Charles James Lever.

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

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and Atlee enjoyed the unspeakable pleasure of hearing them talk with
the freedom and unconstraint people only indulge in when " at
home." Lord Danesbury discussed confidential questions of political
importance, told how his colleagues agreed in this, or differed on
that ; adverted to the nice points of temperament, which made one
man hopeful, and that other despondent or distrustful ; he exposed
the difficulties they had to meet in the Commons, and where the
Upper House was intractable ; and even went so far in his confidences
as to admit where the criticisms of the Press were felt to be damaging

o o

to the administration.

" The real danger of ridicule," said he, " is, not the pungency of
the satire, it is the facility with which it is remembered and cir-
culated. The man who reads the strong leader in The Times, may
have some general impression of being convinced, but he cannot
repeat its arguments or quote its expressions. The pasquinade or
the squib gets a hold on the mind, and in its very drollery will ensure
its being retained there."

Atlee was not a little gratified to hear that this opinion was
delivered apropos to a short paper of his own, whose witty sarcasms
on the Cabinet were exciting great amusement in town, and much
curiosity as to the writer.

"He has not seen ^ The Whitebait Dinner' yet," said Lady
Maude; " the cleverest jeu-d'esprit of the day."

"Ay, or of any day," broke in Lord Danesbury. "Even the
Anti-Jacobin has nothing better. The notion is this. The Devil
happens to be taking a holiday, and he is in town just at the time of
the Ministerial dinner, and, hearing that he is at Claridge's, the
Cabinet, ashamed at the little attention bestowed on a crowned head,
ask him down to Greenwich. He accepts, and to kill an hour, —

* He strolled down, of course,
To the Parliament House,
And heard how England stood,
As she has since the Flood.
Without ally or friend to assist her.

But, while every persuasion

"Was full of invasion.

From Russian or Prussian

Yet the only discussion
Was, how should a Gentleman marry his sister.' "

"Can you remember any more of it, my lord?" asked Atlee



on wliosG table at that moment were lying the proof- sheets of the

" Maude has it all somewhere. You must find it for him, and
let him guess the writer — if he can."

" What do the clubs say ? " asked Atlee.

" I think they are divided between Orlop and Bouverie. I'm
told that the Garrick people say it's Sankey, a young fellow in
F. 0."

"You should see aunt Jerningham about it, Mr. Atlee — her
eagerness is driving her half mad."

"Take him out to 'Lebanon' on Sunday," said my lord; and
Lady Maude agreed with a charming grace and courtesy, adding, as
she left the room, " So remember you are engaged for Sunday."

Atlee bowed as he held the door open for her to pass out, and
threw into his glance what he desired might mean homage and eternal

" Now then for a little quiet confab," said my lord. "Let me
hear what you meant by your telegram. All I could make out was
that you found our man."

" Yes ; I found him, and passed several hours in his company."

" Was the fellow very much out at elbows, as usual?"

" No, my lord — thriving, and likely to thrive. He has just been
named Envoy to the Ottoman Court."

" Bah ! " was all the reply his incredulity could permit.

"True, I assure you. Such is the estimation he is held in at
Athens, the Greeks declare he has not his equal. You are aware
that his name is Spiridion Kostalergi, and he claims to be Prince of

" With all my heart. Our Hellenic friends never quarrel over
their nobility. There are titles and to spare for every one. Will ho
give us our papers ?"

" Yes ; but not without high terms. He declares, in fact, my
lord, that you can no more return to the Bosphorus without Mm, than
he can go there without ?/o»."

" Is the fellow insolent enough to take this ground ?"

"That is he. In fact, ho presumes to talk as your lordship's
colleague, and hints at the several points in which you may act in

" It is very Greek all this."

" His terms are ten thousand pounds in cash, and "

"'There, there, that will do. Why not fifty — why not a hundred
thousand ?"

" He affects a desire to be moderate, my lord."

atlee's return. 887

" I hope you withilrew at once after such a proposal ? I trust you
did not proloug the interview a moment longer ? "

"I arose, indeed, and declared that the mere mention of such
terms was like a refusal to treat at all."

" And you retired ?"

" I gained the door, when he detained me. He has, I must admitt,
a marvellous plausibility, for, though at first he seemed to rely on
the all-importance of these documents to your lordship, how far they
would compromise you in the past and impede you for the future, how
they would impair your influence, and excite the animosity of many
who were freely canvassed and discussed in them — yet he abandoned
all that at the end of our interview, and restricted himself to the plea
that the sum, if a large one, could not be a serious difficulty to a great
English noble, and would be the crowning fortune of a poor Greek
gentleman, who merely desired to secure a marriage portion for his
only daughter."

" And you believed this ?"

" I so far behoved him that I have his pledge in writing that,
when he has your lordship's assurance that you will comply with his
terms — and he only asks that much — he will deposit the papers in the
hands of the Minister at Athens, and constitute your lordship the
trustee of the amount in favour of his daughter, the sum only to be
paid on her marriage."

" How can it possibly concern me that he has a daughter, or why
should I accept such a trust ?"

" The proposition had no other meaning than to guarantee the
good faith on which his demand is made."

" I don't believe in the daughter."

" That is, that there is one ?"

"No. 'lam persuaded that she has no existence. It is some
question of a mistress or a dependant ; and, if so, the sentimentality,
which would seem to have appealed so forcibly to you, fails at once."

" That is quite true, my lord ; and I cannot pretend to deny the
•weakness you accuse me of. There may be no daughter in the

"Ah! You begm to perceive now that you surrendered your
convictions too easily, Atlee. You failed in that element of ' restless
distrust ' that Talleyrand used to call the temper of the diplomatist."

" It is not the first time I have had to feel I am your lordship's

"My education was not made in a day, Atlee, It need be no
discouragement to you that you are not as long-sighted as I am. No,
no ; rely upon it, there is no daughter in the case."


" With that conviction, my lord, what is easier than to make your
adhesion to his terms conditional on his truth ? You agree, if his
statement be in all respects verified."

" Which implies that it is of the least consequence to me whether
the fellow has a daughter or not ?"

" It is so only as the guarantee of the man's veracity."
" And shall I give ten thousand pounds to test that ? "
" No, my lord ; but to repossess yourself of what, in very doubtful
hands, might prove a great scandal and a great disaster."
" Ten thousand pounds ! ten thousand pounds ! "
" Why not eight — perhaps, five ? I have not your lordship's
great knowledge to guide me, and I cannot tell when these men
really mean to maintain their ground. From my own very meagre
experiences, I should say he was not a very tractable individual. He
sees some promise of better fortune before him, and like a genuine
gambler — as I hear he is — he determines to back his luck."

"Ten thousand pounds!" muttered the other, below his

" As regards the money, my lord, I take it that these same papers
were documents which more or less concerned the public service —
they were in no sense personal, although meant to be private ; and,
although in my ignorance I may bo mistaken, it seems to me that
the fund devoted to secret services could not be more fittingly appro-
priated than in acquiring documents whose publicity could prove a
national injury."

" Totally wrong — utterly wrong. The money could never be paid
on such a pretence — the ' Ofiice ' would not sanction — no Minister
would dare to advise it."

" Then I come back to my original suggestion. I should giive
a conditional acceptance, and treat for a reduction of the amount."
" You would say five ?"

"I opine, my lord, eight would have more chance of success."
"You are a warm advocate for your client," said his lordship,
laughing ; and, though the shot was merely a random one, it went so
true to the mark, that Atlce flushed up and became crimson all over.
" Don't mistake me, Atlee," said his lordship, in a kindly tone. " I
know thoroughly how mj/ interests, and only mine, have any claim on
your attention. This Greek fellow must be less than nothing to you.
Tell me now frankly, do you believe one word he has told you ? Is
he really named as Minister to Turkey ?"
" That much I can answer for — he is."
" What of the daughter — is there a daughter ? "
'•'I suspect there may be. However, the matter admits of an.

atlee's return. 389

'easy proof. Ho lias given me names and addresses in Ireland of
relatives with whom she is living. Now, I am thoroughly conversant
with Ireland, and, by the indications in my power, I can pledge
myself to learn all, not only about the existence of this person, but of
such family circumstances as might serve to guide you in your
resolve. Time is what is most to be thought of here. Kostalergi
requires a prompt answer — first of all, your assurance that will
support his claim to be received by the Sultan. Well, my lord, if
you refuse, Mouravieif will do it. You know better than me how
impolitic it might be to thi'ow these Turks more into Russian
influence "

" Never mind tJiat, Atlee. Don't distress yourself about the
political aspect of the question."

" I promised a telegraphic line to say, would you or would you not
sustain his nomination. It was to be yes or uo — not more."

** Say, yes. I'll not split hairs about what Greek best represents
Ms nation. Say, yes."

" I am sure, my lord, you do wisely. He is evidently a man of
ability, and, I suspect, not morally much worse than his countrymen
in general."

"Say, yes; and then," — he mused for some minutes before he
continued, — " and then run over to Ireland — learn something, if you
can, of this girl, with whom she is staying, in what position, what
guarantees, if any, could be had for the due employment and
destination of a sum of money, in the event of our agreeing to pay it.
Mind, it is simply as a gauge of the fellow's veracity that this story
has any value for us. Daughter or no daughter, is not of any moment
to me ; but I want to test the problem — can he tell one word of truth
about anything ? You are shrewd enough to see the bearing of
this narrative on all he has told you — where it sustains, where it
accuses him."

" Shall I set out at once, my lord ? "

"No. Next week will do. We'll leave him to ruminate over
your telegram. That will show him we have entertained his project ;
and he is too practised a hand not to know the value of an opened
negotiation. Cradock and MeUish, and one or two more, wish to talk
with you about Turkey. Graydon, too, has some questions to ask
you about Suez. They dine here on Monday. Tuesday we are to
have the Hargraves anJ Lord Masham, and a couple of Under-
Secretaries of State ; and Lady Maude will tell us- about Wednesday,
for all these people, Atlee, are coming to meet you. The newspapers
have so persistently been keeping you before the world, every one
wants to see you."


Atlee might have told his lordship — but he did not — by what
agency it chanced that his journeys and his jests were so thoroughly
known to the press of every capital in Europe.



Sunday came, and with it the visit to South Kensington, where aunt
Jerningham lived ; and Atlee found himself seated beside Lady Maude
in a fine roomy barouche, whirling along at a pace that our great
moralist himself admits to be amongst the veiy pleasantest excitement
humanity can experience.

" I hope you will add your persuasions to mine, Mr. Atlee, and
induce my uncle to take these horses with him to Turkey. You
know Constantinople, and can say that real carriage-horses cannot be
had there."

"Horses of this size, shape, and action the Sultan himself has
not the equals of."

" No one is more aware than my lord," continued she, " that the
measure of an Ambassador's influence is, in a great degree, the style
and splendour in which he represents his country, and that his
household, his equipage, his retinue, and his dinners should mark
distinctly the station he assumes to occupy. Some caprice of
Mr. Walpole's about Arab horses — Arabs of bone and blood he used
to talk of — has taken hold of my uncle's mind, and I half fear that ho
may not take the English horses with him."

" By the way," said Atlee, half listlessly, " where is Walpole ?
What has become of him ? "

"He is in Ireland at this moment."

" In Ireland ! Good heavens ! has ho not had enough of Ireland ? "

" Apparently not. He went over there on Tuesday last."

" And what can he possibly have to do in Ireland ? "

" I should say that you are more likely to furnish the answer to
that question than I. If I'm not much mistaken, his letters are
forwarded to the same country house where you first made each other's

" What, Kilgobbin Castle ? "

"Yes, it is something Castle, and I think the name you men-

" And this only puzzles me the more," added Atlee, pondering.


" His first visit there, at the time I met him, was a mere accident of
travel — a tourist's curiosity to see an old castle supposed to have
some historic associations.,"

" Were there not some other attractions in the spot ? " interrupted
she, smiling.

" Yes, there was a genial old L-ish squire, who did the honours
very handsomely, if a little rudely, and there were two daughters, or
a daughter and a niece, I'm not very clear which, who sang L*ish
melodies and talked rebellion to match very amusingly."

" Were they pretty ? "

" Well, perhaps courtesy would say ' pretty,' but a keener
criticism would dwell on certain awkwardnesses of manner — Walpole
called them Irishries."

"Indeed! "

" Yes, he confessed to have been amused with the eccentric habits
and odd ways, but he was not sparing of his strictures afterwards."

" So that there were no ' tendernesses ? ' "

" Oh, I'll not go that far. I rather suspect there were ' tender-
nesses,' but only such as a fine gentleman permits himself amongst
semi-savage peoples — something that seems to say, ' Be as fond of
me as you like, and it is a great privilege you enjoy ; and I, on my
side, will accord you such of my affections as I set no particular store
by.' Just as one throws small coin to a beggar."

" Oh, Mr. Atlee ! "

" I am ashamed to own that I have seen something of this kind

" It is not like my cousin Cecil to behave in that fashion."
* "I might say, Lady Maude, that your home experiences of
people would prove a very fallacious guide as to what they might or
might not do in a society of whose ways you know nothing."

" A man of honour would always be a man of honour."

" There are men, and men of honour, as there are persons of
excellent principles with delicate moral health, and they — I say it
with regret — must be satisfied to be as respectably conducted as they
are able."

"I don't think you like Cecil," said she, half-puzzled by his
subtlety, but hitting what she thought to be a " blot."

"It is difficult for me to tell his cousin what I should like to say
in answer to this remark."

" Oh, have no embarrassment on that score. There are very few
people less trammelled by the ties of relationship than we are-
Speak out, and if you want to say anything particularly severe, have
no fears of wounding my susceptibilities."


" And do 3'OU know, Lady Maude," said he, in a voice of almost
confidential meaning, " this was the very thing I was dreading ? I
had at one time a good deal of Walpole's intimacy — I'll not call it
friendship, for somehow there were certain diflferences of temperament
that separated us continually. We could commonly agree upon the
same things ; we could never be one-minded about the same people.
In my experiences, the world is by no means the cold-hearted and
selfish thing he deems it ; and yet I suppose, Lady Maude, if there
were to be a verdict given upon us both, nine out of ten would have
fixed on me as the scofi"er. Is not this so ? "

The artfulness with which he had contrived to make himself
and his character a question of discussion achieved only a half- success,
for she only gave one of her most meaningless smiles as she said,
" I do not know ; I'm not quite sure."

" And yet I am more concerned to learn what^(/oi< would think on
this score than for the opinion of the whole world."

Like a man who has taken a leap and found a deep " drop " on
the other side, he came to a dead halt as he saw the cold and im-
passive look her features had assumed. He would have given worlds
to recall his speech and stand as he did before it was uttered ; for
though she did not say one word, there was that in her calm and
composed expression which reproved all that savoured of passionate
appeal. A now-or-never sort of courage nerved him, and he went on,
" I know all the presumption of a man like myself daring to address
such words to you, Lady Maude ; but do you remember that though
all eyes but one saw only fog-bank in the horizon, Columbus
maintained there was land in the distance ? and so say I, ' He who
would lay his fortunes at your feet now sees high honours and great
rewards awaiting him in the future. It is with you to say whether
these honours become the crowning glories of a life, or all pursuit of
them be valueless ! ' May I — dare I hope ? "

" This is Lebanon," said she ; "at least, I think so ; " and she
held her glass to her eye. " Strange caprice, wasn't it, to call her
house Lebanon because of those wretched cedars '? Aunt Jerningham
is so odd ! "

" There is a crowd of carriages here," said Atlce, endeavouring
to speak with unconcern.

" It is her day ; she likes to receive on Sundays, as she says she
escapes the bishops. By the way, did you tell me you were an old
friend of hers, or did I flream it ? "

" I'm afraid it was the vision revealed it."

"Because, if so, I must not take you in. She has a
rule against all presentations on Sundays they are only her


intimates she receives on that clay. We shall have to return as we

•* Not for worlds. Pray let me not prove an embarrassment.
You can make your visit, and I will go hack on foot. Indeed, I
should like a walk."

" On no account! Take the carriage, and send it hack for me.
I shall remain here till afternoon tea."

" Thanks, hut I hold to my walk."

" It is a charming day, and I'm sure a walk will be delightful."

** Am I to suppose, Lady Maude," said he, in a low voice, as he
assisted her to alight, " that you will deign me a morefoimal answer
at another time to the words I ventured to address you ? May I live
in the hope that I shall yet regard this day as the most fortunate of
my life ? "

** It is wonderful weather for November — an English November,
too. Pray let me assure you that you need not make yourself uneasy
about what you were speaking of. I shall not mention it to any one,
least of all to ' my lord ; ' and as for myself, it shall be as completely
forgotten as though it had never been uttered."

And she held out her hand with a sort of cordial frankness that
actually said, "There, you are forgiven! Is there any record of
generosity like this ? "

Atlee bowed low and resignedly over that gloved hand, which he
felt he was touching for the last time, and turned away with a rush
of thoughts through his brain, in which certainly the pleasantest were
not the predominating ones.

He did not dine that day at Bruton Street, and only returned
about ten o'clock, when he knew he should find Lord Danesbury in
his study.

" I have determined, my lord," said he, with somewhat of decision
in his tone that savoured of a challenge, "to go over to Ireland by
the morning mail."

Too much engrossed by his own thoughts to notice the other's
manner. Lord Danesbury merely turned from the papers before him
to say, " Ah, indeed ! it would be very well done. We v/ere talking
about that, were we not, yesterday ? What was it ? "

" The Greek — Kostalergi's daughter, my lord ? "

" To be sure. You are incredulous about her, ain't j'ou ? "

" On the contrary, my lord, I opine that the fellow has told us
the truth. I believe he has a daughter, and destines this money to
be her dowry."

" With all my heart ; I do not see how it should concern me. If
I am to pay the money, it matters very little to me whether he invests


it iu a Greek husband or the Double Zero — speculations, I take it,
pretty much alike. Have j'ou sent a telegram ? "

" I have, my loril. I have engaged your lordship's word that you
are willing to treat."

" Just so ; it is exactly what I am ! Willing to treat, willing to
hear argument, and reply with my own, why I should give more for
anything than it is worth."

" We need not discuss further what we can only regard from one
point of view, and that our own."

Lord Danesbury started. The altered tone and manner struck
him now for the first time, and he threw his spectacles on the table
and stared at the speaker with astonishment.

" There is another point, my lord," continued Atlee, with
unbroken calm, " that I should like to ask your lordship's judgment
upon, as I shall in a few hours be in Ireland, where the question will
present itself. There was some time ago in Ireland a case brought
under your lordship's notice of a very gallant resistance made by a
family against an armed party who attacked a house, and your lord-
ship was graciously pleased to say that some recognition should be
ofi'ered to one of the sons — pomething to show how the Government
regarded and approved his spirited conduct."

" I know, I know ; but I am no longer the Viceroy."

" I am aware of that, my lord, nor is your successor appointed;
but any suggestion or ■wish of your lordship's would be accepted by
the Lords Justices with great deference, all the more in payment of a
debt. If, then, your lordship would recommend this young man for
the first vacancy in the constabulary, or some place in the Customs,
it would satisfy a most natural expectation, and, at the same time,
evidence your lordship's interest for the country you so late raled

" There is nothing more pernicious than forestalling other people's
patronage, Atlee. Not but if this thing was to be done for your-
self "

" Pardon me, my lord, I do not desire anything for myself."

" Well, be it so. Take this to the Chancellor or the Commander-
in-Chief," — and he scribbled a few hasty lines as he talked, — " and
say what you can iu support of it. If they give you something good,
I shall be heartily glad of it, and I wish you years to enjoy it."

Atlee only smiled at the warmth of interest for him which was
linked with such a shortness of memory ; but was too much wounded
in his pride to repl}'. And now, as he saw that his lordship had
replaced his glasses and resumed his work, he walked noiselessly to
the door and withdrew.

( 395 )



As Atlee sauntered filong towards Downing Street, whence he
purposed to despatch his telegram to Greece, he thought a good deal
of his late interview with Lord Danesbury. There was much in it
that pleased him. He had so far succeeded in re Kostalergi, that
the case was not scouted out of court ; the matter, at least, was to
be entertained," and even that was something. The fascination of a
scheme to be developed, an intrigue to be worked out, had for his
peculiar nature a charm little short of ecstasy. The demand upon
his resources for craft and skill, concealment and duplicity, was only
second in his estimation to the delight he felt at measuring his
intellect with some other, and seeing whether, in the game of
subtlety, he had his master.

Next to this, but not without a long interval, was the pleasure he

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 40 of 48)