Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 41 of 48)
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felt at the terms in which Lord Danesbury spoke of him. No orator
accustomed to hold an assembly enthralled by his eloquence — no
actor habituated to sway the passions of a crowded theatre — is more
susceptible to the promptings of personal vanity than your " practised
talker." The man who devotes himself to be a " success " in
conversation glories more in his triumphs, and sets a greater value
on his gifts, than any other I know of.

That men of mark and station desired to meet him — that men
whose position secured to them the advantage of associating with, the
pleasantest people and the freshest minds — men who commanded, so
to say, the best talking in society — wished to confer with and to hear
Mm, was an intense flattery, and he actually longed for the occasion
of display. He had learned a good deal since he had left L'eland.
He had less of that fluency which Irishmen cultivate, seldom ventured
on an epigram, never on an anecdote, was guardedly circumspect as
to statements of fact, and, on the whole, liked to understate his case,
and affect distrust of his own opinion. Though there was not one of
these which were not more or less restrictions on him, he could be
brilliant and witty when occasion served, and there was an incisive
neatness in his repartee in which he had no equal. Some of those
he was to meet were well known amongst the most agreeable people
of society, and he rejoiced that at least if he were to be put upon his
trial, he should be judged by his peers.

With all these flattering prospects, was it not strange that his
lordship never dropped a word, nor even a hint, as to his personal


career ? He had told him, indeed, that he could not hope for
success at Cradford, and laughingly said, " You have left Odger
miles behind you in your Radicalism. Up to this, we have had no
Parliament in England sufficiently advanced for your opinions." On
the whole, however, if not followed up — which Lord Danesbury
strongly objected to its being — he said there was no great harm in a
young man making his first advances in political life by something
startling. They are only fireworks, it is true ; the great requisite is,
that they be brilliant, and do not go out with a smoke and a bad
smell !

Beyond this, he had told him nothing. Was he minded to take
hrm out to Turkey, and as what ? He had already explained to him
that the old days in which a clever fellow could be drafted at once
into a secretaryship of Embassy were gone by ; that though a
Parliamentary title was held to supersede all others, whether in the
case of a man or a landed estate, it was all-essential to be in the
House for that, and that a diplomatist, like a sweep, must begin
when he is little.

" As his private secretary," thought he, " the position is at once
fatal to all my hopes with regard to Lady Maude." There was not
a woman living more certain to measure a man's pretensions by his
station. "Hitherto I have not been 'classed.' I might be any-
body, or go anywhere. My wide capabilities seemed to say that if I
descended to do small things, it would be quite as easy for me to do
great ones ; and though I copied despatches, they would have been
rather better if I had drafted them also."

Lady Maude knew this. She knew the esteem in which her uncle
held him. She knew how that uncle, shrewd man of the world as he
was, valued the sort of qualities he saw in him, and could, better
than most men, decide hew far such gifts were marketable, and what
price they brought to their possessor.

" And yet," cried he, " they don't know one half of me ! What
would they say if they knew that it was I wrote the great paper ou
Turkish Finance in the Memorial iJijjIumatiquc, and the review of it
in the Quartcrhj ; that it was I who exposed the miserable com-
promise of Thiers with Gambetta in the Debats, and defended him in
the Daily News; that the hysterical scream of the Kreutz Zcitung,
and the severe article on Bismarck in the Fortnightly were both
mine ; and that at this moment I am urging in the Pike how the
Fenian prisoners must be amnestied, and showing in a London
review that if they are liberated Mr. Gladstone should be attainted
for high treason ? I should like well to let them know all this ; and
I'm not sure I would not risk all the consequences to do it."


And then lie as suddenly bethought him how little account men
of letters were held in by the Lady Maudes of this world ; wliat a
humble place they assigned them socially ; and how small they
estimated their chances of worldly success !

" It is the unrealism of literature as a career strikes them ; and
they cannot see how men are to assure themselves of the ' quoi viire '
by providing what so few want, and even they could exist without."

It was in a reverie of this fashion he walked the streets, as little
cognizant of the crowd around him as if he were sauntering along
some rippliHg stream in a mountain gorge.



The " comatose " state, to use the language of the doctors, into
which Gorman O'Shea had fallen, had continued so long as to excite
the greatest apprehensions of his friends ; for although not amounting
to complete insensibility, it left him so apathetic, and indifferent to
everything and everyone, that the girls Kate and Nina, in pure
despair, had given up reading or talking to him, and passed their
hours of " watching " in perfect silence in the half-darkened room.

The stern immobility of his pale features, the glassy and meaning-
less stare of his large blue eyes, the unvarying rhythm of a long-
drawn respiration, were signs that at length became more painful to
contemplate than evidences of actual suffering ; and as day by day
went on, and interest grew more and more eager about the trial,
which was fixed for the coming Assize, it was pitiable to see him,
whose fate was so deeply pledged on the issue, unconscious of all
that went on around him, and not caring to know any of those details
the very least of which might determine his future lot

The instructions drawn up for the defence were sadly in need of
the sort of information which the sick man alone could supply ; and
Nina and Kate had both been entreated to watch for the first favour-
able moment that should present itself, and ask certain questions,
the answers to which would be of the last importance.

Though Gills' affidavit gave many evidences of unscrupulous
falsehood, there was no counter-evidence to set against it, and
O'Shea's counsel complained strongly of the uieagre instructions
which were briefed to him in the case, and his utter inability to con-
struct a defence upon them.


" He said ho wonkl tell me something this evcuiug, Kate," said
Nina ; "so, if you will let me, I will go in your place and remind him
of his promise."

This hopeful sign of returning intelligence was so gratifying to
Kate, that she readily couscuted to the proposition of her cousin
taking " her watch," and, if possihle, learning something of his wishes.

" He said it," continued Nina, " like one talking to himself, and
it was not easy to follow him. The words, as well as I could make
out, were, ' I will say it to-day — this evening, if I can. AVhen it is
said ' — here he muttered something, hut I cannot say whether the
•words were, ' My mind will he at rest,' or ' I shall be at rest for
evermore.' "

Kate did not utter a word, but her eyes swam, and two large
tears stole slowly down her face.

" His own conviction is that he is dying," said Nina; but Kate
neTcr spoke.

" The doctors persist," continued Nina, "in declaring that this
depression is only a well-known symptom of the attack, and that all
affections of the brain are marked by a certain tone of despondency.
They even say more, and that the cases where this sjTnptom pre-
dominates are more freq[uently followed by recovery. Are you listening
to me, child ?"

" No : I was following some thoughts of my own."

" I was merely telling you why I think he is getting better."

Kate leaned her head on her cousin's shoulder, and she did not
speak. The heaving motion of her shoulders and her chest betrayed
the agitation she could not subdue.

" I wish his aunt were here; I see how her absence frets him.
Is she too ill for the journey ? " asked Nina.

" She says not,* and she seems in some way to be coerced by
others ; but a telegram this morning announces she would try and
reach Kilgobbin this evening."

" What could coercion mean ? Surely this is mere fancy ?"

" I am not so certain of that. The convent has great hopes of
inheriting her fortune. She is rich, and she is a devout Catholic ;
and we have heard of cases where zeal for the Church has pushed
discretion very far."

" What a worldly creature it is ! " cried Nina ; " and who would
have suspected it ?"

" I do not see the worldliness of my believing that people will do
much to serve the cause they follow. When chemists tell us that
there is no finding such a thing as a glass of pure water, where are
we to go for pure motives ?"


" To one's heart of course," said Nina ; but the curl of her
perfectly- cut lip as she said it scarcely vouched for the sincerity.

On that same evening, just as the last flickerings of twilight
were dying away, Nina stole into the sick-room and took her place
noiselessly beside the bed.

Slowly moving his arm without turning his head, or by any
gesture whatever acknowledging her presence, he took her hand and
pressed it to his burning lips, and then laid it upon his cheek. She
made no effort to withdraw her hand, and sat perfectly still and

" Are we alone ?" whispered he, in a voice hardly audible.

" Yes, quite alone."

" If I should say what — displease you," faltered he, his agitation
making speech even more difficult ; " how shall I tell ?" And once
more he pressed her hand to his lips.

" No, no ; have no fears of displeasing me. Say what you would
like to tell me."

"It is this, then," said he, with an effort. " I am dying with
my secret in my heart. I am dying, to carry away with me the love
I am not to tell — my love for you, Kate."

" I am not Kate," was almost on her lips, but her struggle to
keep silent was aided by that desire so strong in her nature — to
follow out a situation of difficulty to the end. She did not love him,
nor did she desire his love ; but a strange sense of injury at hearing
his profession of love for another shot a pang of intense suffering
through her heart, and she lay back in her chau' with a cold feeling
of sickness like fainting. The overpowering passion of her nature
was jealousy, and to share even the admiration of a salon, the
" passing homage," as such deference is called, with another, was a
something no effort of her generosity could compass.

Though she did not speak, she suffered her hand to remain unre-
sistingly within his own. After a short pause he went on : "I
thought yesterday that I was dying, and in my rambling intellect I
thought I took leave of you ; and do you know my last words — my
last words, Kate?"

" No ; what were they ? "

" My last words were these, * Beware of the Greek ; have no
friendship with the Greek.' "

" And why that warning ?" said she, in a low faint voice.

" She is not of us, Kate: none of her ways or thoughts are ours,
nor would they suit us. She is subtle, and clever, and sly, and
these only mislead those who live simple lives."

" May it not be that you wrong her ?"


" I have tried to learu her nature."

"Not to love it?"

" I believe I was beginning to love her — just when you were cold
to me. You remember when ?"

" I do ; and it was this coldness was the cause. "Was it the only
cause ? "

" No, no. She has wiles and ways which, with her beauty, make
her nigh irresistible."

" And now you are cured of this passion ? There is no trace of
it in your breast ? "

" Not a vestige. But why speak of her ? "

"Perhaps I am jealous."

Once more he pressed his lips to her hand and kissed it

"No, Kate," cried he, "none but you have the place in my
heart. Whenever I have tried a treason it has turned against me.
Is there light enough in the room to find a small portfolio of red-
browTQ leather ? It is on that table yonder."

Had the darkness been not almost complete, Nina would scarcely
have ventured to rise and cross the room, so fearful was she of being

" It is locked," said she, as she laid it beside him on the bed ;
but touching a secret spring, he opened it, and passed his fingers
hurriedly through the papers within.

" I believe it must be this," said she. " I think I know the feel
of the paper. It is a telegram from my aunt ; the doctor gave it to
me last night. We read it over together four or five times. This is
it, and these are the words : * If Kate will be your wife, the estate of
O'Shea's Barn is your own for ever.' "

" Is she to have no time to think over this offer ? " asked she.

" Would you like caudles. Miss ? " asked a maid-servant, of
whose presence there neither of the others had been aware.

" No, nor are you wanted," said Nina, haughtily, as she arose,
while it was not without some difliculty she withdrew her hand from
the sick man's grasp.

" I know," said he, falteringly, " you would not leave me if you
had not left hope to keep me company in your absence. Is not that
so, Kate ? "

" By by," said she, softly, and stole away.

( 101 )


It was with passionate eagerness Nina set off in search of Kate. Why
she should have felt herself wronged, outraged, insulted even, is not
so easy to say, nor shall I attempt any analysis of the complex web
of sentiments which, so to say, spread itself over her faculties. The
man who had so wounded her self-love had been at her feet, he had
followed her in her walks, hung over the piano as she sang — shown
by a thousand signs that sort of devotion by which men intimate that
their lives have but one solace, one ecstasy, one joy. By what
treachery had he been moved to all this, if he really loved another ?
That he was simply amusing himself with the sort of flirtation she
herself could take up as a mere pastime was not to be believed. That
the worshipper should be insincere in his worship was too dreadful to
think of. And yet it was to this very man she had once turned to
avenge herself on Walpole's treatment of her ; she had even said,
"Could you not make a quarrel with him?" Now, no woman of
foreign breeding puts such a question without the perfect conscious-
ness that, in accepting a man's championship, she has virtually
admitted his devotion. Her own levity of character, the thoughtless
indifference with which she would sport with any man's affections, so
far from inducing her to palliate such caprices, made her more severe
and unforgiving. " How shall I punish him for this ? How shall I
make him remember whom it is he has insulted ? " repeated she over
and over to herself as she went.

The servants passed her on the stairs with trunks and luggage
of various kinds ; but she was too much engrossed v/ith her own
thoughts to notice them. Suddenly the words, " Mr. Walpole's
room," caught her ear, and she asked, " Has any one come ? "

Yes ; two gentlemen had just arrived. A third was to come that
night, and Miss O'Shea might be expected at any moment.

" Where was Miss Kate ? " she inquired.

" In her own room at the top of the house."

Thither she hastened at once.

" Be a dear good girl," cried Kate as Nina entered, and help me
in my many embarrassments. Here are a flood of visitors all coming
unexpectedly. Major Lockwood and Mr. Walpole have come. Miss
Betty will bo here for dinner, and Mr. Atlec, whom we all believed to
te in Asia, may arrive to-night. I shall be able to feed them ; but



how to lodge tlicm ■with any pretension to comfort is more than I can

"I am in little hnmour to aid any one. I have my own troubles —
worse ones, perhaps, than playing hostess to disconsolate travellers."

" And what are your troubles, dear Nina ? "

"I have half a mind not to tell you. You ask me with that
supercilious air that seems to say, * How can a creature like you be
of interest enough to any one or anything to have a difficulty ? ' "

" I force no confidences," said the other, coldly.

" For that reason, you shall have them — at least this one. What
will you say when I tell you that young O'Shea has made me a declara-
tion, a formal declaration of love ? "

" I should say that you need not speak of it as an insult nor an

'* Indeed ! and if so, you would say what was perfectly wrong.
It was both insult and offence — yes, both. Do you know that the
man mistook me for you, and called me Kate ? "

" How could this be possible ? "

" In a darkened room, with a sick man slowly rallying from a long
attack of stupor ; nothing of me to be seen but my hand, which he
devoured with kisses — raptures, indeed, Kate of which I had no con-
ception till I experienced them by counterfeit 1 "

" Oh ! Nina, this is not fair ! "

"It is true, child. The man caught my hand, and declared he
would never quit it till I promised it should be his own. Nor was
he content with this ; but, anticipating his right to be lord and
master, he bade you to beware of vie I ' Beware of that Greek girl ! '
were his words — words strengthened by what he said of my character
and my temperament. I shall spare you, and I shall spare myself,
his acute comments on the nature he di'eaded to see in companionship
with his wife. I have had good training in learning these unbiassed
judgments — my early life abounded in such experiences — -but this
young gentleman's cautions were candour itself."

" I am sincerely sorry for what has pained you."

" I did not say it was this boy's foolish words had wounded me
so acutely. I could bear sterner critics than he is — his very blunder-
ing misconception of me would always plead his pardon. How could
he, or how could they with whom he lived and talked, and smoked
and swaggered, know of me, or such as me ? What could there be
in the monotonous vulgarity of their tiresome hves that should teach
them what we arc, or wliat we wish to be ? By what presumption
did he dare to condemn all that he could not understand ? "

" You are angry, Nina; and I will not say, without some cause."


" What ineffable generosity ! You can really constrain yourself'
to believe that I have been insulted ! "

" I should not say insulted."

" You cannot be an honest judge in such a cause. Every outrage
offered to me was an act of homage to yourself/ If you but knew
bow I burned to tell him who it was, whose hand he held in his, and
to whose ears he had poured out his raptures ! To tell him, too, how
the Greek girl would have resented his presumption, had he but dared
to indulge it ! One of the women servants, it would seem, was a
mtness to this boy's declaration. I think it was Mary was in the
room, I do not know for how long, but she announced her presence
by asking some question about candles. In fact, I shall have become
a servants'-hall scandal by this time."

" There need not be any fear of that, Nina ; there are no bad
tongues amongst our people."

" I know all that. I know we live amidst human perfectabilities —
all of Irish manufacture, and warranted to be genuine."

" I would hope that some of your impressions of Ireland are not
unfavourable ? "

"I scarcely know. I suppose you understand each other, and
are tolerant about capricious moods and ways, which to strangers
might seem to have a deeper significance. I believe you are not as
hasty, or as violent, or as rash as you seem, and I am sure you are
not as impulsive in your generosity, or as headlong in your affections.
Not exactly that j-ou mean to be false, but you are hypocrites to

" A very flattering picture of us."

" I do not mean to flatter you ; and it is to this end I say, you
are Italians without the subtlety of the Italian, and Greeks without
their genius. You need not curtsey so profoundly. I could say
worse than this, Kate, if I were minded to do so."

'• Pray do not be so minded then. Pray remember that, even
when you wound me, I cannot return the thrust."

" I know what you mean," cried Nina, rapidly. *' You are
veritable Ai-abs in your estimate of hospitality, and he who has eaten
your salt is sacred."

" You remind me of what I had nigh forgotten, Nina — of our
coming guests."

" Do you know why Walpole and his friend are coming ? "

" They are already come, Nina — they are out walking with papa ;
but what has brought them here I cannot guess, and, since I have
heard your description of Ireland, I cannot imagine."

" Xor can I," said she indolently, and moved away.


MATHEW Kearney's reflections.

To have liis house full of companj', to sec liis table crowded with
guests, was nearer perfect happiness than anvtliing Kearney knew ;
and when he set out, the morning after the arrival of the strangers,
to show Major Lockwood where he would find a brace of woodcocks,
the old man was in such spirits as he had not known for years.

" Why don't your friend Walpole come with us? " asked he of
his companion, as they trudged across the bog.

" I believe I can guess," mumbled out the other ; " but I'm not
quite sure I ought to tell."

"I see," said Kearney, with a knowing leer; "he's afraid I'll
roast him about that unlucky despatch he wrote. He thinks, I'll
give him no peace about that bit of stupidity ; for you see, Major, it
u-as stupid, and nothing less. Of all the things we despise in Ireland,
take my word for it, there is nothing we think so little of as a weak
Government. We can stand up strong and bold against hard usage,
and we gain self-respect by resistance ; but when you come down to
conciliations and what you call healing measures, we feel as if you
were going to humbug us, and there is not a devilment comes into
our heads we would not do, just to see how you'll bear it ; and it's
then your London newspapers cry out : ' What's the use of doing
anything for Ireland ? ' We pulled down the Church, and we robbed
the landlords, and we're now going to back Cardinal CuUen for them,
and there they are murthering away as bad as ever."

"Is it not true ? " asked the Major.

" And whose fault if it is true ? Who has broke down the laws
in Ireland but yourselves ? We Irish never said that many things
you called crimes were bad in morals, and when it occurs to you now
to doubt if they are crimes, I'd like to ask you, why wouldn't tve do
them ? You won't give us our independence, and so we'll fight for
it; and though, maybe, we can't lick you, we'll make your life so
uncomfortable to you, keeping us down, that you'll beg a compromise
— a healing measure, you'll call it — just as when I won't give Tim
Sullivan a lease, he takes a shot at me ; and as I reckon the holes
in my hat, I think better of it, and take a pound or two off his rent."

" So that, in fact, you court the policy of conciliation ? "

" Only because I'm weak, Major — because I'm weak, and that I
must live in the neighbourhood. If I could pass my days out of the
range of Jim's carbine, I wouldn't reduce him a shilling."

MATHEW Kearney's reflections. 405

" I can malic nothing of Ireland or Irishmen either."

"Why would, you? God help us! we ai-e poor enough and
wretched enough ; but we're not come down to that yet that a Major
of Dragoons can read us like big print."

" So far as I see you wish for a strong despotism."

" In one way it would suit us well. Do you see, Major, what a
weak administration and uncertain laws do ? They set every man in
Ireland about righting himself by his own hand. If I know I shall
be starved when I am turned out of my holding, I'm not at all so
sure I'll be hanged if I shoot my landlord. Make me as certain of
the one as the other, and I'll not shoot him."

" I believe I understand you."

"No, you don't, nor any Cockney among you."

" I'm not a Cockney."

"I don't care, you're the same: you're not one of us; nor, if
you spent fifty years among us, would you understand us."

" Come over and see me in Berkshire, Kearney, and let me see if
you can read our people much better."

" From all I hear, there's not much to read. Your chawbacon
isn't as 'cute a fellow as Pat."

" He's easier to live with."

"Maybe so; but I wouldn't care for a life with such people

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 41 of 48)