Charles James Lever.

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

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than all the glitter and all the splendour of the ball-room, and that
in the dropping words we now exchange, and in the stray glances,
there is a signiflcance and an exquisite delight we never felt till now ;
for, glorious as is the thought of a returned aflectiou, full of ecstasy,
the sense of a heart all, all our own, there is in the first half-doubtful,
distrustful feeling of falling in love, with all its chances of success or
failure, something that has its moments of bliss nothing of earthly
delight can ever equal. To the verge of that possibility Walpole had
reached — but gone no further — with Nina Kostalergi. The young
men of the age are an eminently calculating and prudent class, and
they count the cost of an action with a marvellous amount of accuracy.
Is it the turf and its teachings to which this crafty and cold-blooded
spirit is owing ? Have they learned to " square their book " on life
by the lessons of Ascot and Newmarket, and seen that, no matter
how probably they " stand to win " on this, they must provide for
that, and that no caution or foresight is enough that will not embrace
every casualty of any venture ?

There is no need to tell a younger son of the period that he must
not marry a pretty girl of doubtful family and no fortune. He may
have his doubts on scores of subjects : he may not be quite sure
whether he ought to remain a Whig with Lord Russell, or go in for
Odgerism and the ballot ; he may be uncertain about Colenso, and
have his misgivings about the Pentateuch ; ho may not be easy in
his mind about the Russians in the East, or the Americans in the
West ; uncomfortable suspicions may cross him that the Volunteers
are not as quick in evolution as the Zouaves, or that England


generally does not sing " Rule Britannia " so lustily as she used to
do. All these are possible misgivings, but that he should take such
a plunge as matrimony, on other grounds than the perfect prudence
and profit of the investment, could never occur to him.

As to the sinfulness of tampering with a girl's affections by what
in slang is called " spooning," it was purely absurd to think of it.
You might as well say that playing sixpenny whist made a man a
gambler. And then, as to the spooning, it was partie qjnle, the lady
was no worse ofi' than the gentleman. If there were by any hazard —
and this he was disposed to doubt — " aifections " at stake, the man
" stood to lose " as much as the woman. But this was not the
aspect in which the case presented itself, flirtation being, in his idea,
to marriage — what the preliminary canter is to the race — something
to indicate the future, but so dimly and doubtfully as not to decide
the hesitation of the waverer.

If, then, Walpole was never for a moment what mothers call
serious in his attentions to Mdlle. Kostalergi, he was not the less
fond of her society ; he frequented the places where she was likely to
be met with, and paid her that degree of " court" that only stopped
short of being particular \yy his natural caution. There was the
more need for the exercise of this quality at Rome, since there were
many there who knew of his engagement with his cousin. Lady
Maude, and who would not have hesitated to report on any breach of
fidelity. Now, however, all these restraints were withdi-awn. They
were not in Italy, where London, by a change of venue, takes its
"records" to be tried in the dull days of winter. They were in
Ireland, and in a remote spot of Ireland, where there were no
gossips, no clubs, no afteruoon-tea committees, to sit on reputations,
and was it not pleasant now to see this nice girl again in perfect
freedom ? These were, loosely stated, the thoughts which occupied
him as he went along, very little disposed to mind how often the
puzzled driver halted to decide the road, or how frequently he retraced
miles of distance. Men of the world, especially when young in life,
and more realistic than they will be twenty years later, proud of the
incredulity they can feel on the score of everything and eveiybody,
are often fond of making themselves heroes to their own hearts of
some little romance, which shall not cost them dearly to indulge in,
and merely engage some loose-lying sympathies without in any way
prejudicing their road in life. They accept of these sentimentalities,
as the vicar's wife did the sheep in the picture, pleased to "have as
many as the jiainter would put in for nothing."

Now, Cecil Walpole never intended that this little Irish episode —
and episode he determined it should be — should in any degree afl'ect

58 ijORD kilgobbin.

the serious fortunes of his life. He was engaged to his cousin, Lady
Maude Bickerstaffe, and they would he married some day. Not that
either was very impatient to exchange present comfort — and, on her
side, affluence — for a marriage on small means, and no great prospects
beyond that. They were not much in love. Walpolc knew that the
Lady Maude's fortune was small, but the man who married her must
" be taken care of," and by either side, for there were as many Tories
as "Whigs in the family, and Lady Maude knew that half-a-dozen years
ago, she would certainly not have accepted Walpole ; but that with
every year her chances of a better parti were diminishing; and, worse
than all this, each was well aware of the inducements by which the
other was influenced. Nor did the knowledge in any way detract
from their self-complacence or satisfaction with the match.

Lady Maude was to accompany her uncle to Ireland, and do the
honours of his court, for he was a bachelor, and pleaded hard with
his party on that score to be let off accepting the viceroyalty.

Lady Maude, however, had not yet arrived, and even if she had,
how should she ever hear of an adventure in the Bog of Allen !

But was there to be an adventure ? and, if so, what sort of
adventure ? Irishmen, Walpole had Ifeard, had ail the jealousy
about their women that characterizes savage races, and were ready
to resent what, in civilized people, no one would dream of regarding
as matter for umbrage. Well, then, it was only to be more cautious
— more on one's guard — besides the tact, too, which a knowledge of
life should give

" Eh, what's this ? Why are you stopping here ? "

This was addressed now to the driver, who had descended from
his box, and was standing in advance of the horse.

" Why don't I drive on, is it ? " asked he, in a voice of despair.
" Sure, there's no road."

" And does it stop here ?" cried Walpole, in horror, for he now
perceived that the road really came to an abrupt ending in the midst
of the bog.

"Begorra, it's just what it does. Yo see, your honour," added
he, in a confidential tone, " it's one of them tricks the English played
us in the year of the famine. They got two millions of money to
make roads in Ireland, but they were so afraid it would make us
prosperous and richer than themselves, that they set about making
roads that go nowhere. Sometimes to the top of a mountain, or
down to the sea, where there was no harbour, and sometimes, like
this one, into the heart of a bog."

" That was very spiteful and very mean, too," said Walpolc.

" Wasn't it just mean, and nothing else ! and it's five miles we'll


have to go back now to the cross-roads. Begorra, your honour, it's
a good dhrink ye'll have to give me for this day's work."

" You forget, my friend, that but for your own confounded
stupidity I should have been at Kilgobbin Castle by this time."

" And ye'll be there yet, with God's help ! " said he, turning the
horse's head. " Bad luck to them for the road-making, and it's a
pity, after all, it goes nowhere, for it's the nicest bit to travel in the
whole country."

" Come now, jamp up, old fellow, and make your beast step out.
I don't want to pass the night here."

" You wouldn't have a dhrop of whisky with your honour ? "

" Of course not."

" Nor even brandy ? "

"No, not even brandy."

" Musha, I'm thinking you must be English," muttered he, half

" And if I were, is there any great harm in that ? "

" By coorse not ; how could ye help it ? I suppose we'd all of
us be better if we could. Sit a bit more forward, your honour ; the
bellyband does be lifting her, and as you're doing nothing, just give
her a welt of that stick in your hand, now and then, for I lost the
lash off my whip, and I've nothing but this ! " And he displayed
the short handle of what had once been a whip, with a thong of
leather dangling at the end.

"I must say, I wasn't aware that I was to have worked my
passage," said Walpole, with something between drollery and

" She doesn't care for bating — stick her with the end of it.
That's the way. We'll get on elegant now. I suppose you was
never here before?"

" No ; and I think I can promise you I'll not come again."

" I hope you will, then, and many a time too. This is the Bog
of Allen you're travelling now, and they tell there's not the like of it
in the three kingdoms."

" I trust there's not ! "

" The English, they say, has no bogs. Nothing but coal."

" Quite true."

" Erin, ma bouchal you are ! first gem of the say ! that's whai.
Dan O'Connell always called you. Are you gettin' tired with the

" I'm tired of your wretched old beast, and your car, and your-
self, too," said Walpole; " and if I were sure that was the Castle
yonder, I'd make my way straight to it on foot."


" And why wouldn't you, if your honour liked it best ? Why
would 5'e be beholden to a car if you'd rather walk. Only mind the
Log-holes : for there's twenty feet of water in some of them, and the
sides is so straight, you'll never get out if you fall in."

"Drive on, then. I'll remain where I am ; but don't bother me
with your talk ; and no more questioning."

"By coorse I won't — why would I? Isn't your honour a
gentleman, and haven't you a right to say what you plaze ; and what
am I but a poor boy, earning his bread, just the way it is all through
the world ; some has everything they want and more besides, and
others hasn't a stitch to their backs, or maybe a pinch of tobacco to
put in a pipe."

This appeal was timed by seeing that Walpole had just lighted a
fresh cigar, whose fragrant fumes were wafted across the speaker's

Firm to his determination to maintain silence, Walpole paid no
attention to the speech, nor uttered a word of any kind ; and as a
light drizzling rain had now begun to fall, and obliged him to shelter
himself under an umbrella, he was at length saved from his
con>panion's loquacity. Baffled, but not beaten, the old fellow
began to sing, at first in a low, droning tone ; but growing louder as
the fire of patriotism warmed him, he shouted, to a very wild and
somewhat irregular tune, a ballad, of which Walpole could not but
hear the words occasionally, while the tramping of the fellow's feet
on the foot-board kept time to his song : —

'Tis our fun they can't forgive us,

Nor our wit so sharp and keen ;
But there's nothing that provokes them

Like our wearin' of the green.
They thought Poverty would bate us,

But we'd sell our hist " boneen"
And we'd live on could paytatees,

All lor wearin' of the green.

Oh, the wearin' of the green — the wearin' of the green !

'Tis the colour best becomes us

Is the wearin' of the green !

" Here's a cigar for you, old fellow, and stop that infernal chant."

" There's only five verses moro, and I'll sing them for your
honour before I light the baccy."

" If you do, then, you shall never light baccy of mine. Can't
you see that your confounded song is driving me mad ? "

" Faix, ye'ro the first I ever see disliked music," muttered he, in
a tone almost compassionate.

And now as Walpole raised the collar of his coat to defend his


ears, and prepared, as well as he might, to resist the weather, he
muttered, " And this is the beautiful land of scenery ; and this the
climate ; and this the amusing and witty peasant we read of. I have
half a mind to tell the world how it has been humbugged ! " And
thus musing, he jogged on the weary road, nor raised his head till
the heavy clash of an iron gate aroused him, and he saw that thoy
were driving along an approach, with some clumps of pretty but
young timber on either side.

"Here we are, your honour, safe and sound," cried the driver,
as proudly as if he had not been five hours over what should have
been done in one and a half. " This is Kilgobbin. All the ould
trees was cut down by Oliver Cromwell, they say, but there will be a
fine wood here yet. That's the castle you see yonder, over them
trees ; but there's no flag flying. The lord's away, I suppose I'll
have to wait for your honour ? You'll be coming back with me ? "

" Yes, you'll have to wait." And Walpole looked at his watch,
and saw it was already past five o'clock.



When the hour of luncheon came, and no guests made their
appearance, the young girls at the castle began to discuss what they
should best do. " I know nothing of fine people and their ways,"
said Kate : " you must take the whole direction here, Nina."

" It is only a question of time, and a cold luncheon can wait
without difficulty."

And so they waited till three, then till four, and now it was five
o'clock ; when Kate, who had been over the kitchen- garden, and the
calves' paddock, and inspecting a small tract laid out for a nurseiy,
came back to the house very tired, and as she said, also very
hungry. "You know, Nina," said she, entering the room, "I
ordered no dinner to-day. I speculated on our making our dinner
when your friends lunched ; and as they have not lunched, we have
not dined ; and I vote we sit down now. I'm afraid I shall not be

as pleasant company as that Mr. do tell me his name — Walpole

— but I pledge myself to have as good an appetite."

Nina made no answer. She stood at the open window ; her gaze
steadily bent on the strip of narrow road that traversed the wide moor
before her.


" Ain't you hungry ? I mean, ain't you famished chihl ? " asked

" No, I don't think so. I could cat, but I believe I could go
without eating just as well."

"Well, I must dine; and if you were not looking so nice and
fresh, with a rose-bud in your hair and your white dress so daintily
looped up, I'd ask leave not to dress."

" If you were to smooth your hair, and, perhaps, change your
boots "

" Oh, I know, and become in every respect a little civilized.
My poor dear cousin, what a mission you have undertaken among
the savages. Own it honestly, you never guessed the task that was
before you when you came here."

"Oh, it's veiy nice savagery, all the same," said the other,
smiling pleasantly.

" There now ! " cried Kate, as she threw her hat to one side, and
stood arranging her hair before the glass. " I make this toilette
under protest, for we are going in to luncheon, not dinner, and all
the world knows, and all the illustrated newspapers show, that
people do not dress for lunch. And, by the way, that is something
you have not got in Italy. All the women gathering together in their
garden-bonnets and their morning muslins, and the men in their
knickerbockers and their coarse tweed coats."

" I declare I think you are in better spirits since you sec these
people are not coming."

"It is true. You have guessed it, dearest, The thought of
anything grand — as a visitor ; anything that would for a moment
suggest the unpleasant question. Is this right ? or. Is that usual ?
makes me downright irritable. Come, are you ready ? May I offer
you my arm ?"

And now they were at table, Kate rattling away in unwonted gaiety,
and trying to rally Nina out of her disappointment.

" I declare, Nina, everything is so pretty I'm ashamed to eat.
Those chickens near you are the least ornamental things I see. Cut
me off a wing. Oh, I forgot, you never acquired the barbarous art
of carving."

" I can cut this," said Nina, drawing a dish of tongue towards her.

" What ! that marvellous production like a parterre of flowers ?
It would be downright profanation to destroy it."

" Then shall I give you some of this, Kate ? "

" Why, child, that is strawberry-cream. But I cannot eat all
alone; do help yourself."

"I shall take something by-and-by."


" "What do young ladies in Italy eat when they are — no, I don't
mean in love — I shall call it — in despair?"

" Give me some of that white wine beside you. There ! dou"t
you hear a noise '? I'm certain I heard the sound of wheels."

" Most sincerely, I trust not. I wouldn't for anything these
people should break in upon us now. If my brother Dick should
drop in I'd welcome him, and he would make our little party perfect.
Do you know, Nina, Dick can be so jolly. "What's that ? there are
voices there without."

As she spoke the door was opened, and "Walpole entered. The
young girls had but time to rise from their seats, when— they never
could exactly say how — they found themselves shaking hands with
him in gi'eat cordiality.

" And your friend — where is he ? "

" Nursing a sore throat, or a sprained ankle, or a something or
other. Shall I confess it, — as only a suspicion on my part, how-
ever, — that I do believe he was too much shocked at the outrageous
liberty I took in asking to be admitted here to accept any partnership
in the impertinence ?"

" "We expected you at two or three o'clock," said Nina.

"And shall I tell you why I was not here before? Perhaps
you'll scarcely credit me when I say I have been five hours on the

" Five hours ! How did you manage that ? "

" In this way. I started a few minutes after twelve from the
inn — I on foot, the car to overtake me." And he went on to give a
narrative of his wanderings over the bog, imitating, as well as he
could, the di-iver's conversations with him, and the reproaches he
vented on his inattention to the road. Kate enjoyed the stoiy with
all the humoristic fun of one who knew thoroughly how the peasant
had been playing with the gentleman, just for the indulgence of that
strange sarcastic temper that underlies the Irish nature ; and she could
fancy how much more droll it would have been to have heard the
narrative as told by the driver of the oar.

" And don't you like his song, Mr. "Walpole ! "

""What, ' The Wearing of the Green?' It was the dreariest
dii'ge I ever listened to."

" Come, you shall not say so. "When we go into the drawing-
room, Nina shall sing it for you, and I'll wager you recant your

" And do you sing rebel canticles. Mademoiselle Kostalergi ?"

" Yes, I do all my cousin bids me. I wear a red cloak. How is
it called?"



** Connemara ? "

Nina nodded.

" That's the name, but I'm not goitg to say it ; and when we go
abroad — that is, on the bog there, for a walk — wo dress in green
petticoats and wear very thick shoes."

" And, in word, are very generally barbarous."

"Well, if you bo really barbarians," said Walpole filling his
glass, " I wonder what I would not give to be allowed to join the

" Oh, you'd want to be a sachem, or a chief, or a mysteiy-man
at least ; and we couldn't permit that," cried Kate.

** No ; I crave admission as the humblest of your followers."

" Shall we put him to the test, Nina ? "

*' How do you mean ? " cried the other.

" Make him take a Ribbon oath, or the pledge of a united
Irishman. I've copies of both in papa's study."

" I should like to see these immensely," said Walpole.

" I'll see if I can't find them," cried Kate, rising, and hastening

For some seconds after she left the room there was perfect
silence. Walpole tried to catch Nina's eye before he spoke, but she
continued steadily to look down, and did not once raise her lids.

" Is she not veiy nice — is she not very beautiful ? " asked she,
in a low voice.

" It is of you I want to speak."

And he drew his chair closer to her, and tried to take her hand,
but she withdrew it quickly, and moved slightly away.

" If you knew the delight it is to me to see you again, Nina —
well, Mademoiselle Kostalergi. Must it be Mademoiselle ? "

" I don't remember it was ever ' Nina,' " said she, coldly.

" Perhaps only in my thoughts. To my heart, I can swear, you
were Nina. But tell me how you came here, and when, and for how
long, for I want to know all. Speak to me, I beseech you. She'll
be back in a moment, and when shall I have another instant alone
with you like this ? Tell me how you came amongst them, and are
they really all rebels ? "

Kate entered at the instant, saying, " I can't find it, but I'll have
a good search to-morrow, for I know it's there."

" Do, by all means, Kate, for Mr. Walpole is very anxious to
learn if he be admitted legitimately into this brotherhood —
whatever it be ; he has just asked me if we were really all rebels

"I trust he does not suppose I would deceive him," said Kate,


gravely. " And when he hears you sing * The blackened hearth —
the fallen roof,' he'll not question you, Nina. Do you know that
song, Mr. Walpole ? "

He smiled as he said " No."

" Won't it bo so nice," said she, " to catch a fresh ingenuous
Saxon wandering innocently over the Bog of Allen, and send him
back to his friends a Fenian ! "

" Make me what you please, but don't send me away."

" Tell me, really, what would you do if we made you take the

" Betray you, of course, the moment I got up to Dublin."

Nina's eyes flashed angrily, as though such jesting was an

"No, no, the shame of such treason would be intolerable ; but
you'd go your way, and behave as though you never saw us."

" Oh, he could do that without the inducement of a peijuiy,"
said Nina, in Italian ; and then added aloud, "Let's go and make
some music. Mr. Walpole sings charmingly, Kate, and is very
obliging about it — at least, he used to be."

" I am all that I used to be — towards that," whispered he, as she
passed him to take Kate's arm and walk away.

" You don't seem to have a thick neighbourhood about you," said
Walpole. " Have you any people living near ?"

" Yes, we have a dear old fiiend — a Miss O'Shea, a maiden lady,
who lives a few miles off. By the way, there's something to show
you — an old maid, who hunts her own harriers."

" What ! are you in earnest ?"

"On my word, it is true! Nina can't endure her; but Nina
doesn't care for hare-hunting, and, I'm afraid to say, never saw a
badger drawn in her life."

" And have j-ou ?" asked he, almost with horror in his tone.

" I'll show you three regular little turnspit dogs to-morrow that
will answer that question."

" How I wish Lockwood had come out here with me," said
Walpole, almost uttering a thought.

" That is, you wish he had seen a bit of babarous Ii-eland he'd
scarcely credit from mere description. But perhaps I'd have been
better behaved before him. I'm treating you with all the freedom of
an old friend of my cousin's."

Nina had meanwhile opened the piano, and was letting her hands
stray over the instrument in occasional chords ; and then, in a low
voice, that barely blended its tones with the accompaniment, she sang
one of those little popular songs of Italy, called " Stornelli," — vv'ild,



fanciful melodies — with that blended gaiety and sadness which the
songs of a people are so often marked by.

" That is a very old favourite of mine," said Walpole, approach-
ing the piano as noiselessly as though he feared to disturb the
singer; and now he stole into a chair at her side. " How that song
makes me wish we were back again, where I heard it first," whispered
he, gently.

" I forget where that was," said she, carelessly.

" No, Nina, you do not," said he eagerly ; " it was at Albano,
the day we all went to Pallavicini's villa."

" And I sung a little French song, * Si vous n'avez rieu a mo
dire,' which you were vain enough to imagine was a question addressed
to 5'ourself ; and you made me a sort of declaration ; do you remember
all that ? "

" Every word of it."

" Why don't you go and speak to my cousin ; she has opened the
window and gone out upon the terrace, and I trust you understand
that she expects you to follow her." There was a studied calm in the
way she spoke, that showed she was exerting considerable self-control.

" No, no, Nina, it is with you I desire to speak ; to see you that
I have come here."

" And so you do remember that you made me a declaration ? It

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 7 of 48)