Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 43 of 48)
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fine connections are just fine enough to be ashamed of him."

" Are y«u in love with him ?"

"If you moan, do I imagine that this man's affection and this


mau"s compauionsMp arc more to me than all tlic comforts and
luxuries of life with another, I am not in love with him ; but if you
ask me, am I satisfied to risk my future with so much as I know of
his temper, his tastes, his breeding, his habits, and his abilities, I
incline to say yes. Married life, Kate, is a sort of dietary, and one
should remember that what he has to eat of every day ought not to be
too appetizing."

'* I abhor your theory."

" Of course you do, child ; and you fancy, naturally enough,
that you would like ortolans every day for dinner ; but my poor cold
Greek temperament has none of the romantic warmth of your Celtic
nature. I am very moderate in my hopes, very humble in all my

"It is not thus I read you."

" Veiy probably. At all events, I have consented to be Mr.
"Walpole's wife, and we are to be Minister Plenipotentiaiy and
Special Envoy somewhere. It is not Bolivia, nor the Argentine
Republic, but some other fabulous region, where the only fact is yellow

" And you really like him ? "

" I hope so, for evidently it must be on love we shall have to live,
one half of our income being devoted to saddle-horses and the other
to my toilette."

" How absurd you are ! "

"No, not I. It is Mr. Walpole himself, who, not trusting much
to my skill at arithmetic, sketched out this schedule of expenditure ;
and then I bethought me how simj)le this man must deem me. It
was a flattery that won me at once. Oh ! Kate, dearest, if you could
understand the ecstasy of being thought, not a fool, but one easily
duped, easily deceived! "

" I don't know what you mean."

"It is this, then, that to have a man's whole heart — whether it
be worth the having is another and a different question — you must
impress him with his immense superiority in everything — that he is
not merely physically stronger than you, and bolder and more
courageous, but that he is mentally more vigorous and more able,
judges better, decides quicker, resolves more fully than you ; and that,
struggle how you will, you pass your life in eternally looking up to
this wonderful god, who vouchsafes now and then to caress you,
and even say tender things to you."

" Is it, Nina, that you have made a study of these things, or
is all this mere imagination ? "

" Most innocent young lady ! I no more dreamed of these


things to apply to such men as your country furnishes — good, homely,
commonplace creatures — than I should have thought of asking you to
adopt French cookery to feed them. I spoke of such men as one
meets in what I may call the real world : as for the others, if they
feel life to he a stage, they arc always going ahout in slipshod
liishion, as if at rehearsal. Men like your brother and young O'Shea,
for instance — tossed here and there by accidents, made one thing by
a chance, and something else by a misfortune. Take my word for
it, the events of life are very vulgar things ; the passions and emotions
they evoke, these constitute the high stimulants of existence, they
make the ' gross jeu,' which it is so exciting to play."

" I follow you with some difficulty ; but I am rude enough to own
I scarcely regret it.''

" I know, I know all about that sweet innocence that fancies to
ignore anything is to obHterate it ; but it's a fool's paradise, after all,
Kate. We are in the world, and we must accept it as it is made for

" I'll not ask, does your theory make you better, but does it make
you happier? "

" If being duped were an element of bliss, I should say certainly
not happier, but I doubt the blissful ignorance of your great
moralist. I incline to believe that the better you play any game —
life amongst the rest — the higher the pleasure it yields. I can afford
to marry, without believing my husband to be a paragon — could you
do as much ? "

" I should like to know that I preferred him to any one else."

" So should I, and I would only desire to add * to every one else
that asked me.' Tell the truth, Kate dearest, we are here all alone,
and can afford sincerity. How many of us girls marry the man
we should like to marry, and if the game were reversed, and it
were to be we who should make the choice — the slave pick out his
master — how many, think you, would be wedded to their present
mates ?"

" So long as we can refuse him we do not like, I cannot think
our case a hard one."

" Neither should I if I could stand fast at three-and-twenty. The
dread of that change of heart and feeling that will come, must come,
ten years later, drives one to compromise with happiness, and take a
part of what you once aspired to the whole."

" You used to think very highly of Mr. Walpolc ; admired, and I
suspect you liked him."

"All true — my opinion is the same still. He will stand the
great test that one can go into the world with him and not be



ashamed of him. I kuow, dearest, even without that shake of the
head, the small value you attach to this, but it is a great element in
that droll contract, by which one person agrees to pit his temper
against another's, and which we are told is made in heaven, with
augels as sponsors. Mr. Walpolo is sufficiently good-looking to be
prepossessing, he is well bred, very courteous, converses extremely
well, knows his exact place in life, and takes it quietly but firmly.
All these are of value to his wife, and it is not easy to overrate

"Is that enough ?"

"Enough for what? If you mean for romantic love, for the
infatuation that defies all change of sentiment, all growth of feeling,
that revels in the thought, experience will not make us wiser, nor
daily associations less admiring, it is not enough. I, however, am
content to bid for a much humbler lot. I want a husband who, if he
cannot give me a brilliant station, will at least secure me a good
position in life, a reasonable share of vulgar comforts, some luxuries,
and the ordinary routine of what are called pleasures. If, in
affording me these, he will vouchsafe to add good temper, and not
high spirits — which are detestable — but fair spirits, I think I can
promise him, not that I shall make him happy, but that he will make
himself so, and it will afford me much gi'atitication to see it."

" Is this real, or ? "

" Or what ? say what was on your lips."

" Or are you utterly heartless ?" cried Kate, with an effort that
covered her face with blushes.

"I don't think I am," said she, oddly and calmly ; " but all I
have seen of life teaches me that every betrayal of a feeling or a
sentiment is like what gamblers call showing your hand, and is sure
to be taken advantage of by the other players. It's an ugly illustra-
tion, dear Kate, but in the same round game we call life there is so
much cheating that if you cannot afl'ord to be pillaged, you must be

" I am glad to feel that I can believe you to be much better than
you make yourself."

" Do so, and as long as you can."

There was a pause of several moments after this, each apparently
following out her own thoughts.

" By tlie way," cried Nina, sullenly, " did I tell you that Mary
wished me joy this morning. She had overheard J\Ir. O'Gorman's
declaration, and believed he had asked me to be his wife."

"How absurd!" said Kate, and there was anger as well .as
shame in her look as she said it.


"Of course it was absurd. Slio evidently never suspected to

uhom she was speaking, and then " She stopped, for a quick

ghince at Kate's face warned her of the peril she was grazing. " I
told the girl she was a fool, and forbade her to speak of the matter
to any one."

" It is a servauts'-hall story, already," said Kate, quietly.

" Do you care for that ?"

" Not much ; three days will see the end of it."

" I declare, in your own homely way, I believe you are the wiser
of the two of us."

" My common sense is of the very commonest," said Kate,
laughing; " there is nothing subtle nor even neat about it."

" Let us sec that! Give me a counsel or, rather, say, if you
agree with me ? I have asked Mr. Walpole to show me how his
family accept my entrance amongst them ; with what grace they
receive me as a relative. One of his cousins called me the Greek
girl, and in my own hearing. It is not, then, over-caution on my
part to inquire how they mean to regard me. Tell me, however,
Kate, how far you concur with me iu this. I should like much to
hear how your good sense regards the question. Should you have
done as I have ? "

" Answer me first one question. If you should learn that these
great folks would not welcome you amongst them, would you still
consent to many Mr. Walpole ? "

" I'm not sure, I am not quite certain, but I almost believe I

" I have, then, no counsel to give you," said Kate, firml3\
" Two people who see the same object differently cannot discuss its

"I see my blunder," cried Nina, impetuously. "I put my
question stupidly. I should have said, ' If a girl has won a man's
affections and given him her own — if she feels her heart has no
other home than in his keeping — that she lives for him and by him —
should she be deterred fi'om joining her fortunes to his because he
has some fine connections who would like to see him marry more
advantageously ?' " It needed not the saucy curl of her lip as she
spoke to declare how every word was uttered in sarcasm. " Why
will you not answer me ? " cried she at length ; and her eyes shot
glances of fiery impatience as she said it.

" Our distinguished friend Mr. Atlee is to arrive to-morrow,
Dick tells me," said Kate, with the calm tone of one who wou'rl not
permit herself to be rufiled.

" Indeed ! If your remark has any apropos at all, it must meau


that in niarryiug Rueli a man as he is, one might escape all the
ilifficultics of family coldness, and I jirotest, as I think of it, the
matter has its advantages."

A faint smile was all Kate's answer.

" I cannot make you angiy ; I have done ray best, and it has
failed. I am utterly discomfited, and I'll go to beef."

" Good-night," said Kate, as she held out her hand.

"I wonder is it nice to have this angelic temperament — to be
always right in one's judgments, and never carried away by passion ?
I half suspect perfection does not mean perfect happiness."

" You shall tell me when you are married," said Kate, with a
laugh ; and Nina darted a flashing glance towards her, and swepi
out of the room.



It was not without considerable heart-sinking and misgiving that old
Kearney heard it was Miss Betty O'Shca's desire to have some
conversation with him after breakfast. He was, indeed, reassured,
to a certain extent, by his daughter telling him that the old lady was
excessively weak, and that her cough was almost incessant, and that
she spoke with extreme difficulty. All the comfort that these
assurances gave him was dashed by a settled conviction of Miss
Betty's subtlety. " She's like one of the wild foxes they have iu
Crim Tartary ; and when you think they are dead, they're up and at
3'ou before you can look round." He affirmed no more than the
truth when he said that " he'd rather walk barefoot to Kilbeggan
than go up that stair to see her."

There was a strange conflict in his mind all this time between
these ignoble fears and the cflbrts he was making to seem considerate
and gentle by Kate's assurance that a cruel word, or even a harsh
tone, would be sure to kill her. " You'll have to be very careful,
papa dearest," she said. " Her nerves are completely shattered, and
every respiration seems as if it would be the last."

Mistrust was, however, so strong in liim, that he would have
employed any subterfuge to avoid the interview ; but the Rev. Luke
Delany, who had arrived to give her " the consolations," as he briefly
phrased it, insisted on Kearney's attending to receive the old lady's
forgiveness before she died.

" Upon my conscience," muttered Kearney, " I was always under


ihc Lelief it was I was iujuvetl ; but as the priest says, ' it's only on
one's death-bed lie sees tilings clearly.' "

As Kearney groped his way through the darkened room, shocked
at his own creaking shoes, and painfully convinced that he was
somehow deficient in delicacy, a low faint cough guided him to the
sofa where Miss O'Shea lay. " Is that Mathew Kearney ? " said
she, feebly. " I think I know his foot."

"Yes, indeed, bad luck to them for shoes. Wherever Davy
IMorris gets the leather I don't know, but it's as loud as a barrel-

" Maybe they're cheap, Mathew. One puts up with many a
thing for a little cheapness."

" That's the first shot ! " muttered Kearney to himself, while he
gave a little cough to avoid reply.

" Father Luke has been telling me, Mathew, that before I go this
long journey I ought to take care to settle any little matter hero
that's on my mind. ' If there's anybody you bear an ill will to,' says
he ; ' if there's any one has wronged you,' says he, ' told lies of you,
or done you any bodily harm, send for him,' says he, ' and let him
hear your forgiveness out of your own mouth. I'll take care after-
wards,' says Father Luke, ' that he'll have to settle the account with
vie ; but you mustn't mind that. You must be able to tell St. Joseph
that you come with a clean breast and a good conscience ; ' and
that's " — here she sighed heavily several times — " and that's the
reason I sent for you, Mathew Kearney ! "

Poor Kearney sighed heavily over that category of misdoers with
whom he found himself classed, but he said nothing.

" I don't want to say anything harsh to you, Mathew, nor have I
strength to listen, if you'd try to defend yourself; time is short with
me now, but this I must say, if I'm here now sick and sore, and if
the poor boy in the other room is lying down with his fractured head,
it is you, and you alone have the blame."

" May the blessed Virgin give ms patience ! " muttered he, as he
wrung his hands despairingly.

" I hope she will ; and give you more, Mathew Kearney. I hope
she'll give you a hearty repentance. I hope she'll teach you that the
few days that remain to you in this life, are short enough for contri-
tion — aye — contrition and castigation."

" Ain't I getting it now," muttered he ; but low as he spoke the
"words her quick hearing had caught them.

"I hope you are; it is the last bit of friendship I can do you.
You have a hard, worldly, selfish nature, Mathew ; you had it as a
boy, and it grew worse as you grew older. What many believed


high spirits iu you was nothing else than the reckless devilment of s,
man that only thought of himself. You could afford to be — at least
to look — lighthearted, for you cared for nobody. You squandered
your little property, and you'd have made away with the few acres
that belonged to your ancestors, if the law would have let you. As
for the way you brought up your children, that lazy boy below stairs
that never did a hand's turn is proof enough, and poor Kitty, just
because she wasn't like the rest of you, how she's treated ! "

" How is that : what is ray cruelty there ? " cried he.

" Don't try to make yourself out worse than you are," said she
sternly, ' ' and pretend that you don't know the wrong j-ou done

" May I never — if I understand what you mean."

" Maybe you thought it was no business of yours to provide for
your own child. Maybe you had a notion that it was enough that she
had her food and a roof over her while you were here, and that some-
how — anyhoW' — she'd get on, as they call it, when you were in the
other place. Mathew Kearney, I'll say nothing so cruel to you as
your own conscience is saying this minute, or maybe, with that light
heart that makes your friends so fond of you, you never bothered
yourself about her at all, and that's the way it come about."

" "What came about it ? I want to know tliat."

" First and foremost, I don't think the law will let you. I don't
believe you can charge your estate against the entail. I have a note
there to ask McKeown's opinion, and if I'm right, I'll set apart a sum
in my will to contest it in the Queen's Bench. I tell you this to your
face, Mathew Kearney, and I'm going where I can tell it to somebody
better than a hard-hearted, cruel old man."

" What is it that I want to do, and that the law won't let me ? "
asked he in the most imploring accents.

" At least twelve honest men will decide it."

" Decide what ! iu the name of the saints ? " cried he.

" Don't be profane ; don't parade your unbelieving notions to a
poor old woman on her death-bed. You may want to leave your
daughter a beggar, and your son little better, but you have no right
to disturb ray last moments with your tenible blasphemies."

"I'm fairly bothered now," cried he, as his two arms dropped
powerlessly to his sides. " So help mc, if I know whether I'm awake
or in a dream."

" It's an excuse won't serve you where you'll be soon going, and
I warn you, don't trust it."

" Have a little pity on me, Miss Betty, darling," said he, in hia
most coaxing tone ; " and tell me what it is I've done ? "


" You mean what you arc tryiug to do ; but wlaat, please the
Virgin, we'll uot let you ! "

"What is that?''

" Aud what, weak and ill, and dying as I am, I've strength
enough left in me to prevent, Mathew Kearney — and if you'll give
Die that Bible there, I'll kiss it, aud take my oath that, if he marries
her, he'll never put foot in a house of mine, nor inherit an acre that

belongs to me ; aud all that I'll leave in my will shall be my

Well, I won't say what, only it's something he'll not have to pay a
legacy duty on. Do you understand me now, or ain't I plain enough
yet ? "

"No, not yet. You'll have to make it clearer still."

" Faith, I must say you did not pick up much 'cuteness from your
adopted daughter."

" Who is she ? "

" The Greek hussy that you waut to marry my nephew, and give
a dowry to out of the estate that belongs to your son. I know it all,
Mathew. I wasn't two hours in the house before my old woman
brought me the story from Mary. Aye, stare if you like, but they all
know it below-stairs and a nice way you are discussed in your own
house ! Getting a promise out of a poor boy in a brain fever, making
him give a pledge in his ravings ! Won't it tell well in a court of
justice, of a magistrate, a county gentleman, a Kearney of Kilgobbiu ?
Oh ! Mathew, Mathew, I'm ashamed of you ! "

" Upon my oath, you're making me ashamed of myself that I sit
here and listen to j'ou," cried he, carried beyond all endurance.
" Abusing, aye, blackguarding me this last hour about a lying story
that came from the kitchen. It's you that ought to be ashamed, old
lady. Not, indeed, for believing ill of an old friend, for that's nature
iu you, but for not having common sense — just common sense to guide
you, and a little common decency to warn you. Look now, there is
not a word, there is not a syllable of truth iu the whole story.
Nobody c\er thought of your nephew asking my niece to marry him;
and if he did, she wouldn't have him. She looks higher, and slie has
a right to look higher, than to be the wife of an Irish squireen."

" Go on, Mathew, go on. You waited for me to be as I am now
before you had courage for words like these."

" W^ell, I ask your pardon, and ask it in all humiliation and
sorrow. My temper — bad luck to it ! — gets the Letter, or, maybe,
it's the worse, of me at times, and I say iifty things that I know I
don't feel — just the way sailors load a gun with anything in the heat
of au action."

" I'm not in a condition to talk of sea-fights, Mr. Kearney,


though I'm ohligetl to you all the same for tryiug to amuse me.
You'll not think mc rude if I ask you to send Kate to me ? And
please to tell Father Luke that I'll not sec him this morning. My
nerves have been sorely tried. One word before you go, Mathew
Kearney ; and have compassion enough not to answer me. You may
be a just man, and an honest man ; you may be fair in your dealings,
and all that your tenants say of you may be lies and calunniics ; but
to insult a poor old woman on her death-bed is cruel and unfeeling ;
and I'll tell you more, Mathew, it's cowardly and it's "

Kearney did not wait to hear what more it might be, for he was
already at the door, and rushed out as if he was escaping from a fire.

" I'm glad he's better than they made him out," said Miss Betty
to herself, in a tone of calm soliloquy ; " and he'll not be worse for
some of the home-truths I've told him." And with this she drew on
her silk mittens and arranged her cap composedly, while she waited
for Kate's arrival.

As for poor Kearney, other troubles were awaiting him in his
study, where he found his son and Mr. Holmes, the lawyer, sitting
before a table covered with papers. "I have no head for business
now," cried Kearney. "I don't feel over well to-day, and if you
want to talk to me, you'll have to put it off till to-morrow."

" Mr. Holmes must leave for town, my lord," interposed Dick,
in his most insinuating tone, " and he only wants a few minutes with
you before he goes."

" And it's just what he won't get. I would not see the Lord
Lieutenant if he was here now."

" The trial is fixed for Tuesday, the 19th, my lord," cried
Holmes ; " and the National press has taken it up in such a way that
we have no chance whatever. The verdict will be ' Guilty,' without
leaving the box ; and the whole voice of public opinion will demand
the very heaviest sentence the law can pronounce."

" Think of that poor fellow, O'Shea, just rising from a sick bed,"
said Dick, as his voice shook with agitation.

" They can't hang him."

" No, for the scoundrel Gill is alive, and will be the chief witness
on the trial ; but they may give him two years with prison labour,
and if they do, it will kill him."

" I don't know that. I've seen more than one fellow come out
fresh and hearty after a spell. In fact, the plain diet, and the regular
work, and the steady habits arc wonderful things for a young man
that has been knocking about in a town life."

" Oh, fixther, don't speak that way. I know Gorman well, and I
can swear he'd not survive it."


Kearney shook his head doabtiiigly, and muttered, " There's a
great deal said about wouuded pride aud iujui'ed feelings, hut the
truth is, these things are like a bad colic, mighty hard to bear, if you
like, but nobody ever dies of it."

" From all I hear about young Mr. O'Shca," said Holmes, " I
am led to believe he will scarcely live through au imprisonment."

" To bo sure! Why not ? At three or four-and-tweuty we're
all of us high-spirited aud sensitive and noble hearted, aud we die on
the spot if there's a word against our honour. It is only after wo
cross the line in life, wherever that be, that we become thick-skinned
and hardened, aud mind nothing that does not touch our account at
the bank. Sure I know the theory well ! Ay, and the only bit of
truth in it all is, that we cry out louder when we're young, for we are
not so well used to bad treatment."

"Right or wrong, no man likes to have the whole Press of a
nation assailing him and all the sympathies of a people against him,"
said Holmes.

"And what can you and your brothers in wigs do against that ?
Will all your little beguiling ways and insinuating tricks turn the Fihe
aud the Irish Cnj from vrhat sells their papers '? Here it is now,
-Mr. Holmes, and I can't put it shorter. Every man that lives iu
Ireland knov/s iu his heart he must live in hot water ; but somehow,
though he may not like it, he gets used to it, and he finds it does him
no harm iu the end. There was au uncle of my own was iu a passion
for forty years, and he died at eighty-six."

" I wish I could only secure your attention, my lord, for ten

" And what would you do, counsellor, if you had it ? "

"You see, my lord, there are some very grave questions here.
First of all, you and your brother magistrates had no right to accept
bail. The injury was too grave : Gill's life, as the doctor's certificate
will prove, was iu danger. It was for a judge in Chambers to decide
whether bail could be taken. They will move, therefore, iu the

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 43 of 48)