Charles James Lever.

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

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Queen's Bench, for a mandamus "

" May I never, if you won't drive me mad ! " cried Kearney, pas-
sionately ; "and I'd rather be picking oakum this minute than listening
to all the possible misfortunes briefs and lawyers could bring on me."

" Just listen to Holmes, father," whispered Dick. " He thinksthat
Gill might be got over — that if done by you with three or four hundred
pounds, he'd either make his evidence so light, or he'd contradict him-
self, or, better than all, he'd not make an appearance at the trial "

" Compounding a felony ! Catch me at it ! " cried the old man,
with a yell.


" Well, Joe Atlcc will be here to-night," contiuucd Dick. " He's
a clever fellow at all rogueries. Will you let him see if it can't be

"I don't care Tivho does it, so it isn't Mathew Kearney," said he,
angrily, for his patience could endure no more. " If you won't leave
me alone now, I'll go out and sit on the bog, and upon my conscience
I won't say that I'll not throw myself into a bog-hole ! "

There was a tone of such perfect sincerity in his speech, that,
without another word, Dick took the la'n^er's arm, and led him from
the room.

A third voice was heard outside as they issued forth, and Kearney
could just make out that it was Major Lockwood, who was asking
Dick if he might have a few minutes conversation with his father ?

" I don't suspect you'll find my father much disposed for conver-
sation just now. I think if you would not mind making your visit to
him at another time "

" Just so ! " broke in the old man, " if you're not coming with a
strait-waistcoat, or a coil of rope to hold me down, I'd say it's better
to leave me to myself."

Whether it was that the Major was undeteri'ed by these forbidding
evidences, or that what he deemed the importance of his communica-
tion warranted some risk, certain it is he lingered at the door, and
stood there where Dick and the lav/yer had gone and left him.

A faint tap at the door at last apprized Kearney that some one
was without, and he hastily, half- angrily, cried, " Come in ! " Old
Kearney almost started with surprise as the Major walked in.

" I'm not going to make any apology for intruding on you," cried
he. " What I want to say shall be said in three words, and I cannot
endure the suspense of not having them said and answered. I've had
a whole night of feverish anxiety, and a M-orsc morning, thinking and
turning over the thing in my mind, and settled it must be at once,
one way or other, for my head will not stand it."

" My own is tried pretty hard, and I can feel for you," said
Kearney, with a grim humour.

" I've come to ask if you'll give me your daughter ? " and his face
became blood-red with the effort the words had cost him.

" Give you my daughter ? " cried Kearney.

" I want to make her my wife, and as I know little about court-
ship, and have nobody here that could settle this affair for me — for
Walpole is thinking of his own concerns — I've thought the best way,
as it was the shortest, was to come at once to yourself: I have got a
few documents hero that will show you I have enough to live on, and
to make a tidy settlement, and do all that ought to be done."


" I'm sure you arc an exccllcut fellow, aucl I like you myself : but
you see, Major, a man doesn't dispose of bis daugbter like bis borse,
and I'd like to bear wbat sbe would say to tbe bargain."

" I suppose you could ask ber ? "

" Well, indeed, tbat's true, I could ask ber; but on tbe wbole,
Major, don't you tbink tbe question would come better from yourself ? "

" Tbat means courtsbip ? "

"Yes, I admit it is liable to tbat objection, but somebow it's tbe
usual course."

" No, no," said tbe otber, slowly, " I could not manage tbat. I'm
sick of bacbelor life, and I'm ready to send in my papers and bave
done "witb it, but I don't know bow to go about tbe otber. Not to
say, Kearney," added be, more boldly, " tbat I tbink tbere is some-
tbing confoundedly mean in tbat daily pursuit of a woman, till by dint
of importunity, and one tbing or auotber, you get her to like you !
Wbat can sbe know of ber own mind after tbree or four montbs of
•what these snobs call attentions ? How is she to say how much is
mere habit, how much is gratified vanity of having a fellow dangling
after ber, how much the necessity of skewing the world sbe is not
compromised by the cad's solicitations ? Take my word for it,
Kearney, my way is the best. Be able to go up like a man and tell
the girl, ' It's all arranged. I've shown tbe old cove that I can take
care of you, he has seen tbat I've no debts or mortgages ; I'm ready
to behave handsomely, what do you say yourself? ' "

" She might say, ' I know nothing about you. I may possibly not
see much to dislike, but how do I know I should like you ? ' "

" And I'd say, ' I'm one of those fellows tbat are the same all
through, to-day as I was yesterday, and to-morrow the same. "When
I'm in a bad temper I go out on the moors and walk it o£l', and I'm
not bard to .live ■s^'ith.' "

" There's many a bad fellow a woman might like better."

" All the luckier for me, then, that I don't get her."

"I might say, too," said Kearney, with a smile, " liow much
do you know of my daughter — of her temper, her tastes, her habits,
and her likings ? Wbat assurance have you tbat you would suit
each otber, and that you are not as wide apart in character as in
countiy ?"

"I'll answer for tbat. She's always good-tempered, cheerful,
and light-hearted. She's always nicely dressed and polite to every
one. Sbe manages this old house, and these stupid bog-trotters, till
one fancies it a fine establishment, and a first-rate household. She
rides like a lion, and I'd rather hear her laugh than I'd listen to


" I'll call all that niiglity like being iu love."

" Do if you like — but answer me my question."

" That is more than I'm able ; but I'll consult my daughter.
I'll tell her pretty much in your own words all you have said to me,
and she shall herself give the answer."

" All right, aud how soon ? "

" Well, in the course of the day. Should she say that she does
Dot understand being wooed in this manner, that she would like mora
time to learn something more about yourself, that, in fact, there
is something too peremptory in this mode of proceeding, I would not
say she was wrong."

" But if she says yes frankly, you'll let me know at once ? "

"I will — on the spot."



The news of Nina's engagement to Walpole soon spread through the
Castle at Ivilgobbiu, and gave great satisfaction ; even the humbler
members of the household were delighted to think there would be a
wedding and all its appropriate festivity.

When the tidings at length arrived at Miss O'Shca's room, so
reviving were the effects upon her spirits, that the old lady insisted
she should be dressed and carried down to the drawing-room that the
bridegroom might be presented to her iu all form.

Though Nina herself chafed at such a proceeding, and called it a
.most "insufferable pretension," she was perhaps not sorry secretly,
at the opportunity afforded herself to let the tiresome old woman
guess how she regarded her, and what might be their future relations
towards each other. " Not indeed," added she, " that we are likely
ever to meet again, or that I should recognize her beyond a bow if
we should."

As for Kearney, the announcement that Miss Betty was about to
appear in public filled him with unmixed terror, aud he muttered
drearily as he went, " There'll be wigs on the Green for this." Nor
was Walpole himself pleased at the arrangement. Like most men in
his position, ho could not be brought to sec the delicacy or the
propriety of being paraded as an object of public inspection, nor did
he perceive tlie litness of that dispkij' of trinkets, which he had
brought with him as presents, aud the sight of which had become a
sort of public necessity.


Not the least strange jiavt of the whole procedure was that no one
could tell where or how, or with whom it originated. It was like one
of those movements which are occasionally seen in political life, where,
without the direct intervention of any precise agent a sort of ditfused
atmosphere of public opinion suffices to produce results and eflect
changes that all are ready to disavow but accept of.

The mere fact of the pleasure the prospect aflbrded to Miss
Betty prevented Kate from offering opposition to what she felt to be
both bad in taste and ridiculous.

" That old lady imagines, I believe, that I am to come down like
a pretendn in a French vaudeville — dressed in a tail-coat, with a
white tie and white gloves, and perhaps receive her benediction.
She mistakes herself, she mistakes us. If there was a casket of
uncouth old diamonds, or some marvellous old point-lace to grace the
occasion, we might play our parts with a certain decorous hypocrisy ;
but to be stared at through a double eye-glass by a snuffy old
woman in black mittens, is more than one is called on to endure —
eh, Lockwood ? "

" I don't know. I think I'd go through it all gladly to have the

"Have a little patience, old fellow, it will all come right. My
worthy relatives — for I suppose I can call them so now — are too
shrewd people to refuse the offer of such a fellow as you. They have
that native pride that demands a certain amount of etiquette and
deference. They must not seem to rise too eagerly to the fly — but
only give them time, give them time, Lockwood."

"Aye, but the waiting in this uncertainty is terrible to me."

"Let it be certainty then, and for very little I'll ensure you!
Bear this in mind, my dear fellow, and you'll see how little need there
is for apprehension. You — and the men like you — snug fellows with
comfortable estates and no mortgages, unhampered by ties and unin-
fluenced by connections, are a species of plant that is rare everywhere,
but actually never grew at all in Ireland, where every one spent
double his income, and seldom dared to move a step without a
committee of relations. Old Kearney has gone through that fat
volume of the gentry and squirearchy of England last night, and
from Sir Simon de Lokewood, who was killed at Crecy, dov.n to a
certain major in the Carbineers, he knows you all."

" I'll bet you a thousand they say No."

" I've not got a thousand to pay if I should lose, but I'll lay a
pony, two, if you like — that you are an accepted man this day, aye,
before dinner."

" If I onlv thought so ! "


" Confound it — you don't pretend you are in love ! "

" I don't know whctlier I am or not, but, I do know how I should
like to bring that nice girl back to Hampshire, and instal her at the
Dingle. I've a tidy stable, some nice shooting, a good trout-stream,
and then I should have the prettiest wife in the county."

" Happy dog ! Yours is the real philosophy of life. The fellows
who are realistic enough to reckon up the material elements of their
happiness — who have little to speculate on and less to unbelieve —
the J arc right."

" If you mean that I'll never break my heart because I don't get
in for the county, that's true — I don't deny it. But come, tell me,
is it all settled about j'our business ? Has the uncle been asked ? —
has he spoken ? "

" He has been asked and given his consent. My distinguished
father-in-law, the Prince, has been telegraphed to this morning, and
his reply may be here to-night or to-morrow. At all events we are
determined that even should he prove adverse, we shall not be deterred
from our wishes by the caprice of a parent who has abandoned us."

" It's what people would call a love-match."

"I sincerely trust it is. If her aifections were not inextricably
engaged, it is not possible that such a girl could pledge her future to
a man as humble as myself?"

" That is, she is very much in love with you ? "

"I hope the astonishment of your question does not arise from
ils seeming difficulty of belief? "

" No, not so much that, but I thought there might have been a
little heroics, or whatever it is, on your side."

" Most dull dragoon, do you not know that, so long as a man
spoons, he can talk of his affection for a woman ; but that, once she
is about to be his wife, or is actually his wife, he limits his avowals
to her love for him ? "

"I never heard that before. I say what a swell you are this
morning. The cock-pheasants will mistake you for one of them."

" Nothing can be simpler, nothing quieter, I trust, than a suit of
dark purple knickerbockers ; and you may see that my thread stockings
and my coarse shoes pre-suppose a stroll in the plantations, where,
indeed, I mean to smoke my morning cigar."

" She'll make you give up tobacco, I suppose ? "

" Nothing of the kind — a thorough woman of the world enforces
no such penalties as these. True free-trade is the great matrimonial
maxim, and for people of small means it is inestimable. The formula
may be stated thus, — ' Dine at the best houses, and give tea at your
own.' "


What otlicr precepts of equal wisdom Walpole was? prepared to
enunciate were lost to the world by a message informing him that
Miss Betty was iu the drawing-room, and the family assembled to sec

Cecil Walpole possessed a very fair stock of that useful quality
called assurance ; but he had no more than he needed to enter that
large room, where the assembled family sat in a half-circle, and stand
to be surveyed by Miss 0' Shea's eyeglass, unabashed. Nor was the
ordeal the less trying as he overheard the old lady ask her neighbour,
" if he wasn't the image of the Knave of Diamonds ? "

" I thought you were the other man ! " said she, curtly, as ho
made his bow.

" I deplore the disappointment, madam — even though I do not
comprehend it."

" It was the picture, the photograph, of the other man I saw — a
fine, tall, dark man, with long moustaches."

" The fine, tall, dark man, with the long moustaches, is iu the
house, and will be charmed to be presented to you."

" Aye, aye ! presented is all very fine ; but that won't make him
the bridegroom," said she, with a laugh.

" I sincerely trust it will not, madam."

" And it is you, then, are Major Walpole ?"

" Mr. Walpole, madam — my friend Lockwood is the Major."

"To be sure. I have it right nov/. You are the young man that
got into that unhappy scrape, and got the Lord Lieutenant turned
away "

" I wonder how you endure this," burst out Nina, as she arose
and walked angrily towards a window.

" I don't think I caught what the young lady said ; but if it was,
that what cannot be cured must be endured, it is true enough ; and I
suppose that they'll get over your blunder as they have done many

" I live in that hope, madam."

" Not but it's a bad beginning in public life ; and a stupid mistake
hangs long on a man's memory. You're young, however, and peoplo
are generous enough to believe it might be a youthful indiscretion."

"You give me great comfort, madam."

" And now you are going to risk another venture ?"

"I sincerely trust on safer grounds."

" That's what they all think. I never knew a man that didn't
believe he drew the prize in matrimony. Ask him, however, six
months after he's tied. Say, ' What do you think of your ticket
DOW ? ' Eh, Mat Kearney ? It doesn't take twenty or thirty years


quarrelliug auJ dispniing, to sliow oue tliat a lottery -with so many
Tjlaiiks is just a swindle. "

A loud bang of the door, as Nina flounced out in indignation,
almost shook the room.

" There's a temper you'll know more of yet, young gentleman ;
and, take my word for it, it's only iu stage-plays that a shrew is ever

" I declare," cried Dick, losing all patience, " I think Miss
O'Shca is too unsparing of us all. AVe have our faults, I'm sure ;
but public correction will not make us more comfortable."

" It wasn't your comfort I was thinking of, young man ; and if I
thought of your poor father's, I'd have advised him to put you out an
apprentice. There's many a light business — like stationery, or figs,
or children's toys — and they want just as little capital as capacity."
" Miss Betty," said Kearney, stiffly, " this is not the time nor
the place for these discussions. Mr. Walpole was polite enough to
present himself here to-day to have the honour of making your
acquaintance, and to announce his future marriage."

" A great event for us all — and we're proud of it ? It's what the
newspapers will call a great day for the Bog of Allen. Eh, Mat ?
The Princess — God forgive me, but I'm always calling her Kostigan
— but the Princess will be set down niece to Lord Kilgobbin ; and if
you" — and she addressed Walpole — "haven't a mock title and a
aiock estate, you'll be the only one without them ! "

" I don't think any one will deny us our tempers," cried Kearney.
"Here's Lockwood," cried Walpole, delighted to see his friend
enter, though he as quickly endeavoured to retreat.

" Come in, Major," said Kearney. " We're all friends here.
Miss O'Shea, this is Major Lockwood, of the Carbineers — Miss

Lockwood bowed stiffly, but did not speak.

" Be attentive to the old woman," whispered Walpole. " A word
from her will make your aflair all right."

" I have been very desirous to have had the honour of this intro-
duction, madam," said Lockwood, as ho seated himself at her side.

" Was not that a clever diversion I accomplished with * the
Heavy?'" said Walpole, as he drew away Kearney and his son into
a window.

" I never heard her much worse than to-day," said Dick.
"I don't know," hesitated Kilgobbin. "I suspect she is
breaking. There is none of the sustained virulence I used to
remember of old. She lapses into half-mildness at moments."
" I own I did not catch them, nor, I'm afraid, did Nina," said


Dick. "Look tliere ! I'll be shot, if slie's uot giving your friend
the Major a lesson ! "When she performs in that way with her
hands, you may swear she is didactic."

"I think I'll to go his relief," said "Walpole ; "but I own it's a
case for the V. C."

As Walpole drew nigh, he heard her saying : " Marry one of your
own race, and you will jog on well enough. Marry a Frenchwoman
or a Spaniard, and she'll lead her own life, and be very well satisfied ;
but a poor Irish girl, with a fresh heart and a joyous temper — what
is to become of her, with your dull habits and your dreary intercourse,
your county society and your Chinese manners !"

" Miss O'Shea is telling me that I must uot look for a wife among
her countrywomen," said Lockwood, with a touching attempt to

" What I overheard was not encouraging," said Walpole ; " but
I think Miss O'Shea takes a low estimate of our social temperament."

" Nothing of the kind ! All I say is, you'll do mighty well for
each other, or, for aught I know, you might intermarry with the
Dutch or the Germans ; but it's a downright shame to unite your
blow sluggish spii'its with the sparkling brilliancy and impetuous joy
of an Irish girl. That's a union I'd never consent to."

" I hope this is no settled resolution," said Walpole, speaking in
a low whisper; "for I want to bespeak your especial influence in
my friend's behalf. Major Lockwood is a most impassioned admirer
of Miss Kearney, and has already declared as much to her father."

" Come over here, Mat Kearney ! come over here this moment ! "
cried she, half- wild with excitement. " What new piece of rogueiy,
what fresh intrigue is this ? Will you dare to tell me you had a
proposal for Kate, for my own god-daughter, without even so much
as telling me ?"

" My dear Miss Betty, be calm, be cool for one minute, and I'll
tell you everything."

" Ay, when I've found it out, Mat ! "

" I profess I don't think my friend's pretensions are discussed
with much delicacy, time and place considered," said Walpole.

" We have something to think of as well as delicacy, young man ;
there's a woman's happiness to be remembered."

" Here it is, now, the whole business," said Kearney. " The
Major there asked me yesterday to get my daughter's consent to his

" And you never told me," cried Miss Betty.

"No, indeed, nor herself neither; for after I turned it over in

my mind I began to see it wouldn't do "



" How do you mean not do ?" asked Lockwood.

" Just let ine linisli. What I mean is this — if a man wants to
rnariy an Irisli girl, he mustn't begin by asking leave to make love
to her "

" Mat's right ! " cried the old lady, stoutly.

" And above all, he oughtn't to think that the short cut to her
heart is through bis broad acres."

" Mat's right — quite right ! "

" And besides this, that the more a man dwells on his belongings,
p.nd the settlements, and such like, the more he seems to say, ' I may
not catch your fiincy in everything, I may not ride as boldly or dance
as well as somebody else, but never mind — you're making a very
prudent match, and there is a deal of pure aflectiou in the Three per

"And I'll give you another reason," said Miss Betty, resolutely.
" Kate Kearney cannot have two husbands, and I've made lier promise
to marry my nephew this morning."

" What, without any leave of mine ? " exclaimed Kearney.

"Just so. Mat. She'll marry him if you give your consent ; but
whether you will or not, she'll never marry another."

"Is there, then, a real engagement?" whispered Walpolc to
Kearney. " Has my friend here got his answer '?"

" He'll not wait for another," said Lockwood, haughtily, as he
arose. "I'm for town, Cecil," whispered he.

" So shall I be this evening," replied Walpole, in the same tone.
" I must hurry over to Loudon and see Lord Danesbury. I've my
troubles too." And so saying, he drew his arm within the Major's,
and led him away; while jMiss Betty, with Kearney on one side of
her and Dick on the other, proceeded to recount the arrangement she
had made to make over the barn and the estate to Gorman, it being
her own intention to retire altogether from the world and finish her
days in the " Retreat."

"And a very good thing to do, too," said Kearney, who was too
much impressed with the advantages of the project to remember his

" I have had enough of it, Mat," added she, in a lugubrious
tone ; " and it's all backbiting, and lying, and mischief-making, and,
what's worse, by the people who might live cpietly and let others do
the same ' "

" What you say is true as the Bible."

" It may be hard to do it. Mat Kearney; but I'll pray for them
in my hours of solitude, and in that blessed Betreat I'll ask for a
blessing on yourself, and that your heart, hard and cruel and worldly


as it is now, may bo changed ; and tliat in your last days — maybe
•on the bed of sickness — when you are WTithing and twisting with
pain, with a bad heart and a worse conscience— when you'll have
nobody but hirelings near you — hirelings that will be robbing you
before your eyes, and not waiting till the breath leaves you — wheu
oven the drop of drink to cool your lips "

"Don't — don't go on that way, Miss Betty. I've a cold shivering
down the spine of my back this minute, and a sickness creeping all
over me."

"I'm glad of it. I'm glad that my words have power over your
wicked old nature — if it's not too late."

" If it's miserable and wretched you wanted to make me, don't fret
about your want of success ; though whether it all comes too late, I
cannot tell you."

" We'll leave that to St. Joseph."

"Do so ! do so ! " cried he, eagerly, for he had a shrewd
suspicion he would have better chances of mercy at any hands than
her own.

" As for Gorman, if I find that he has any notions about claiming
an acre of the property, I'll put it all into Chancery, and the suit will

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 44 of 48)