Charles James Lever.

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

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" I have provoked him to it."

" But is it not possible to accommodate matters? it should not
be very difficult, surely, to show him that once you are launched in
life "

" And when will that be, Dick ? " -broke in the other. " I have
been on the stocks these four years, and that launching process you
talk of looks just as remote as ever. No, no ; let us be fair ; he has



all the right on his side ; all tlic wrong is on mine. Indeed, so far
as conscience goes, I have always felt it no, but one's conscience
like one's boots, gets so pliant from wear, that it ceases to give pain.
Still, on my honour, I never hip-hurraed to a toast, that I did not
feel, there goes broken boots to one of the boys, or, v^'orse again, the
cost of a cotton dress for one of the sisters. Whenever I took a
sherry-cobbler I thought of suicide after it. Self-indulgence and
self-reproach got linked in my nature so inseparably, it was hopeless
to summon one without the other, till at last I grew to believe it was
very heroic in me to deny myself nothing, seeing how sorry I should
be for it afterwards. But come, old fellow, don't lose your evening ;
we'll have time enough to talk over these things — where are you

" To the Clancys'."

" To be sure ; what a fellov/ 1 am to forget it was Letty's birth-
day, and I was to have brought her a bouquet ! Dick, be a good
fellow and tell her some lie or other, that I was sick in bed, or away
to see an aunt or a grandmother, and that I had a sj)lendid bouquet
for her, but wouldn't let it reach her through other hands than my
own, but to-morrow — to-morrow she shall have it."

" You know well enough you don't mean anything of the sort."

" On my honour, I'll keep my promise. I've an old silver watch
yonder, I think it knows the way to the pawn-office by itself. There,
now be off, for if I begin to think of all the fun you're going to, I
shall just dress and join you."

" No, I'd not do that," said Dick, gravely, " nor shall I stay long
myself. Don't go to bed, Joe, till I come back. Good-by."

" Say all good and sweet things to Letty for me. Tell her "

Kearney did not w^ait for his message, but hurried down the steps
and drove off.

Joe sat down at the fire, filled his pipe, looked steadily at it,
and then laid it on the mantelpiece. " No, no. Master Joe. You
must be thrifty now. You have smoked twice since — I can afford
to say — since dinner-time, for j'ou haven't dined. It is strange,
that now the sense of hunger has passed off, what a sense of
excitement I feel. Two hours back I could have been a cannibal.
I believe I could have eaten the vice-provost — though I should have
liked him strongly devilled — and now I feel stimulated. Hence it
is, perhaps, that so little wine is enough to affect the heads of
starving people — almost maddening them. Perhaps Dick suspected
something of this, for he did not care that I should go along with
him. Who knows but he may have thought tlie sight of a supper
might have overcome me. If he knew but all. I'm much more

" THE CHUMS." 19

disposed to make love to Letty Clancy than to go in for galantine
and champagne. By the way, I wonder if the physiologists are
aware of that ? It is, perhaps, what constitutes the ethereal con-
dition of love. I'll write an essay on that, or better still, I'll write
a review of an imaginary French essay. Frenchmen are permitted
to say so much more than we are, and I'll be rebukeful on the
score of his excesses. The bitter way in which a Frenchman
always visits his various incapacities — whether it be to know some-
thing, or to do something, or to be something — on the species he
belongs to ; the way in which he suggests that had he been con-
sulted on the matter, humanity had been a much more perfect
organization, and able to sustain a great deal more of wickedness
without disturbance, is great fun. I'll certainly invent a French-
man, and make him an author, and then demolish him. What if I
make him die of hunger, having tasted nothing for eight days but
the proof-sheets of his great work — the work I am then reviewing.
For four days, — but stay; — if I starve him to death, I cannot tear
his work to pieces. No ; he shall be alive, living in splendour and
honour, a frequenter of the Tuileries, a favoured guest at Compi^gne."

Without perceiving it, he had now taken his pipe, lighted it, and
was smoking away. " By the way, how those same Imperialists have
played the game ! — the two or three middle-aged men that Kinglake
says, ' Put their heads together to plan for a livelihood,' I wish they
had taken me into the partnership. It's the sort of thing I'd have
liked well ; ay, and I could have done it, too ! I wonder," said he
aloud, — " I wonder if I were an emperor should I marry Letty
Clancy ? I suspect not. Letty would have been flippant as an
empress, and her cousins would have made atrocious princes of the

imperial family, though, for the matter of that Hulloa ! Here

have I been smoking without knowing it ! Can anyone tell us
whether the sins we do inadvertently count as sins, or do we square
them off by our inadvertent good actions ? I trust I shall not be
called on to catalogue mine. There, my courage is out!" As he
said this he emptied the ashes of his pipe, and gazed sorrowfully at
the empty bowl.

" Now, if I were the son of some good house, with a high-sound-
ing name, and well-to-do relations, I'd soon bring them to terms if
they dared to cast me off. I'd turn milk or muffin man, and serve
the street they lived in. I'd sweep the crossing in front of their
windows, or I'd commit a small theft, and call on my high connec-
tions for a character, — but being who and what I am, I might do any
or all of these, and shock nobody.

" Next to take stock of my effects. Let me see what my assets will

20 TjORd kilgobbin.

bring when reduced to cash, for this time it shall be a sale." And he
turned to a table where paper and pens were lying, and proceeded to
write. " Personal, sworn under, let us say, ten thousand pounds.
Literature first. To divers worn copies of Vin/il, Tacitus, Juvenal, and
Ovid, Coesar's Commentaries, and Catullus ; to ditto ditto oi Homer,
Jjucian, Aristophanes, Balzac, Anacr con, bacon's Essays, and Moore's
Melodies ; to Dwight's Theology — uncut copy, Heine's Poems — veiy
much thumbed. Saint Simon — veiy ragged, two volumes of Les
Causes Celehrcs, Tone's Memoirs, and Beranger's Songs ; to Cuvier's
Comparative Anatomy, Shroeder on Shakspeare, Newman's Apology,
Archbold's Criminal Law and Songs of the Nation ; to Colenso,
East's Cases for the Crown, Carte's Ormonde, and Picliwick. But
why go on ? Let us call it the small but well-selected library of a
distressed gentleman, whose cultivated mind is reflected in the mar-
ginal notes with which these volumes abound. Will any gentleman
say, ' 10/. for the lot ' ? Why the very criticisms are worth — I mean
to a man of literary tastes — five times the amount. No ofi'er at 101. ?
Who is it that says * five ' ? I trust my ears have deceived me.
You repeat the insulting proposal ? Well, sir, on your own head be
it ! Mr. Atlee's library — or the Atlee collection is better — was yes-
terday disposed of to a well-known collector of rare books, and, if we
are rightly informed, for a mere fraction of its value. Never mind,
sir, I bear you no ill-will ! I was irritable, and to show you my
honest animus in the matter, I beg to present you in addition with
this, a handsomely-bound and gilt copy of a sermon by the Eeverend
Isaac Atlee, on the opening of the new meeting-house in Coleraine —
a discourse that cost my father some sleepless nights, though I have
heard the effect on the congregation was dissimilar.

" The pictures are few. Cardinal Cullen, I believe, is Kearney's ;
at all events, he is the worse for being made a target for pistol
firing, and the archiepiscopal nose has been sorely damaged. Two
views of Killarney in the weather of the period — that means July,
and raining in torrents — and consequently the scene, for aught dis-
coverable, might be the Gaboon. Portrait of Joe Atlee, astatis four
years, with a villanous squint, and something that looks like a plug
in the left jaw. A sky terrier, painted, it is supposed, by himself ;
not to recite unframed prints of various celebrities of the ballet, in
accustomed attitudes, with the Pieverend Paul Bloxham blessing some
children — though from the gesture and the expression of the juveniles
it might seem cuffing them — on the inauguration of the Sunday
school at Kilmurry Macmacmahon.

" Lot three, interesting to anatomical lecturers and others,
especially those engaged in palaeontology. The articulated skeleton

" THE CHUMS." 21

of an Irish giant, representing a man who must have stood in his no-
stockings eight feet four inches. This, I may add, will be warranted
as authentic, in so far that I made him myself out of at least eighteen
or twenty big specimens, with a few slight ' divergencies ' I may call
them, such as putting in eight more dorsal vertebrae than the regula-
tion, and that the right femur is two inches longer than the left.
The inferior maxillary, too, was stolen from a ' Pithacus Satyrus ' in
the Cork Museum by an old friend, since transported for Fenianism.
These blemishes apart, he is an admirable giant, and fully as orna-
mental and useful as the species generally.

** As to my wardrobe, it is less costly than curious. An alpaca
paletot of a neutral tint, which I have much affected of late, having
indisposed me to other wear. For dinner and evening duty I usually
wear Kearney's, though too tight across the chest, and short in the
sleeves. These, with a silver wateh which no pawnbroker — and I
have tried eight — will ever advance more on than seven-and-six. I
once got the figure up to nine shillings by supplementing an umbrella
•which was Dick's, and which still remains, ' unclaimed and unre-

" Two o'clock, by all that is supperless ! evidently Kearney is
enjoying himself. Ah, youth, youth ! I wish I could remember some
of the spiteful things that are said of you — not but on the whole, I
take it, you have the right end of the stick. Is it possible there is
nothing to eat in this inhospitable mansion ?" He arose and opened
a sort of cupboard in the wall, scrutinizing it closely with the candle.
*' ' Give me but the superfluities of life,' says Gavarni, ' and I'll not
trouble you for its necessaries.' What would he say, however, to a
fellow famishing with hunger in presence of nothing but pickled
mushrooms and Worcester sauce ! Oh, here is a crust ! ' Bread is
the staff' of life.' On my oath, I believe so ; for this eats devilish
like a walking-stick.

" Hullo ! back akeady ? " cried he, as Kearney flung wide the door
and entered. "I suppose you hurried away back to join me at supper."

" Thanks; but I have supped already, and at a more tempting
banquet than this I see before you."

" Was it pleasant ? was it jolly ? Were the girls looking lovely ?
Was the champagne-cup well iced ? Was everybody charming ? Tell
me all about it. Let me have second-hand pleasure, since I can't
afford the new article."

" It was pretty much like every other small ball here, where the
garrison get all the prettiest girls for partners, and take the mammas
down to supper after."

" Cunning dogs, who secure flirtation above stairs and food


below ! And what is stirriug in the world ? What are the gaieties
in prospect ? Are any of my old flames about to get married '? "

" I didn't know j'ou had any."

"Have I not! I believe half the parish of St. Peter's might
proceed against me for breach of promise ; and if the law allowed me
as many wives as Brigham Young, I'd be still disappointing a large
and interesting section of society in the suburbs."

" They have made a seizure on the office of the Pike, carried off
the press and the whole issue, and are in eager pursuit after Madden,
the editor."

" What for ? AVhat is it all about ? "

" A new ballad he has published ; but which, for the matter of
that, they were singing at every corner as I came along."

" Was it good ? Did you buy a copy ? "

" Buy a copy ? I should think not."

" Couldn't your patriotism stand the test of a penny ?"

" It might if I wanted the production, which I certainly did not ;
besides, there's a run upon this, and they were selling it at sixpence."

" Hurrah ! There's hope for Ireland after all ! Shall I sing it
for you, old fellow ? Not that you deserve it. English corruption
has damped the little Irish ardour that old rebellion once kindled in
your heart ; and if you could get rid of your brogue, you're ready to
be loyal. You shall hear it, however, all the same." And taking
up a very damaged-looking guitar, he struck a few bold chords, and
begun : —

Is there anything more we can fight or can hate for ?

The " drop " and the famine have made our ranks thin.
In the name of endm'ance, then, what do we wait for ?

Will nobody give us the word to begin ?

Some brothers have left us in sadness and sorrow,

In despair of the cause they had sworn to win ;
They owned they were sick of that cry of " to-moiTow ; " •

Not a man would believe that we meant to begin.

We've been ready for months — is there one can deny it ?

Is there any one here thinks rebellion a sin ?
We counted the cost — and we did not decry it,

And we asked for no more than the word to begin.

At Vinegar Hill, when our fathers were fighters,
With numbers against them, they cared not a pin.

They needed no orders from newspaper writers,
To tell them the day it was time to begin.

To sit down here in sadness and silence to bear it,

Is harder to face than the battle's loud din,
'Tis the shame that will kill mc — I vow it, I swear it !

Now or never 's the time, if wc mean to begin.

" THE cnuMs." 23

There was a wild rapture in the way he struck the last chords,
that, if it did uot evince ecstasy, seemed to counterfeit enthusiasm.

" Very poor doggerel, with all your bravura," said Kearney,

" What would you have ? I only got three-and-six for it."

" You ! Is that thing yours ? "

*' Yes, sir ; that thing is mine. And the Castle people think
somewhat more gravely about it than you do."

" At which you are pleased, doubtless ?"

" Not pleased, but proud. Master Dick, let me tell you. It's a
very stimulating reflection to the man who dines on an onion, that he
can spoil the digestion of another fellow who has been eating turtle."

" But you may have to go to prison for this."

"Not if you don't peach on me, for you are the only one who
knows the authorship. You see, Dick, these things are done
cautiously. They arc dropped into a letter-box with an initial letter,
and a clerk hands the payment to some of those intinerant hags that
sing the melody, and who can be trusted with the secret as implicitly
as the briber at a borough election."

" I wish you had a better livelihood, Joe."

"So do I, or that my present one paid better. The fact is,
Dick, patriotism never was worth much as a career till one got to the
top of the profession. But if you mean to sleep at all, old fellow,
' it's time to begin,' " and he chaunted out the last words in a clear
and ringing tone, as he banged the door behind him.


AT "trinity."

It was while the two young men were seated at breakfast that the
post arrived, bringing a number of country newspapers, for which, in
one shape or other, Joe Atlee wrote something. Indeed, he was au
" own correspondent," dating from London, or Paris, or occasionally
from Piomc, with an easy freshness and a local colour that vouched
for authenticity. These journals were of every political tint, from
emerald green to the deepest orange ; and, indeed, between two of
them — the Tipperanj Pike and the Boyne Water, hailing from Car-
rickfergus — there was a controversy of such violence and intemper-
ance of language, that it was a curiosity to see the two papers on the
Bame table : the fact being capable of explanation, that they were


botli written by Joe Atlee — a secret, however, that he had not con-
fided even to his friend Kearney.

" Will that fellow that signs himself Terry 0" Toole in the Pike
stand this ?" cried Kearney, reading aloud from the Boyne Water : —

" ' "We know the man who corresponds with you under the signa-
ture of Terry 0' Toole, and it is hut one of the aliases under which
he has lived since he came out of the Richmond Bridewell, filcher,
forger, and false witness. There is yet one thing he has never tried,
which is to behave with a little courage. If he should, however, be
able to persuade himself, by the aid of his accustomed stimulants, to
accept the responsibility of what he has written, we bind ourselves to
pay his expenses to any part of France or Belgium, where he will
meet us, and we shall also bind ourselves to give him what his life
little entitles him to, a Christian burial afterwards.


" I am just reading the answer," said Joe. "It is very brief ;
here it is : —

" 'If "No Surrender " — who has been a newsvendor in your
establishment since you yourself rose from that employ to the editor's
chair — will call at this office any morning after distributing his eight
copies of your daily issue, we promise to give him such a kicking as
he has never experienced during his literary career.

" ' Terry O'Toole.' "

" And these are the amenities of journalism," cried Kearney.

" For the matter of that, you might exclaim at the quack doctor
of a fair, and ask, Is this the dignity of medicine ? " said Joe.
" There's a head and a tail to every walk in life : even the law has a
Chief Justice at one end and a Jack Ketch at the other."

" Well, I sincerely wish that those blackguards would first kick
and then shoot each other."

" They'll do nothing of the kind ! It's just as likely that they
wrote the whole correspondence at the same table and with the same
jug of punch between them."

" If so, I don't em7 you your career or your comrades."

" It's a lottery with big prizes in the wheel all the same ! I
could tell you the names of great swells, Master Dick, who have made
very proud places for themselves in England by what you call
'journalism.' In France it is the one road to eminence. Cannot you
imagine, besides, what capital fun it is to be able to talk to scores of
people you were never introduced to ? to tell them an infinity of
things on public matters, or now and then about themselves ; and in

AT " TIirNlTY." 25

BO many moods as you have tempers, to warn them, scold, compas-
sionate, correct, console, or abuse them ? to tell them not to bo over-
confident or bumptious, or purse-proud "'

" And who are you, may I ask, who presume to do all Ihis ? "

" That's as it may be. We are occasionally Guizot, Thiers,
Prevot Paradol, Lytton, Disraeli, or Joe Atlee."

" Modest, at all events."

"And why not say what I feel — not what I have done, but what
is in me to do ? Can't you understand this : it would never occur
to me that I could vault over a five -bar gate if I had been born a
cripple '? but the conscious possession of a little pliant muscularity
might well tempt me to try it."

" And get a cropper for your pains."

" Be it so. Better the cropper than pass one's life looking over
the top rail and envying the fellow that had cleared it ; but what's
this ? here's a letter here : it got in amongst the newspapers. I say,
Dick, do you stand this sort of thing ? " said he as he read the

" Stand what sort of thing ? " asked the other, half angrily.

" ^Yhy, to be addressed in this fashion ? The Honourable
Eichard Kearney, Trinity College, Dublin."

" It is from my sister," said Kearney, as he took the letter im-
patiently fi'om his hand ; " and I can only tell you, if she had
addressed me otherwise, I'd not have opened her letter."

" But come now, old fellow, don't lose temper about it. You
have a right to this designation, or you have not "

** I'll spare all your eloquence by simply saying, that I do not
look on you as a Committee of Privilege, and I'm not going to plead
before you. Besides," added he, " it's only a few minutes ago you
asked me to credit you for something you had not shown yourself to
be, but that you intended and felt that the world should see you were
one of these days."

" So then you really mean to bring your claim before the Lords ? "

Kearney, if he heard, did not heed this question, but went on to
read his letter. " Here's a surprise! " cried he. " I was telling
you the other day, about a certain cousin of mine we were expecting
from Italy."

" The daughter of that swindler, the mock prince ? "

" The man's character I'll not stand up for, but his rank and
title are alike indisputable," said Kearney, haughtily.

*' With all my heart. We have soared into a high atmosphere
all this day, and I hope my respiration will get used to it in time.
Read away ? "


It was not till after a considerable inteiTal that Kearney had
recovered composure enough to read, and when he did so it was with
a brow furrowed with irritation : —

" Kilgobbin.

" My dear Dick, — We had just sat down to tea last night, and
papa was fidgeting about the length of time his letter to Italy had re-
mained unacknowledged, when a sharp ring at the house-door startled
us. "We had been hearing a good deal of searches for arms lately iu
the neighbourhood, and we looked very blankly at each other for a
moment. We neither of us said so, but I feel sure our thoughts were
CO the same track, and that we believed Captain Eock, or the head
centre, or whatever be his latest title, had honoured us with a call.
Old Matthew seemed of the same mind too, for he appeared at the
door with that venerable blunderbuss we have so often played with,
and which, if it had any evil thoughts in its head, I must have been
tried for a murder years ago, for I know it was loaded since I was a
child, but that the lock has for the same space of time not been on
speaking terms with the barrel. While, then, thus confirmed in our
suspicions of mischief by Mat's warlike aspect, we both rose from the
table, the door opened, and a young girl rushed in, and fell — actually
threw herself into papa's arms. It was Nina herself, who had come
all the way from Rome alone, that is, without anyone she knew, and
made her way to us here, without any other guidance than her own
good wits.

"I cannot tell you how delighted we are with her. She is the
loveliest girl I ever saw, so gentle, so nicely mannered, so soft-voiced,
and so winning — I feel myself like a peasant beside her. The least
thing she says — her laugh, her slightest gesture, the way she moves
about the room, with a sort of swinging grace, which I thought
affected at first, but now I see is quite natural — is only another of
her many fascinations.

" I fancied for a while that her features were almost too beauti-
fully regular for expression, and that even when she smiled and
showed her lovely teeth, her eyes got no increase of brightness ; but,
as I talked more with her, and learned to know her better, I saw that
those eyes have meanings of softness and depth iu them of wonderful
power, and, stranger than all, an archness that shows she has plenty
of humour.

" Her English is charming, but slightly foreign ; and when she is
at n loss for a word, there is just that much of difficulty in finding it
which gives a heightened expression to her beautifully calm face, and
makes it lovely. You may see how she has fascinated me, for I
could go on raving about her for hours.


" She is very anxious to see you, aud asks me over and over
again, Shall you like her? I was almost candid enough to say ' too
well.' I mean that you could not help falling in love with her, my
dear Dick, and she is so much above us in style, in habit, and doubt-
less in ambition, that such would be only madness. When she saw
your photo she smiled, and said, ' Is he not superb ? — I mean proud ? '
I owned you were, and then she added, ' I hope he will like me.' I
am not perhaps discreet if I tell you she does not like the portrait of
your chum, Atlee. She says ' he is very good-looking, very clever,
veiy witty, but isn't he false ? ' and this she says over and over again.
I told her I believed not ; that I had never seen him myself, but that
I knew you liked him greatly, and felt to him as a brother. She
only shook her head, and said, ' Badate bene a quel che dico. I

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 3 of 48)