Charles James Lever.

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

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of the past to hear of the world, that gay world of feasting and
enjoyment, of which for so many years he had known nothing ; and
here he was back in it again, and with grander company and higher
names than he ever remembered. " Why was not Kate like her ? "
would he mutter over and over to himself. Kate was a good girl,
fine-tempered and happy-hearted, but she had no accomplishments,
none of those refinements of the other. If he wanted to present her
at " the Castle " one of these days, he did not know if she would
have tact enough for the ordeal ; but Nina ! — Nina was sure to make
an actual sensation, as much by her grace and her style as by her
beauty. Kearney never came into the room where she was without
being struck by the elegance of her demeanour, the way she would
rise to receive him, her step, her carriage, the very disposal of her
drapery as she sat ; the modulated tone of her voice, and a sort of
purring satisfaction as she took his hand and heard his praises of
her, spread like a charm over him, so that he never knew how the
time slipped by as he sat beside her.


** Have you ever written to your father since you came here ? "
asked he one day as they talked together.

** Yes, sir; and yesterday I got a letter from him. Such a nice
letter, sir, — no complainings, no reproaches for my running away ;
hut all sorts of good wishes for my happiness. He owns he was
sorry to have ever thought of the stage for me ; but he says this law-
suit he is engaged in about his grandfather's will may last for years,
and that he knew I was so certain of a great success, and that a
great success means more than mere money, he fancied that in my
triumph he would reap the recompense for his own disasters. He is
now, however, far happier that I have found a home, a real home,
and says, ' Tell my lord I am heartily ashamed of all my rudeness
with regard to him, and would willingly make a pilgrimage to the end
of Europe to ask his pardon ; ' and say besides that ' when I shall be
restored to the fortune and rank of my ancestors,' — you know," added
she, " he is a prince — ' my first act will be to throw myself at his
feet, and beg to be forgiven by him.' "

" What is the property ? is it land ?" asked he, with the half-
suspectfulness of one not fully assured of what he was listening to.

" Yes, sir; the estate is in Delos. I have seen the plan of the
grounds and gardens of the palace, which are princely. Here, on
this seal," said she, showing the envelope of her letter, " you can
see the arms ; papa never omits to use it, though on his card he is
written only ' of the princes ' — a form observed with us."

" And what chance has he of getting it all back again ?"

" That is more than I can tell you ; he himself is sometimes very
confident, and talks as if there could not be a doubt of it."

"Used your poor mother to believe it?" asked he, half-

"I can scarcely say, sir; I can barely remember her; but I
have heard papa blame her for not interesting her high connections
in England in his suit ; he often thought that a word to the
ambassador at Athens would have almost decided the case."

"High connections, indeed!" burst he forth. "By my con-
science, they're pretty much out at elbows, like himself ; and if we
were trying to recover our own right to-morrow, the look-out would
be bleak enough !"

" Papa is not easily cast down, sir; he has a very sanguine spirit."

" May be, you think it's what is wanting in my case, eh, Nina ?
Say it out, girl ; tell me, I'd be the better for a little of your father's
hopefulness, eh?"

" You could not change to anything I could like better than what
you are," said she, taking his hand and kissing it.


" Ah, you're a rare one to say coaxing things," said he, looking
fondly on her. "I believe you'd be the best advocate for either of
us if the courts would let you plead for us."

"I wish they would, su'," said she, proudly.

"What is that?" cried he, suddenly; "sure it's not putting
myself you are in the picture ! "

" Of course I am, sir. Was not the O'Caharney your ancestor ?
Is it likely that an old race had not traits of feature and lineament
that ages of descent could not eflace ? I'd swear that strong brow
and frank look must be an heirloom."

" Faith then, almost the only one ! " said he, sighing. " Who's
making that noise out there?" said he, rising and going to the
window. " Oh, it's Kate with her dogs. I often tell her she'd keep
a pair of ponies for less than those troublesome brutes cost her."

" They are great company to her, she says, and she lives so much
in the open air."

" I know she does," said he, dropping his head and sitting like
one whose thoughts had taken a brooding, despondent tui'n.

" One more sitting I must have, sir, for the hair. You had it
beautifully yesterday ; it fell over on one side with a most perfect
light on a large lock here. Will you give me half an hour to-
morrow, say ?"

" I can't promise you, my dear. Peter Gill has been urging me
to go over to Loughrea for the fair ; and if we go, we ought to be
there by Saturday, and have a quiet look at the stock before the sales

" And are you going to be long away ?" said she, poutingly, as
she leaned over the back of his chair, and suffered her curls to fall
half across his face.

" I'll be right glad to be back again," said he, pressing her head
down till he could kiss her cheek, " right glad !"



The " Blue Goat" in the small town of Moate is scarcely a model
hostel. The entrance-hall is too much encumbered by tramps and
beggars of various orders and ages, who not only resort there to take
their meals and play at cards, but to divide the spoils and settle the
accounts of their several " industries," and occasionally to clear off


other scores which demancl police iuterfereuce. On the left is the
bar ; the right-hand being used as the office of a land-agent, is
besieged by crowds of country people, in whom, if language is to be
trusted, the grievous wrongs of land-tenure are painfully portrayed —
nothing but complaint, dogged determination, and resistance being
heard on every side. Behind the bar is a long low-ceilinged apart-
ment, the parlour 7;rtr excellence, only used by distinguished visitors,
and reserved on one especial evening of the week for the meeting of
the " Goats," as the members of a club call themselves — the chief,
indeed the founder, being our friend Mathew Kearney, whose title of
sovereignty was " Buck-Goat," and whose portrait, painted by a
native artist and presented by the society, figured over the mantel-
piece. The village Vandyke would seem to have invested largely in
carmine, and though far from parsimonious of it on the cheeks and
the nose of his sitter, he was driven to work off some of his super-
abundant stock on the cravat, and even the hands, which, though
amicably crossed in front of the white waistcoated stomach, are
fearfully suggestive of some recent deed of blood. The pleasant
geniality of the countenance is, however, reassuring. Nor — except
a decided squint, by which the artist had ambitiously attempted to
convey a humoristic drollery to the expression — is there anything
sinister in the portrait.

An inscription on the frame announces that this picture of their
respected founder was presented, on his fiftieth birthday, " To Mathew
Kearney, sixth Viscount Kilgobbin ; " various devices of "caprine"
significauce, heads, horns, and hoofs, profusely decorating the frame.
If the antiquarian should lose himself in researches for the origin of
this society, it is as well to admit, at once, that the landlord's sign
of the " Blue Goat " gave the initiative to the name, and that the
worthy associates derived nothing from classical authority, and never
assumed to be descendants of fauns or satyrs, but respectable shop-
keepers of Moate, and unexceptional judges of " poteen." A large
jug of this insinuating liquor figured on the table, and was called
" Goat's-milk ; " and if these humoristic traits are so carefully
enumerated, it is because they comprised all that was specially droll
or quaint in these social gatherings, the members of which were a
very common-place set of men, who discussed their little local topics
in very ordinary fashion, slightly elevated, perhaps, in self-esteem, by
thinking how little the outer world knew of their dulness and dreari-

As the meetings were usually determined on by the M'ill of the
president, who announced at the hour of separation when they were
to reassemble, and as, since his niece's arrival, Kearney had almost


totally forgotten his old associates, the club-room ceased to be re-
garded as the hol_y of holies, and was occasionally used by the land-
lord for the reception of such visitors as he deemed worthy of peculiar

It was on a very wet night of that especially rainy month in the
Irish calendar, July, that two travellers sat over a turf-fire in this
sacred chamber, various articles of their attire being spread out to
dry before the blaze, the owners of which actually steamed with the
effects of the heat upon theii- damp habiliments. Some fishing-tackle
and two knapsacks, which lay in a corner, showed they were pedes-
trians, and their looks, voice, and manner proclaimed them still more
unmistakably to be gentlemen.

One was a tall, sunburnt, soldier-like man of six or seven and
thirty, powerfully built, and with that solidity of gesture and firmness
of tread sometimes so marked with strong men. A mere glance at
him showed he was a cold, silent, somewhat haughty man, not given
to hasty resolves or in any way impulsive, and it is just possible that
a long acquaintance with him would not have revealed a great deal
more. He had served in a half dozen regiments, and although all
declared that Henry Lockwood was an honourable fellow, a good
soldier, and thoroughly "safe" — a very meaning epithet — there
were no very deep regrets when he " exchanged," nor was there,
perhaps, one man who felt he had lost his " pal " by his going. He
was now in the Carbineers, and serving as an extra aide-de-camp to
the Viceroy.

Not a little unhkc him in most respects was the man who sat
opposite him : — A pale, finely-featured, almost efleminate-looking
young fellow, with a small line of dark moustache, and a beard en
Henri Quatrc, to the efiect of which a collar cut in Vandyke fashion
gave an especial significance. Cecil Walpole was disposed to be
pictorial in his get-up, and the purple dye of his kuickerbocker stock-
ings, the slouching plumage of his Tyrol hat, and the graceful hang
of his jacket, had excited envy in quarters where envy was fame.
He, too, was on the viceregal stafi", being private secretary to his
relative the Lord Lieutenant, during whose absence in England they
had undertaken a ramble to the Westmcath lakes, not very positive
whether their object was to angle for trout or to fish for that " know-
ledge of Ireland " so popularly sought after in our day, and which
displays itself so profusely in platform speeches and letters to The
Times. Lockwood, not impossibly, would have said it was "to do a
bit of walking " he had come. He had gained eight pounds by that
indolent Phoenix Park life he was leading, and he had no fancy to go
back to Leicestershire too heavy for his cattle. He was not — few


hunting men are — an ardent fisherman ; and as for the vexed ques-
tion of L-ish politics, he did not see why he was to trouble his head
to unravel the puzzles that were too much for Mi-. Gladstone ; not to
say, that he felt to meddle with these matters was like interfering
with another man's department. " I don't suspect," he would say,
" I should fancy John Bright coming down to ' stables ' and dictating
to me how my Irish horses should be shod, or what was the best bit
for a ' borer.' " He saw, besides, that the game of politics was a
game of compromises : something was deemed admirable now that
had been hitherto almost execrable ; and that which was utterly
impossible to-day, if done last year would have been a triumphant
success, and consequently he pronounced the whole thing an " im-
position and a humbug." "I can understand a right and a wrong
as well as any man," he would say, " but I know nothing about things
that are neither or both, according to who's in or who's out of the
Cabinet. Give me the command of twelve thousand men, let me
divide them into three flying columns, and if I don't keep Ireland
quiet, draft me into a West Indian regiment, that's all." And as to
the idea of issuing special commissions, passing new Acts of Parlia-
ment, or suspending old ones, to do what he or any other intelligent
soldier could do without any knavery or any coiTuption, " John
Bright might tell us," but he couldn't. And here it may be well to
observe that it was a favourite form of speech with him to refer to
this illustrious public man in this familiar manner ; but always to
show what a condition of muddle and confusion must ensue if we
followed the counsels that name emblematized ; nor did he know a
more cutting sarcasm to reply to an adversary than when he had
said : " Oh, John Bright would agree with you," or, " I don't think
John Bright could go further."

Of a very diflerent stamp was his companion. He was a young
gentleman whom we cannot more easily characterize than by calling
him, in the cant of the day, " of the period." He was essentially
the most recent product of the age we live in. Manly enough in some
things, he was fastidious in others to the very verge of efieminacy ;
an aristocrat by birth and by predilection, he made a parade of
democratic opinions. He affected a sort of Crichtonism in the variety
of his gifts, and as linguist, musician, artist, poet, and philosopher,
loved to display the scores of things he might be, instead of that
mild, very ordinary young gentleman that he was. He had done a
little of almost everything ; he had been in the Guards, in diplomacy,
in the House for a brief session, had made an African tour, written
a pleasant little book about the Nile, with the illustrations by his own
hand. Still he was greater in promise than perfonnance. There


was an opera of his partly finished ; a five-act comedy almost ready
for the stage ; a half- executed group, he had left in some studio in
Eome, showed what he might have done in sculpture. When his
distinguished relative the Marquis of Daueshury recalled him from
his post as secretaiy of legation in Italy, to join him at his Irish seat
of government, the phrase in which he invited him to return is not
without its significance, and we give it as it occurred in the context :-—
" I have no fancy for the post they have assigned me, nor is it what
I had hoped for. They say, however, I shall succeed here. Nous
verrons. Meanwhile I rememher your often remarking, * There is a
great game to be played in Ireland.' Come over at once then, and
let me have a talk with you over it. I shall manage the question of
your leave, by making you private secretary for the moment. We
shall have many difficulties, but Ireland will be the worst of them.
Do not delay therefore : for I shall only go over to be sworn in, &c.,
and return for the third reading of the Church Bill, and I should like
to see you in Dublin (and leave you there) when I go."

Except that they were both members of the household, and
English by birth, there was scarcely a tie between these very
dissimilar natures ; but somehow the accidents of daily life, stronger
than the traits of disposition, threw them into intimacy, and they
agreed it would be a good thing " to see something of Ireland ; " and
with this wise resolve they had set out on that half-fishing excursion,
which, having taken them over the Wcstmeath lakes, now was
directing them to the Shannon, but with an infirmity of purpose to
which lack of sport and disastrous weather were contributing power-
fully at the moment we have presented them to our reader.

To employ the phrase which it is possible each might have used,
they " liked each other well enough " — that is, each found something
in the other he " could get on with ; " but there was no stronger tie
of regard or friendship between them, and each thought he perceived
some flaw of pretension, or aff'ected wisdom, or selfishness, or vanity,
in the other ; and actually believed he amused himself by its display.
In natures, tastes, and dispositions, they were miles asunder, and
disagreement between them would have been unceasing on every
subject, had they not been gentlemen. It was this alone — this
gentleman clement — made their companionship possible, and, in the
long run, not unpleasant. So much more has good breeding to do in
the common working of daily life than the more valuable qualities of
mind and temperament.

Though much younger than his companion, Walpole took the
lead in all the arrangements of the journey, determined where and
how long they should halt, and decided on the route next to be taken ;


the other showing a real or affected iadifference on all these matters,
and making of his town-bred apathy a very serviceable quality in the
midst of Irish barbarism and desolation. On politics, too — if that be
the name for such light convictions as they entertained — they differed ;
the soldier's ideas being formed on what he fancied would be the late
Duke of Wellington's opinion, and consisted in what he called
" putting down." Walpole was a promising Whig ; that is, one who
coquets with Radical notions, but fastidiously avoids contact with
the mob ; and who, fervently believing that all popular concessions
are spurious if not stamped with Whig approval, would like to treat
the democratic leaders as forgers and knaves.

If, then, there was not much of similarity between these two men
to attach them to each other, there was what served for a bond of
union : they belonged to the same class in life, and used pretty nigh
the same forms for their expression of like and dislike ; and, as iu
traffic, it contributes wonderfully to the facihties of business to use
the same money, so, in the common intercourse of life, will the habit
to estimate things at the same value conduce to very easy relations,
and something almost like friendship.

While they sat over the fire awaiting their supper, each had
lighted a cigar, busying himself from time to time iu endeavouring
to dry some drenched article of dress, or extracting from damp and
dripping pockets their several contents.

" This, then," said the younger man, — " this is the picturesque
Ireland our tourist writers tells us of ; and the land where The Times
says the traveller will find more to interest him than in the Tyrol or
the Oberland."

" What about the climate ? " said the other, in a deep bass voice.

** Mild and moist, I believe, are the epithets ; that is, it makes
you damp and it keeps you so."

"And the inns ?"

" The inns, it is admitted, might be better ; but the traveller is
admonished against fastidiousness, and told that the prompt spirit of
obligeance, the genial cordiality, he will meet with, are more than
enough to repay him for the want of more polished habits and mere
details of comfort and convenience."

" Rotten humbug ! I don't want cordiality from my innkeeper."

" I should think not ! As, for instance, a bit of carpet in this
room would be worth more than all the courtesy that showed us in."

" What was that lake called, the first place I mean ? " asked

" Lough Brin, I shouldn't say but with better weather it might
be pretty."


A half grunt of dissent was all the reply, and Walpole went on :

" It's no use painting a landscape when it is to to be smudged
all over with Indian ink. There are no tints in mountains swathed
in mist, no colour in trees swamped Avith moisture ; everything
seems so imbued with damp, one fancies it would take two years in
the tropics to dry Ireland."

" I asked that fellow who showed us the way here, why he didn't
pitch ofi' those wet rags he wore, and walk away in all the dignity of

A large dish of rashers and eggs, and a mess of Irish stew, which
the landlord now placed on the table, with a foaming jug of malt,
seemed to rally them out of their ill-temper ; and for some time they
talked away in a more cheerful tone.

" Better than I hoped for," said Walpole.


" And that ale, too — I suppose it is called ale — is very tolerable."

"It's downright good. Let us have some more of it." And he
shouted, " Master ! " at the top of his voice. " More of this," said
Lockwood, touching the measure. " Beer or ale, which is it ? "

"Castle Bellingham, sir," replied the landlord; "beats all the
Bass and Allsopp that ever was brewed."

"You think so, eh?"

" I'm sure of it, sir. The club that sits here had a debate on it
one night, and put it to the vote, and there wasn't one man for the
English liquor. My lord there," said he, pointing to the portrait,
" sent an account of it all to Saunders' newspaper."

While he left the room to fetch the ale the travellers both fixed
their eyes on the picture, and Walpole, rising, read out the inscrip-
tion, — " Yiscount Kilgobbin."

" There's no such title," said the other, bluntly.

" Lord Kilgobbin — lulgobbia Where did I hear that name
before ? "

" In a dream, perhaps."

" No, no. I Jiure heard it, if I could only remember where and
how! I say, landlord, where does his lordship live?" and he
pointed to the portrait.

"Beyond, at the Castle, sir. You can see it fi'om the door
without when the weather's fine."

"That must mean on a very rare occasion!" said Lockwood,

" No, indeed, sir. It didn't begin to rain on Tuesday last till
after three o'clock."

" Magnificent climate !" exclaimed Walpole, enthusiastically.


" It is indeed, sir. Glory be to God ! " said the landlord, with
an honest gravity that set them both ofl' laughing.

" How about this club — docs it meet often ? "

"It used, sir, to meet every Thursday evening, and my lord
never missed a night, but quite lately he took it in his head not to
come out in the evenings. Some say it was the rheumatism, and
more says it's the unsettled state of the country ; though, the Lord
be praised for it, there wasn't a man fired at in the neighbourhood
since Easter, and he was a peeler."

*' One of the constabulaiy ? "

" Yes, sir ; a dirty, mean chap, that was looking after a poor boy
that set fire to Mr. Hagin's ricks, and that was over a year ago."

" And naturally forgotten by this time ?"

** By coorse it was forgotten. Ould Mat Hagin got a presentment
for the damage out of the grand jury, and nobody was the worse for
it at all."

" And so the club is smashed, eh ? "

" As good as smashed, sir ; for whenever any of them comes now
of an evening, he just goes into the bar and takes his glass there."

He sighed heavily as he said this, and seemed overcome with

" I'm trying to remember why the name is so familiar to me. I
know I have heard of Lord Kilgobbin before," said Walpole.

"May be so," said the landlord, respectfully. " You may have
read in books how it was at Kilgobbin Castle King James came to
stop after the Boyne ; that he held a * coort ' there in the big drawing-
room, — they call it the ' throne-room ' ever since, — and slept two
nights at the Castle afterwards ?"

" That's something to see, Walpole," said Lockwood.

"So it is. How is that to be managed, landlord? Does his
lordship peimit strangers to visit the Castle ?"

" Nothing easier than that, sir," said the host, who gladly
embraced a project that should detain his guests at the inn. " My
lord went through the town this morning, on his way to Loughrea
fair ; but the young ladies is at home ; and you've only to send over
a message, and say you'd Hke to see the place, and they'll be proud
to show it to you."

" Let us send our cards, with a line in pencil," said Walpole, in
a whisper to his friend.

" And there are young ladies there ?" asked Lockwood.

" Two bom beauties ; it's hard to say which is handsomest,"
replied the host, overjoyed at the attraction his neighbourhood


" I suppose that will do ?" said Walpole, showing what he had
written on his card.

" Yes, perfectly."

" Despatch this at once. I mean early to-morrow ; and let your
messenger ask if there he an answer. How far is it off ? "

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 5 of 48)