Charles James Lever.

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

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about me. I like human nature, and human feelings — aye, human
passions, if you must call them so. I want to know — I can make
some people love me, though I well know there must be others will
hate me. You're all for tranquillity all over in England — a quiet
life you call it. I like to live without knowing what's coming, and
to feel all the time that I know enough of the game to be able to play
it as well as my neighbours. Do you follow me now. Major ?"

" I'm not quite certain I do."

" No — but I'm quite certain you don't; and, indeed, I wonder at
myself talking to you about these things at all."

"I'm much gratified that you do so. In fact, Kearney, you give
me courage to speak a little about myself and my own affairs ; and,
if you will allow me, to ask your advice."

This was an unusually long speech for the Major, and he actually
seemed fatigued when he concluded. He was, however, consoled for
Lis exertions by seeing what pleasure his words had conferred on
Kearney ; and with what racy self-satisfaction that gentleman heard
himself mentioned as a " wise opinion."

" I believe I do know a little of life. Major," said he, senten-
tiously. " As old Giles Dackson used to say, ' Get Mathew Kearney
to tell you what he thinks of it.' You knew Giles ?"


" Xo."

" Well, you've heard of Lim ? No ! not even that. There's
another jiroof of what I was saying — we're two people, the English
and the Irish. If it wasn't so, you'd ho no stranger to the sayings
and doings of one of the 'cutest men that ever lived."

" "\Vc have witty fellows, too."

*' No, you haven't ! Do you call 3'Our House of Commons' jokes
wit ? Are the stories you tell at your hustings' speeches wit '? Is
there one over there — and he pointed in the direction of England —
" that ever made a smart repartee or a hrilliant answer to any one
ahout anything ? You now and then tell an Irish story, and you
forget the point ; or you quote a French ' mot,' and leave out the
epigram. Don't he angry — it's truth I'm telling you."

" I'm not angry, though I must say I don't think you are fair to

" The last bit of brilliancy you had in the House was Brinsley
Sheridan, and there wasn't much English about him."

" I've never heard that the famous O'Conneli used to convulse
the House with his drollery."

"Why should he? Didn't he know where he was? Do you
imagine that O'Conneli was going to do like poor Lord Killeen, who
shipped a cargo of coalscuttles to Africa ? "

" Will you explain to me, then, how, if you are so much shrewder
and wittier and cleverer than us, that it does not make you richer,
more prosperous, and more contented ! "

" I could do that, too, but I'm losing the birds. There's a cock
now. Well done ! I see you can shoot a bit. Look here. Major,
there's a deal in race — in the blood of a people. It's very hard to
make a light-hearted, joyous people thrifty. It's your sullen fellow,
that never cuts a joke, nor wants any one to laugh at it, that's the man
who saves. If you're a wit, you want an audience, and the best
audience is round a dinner-table ; and we know what that costs.
Now, Ireland has been very pleasant for the last hundred and fifty
years in that fashion, and you, and scores of other low-spirited,
depressed fellows, come over here to pluck up and rouse yourselves,
and you go home, and you wonder why the people who amused you
were not always as jolly as you saw them. I've known this country
now nigh sixty years, and I never knew a turn of prosperity that
didn't make us stupid ; and, upon my conscience, I believe, if wo
ever begin to grow rich, we'll not be a bit better than j-oursclves."

" That would be very dreadful," said the other, in mock horror.

"So it would, whether 3'ou mean it or not. There's a hare missed
this time ! "

MATHEW kearxey's reflectioxs. 407

" I was thinking of something I wanted to ask you. The fact is,
Kearne}-, I have a thing on my mind now."

"Is it a duel ? It's many a day since I v/as out, but I used to
know every step of the way as well as most men."

" No; it's not a duel!"

*' It's money, then ! Bother it for money. 'Wliat a deal of
bad blood it leads to. . Tell me all about it, and I'll see if I can't
deal with it."

" No, it's not money ; it has nothing to do with money. I'm not
hard up. I was never less so."

" Indeed !" cried Kearney, staring at him.

" Why, what do you mean by that ? "

" I was curious to see how a man looks, and I'd like to know how
he feels, that didn't want money. I can no more understand it than
if a man told me he didn't want air."

" If he had enough to breathe freely, could he need more ?"

" That would depend on the size of his lungs, and I believe
mine are pretty big. But come now, if there's nobody you want
to shoot, and you have a good balance at the banker's, what can
ail you, except it's a girl you want to marry, and she won't have

" Well, there is a lady in the case."

" Aye, aye ! she's a married woman," cried Kearney, closing one
eye, and looking intensely canning. " Then I may tell you at once.
Major, I'm no use to you whatever. If it was a young girl that liked
you against the vrish of her family, or that you were in love with
though she was below you in condition, or that was promised to
another man but wanted to get out of her bargain, I'm good for any
of these, or scores more of the same kind ; but if it's mischief, and
misery, and life-long sorrow you have in your head, you must look
out for another adviser."

" It's nothing of the kind," said the other, bluntly. " It's marriage
I was thinking of. I want to settle down and have a wife."

" Then why couldn't you, if you think it would be any comfort to


The last woi'ds were rather uttered than spoken, and sounded
like a sad reflection uttered aloud.

" I am not a rich man," said the Major with that strain it always
cost him to speak of himself, " but I have got enough to live on. A
goodish old house, and a small estate, underlet as it is, bringing mo
about two thousand a year, and som-e expectations, as they call them,
from an old grand-auut."

"You have enough, if you marry a prudent girl," muttered


Kearney, who was never Lappier tliau when advocating moderation
and discretion.

" Enough, at least, not to look for money with a wife."

" I'm with you there, heart and soul," cried Kearney. " Of all
the shabhy inventions of our civilization, I don't know one as mean
as that custom of giving a marriage-portion with a girl. Is it to
induce a man to take her ? Is it to pay for her hoard and lodging ?
Is it because marriage is a partnership, and she must bring her share
into the ' concern ? ' or is it to provide for the day when they are to
part company, and each go his own road ? Take it how you like,
it's bad and it's shabby. If you're rich enough to give your daughter
twenty or thirty thousand pounds, wait for some little family festival —
her birthday, or her husband's birthday, or a Christmas gathering,
or maybe a christening — and put the notes in her hand. Oh, Major,
dear," cried he, aloud, " if you knew how much of life you lose with
lawyers, and what a deal of bad blood comes into the world by
parchments, you'd see the wisdom of trusting more to human
kindness and good feeling, and, above all, to the honour of gentle-
men, — things that uow-a-days we always hope to secure by Act of

" I go with a great deal of what you say."

" Why not with all of it ? What do we gain by trying to overreach
each other ? What advantage in a system where it's always the
rogue that wins ? If I was a king to-morrow, I'd rather fine a fellow
for quoting Blackstone than for blasphemy, and I'd distribute all the
law libraries in the kingdom as cheap fuel for the poor. We pray for
peace and quietness, and we educate a special class of people to keep
us always wrangling. Where's the sense of that ? "

While Kearney poured out these words in a flow of fervid con-
viction, they had arrived at a little open space in the wood, fi-om
which various alleys led off in different directions. Along one of
these, two figureavWere slowly moving side by side, whom Lockwood
quickly recognized as Walpole and Nina Kostalergi. Kearney did
not see them, for his attention was suddenly called off by a shout
I'rom a distance, and his son Dick rode hastily up to the spot.

" I have been in search of you all through the plantation," cried
he. "I have brought back Holmes the laAA^er from Tullamore, who
wants to talk to you about this affair of O'Gormau's. It's going to
be a bad business, I fear."

" Isn't that more of what I was saying ? " said the old man,
turning to the Major. " There's law for jou ! "

" They're making what tliey call a * National ' event of it,"
continued Dick. " The Pike has opened a column of subscriptions

MATHEW Kearney's reflections. 409

to defray tlio cost of proceedings, and they've engaged Battersby with
a hundred guinea retainer ah-cady."

It ap2)eared from what tidings Dick brought back from the town,
that the NationaHsts — to give them the much unmerited name by
which they called themselves — were determined to show how they
could dictate to a jury.

" There's law for you ! " cried the old man again.

"You'll have to take to vigilance committees, like the Yankees,"
said the Major.

" We've had them for years ; but they only shoot their political

" They say, too," broke in the young man, " that Donogau is in
the town, and that it is he who has organized the whole prosecution.
In fact, he intends to make Battersby's speech for the plaintiff a great
declaration of the wrongs of Ireland ; and as Battersby hates the
Chief Baron, who will try the cause, he is determined to insult the
Bench, even at the cost of a commitment."

" What will he gain by that ? " asked Lockwood.

" I'll tell you what he'll gain — he'll gain the election of Mallow,"
said Kearney. "Every one cannot have a father that was hanged
in '98; but any one can go to gaol for blackguarding a Chief

For a moment or two the old man seemed ashamed at having
been led to make these confessions to " the Saxon," and telling
Lockwood where he would be likely to find a brace of cocks, he took
his son's arm and turned homeward.



When Lockwood returned, only in time to dress for dinner, Walpole,
whose room adjoined his, threw open the door between them and
entered. He had just accomplished a most careful " tie," and came
in with the air of one fairly self-satisfied and happy.

"You look quite triumphant this evening," said the Major, half-

" So I am, old fellow ; and so I have a right to be. It's all done
and settled."

" Already ? "

" Aye, already. I asked her to take a stroll with me in the


garden ; but we sauntered off into the plantation. A woman always
understands the exact amount of meaning a man lias in a request of
this kind, and her instinct reveals to her at once whether he is eager
to tell her some bit of fatal scandal of one of her own friends, or to
make her a declaration."

A sort of sulky grunt was Lockwood's acknowledgment of this
piece of abstract wisdom — a sort of knowledge he never listened to
with much patience. '

" I am aware," said Walpole, flippantly, " the female nature was
an omitted part in your education, Lockwood ; and you take small
intei'est in those nice distinctive traits which, to a man of the world,
are exactly what the stars are to the mariner."

" Finding out what a. woman means by the stars does seem very
poor fun."

" Perhaps you prefer the moon for your observation," replied
Walpole ; and the easy impertinence of his manner was almost too
much for the other's patience.

" I don't care for your speculations — I want to hear what passed
between you and the Greek girl."

" The Greek girl will in a very few days be Mrs. Walpole, and I
shall crave a little more deference for the mention of her."

" I forgot her name, or I should not have called her with such
ii-cedom ? What is it ? "

** Kostalergi. Her father is Kostalergi, Prince of Delos."

" All right ; it will read well in the Post.''

" My dear friend, there is that amount of sarcasm in your
conversation this evening, that to a plain man like myself, never
ready at reply, and easily subdued by ridicule, is positively over-
whelming. Has any disaster befallen you that you are become so
satirical and severe ? "

" Never mind me — tell me about yourself," was the blunt reply.

" I have not the slightest objection. When we had walked a
little way together, and I felt that we were beyond the risk of inter-
ruption, I led her to the subject of my sudden re-appearance here,
and implied that she, at least, could not have felt much surprise.
* You remember,' said I, ' I promised to return ? '

"'There is something so conventional,' said she, 'in these
pledges, that one comes to read them like the " yours sincerely " at
the foot of a letter.' "

" ' I ask for nothing better,' said I, taking her up on her own
words, ' than to be " yours sincerely." It is to ratify that pledge by
making you " mine sincerely " that I am here.'

" ' Indeed ! ' said she, slowly, and looking down.


" * I swear it ! ' said I, kissing her baud, which, however, had a
glove on.' "

"Why not her cheek? "

" That is not done, Major mine, at such times."

" Well, go on."

" I can't recall the exact words, for I spoke rapidly ; but I told
her I was named Minister at a foreign Court, that my future career
was assured, and that I was able to offer her a station, not, indeed,
equal to her deserts, but that, occupied by her, would be only less
than royal."

" At Guatemala ! " exclaimed the other, derisively.

"Have the kindness to keep your geography to yourself," said
Walpole. " I merely said in South America, and she had too much
delicacy to ask more."

" But she said yes ? She consented ? "

"Yes, sir, she said she would venture to commit her future to
my charge."

"Didn't she ask you what means you had? what was your
income ? "

" Not exactly in the categorical way you put it, but she alluded
to the possible style we should live in."

"I'll swear she did. That girl asked you, in plain words, how
many hundreds or thousands you had a year ? "

"And I told her. I said, 'It sounds humbly, dearest, to tell
you we shall not have fully two thousand a year ; but the place we
are going to is the cheapest in the universe, and we shall have a
small establishment of not more than forty black and about a dozen
white servants, and at first only keep twenty horses, taking our
carriages on job.' "

" Wkat about pin-money ? "

" There is not much extravagance in toilette, and so I said she
must manage with a thousand a year."

" And she didn't laugh in your face ? "

"No, sir; nor was there any strain upon her good breeding to
induce her to laugh in my face."

" At all events, you discussed the matter in a fine practical
spirit. Did you go into groceries ? I hope you did not forget
groceries ? "

" My dear Lockwood, let me warn you against being droll. You
ask me for a correct narrative, and when I give it you will not restrain
that subtle sarcasm the mastery of which makes you unassailable."

" When is it to be ? When is it to come off? Has she to write
to His Serene Highness the Prince of What's-his-name ? "


"No, the Priuce of What's-his-name need not be consulted.
Lord Kilgobbin will stand in the position of father to her."

Loekwood muttered something, in which " Give her away ! " were
the onlj' words audible. "I must say," added he, aloud, "the
wooing did not take long."

"You forget that there was an actual engagement between us
when I left this for London. My circumstances at that time did not
permit me to ask her at once to be my wife ; but our affections were
pledged, and — even if more tender sentiments did not determine — my
feeling, as a man of honour, required I should come back here to
make her this offer."

"All right; I suppose it will do — I hope it will do ; and, after
all, I take it, you are likely to understand each other better than
others would."

" Such is our impression and belief."

" How will your own people — how will Danesbury like it ? "

" For their sakes I trust they will like it very much ; for mine,
it is less than a matter of indifference to me."

" She, however — she will expect to be properly received amongst

" Yes," cried Walpole, speaking for the first time in a perfectly
natural tone, divested of all pomposity. " Yes, she stickles for that,
Loekwood. It was the one point she seemed to stand out for. Of
course I told her she would be received with open arms by my
relatives — that my family would be overjoyed to receive her as one of
them. I only hinted that my lord's gout might prevent him from
being at the wedding. I'm not sure uncle Danesbury would not come
over. ' And the charming Lady Maude,' asked she, ' would she
honour me so far as to be a bridesmaid ? ' "

" She didn't say that ? "

" She did. She actually pushed me to promise I should ask her."

" Which you never would."

" Of that I will not affirm I am quite positive ; but I certainly
intend to press my uncle for some sort of recognition of the marriage
— a civil note ; better still, if it could be managed, an invitation to
his house in town."

" You are a bold fellow to think of it."

" Not so bold as you imagine. Have you not often remarked
that when a man of good connections is about to exile himself by
accepting a far-away post, whether it be out of pure compassion or a
fceling that it need never be done again, and that they are about to
see the last of him ; but, somehow — whatever the reason — his
friends are marvellously civil and polite to him, just as some benevolent


but eccentric folk send a partridge to the condemned felon for bis
last dinner,"

" They do that in France."

" Here it would be a rumpsteak ; but the sentiment is the same.
At all events, the thing is as I told you, and I do not despair of

" For the letter perhaps not ; but he'll never ask you to Bruton
Street, nor, if he did, could you accept."

" You are thinking of Lady Maude."


" There would be no difficulty in that quarter. When a Whig
becomes Tory, or a Tory Whig, the gentlemen of the party he has
deserted never take umbrage in the same way as the vulgar dogs
below the gangway ; so it is in the world. The people who must
meet, must dine together, sit side by side at flower-shows and garden-
parties, always manage to do their hatreds decorously, and only pay
off their dislikes by instalments. If Lady Maude were to receive my
wife at all, it would be with a most winning politeness. All her
malevolence would limit itself to making the supposed underbred
woman commit a ' gaucherie,' to do or say something that ought not
to have been done or said ; and, as I know Nina can stand the test,
I have no fears for the experiment."

A knock at the door apprised them that the dinner was waiting,
neither having heard the bell which had summoned them a quarter of
an hour before. " And I wanted to hear all about your progress,"
cried Walpole, as they descended the staircase together.

"I have none to report," was the gruff reply.

" Why, surely you have not passed the whole day in Kearney '3
company without some hint of what you came here for ? "

But at the same moment they were in the dining-room.

" We are a man party to-day, I am sorry to say," cried old
Kearney, as they entered. " My niece and my daughter are
keeping Miss O'Shea company upstairs. She is not well enough to
come down to dinner, and they have scruples about leaving her iu

" At least we'll have a cigar after dinner," was Dick's ungallant
reflection as they moved away.




" I HOPE they had a pleasauter dinner do^^•nstairs than we have had
here," said Nina, as, after -wishing Miss O'Shea a good night, the
young girls slowly mounted the stairs.

"Poor old godmother was too sad and too depressed to be
cheerful company ; but did she not talk well and sensibly on the
condition of the country ? was it not well said, when she showed the
danger of all that legislation which, assuming to establish right, only
engenders disunion and class jealousy ? "

" I never followed her ; I was thinking of something else."

" She was worth listening to, then. She knows the people well,
and she sees all the mischief of tampering with natures so imbued
with distrust. The Irishman is a gambler, and English law-makers
are always exciting him to play."

" It seems to me there is very little on the game."

"There is everything — home, family, subsistence, life itself, all
that a man can care for."

" Never mind these tiresome themes ; come into my room ; or
I'll go to yours, for I'm sure you've a better fire ; besides I can walk
away if you oft'eud me : I mean offend beyond endurance, for you are
sure to say something cutting."

" I hope you wrong me, Nina."

" Perhaps I do. Indeed I half suspect I do ; but the fact is, it
is not your words that reproach me, it is your whole life of usefulness
is my reproach, and the least syllable you utter comes charged with
all the responsibility of one who has a duty and does it, to a mere
good-for-nothing. There, is not that humility enough ?"

" More than enough, for it goes to flattery."

" I'm not a bit sure all the time that I'm not the more loveable
creature of the two. If you like I'll put it to the vote at breakfast."

"Oh, Nina!"

" Very shocking, that's the phrase for it, very shocking !
dear, what a nice fire, and what a nice little snug room ; how is it,
will you tell me, that though my room is much larger and better
furnished in every way, your room is always brighter and neater, and
more like a little home ? They fetch you drier firewood, and they
bring you flowers, wherever they get them. I know well what devicea
of roguery they practise."

"Shall I give you tea?"


" Of course I'll have tea. I expect to be treated like a fiivoured
guest in all things, and I mean to take this armchair, and the nice
soft cushion for my feet, for I warn you, Kate, I'm here for two
hours. I've an immense deal to tell you, and I'll net go till it's told."

",I'll not turn you out."

"I'll take care of that ; I have not lived in Ireland for nothing.
I have a proper sense of what is meant by possession, and I defy
what your great minister calls a heartless eviction. Even your tea is
nicer, it is more fragrant than any one else's. I begin to hate you
out of sheer jealousy."

" That is about the last feeling I ought to inspire."

" More humility ; but I'll drop rudeness and tell you my story,
for I have a story to tell. Are you listening ? Are you attentive ?
Well, my Mr. Walpole, as you called him once, is about to become
so in real earnest. I could have made a long narrative of it and
held you in weary suspense, but I prefer to dash at once into the
thick of the fray, and tell you that he has this morning made me a
formal proposal, and I have accepted him. Be pleased to bear in
mind that this is no case of a misconception or a mistake. No young
gentleman has been petting and kissing my hand for another's ; no
tender speeches have been uttered to the ears they were not meant
for. I have been wooed this time for myself, and on my own part I
have said yes."

" You told me you had accepted him already. I mean when he
was here last."

" Yes, after a fashion. Don't you know, child, that, though
iawj'ers maintain that a promise to do a certain thing, to make a
lease or some contract, has in itself a binding significance, that in
Cupid's Court this is not law ? and the man knew perfectly that
all that passed between us hitherto had no serious meaning, and bore
no more real relation to marriage than an outpost encounter to a
battle. For all that has taken place up to this, we might never fight —
I mean man-y — after all. The sages say that a girl should never
believe a man means marriage till he talks money to her. Now, Kate,
he talked money ; and I believed him."

" I wish you would tell me of these things seriously, and without

" So I do. Heaven knows I am in no jesting humour. It is in
no outburst of high spirits or gaiety a girl confesses she is going to
marry a man who has neither wealth nor station to offer, and whose

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 42 of 48)