Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 45 of 48)
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hood about not carrying your debentures into the next world."

" You are a wise woman, and you know life well," said he,

" And if I am, it's nothing to sigh over, Mr. Kearney. One is
grateful for mercies, but does not groan over them like rheumatism
or the lumbago."

" Maybe I'm a little out of spirits to-day."

" I shouldn't wonder if you were. They tell me you sat over
your wine, with that tall man, last night till nigh one o'clock, and
it's not at your time of life that you can do these sort of excesses
with impunity; you had a good constitution once, and there's not
•much left of it."

" My patience, I'm grateful to see, has not quite deserted me."

" I hope there's other of your virtues you can be more sure of,"


sail! she, rising, " for if I was asked 5-our worst failing I'd say it vras
your irritability." And with a stern froAvn, as though to confirm the
judicial severity of her words, she nodded her head to him and walked

It was only then that Kearney discovered he was left alone, and
that Dick had stolen away, though when or how, he could not say.

"I'm glad the boy was not listening to her, for I'm downright
ashamed tliat I bore it," was his final reflection as he strolled out to
take a walk in the plantation.



Though the dinner-party that day at Ivilgobbiu Castle was deficient
in the persons of Lockwood and Walpole, the accession of Joe Atlee
to the company made up in a great measure for the loss. He
arrived shortly before dinner was announced, and even, in the few
minutes in the drawing-room, his gay and lively manner, his pleasant
flow of small talk, dashed with the lightest of epigrams, and that
marvellous variety he possessed, made every one delighted with him.

" I met Walpole and Lockwood at the station, and did my utmost
to make them turn back with me. You may laug]i, Lord Kilgobbin,
but in doing the honours of another man's house, as I was at that
moment, I deem myself without a rival."

" I wish with all my heart you liad succeeded ; there is nothing I
like as much as a well-filled table," said Kearney.

" Not that their air and manner," resumed Joe, "impressed me
strongly with the exuberance of their spirits ; a pair of drearier dogs
I have not seen for some time, anil I believe I told them so."

"Did they explain their gloom, or even excuse it?" asked

"Except on the general grounds of coming away from such
fascinating society. Lockwood played sulky, and scarcely vouch-
safed a word, and as for Walpole, he made some high-flowu
speeches about his regrets and his torn sensibilities — so like what
one reads in a French novel, that the vei'y sound of them betrays

" But was it then so very impossible to be sorry for leaving
this ? " asked Nina, calmly.

" Certainly not for any man but Walpole."

" And why not Walpole ? "


" Can you ask me ? You who kuow people so well, and read
them so clearly ; you to whom the secret anatomy of the ' heart ' is
no mystery, and who understand how to trace the fihre of intenso
selfishness through every tissue of his small nature. He might ho
miserable at being separated from himself — there could bo no other
estrangement would affect Jdm."

" This was not always your estimate of your friend,'" said Nina,
Yiith a marked emphasis of the last word.

" Pardon me, it was my unspoken opinion from the first hour I
met him. Since then, some space of time has intervened, and
though it has made no change in him, I hope it has dealt otherwise
with me. I have at least reached the point in life where men not
only have convictions but avow them."

*' Come, come ; I can remember what precious good-luck you
called it to make his aquaiutance," cried Dick, half angrily.

" I don't deny it. I was very nigh drowning at the time, and it
was the first plank I caught hold of. I am very grateful to him for
the rescue ; but I owe him more gratitude for the opportunity the
incident gave me to see these men in their intimacy— to know, and
know thoroughly, what is the range, what the stamp of those minds
by which states are ruled and masses arc governed. Through
Walpole, I knew his master ; and through the master I have come
to know the slipshod intelligences which, composed of official detail,
House of Commons' gossip, and Times' leaders, are accepted by us as

statesmen. And if " A very supercilious smile on Nina's

mouth arrested him in the current of his speech, and he said, " I
know, of course, I knov/ the question you are too polite to ask, but
which quivers on your lip : ' Who is the gifted creature that sees all
this incompetence and insufficiency around him '? ' And I am quite
ready to tell you. It is Joseph Atlee — Joseph Atlee, who knows
that when he and others like him — for we are a strong coterie — stop
the supply of ammunition, these gentlemen must cease firing. Let
the Debats and the Times, the Revue de Deux 2Iotides and the
Saturday, and a few more that I need not stop to enumerate, strike
work, and let us see how much of original thought you will obtain
from your Cabinet sages ! It is in the clash and collision of the
thinkers outside of responsibility that these world-revered leaders
catch the fire that lights up their policy. The Times made the
Crimean blunder. The Siede created the Mexican fiasco. The
Krcutz Zeilinij gave the first impulse to the Schleswig-Holstein
imbroglio ; and, if I mistake not, the * review ' in the last Diplomntic
C/(yo»/c/t' will bear results of which he who now speaks to you will not
disown the parentage."


" The saints bo praised ! here's tliuner," exclaimed Kearney, " or
this fellow would talk us into a brain-fever. Kate is dining with
Miss Bctt)' again — God bless her for it," muttered he, as he gave his
arm to Kina, and led the way.

"I've got you a commisiou as a ' Peeler,' Dick," said Joe as they
moved along. "You'll have to prove that j-ou can read and write,
which is more than they would ask of you if you were going into tho
Cabinet; but we live in an intellectual age, and we test all the cabin-
boys, and it is only the steersman we take on trust."

Though Nina was eager to resent Atlee's impertinence on
Yvalpole, she could not help feeling interested and amused by his
sketches of his travels.

If, in speaking of Greece, he only gave the substance of the
article he had wi'itten for the Hevue de Deux Mondes, as the paper
was yet unpublished, all the remarks were novel, and the anecdotes
fresh and sparkling. The tone of light banter and raillery in which
he described public life in Greece and Greek statesmen, might have
lost some of its authority had any one remembered to count the hours
the speaker had spent at Athens ; and Nina was certainly indignant
at the hazardous effrontery of the criticisms. It was not, then,
without intention that she arose to retire while Atlee was relating an
interesting story of brigandage, and he — determined to repay the
impertinence in kind — continued to recount his history as he arose to
open the door for her to pass out. Her insolent look as she swept by
was met by a smile of admiration on his part that actually made her
cheek tingle with anger.

Old Kearney dozed off gently, under the influence of names of
places and persons that did not interest him, and the two young men
drew their chairs to the fire, and grew confidential at once.

"I think vou have sent my cousin away in bad humour," said

"I see it," said Joe, as he slowly puffed his cigar. "That
young lady's head has been so cruelly turned by flattery of late, that
the man who docs not swing incense before her aflronts her."

" Yes ; but you went out of your way to provoke her. It is true
she knows little of Greece or Greeks, but it offends her to hear them
slighted or ridiculed ; and you took pains to do both."

" Contemptible little country ! with a mock army, a mock treasury,
and a mock Chamber. The only thing real is the debt and the

" But why tell her so ? You actuallv seemed bent on irritating

" Quite true — so I was. -\Iy dear Dick, you have some lessons


to learn in life, and one of them is, that, just as it is bad heraldry to
put colour on colour, it is an egregious blunder to follow flattery by
flattery. The -n-omau who has been spoiled by over-admiration must
be approached with something else as unlike it as may be — pique —
annoy — irritate — outrage, but take care that you interest her. Let her
only come to feel what a very tiresome thing mere adulation is, and she
Avill one day value your two or three civil speeches as gems of priceless
worth. It is exactly because I deeply desire to gain her affections, I
have begun in this way."

" You have come too late."

" How do you mean too late — she is not engaged ?"

" She is engaged — she is to be married to Walpole."

" To Walpole ! "

** Yes : he came over a few days ago to ask her. There is some
question now — I don't well understand it — about some family
consent, or an invitation — something, I believe, that Nina insists
on, to show the world how his family welcome her amongst them ;
and it is for this he has gone to London, but to be back in
eight or nine days, the wedding to take place towards the end of the

"Is he very much in love ?"

"I should say he is."

*' And she ? Of course she could not possibly care for a fellow
like Walpole?"

" I don't see why not. He is very much the stamp of man girls

" Not girls like Nina ; not girls who aspire to a position in life,
and who know that the little talents of the salon no more make a
man of the world than the tricks of the circus will make a fox-
hunter. These ambitious women — she is one of them — will marry a
hopeless idiot if he can bring wealth and rank and a great name ; but
they will not take a brainless creature who has to work his v.'ay up in
the world. If she has accepted Walpole there is pique in it, or
ennui, or that uneasy desire of change that girls sufi'er from like a

" I cannot tell you why, but I know she has accepted him."

" Women are not insensible to the value of second thoughts."

" You mean she might throw him over — might jilt him ? "

" I'll not employ the ugly word that makes the wrong it is only
meant to indicate ; but there are few of our resolves in life to which
we might not move amendment, and the changed opinion a woman
forms of a man before marriage would become a grievous injury if it
happened after."


" But must slie of necessity change ?"

" If she marry Walpole, I should say certainly. If a girl has fair
abilities and a strong temper — and Nina has a good share of each —
she will endure faults, actual vices, in a man, but she'll not stand
littleness. Walpole has nothing else ; and so I hope to prove to her
to-morrow and the day after — in fact, during those eight or ten days
you tell mo he will bo absent."

" Will she let you ? Will she listen to you ? "

"Not at first — at least, not willingly, or very easily; but I will
show her, by numerous little illustrations and even fables, where
these small people not only spoil their fortunes in life, but spoil Hie
itself ; and what an irreparable blunder it is to link companionship
with one of them. I will sometimes make her laugh, and I may
have to make her cry — it will not be easy, but I shall do it — I shall
certainly make her thoughtful ; and if you can do this day by day, so
that a woman will recur to the same theme pretty much in the same
spirit, you must be a sorry steersman, Master Dick, but you will
know how to guide these thoughts and trace the channel they shall

" And supposing, which I do not believe, that you could get her
to break with Walpole, what could yoit offer her?"


" Inestimable boon, doubtless; but what of fortune — position or
place in life ?"

" The first Napoleon used to say that the ' power of the unknown
number was incommensurable;' and so I don't despair of showing
her that a man like myself may be anything."

Dick shook his head doubtiugly, and the other went on : " In
this round game we call life it is all ' brag.' The fellow with the
worst card in the pack, if he'll only risk his head on it, keep a bold
face to the world and his own counsel, will be sure to win. Bear in
mind, Dick, that for some time back I have been keeping the
company of these great swells who sit highest in the Synagogue and
dictate to us small Publicans. I have listened to their hesitating
counsels and their uncertain resolves ; I have seen the blotted
despatches and equivocal messages given, to be disavowed if needful ;
I have assisted at those dress rehearsals where speech was to follow
speech, and what seemed an incautious avowal by one was to be
' improved ' into a bold declaration by another, * in another place ; '
in fact, my good friend, I have been near enough to measure the
mighty intelligences that direct us, and if I were not a believer in
Darwin I should be very much shocked for what humanity was
coming to. It is no exagreration that I say, if you were to be in tho


Home Office, and I at the Foreign Office, Avitliout our names being
divulged, there is not a man or woman in England would be the
wiser or the worse ; though if either of us were to take charge of the
engine of the Holyhead line, there would be a smash or an explosion
before we reached Eugby."

"All that will not enable you to make a settlement on Nina

" No ; but I'll marry her all the same."

" I don't think so."

" "Will you have a bet on it, Dick ? What will you wager ?"

" A thousand — ten, if I had it ; but I'll give you ten pounds on
it, which is about as much as either of us could pay."

" Speak for yourself. Master Dick. As Robert Macaire says,
* Je viens de toucher mes dividendes,' and I am in no want of money.
The fact is, so long as a man can pay for certain luxuries in life he is
well off: the strictly necessary takes care of itself."

" Does it ? I should like to know how."

" With your present limited knowledge of life, I doubt if I could
explain it to you, but I will try one of these mornings. Meanwhile,
let us go into the drawing-room and get Mademoiselle to sing for us.
She will sing, I take it ?"

" Of course — if asked by you." And there was the very faintest
tone of sneer in the words.

And they did go, and Mademoiselle did sing all that Atlee could
ask her for, and she was charming in every way that grace and beauty
and the wish to please could make her. Indeed, to such extent did
she carry her fascinations that Joe grew thoughtful at last, and
muttered to himself, " There is vendetta in this. It is only a woman
knows how to make a vengeance out of her attractions."

" Why are you so serious, Mr. Atlee ?" asked she at last.

"I was thinking — I mean, I was trying to think — yes, I
remember it now," muttered he. "I have had a letter for you all
this time in my pocket."

" A letter from Greece ?" asked she, impatiently.

" No — at least I suspect not. It was given me as I drove
through the bog by a barefooted boy, who had trotted after the car
for miles, and at length overtook us by the accident of the horse
picking up a stone in his hoof. He said it was for ' some one at the
Castle,' and I offered to take charge of it — here it is," and he
produced a square-shaped envelope of common coarse-looking paper,
sealed with red wax, and a shamrock for impress.

" A begging-letter, I should say, from the outside," said Dick.
"Except that there is not one so poor as to ask aid from nw"


added Niua, as she took the document, glanced at the writing, and
placed it in her pocket.

As they separated for the night, and Dick trotted up the stairs
at Atlee's side, he said, " I don't think, after all, my ten pounds is
so safe as I fancied."

" Don't you ?" replied Joe. " My impressions are all the other
way, Dick. It is her courtesy that alarms me. The effort to
captivate where there is no stake to win, means mischief. She'll
make me in love with her whether I will or not." The bitterness of
his tone, and the impatient bang he gave his door as he passed in,
betrayed more of temper than was usual for him to display, and as
Dick sought his room, he muttered to himself, " I'm glad to see that
these over-cunning fellows are sure to meet their match, and get
beaten even at the cjame of their own invention."



It was no uncommon thing for the tenants to address petitions and
complaints in writing to Kate, and it occurred to Nina as not
impossible that some one might have bethought him of entreating
her intercession in their favour. The look of the letter, and the
coarse wax, and the writing, all in a measure strengthened this
impression, and it v/as in the most careless of moods she broke the
envelope, scarcely caring to look for the name of the writer, whom
she was convinced must be unknown to her.

She had just let her hair fall freely down on her neck and
shoulders, and was seated in a deep chair before her fire, as she
opened the paper and read, " Mademoiselle Kostalergi." This
beginning so unlikely for a peasant, made her turn for the name, and
she read, in a large full hand, the words "Daniel Donogan." So
complete was her surprise, that to satisfy herself there was no trick
or deception, she examined the envelope and the seal, and reflected
for some minutes over the mode in which the document had come to
her hands. Atlee's story was a very credible one : nothing more likely
than that the boy was charged to dehver the letter at the Castle,
and simply sought to spare himself so many miles of way, or it
might be that he was enjoined to give it to the first traveller he
met on his road to Kilgohbin. Nina had little doubt that if Atlee
guessed or had reason to know the writer, he would have treated


the lottor as a secret missive -wbich would give him a certain power
over her.

These thoughts did not take her long, and she turned once more
to the letter. " Poor fellow," said she, aloud, "why does he write
to we / " And her own voice sent back its surmises to her, and as
she thought over him standing on the lonely road, his clasped hands
before him, and his hair wafted wildly back from his uncovered head,
two heavy tears rolled slowly down her cheeks, and dropped upon her
neck. " I am sure ho loved me — I know he loved me," muttered
she, half aloud. " I have never seen in any eye the same expression
that his wore as he lay that morning in the grass. It was not
veneration, it was genuine adoration. Had I been a saint and wanted
Avorship, there was the very offering that I craved — a look of painful
meaning, made up of wonder and devotion, a something that said —
take what course you may, be wilful, be wayward, be even cruel, I
am your slave. You may not think me worthy of a thought, you may
be so indifferent as to forget me utterly, but my life from this hour
has but one spell to charm, one memory to sustain it. It needed
not his last words to me to say that my image would lay on his heart
for ever. Poor fellow, I need not have been added to his sorrows,
he has had his share of trouble without me/"

It was some time ere she could return to the letter, which ran
thus : —

" Mademoiselle Kostalekgi, — You once rendered me a great
service — not alone at some hazard to yourself, but by doing what
must have cost you sorely. It is now vrji turn, and if the act of
repayment is not equal to the original debt, let me ask you to believe
that it taxes 7ny strength even more than your generosity once taxed
your own.

" I came here a few days since in the hope that I might see you
before I leave Ireland for ever, and while waiting for some fortunate
chance, I learned that you were betrothed and to be married to the
young gentleman who lies ill at Kilgobbin, and whose approaching
trial at the assizes is now the subject of so much discussion. I will
not tell you — I have no right to tell you — the deep misery with
which these tidings filled me. It was no use to teach my heart how
vain and impossible were all my hopes with regard to you. It was
to no purpose that I could repeat ever aloud to myself how hopeless
my pretensions must be. My love for you had become a religion,
and what I could deny to a hope, I could still believe. Take that
hope away, and I could not imagine how I should face mj daily life,
hov/ interest myself in its ambitious, and even cai'e to live on.


" These sad confessions cannot offend you, coming from one even
as humble as I am. They are all that are left me for consolation —
they will soon be all I shall have for memory. The little lamp in
the lowly shrine comforts the kneeling worshipper far more than it
liouours the saint ; and the love I bear you is such as this. Forgive
me if I have dared these utterances. To save him with whoso
fortunes your own are to be bound up, became at once my object ;
and as I knew with what ingenuity and craft his ruin had been
compassed, it required all my efforts to baflfle his enemies. The
National Press and the National Party have made a great cause of
this trial, and determined that tenant-right should be vindicated in
the person of this man Gill.

" I have seen enough of what is intended here to be aware what
mischief may be worked by hard swearing, a violent press, and a
jury not insensible to public opinion — evils, if you like, but evils that
are less of our own growing than the curse ill-government has brought
upon us. It has been decided in certain councils — whose decrees
are seldom gainsayed — that an example shall be made of Captain
Gorman O'Shea, and that no effort shall be spared to make his case
a terror and a warning to Irish landowners, how they attempt by
ancient process of law to subvert the concessions we have wrung from
our tyrants.

" A jury to find him guilty will be sworn ; and let us see the
judge — in defiance of a verdict given from the jury-box, without a
moment's hesitation or the shadow of dissent — let us see the judge
who will dare to diminish the severity of the sentence. This is the
language, these are the veiy words, of those who have more of the
rule of Ireland in their hands than the haughty gentlemen, honour-
able and right honourable, who sit at Whitehall.

' ' I have heard this opinion too often of late to doubt how much
it is a fixed determination of the party ; and until now — until I came
here, and learned what interest this fate could have for me — I offered
no opposition to these reasonings. Since then I have bestirred myself
actively. I have addressed the committee here who have taken
charge of the prosecution. I have written to the editors of the chief
newspapers. I have even made a direct appeal to the leading counsel
for the prosecution, and tried to persuade them that a victory here
might cost us more than a defeat, and that the country at large, who
submit with diliiculty to the verdict of absolving juries, will rise with
indignation at this evidence of a jury prepared to exercise a vindictive
power, and actually make the law the agent of reprisal. I have failed
in all — utterly failed. Some reproach me as faint-hearted and
craven ; some condescend to treat me as merely mistaken and mis-


guided ; and some are bold enough to hint that, though as a mihtary
authority I stand without rivahy, as a purely political adviser, my
counsels are open to dispute.

" I have still a power, however, through the organization, of
which I am a chief ; and by this power I have ordered Gill to appear
before me, and, in obedience to my commands, he will sail this night
for America. With him will also leave the two other important
witnesses in this cause ; so that the only evidence against Captain
O'Shea will be some of those against whom he has himself instituted
a cross charge for assault. That the prosecution can be carried on
with such testimony need not be feared. Our Press will denounce
the infamous arts by which these witnesses have been tampered with,
and justice has been defeated. The insults they may hurl at our
oppressors — for once unjustly — will furnish matter for the opposition
journals to inveigh against our present Government, and some good
may come even of this. At all events, I shall have accomplished
what I sought. I shall have saved from a prison the man I hate

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 45 of 48)