Charles James Lever.

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

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his lordship before this time to-morrow. If I do not see the ladies,


for I believe they are out walking, will you make my excuses and my
adieux ; my confusion and discomfiture will, I feel sure, plead for
me ? It would not be, perhaps, too much to ask for any information
that a police inquiry might elicit ; and if either of the young ladies
would vouchsafe mo a line to say what, if anything, has been
discovered, I should feel deeply gratified."

" I'll look to that. You shall be informed."

" There was another question that I much desired to speak of,"
and here he hesitated and faltered ; " but perhaps, on eveiy score, it
is as well I should defer it till my return to Ii*eland."

" You know best, whatever it is," said the old man, dryly.

" Yes, I think so. I am sure of it." A hurried shake-hands
followed, and he was gone.

It is but right to add that a glance at the moment through the
window had shown him the wearer of a muslin dress turning into the
copse outside the garden, and Walpole dashed down the stairs and
hurried in the direction he saw Nina take, with all the speed he

" Get my luggage on the carriage, and have everything ready,"
said he, as the horses were drawn up at the door. " I shall return
in a moment."



When Walpole hurried into the beech alley, w'hich he had seen Nina
take, and followed her in all haste, he did not stop to question himself
why he did so. Indeed, if prudence were to be consulted, there was
every reason in the world why he should rather have left his leave-
takings to the care of Mr. Kearney than assume the charge of them
himself ; but if young gentlemen who fall in love were only to be
logical or " consequent," the tender passion would soon lose some of
the contingencies which give it much of its charm, and people who
follow such occupations as mine would discover that they had lost one
of the principal employments of their lifetime.

As he went along, however, he bethought him that as it was to
say good-by he now followed her, it behoved him to blend his leave-
taking with that pledge of a speedy return, which, like the cfTocts of
light in landscape, bring out the various tints in the richest colouring,
and mark more distinctly all that is in shadow. "■ I shall at least
see," muttered he to himself, " how far my presence here serves to


brighten her daily life, and what amount of gloom my absence will
suggest." Cecil Walpole was one of a class — and I hasten to say it
is a class — who, if not very lavish of their own afiections, or accus-
tomed to draw largely on their own emotions, are very fond of being
loved themselves, and not only are they convinced that as there can
be nothing more natural or reasonable than to love them, it is still a
highly commendable feature in the person who carries that love to the
extent of a small idolatry, and makes it the business of a life. To
worship the men of this order constitutes in their eyes a species of
intellectual superiority for which they are grateful, and this same
gratitude represents to themselves all of love their natures are capable
of feeling.

He knew thoroughly that Nina was not alone the most beautiful
woman he had ever seen, that the fascinations of her manner, and
her grace of movement and gesture, exercised a sway that was almost
magic ; that in quickness to apprehend and readiness to reply, she
scarcely had an equal ; and that whether she smiled, or looked pensive,
or listened, or spoke, there was an absorbing charm about her that
made one forget all else around her, and unable to see any but her ;
and yet, with all this consciousness, he recognized no trait about her
so thoroughly attractive as that she admired him.

Let me not be misunderstood. This same sentiment can be at
times something very different from a mere egotism, — not that I
mean to say it was such in the present case. Cecil Walpole fully
represented the order he belonged to, and was a most well-looking,
well-dressed, and well-bred young gentleman, only suggesting the
reflection that, to live amongst such a class pure and undiluted,
would be little better than a life passed in the midst of French

I have said that, after his fashion, he was " in love " with her,
and so, after his fashion, he wanted to say that he was going away,
and to tell her not to be utterly disconsolate till he came back again.
" I can imagine," thought he, " how I made her life here, how, in
developing the features that attract me, I made her a very different
creature to herself."

It was not at all unpleasant to him to think that the people who
should surround her were so unlike himself. " The barbarians," as
he courteously called them to himself, " will be very hard to endure.
Nor am I very sorry for it, only she must catch nothing of their traits
in accommodating herself to their habits. On that I must strongly
insist. Whether it be by singing their silly ballads — that four-note
melody they call ' Irish music,' or through mere imitation, she has
already caught a slight accent of the country. She must get rid of


this. She will have to divest herself of all her ' Kilgohbinries ' ere I
present her to my friends in town." Apart from these disparagements,
she could, as he expressed it, " hold her own," and people take a
very narrow view of the social dealings of the world, who fail to see
how much occasion a woman has for the exercise of tact and temper
and discretion and ready-wittedness and generosity in all the well-bred
intercourse of life. Just as Walpole had arrived at that stage of
reflection to recognize that she was exactly the woman to suit him
and push his fortunes with the world, he reached a part of the wood
where a little space had been cleared, and a few rustic scats scattered
about to make a halting-place. The sound of voices caught his ear,
and he stopped, and now, looking stealthily through the brushwood,
he saw Gorman O'Shea as he lay in a lounging attitude on a bench
and smoked his cigar, while Nina Kostalergi was busily engaged in
pinning up the skirt of her dress in a festoon fashion, which, to Cecil's
ideas at least, displayed more of a marvellously pretty instep and
ankle than he thought strictly warranted. Puzzling as this seemed,
the first words she spoke gave the explanation.

" Don't flatter yourself, most valiant soldier, that you are going
to teach me the ' Czardasz.' I learned it years ago from Tassilo
Esterhazy ; but I asked you to come here to set me right about that
half-minuet step that begins it. I believe I have got into the habit
of doing the man's part, for I used to be Pauline Esterhazy's partner
after Tassilo went away."

" You had a precious dancing-master in Tassilo," growled out
O'Shea. " The greatest scamp in the Austrian army."

" I know nothing of the moralities of the Austrian army, but the
Count was a perfect gentleman, and a special friend of mine."

" I am sorry for it," was the gruff rejoinder.

" You have nothing to grieve for, sir. You have no vested interest
to bo imperilled by anything that I do."

" Let us not quarrel, at all events," said he, as he arose with
some alacrity and flung away his cigar ; and Walpole turned away,
as little pleased with what he had heard, as dissatisfied with himself
for having listened. " And we call these things accidents," muttered
he ; " but I believe fortune means more generously by us when she
crosses our path in this wise. I almost wish I had gone a step further,
and stood before them. At least it would have finished this episode,
and without a word. As it is, a mere phrase will do it — the simple
question as to what progress she makes in dancing will show I know
all. But do I know all '? " Thus speculating and ruminating, he
went his way till he reached the carriage, and drove ofi' at speed, for
the first time in his life, really and deeply in love !

^^?- bD


He made his journey safely, and arrived at Holyhead by daybreak.
He had uieaut to go over deliberately all that he should say to the
Viceroy, when questioned, as he expected to be, on the condition of
Ireland. It was an old story, and with very few variations to enliven it.

How was it that, with all his Irish intelligcuce well arranged in
his mind — the agrarian crime, the ineffective police, the timid juries,
the insolence of the popular press, and the arrogant demands of the
priesthood — how was it that, ready to state all these obstacles to riglit
government, and prepared to show that it was only by " out-jockeyin;,' "
the parties, he could hope to win in Ireland still — that Greek girl,
and what he called her perfidy, would occupy a most disproportionate
share of his thoughts, and a larger place in his heart also ? The
simple truth is, that though up to this Walpole found immense
pleasure in his flirtation with Nina Kostalergi, yet his feeling for her
now was nearer love than anything he had experienced before. The
bare suspicion that a woman could jilt him, or the possible thought
that a rival could be found to supplant him, gave, by the very pain it
occasioned, such an interest to the episode, that he could scarcely
think of anything else. That the most effectual way to deal with the
Greek was to renew his old relations with his cousin Lady Maude,
■was clear enough. " At least I shall seem to be the traitor," thought
he, " and she shall not glory in the thought of having deceived mc.'"
While he was still revolving these thoughts he arrived at the Castle,
and learned as he crossed the door that his lordship was impatient to
see him.

Lord Danesbury had never been a fluent speaker in public, w^hile
in private life a natural indolence of disposition, improved, so to sny,
by an Eastern life, had made him so sparing of his words, that at
times when he was ill or indisposed he could never be said to converse
at all, and his talk consisted of very short sentences strung loosely
together, and not unfrequently so ill-connected as to show that an
unexpressed thought very often intervened between the uttered
fragments. Except to men who, like Walpole, knew him intimately,
he was all but unintelligible. The private secretary, however, under-
stood how to fill up the blanks in any discourse, and so follow out
indications which, to less practised eyes, left no footmarks beliiiul

His Excellency, slowly recovering from a sharp attack of gout,
was propped by pillows, and smoking a long Turkish pipe, as Cecil
entered the room and saluted him. " Come at last," was his lord-
ship's greeting. " Ought to have been here weeks ago. Read that."
And he pushed towards him a Times, with a mark on the margin :
" To ask the Secretary for Ireland whether the statement made by



certain newspapers in the Xorth of a correspoudeuce between the
Castle authorities and the Fciiiau leader was true, and whether such
eorrespoudence could be laid oa the tabic of the House ? "

" Read it out," cried the Viceroy, as Walpole conned over the
paragraph somewhat slowly to himself.

" I think, my lord, when you have heard a few words of explanation
from me, you will see that this charge has not the gravity these
newspaper-people would like to attach to it."

" Can't be explained — nothing could justify — infernal blunder —
and must go."

" Pray, my lord, vouchsafe me even five minutes."

"See it all — balderdash — explain nothing — Cardinal more
offended than the rest — and here, read." And he pushed a letter
towards him, dated Downing Street, and marked private. " The idiot
you left behind you has been betrayed into writing to the rebels
and making conditions with them. To disown him now is not

" Really, my lord, I don't see why I should submit to the
indignity of reading more of this."

His Excellency crushed the letter in his hand, and pufi'ed very
vigorously at his pipe, which was nearly extinguished. " Must go,"
said he, at last, as a fresh volume of smoke rolled forth.

" That I can believe — that I can understand, my lord. "When
you tell me you cease to endorse my pledges, I feci I am a bankrupt
in your esteem."

"Others smashed in the same insolvency — inconceivable blunder
— where was Cartright ? — what was Holmes about ? No one in
Dublin to keep you out of this cursed folly ? "

" Until your lordship's patience will permit me to say a few words,
I cannot hope to justify my conduct."

" No justifying — no explaining — no ! regular smash and complete
disgrace. Must go."

" I am quite ready to go. Your Excellency has no need to recall
mo to the necessity."

" Knew it all — and against my will, too — said so from the first —
thing I never liked — nor see my way in. Must go — must go."

" I presume, my lord, I may leave you now. I want a bath and
a cup of coffee."

" Answer that ! " was the grufi' reply, as he tossed across the table
a few lines signed, " Bertie Spencer, Private Secretary."

"I am directed to request that Mr. Walpole will enable tho
Right Honourable Mr. Annihough to give the flattest denial to the


" That must be done at once," said the Viceroy, as the other
■ceased to read the note.

" It is impossible, my lord ; I cannot deny my own handwriting."

"Annihough will find some road out of it," muttered the other.
** You were a fool, and mistook your instructions, or the constahle was
a fool and required a misdirection, or the Fenian was a fool, which
he would have been if he gave the pledge you asked for. Must go
all the same."

" But I am quite ready to go, my lord," rejoined Walpole, angril}'.
" There is no need to insist so often on that point."

" Who talks — who thinks oiyou, sir ? " cried the other with an
irritated manner. " I speak of myself. It is I must resign — no
great sacrifice, perhaps, after all, stupid office, false position —
impracticable people. Make them all Papists to-morrow, and ask to
be Hindoos. They've got the land, and not content if they can't
shoot the landlords ! "

"If you think, my lord, that by any personal explanation of
mine, I could enable the Minister to make his answer in the House
more plausible "

" Leave the plausibility to himself, sir," and then he added, half
aloud : " He'll be unintelligible enough without you. There, go, and
get some breakfast — come back afterwards, and I'll dictate my letter
of resignation. Maude has had a letter from Atlee. Shrewd fellow,
Atlee — done the thing well."

As "Walpole was near the door, his Excellency said: " You can
have Guatemala, if they have not given it away. It will get you out
of Europe, which is the first thing, and with the yellow fever it may
do more."

" I am profoundly grateful, my lord," said he, bowing low.

" Maude of course would not go, so it ends that."

" I am deeply touched by the interest your lordship vouchsafes
to my concerns."

" Try and live five years, and you'll have a retiring allowance.
The last fellow did, but was eaten by a crocodile out bathing." And
with this he resumed his Times, and turned away, while "Walpole
hastened off to his room, in a frame of mind very far from comfortable
or rcassurin".




As Dick Kearney aud young O'Shca bad never attained any closs
intimacy, a strange sort of half-jealousy, inexplicable as to its causey
served to keep tbem apart : it was by mere accident tbat the two
vouug men met one morning after breakfast in the garden, aud on
Kearney's offer of a cigar, the few words that followed led to a con-

" I cannot pretend to give you a choice Havanna, like one of
Walpole's," said Dick, " but you'll perhaps find it smokeable."

"I'm not difficult," said the other; "and as to Mr. Walpole'3
tobacco, I don't think I ever tasted it."

" And I," rejoined the other, " as seldom as I could; I mean,
only when politeness obliged me."

" I thought you liked him ?" said Gorman, shortly.

"I? Far from it. I thought him a consummate puppy, and I
saw that he looked down on us as inveterate savages."

" He was a favourite with your ladies, I think ?"

" Certainly not with my sister, and I doubt very much with my
cousin. Do ?/ou like him ? "

" No, not at all : but then he belongs to a class of men I neither
understand nor sympathize with. Whatever I know of life is asso-
ciated with downright hard work. As a soldier I had my fiv3 hours*
daily drill and the care of my equipments, as a lieutenant I had to
see that my men kept to their duty, and whenever I chanced to have
a little leisure I could not give it up to cnnul or consent to feel bored
and wearied."

" And do you mean to say you had to groom your horse and'
clean your arms when you served in the ranks ?"

" Not always. As a cadet I had a soldier-servant, what we call
a ' Bursche ; ' but there were periods when I was out of funds, and
barely able to grope my way to the next-quarter day, aud at these
times I had but one meal a day, and obliged to draw my waist-belt'
pretty tight to make me feel I had eaten enough. A Bursche costs
very little, but I could not spare even that little."

" Confoundedly hard that."

" All my own fault. By a little care and foresight, even without
thrift, I had enough to live as well as I ought; but a reckless dash
of the old spendthrift blood I came of would master me now and


then, aud I'd launcli out into some extravagance tliat ^vould leave
me penniless for mouths after."

" I helieve I can understand that. One does get horribly bored
Jby the monotony of a well-to-do existence : just as I feel my life
here — almost insupportable."

"But you are going into Parliament; you are going to be a
great public man,"

" That bubble has burst already ; don't you know what happened
at Birr ? They tore down all Miller's notices and mine, they
smashed our booths, beat our voters out of the town, and placed
Donogan — the rebel Donogan — at the head of the poll, and the
head-centre is now M.P. for King's County."

" And has he a right to sit in the house ?"

" There's the question. The matter is discussed every day in
the newspapers, and there are as many for as against him. Some
aver that the popular will is a sovereign edict that rises above all
eventualities ; others assert that the sentence which pronounces a
man a felon declares him to be dead in law."

" And which side do you incline to ?"

" I believe in the latter; he'll not be permitted to take his seat."

" You'll have another chance, then ?"

"No; I'll venture no more. Indeed, but for this same man
Donogan, I had never thought of it. He filled my head with ideas
of a great part to be played and a proud place to be occupied, and
that, even without high abilities, a man of a strong will, a fixed
resolve, and an honest conscience, might, at this time, do great
things for Ireland."

" And then betrayed you ?"

" No such thing ; he no more dreamed of Parliament himself
than you do now. He knew he was liable to the law, he was hiding
from the police, and well aware that there was a price upon his

" But if he was true to you, why did he not refuse this honour ?
why did he not decline to be elected ?"

" They never gave him the choice. Don't you see it is one of
the strange signs of the strange times we are living in that the
people fix upon certain men as their natural leaders and compel them
to march in the van, and that it is the force at the back of these
leaders that, far more than their talents, makes them formidable in
public life."

" I only follow it in part. I scarcely see what they aim at, and I
do not know if they see it more clearly themselves. And now, what
will you turn to ? "


" I wish you could tell me."

" About as blank a future as my own," muttered Gorman.

" Come, come, you have a career : )"ou are a lieutenant of lancers '
in time you will be a captain, and eventually a colonel, and who knows
iut a general at last, with heaven knows how many crosses and
medals on your breast."

" Nothing less likely — the day is gone by when Englishmen were
advanced to places of high honour and trust in the Austrian army.
There are no more field-marshals like Nugent than major-generals
like O'Connell. I might be made a Eitt-mcister, and if I lived long
enough, and was not superannuated, a major ; but there my ambition
must cease."

" And you are content with that prospect ?"

" Of course I am not. I go back to it with something little
short of despair."

"Why go back then?"

" Tell me what else to do — tell me what other road in life to
take — show me even one alternative."

The silence that now succeeded lasted several miniites, each
immersed in his own thoughts, and each doubtless convinced how
little presumption he had to advise or counsel the other.

"Do you know, O'Shea," cried Kearney, "I used to foncy that
this Austrian life of yours M'as a mere caprice — that you took ' a cast,'
as we call it in the hunting-field, amongst those fellows to see what
they were like and what sort of an existence was theirs — but that
being your aunt's heir, and with a snug estate that must one day
come to you, it was a mere * lark,' and not to be continued beyond a
year or two."

" Not a bit of it. I never presumed to think I should be my
aunt's heir — and now less than ever. Do you know, that even the
small pension she has allowed me hitherto is now about to be with-
drawn, and I shall be left to live on my pay ?"

" How much docs that mean ?"

"A few pounds more or less than you pay for your saddle-horse
at livery at Dyccrs'."

" You don't mean that ? "

"I do mean it, and even that beggarly pittance is stopped when I
am on my leave : so that at this moment my whole worldly wealth is
here," and he took from his pocket a handful of loose coin, in which
a few gold pieces glittered amidst a mass of discoloured and smooth-
looking silver.

" On my oath, I believe you are the richer man of the two," cried
Kearney, "for except a few half-crowns on my dressing-table, and


some coppers, I don't believe I am master of a coin with the Queen's

"I say, Kearney, wli at a horrible take-in we shoukl prove to
mothers with daughters to marry ! "

" Not a bit of it. You may impose upon any one else — your
tailor, your bootmaker, even the horsey gent that jobs your cabriolet,
but j'ou'll never cheat the mamma who has the daughter on

Gorman could not help laughing at the more than ordinary irrita-
bility with which these words were spoken, and charged him at last
with having uttered a personal experience.

" True, after all ! " said Dick, half indolently. " I used to spoon
a pretty girl up in Dublin, ride with her when I could, and dance
with her at all the balls, and a certain chum of mine — a Joe Atlee —
of whom you may have heard — undertook, simply by a series of artful
rumours as to my future prospects — now extolling me as a man of
fortune aud a fine estate, to-morrow exhibiting me as a mere
pretender with a mock title and mock income — to determine how I
should be treated in this family, and he would say to me, ' Dick, you
are going to be asked to dinner on Saturday next : ' or, ' I say, old
fellow, they're going to leave you out of that pic-nic at Powerscourt«
You'll find the Clancy's rather cold at your next meeting.' "

" And he would bo right in his guess ? "

" To the letter ! Ay, and I shame to say that the young girl
answered the signal as promptly as the mother."

" I hope it cured you of your passion ? "

" I don't know that it did. When j'ou begin to like a girl, and
find that she has regularly installed herself in a comer of your heart,
there is scarcely a thing she can do you'll not discover a good
reason for, and even when your ingenuity fails, go and pay a visit,
there is some artful witchery in that creation you have built up about
her — for I heartily believe most of us are merely clothing a sort of
lay figure of loveliness with attributes of our fancy — and the end of
it is, we are about as wise about our idols as the South Sea savages
in their homage to the gods of their own carving."

" I don't think that ! " said Gorman, sternly. " I could no more
invent the fascination that charms me than I could model a Venus or
an Ai'iadne."

" I sec where your mistake lies. You do all this, and never kuov7
you do it. Mind, I am only giving you Joe Atlee's theory all this
time ; for, though I believe in, I never invented it."

" And who is Atlee ? "

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 30 of 48)