Charles James Lever.

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

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" A chum of mine — a clever dog enough— who, as he says himself


takes a very low opiuion of maukiud, aud, iu consequence, finds tliis
a capital world to live iu."

" I should hate the fellow."

" Not if you met him. He can bo very companionable, though I
never saw any one take less trouble to please. He is popular almost

" I know I should hate him."

" My cousin Nina thought the same, and declared from the mere
sight of his photograph, that he was false and treacherous, aud
heaven knows what else besides, and now she'll not suffer a word in his
disparagement. She began exactly as you say you would, by a; strong
prejudice against him. I remember the day he came down here —
her manner towards him was more than distant — and I told my sister
Kate how it offended me, and Kate only smiled aud said, ' Have a
little patience, Dick.' "

" And you took the advice ? You did have a little patience ? "

" Yes ; and the end is, they are firm friends. I'm not sure they
don't correspond."

" Is there love in the case then ? "

" That is what I cannot make out. So far as I know either- of
them, there is no trustfulness in their dispositions ; each of them
must see into the nature of the other, I have heard Joe Atlee say,
' With that woman for a wife, a man might safely bet on his success
in life.' And she herself one day owned, ' If a girl was obliged to
marry a man without sixpence, she might take Atlee.' "

" So, I have it, they will be man and wife yet ! "

" Who knows ! Have another weed ? "

Gorman declined the oftcrcd cigar, and again a pause in the
conversation followed. At last he suddenl3" said, " She told me she
thought she would marry Walpole."

" She told yoH that ? How did it come about to make you such
a confidence ? "

" Just this way. I was getting a little — not spoonej' — but
attentive, and rather liked hanging after her, and in one of our walks
in the wood — aud there was no flirting at the time between us — she
suddenly said, ' I don't think you are half a bad fellow, lieutenant.'
' Thanks for the compliment, ' said I coldly. She never heeded my
remark, but went on. ' I mean, in fact, that if you had something to
live for, and somebody to care about, there is just the sort of stufi' in
you to make you equal to both.' Not exactly knowing what I said,
and half, only half in earnest, I answered, ' Why can I not have one
to care for ? ' And I looked tenderly into her eyes as I spoke. She
did not wince under my glance. Her face was calm, aud her colour


did not change, and she was fall a minute before slie said, witli a faint
sigh, ' I suppose I shall marry CecilWalpole.' ' Do you mean,' said
I, ' against your will ? ' * Who told you I had a will, sir ? ' said she,
haughtily ; * or that if I had, I should now be walking here in this
wood alone with you ? No, no,' added she hurriedly, ' you cannot
understand me. There is nothing to be offended at. Go and
gather me some of those wild flowers, and we'll talk of something
else.' "

" How like her ! — how like her," said Dick, and then looked sad
and pondered. " I was very near falling in love with her myself! "
said he, after a considerable pause.

" She has a way of curing a man if he should get into such an
indiscretion," muttered Gorman, and there was bitterness in his voice
as he spoke.

"Listen ! listen to that! " and from the open window of the
house there came the prolonged cadence of a full sweet voice, as Nina
was singing an Irish ballad air. " That's for my father ! ' Kathleen
Mavourneen ' is one of his favourites, and she can make him cry
over it."

" I'm not very soft-hearted," muttered Gorman, "but she gave
me a sense of fulness in the throat, like choking, the other day, that
I vowed to myself I'd never listen to that song again."

"It is not her voice — it is not the music — there is some witchery
in the woman herself that does it," cried Dick, almost fiercely.
" Take a walk with her in the wood, saunter down one of these
alleys in the garden, and I'll be shot if your heart will not begin to
beat in another fashion, and your brain to weave all sorts of bright
fancies, in which she will form the chief figure, and though you'll
be half inclined to declare your love, and swear that you cannot live
without her, some terror will tell you not to break the spell of your
delight, but to go on walking there at her side, and hearing her
words just as though that ecstacy could last for ever."

" I suspect you are in love with her," said O'Shea, drily.

" Not now. Not now : and I'll take care not to have a relapse,"
said he, gravely.

" How do you mean to manage that ? "

" The only one way it is possible — not to see her, nor to hear her —
not to live in the same land with her. I have made up my mind to
go to Australia. I don't well know what to do, when I get there ;
but whatever it be, and whatever it cost me to bear, I shall meet it
without shrinking, for there will be no old associates to look on and
remark upon my shabby clothes and broken boots."

•' What will the passage cost you ?" asked Gorman eagerly.


" I have asccrtamed that for about fifty poumls I can land mj-self
in Melbourne, and if I have a ten-pound note after, it is as much as
I mean to provide."

" If I can raise the money, I'll go with you," said O'Shea.

" Will j'ou ? is this serious ? is it a promise ? "

" I pledge my word on it. I'll go over to the Barn to-day and
see my aunt. I thought up to this I could not bring myself to go
there, but I will now. It is for the last time in my life, and I must
say good-by, whether she helps me or not."

" You'll scarcely like to ask her for money," said Dick.

" Scarcely, — at all events I'll see her, and I'll tell her that I'm
going away, with no other thought in my mind than of all the love
and affection she had for me, worse luck mine that I have not got
them still."

" Shall I walk over with '? would you rather be alone ? "

" I believe so ; I think I should like to bo alone."

"Let us meet then, on this spot, to-moiTow, and decide what is
to be done?"

" Agreed," cried O'Shea, and with a warm shake-hands to ratify
the pledge, they parted ; Dick towards the lower part of the garden,
while O'Shea turned towards the house.



We have all of us felt how depressing is the sensation felt in a family
circle in the first meeting after the departure of their guests. The
friends who have been staying some time in your house not only
bring to the common stock their share of pleasant converse and
companionship, but, in the quality of strangers, they exact a certain
amount of effort for their amusement, which is better for him who
gives than for the recipient, and they impose that small reserve which
excludes the purely personal inconveniences and contrarieties, which
unhappily in strictly family intercourse have no small space allotted
them for discussion.

It is but right to say that they who benefit most by, and most
gratefully acknowledge, this boon of the visitors, are the young.
The elders, sometimes more disposed to indolence than effort, some-
times irritable at the check essentially put upon many little egotisms
of daily use, and oftener than cither perhaps, glad to get back to tho

*'a sckape." 299

old groove of home discussion, unrestrained by the presence of
strangers ; the elders, I say, are now and then given to express a
most ungracious gratitude for being once again to themselves, and
free to be as confidential, and outspoken, and disagreeable as their
hearts desire.

The dinner at Kilgobbin Castle on the day I speak of, consisted
solely of the Kearney family, and except in the person of the old man
himself, no trace of pleasantry could be detected. Kate had her own
share of anxieties. A number of notices had been served by refractory
tenants for demands they were about to prefer for improvements, under
the new land act. The passion for litigation so dear to the Irish
peasant's heart — that sense of having something to be quibbled for,
so exciting to the imaginative nature of the Celt, had taken possession
of all the tenants on the estate, and even the well-to-do and the
satisfied were now bestirring themselves to think if they had not some
grievance to be turned into profit, and some possible hardship to be
discounted into an abatement.

Dick Kearney, entirely pre-occupied by the thought of his
intended journey, ah-eady began to feel that the things of home
touched him no longer. A few months more and he should be far
away from Ireland and her interests, and why should he harass
himself about the contests of party or the balance of factions, which
never again could have any bearing on his future life. His whole
thought was what arrangement he could make with his father by
which, for a little present assistance, he might surrender all his right
on the entail and give up Kilgobbin for ever.

As for Nina, her complexities were too many and too much
interwoven for our investigation, and there were thoughts of all the
various persons she had met in Ireland, mingled with scenes of the
past, and, more strangely still, the people placed in situations and
connections which by no likelihood should they ever have occupied.
The thought that the little comedy of every-day life, which she
relished immensely, was now to cease for lack of actors, made her
serious — almost sad — and she seldom spoke during the meal.

At Lord Kilgobbin's request, that they would not leave him to
take his wine alone, they drew their chairs round the dining-room
fire ; but, except the bright glow of the ruddy turf and the pleasant
look of the old man himself, there was little that smacked of the
agreeable fireside.

"What has come over you girls this evening?" said the old
man. "Are you in love, or has the man that ought to be in love
with either of you discovered it was only a mistake he was making?"

" Ask Nina, sir," said Kate, gravely.


" Perhaps you arc right, uncle," said Nina, dreamily.

" la which of my guesses — the first or the last ?"

" Don't puzzle me, sir, for I have no head for a subtle distinction.
I only meant to say it is not so easy to be in love mthout mistakes.
You mistake realities and traits for something not a bit like them,
and you mistake yourself by imagining that you mind them."

" I don't think I understand you," said the old man.

" Very likely not, sir. I do not know if I had a meaning that I
could explain."

" Nina wants to tell you, my lord, that the right man has not
come forward yet, and she does not know whether she'll keep the
place open in her heart for him any longer," said Dick, with a half
malicious glance.

" That terrible cousin Dick ! nothing escapes him," said Nina,
with a faint smile.

"Is there any more in the newspapers about that scandal of
the Government ?" cried the old man, turning to Kate. "Is there
not going to be some inquiry as to whether his Excellency wrote to
the Fenians ?"

" There are a few words here, papa," cried Kate, opening the
paper. " In reply to the question of Sir Barnes Malone as to the
late communications alleged to have passed between the head of the
Irish Government and the Head-Centre of the Fenians, the Right
Honourable the First Lord of the Treasury said, ' That the question
would be more properly addressed to the noble lord the Secretary for
Ireland, who was not then in the House. Meanwhile, sir,' continued
he, ' I will take on myself the responsibility of saying that in this, as
in a variety of other cases, the zeal of party has greatly outstripped
the discretion that should govern political warfiire. The exceptional
state of a nation, in which the administration of justice mainly
depends on those aids which a rigid morality might disparage ; the
social state of a people whose integrity calls for the application of
means the most certain to disseminate distrust and disunion, are
facts which constitute reasons for political action that, however
assailable in the mere abstract, the mind of statesmanlike form will
at once accept as sohd and eflectivc, and to reject which would only
show that, in overlooking the consequences of sentiment, a man can
ignore the most vital interests of his countiy.' "

"Docs he say that they wrote to Donogan?" cried Kilgobbin,
whose patience had been sorely pushed by the Premier's exordium.

" Let me read on, papa."

" Skip all that, and get down to a simple question and answer,
Kitty ; don't read the long sentences."

"a scrape." BO}

" This is how he winds up, papa. * I trust I have now, sir,
satisfied the House that there are abundant reasons why this
correspondence shouki not be produced on the table, while I have
further justified my noble friend for a course of action in which the
humanity of the man takes no histre from the glory of the statesman '
— then there are some words in Latin — ' and the right hon. gentleman
resumed his seat amidst loud cheers, in which some of the Opposition
were heard to join.' "

" I want to be told, after all, did they write the letter to say
Donogan was to be let escape ?"

" Would it have been a great crime, uncle ?" said Nina, artlessly.

" I'm not going into that. I'm only asking what the people over
us say is the best way to govern us. I'd like to know, once for all,
what was wrong and what was right in Ireland."

"Has not the Premier just told jou, sir," replied Nina, "that it
is always the reverse of what obtains everywhere else ?"

"I have had enough of it, anyhow," cried Dick, who, though not
intending it before, now, was carried away by a momentary gust of
passion to make the avowal.

"Have you been in the Cabinet all this time, then, without our
knowing it ? " asked Nina, archly.

"It is not of the Cabinet I was speaking, mademoiselle. It was
of the country." And he answered haughtily.

" And where would you go, Dick, and find better ?" said Kate.

"Anywhere. I should find better in America, in Canada, in the
Far West, in New Zealand — but I mean to try in Australia."

" And what will you do when you get there ? " asked Kilgobbin,
with a grim humour in his look.

" Do tell me, cousin Dick, for who knows that it might not suit
me also ? "

Young Kearney filled his glass, and drained it without speaking.
At last he said, " It will be for you, sir, to say if I make the trial.
It is clear enough, I have no course open to me here. For a fev/
hundred pounds, or, indeed, for anything you like to give me, you
get rid of me for ever. It will be the one piece of economy my whole
life comprises."

" Stay at home, Dick, and give to your own country the energy
you are willing to bestow on a strange land," said Kate.

" And labour side by side with the peasant I have looked down
upon since I was able to walk."

" Don't look down on him, then — do it no longer. If you would
treat the first stranger you met in the bush as your equal, begin the
Christian practice in your own country."


" But lie needn't do that at all," broke in the old man. " If lie
•would take to strong shoes and early rising here at Kilgobbin, he
need never go to Geelong for a living. Your great-grandfathers lived
here for centuries, and the old house that sheltered them is still

" "What should I stay for ?" He had got thus far when his

eyes met Nina's, and he stopped and hesitated, and, as a deep blush
covered his face, faltered out, " Gorman O'Shea says he is ready to
go with mc, and two fellows with less to detain them in their own
country would be hard to find."

" O'Shea will do well enough," said the old man ; " he was not-
brought up to kid-leather boots and silk linings in his great-coat.
There's stuff in him, and if it comes to sleeping under a haystack or
dining on a red-herring, he'll not rise up with rheumatism or heart-
burn. And what's better than all, he'll not think himself a hero
because he mends his own boots or lights his own kitchen-fire."

"A letter for your honour," said the servant, entering with a
very informal-looking note on coarse paper, and fastened with a
wafer. ''The gossoon, sir, is waiting for an answer ; he run every
mile from Moate."

*' Eead it, Kitty," said the old man, not heeding the servant's

" It is dated * Moate Jail, 7 o'clock,' " said Kitty, as she read :
"'Dear sir, — I have got into a stupid scrape, and have been
committed to jail. Will you come, or send some one to bail me out.
The thing is a mere trifle, but the " being locked up " is very hard
to bear. Yours always, — G. O'Shea.' "

" Is this more Fenian work ? " cried Kilgobbin.

"I'm certain it is not, sir," said Dick. " Gorman O'Shea has
no liking for them, nor is he the man to sympathize with what he
owns ho cannot understand. It is a more accidental row."

" At all events wo must see to set him at liberty. Order the gig,
Dick, and while they are putting on the harness I'll finish this
decanter of port. If it wasn't that we're getting retired shopkeepers
on the bench we'd not see an O'Shea sent to prison like a gossoon
that stole a bunch of turnips."

" "What has he been doing, I wonder? " said Nina, as she drew
her arm within Kate's and left the room.

" Some loud talk in the bar-parlour, perhaps," was Kate's reply,
and the toss of her head as she said it implied more even than the

( 303 )


"how it befell."

While Lord Kilgobbin aud his son are plodding along towards Moate
with a horse not long released from the harrow, and over a road
which the late rains had sorely damaged, the moment is not inoppor-
tune to explain the nature of the incident, small enough in its way,
that called on them for this journey at nightfall. It befell that when
Miss Betty, indignant at her nephew's defection, and outraged that
he should descend to call at Kilgobbin, determined to cast him off for
ever, she also resolved upon a project over which she had long
meditated, and to which the conversation at her late dinner greatly
predisposed her.

The growing unfertility of the land, the sturdy rejection of the
authority of the Church, manifested in so many ways by the people,
had led Miss O'Shea to speculate more on the insecurity of landed
property in Ireland than all the long list of outrages scheduled at
Assizes, or all the burning haggards that ever flared in a wintry sky.
Her notion was to retire into some religious sisterhood, and away from
life and its cares, to pass her remaining years in holy meditation and
piety. She would have liked to have sold her estate, and endowed
some house or convent with the proceeds, but there were certain legal
difficulties that stood in the way, and her law agent, McKeown, must
be seen and conferred with about these.

Her moods of passion were usually so very violent, that she would
stop at nothing ; and in the torrent of her anger she would decide on
a course of action which would colour a whole lifetime. On the
present occasion her first step was to write and acquaint McKeown
that she would be at Moodie's Hotel, Domiuick Street, the same
evening, and begged he might call there at eight or nine o'clock as
her business with him was pressing. Her next care was to let the
house and lands of O'Shea's Barn to Peter Gill, for the term of one
year, at a rent scarcely more than nominal, the said Gill binding
himself to maintain the gardens, the shrubberies, and all the orna-
mental plantings in their accustomed order and condition. In fact,
the extreme moderation of the rent was to be recompensed by the
large space allotted to unprofitable land, and the great care he was
pledged to exercise in its preservation, and while nominally the tenant,
so manifold were the obligations imposed on him, he was in reality
very little other than the care-taker of O'Shea's Barn and its depen-
dencies. No fences were to be altered, or boundaries changed. All


the copses of youug timber were to be carefully protectoil by
palings as heretofore, and even the ornamental cattle — the short-
horns, and the Alderneys, and a few favourite " Kcrries," — were to
be kept on the allotted paddocks ; and to old Katoo herself was
allotted a loose box, with a small field attached to it, where she might
saunter at will, and ruminate over the less happy quadrupeds that
had to work for their subsistence.

Now, though Miss Betty, in the full torrent of her anger, had tiiat
much of method in her madness to remember the various details,
whose interests were the business of her daily life, and so far made
provision for the future of her pet cows and horses and dogs and
guinea-fowls, so that if she should ever resolve to return she should
find all as she had left it — the short paper of agreement by which she
accepted Gill as her tenant was drawn up by her own hand, unaided
by a lawyer, and, whether from the intemperate haste of the moment
or an unbounded confidence in Gill's honesty and fidelity, was not
only carelessly expressed, but worded in a way that implied how her
trustfulness exonerated her from anything beyond the expression of
what she wished for and what she believed her tenant would strictly
perform. Gill's repeated phrase of " Whatever her honour's ladyship
liked " had followed every sentence as she read the document aloud
to him, and the only real puzzle she had was to explain to the poor
man's simple comprehension that she was not making a hard bargain
with him, but treating him handsomely and in all confidence.

Shrewd and sharp as the old lady was, versed in the habits of the
people, and long trained to suspect a certain air of dulness, by which,
when asking the explanation of a point, they watch, with a native
casuistry, to see what flaw or chink may open an equivocal meaning
or intention — she was thoroughly convinced by the simple and
unreasoning concurrence this humble man gave to every proviso, and
the hearty assurance he always gave " that her honour knew what
was best. God reward and keep her long in the way to do it ! " —
with all this. Miss O'Shea had not accomplished the first stage of her
journey to Dublm, when Peter Gill was seated in the oflice of Pat
McEvoy, the attorney at Moate — a smart practitioner, who had done
more to foster litigation between tenant and landlord than all the
*' grievances " that ever were placarded by the press.

" AVhen did you get this, Peter ? " said the attorney, as he looked
about, unable to find a date.

" This morning, sir, just before she started."

" You'll have to come before the magistrate and make an oath of
the date, and, by my conscience, it's worth the trouble."

" Why, sir, what's in it ? " cried Peter, eagerly.

'' now IT EEFELL." 305

*' I'm no lawyer if she hasn't given you a clear possession of the
phice, subject to certain trusts, and even for the non-performance of
these there is no penalty attached. When Councillor Holmes comes
down at the assizes, I'll lay a case before him, and I'll wager a trifle,
Peter, you will turn out to be an estated gentleman."

"lilood alive ! " was all Peter could utter.

Though the conversation that ensued occupied more than an hour,
it is not necessary that we should repeat what occurred, nor state
more than the fact that Peter went home fully assured that if 0' Shea's
Barn was not his own indisputably, it would be very hard to dispossess
him, and that, at all events, the occupation was secure to him for the
present. The importance that the law always attaches to possession
Mr. McEvoy took care to impress on Gill's mind, and he fully con-
vinced him that a forcible seizure of the premises was far more to be
apprehended than the slower process of a suit and a verdict.

It was about the third week after this opinion had been given,
when young O'Shea walked over from Kilgobbin Castle to the Barn,
intending to see his aunt and take his farewell of her.

Though he had steeled his heart against the emotion such a leave-
taking was Hkely to evoke, he was in nowise prepared for the feelings
the old place itself would call up, and as he opened a little wicket
that led by a shrubbery walk to the cottage, he was glad to throw
himself on the first seat he could find and wait till his heart could
beat more measuredly. What a strange thing was life — at least that
conventional life we make for ourselves — was his thought now.
" Here am I ready to cross the globe, to be the servant, the labourer
of some rude settler in the wilds of Australia, and yet I cannot be the
herdsman here, and tend the cattle in the scenes that I love, where

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 31 of 48)