Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 39 of 48)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 39 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" Irish policy ? " cried the other, with lifted eyebrows.

"I said Irish policy, and repeat the words. Whatever line of
political action tends to bring legislation into more perfect harmony
with the instincts and impulses of a very peculiar people, it is no
presumption to call a pohcy."

" With all my heart. Do you mean to deal with that old Liver-
pool rascal for the furniture ? "

" His offer is almost an insult."

" Well, you'll be gratified to know he retracts it. He says now
he'll only give 35/. ! And as for the screws, Bobbidge, of the
Carbineers, will take them both for 60/."

" Why, Lightfoot alone is worth the money 1 "


"Minus the sand-crack."

" I deny the sand-crack. She was pricked in the shoeing."

" Of course ! I never knew a broken knee that wasn't got by
striking the manger, nor a saudcrack that didn't come of an awkward

" What a blessing it wouki be if all the bad reputations in society
could be palliated as pleasantly."

" Shall I tell Bobbidge you take his offer ? He wants an answer
at once,"

" My dear Major, don't you know that the fellow who says that,
simply means to say : ' Don't be too sure that I shall not change my
mind ? ' Look out that you take the ball at the hop ! "

" Lucky if it hops at all."

" Is that your experience of life ? " said Walpole, inquiringly.

"It is one of them. Will you take 50?. for the screws ? "

" Yes ; and as much more for the break and the dog-cart. I
want every rap I can scrape together, Harry. I'm going out to

" I heard that."

" Infei'nal place ; at least, I believe in climate — reptiles — fevers
— assassination — it stands without a rival,"

" So they tell me."

" It was the only thing vacant ; and they rather affected a difficulty
about giving it."

" So they do when they send a man to the Gold Coast ; and they
tell the newspapers to say what a lucky dog he is."

" I can stand all that. What really kills me is giving a man the
C.B. when he is just booked for some home of yellow fever."

" They do that, too," gravely observed the other, who was
beginning to feel the pace of the conversation rather too fast for him-
Don't you smoke ? "

"I'm rather reducing myself to half batta in tobacco. I've
thoughts of man-ying,"

" Don't do that,"

" Why ? It's not wrong."

" No ; perhaps not ; but it's stupid."

" Come now, old fellow, life out there in the tropics is not so jolly
all alone ! Alligators are interesting creatures, and chetahs are
pretty pets ; but a man wants a little companionship of a more tender
kind : and a nice girl who would link her fortunes with one's own,
and help one through the sultry hours, is no bad thing."

" The nice girl wouldn't go there."

" I'm not so sure of that. With your great knowledge of life.


you must know tliat there has been a glut in ' the uicc-girl ' market
these years back. Prime lots are sold for a song occasionally, and
first-rate samples sent as far as Calcutta. The truth is, the fellow
who looks like a real buyer, may have the pick of the fair, as they
call it here."

" So he ought," growled out the Major.

" The speech is not a gallant one. You are scarcely compli-
mentary to the ladies, Lockwood."

" It was you that talked of a woman like a cow, or a sack of corn,
not I."

"I employed an illustration to answer one of your own arguments."

" Who is she to be ? " bluntly asked the Major.

" I'll tell you whom I mean to ask, for I have not put the question

A long, fine whistle expressed the other's astonishment. " And
are you so sure she'll say yes ? "

" I have no other assurance than the conviction that a woman
might do worse."

" Humph! perhaps she might. I'm not quite certain; but who
is she to be ? "

" Do you remember a visit wo made together to a certain Kilgobbin
Castle ? "

" To be sure I do. A rum old ruin it was."

" Do you remember two young ladies we met there ?"

" Perfectly. Are you going to marry both of them ? "

" My intention is to propose to one, and I imagine I need not tell
you which ? "

" Naturally, the Irish girl. She saved your life "

" Pray let me undeceive you in a double error. It is not the Irish
girl ; nor did she save my life."

" Perhaps not ; but she risked her own to save j'ours. You said
so yourself at the time."

"We'll not discuss the point now. I hope I feel duly grateful
for the young lady's heroism, though it is not exactly my intention to
record my gi-atitude in a special licence."

" A very equivocal sort of repayment," grumbled out Lockwood.

" You are epigrammatic this evening. Major."

" So, then, it's the Greek you mean to marry ? "

"It is the Greek I mean to ask."

" All right. I hope she'll take you. I think, on the whole, you
suit each other. If I were at all disposed to that sort of bondage, I
don't know a girl I'd rather risk the road with than the Irish cousin.
Miss Kearney."


" She is very pretty, exceedingly obliging, and has most winning

" She is good-tempered, and she is natural ; the two best things
a woman can be."

" Why not come down along with me and try j'our luck ? "

" When do you go ? "

" By the 10.30 train to-morrow. I shall arrive at Moate by four
o'clock, and reach the Castle to dinner."

" They expect you ? "

" Only so far, that I have telegraphed a line to say I'm going
down to bid ' good-by ' before I sail for Guatemala. I don't suspect
they know where that is, but it's enough when they understand it is
far away."

"I'll go with you."

"Will you really? "

"I will. I'll not say on such an errand as your own, because
that requires a second thought or two ; but I'll reconnoitre, Master
Cecil, I'll reconnoitre."

" I suppose you know there is no money."

" I should think money most unlikely in such a quarter ; and it's
better she should have none than a small fortune. I'm an old whist-
player, and when I play dummy, there's nothing I hate more than to
see two or three small trumps in my partner's hand."

" I imagine you'll not be distressed in that way here."

" I've got enough to come through with ; that is, the thing can
be done if there be no extravagances."

" Does one want for more ? " cried Walpole, theatrically.

" I don't know that. If it were only ask and have, I should like
to be tempted."

" I have no such ambition. I firmly believe that the moderate
limits a man sets to his daily wants, constitute the real liberty of his
intellect and his intellectual nature."

" Perhaps I've no intellectual nature, then," growled out Lock-
wood, " for I know how I should like to spend fifteen thousand a year.
I suppose I shall have to live on as many hundreds."

" It can be done."

" Perhaps it may. Have another weed."

"No. I told you already I have begun a tobacco reforma-

" Does she object to the pipe ? "

" I cannot tell you. The fact is, Lockwood, my future and its
fortunes are just as uncertain as your own. This day week will
probably have decided the destiny of each of us."


"To our success, then!" cried the Major, filling both theii'

" To our success ! " said Walpolc, as he drained his, and placed
it upside down on the table.



The " Blue Goat " at Moate was destined once more to receive the
same travellers whom we presented to our readers at a veiy early
stage of this history.

" Not much change here," cried Lockwood, as he strode into the
little sitting-room and sat down. "I miss the old fellow's picture,
that's all."

•' Ah ! by the way," said Walpole to the landlord, "you had my
Lord Ivilgobbin's portrait up there the last time I came through here."

*' Yes, indeed, sir," said the man, smoothing down his hair and
looking apologetically. " But the Goats and my lord, who was the
Buck Goat, got into a little disagreement, and they sent away his
picture, and his lordship retired from the club, and — and — that was
the way of it."

"A heavy blow to your town, I take it," said the Major, as he
poured out his beer.

" Y\ell, indeed, your honour, I won't say it was. You see, sii',
times is changed in Ireland. We don't care as much as we used
about the * neighbouring gentry,' as they called them once ; and as
lor the lord, there ! he doesn't spend a hundred a year in Moate."

" How is that ? "

" They get what they want by rail from Dublin, your honour ;
and he might as well not be here at all."

" Can we have a car to cany us over to the Castle ? " asked
Walpole, who did not care to hear more of local grievances.

" Sure, isn't my lord's car waiting for you since two o'clock ! "
said the host, spitefully, for he was not conciliated by a courtesy that
was to lose him a fifteen-shilling fare. "Not that there's much of a
horse between the shafts, or that old Daly himself is an elegant
coachman," continued the host ; " but they're ready in the yard when
you want them."

The travellers had no reason to delay them in their present
quarters, and, taking their places on the car, set out for the Castle.


" I scarcely thought when I Last clrov3 this road," said Walpole,
" that the next time I was to come should be on such an errand as
my present one."

"Ilumph ! " ejaculated the other. " Our noble relative that is to
be does not shine in equipage. That beast is dead lame."

" If we had our deserts, Lockwood, we should be drawn by a team
of doves, with the god Cupid on the ])ox."

" I'd rather have two posters and a yellow post-chaise."
A drizzling rain that now began to fall interrupted all conversa-
tion, and each sunk back into his own thoughts for the rest of the

Lord Kilgobbin, with his daughter at his side, watched the car
from the terrace of the Castle as it slowly wound its way along the
bog road.

" As well as I can see, Kate, there is a man on each side of the
car," said Kearney, as he handed his field-glass to his daughter.
" Yes, papa, I see there are two travellers."
" And I don't well know why there should be even one ! There
was no such great friendship between us that he need come all this
way to bid us good-by."

" Considering the mishap that befel him here, it is a mark of good
feeling to desire to see us all once more, don't you think so ? "

" May be so," muttered he drearily. "At all events, it's not a
pleasant house he's coming to. Young O'Shea there upstairs, just
out of a fever ; and old Miss Betty, that may arrive any moment."

" There's no question of that. She says it would be ten days or
a fortnight before she is equal to the journey."

" Heaven grant it ! — hem — I mean that she'll be strong enough
for it by that time. At all events, if it is the same as to our fine
friend Mr. Walpole, I wish he'd have taken his leave of us in a letter."
" It is something new, papa, to see you so inhospitable."
" But I am not inhospitable, Kitty. Show me the good fellow
that would like to pass an evening with me and think me good
company, and he shall have the best saddle of mutton and the raciest
bottle of claret in the house. But it's only mock hospitality to be
entertaining the man that only comes out of courtesy and just stays
as long as good manners oblige him."

"I do not know that I should undervalue politeness, especially
when it takes the shape of a recognition."

"Well, be it so," sighed he, almost drearily. " If the young-
gentleman is so warmly attached to us all that he cannot tear himself
away till he has embraced us, I suppose there's no help for it. Where
is Nina?"


" She was reading to Gorman -when I saw her. She had just
relieved Dick, Avho has gone out for a walk."

" A jolly house for a visitor to come to! " cried he, sarcastically.

"We are not very gay or lively, it is true, papa; but it is not
unlikely that the spirit in which our guest comes here will not need
much jollity."

" I don't take it as a kindness for a man to bring me his depres-
sion and his low spirits. I've always more of my own than I know
what to do with. Two sorrows never made a joy, Kitty."

" There ! they are lighting the lamps," cried she, suddcnij'.

" I don't think they can be more than three miles away."

" Have you rooms ready ; if there be two coming ? "

" Yes, papa, Mr. Walpole will have his old quarters ; and the
stag room is in readiness if there be another guest."

" I'd like to have a house as big as the royal barracks, and every
room of it occupied ! " cried Kearney, with a mellow ring in his
voice. " They talk of society and pleasant company; but for real
enjoyment there's nothing to compare with what a man has under
his own roof! No claret ever tastes so good as the decanter he
circulates himself. I was low enough half an hour ago, and now the
mere thought of a couple of fellows to dine with me cheers me up
and warms my heart ! I'll give them the green seal, Kitty ; and I
•don't know there's another house in the county could put a bottle of
'46 claret before them."

" So you shall, papa. I'll go to the cellar myself and fetch it."

Kearney hastened to make the moderate toilet he called dressing
for dinner, and was only finished when his old servant informed him
that two gentlemen had arrived and gone up to their rooms.

"I wish it was two dozen had come," said Kearney, as he
descended to the drawing-room.

"It is Major Lockwood, papa," cried Kate, entering and drawing
him into a window recess; "the Major Lockwood that was hero
before, has come with Mr. Walpole. I met him in the hall while I
had the basket with the wine in my hand, and he was so cordial and
glad to see mo you cannot think."

" He knew that green wax, Kitty. He tasted that ' bin * whe;i
he was here last."

" Pei'haps so ; but he certainly seemed overjoyed at something."

" Let me see," muttered he, " wasn't he the big fellow with the
long moustaches ?"

"A tall, very good-looking man; dark as a Spaniard, and not
unlike one."

"To be sure, to be sure. I remember him well. He was a


capital shot with the pistol, and he liked his wine. By the wa}', Nina
did not take to him."

" How do you remember that, papa ?" said she, archly.

" If I don't mistake, she told me so, or she called him a brute, or
a savage, or some one of those things a man is sure to be, when a
woman discovers he will not be her slave."

Nina entering at the moment cut short all rejoinder, and Kearney
came forward to meet her with his hand out.

" Shake out your lower courses, and let me look at you," cried
he, as he walked round her admiringly. " Upon my oath it's more
beautiful than ever you are ! I can guess what a fate is reserved lor
those dandies from Dublin."

" Do you like my dress, sir ? Is it becoming ? " asked she.

*' Becoming it is ; but I'm not sure whether I like it."

*' And how is that, sir ? "

"I don't see how, with all that floating gauze and swelling lace,
a man is to get an arm round you at all "

" I cannot perceive the necessity, sir," and the insolent toss of
her head, more forcibly even than her words, resented such a


atlee's eetuen.

When Atlee arrived at Bruton Street, the vrelcome that met him was
almost cordial. Lord Danesbury — not very demonstrative at any
time — received him with warmth, and Lady Maude gave him her
hand with a sort of significant cordiality that overwhelmed him with
delight. The climax of his enjoyment was, however, reached when
Lord Danesbury said to him, " We are glad to see you at home

This speech sunk deep into his heart, and he never wearied of
repeating it over and over to himself. When he reached his room,
where his luggage had already preceded him, and found his dressing
articles laid out, and all the little cares and attentions which well-
trained servants understand awaiting him, he muttered, with a
tremulous sort of ecstasy, " This is a very glorious way to como
home !"

The rich furniture of the room, the many appliances of luxury
and ease around him, the sense of rest and quiet, so delightful after
a journey, all appealed to him as he threw himself into a deep-


cushioned chair. He cried aloud, " Home ! home! Is this indeed
home ? What a dilTcrent thing from that mean life of privation and
penury I have always been associating with this word — from that
perpetual struggle with debt — the miserable conflict that went on
through every day, till not an action, not a thought, remained
untinctured with money, and, if a momentary pleasure crossed the
path, the cost of it as certain to tarnish all the enjoyment ! Such
was the only home I have ever known, or, indeed, imagined."

It is said, that the men who have emerged from very humble
conditions in life, and occupy places of eminence or promise, are less
overjoyed at this change of fortune than impressed with a kind of
resentment towards the destiny that once had subjected them to
privation. Their feeling is not so much joy at the present as discon-
tent with the past.

"Why was I not born to all this?" cried Atlee, indignantly.
" What is there in me, or in my nature, that this should be a
usurpation ? Why Avas I not schooled at Eton, and trained at Oxford '?
Why was I not bred up amongst the men whose competitor I shall
soon find myself? Why have I not their ways, their instincts, their
watcliwords, their pastimes, and even their prejudices, as parts of
my very nature ? Why am I to learn these late in life, as a man
learns a new language, and never fully catches the sounds or the
niceties ? Is there any competitorship I should flinch from, any
rivalry I should fear, if I had but started fair in the race ? "

This sense of having been hardly treated by fortune at the outset,
marred much of his present enjoyment, accompanied as it was by a
misgiving that, do what he might, that early inferiority would cling
to him, like some rag of a garment that he must wear over all his
" braverie," 23roclaimiug as it did to the world, " This is from what I
sprung originally."

It was not by any exercise of vanity that Atlee knew he talked
better, knew more, was wittier and more ready-witted than the
majority of men of his age and standing. The consciousness that
he could do scores of things they could not do was not enough,
tarnished as it was by a misgiving that, by some secret mystery of
breeding, some freemasonry of fashion, he was not one of them, and
that this awkward fact was suspended over him for life, to arrest his
course in the hour of success, and baulk him at the very moment of

■*' Till a man's adoption amongst them is ratified by a marriage,
he is not safe," muttered he. " Till the fate and future of one of
their own is embarked in the same boat with himself, they'll not
grieve over his shipwreck."

atlee's retuen. 383

Could lie but call Lady Maudo his wife ! Was this possible ?
There were classes in which affections went for much, where there
was such a thing as engaging these same affections, and actually
pledging all hope of haj^piness in life on the faith of such engage-
ments. These, it is true, were the sentiments that prevailed in
humbler walks of life, amongst those lowly-boru people whose births
and marriages were not chronicled in gilt-bound volumes. The Lady
Maudes of the world, whatever imprudences they might permit them-
selves, certainly never "fell in love." Condition and place in the
world were far too serious things to be made the sport of sentiment.
Love was a very proper thing in three- volume novels, and Mr. Mudie
drove a roaring trade in it ; but in the well-bred world, immersed in
all its engagements, triple-deep in its projects and promises for
pleasure, where was the time, where the opportunity, for this pleasant
fooling ? That luxurious selfishness, in which people delight to plan
a future life and agree to think that they have in themselves, what
can confront narrow fortune and difficulty, these had no place in the
lives of persons of fashion ! In that coquetry of admiration and
flattery which, in the language of slang, is called spooning, young
persons occasionally got so far acquainted that they agreed to be
married, pretty much as they agreed to waltz or to polka together ;
but it was always with the distinct understanding that they were
doing what mammas would approve of, and family solicitors of good
conscience could ratify. No tyrannical sentimentality, no uncon-
trollable gush of sympathy, no irresistible convictions about all future
happiness being dependent on one issue, overbore these natures,
and made them insensible to title, and rank, and station, and settle-

In one v/ord, Atlee, after due consideration, satisfied his mind
that, though a man might gain the affections of the doctor's daughter,
or the squire's niece, and so establish him as an element of her
happiness that friends would overlook all difierences of fortune, and
try to make some sort of compromise with fate, all these were unsuited
to the sphere in which Lady Maude moved. It was, indeed, a realm
where this coinage did not circulate. To enable him to address her
with any prospect of success, he should be able to show — ay, and to
show argumentatively — that she was, in listening to him, about to do
something eminently prudent, and worldly-wise. She must, in short,
be in a position to show her friends and " society " that she had not
committed himself to anything wilful or foolish — had not been misled
by a sentiment or betrayed by a sympathy ; and that the well-bred
questioner who inquired, ""Why did she marry Atlee ? " should be
met by an answer satisfactory and convincing.


In the various ways he canvassed the question and revolved it
with himself, there was one consideration which, if I were at all
concerned for his character for gallantry, I should he reluctant to
reveal : hut, as I feel little interest on this score, I am free to own
was this. He remembered that, as Lady Maude was no longer in
her first youth, there was reason to suppose she might listen to
addresses now which, some years ago, would have met scant favour
in her eyes.

In the matrimonial Lloyd's, if there were such a body, she would
not have figured A. No. 1, and the risks of entering the conjugal
state have probably called for an extra premium. Atlee attaclied
great importance to this fact ; but it was not the less a matter which
demanded the greatest delicacy of treatment. He must know it, and
he must not know it. He must see that she had been the belle of
many seasons, and he must pretend to regard her as fresh to the ways
of life, and new to society. He trusted a good deal to his tact to
do this, for while insinuating to her the possible future of such a
man as himself, the high place, and the great rewards which, in all
likelihood, awaited him, there would come an opportune moment to
suggest, that to any one less gifted, less conversant with knowledge
of life than herself, such reasonings could not be addressed.

" It could never be," cried he aloud ; " to some Miss fresh from
the schoolroom and the governess I could dare to talk a language
only understood by those who have been conversant with high ques-
tions, and moved in the society of thoughtful talkers."

There is no quality so dangerous to eulogize as experience, and
Atlee thought long over this. One determination or another must
speedily be come to. If there was no likelihood of success with
Lady Maude, he must not lose his chances with the Greek girl. The
sum, whatever it might bo, which her father should obtain for his
secret papers, v/ould constitute a very respectable portion. " I have
a stronger reason to fight for liberal terms," thought he, " than the
Prince Kostalergi imagines, and, fortunately, that hue parental trait,
that noble desire to make a provision for his child, stands out so
clearly in my brief, I should be a sorry advocate if I could not
employ it."

In the few words that passed between Lord Danesbury and himself
on arriving, he learned that there was but little chance of winning
his election for the borough. Indeed, he bore the disappointment
jauntily and good-humouredly. That great philosophy of not attaching
too much importance to any one thing in life, sustained him in every
venture. " Bet on the field — never back the favourite," was his
formula for inculcating the wisdom of trusting to the general game of

atlee's return. 385

life, rather than to any particular emergency. " Back the field," ha
would say, " and you must be unlucky, or you'll come right in the
long run."

They dined that day alone, that is, they were but three at table ;

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 39 of 48)