Charles James Lever.

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

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" A little over twelve miles, sir ; but I've a mare in the stable
will ' rowle' ye over in an hour and a quarter."

" All right. We'll settle on everything after breakfast to-
morrow." And the landlord withdrew, leaving them once more alone.

" This means," said Lockwood, drearily, "we shall have to pass
a day in this wretched place."

" It will take a day to dry our wet clothes ; and, all things
considered, one might be worse off than here. Besides I shall want
to look over my notes. I have done next to nothing, up to this time,
about the Land Question."

" I thought that the old fellow with the cow, the fellow I gave
a cigar to, had made you up in your tenant-right affair," said

" He gave me a great deal of very valuable information ; he
exposed some of the evils of tenancy at will as ably as I ever heard
them treated, but he was occasionally hard on the landlord."

" I suppose one word of truth never came out of his mouth ! "

" On the contrary, real knowledge of Ireland is not to be acquired
from newspapers; a man must see Ireland for himself, — see it,"
repeated he, with strong emphasis.

"And then ?"

" And then, if he be a capable man, a reflecting man, a man in
whom the perceptive power is joined to the social faculty "

" Look here, Cecil : one hearer won't make a house : don't try
it on speechifying to me. It's all humbug coming over to look at
Ireland. You may pick up a little brogue, but it's all you'll pick up
for your journey." After this, for him, unusually long speech, he
finished his glass, lighted his bedroom caudle, and nodding a good-
night, strolled away.

" I'd give a crown to know where I heard of you before ! " said
Walpole, as he stared up at the portrait.

( 47 )


" Only think of it ! " cried Kate to her cousin, as she received
Walpole's note. " Can you fancy, Nina, any one having the curiosity
to imagine this old house worth a visit ? Here is a polite request
from two tourists to he allowed to see the — what is it ? — the
interesting interior of Kilgohbin Castle ! "

" Which I hope and trust you will refuse. The people who are
so eager for these things are invariably tiresome old bores, grubbing
for antiquities, or intently bent on adding a chapter to their story of
travel. You'll say no, dearest, won't you ?"

" Certainly if you wish it. I am not acquainted with Captain
Lockwood, nor his friend Mr. Cecil Walpole."

" Did you say Cecil Walpole ?" cried the other, almost snatching
the card from her fingers. " Of all the strange chances in life —
this is the very strangest ! What could have brought Cecil Walpole

" You know him, then ? "

" I should think I do ! What duets have we not sung together '?
What waltzes have we not had ? What rides over the Campagna ?
Oh dear ! how I should like to talk over these old times again ! Pray
tell him he may come, Kate, or let me do it."

" And papa away ! "

" It is the castle, dearest, he wants to see, not papa ! You don't
know what manner of creature this is ! He is one of your refined
and supremely cultivated English — mad about archteology, and
medifeval trumpery. He'll know all your ancestors intended by every
insane piece of architecture, and every puzzling detail of this old
house ; and he'll light up every corner of it with some gleam of bright

" I thought these sort of people were bores, dear ? " said Kate,
with a sly malice in her look.

" Of course not. When they are well-bred, and well-man-
nered "

" And perhaps well-looking ? " chimed in Kate.

" Yes, and so he is — a little of the ' petit-maitre ' perhaps. He's
much of that school which fiction-writers describe as having ' finely-
pencilled eyebrows and chins of almost womanlike roundness ; ' but
people in Rome always called him handsome, that is if he be my
Cecil Walpole."


" Well, then, will you tell your Cecil Walpole, in such polite
terms as you know how to coin, that there is really nothing of the
very slightest pretension to interest in this old place; that we should
be ashamed at having lent ourselves to the delusion that might have
led him here ; and lastly, that the owner is from home ? "

" What ! and is this the Irish hospitality I have heard so much
of, — the cordial welcome the stranger may reckon as a certainty, and
make all his plans with the full confidence of meeting '? "

" There is such a thing as discretion, also, to be remembered,
Nina," said Kate, gravely.

" And then, there's the room where the king slept, and the chair
that — no, not Oliver Cromwell, but somebody else sat in at supper,
and there's the great patch painted on the floor where your ancestor
knelt to be knighted."

" He was created a viscount, not a knight ! " said Kate, blushing.
*' And there is a difference, I assure you."

" So there is, dearest, and even my foreign ignorance should
know that much, and you have the parchment that attests it, — a most
curious document, that Walpole would be delighted to see. I almost
fancy him examining the curious old seal with his microscope, and
hear him unfolding all sorts of details one never so much as sus-

" Papa might not like it," said Kate, bridling up. " Even were
he at home, I am far from certain he would receive these gentlemen.
It is little more than a year ago there came here a certain book-
writing tourist, and presented himself without introduction. We re-
ceived him hospitably, and he stayed part of a week here. He was
fond of antiquarianism, but more eager still about the condition of
the people, — what kind of husbandry they practised, what wages they
had, and what food. Papa took him over the whole estate, and
answered all his questions freely and openly. And this man made a
chapter of his book upon us, and headed it ' Rack-renting and riotous
living,' distorting all he heard and sneering at all he saw."

" These are gentlemen, dearest Kate," said Nina, holding out
the card. " Come now, do tell me that I may say you will be happy
to see them ? "

" If you must have it so — if you really insist "

" I do ! I do ! " cried she, half wildly. " I should go distracted
if you denied me. Oh, Kate ! I must own it. It will out. I do
cling devotedly — terribly to that old life of the past. I am very
happy here, and you are all good, and kind, and loving to me ; but
that wajTvard haphazard existence, with all its trials and miseries, had
got little glimpses of such bliss at times that rose to actual ccstacy."


" I was afraid of this," said Kate, iu a low but firm voice. " I
thought what a change it would be for you from that life of brightness
and festivity to this existence of dull and unbroken dreariness."

" No, no, no ! Don't say that ! Do not fancy that I am not
happier than I ever was or ever believed I could be. It was the
castle-building of that time that I was regretting. I imagined so
many things, I invented such situations, such incidents, which, with
this sad-coloured landscape here and that leaden sky, I have no force
to conjure up. It is as though the atmosphere is too weighty for
fancy to mount in it. You, my dearest Kate," said she, drawing her
ann round her, and pressing her towards her, " do not know these
things, nor need ever know them. Your life is assured and safe.
You cannot, indeed, be secure from the passing accidents of life, but
they will meet you in a spirit able to confront them. As for me, I
was always gambling for existence, and gambling without means to
pay my losses if Fortune should turn against me. Do you under-
stand me, child ? "

" Only in part, if even that," said she, slowly.

" Let us keep this theme, then, for another time. Now for ces
Messieurs. I am to invite them ? "

" If there was time to ask Miss O'Shea to come over "

"Do you not fancy, Kate, that in your father's house, surrounded
with your father's servants, you are sufficiently the mistress to do
without a chaperonne ? Only preserve that grand austere look you
have listened to me with, these last ten minutes, and I should like to
see the youthful audacity that could brave it. There, I shall go and
write my note. You shall see how discreetly and properly I shall
word it."

Kate walked thoughtfully towards a window and looked out, while
Nina skipped gaily down the room, and opened her writing-desk,
humming an opera air as she wrote : —

" Kilgobbiii Castle.

" Dear Mr. Walpole, — I can scarcely tell jou the pleasure I
feel at the prospect of seeing a dear friend, or a friend from dear
Italy, whichever be the most proper to say. My uncle is from home,
and will not return till the day after to-morrow at dinner ; but my
cousin, Miss Kearney, charges me to say how happy she will be to
receive you and your fellow-traveller at luncheon to-morrow. Pray
not to trouble yourself with an answer, but believe me very sincerely
yours, " Nina Kostalergi."

" I was right in saying luncheon, Kate, and not dinner — was 1
not ? It is less formal."



" I suppose so ; that is, if it was right to invito them at all, of
which I have very great misgivings, "

" I wonder what hrought Cecil Walpole down here ? " said Nina,
glad to turn the discussion into another channel. " Could he have
heard that I was here ? Probably not. It was a mere chance, 1
suppose. Strange things these same chances are, that do so much
more in our lives than all our plottings ! "

" Tell me something of your friend, perhaps I ought to say your
admirer, Nina ! "

" Yes, very much my admirer; not seriously, you know, but Ja
that charming sort of adoration we cultivate abroad, that means
anything or nothing. He was not titled, and I am afraid he was not
rich, and this last misfortune used to make his attention to me
somewhat painful — to him I mean, not to me ; for, of course, as to
anything serious, I looked much higher than a poor Secretary of

" Did you ? " asked Kate, with an air of quiet simplicity.

"I should hope I did," said she haughtily; and she threw a
glance at herself in a large mirror, and smiled proudly at the bright
image that confronted her. "Yes, darling, say it out," cried she,
turning to Kate. "Your eyes have uttered the words already."

"What words?"

" Something about insufferable vanity and conceit, and I own to
both ! Oh, why is it that my high spirits have so run away with me
this morning, that I have forgotten all reserve and all shame ? But
the truth is, I feel half wild with joy, and joy in mij nature is another
name for recklessness."

" I sincerely hope not," said Kate gravely. " At any rate, you
give me another reason for wishing to have Miss O'Shea here."

"I will not have her — no, not for worlds, Kate, that odious old
woman, with her stiff and antiquated propriety. Cecil would quiz

" I am very certain he would not ; at least, if he be such a perfect
gentleman as you tell me."

" Ah, but you'd never know he did it. The fine tact of these
consummate men of the world derives a humoristic enjoyment in
eccentricity of character, which never shows itself in any outward
sign beyond the heightened pleasure they feel in what other folks
might call dulness or mere oddity."

" I would not suffer an old friend to be made the subject of even
Buch latent amusement."

" Nor her nephew, either, perhaps ? "

♦' The iiophev,- could take care of himself, Nina ; but I am not


aware that he will be called on to do so. He is uot ia Ireland, I

" He was to arrive this week. You told me so."

" Perhaps he did ; I had forgotten it ! " and Kate flushed as she
spoke, though whether from shame or anger it was not easy to say.
As though impatient with herself at any display of temper, she added,
hurriedly, " Was it not a piece of good fortune, Nina ? Papa has
left us the key of the cellar, a thing he never did before, and only now
because you were here ! "

*' What an honoured guest I am ! " said the other, smiling.

" That, you are ! I don't believe papa has gone once to the club
since you came here."

" Now, if I were to own that I was vain of this, you'd rebuke me,
would not you ? "

" Our love could scarcely prompt to vanity."

*' How shall I ever learn to be humble enough in a family of such
humility ? " said Nina, pettishly. Then quickly correcting herself,
she said, " I'll go and despatch my note, and then I'll come back and
ask your pardon for all my wilfulness, and tell you how much I thank
you for all your goodness to me."

And as she spoke she bent down and kissed Kate's hand twice
or thrice fervently.

" Oh, dearest Nina, not this — not this ! " said Kate, trying to
clasp her in her arms ; but the other had slipped from her grasp,
and was gone.

" Strange girl," muttered Kate, looking after her. " I wonder
shall I ever understand you, or shall we ever understand each other ? "



The morning broke drearily for our friends, the two pedestrians, at
the " Blue Goat." A day of dull aspect and soft rain in midsummer
has the added depression that it seems an anachronism. One is in a
measure prepared for being weather-bound in winter. You accept
imprisonment as the natural fortune of the season, or you brave the
elements prepared to let them do their worst, while, if confined to
house, you have that solace of snugness, that comfortable chimney-
•corner which somehow realizes an immense amount of the joys we
concentrate in the word " Home." It is in the want of this rallying-


point, this little domestic altar, where all gather together in a common
worship that lies the dreary discomfort of being weather-bound in
summer, and when the prison is some small village inn, noisy,
disorderly, and dirty, the misery is complete.

" Grand old pig that ! " said Lockwood, as he gazed out upon
the filthy yard, where a fat old sow contemplated the weather from
the threshold of her dwelling.

" I wish she'd come out. I want to make a sketch of her," said
the other.

" Even one's tobacco grows too damp to smoke in this blessed
climate," said Lockwood, as he pitched his cigar away. " Heigh-ho !
We're too late for the train to town, I see."
" You'd not go back, would you ? "

" I should think I would ! That old den in the upper Castle-yard
is not very cheery or very nice, but there is a chair to sit on, and a
review and a newspaper to read. A tour in a country and with a
climate like this is a mistake."

" I suspect it is," said Walpole, drearily.

" There is nothing to see, no one to talk to, nowhere to stop at ! "
*' All true," muttered the other. " By the way, haven't we some
plan or project for to-day — something about an old castle or an abbey
to see? "

"Yes, and the waiter brought me a letter. I think it was
addressed to you, and I left it on my dressing-table. I had forgotten
all about it, I'll go and fetch it."

Short as his absence was, it gave Walpole time enough to recur
to his late judgment on his tour, and once more call it a " mistake,
a complete mistake." The Ireland of wits, dramatists, and romance-
writers was a conventional thing, and bore no resemblance whatsoever
to the rain-soaked, dreary-looking, depressed reality. " These Ii-ish,
they are odd without being droll, just as they are poor without being
picturesque ; but of all the delusions we nourish about them, there
is not one so thoroughly absurd as to call them dangerous ?"

He had just arrived at this mature opinion, when his friend
re-entered and handed him the note.

" Here is a piece of luck. Per Bacco !" cried Walpole, as he
ran over the lines. " This beats all I could have hoped for. Listen
to this : ' Dear Mr. Walpole, — I cannot tell you the delight I feel in
the prospect of seeing a dear friend, or a friend from dear Italy,
which is it ? ' "

" Who writes this ? "

"A certain Mademoiselle Kostalcrgi, whom I knew at Rome;
one of the prettiest, cleverest, and nicest girls I ever met in my life."


" Not the daughter of that precious Count Kostalergi you have
told me such stories of ? "

" The same, but most unlike him in every way. She is here,
apparently with an uncle, who is now from home, and she and her
cousin invite us to luncheon to-day."

" What a lark ! " said the other, dryly.

" We'll go, of course?"

" In weather like this ? "

" Why not ? Shall we be better off staying here ? I now begin
to remember how the name of this place was so familiar to me. She
was always asking me if I knew or heard of her mother's brother,
the Lord Kilgobbin, and, to tell truth, I fancied some one had been
hoaxing her with the name, and never believed that there was even
a place with such a designation."

" Kilgobbin does not sound like a lordly title. How about
Mademoiselle — what is the name ? "

*' Kostalergi ; they call themselves princes."

'* With all my heart. I was only going to say, as you've got a
sort of knack of entanglement — is there, or has there been anything
of that sort here ? "

" Flirtation — a little of what is called * spooning ' — but no more.
But why do you ask ? "

" First of all, you are an engaged man."

" All true, and I mean to keep my engagement, I can't marry,
however, till I get a mission, or something at home as good as a
mission. Lady Maude knows that ; her friends know it, but none of
us imagine that we are to be miserable in the meantime."

"I'm not talking of misery. I'd only say, don't get yourself
into any mess. These foreign girls are veiy wide awake."

" Don't believe that, Harry ; one of our home-bred damsels would
give them a distance and beat them in the race for a husband. It's
only in England girls are trained to angle for marriage, take my
word for it."

"Be it so — I only warn you that if you get into any scrape I'll
accept none of the consequences. Lord Dauesbury is ready enough
to say that, because I am some ten years older than you, I should
have kept you out of mischief. I never contracted for such a bear-
leadership ; though I certainly told Lady Maude I'd turn Queen's
evidence against you if you became a traitor."

" I wonder you never told me that before," said Walpole, with
some irritation of manner.

** I only wonder that I told it now 1 " replied the other,


" Then I am to take it, that in your office of guardian, you'd
rather we'd decline this invitation, eh ? "

" I don't care a rush for it either way, but looking to the sort of
day it is out there, I incline to keep the house."

" I don't mind bad weather, and I'll go," said Walpole, in a way
that showed temper was involved in the resolution.

Lockwood made no other reply than heaping a quantity of turf
on the fire, and seating himself beside it.

When a man tells his fellow-traveller that he means to go his
own road — that companionship has no tie upon him — he virtually
declares the partnership dissolved : and while Lockwood sat reflecting
over this, he was also canvassing with himself how far he might have
been to blame in provoking this hasty resolution.

" Perhaps he was irritated at my counsels, perhaps the notion of
anything like guidance offended him ; perhaps it was the phrase,
' bear-leadership,' and the half-threat of betraying him, has done the
mischief." Now the gallant soldier was a slow thinker; it took him
a deal of time to arrange the details of any matter in his mind, and
when he tried to muster his ideas there were many which would not
answer the call, and of those which came, there were not a few which
seemed to present themselves in a refractory and unwilling spirit, so
that he had almost to suppress a mutiny before he proceeded to his

Nor did the strong cheroots, which he smoked to clear his faculties
and develop his mental resources, always contribute to this end,
though their soothing influence certainly helped to make him more
satisfied with his judgments.

" Now, look here, Walpole," said he, determining that he would
save himself all unnecessary labour of thought by throwing the burden
of the case on the respondent, — " Look here : take a calm view of
this thing, and see if it's quite wise in you to go back into trammels
it cost you some trouble to escape from. You call it spooning, but
you won't deny you went very far with that young woman — farther,
I suspect, than you've told me yet. Eh ! is that true or not ? "

He waited a reasonable time for a reply, but none coming, hd
went on : — " I don't want a forced confidence. You may say it's no
business of mine, and there I agree with you, and probably if you
put nir to the question in the same fashion, I'd give you a very short
answer. Remember one thing, however, old fellow : I've seen a precious
deal more of life and the world than you have ! From sixteen years
of age, when you were hammering away at Greek verbs and some
such balderdash at Oxford, I was up at Rangoon with the very fastest
set of men — ay, of women too — I ever lived with in all my life.


Half of our fellows were killed off by it. Of course people will say
climate, climate ! but if I were to give you tbe bistory of one clay-
just twenty-four bours of our life up tbere — you'd say tbat tbe wonder
is tbcre's any one alive to tell it."

He turned around at tbis, to enjoy tbe expression of borror and
surprise be boped to have called up, and perceived for tbe first time
that be was alone. He rang tbe bell, and asked tbe waiter where
the other gentleman had gone, and learned tbat be bad ordered a
car, and set out for Kilgobbin Castle more than half-an-hour before.

"All right," said be, fiercely. " I wash my bands of it altogether !
I'm heartily glad I told him so before be went." He smoked on
very vigorously for balf-an-hour, the burden of his thoughts being
perhaps revealed by tbe summing up, as he said, " And when you
are ' in for it,' Master Cecil, and some precious scrape it will be, if I
move hand or foot to pull you through it, call me a Major of Marines,
tiiat's all — -just call me a Major of Marines ! " The ineflfable borror
of such an imputation served as matter for reverie for bours.



While Lockwood continued thus to doubt and debate with himself,
Walpole was already some miles on his way to Kilgobbin. Not,
indeed, that he bad made any remarkable progress, for tbe "mare
that was to rowl his honour over in an hour and half," bad to be
taken from the field where she had been ploughing since daybreak,
while " the boy " tbat should drive her, was a little old man who bad
to be aroused from a condition of drunkenness in a hayloft, and
installed in his office.

Nor were these tbe only difficulties. The roads that led through
tbe bog wei'e so numerous and so completely alike that it only needed
the dense atmosphere of a rainy day to make it matter of great
difficulty to discover the right track. More than once were they
obliged to retrace their steps after a considerable distance, and tbe
driver's impatience always took tbe shape of a reproach to Walpole,
who, having nothing else to do, should surely have minded where
they were going. Now, not only was tbe traveller utterly ignorant of
tbe geography of the land be journeyed in, but bis thoughts were
far and away from the scenes around him. Very scattered and
desultoiy thoughts were they, at one time over tbe Alps and with


"long-agoes:" nights at Rome clashing with mornings on tho
Campagna ; vast salons crowded with peoi)lc of many nations, all
more or less busy with that great traffic which, whether it take the
form of religion, or politics, or social intrigue, hate, love or rivalry,
makes up what wo call " the world ; " or there were sunsets dying
away rapidly — as they will do — over that great plain outside the
city, whereon solitude and silence are as much masters as on a vast
prairie of the West ; and he thought of times when he rode back at
nightfall beside Nina Kostalergi, when little flashes would cross them
of that romance that very worldly folk now and then taste of, and
delight in with a zest all the greater that the sensation is so new
and strange to them. Then there was the revulsion from the blaze
of waslights and the glitter of diamonds, the crash of orchestras and
the din of conversation, the intoxication of the flattery that champagne
only seems to " accentuate " to the unbroken stillness of the hour,
when even the footfall of the horse is unheard, and a dreamy doubt
that this quietude, this soothing sense of calm, is higher happiness

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 6 of 48)