Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 46 of 48)
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most on earth, the man who, robbing me of what never could be mine,
robs me of every hope, of every ambition, making my love as worth-
less as my life ! Have I not repaid you ? Ask your heart which of
us has done more for the other ?

" The contract on which Gill based his right as a tenant, and which
would have sustained his action, is now in my hands ; and I will — if
you permit me — place it in yours. This may appear an ingenious
device to secure a meeting with you ; but, though I long to see you
once more, were it but a minute, I would not compass it by a fraud.
If, then, you will not see me, I shall address the packet to you
through the post.

" I have finished. I have told you what it most concerns you to

know, and what chielly regards your happiness. I have done this as

coldly and impassively, I hope, as though I had no other part in the

narrative than that of the friend whose friendship had a blessed office.

I have not told you of the beating heart that hangs over this paper,

nor will I darken one bright moment of your fortune by the gloom of

mine. If j^ou will write me one line — a farewell if it must be — send

it to the care of Adam Cobb, ' Cross Keys,' Moate, where I shall find

it up to Thursday next. If — and oh ! how I shall bless you for it —

if you will consent to see me, to say one word, to let me look on you

once more, I shall go into my banishment with a bolder heart, as men

ao into battle with an amulet. ,, -r^ -r^ ,.

° " Daniel Doxogan.

" Shall I show this to Kate ? " was the first thought of Nina as
she laid the letter down. " Is it a breach of confidence to let another


tliau myself read these lines ? Assuredly tliey were meant for my eyes
alone. Poor fellow!" said she, once more aloud. " It was very
noble in him to do this for one he could not but regard as a rival."
And then she asked herself how far it might consist with honour to
derive benefit from his mistake — since mistake it was — in believing
O'Shea was her lover, and to be her future husband.

" There can be little doubt Donogan would never have made the
sacrifice had he known that I am about to marry Walpole." From
this she rambled on to speculate on how far might Donogan's conduct
compromise or endanger him with his ovra party, and if — which she
thought well probable — there was a distinct peril in what he was
doing, whether he would have incurred that peril if he really knew
the truth, and that it was not herself he was serving.

The more she canvassed these doubts, the more she found the
difficulty of resolving them, nor indeed was there any other way than one
— distinctly to ask Donogan if he would persist in his kind intentions
when he knew that the benefit was to revert to her cousin and not to
herself: So far as the evidence of Gill at the trial was concerned,
the man's withdrawal was already accomplished, but would Donogan
be as ready to restore the lease, and would he, in fact, be as ready to
confront the danger of all this interference, as at first ? She could
scarcely satisfy her mind how she would wish him to act in the
contingency ! She was sincerely fond of Kate, she knew all the traits
of honesty and truth in that simple character, and she valued the very
qualities of straightforwardness and direct purpose in which she knew
she was herself deficient. She would have liked well to secure that
dear girl's happiness, and it would have been an exquisite delight to
her to feel that she had been an aid to her welfare ; and yet, with all
this, there was a subtle jealousy that tortured her in thinking, " What
will this man have done to prove his love for mc ? Where am I,
and what are my interests in all this ? " There was a poison in this
doubt that actually extended to a state of fever. " I must see him," she
said at last, speaking aloud to herself. " I must let hiui know the truth.
If what he proposes shall lead him to break v.ith his party or his
friends, it is well he should sec for what and for whom he is doing it."

And then she persuaded herself she would like to hear Donogan
talk as once before she had heard him talk of his hopes and his
ambitious. There was something in the high-sounding inspirations
of the man, a lofty heroism in all he said, that struck a chord in her
Greek nature. The cause that was so intensely associated with
danger, that life was always on the issue, was exactly the thing to
excite her heart, and, like the trumpet-blast to the charger, she felt
stirred to her inmost soul by whatever appealed to reckless daring and


peril. " He shall tell me what he intends to clo — his plans, his projects,
and his troubles. " He shall tell me of his hopes, what he desires in the
future, and where he himself will stand when his efforts have succeeded ;
and. oh ! " thought she, " are not the wild extravagances of these
men better a thousand times than the well-turned nothings of the fine
gentlemen who surround us ? Are not their very risks and vicissi-
tudes more manly teachings than the small casualties of the polished
world ? If life were all ' salon ' taste perhaps might decide against
them ; but it is not all ' salon,' or, if it were, it would be a poorer
thing even than I think it ! " She turned to her desk as she said
this, and wrote : —

" Dear Mr. Donogan, — I wish to thank you in person for the
great kindness you have shown me, though there is some mistake on
your part in the matter. I cannot suppose you are able to come here
openly, but if you will be in the garden on Saturday evening at
9 o'clock, I shall be there to meet you.

" I am, very truly yours,

" Nina Kostalergi."

" Very imprudent — scarce delicate — perhaps, all this, and for a
girl who is to be married to another man iu some three weeks hence,
but I will tell Cecil Walpole all when he returns, and if he desires to
be off his engagement he shall have the liberty. I have one-half at
least of the Bayard Legend, and, if I cannot say I am ' without
reproach ' — I am certainly without fear."

The letter-bag lay in the hall, and Nina went down at once, and
deposited her letter in it ; this done, she lay down on her bed, not to
sleep, but to think over Donogan and his letter till daybreak.



" Strangk house this," said Joseph Atlee, as Nina entered the room
the next morning where he sat alone at breakfast. '^ Lord Kilgobbin
and Dick wei"e here a moment ago, and disappeared suddenly ; Miss
Kearney for an instant, and also left as abruptly ; and now you have
come, I most earnestly hope not to fly away in the same fashion."

" No ; I mean to eat my breakfast, and so far to keep you


" I thank the tea-uru for my gooil fortune," saitl he, solemnly.

"A tete-a-tete •with Mr. Atleo is a piece of good luck," said
Nina, as she sat down. " Has anything occurred to call our hosts

"In a house like this," said he, jocularly, " where people are
marrying or giving in mariiage at every turn, what may not happen '?
It may he a question of the settlement, or the hridc-cake, or wliito
satin ' slip ' — if that's the name for it, the orange-flowers, or the
choice of the host man — who knows ? "

" You seem to know the whole bead-roll of wedding incidents."

" It is a dull ' repertoire ' after all, for whether the piece be
melodrama, farce, genteel comedy, or harrowing tragedy, it has to he
played by the same actors."

" What would you have — marriages cannot he all alike. There
must be many marriages for things besides love : for ambition, for
interest, for money, for convenience."

" Convenience is exactly the phrase I wanted and could not catch."

"It is not the word / wanted, nor do I think we mean the same
thing by it."

" What I mean is this," said Atlee, with a firm voice, " that
when a young girl has decided in her own mind that she has had
enough of that social bondage of the daughter, and cannot marry the
man she would like, she will marry the man that she can."

" And like him, too," added Nina, with a strange, dubious sort
of smile.

" Yes, and like him, too, for there is a curious feature in the
woman's nature that, without any falsehood or disloyalty, permits her
to like different people in different ways, so that the quiet, gentle,
almost impassive woman' might, if differently mated, have been a
being of fervid temper, headstrong and passionate. If it were not
for this specie of accommodation, marriage would be a worse thing
than it is."

" I never suspected you of having made a study of the subject.
Since when have you devoted your attention to the theme ? "

" I could answer in the words of Wilkes — since I have had the
honour to know your Iloyal Highness ; but perhaps you might be
displeased with the flippancy."

" I should think that very probable," said she, gravely.

" Don't look so serious. Remember that I did not commit myself,
after all."

" I thought it was possible to discuss this problem without a

" Don't you know that, lot one deal in abstractions as long as he


•will, he is ouly skirmishing around special instances. It is out of
what I glean from individuals I make up my generalities."

" Am I to understand by this that I have supplied you with the
material of one of these reflections ? "

" You have given me the subject of many. If I were to tell you
how often I have thought of you, I could not answer for the words iu
which I might tell it."

"Do not tell it, then."

" I know — I am aware — I have heard since I came here that
there is a special reason why you could not listen to me."

" And being so, why do you propose that I should hear you ? "

" I will tell you," said he, with an earnestness that almost startled
her; " I will tell you, because there are things on which a doubt or
an equivocation are actually maddening ; and I will not, I cannot
believe that you have accepted Cecil Walpole."

" Will you please to say why it should seem so incredible ?"

" Because I have seen you not merely in admiration, and that
admiration would be better conveyed by a stronger word : and because
I have measured you with others infinitely beneath you in every way,
and who are yet soaring into very high regions indeed ; because I
have learned enough of the world to know that alongside of — often
above — the influence that men are wielding in life by their genius
and their capacity, there is another power exercised by women of
marvellous beauty, of infinite attractions, and exquisite grace, which
sways and moulds the fate of mankind far more than Cabinets and
Councils. There are not above half-a-dozen of these in Europe, and
you might be one added to the number."

"Even admitting all this — and I don't see that I should go so
far — it is no answer to my question."

"Must I then say there can be no — not companionship, that's
not the word ; no, I must take the French expression, and call it
* solidarite ' — there can be no aolidarite of interests, of objects, of
passions, or of hopes between people so widely dissevered as you and
Walpole. I am so convinced of this, that still I can dare to declare
I cannot believe you could marry him."

" And if I were to tell you it were true ? "

"I should still regard it as a passing caprice, that the mere
mention of to-morrow would ofi"end you. It is no disparagement of
Walpole to say he is unworthy of you, for who would be worthy ?
but the presumption of his daring is enough to excite indignation — at
least, I feel it such. How he could dare to link his supreme little-
cess with consummate perfection ; to freight the miserable barque of
his fortunes with so precious a cargo ; to encounter the feeling — and



there is no escape for it — ' I must drag tliat woman down, not alone
into obscurity, Lut into all the sordid meanness of a small condition,
that never can emerge into anything better.' He cannot disguise
from himself that it is not within his reach to attain power, or place,
or high consideration. Such men make no name in life ; they leave
no mark on their time. They are heaven-born subordinates, and never
refute their destiny. Does a woman with ambition — does a woman
conscious of her own great merits condescend to ally herself, not
alone with small fortune — that might be borne — but with the smaller
associations that make up these men's lives ? with the peddling
efforts to mount even one rung higher of that crazy little ladder of
their ambition — to be a clerk of another grade — a creature of some
fifty pounds more — a being in an upper office ?"

" And the Prince — for he ought to be at least a Prince who
should make me the offer of his name — whence is he to come, Mr.

" There are men who are not born to princely station who, by
their genius and their determination, are just as sure to become
famous, and who need but the glorious prize of such a woman's

love No, no, don't treat what I say as rant and rodomontade ;

these are words of sober sense and seriousness."

"Indeed!" said she, with a faint sigh. "So that it really
amounts to this — that I shall actually have missed my whole fortune
in life — thrown myself away — all because I would not wait for Mr.
Atlee to propose to me."

Nothing less than Atlee's marvellous assurance and self-possession
could have sustained this speech unabashed.

" You have only said what my heart has told me many a day

" But you seem to forget," added she, with a veiy faint curl of
scorn on her lip, "that I had no more to guide me to the discovery
of Mr. Atlee's atfection than that of his future greatness. Indeed, I
could more readily believe in the latter than the former."

" Believe in both," cried he, warmly. " If I have conquered
difficulties in life, if I have achieved some successes — now for a
passing triumph, now for a moment of gratified vanity, now for a
mere caprice — try me by a mere hope — I only plead for a hope — try
mo by hope of being one day worthy of calling that hand my own."

As he spoke, he tried to grasp her hand ; but she withdrew it
coldly and slowly, saying, "I have no fancy to make myself the prize
of any success in life, political or literary ; nor can I believe that the
man who reasons in this fashion has any really high ambition. Mr.
Atlee," added she, more gravely, " your memory may not be as good


as mine, find you \vill pardon me if I remind you that, almost at our
first meeting, we struck up a sort of friendship, on the very equivocal
ground of a common country. We agreed that each of us claimed
for their native land the mythical Bohemia, and we agreed, hesides,
that the natives of that country are admirahle colleagues, hut not
good partners."

" You are not quite fair in this," he begun ; but befoi'e he could
say more Dick Kearney entered hurriedly, and cried out, " It's all
true. The people are in wild excitement, and all declare that they
will not let him be taken. Oh! I forgot," added he. " You were
not here when my father and I were called away by the despatch
from the police-station, to say that Donogan has been seen at Moate,
and is about to hold a meeting on the bog. Of course, this is mere
rumour ; but the constabulary are determined to capture him, and
Curtis has written to inform my father that a party of police will
patrol the grounds here this evening."

" And if they should take him, v/hat would happen — to him, I
naean?" asked Nina, coldly.

"An escaped convict is usually condemned to death; but I
suppose they would not hang him," said Dick.

" Hang him ! " cried Atlee ; " nothing of the kind. Mr. Glad-
stone would present him with a suit of clothes, a ten-pound note, and
a first-class passage to America. He would make a ' healing measure '
of him."

" I must say, gentlemen," said Nina, scornfully, " you can discuss
your friend's fate with a marvellous equanimity."

" So we do," rejoined Atlee. " He is another Bohemian."

*' Don't say so, sir," said she passionately. " The men who put
their lives on a venture — and that venture not a mere gain to them-
selves—are in nowise the associates of those poor adventurers who
are gambling for their daily living. He is a rebel, if you like ; but
he believes in rebellion. How much do you believe in, Mr. Atlee ?"

" I say, Joe, you are getting the worst of this discussion.
Seriously, however, I hope they'll not catch poor Donogan; and my
father has asked Curtis to come over and dine here, and I trust to a
good fire and some old claret to keep him quiet for this evening, at
least. We must not molest the police ; but there's no great harm
done if we mislead them."

" Once in the drawing-room, if Mdlle. Kostalergi will only con-
descend to aid us," added Atlee, " I think Curtis will bo more than
a chief constable if he will bethink him of his dutj''."

" You are a strange set of people, you Irish," said Nina, as she
walked away. "Even such of you as don't want to overthrow the


Government, are alwaj's ready to impede its march and contribute to
its difficulties."

" She only meant that for an impertinence," said Atlee, after she
left the room ; " but she was wonderfully near the truth, though not
truthfully expressed."



There was but one heavy heart at the dinner-table that day ; but
Nina's pride was proof against any disclosure of suffering, and,
though she was tortured by anxiety and fevered with doubt, none —
not even Kate — suspected that any care weighed on her.

As for Kate herself, her happiness beamed in every line and
lineament of her handsome face. The Captain — to give him the
name by which he was known — had been up that day, and partaken
of an afternoon tea with his aunt and Kate. Her spirits were
excellent, and all the promise of the future was rose-coloured and
bright. The little cloud of what trouble the trial might bring waS'
not suffered to darken the cheerful meeting, and it was the one only
bitter in their cup.

To divert Curtis from this theme, on which, with the accustomed
mal apropos of an awkward man, he wished to talk, the young men
led him to the subject of Donogan and his party.

" I believe we'll take him this time," said Curtis. " He must
have some close relations with some one about Moate or Kilbeggan,
for it is remarked he cannot keep away from the neighbourhood ; but
who are his friends, or what they are meditating, we cannot guess."

" If what Mdlle. Kostalergi said this morning be correct," re-
marked Atlee, " conjecture is unnecessary. She told Dick and
myself that every Irishman is at heart a rebel."

*' I said more or less of one, Mr. Atlee, since there are some who
have not the courage of their opinions."

" I hope you are gratified by the emendation," whispered Dick ;
and then added aloud, " Donogan is not one of these."

" He's a consummate fool," cried Curtis, bluntly. " He thinks
the attack of a police-barrack or the capture of a few firelocks will
revolutionize Ireland."

•=' He forgets that there are twelve thousand police, officered by
such men as yourself. Captain," said Nina, gravely.


"Well, there might be worse," rejoined Curtis, doggedly, for he
was not quite sure of the sincerity of the speaker.

" What will you be the better of taking him ? " said Kilgobbin.
" If the whole tree be pernicious, where's the use of plucking one
leaf off it ?"

"The Captain has nothing to do with that," said Atlee, "any
more than a hound has to discuss the morality of fox hunting — his
business is the pursuit."

"I don't like your simile, Mr. Atlee," said Nina, while she
whispered some words to the Captain, and drew him in this way into
a confidential talk.

" I don't mind him at all. Miss Nina," said Curtis ; " he's one
of those fellows on the Press, and they are always saying impertinent
things, to keep their talents in wind. I'll tell you, in confidence, how
wrong he his. I have just had a meeting with the Chief Secretary,
who told me that the Popish bishops are not at all pleased with the
leniency of the Government ; that, whatever ' healing measures '
Mr. Gladstone contemplates, ought to be for the Church and the
Catholics ; that the Fenians or the Nationalists are the enemies of
the Holy Father ; and that the time has come for the Government to
hunt them down, and give over the rule of L-eland to the Cardinal
and his party."

" That seems to me very reasonable, and very logical," said Nina.

" Well, it is and it is not. If you want peace in the rabbit-
warren, you must banish either the rats or the rabbits ; and, I sup-
pose, either the Protestants or the Papists must have it their own
way here."

" Then you mean to capture this man ? "

"We do — we are determined on that. And, what's more, I'd
hang him if I had the power."

" And why? "

" Just because he isn't a bad fellow ! There's no use in hang-
ing a bad fellow in L-eland — it fi-ightens nobody ; but if you hang a
respectable man, a man that has done generous and fine things, it
produces a great effect on society, and is a temble example."

" There may be a deep wisdom in what you say."

" Not that they'll mind me for all that. It's the men like myself.
Miss Nina, who know Ireland well, who know every assize town in
the country, and what the juries will do in each, are never consulted
in England. They say, ' Let Curtis catch him — that's his business.' "

" And how will you do it ? "

" I'll tell you. I haven't men enough to watch all the roads ;
tut I'll take care to have my people where he's leas^li likely to go, that


is, to t-he Nortli. He's a cuuning fellow is Dan, and he'd make for
the Shauuon if he could ; but uow that he knows we're after him,
he'll turn to Antrim or Deny. He'll cut across Westmeath and
make North, if he gets away from this."

*' That is a very acute calculation of j'ours ; and M'hcre do you
suspect he may be now — ^I naeau, at this moment we're talking ? "

"He's not three miles from where we're sitting," said he, in a
low whisper, and a cautious glance round the table. " He's hid in
the bog outside. There's scores of places there, a man could hide in,
and never be tracked ; and there's few fellows would like to meet
Douogan single-handed. He's as active as a rope-dancer, and he's
as courageous as the devil."

" It would be a pity to hang such a fellow."

" There's plenty more of the same sort — not exactly as good as
him, perhaps, for Dan was a gentleman once."

" And is, probably, still ? "

"It would be hard for him, with the rapscallions he has to live
with, and not five shillings in his pocket, besides."

" I don't know, after all, if you'll be happier for giving him up
to the law. He may have a mother, a sister, a wife, or a sweetheart."

"He may have a sweetheart, but I know he has none of the
others. He said, in the dock, that no man could quit life at less
cost — that there wasn't one to grieve after him."

" Poor fellow ! that was a sad confession."

" We're not all to turn Fenians, Miss Nina, because we're only
children and unmarried."

" You are too clever forme to dispute with," said she, in affected
humility ; " but I like greatly to hear you talk of Ireland. Now,
what number of people have you here ? "

" I have my orderly, and two men to patrol the demesne ; but
to-morrow we'll draw the net tighter. We'll call in all the party
from Moate, and, from information I have got, we're sure to track

" What confidences is Curtis making with Mdllc. Nina ? " said
Atlee, who, though affecting to join the general conversation, had
never ceased to watch tlicm.

" The Captain is telling mo hov/ ho put down the Fenians in tho
rising of '61," said Nina, calmly.

" And did he ? I say, Curtis, have you really suppressed rebel-
lion in Ireland ? "

" No ; nor won't, Mr. Joe Atlee, till we put down the rascally
Press — the unprincipled penny-a-liners, that write treason to pay for
their dinner."


" Poor fellows ! " replied Atlcc. " Let us hope it does not
interfere -with their digestion. But seriously, mademoiselle, does it
not give you a great notion of our insecurity here in Ireland when
you see to what we trust, law and order."

"Never mind him, Curtis," said Kilgobbin. " Wlien these
fellows are not saying sharp things, they have to be silent."

While the conversation went briskly on, Nina contrived to glance
unnoticed at her watch, and saw that it wanted only a quarter of an

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 46 of 48)