a
distinct refusal of aid, but something very like a reproof for his
ill-advised zeal. The Honourable Paul, not for the first time disposed
to distrust the political loyalty that differed with his own ideas, now
declared openly that he would not confide this great disclosure to
the lukewarm advocacy of Mr. Disraeli ; he would himself lay it before
the House, and stand or fall by the result.

If the men who " stand or fall " by any measure were counted,
it is to be feared that they usually would be found not only in the
category of the latter, but that they very rarely rise again, so very
few are the matters which can be determined without some compro-
mise, and so rare are the political questions which comprehend a
distinct principle.

What warmed the Hartigan ardour, and, indeed, chafed it to a
white heat on this occasion, was to see by the public papers that
Daniel Donogan had been fixed on by the men of King's County as
the popular candidate, and a public meeting held at Kilbeggan, to
declare that the man who should oppose him at the hustings should
be pronounced the enemy of Ireland. To show that while this man
was advertised in the Hue and Cry, with an immense rewai'd for his
apprehension, he was in secret protected by the Government, who
actually condescended to treat with him ; what an occasion would
this afford for an attack that would revive the memories of Grattan's
scorn and Curran's sarcasm, and declare to the senate of England that
the men who led them were unworthy guardians of the national honour !

( 281 )


Whether Walpole found some peculiar difficulty in committing big
intentions to writing, or whether the pres? of business which usually
occupied bis mornings, served as an excuse, or whether be was
satisfied with the progress of bis suit by bis personal assiduities, is
not easy to say ; but his attentions to Mdlle. Kostalergi had now
assumed the form which prudent mothers are wont to call " serious,"
and had already passed into that stage where small jealousies begin,
and little episodes of auger and discontent are admitted as symptoms
of the complaint.

In fact he had got to think himself privileged to remonstrate
against this, and to dictate that — a state, be it observed, which
whatever its effect upon the " lady of bis love," makes a man parti-
cularly odious to the people around bim, and be is singularly fortunate
if it make bim not ridiculous also.

The docile or submissive was not the remarkable element in
Nina's nature. She usually resisted advice, and resented anything
like dictation from any quarter. Indeed, they who knew her best
saw that, however open to casual influences, a direct show of guidance
was sure to call up all her spirit of opposition. It was, then, a matter
of actual astonishment to all to perceive not only how quietly and
patiently she accepted Walpole's comments and suggestions, but bow
implicitly she seemed to obey them.

All the little harmless freedoms of manner with Dick Kearney
and O'Shea were now completely given up. No more was there
between them that interchange of light "persiflage" which, pre-sup-
posing some subject of common interest, is in itself a ground of

She ceased to sing the songs that were their favourites. Her
walks in the garden after breakfast, where her ready wit and genial
pleasantly used to bring her a perfect troop of followers, were
abandoned. The little projects of daily pleasure, hitherto her especial
province, were changed for a calm subdued demeanour which, though
devoid of all depression, wore the impress of a certain thoughtfulness
and seriousness.

No man was less observant than old Kearney, and yet even be
saw the change at last, and asked Kate what it might mean. " She
is not ill, I hope," said be, " or is our humdrum life too wearisomo
to her ? "


" I do not suspect either," said Kate slowly. " I rather believe
that as Mr. Walpole has paid her certain attentions, she has made
the changes in her manner in deference to some wishes of his."

"He T.'ants her to be more English, perhaps," said he sarcas-

" Perhaps so."

" Well, she is not born one of us, but she is like us all the same,
and I'll be sorely grieved if she'll give up her light-heartedness and
her pleasantry to win that Cockney."

" I think she has won the Cockney already, sir."

A long low whistle was his reply. At last he said, " I suppose
it'« a very grand conquest, and what the world calls ' an elegant
match ; ' but may I never see Easter, if I wouldn't rather she'd marry
a fine dashing young fellow over six feet high, like O'Shea there,
than one of your gold-chain-and-locket young gentlemen who smile
where they ought to laugh, and pick their way through life as a man
crosses a stream on stepping-stones."

" Maybe she does not like Mr. O'Shea, sir."

" And do you think she likes the other man? or is it anything
else than one of those mercenary attachments that you young ladies
■understand better, far better, than the most worldly-minded father or
mother of us all ? "

" Mr. Walpole has not, I believe, any fortune, sir. There is
nothing very dazzling in his position nor his prospects."

" No. Not amongst his own set, nor with his own people — he is
small enough there I grant you ; but when he comes down to ours,
Kitty, we think him a grandee of Spain ; and if he was married into
the family, we'd get off all his noble relations by heart, and soon start
talking of our aunt, Lady such a one, and Lord somebody else, that
was our first-cousin, till our neighbours would nearly die out of pure
spite. Sitting down in one's poverty, and thinking over one's grand
relations, is for all the world like Paddy eating his potatoes, and
pointing at the red-herring — even the look of what he dare not taste
flavours bis meal."

" At least, sir, you have found an excuse for our conduct."

" Because we are all snobs, Kitty ; because there is not a bit of
honesty or manliness in our nature ; and because our women that
need not be bargaining or borrowing — neither pawnbrokers nor
usurers — are just as vulgar-minded as ourselves ; and now that we
have given twenty millions to get rid of slavery, like to show how they
can keep it up in the old. country, just out of defiance."

"If you disapprove of Mr. Walpole, sir, I believe it is full time
you should say so."


" I neither af)prove nor disapprove of him. I clou't well know
whether I have any right to do either — I moan so far as to iujHuence
her choice. He belongs to a sort of men I know as little about as I
do of the Choctaw Indians. They have lives and notions and ways
all unlike ours. The world is so civil to them that it prepares eveiT-
thing to their taste. If they want to shoot, the birds are cooped up
in a cover, and only let fly when they're ready. When they fish, the
salmon are kept prepared to be caught ; and if they make love, the
young lady is just as ready to rise to the fly, and as willing to be
bagged as either. Thank God, my darling, with all our barbarism,
we have not come to that in Ireland."

"Here comes Mr. Walpole now, sir; and, if I read his face
aright, he has something of importance to say to you."

Kate had barely time to leave the room as Walpole came forward
with an open telegram and a mass of papers in his hand.

" May I have a few moments of conversation with you ? " said
he ; and in the tone of his words, and a certain gravity in his
manner, Kearney thought he could perceive what the communication

" I am at your orders," said Kearney, and he placed a chair for
the other.

" An incident has befallen my life here, Mr. Kearney, which, I
grieve to say, may not only colour the whole of my future career, but
not impossibly prove the barrier to my pursuit of public life."

Kearney stared at him as he finished speaking, and the two men
sat fixedly gazing on each other.

"It is, I hasten to ovm, the one unpleasant, the one, the only
one, disastrous event of a visit full of the happiest memories of my
life. Of your generous and graceful hospitality, I cannot say half
what I desire "

" Say nothing about my hospitality," said Kearney, whose irrita-
tion as to what the other called a disaster left him no place for any
other sentiment ; " but just tell me why you count this a misfortune."

" I call a misfortune, sir, what may not only depose me from my
office and my station, but withdraw entirely from me the favour and
protection of my uncle, Lord Danesbury,"

" Then why the devil do you do it ? " cried Kearney, angrily.

" Why do I do what, sir ? I am not aware of any action of mine
you should question with such energy,"

" I mean, if it only tends to ruin your prospects and disgust your
family, why do you persist, sir ? I was going to say more, and ask
with what face you presume to come and tell these things to me ? "

" I am really unable to understand you, sir."


"Mayhap, we are both of us in the same predicament," criel
Eearnej-, as he wiped his brow in proof of his confusion.

" Had you accorded me a very Httle patience, I might, perhaps,
have cxphiiued myself."

Not trusting himself with a word, Kearney nodded, and the other
went on : " The post this morning brought me, among other things,
these two newspapers, with peumarks iu the margin to direct my
attention. This is the Lily of Londonderry, a wild Orange print ;
this the Banner of Ulster, a journal of the same complexion. Here
is what the Libj says : ' Our county member. Sir Jonas Gcttering, is
now in a position to call the attention of Parliament to a document
which will distinctly show how her Majesty's Ministers are not only
in close correspondence with the leaders of Fenianism, but that Irish
rebellion receives its support and comfort from the present Cabinet.
Grave as this charge is, and momentous as would be the consequences
of such an allegation if unfounded, we repeat that such a document is
in existence, and that we who write these lines have held it in our
hands and have perused it.'

" The Banner copies the paragraph, and adds, ' We give all the
publicity in our power to a statement which, from our personal
knowledge, we can declare to be true. If the disclosures which a
debate on this subject must inevitably lead to will not convince
Englishmen that Ireland is now governed by a party whose falsehood
and subtlety not even Machiavelli himself could justify, we are free
to declare we are ready to join the Nationalists to-morrow, and to cry
out for a Parliament in College Green, in preference to a Holy
Inquisition at Westminster.' "

" That fellow has blood in him," cried Kearney, with enthusiasm,
" and I go a long way with him."

•'That may be, sir, and I am sorry to hear it," said Walpole,
coldly ; " but what I am concerned to tell you is, that the document
or memorandum here alluded to was ainongmy papers, and abstracted
from them since I have been here."

" So that there ivas actually such a paper ? " broke in Kearney.

" There was a paper which the malevolence of a party journalist
could convert to the support of such a charge. What concerns me
more immediately is, that it has been stolen from my despatch-

" Are you certain of that 7 "

" I believe I can prove it. The only day in which I was busied
with these papers I carried them down to the library, and with my own
hands I brought them back to my room and placed them under lock
and key at once. The box bears no trace of having been broken, so


that the only solution is a key. Perhaps my own key may have been
used to open it, for the document is gone."

" This is a bad business," said Kearney, sorrowfully.
" It is ruin to ?»('," cried Walpole, with passion. " Here is a
despatch from Lord Danesbury, commanding me immediately to go
over to him in Wales, and I can guess easily what has occasioned the

" I'll send for a force of Dublin detectives. I'll write to the chief
of the police. I'll not rest till I have every one in the house examined
on oath," cried Kearney. " What was it like ? Was it a despatch —
was it in an envelope ? "

" It was a mere memorandum — a piece of post paper, and headed,
' Draught of instruction touching D. D. Forward to chief constable
of police at Letterkenny. October 9th.' "

" But you had no direct correspondence with Donogan ? "
" I believe, sir, I need not assure you I had not. The malevo-
lence of party has alone the merit of such an imputation. For reasons
of state, we desired to observe a certain course towards the man, and
Orange malignity is pleased to misrepresent and calumniate us."
" And can't you say so in Parhament ? "

"So we will, sir, and the nation will believe us. Meanwhile, see
the mischief that the miserable slander will reflect upon our adminis-
tration here, and remember, that the people who could alone
contradict the story are those very Fenians who will benefit by its
being believed."

" Do your suspicions point to anyone in particular? Do you

believe that Curtis ? "

" I had it in my hand the day after he left."
" Was any one aware of its existence here but yourself ? "
"None — wait, I am wrong. Your niece saw it. She was in the
library one day. I was engaged in writing, and as we grew to talk
over the country, I chanced to show her the despatch."

" Let us ask her if she remembers whether any servant was about
at the time, or happened to enter the room."

" I can myself answer that question. I know there was not."
" Let us call her down and see what she remembers," said Kearney.
" I'd rather not, sir. A mere question in such a case would be
offensive, and I would not risk the chance. What I would most wish
is, to place my despatch-box, with the key, in your keeping, for the
purposes of the inquiry, for I must start in half-an-hour. I have
sent for post-horses to Moate, and ordered a special train to town. I
shall, I hope, catch the eight-o'clock boat for Holyhead, and be with

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 29 of 48)