Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 47 of 48)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 47 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

hour to nine. Nine was the hour she had named to Donogan to be
in the garden, and she already trembled at the danger to which she
had exposed him. She reasoned thus : " So reckless and fearless is
this man, that, if he should have come determined to see me, and I
do not go to meet him, he is quite capable of entering the house
boldly, even at the cost of being captured. The veiy price he would
have to pay for his rashness would be its temptation."

A sudden cast of seriousness overcame her as she thus thought,
and Kate, perceiving it, rose at once to retire.

" You were not ill, dearest Nina ? I saw you grow pale, and I
fancied for a moment you seemed faint."

" No ; a mere passing weakness. I shall lie down and be better

"And then you'll come up to aunt's room — I call godmother
aunt now — and take tea with Gorman and us all."

" Yes, I'll do that after a little rest. I'll take half-an-hour or so
of quiet," said she, in broken utterances. " I suppose the gentlemen
will sit over their wine ; there's no fear of their breaking up."

"Very little fear, indeed," said Kate, laughing at the word,
" Papa made me give out some of his rare old '41 wine to-day, and
they're not likely to leave it."

" By-by, then, for a little while," said Nina, dreamily, for her
thoughts had gone off on another track. "I shall join you later on."

Kate tripped gaily up the stairs, singing pleasantly as she went,
for hers was a happy heart and a hopeful.

Nina lingered for a moment with her hand on the banister, and
then hurried to her room.

It was a still cold night of deep winter, a very faint crescent of a
new moon was low in the sky, and a thin snow-fall, slightly crisped
with frost, covered the ground. Nina opened her window and looked
out. All was still and quiet without — not a twig moved. She bent
her ear to listen, thinking that on the frozen ground a step might
perhaps be heard, and it was a relief to her anxiety when she heard
nothing. The chill, cold air that came in through the window v/arued
her to muffle herself well, and she drew the hood of her scarlet cloak


ever her bead. Strong-booted, aud witli warm gloves, she stood for
a moment at her door to listen, and finding all quiet, she slowly
descended the stairs and gained the hall. She started affrighted as
she entered, thinking there ^Yas some one seated at the table, but
she rallied in an instant, as she saw it was only the loose horse-
man's coat or cloak of the chief constable, which, lined with red,
aud with the gold-laced cap beside it, made up the delusion that
alarmed her.

It was not an easy task to withdraw the heavy bolts and bars
that secured the massive door, and even to turn the heavy key in the
lock required an effort ; but she succeeded at length, and issued forth
into the open.

" How I hope he has not come ; how I pray he has not ventured,"
said she to herself as she walked along. " Leave-takings are sad
things, and why incur one so full of peril and misery too ! When I
wrote to him, of course I knew nothing of his danger, audit is exactly
his danger will make him come ! " She knew of others to whom such
reasonings would not have applied, and a scornful shake of the head
showed that she would not think of them at such a moment. The
sound of her own footsteps on the crisp ground made her once or twice
believe she heard some one coming, and as she stopped to listen, the
strong beating of her heart could be counted. It was not fear — at
least not fear in the sense of a personal danger — it was that high
tension which great anxiety lends to the nerves, exalting vitality to a
state in which a sensation is as powerful as a material influence.

She ascended the steps of the little terraced mound of the
rendezvous, one by one, overwhelmed almost to fainting by some
imagined analogy with the scaffold, which might be the fate of him
she was going to meet.

He was standing under a tree, his arms crossed on his breast, as
she came up. The moment she appeared, he rushed to meet her,
and throwing himself on one knee, he seized her hand and kissed it.

" Do you know your danger in being here ? " she asked, as she
surrendered her hand to his grasp.

"I know it all, and this moment repays it tenfold."

"You cannot know the full extent of the peril; you cannot
know that Captain Curtis and his people are in the castle at this
moment, that they are in full cry after you, and that every avenue to
this spot is watched and guarded."

" What care I ! Have I not this ? " And he covered her hand
with kisses.

" Every moment that you are here increases your danger, and if
my absence should become known, there will be a search after me.


I shall never forgive myself if my folly sliould lead to your being

"If I could but feel my fate was linked with yours, I'd give my
life for it -willingly."

"It was not to listen to such words as these I came here."

" Remember, dearest, they are the last confessions of one you
shall never see more. They are the last cry of a heart that will soon
be still for ever."

" No, no, no ! " cried she passionately. " There is life enough
left for you to win a worthy name. Listen to me calmly, now ; I have
heard from Curtis within the last hour all his plans for your capture ;
I know where his patrols are stationed, and the roads they are to

" And did you care to do this ? " said he, tenderly.

" I would do more than that to save you."

" Oh, do not say so ! " cried he wildly, " or you will give me
such a desire to live as will make a coward of me."

" Curtis suspects you will go northward ; either he has had infor-
mation, or computes it from what you have done already."

" He is wrong, then. When I go hence, it shall be to the Court
House at TuUamore, where I mean to give myself up."

" As what ? "

"As what I am — a rebel, convicted, sentenced, and escaped, and
still a rebel."

" You do not, then, care ibr life ? "

" Do I not, for such moments of life as this ! " cried he, as, with
a wild rapture, he kissed her hand again and again.

" And were I to ask you, you would not try to save your life ? "

" To share that life with you there is not anything I would not
dare. To live and know you were another's is more than I can face.
Tell me, Nina, is it true you are to be the wife of this soldier. I
cannot utter his name."

" I am to be married to Mr. Walpole."

" What ! to that contemptuous young man you have already told
me so much of. How have they brought you down to this ? "

" There is no thought of bringing down ; his rank and place arc
above my own — he is by family and connection superior to us all."

" And what is he, or how does he aspire to you? Is the vulgar
security of competence to live on — is that enough for one like you ?
is the well-balanced good-breeding of common politeness enough to
fill a heart that should be fed on passionate devotion. You may link
yourself to mediocrity, but can you humble your nature to resemble
it. Do you believe you can plod on the dreary road of life without


an imimlse or an ambition, or blend your thoughts with those of a
man who has neither ? "

She stood still, and did not utter a word.

" There are some — I do not know if you are one of them — who
have an almost shrinking dread of poverty."

" I am not afraid of poverty."

" It has but one antidote, I know — intense love ! The all-
powerful sense of living for another begets indifference to the little
straits and trials of narrow fortune, till the mind at last comes to feel
how much there is to live for beyond the indulgence of vulgar enjoy-
ments ; and if, to crown all, a high ambition be present, there will be
an ecstasy of bliss no words can measure."

" Have you failed in Ireland ?" asked she, suddenly.

" Failed, so far as to know that a rebellion will only ratify the
subjection of the country to England ; a reconquest would be
slavery. The chronic discontent that burns in every peasant
heart, will do mere than the appeal to arms. It is slow, but it is

" And where is your part ? "

" My part is in another land; my fortune is linked with America —
that is, if I care to have a fortune."

" Come, come, Donogan," cried she, calling him inadvertently
by his name, " men like you do not give up the battle of life so easily.
It is the very essence of their natures to resist pressure and defy

"So I could; so I am ready to show myself. Give me but
hope. There are high paths to be trodden in more than one region
of the globe. There are great prizes to be wrestled for, but it must
be by him who would share them with another. Tell me, Nina," said
he, suddenly, lowering his voice to a tone of exquisite tenderness,
" have you never, as a little child, played at that game of what is
called seeking your fortune, wandered out into some thick wood or
along a winding rivulet, to meet whatever little incident imagina-
tion might dignify into adventure ; and in the chance heroism of your
situation have you not found an intense delight ? And if so
in childhood, why not see if adult years cannot renew the
experience ? Why not see if the great world be not as dramatic as
the small one ? I should say it is still more so. I know you have

"And what will courage do for me ?" asked she, after a pause.

" For you, not much ; for me, eveiything."

" I do not understand you."

" I mean this — that if that stout heart could dare the venture


and trust its fate to mc — to me, poor, outlawed, and doomed, tliero
would be a grander heroism iu a girl's nature than ever found home
in a man's."

"And what should I be ?"

" My wife within an hour ; my idol while I live."

" There are some who would give this another name than courage,"
said she, thoughtfully.

" Let them call it what they will, Nina. Is it not to the unbounded
.trust of a nature that is above all others that I, poor, unknown, ignoble
as I am, appeal when I ask — "Will you be mine ? One word — only
one; or, better still "

He clasped her in his arms as he spoke, and drawing her head
towards his, kissed her cheek rapturously.

With wild and fervent words, he now told her rapidly that he had
come prepared to make her the declaration, and had provided evciy-
thiug, in the event of her compliance, for their flight. By an unused
path through the bog they could gain the main road to Maryborough,
where a priest well known in the Fenian interest would join them
in marriage. The officials of the railroad were largely imbued with
the Nationalist sentiment, and Donogan could be sure of safe
crossing to Kilkenny, where the members of the party were in great

In a veiy few words he told her how, by the mere utterance of
his name, he could secure the faithful services and the devotion of
the people in every town or village of the kingdom, " The English
have done this for us," cried he, " and we thank them for it. They
have popularized rebellion in a way that all our attempts could never
have accomplished. How could I, for instance, gain access to those
little gatherings at fair or market, in the yard before the chapel, or
the square before the court-house — how could I be able to explain to
those groups of country people what we mean by a rising in Ireland ?
what we purpose by a revolt against England ? how it is to be
carried on, or for whose benefit ? what the prizes of success, what the
cost of failure ? Yet the English have contrived to embody all these
in one word, and that word my name ! "

There was a certain artifice, there is no doubt, in the way in which
this poorly-clad and not distinguished looking man contrived to
surround himself with attributes of power and influence, and his self-
reliance imparted to his voice as he spoke a tone of confidence that
was actually dignified. And besides this, there was personal daring,
for his life was on the hazard, and it was the very contingency of
ft-hich he seemed to take the least heed.

Not less adroit too, was the way in which he showed what a shock


au(l amazement her couJuct ^voultl occasion iu tbat world of her
acquaiutances — that world which had hitherto regarded her as
esseutially a pleasure-seeker, self-indulgeut aud capricious. " 'Which
of us all,' will they say, ' could have done what that girl has done ?
"Which of us, having the world at her feet, her destiny at her very
Lidding, would go off and brave the storms of life out of the heroism
of her own nature ? How we all misread her nature ! how wrongfully
and unfairly we judged her ! In what utter ignorance of her real
character was every interpretation we made ! How scornfully has
she, by one act, replied to all our misconstruction of her ! What a
sarcasm on all our worldliness is her devotion ! ' "

He was eloquent, after a fashion, and he had, above most men,
the charm of a voice of singular sweetness and melody. It was clear
as a bell, and he could modulate its tones till, like the drip drip of water
on a rock they fell one by one upon the ear. Masses had often been
moved by the power of his words, and the mesmeric influence of per-
suasiveness was a gift to do him good service now.

There was much iu the man that she liked. She liked his rugged
boldness and determination ; she liked his contempt for danger and
his self-reliance ; and, essentially, she liked how totally different he
was to all other men. He had not their objects, their hopes, their
fears, and their ways. To share the destiny of such a man was to
ensure a life that could not pass uurecorded. There might be
storm, and even shipwreck, but there was notorietj' — perhaps even
fame !

And how mean and vulgar did all the others she had known seem
by comparison with him ; how contemptible the polished insipidity of
Walpole, how artificial the neatly turned epigrams of Atlee. How
would cither of these have behaved in such a moment of danger as
this man's. Every minute he passed there was another peril to his
life, aud yet he had no thought for himself — his whole anxiety was to
gain time to appeal to her. He told her she was more to him than
his ambition — she saw herself she was more to him than life. The
whirlwind rapidity of his eloquence also moved her, and the varied
arguments he addressed, now to her heroism, now to her self-sacrifice,
now to the power of her beauty, now to the contempt she felt for the
inglorious lives of common-place people — the ignoble herd, who
passed unnoticed. All these swayed her, and after a long interval,
in which she had heard him without a word, she said, iu a low
murmur to herself, " I will do it."

Donogan clasped her to his heart as she said it, aud held her
some seconds iu a fast embrace. " At last I know what it is to love,"
cried he, with rapture.


" Look there ! " cried she, suddenly disengaging herself from his
arm. " They are in the drawing-room already. I can see them as
they pass the windows. I must go back, if it be for a moment, as I
should be missed."

" Can I let you leave me now ?" he said, and the tears were iu
his eyes as he spoke.

*' I have given you my word, and you may trust me," said she,
as she held out her hand.

" I was forgetting this document ; this is the lease or the agree-
ment I told you of." She took it, and hurried away.

In less than five minutes afterwards she was among the company
in the drawing-room.

" Here have I been singing a rebel ballad, Nina," said Kate,
'* and not knowing the while it was Mr. Atlee who wrrote it."

"What, Mr. Atlee," cried Nina, "is the 'Time to begin'
yours?" And then, without waiting for an answer, she seated
herself at the piano, and striking the chords of the accompaniment
with a wild and vigorous hand, she sang —

If the moment is come and the hour to need us,
If we stand man to man, like kindred and kin ;
If we know we have one who is i-eady to lead us.
What want we for more than the word to begin ?

The wild ring of defiance in which her clear, full voice gave out
these words, seemed to electrify all present, and to a second or two
of perfect silence, a burst of applause followed, that even Curtis, with
all his loyalty, could not refrain from joining,

" Thank God, you're not a man, Miss Nina ! " cried he, fervently.

" I'm not sure she's not more dangerous as she is," said Lord
Ivilgobbin. " There's people out there in the bog, starving and
half-naked, would face the Queen's Guards if they only heard her
voice to cheer them on. Take my word for it, rebellion would have
died out long ago in Ireland if there wasn't the woman's heart to
warm it."

"If it were not too great a liberty, Mdlle. Kostalergi," said Joe,
" I should tell you that you have not caught the true expression of
my song. The brilliant bravura in which you gave the last line,
immensely exciting as it was, is not correct. The whole force
consists in the concentrated power of a fixed resolve — the passage
should be subdued."

An insolent toss of the head was all Nina's reply, and there
was a stillness in the room, as exchanging looks with each other,
the difi"erent persons there expressed their amazement at Atlee's


" Who's for a rubber of -whist ? " said Lord Kilgobbin, to relieve
the awkward pause. " Are you, Curtis ? Atlee, I know, is ready."

" Here is all prepared," said Dick. *' Captain Curtis told me
before dinner that he would not like to go to bed till he had his
sergeant's report, and so I have ordered a broiled bone to be ready
at one o'clock, and we'll sit up as late as he likes after."

" Make the stake pounds and fives," cries Joe, " and I should
pronounce your arrangements perfection."

"With this amendment," interposed my lord, "that nobody is
expected to pay ! "

" I say, Joe," whispered Dick, as they di'ew nigh the table,
" my cousin is angiy with you ; why have you not asked her to

" Because she expects it ; because she's tossing over the music
yonder to provoke it ; because she's in a furious rage with me : that
will be nine points of the game in my favour," hissed he out between
his teeth.

"You are utterly wrong — you mistake her altogether."

" Mistake a woman ! Dick, will you tell me what I do know,
if I do not read every turn and trick of their tortuous nature ? They
are occasionally hard to decipher when they're displeased. It's very
big print indeed when they're angry."

" You're off, are you ?" asked Nina, as Kate was about to leave.

" Yes ; I'm going to read to hun."

" To read to him /" said Niua, laughing. " How nice it sounds,
when one sums up all existence in a pronoun. Good-night, dearest —
good-night," and she kissed her twice. And then, as Kate reached
the door, she ran towards her, and said, " Kiss me again, my dearest
Kate ! "

" I declare you have left a tear upon my cheek," said Kate.

" It was about all I could give you as a wedding present,"
muttered Nina, as she turned away.

" Are you come to study whist, Nina ? " said Lord Kilgobbin, as
she drew nigh the table.

" No, my lord ; I have no talent for games, but I like to look at
the players."

Joe touched Dick with his foot, and shot a cunning glance towards
him, as though to say, " Was I not correct in all I said ? "

" Couldn't you sing us something, my dear ? we're not such
infatuated gamblers that we'll not like to hear you — ch, Atlee ? "

" Well, my lord, I don't know, I'm not sure — that is, I don't see
how a memory for trumps is to be maintained through tlie fascinating
charm of Mademoiselle's voice. And as for cards, it's enough for


Miss Ivostalergi to bo in the room to make one forget not only the
cards, but the Fenians."

" If it was only out of loyalty, then, I should leave you ! " said
she, and walked proudly away.



The whist party did not break up till nigh morning. The sergeant
had once appeared at the drawing-room to announce that all was quiet
without. There had been no sign of any rising of the people, nor
any disposition to molest the police. Indeed, so peaceful did every-
thing look, and such an air of easy indifference pervaded the country,
the police were half disposed to believe that the report of Donogan
being in the neighbourhood was unfoimded, and not impossibly
circulated to draw off attention from some other part of the country.

This was also Lord Kilgobbin's belief. " The man has no
friends, or even warm followers, down here. It was the merest
accident first led him to this part of the country, where, besides, we
are all too poor to be rebels. It's only down in Meath, where the
people are well off, and rents are not too high, that people can afford
to be Fenians."

While he was enunciating this fact to Curtis, they v/ere walking
up and down the breakfast-room, waiting for the appeai'ance of the
ladies to make tea.

"I declare it's nigh eleven o'clock," said Curtis, " and I meant
to have been over two baronies before this hour."

"Don't distress yourself, captain. The man was never within
fifty miles of where we are. And why would he ? It is not the Bog
of Allan is the place for a revolution."

"It's always the way with the people at the Castle," grumbled
out Curtis. " They know more of what's going on down the country
than we that live there ! It's one despatch after another. Head-
Centre Such-a-one is at the ' Three Cripples.' He slept there two
nights ; he swore in fifteen men last Saturday, and they'll tell you
where he bought a pair of corduroy breeches, and what he ate for his
breakfast "

" I wish we had ours," broke in Kilgobbin. " Where's Kate all
this time ? "

"Papa, papa, I want you for a moment; come here to mo


quickly," cried Kate, wliosc head appeared for a rnoment at the
door. '• Here's very terrible tidings, papa dearest," said she, as she
drew him along towards his study. " Nina is gone ! Nina has run


I "

" Run away for what ? "

" Run away to be married ; and she is mamed. Read this, or
I'll read it for you. A country boy has just brought it from Mary-

Like a man stunned almost to insensibility, Kearney crossed his
hands before him, and sat gazing out vacantly before him.

" Can you listen to me ? can you attend to me, dear papa ? "

" Go on," said he, in a faint voice.

"It is written in a great hurry, and very hard to read. It runs
thus : Dearest, — I have no time for explainings nor excuses, if I
were disposed to make either, and I will confine myself to a few facts.
I was married this morning to Donogan — the rebel : I know you
have added the word, and I wi'ite it to show how our sentiments are
united. As people are prone to put into the lottery the numbers they
have dreamed of, I have taken my ticket in this greatest of all
lotteries on the same wise grounds. I have been dreaming adventures
ever since I was a little child, and it is but natural that I marry an
adventurer.' "

A deep groan from the old man made her stop ; but as she saw
that he was not changed in colour or feature, she went on : —

" ' He says he loves me very dearly, and that he will treat me
well. I like to believe both, and I do believe them. He says we
shall be very poor for the present, but that he means to become some-
thing or somebody later on. I do not much care for the poverty, if
there is hope ; and he is a man to hope with and to hope from.

"'You are, in a measure, the cause of all, since it was to tell
me he would send away all the witnesses against your husband, that
is to be, that I agreed to meet him, and to give me the lease which
Miss O'Shea was so rash as to place in Gill's hands. This I now
send you.' "

" And this she has sent you, Kate ?" asked liilgobbiu.

" Yes, papa, it is here, and the master of the Swallow's receipt
for Gill as a passenger to Quebec."

" Read on."

" There is little more, papa, except what I am to say to you — to
forgive her."

" I can't forgive her. It was deceit — cruel deceit."

" It was not, papa. I could swear there was no forethought. If
there had been she would have told me. She told me everything.


She never loved Walpole ; she could not love him. She was marrying
him with a broken heart. It was not that she loved another, but
she knew she could have loved another."

"Don't talk such muddle to mc," said he angrily. " You fiincy
life is to be all courting, but it isn't. It's house-rent, and butchers'
bills, and apothecaries', and the pipe-water — it's shoes, and schooling,

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 47 of 48)