Charles James Lever.

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

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" Your fleet is in effective condition, well armed, and well
disciplined? "

" All, all," smiled the Pasha.

" The army reformed, the artillery supplied with the most
efficient guns, and officers of European services encouraged to join
your stafl" ? ' '

" Wise economics in your financial matters, close supervision in
the collection of the revenue, and searching inquiries where abuses
exist ? "


" All."

" Especial care that the admmistration of justice slioultl be beyond
even the malevolence of distrust, that men of station and influence
jhould be clear-handed and honourable, not a taint of unfairness to
attach to them ? "

" Be it all so," ejaculated the Pasha, blandly.

** By the way, I am reminded by a line I have just received from
his Excellency with reference to Sulina, or was it Galatz ? "

The Pasha could not decide, and he went on :

" I remember, it is Galatz. There is some curious question
there of a concession for a line of railroad, which a Servian commis-
sioner had the skill to obtain from the Cabinet here, by a sort of
influence which our Stock Exchange people in London scarcely
regard as regular."

The Pasha nodded to imply attention, and smoked on as before.

" But I weary your Excellency," said Atlee, rising, " and my real
business here is accomplished."

" Tell my lord that I await his arrival with impatience, that of all
pending questions none shall receive solution till he comes, that I am
the very least of his servants." And with an air of most dignified
sincerity, he bowed him out, and Atlee hastened away to tell his
chief that he had *' squared the Turk," and would sail on the morrow.



On board the Austrian Lloyd's steamer in which he sailed from
Constantinople, Joseph Atlee employed himself in the composition of
a small volume purporting to be The Experiences of a Tivo Tears'
Residence in Greece. In an opening chapter of this work he had
modestly intimated to the reader how an intimate acquaintance with
the language and literature of modern Greece, great opportunities of
mixing with every class and condition of the people, a mind well
stored with classical acquirements and thoroughly versed in anti-
quarian lore, a strong poetic temperament and the feeling of an artist
for scenery, had all contrived to give him a certain fitness for his task;
and by the extracts from his diary it would be seen on what terms ot
freedom he conversed with ministers and ambassadors, even with
royalty itself.

A most pitiless chapter was devoted to the exposure of the


mistakes and misrepresentations of a late Quarterhj article called
" Greece and her Protectors," whose statements were the more
mercilessly handled and ridiculed that the paper in question had been
written by himself, and the sarcastic allusions to the sources of the
information not the less pungent ou that account.

That the writer had been admitted to frequent audiences of the
King, that he had discussed with his Majesty the cutting of the
Isthmus of Corinth, that the King had seriously confided to him his
belief that, in the event of his abdication, the Ionian Islands must
revert to him as a personal appanage, the terms on which they were
annexed to Greece being decided by lawyers to bear this inteqjreta-
tion — all these Atlee denied of his own knowledge, and asked the
reader to follow him into the royal cabinet for his reasons.

When, therefore, he heard that from some damage to the
machinery the vessel must be detained some days at Syra to refit,
Atlee was scarcely sorry that necessity gave him on opportunity to
visit Athens.

A little about Ulysses and a good deal about Lord Byron, a
smattering of Grote, and a more perfect memory of About, were, as
he owned to himself, all his Greece ; but he could answer for what
three days in the coimtry would do for him, particularly with that
spirit of candid inquiry he could now bring to his task, and tho
genuine fairness with which he desired to judge the people.

" The two years' resident " in Athens must doubtless often have
dined with his Minister, and so Atlee sent his card to the Legation.
Mr. Brammell, our " present Minister at Athens," as The Times
continued to designate him, as though to imply that the appointment
might not be permanent, was an excellent man, of that stamp of
which diplomacy has more — who consider that the court to which
they are accredited concentrates for the time the political interests of
tho globe. That any one in Europe thought, read, spoke, or listened
to anything but what was then happening in Greece, Mr. Brammell
could not believe. That France or Prussia, Spain or Italy, could
divide attention with this small kingdom ; that the great political
minds of the continent were not more eager to know what Comoun-
douros thought and Bulgaris required, than all about Bismarck and
Gortchakoff, he could not be brought to conceive ; and in consequence
of these convictions he was an admirable Minister, and fully repre-
sented all the interests of his ouiitry.

As that admirable public instructor, the Levant Herald, had
frequently mentioned Atlee's name, now, as the guest of Kulbash
Pasha, now, as having attended some public ceremony with other
persons of importance, and once as " our distinguished countiyman,


wliose wise suggestions and acute observations have been duly
accepted by the imperial cabinet," Brammell at once knew that this
distinguished countryman should be entertained at dinner, and he
sent him an invitation. That habit — so popular of late years — to
send out some man from England to do something at a foreign court
that the British Ambassador or Minister there either has not done, or
cannot do, possibly ought never to do, had invested Atlee in Brammell's
eyes with the character of one of those semi-accredited inscrutable
people whose function it would seem to be to make us out the most
meddlesome people in Europe.

Of course Brammell was not pleased to see him at Athens, and he
ran over all the possible contingencies he might have come for. It
might be the old Greek loan, which was to be raked up again as a
new grievance. It might be the pensions that they would not pay,
or the brigands that they would not catch — pretty much for the same
reasons — that they could not. It might be that they wanted to hear
what Tsousicheff, the new liussian Minister, was doing, and whether
the farce of the " Grand Idea " was advertised for repetition. It
might be Crete was on the tapis, or it might be the question of the
Greek envoy to the Porte that the Sultan refused to receive, and
which promised to turn out a very pretty quarrel if only adroitly

The more Brammell thought of it, the more he felt assured this
must be the reason of Atlee's visit, and the more indignant he grew
that extra-official means should be employed to investigate what he
had written seventeen despatches to explain — seventeen despatches,
with nine " enclosures," and a "private and confidential," about to
appear in a blue-book.

To make the dinner as confidential as might be, the only guests
besides Atlee were a couple of yachting Englishmen, a German
Professor of Archasology, and the American Minister, who, of course
speaking no language but his own, could always be escaped from by
a digression into French, German, or Italian.

Atlee felt, as he entered the drawing-room, that the company was
what he irreverently called afterwards a scratch team, and with an
almost equal quickness he saw that he himself was the " personage "
of the entertainment, the " man of mark " of the party.

The same tact which enabled him to perceive all this, made him
especially guarded in all he said, so that his host's eftbi-ts to unveil
his intentions and learn what he had come for were complete failures.
*' Greece was a charming country. — Greece was the parent of any
civilization we boasted. — She gave us those ideas of architecture with
which we raised that glorious temple at Kensington, and that taste


for sculpture which we exhibited near Apsley House. — Aristophanes
gave us our comic drama, and only the defaults of our language made
it difficult to show why the Member for Cork did not more often recall

As for insolvency, it was a very gentleman-like failing ; while
brigandage was only what Shcil used to euphemize as " the wild
justice " of noble spirits, too impatient for the sluggard steps of slow
redress, and too proud not to be self-reliant.

Thus excusing and extenuating wherein he could not flatter, Atlec
talked on the entire evening, till he sent the two Englishmen home
heartily sick of a bombastic eulogy on the land where a pilot had run
their cutter on a rock, and a revenue officer had seized all their
tobacco. The German had retired early, and the Yankee hastened
to his lodgings to "jot down " all the fine things he could commit to
his next despatch home, and overwhelm Mr. Seward with an array of
historic celebrities such as had never been seen at Washington.

"They're gone at last," said the Minister. " Let us have our
cigar on the terrace."

The unbounded frankness, the unlimited trustfulness that now
ensued between these two men, was charming. Brammell represented
one hard worked and sorely tried in his country's service ; the perfect
slave of office, spending nights long at his desk, but not appreciated,
not valued at home. It was delightful, therefore, to him, to find a
man like Atlee, to whom he could tell this — could tell for what an
ungrateful country he toiled, what ignorance he sought to enlighten,
what actual stupidity he had to counteract. He spoke of the office, —
from his tone of horror it might have been the Holy Office, — with a
sort of tremulous terror and aversion : the absurd instructions they
sent him, the impossible things he was to do, the inconceivable lines
of policy he was to insist on : how but for him the Iving would
abdicate, and a Russian protectorate be proclaimed ; how the revolt
at Athens would be proclaimed in Thessaly : how Skulkekoff, the
Russian general, was waiting to move into the provinces " at the first
check my policy shall receive here," cried he. " I shall show you on
this map ; and here arc the names, armament, and tonnage of
a hundred and ninety-four gun-boats now ready at Nicholief to move
down on Constantinople."

Was it not strange, was it not worse than strange, after such a
show of unbounded confidence as this, Atlee would reveal nothing ?
Whatever his grievances against the people he served — and who is
without them ? — he would say nothing, he had no complaint to make.
Things he admitted were bad, but they might be worse. The
monarchy existed still, and the House of Lords was, for a while at


least, tolerated. Ireland was disturbed, but not in open rebellion ;
and if we had no army to speak of, we still had a navy, and even
the present Admiralty only lost about five ships a year !

Till long after midnight did they fence with each other, with
buttons on their foils — very harmlessly no doubt, but very uselessly
too ; Brammell could make nothing of a man who neither wanted to
hear about finance or taxation, court scandal, schools, or public
robbery ; and though he could not in so many words ask, — What
have you come for ? why are you here ? he said this in full fifty
different ways for three hours and more.

"You make some stay amongst us, I trust?" said the Minister,
as his guest rose to take leave. " You mean to see something of
this interesting country before you leave ?"

" I fear not ; when the repairs to the steamer enable her to put
to sea, they are to let me know by telegraph, and I shall join her."

" Are you so pressed for time that you cannot spare us a week
or two ?"

" Totally impossible ! Parliament will sit in January next, and
I must hasten home."

This was to imply that he was in the House, or that he expected
to be, or that he ought to be, and, even if he were not, that his
presence in England was all-essential to somebody who was in
Parliament, and for whom his information, his explanation, his
accusation, or anything else, was all needed, and so Brammell read
it and bowed accordingly.

" By the way," said the Minister, as the other was leaving the
room, and with that sudden abruptness of a wayward thought, " we
have been talking of all sorts of things and people, but not a word
about what we are so full of here. How is this difficulty about the
new Greek envoy to the Porte to end ? You know of course the
Sultan refuses to receive him ? ' '

" The Pasha told me something of it, but I confess to have paid
little attention. I treated the matter as insignificant."

" Insignificant ! You cannot mean that an affront so openly
administered as this, the greatest national offence that could be
offered, is insignificant ?" and then with a volubility that smacked
very little of want of preparation, he showed that the idea of sending
a particular man, long compromised by his complicity in the Cretan
revolt, to Constantinople, came from Russia, and that the opposition
of the Porte to accept him was also Russian. " I got to the bottom
of the whole intrigue. I wrote home how Tsousicheff was nursing
this new quarrel. I told our people facts of the Muscovite policy that
they never got a hint of from their ambassador at St. Petersburg."


" It Avas rare luck that we had you here : good-uight, good-night,"
said Atlee as he buttoned his coat.

" I\Ioro than that, I said, ' If the Cabinet here persist in sending
Kostalergi ' "

" "Whom did you say ? What name was it you said ? "

" Kostalergi — the Prince. As much a Prince as you are. First
of all, they have no better ; and, secondly, this is the most consum-
mate adventurer in the East."

" I should like to know him. Is he here — at Athens ? "

" Of course he is. He is waiting till he hears the Sultan will
receive him."

" I should like to know him," said Atlee, more seriously.

"Nothing easier. He comes here every day. Will you meet
him at dinner to-morrow ?"

" Delighted ! but then I should like a little conversation with
him in the morning. Perhaps you would kindly make me known to

" With sincere pleasure. I'll write and ask him to dine — and
I'll say that you will wait on him. I'll say, ' My distinguished friend
Mr. Atlee, of whom you have heard, will wait on you about eleven or
twelve.' Will that do?"

" Perfectly. So then I may make my visit on the presumption
of being expected ? "

" Certainly. Not that Kostalergi wants much preparation. He
plays baccara all night, but he is at his desk at six."

" Is he rich ?"

" Hasn't a sixpence — but plays all the same. And what people
are more surprised at, pays M'hen he loses. If I had not already
passed an evening in your company, I should be bold enough to hint
to you the need of caution — great caution — in talking with him."

" I know — I am aware," said Atlee, with a meaning smile.

" You will not be misled by his cunning, Mr. Atlee, but beware
of his candour."

" I will be on my guard. Many thanks for the caution. Good-
night ! — once more, good-uigtt I "

( 351 )



So excited did Atlee feel about meeting the father of Nina Koslalergi
— of whose strange doings and adventurous life he had heard much — •
that he scarcely slept the entire night. It puzzled him greatly to
determine in what character he should present himself to this crafty
Greek. Political amateurship was now so popular in England, that
he might easily enough pass off for one of those " Bulls " desirous
to make himself up on the Greek question. This was a part that
offered no difficulty. " Give me five minutes of any man — a little
longer with a woman — and I'll know where his sympathies incline
to." This was a constant boast of his, and not altogether a vain
one. He might be an archajological traveller eager about new-
discovered relics and curious about ruined temples. He might be a
yachting man, who only cared for Salamis as good anchorage, nor
thought of the Acropolis, except as a point of departure ; or he might
be one of those myriads who travel without knowing where, or caring
why; airing their ennui now at Thebes, now at Trolhatten ; a
weariful dispirited race, who rarely look so thoroughly alive as when
choosing a cigar or changing their money. There was no reason
why the " distinguished Mr. Atlee " might not be one of these — he
was accredited, too, by his Minister, and his " solidarity," as the
French call it, was beyond question.

While yet revolving these points, a cavass — with much gold in
his jacket, and a voluminous petticoat of white calico — came to
inform him that his Excellency the Prince hoped to see him at
breakfast at eleven o'clock ; and it now only wanted a few minutes of
that hour. Atlee detained the messenger to show him the road, and
at last set out.

Traversing one dreary, ill-built street after another, they arrived
at last at what seemed a little lane, the entrance to which carriages
were denied by a line of stone posts, at the extremity of which a
small green gate appeared in a wall. Pushing this wide open, the
cavass stood respectfully, while Atlee passed in, and found himself
in what for Greece was a garden. There were two fine palm-trees,
and a small scrub of oleanders and dwarf cedars that grew around a
little fish-pond, where a small Triton in the middle, with distended
cheeks, should have poured forth a refreshing jet of water, but his
lips were dry, and his conch-shell empty, and the muddy tank at his
feet a mere surface of broad water-lilies convulsively shaken by bull-


frogs. A short shady path led to the house, a two-storied edifice,
with the external stair of wood that seemed to crawl round it on
every side.

In a good-sized room of the ground-floor xUIec found the Prince
awaiting him. Ho was confined to a sofa by a slight sprain, he
called it, and apologized for his not being able to rise.

The Prince, though advanced in years, was still handsome ; his
features had all the splendid regularity of their Greek origin : but in
the enormous orbits, of which the tint was nearly black, and the
indented temples, traversed by veins of immense size, and the firm
compression of his lips, might be read the signs of a man who carried
the gambling spirit into every incident of life, one ready " to back his
luck," and show a bold front to fortune when fate proved adverse.

The Greek's manner was perfect. There was all the ease of a
man used to society, with a sort of half-sly courtesy, as he said,
" This is kindness, Mr. Atlee — this is real kindness. I scarcely
thought an Englishman would have the courage to call upon anything
so unpopular as I am."

" I have come to see you and the Parthenon, Prince, and I have
begun with you."

" And you will tell them, when you get home, that I am not the
terrible revolutionist they think me : that I am neither Danton nor
Felix Pyat, but a very mild and rather tiresome old man, whose
extreme violence goes no further than believing that people ought to
be masters in their own house, and that when any one disputes the
right, the best thing is to throw him out of the window."

" If he will not go by the door," remarked Atlee.

•• No, I would not give him the chance of the door. Otherwise
vou make no distinction between your friends and your enemies. It
is by the mild methods — what you call ' milk-and-water methods ' —
men spoil all their efforts for freedom. You always want to cut off
somebody's head and spill no blood. There's the mistake of those
Irish rebels : they tell mo they have courage, but I find it hard to
believe them."

" Do believe them then, and know for certain that there is not a
braver people in Europe."

" How do 5-ou keep them down, then ? "

*' You must not ask me that, for I am one of them."

" You Irish ? "

"Yes, Irish — very Irish."

" Ah ! I see. Irish in an English sense ? Just as there are
Greeks hero who believe in Kulbash Pasha, and would say. Stay at
Lome and till your currant-fields and mind your coasting-trade.


Don't try to be civilized, for civilization goes badly with brigandage,
and scarcely suits trickery. And you are aware, Mr. Atlee, tliat
trickery and brigandage are more to Greece than olives or dried tigs ? "

There was that of mockery in the way he said this, and the little
smile that played about his mouth when he finished, that left Atlee
in considerable doubt how to read him.

"I study your news^japers, Mr. Atlee," resumed he. " I never
omit to read your Times, and I see how my old acquaintance, Lord
Danesbury, has been making Turkey out of Ireland ! It is so hard
to persuade an old ambassador that you cannot do eveiything by
corruption ! "

" I scarcely think you do him justice."

" Poor Danesbury," ejaculated he, sorrowfully.

*' You opine that his policy is a mistake ? "

" Poor Danesbury ! " said he again.

" He is one of our ablest men, notwithstanding. At this-moment
we have not his superior in anything."

" I was going to say, Poor Danesbury, but I now say, Poor

Atlee bit his lips with anger at the sarcasm, but went on : "I
infer you are not aware of the exact share subordinates have had in
what you call Lord Danesbury's Irish blunders "

" Pardon my interrupting you, but a really able man has no
subordinates. His inferior agents are so thoroughly absorbed by his
own individuality that they have no wills — no instincts — and, there-
fore, they can do no indiscretions. They are the simple emanations
of himself in action."

" In Turkey, perhaps," said Atlee, with a smile.

" If in Turkey why not in England, or, at least, in Ireland ? If
you are well served — and mind, you must be well served, or you are
powerless — you can always in political life see the adversary's hand.
That he sees yours, is of course true : the great question then is,
how much you mean to mislead him by the showing it ? I give you
an instance : Lord Danesbury's cleverest stroke in policy here, the
one hit probably he made in the East, was to have a private corre-
spondence with the Khedive made known to the Piussian Embassy,
and induce Gortschakoff to believe that he could not trust the Pasha !
All the Russian preparations to move down on the Provinces were
countennanded. The stores of grain that were being made on the
Pruth were arrested, and three, nearly four weeks elapsed before the
mistake was discovered, and in that interval England had reinforced
the squadron at Malta, and taken steps to encourage Turkey — always
to be done by money, or promise of money."



" It was a cou}) of great adroitness," said Atlee.

" It was more," cried the Greek with elation. "It was a move
of such subtlety as smacks of something higher than the Saxon ! The
men who do these things have the instinct of their craft. It is theirs
to understand that chemistry of human motives by which a certain
combination results in effects totally remote from the agents that
produce it. Can you follow me ? "

" I believe I can."

"I would rather say, Is my attempt at an explanation sufficiently
clear to be intelligible ? "

Atlee looked fixedly at him, and ho could do so unobserved, for
the other was now occupied in preparing his pipe, without minding
the question. Therefore xitlee set himself to study the features
before him. It was evident enough, from the intensity of his gaze
and a certain trembling of his upper lip, that the scrutiny cost him
no common effort. It was, in fact, the effort to divine what, if he
mistook to read aright, would be an irreparable blunder.

With the long-drawn inspiration a man makes before he adventures
a daring feat, he said : "It is time I should be candid with you,
Prince. It is time I should tell you that I am in Greece only to see i/ou."

"To see me?" said the other, and a very faint flush passed
across his face.

" To see you," said Atlee, slowly, while he drew out a pocket-
book and took from it a letter. " This," said he, handing it, " is to
your address." The v\-ords on the cover were M. Spiridionides.

" I am Spiridion Kostalergi, and by birth a Prince of Delos," said
the Greek, waving back the letter.

" I am well aware of that, and it is only in perfect confidence
that I venture to recall a past that your Excellency will see I respect,"
and Atlee spoke with an air of deference.

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 36 of 48)