Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 34 of 48)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 34 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

colony, it would have been at least courtesy to have informed her
co-signatories of the fact.

At the same time an Irish paper in the national interest quietly
desired to be informed how was it that the man who made such a
mull of Ireland could be so much needed in Turkey, aided by a well-
known fellow-citizen, more celebrated for smashing lamps and wringing
otf knockers than for administering the rights of a colony ; and by
which of his services, ballad-writing or beating the police, he had
gained the favour of the present Cabinet. " In fact," concluded the
vmter, " if we hear more of this appointment, we promise our readers
some biographical memoirs of the respected individual, which may
serve to show the rising youth of Ireland by what gifts success in life
is most surely achieved, as well as what peculiar accomplishments
find most merit with the grave-minded men who rule us."

A Cork paper announced on the same day, amongst the promo-
tions, that Joseph Atlee had been made C.B., and mildly inquired if
the honour were bestowed for that paper on Ireland in the last
Quarterbj, and drily wound up by saying, " We are not selfish, what-
ever people may say of us. Our friends on the Bosphorus shall have
the noble lord cheap ! Let his Excellency only assure us that he will
return with his whole stall', and not leave us Mr. Cecil Walpole, or
4xny other like incapacity, behind him, as a director of the Poor Law
Board, or inspector-general of gaols, or deputy-assistant-secretary
anywhere, and we assent freely to the change that sends this man to
the East and leaves us here to flounder on with such aids to our
mistakes as a Liberal Government can safely afford to spare us."

A paragraph in another part of the same paper, which asked if
the Joseph At'oo who, it was rumoured, was to go out as Governor
to Labuan, could ue this man, had, it is needless to say, been written
by himself.

The Levant Herald contented itself with an authorised contra-
diction to the report that Sir Joseph Atlee — the Sir was an ingenious
blunder — had conformed to Islamism, and was in treaty for the palace
of Tashkir Bey at Therapia.

With a neatness and tact all his own, Atlee narrated Brumsey's
blunder in a tone so simple and almost deferential, that Lord
Danesbury could show the letter to any of his colleagues. The
whole spirit of the document was regret that a very well-intentioned
gentleman of good connections and irreproachable morals should be
an ass ! Not that he employed the insufferable designation.

The Cabinet at home were on thorns lest the press — the vile
Tory organs — should get wind of the case and cap the blundering


government of Ireland -nitli the almost cfiually gross mistake in

" We shall have the Standard at us," said the Premier.

" Far "worse," replied the Foreign Secretaiy. " I shall have
Brunow here in a white passion to demand an apology and the recall
of our man at Constantinople."

To accuse a well-known housebreaker of a burglary that he had
not committed, nor had any immediate thought of committing, is the
very luckiest stroke of fortune that could befall him. He comes out
not alone innocent, but injured. The persecutions by which bad men
have assailed him for years have at last theii* illustration, and the
calumniated saint walks forth into the world, his head high and his
port erect, even though a crowbar should peep out from his coat-pocket
and the jingle of false keys go with him as he went.

Far too astute to make the scandal public by the newspapers,
Atlee only hinted to his chief the danger that might ensue if the secret
leaked out. He well knew that a press scandal is a nine- day-fever,
but a menaced publicity is a chronic malady that may go on for years.

The last lines of his letter were : — " I have made a curious and
interesting acquaintance, — a certain Stephanotis Bey, governor of
Scutari in Albania, a very venerable old fellow, who was never at
Constantinople till now. The Pasha tells me in confidence that he
is enormously wealthy. His fortune was made by brigandage in
Greece, from which he retired a few years ago, shocked by the sudden
death of his brother, who was decapitated at Corinth with five others.
The Bey is a nice, gentle-mannered, simple-hearted old man, kind to
the poor, and eminently hospitable. He has invited me down to
Prevesa for the pig-shooting. If I have your permission to accept
the invitation, I shall make a rapid visit to Athens, and make one
more efibrt to discover Speridionides. Might I ask the favour of an
answer by telegraph ? So many documents and archives were stolen
here at the time of the fire of the Embassy, that, by a timely measure
of discredit, we can impair the value of all papers whatever, and I
have already a mass of false despatches, notes, and telegrams ready
for publication, and subsequent denial, if you advise it. In one of
these I have imitated Walpole's style so well that I scarcely think he
will read it v/ithout misgivings. With so much ' bad bank paper' in
circulation, Speridionides is not likely to set a high price on his own
* scrip.' "

( 327 )


LoKD Danesbuky read Atlee's letter with an eujoymeut not unlike
the feeling an old sportsman experiences in discovering that his cover
liack — an animal not worth twenty pounds — was a capital fencer ;
that a beast only destined to the commonest of uses should actually
have qualities that recalled the steeple-chaser — that the scrubby little
creature with the thin neck and the shabby quarters should have a
turn of speed and a "big jump " in him, was something scarcely
credible, and highly interesting.

Now political life has its handicaps like the turf, and that old
jockey of many Cabinets began seriously to think whether he might
not lav a little mone}' on that dark horse Joe Atlee, and make some-
thing out of him before he was better known in " the ring."

He was smarting, besides, under the annoyances of that half-
clever fellow 'Walpole, when Atlee's letter reached him, and, though
the unlucky Cecil had taken ill and kept his room ever since his
arrival, his Excellency had never forgiven him, nor by a word or sign
showed any disposition to restore him to favour.

That he was himself overwhelmed by a correspondence, and left
to deal with it almost alone, scarcely contributed to reconcile him to
a youth more smarting, as he deemed it, under a recent defeat than
really ill ; and he pointed to the mass of papers which now littered
his breakfast-table, and querulously asked his niece if that brilliant
young gentleman upstairs could be induced to postpone his sorrovrs
and copy a despatch.

" If it be not something very difficult or requiring very uncommon
care, perhaps I could do it myself."

" So you could, Maude, but I want you too — I shall Avant to copy
out parts of Atlee's last letter, which I v/ish to place before the
Foreign Office Secretary. He ought to see what his protege Brumsey
is making of it. These are the idiots who get us into foreign wars,
or those apologetic movements in diplomacy, which are as bad as lost
battles. What a contrast to Atlee — a rare clever dog, Atlee — and so
awake, not only to one, but to every contingency of a case. I like
that fellow — I like a fellow that stops all the earths ! Your half-
clever ones never do that ; they only do enough to prolong the race ;
they don't win it. That bright relative of ours — Cecil — is one of
those. Give Atlee "Walpole's chances, and where v/ould he be 2"


A very faiut colour tinged her cheek as she listened, but did not

" That's the real way to put it," continued he, more waiinly.
" Say to Atlee, ' You shall enter public life without any pressing need
to take office for a livelihood ; you shall have friends able to push
you with one party, and relations and connections with the opposition,
to save you from unnecessary cavil or question ; you shall be well

introduced socially, and have a seat in the House before '

What's his age? five-and-twenty ?"

" I should say about three -and- twenty, my lord ; but it is a mere

" Three-and-tweuty is he ? I suspect you are right — he can't be
more. But what a deal the fellow has crammed for that time —
plenty of rubbish, no doubt : old dramatists and such like : but he is
well up in his treaties ; and there's not a speaker of eminence in the
House that he cannot make contradict himself out of Hansard."

"Has he any fortune?" sighed she, so lazily, that it scarcely
sounded as a question.

" I suppose not."

" Nor any family ?"

" Brothers and sisters he may have — indeed, ho is sure to have ;
but if you mean connections — belonging to persons of admitted
station — of course he has not. The name alone might show it."

Another little sigh, fainter than before, followed, and all was still.

" Five years hence, if even so much, the plebeian name and the
unknown stock will be in his favour ; but we have to wade through a
few dreary measures before that. I wish ho was in the House — he
ought to be in the House."

" Is there a vacancy ? " said she, lazily.

" Two. There is Cradford, and there is that Scotch place — the
something-Burg, which, of course, one of their own people will
insist on."

"Couldn't he have Cradford?" asked she, with a very slight

" He might — at least if Brand knew him, he'd see he was the
man they wanted. I almost think I'll write a line to Brand, and
send him some extracts of the last letter. I will — here goes."

" If you'll tell me "

" Deau B., — Read the enclosed, and say have you anybody better
than the writer for your ancient borough of Cradford ? The fellow
can talk, and I am sure he can speak as well as he writes. He is
well up in all Irish press iniquities. Better than all, he has neither


prejudices nor principles, uor, as I believe, a five-pound note in the
world. He is now iu Greece, but I'll have him over by telegraph if
you give me encouragement.

" Tell Tycross at F. 0. to send Walpole to Guatemala, and order
him to his post at once. G. will have told you that I shall not go
back to Ireland. The blunder of my ever seeing it was the blackest
iu the life of yours,


The first letter his lordship opened gave him very little time or
inclination to bestow more thought on Atlee. It was from the head
of the Cabinet, and iu the coldest tone imaginable. The writer
directed his attention to what had occurred in the House the night
before, and how impossible it was for any Government to depend on
colleagues whose administration had been so palpably blundering and
unwise. " Conciliation can only succeed by the good faith it
inspires. Once that it leaks out you are more eager to achieve a
gain than confer a benefit, you cease to conciliate, and you only
cajole. Now your lordship might have apprehended that, in this
especial game, the Popish priest is your master and mine — not to
add that he gives an undivided attention to a subject which we have
to treat as one amongst many, and with the relations and bearings
which attach it to other questions of state.

" That you cannot, with advantage to the Crown, or, indeed, to
your own dignity, continue to hold your present office, is clear
enough ; and the only question now is in what way, consistent with
the safety of the Administration, and respect for your lordship's high
character, the relinquishment had best be made. The debate has
been, on Gregory's motion, adjourned. It will be continued on
Tuesday, and my colleagues opine that if your resignation was iu
their hands before that day, certain leaders of the Opposition would
consent to withdraw their motion. I am not wholly agreed with the
other members of the Cabinet on this point ; but, without embarrassing
you by the reasons which sway my judgment, I will simply place the
matter before you for your own consideration, perfectly assured, as I
am, that your decision will be come to only on consideration of what
you deem best for the interests of the country.

" My colleague at the Foreign Office will write to-day or to-morrow
with reference to your former post, and I only allude to it now to say
the unmixed satisfaction it would give the Cabinet to find that the
greatest interests of Eastern Europe were once more in the keeping
of the ablest diplomatist of the age, and one of the most far-sighted
of modern statesmen.


" A motion for the abolition of tlie Irish viceroyalty is now on the
notice paper, and it will be matter for consideration whether we may
not make it an open question in the Cabinet. Perhaps your lordship
would favour me with such opinions on the subject as your experiences

" The extra session has wearied out every one, and we can with
difficulty make a house. — Yours sincerely,


The next he opened was briefer. It ran thus : —

" Dear Daxesdury, — You must go back at once to Turkey.
That inscrutable idiot Brumsey has discovered another mare's-nest,
and we are lucky if Gortchakofi" does not call upon us for public
apology. Brunow is outrageous and demands B.'s recall. I sent off
the despatch while he was with me. Leflo Pasha is very ill, they say
dying, so that you must haste back to your old friend (query : which
is he '?) Kulbash, if it be not too late, as Apponyi thinks,

" Yours, G.

" P.S. — Take none of your Irish suite with you to the East. The
papers are sure to note the names and attack you if you should.
They shall be cared for somehow, if there be any who interest you.

"You have seen that the House was not over civil to you on
Saturday night, though A. thinks you got off well."

" Kesign ! " cried he aloud, as he dashed the letter on the table.
" I think I would resign ! If they asked what would tempt me to go
back there I should be sorely puzzled to name it. No ; not the blue
ribbon itself would induce me to face that chaos once more. As to
the hint about my Irish staff, it was quite unnecessary. Not very
likely, Maude, we should take Walpole to finish in the Bosphorus
what he has begun on the Liffey."

He turned hastily to The Times, and threw his eyes over the
summary of the debate. It was acrimonious and sneery. The
Opposition leaders, with accustomed smoothness, had made it appear
that the Viceroy's Eastern experience had misled him, and that he
thought " Tipperary was a Pashalick!" Imbued with notions of
wholesale measures of government, so applicable to Turkey, it was
easy to sec how the errors had affected his Irish policy. " There
was," said the speaker, " somebody to be conciliated in Ireland, and
someone to bo hanged ; and what more natural tban that he should
forget which, or that he should make the mistake of keeping all tho
flattery for the rebel and the rope for the priest." The neatness of


the illustration took witli the House, and the speaker was interruptctl
by "much laughter." And then he went on to say that, "as with
those well-known ointments or medicines whose specific virtues lay
in the enormous costliness of some of the constituents, so it must
give unspeakable value to the efficacy of those healing measures for
Ireland, to know that the whole British Constitution was boiled down
to make one of them ; and every right and liberty brayed in the
mortar to furnish even one dose of this precious elixir." And then
there was " laughter " again.

"He ought to be more merciful to charlatans. Dogs do not eat
dogs," muttered his lordship to himself, and then asked his niece to
send Walpole to him.

It was some time before Walpole appeared, and Avhen he did it
was with such a wasted look and careworn aspect as might have
2)leaded in his favour.

" Maude told me you wished to see me, my lord," said he, half-

" Did I ? eh ? Did I say so ? I foi;gct all about it. What
could it be ? Let us see : was it this stupid row they were making
in the House ? Have you read the debate ?"

" No, my lord; not looked at a paper."

" Of course not ; you have been too ill, two weak. Have you
seen a doctor ?" ■"*

" I don't care to see a doctor; they all say the same thing. I
only need rest and quiet."

" Only that ! Vv'hy, they are the two things nobody can get.
Power cannot have them, nor money buy them. The retired tradesman
— I beg his pardon, the cheesemonger — he is always a cheesemonger
now who represents vulgarity and bank stock — he may have his rest
and quiet ; but a Minister must not dream of such a luxury, nor any
one who serves a Minister. Where's the quiet to come from, I ask
you, after such a tirade of abuse as that '? " And he pointed to
The Times. " There's Punch, too, with a picture of me measuring-
out ' Danesbury's drops, to cure loyalty.' That slim youth handing
the spoon is meant for you, Walpole."

" Perhaps so, my lord," said he, coldly.

" They haven't given you too much leg, Cecil," said the other,
laughing, but Cecil scarcely relished the joke.

" I say, Piccadilly is scarcely the place for a man after that ; — I
mean, of course, for a while," continued he. " These things are not
eternal ; they have their day. They had me last week travelling in
Ireland on a camel ; and I was made to say, ' That the air of the
desert always did me good ! ' Poor fun, was it not ? "


" Very poor fun indeed ! "

" And you were the boy prcpariug my chibouque, and, I must say,
devilish like."

" I did not see it, my lord."

" That's the best way : don't look at the caricatures ; don't read
the Saturday licvicw ; never know there is anything wrong with you •
nor, if you can, that anything disagrees with you."

" I should like the last delusion best of all," said he.

"Who would not ?" cried the old lord, " The way I used to
eat potted prawns at Eton, and peach jam after them, and iced guavas,
And never felt better ! And now everything gives acidity."

" Just because our fathers and grandfothers would have those
.potted prawns you spoke of."

" No, no ; you are all wi'oug. It's the new race, — it's the new
generation. They don't bear reverses. Whenever the world goes
wrong with them, they talk as they feel, they lose appetite, and they
fall down to a state like your — a — Walpole — like your own ! "

" Well, my lord, I don't think I could be called captious for
Baying that the world has not gone over well with me."

"Ah — hum. You mean — no matter, — I suppose the luckiest
hand is not all trumps ! The thing is, to score the trick : that's the
point, Walpole, to score the trick ! "

" Up to this, I have not been so fortunate,"

" Well, who knows what's coming, I have just asked the
Foreign Office people to give you Guatemala ; not a bad thing, as
times go."

" Why, my lord, it's banishment and barbarism together. The
pay is miserable ! It is far away, and it is not Pall Mall, or the liuo

" No ; not that. There is twelve hundred for salary, and some-
thing for a house, and something more for a secretary that you don't
keep, and an office that you need not have. In fact, it makes more
than two thousand ; and for a single man in a place where he cannot
be extravagant, it will suffice."

" Yes, my lord ; but I was presumptuous enough to imagine a
condition in which I should not be a single man, and I speculated on
the possibility that another might venture to share even poverty as
my companion."

" A woman wouldn't go there, — at least, she ought not. It's all
bush life, or something like it. Why should a woman bear that ? or
a man ask her to do so ? "

" You seem to forget, my lord, that affections may be engaged,
and pledges interchanged."


" Get a bill of indemnity, therefore, to release you : better that,
than wait for yellow fever to do it."

"I confess that your lordship's words give me great discourage-
ment, and if I could possibly believe that Lady Maude was of your
mind "

" Maude ! Maude ! why, you never imagined that Lady Maude
would leave comfort and civilization for this bush life, with its
rancheros and rattlesnakes. I confess," said he, with a bitter laugh,
" I did not think either of you were bent on being Paul or Virginia."

" Have I your lordship's permission to ask her own judgment in
the matter : I mean with the assurance of its not being biassed by
you ? "

" Freely, most freely do I give it. She is not the girl I believe
her if she leaves you long in doubt. But I prejudge nothing, and I
influence nothing."

" Am I to conclude, my lord, that I am sure of this appointment ? "

" I almost believe I can say you are. I have asked for a reply
by telegraph, and I shall probably have one to-morrow."

" You seemed to have acted under the conviction that I should be
glad to get this place."

" Yes, such was my conclusion. After that ' fiasco ' in L-eland
you must go somewhere, for a time at least, out of the way. Now
as a man cannot die for half-a-dozen years and come back to life
when people have forgotten his unpopularity, the next best thing is
South America. Bogota and the Argentine Kepublic have white-
washed many a reputation."

" I will remember your lordship's wise words."

"Do so," said my lord, curtly, for he felt offended at the flippant
tone in which the other spoke. " I don't mean to say that I'd send
the writer of that letter yonder to Yucatan or Costa Eica."

" Who may the gifted writer be, my lord ? "

" Atlee, Joe Atlee ; the fellow you sent over here."

" Indeed ! " was all that Walpole could utter.

"Just take it to your room and read it over. You will be
astonished at the thing. The fellow has got to know the bearings of
a whole set of new questions, and how he understands the men he has
got to deal with ! "

" With your leave I will do so," said he, as he took the letter
and left the room.



"a defeat."

CECiii Walpole's Italian experiences bad supplied him with an
Italian proverb, which says, " Tuttoil mal nonvien pcruuocere," or,
in other words, that no evil comes unmixed with good ; and there is
a marvellous amount of wisdom in the adage.

That there is a deep philosoph)', too, in showing how carefully we
should sift misfortune to the dregs, and ascertain what of benefit we
might rescue from the dross, is not to be denied : and the more
we reilect on it, the more should we sec that the germ of all real
consolation is intimately bound up in this reseiwation.

No sooner, then, did Walpole, in novelist phrase, " realize the
fact" that he was to go to Guatemala, than he set very practically to
inquire what advantages, if any, could be squeezed out of this
impromising incident.

The creditors — and he had some — would not like it ! The dreary
process of dunning a man across half the globe, the hopelessness of
appeals that took two months to come to hand, and the inefficacy of
threats that were wafted over miles of ocean ! And certainly he
smiled as he thought of these, and rather maliciously bethought him
of the truculent importunity that menaced him with some form of
publicity in the more insolent appeal to some Minister at home.
" Our tailor will moderate his language, our jeweller will appreciate
the merits of polite letter-writing," thought he, " A few parallels of
latitude become a great schoolmaster."

But there were greater advantages even than these. This
banishment — for it was nothing else — could not by any possibility be
persisted in, and if Lady Maude should consent to accompany him,
would be very short-lived,

" The women will take it up," said he, " and with that charming
clanship that distinguishes them, will lead the Foreign Secretary a
life of misery, till he gives us something better. ' Maude says the
thermometer has never been lower than 132 deg., and that there is
no shade. The nights have no breeze, and are rather hotter than the
days. She objects seriously to be waited on by people in feathers,
and veiy few of them, and she remonstrates against alligators in the
kitchen-garden, and wild-cats coming after the canaries in the

" I hear the catalogue of misfortunes, which begins with nothing
to eat, 2^(ns the terror of-beiug eaten. I recognise the lament over

"a defeat." 335

lost civilization and a wasted life, and I see Downing Street besieged
with ladies in deputations, declaring that they care nothing for party
or politics, but a great deal for the life of a dear young creature who
is to be sacrificed to appease some people belonging to the existin"'
Ministry. I think I knov/ how beautifully illogical they will be, but

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 34 of 48)