Charles James Lever.

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

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made me laugh afterwards as I thought it over."

" Made you laugh! "

" Yes, I laughed to myself at the ingenious way in which you
conveyed to me, what an imprudence it was in you to fall in love with
a girl who had no fortune, and the shock it would give your friends
when tbey should hear she was a Greek."

" How can you say such painful things, Nina ? how can you be so
pitiless as this ? "

" It was you who had no pity, sir ; I felt a deal of pity ; I will
not deny it was for myself. I don't pretend to say that I could give
a correct version of the way in which you conveyed to me the pain it
gave you that I was not a princess, a Borromeo, or a Colonna, or an
Altieri. That Greek adventurer, yes, — you cannot deny it, I overheard
these words myself. You were talking to an English girl, a tall,
rather handsome person she was — I shall remember her name in a
moment if you cannot help me to it sooner — a Lady Bickerstaife "

" Yes, there was a Lady Maude Bickerstafl'e ; she merely passed
through Home for Naples."

" You called her a cousin, I i*emember."

" There is some cousinsbip between us ; I forget exactly in what


" Do tiy and remember a little more ; remember that you forgot
you had engaged me for the cotillon, and drove away with that blonde
beauty — and she was a beauty, or had been a few years before — at all
events you lost all memory of the daughter of the adventurer."

" You will drive me distracted, Nina, if you say such things."

" I know it is wrong and it is cruel, and it is worse than wrong
and cruel, it is what you English call under-bred, to be so individually
disagreeable, but this grievance of mine has been weighing very
heavily on my heart, and I have been longing to tell you so."

" Why are you not singing, Nina ? " cried Kate from the terrace.
** You told me of a duet, and I think you are bent on having it without

" Yes, we are quarrelling fiercely," said Nina. " This gentleman
has been rash enough to remind me of an unsettled score between us,
and as he is the defaulter "

" I dispute the debt."

" Shall I be the judge between you ? " asked Kate.

" On no account; my claim once disputed I surrender it," said

" I must say you are very charming company. You won't sing,
and you'll only talk to say cUsagreeable things. Shall I make tea
and see if it will render you more amiable ? "

" Do so, dearest, and then show Mr. Walpole the house ; he has
forgotten what brought him here, I really believe."

" You know that I have not," muttered he in a tone of deep

"There's no light now to show him the house; Mr. Walpole
must come to-morrow, when papa will be at home and delighted to
see him."

" May I really do this ? "

" Perhaps, besides, your fx-iend will have found the little inn so
insupportable, that he too will join us. Listen to that sigh of poor
Nina's and you'll understand what it is to be dreary ! "

" No ; I want my tea."

" And it shall have it," said Kate, kissing her with a petting
affectation, as she left the room.

" Now one word, only one," said Walpole, as he drew his chair
close to her : *' If I swear to you "

" What's that ? who is Kate angry with ? " cried Nina, rising and
rushing towards the door. " What has happened ? "

" I'll tell you what has happened," said Kate, as with flashing
eyes and heightened colour she entered the room. " The large gate
of the outer yard, that is every night locked and strongly barred at


Bunset, nas been left open, and they tell me that three men have come
in, Sally says five, and are hiding in some of the outhouses."

" What for ? Is it to rob, think you ? " asked Walpole.

" It is certainly for nothing good. Thoy all know that papa is
away, and the house so far unprotected," continued Kate, calmly.
*' We must find out to-morrow who has left the gate unbolted. This
was no accident, and now that they are setting fire to the ricks all
round us, it is no time for carelessness."

"Shall we search the offices and the outbuildings?" asked

" Of course not ; we must stand by the house and take care that
they do not enter it. It's a strong old place, and even if they forced
an entrance below, they couldn't set fire to it."

" Could they force their way up ? " asked Walpole.

" Not if the people above have any courage. Just come and look
at the stair ; it was made in times when people thought of defending
themselves." They issued forth now together to the top of the
landing, where a narrow, steep flight of stone steps descended between
two walls to the basement- story. A little more than half-way down
was a low iron gate or grille of considerable strength ; though, not
being above four feet in height, it could have been no great defence,
which seemed, after all, to have been its intention. " When this is
closed," said Kate, shutting it with a heavy bang, " it's not such easy
work to pass up against two or three resolute people at the top ; and
see here," added she, showing a deep niche or alcove in the wall,
*' this was evidently meant for the sentry who watched the wicket ; he
could stand here out of the reach of all fire."

" Would you not say she was longing for a conflict ? " said Nina,
gazing at her.

" No, but if it comes I'll not decline it."

" You mean you'll defend the stair ? " asked Walpole.

She nodded assent.

*' What arms have you ? "

"Plenty; come and look at them. Here," said she, entering
the diuing-room, and pointing to a large oak sideboard covered with
weapons, — " here is probably what has led these people here. They
are going through the country latterly on every side, in search of arms.
I believe this is almost the only house where they have not called."

" And do they go away quietly when their demands are complied
with ? "

" Yes, when they chance upon people of poor courage they leave
them with life enough to tell the story. — What is it, Mathew ? "
asked she of the old serving-man who entered the room.


"It's the 'boys,' Miss, and they want to talk to you, if you'll
step out on the terrace. They don't mean any harm at all."

" What do they want, then ? "

" Just a spare gun or two. Miss, or an ould pistol, or a thing of
the kind that was no use."

" Was it not brave of them to come here, when my father was
from home ? Aren't they fine courageous creatures to come and
frighten two lone girls — eh, Mat ? "

"Don't anger them, Miss, for the love of Joseph! don't say
anything hard ; let me hand them that ould carbine there, and the
fowling-piece ; and if you'd give them a pair of horse-pistols, I'm
sure they'd go away quiet."

A loud noise of knocking, as though with a stone, at the outer
door broke in upon the colloquy, and Kate passed into the drawing-
room, and opened the window, out upon the stone terrace which
overlooked the yard : " Who is there ? — who are you ? — what do you
want ? " cried she, peering down into the darkness, which, in the
shadow of the house, was deeper.

" We've come for arms," cried a deep hoarse voice.

" My father is away from home, — come and ask for them when
he's here to answer you."

A wild, insolent laugh from below acknowledged what they
thought of this speech.

" Maybe that was the rayson we came now. Miss," said a voice in
a lighter tone.

"Fine courageous fellows you are to say so; I hope Ireland ias
more of such brave patriotic men."

" You'd better leave that, anyhow," said another, and as he spoke
he levelled and fired, but evidently with intention to terrify rather
than wound, for the plaster came tumbling down from several feet
above her head ; and now the knocking at the door was redoubled,
and with a noise that resounded through the house.

" Wouldn't you advise her to give up the arms and let them go ? "
said Nina, in a whisper to Walpole ; but though she was deadly pale
there was no tremor in her voice.

" The door is giving way, the wood is completely rotten. Now
for the stairs. Mr. Walpole, you're going to stand by me ? "

"I should think so, but I'd rather you'd remain here. I know
my ground now."

" No, I must be beside you. You'll have to keep a rolling fire,
and 1 can load quicker than most people — come along now, we must
take no light with us — follow me."

" Take care," said Nina to Walpole, as he passed, but with an


accent so full of a strange significance it dwelt on his memory long

" What was it Nina whispered yon, as you came by ? " said Kate.

" Something about being cautious, I think," said he, carelessly.

" Stay where you are, Mathew," said the girl in a severe tone to
the old servant, who was oflSciously pressing forward with a light.

" Go back ! " cried she, as he persisted in following her.

"That's the worst of all our troubles here, Mr. Walpole," said
she boldly : " you cannot depend on the people of your own household.
The very people you have nursed in sickness, if they only belong to
some secret association, will betray you ! " She made no secret of
her words, but spoke them loud enough to be heard by the group of
servants now gathered on the landing. Noiseless she tripped down
the stairs, and passed into the little dark alcove, followed by Walpole,
carrying any amount of guns and carbines under his arm.

" These are loaded, I presume ? " said he.

" All, and ready capped. The short carbine is charged with a
sort of canister shot, and keep it for a short range, — if they try to
pass over the iron gate. Now mind me, and I will give you the
directions I heard my father give on this spot once before. Don't
fire till they reach the foot of the stair."

" I cannot hear you," said he, for the din beneath, where they
battered at the door, was now deafening.

" They'll be in in another moment — there, the lock has fallen
off, — the door has given way," whispered she; " be steady now, no
huriy, — steady and calm."

As she spoke, the heavy oak door fell to the ground, and a perfect
silence succeeded to the late din. After an instant, muttering whispers
could be heard, and it seemed as if they doubted how far it was safe
to enter, for all was dark within. Something was said in a tone of
command, and at the moment one of the party flung forward a bundle
of lighted straw and tow, which fell at the foot of the stairs, and for
a few seconds lit up the place with a red lurid gleam, showing the
steep stair and the iron bars of the little gate that crossed it.

" There's the iron wicket they spoke of," cried one. " All right,
come on ! " And the speaker led the way, cautiously, however, and
slowly, the others after him.

"No, not yet," whispered Kate, as she pressed her hand upon

" I hear voices up there," cried the leader from below. " We'll
make them leave that, anyhow." And he fired off his gun in the
direction of the upper part of the stair : a quantity of plaster came
clattering down as the ball struck the ceiling.


"Now," said she. " Now, and fire low ! "

He discharged both barrels so rapidly that the two detonations
blended into one, and the assailants replied by a volley, the echoing
din almost sounding like artillery. Fast as Walpole could fire, the
girl replaced the piece by another ; when suddenly she cried, " There
is a fellow at the gate — the carbine — the carbine now, and steady."
A heavy crash and a cry followed his discharge, and snatching the
weapon from him, she reloaded and handed it back with lightning
speed. " There is another there," whispei'ed she ; and AValpole
moved further out, to take a steadier aim. Ail was still : not a
sound to be heard for some seconds, when the hinges of the gate
creaked and the bolt shook in the lock. Walpole fired again, but as
he did so, the others poured in a rattling volley, one shot grazing his
cheek, and another smashing both bones of his right arm, so that the
carbine fell powerless from his hand. The intrepid girl sprang to his
side at once, and then passing in front of him, she fired some shots
from a revolver in quick succession. A low, confused sound of feet,
and a scuffling noise followed, when a rough, hoarse voice cried out,
" Stop firing ; we are wounded, and going away."

" Are you badly hurt ? " whispered Kate to Walpole.

" Nothing serious ; be still and listen ! "

" There, the carbine is ready again. Oh, you cannot hold it —
leave it to me," said she.

From the difiiculty of removal, it seemed as though one of the
party beneath was either killed or badly wounded, for it was several
minutes before they could gain the outer door.

" Are they really retiring ? " whispered Walpole.

" Yes ; they seem to have suffered heavily."

" Would you not give them one shot at parting — that carbine is
charged ? " asked he, anxiously.

"Not for worlds," said she; " savage as they are, it would be
ruin to break faith with them."

" Give me a pistol, my left hand is all right." Though he tried
to speak with calmness, the agony of pain he was suffering so over-
came him that he leaned his head down, and rested it on her shoulder.

" My poor, poor fellow," said she, tenderly, " I would not for the
world that this had happened."

" They're gone. Miss Kate, they've passed out at the big gate, and
they're otf," whispered old Mathew, as he stood trembling behind her.

" Here, call some one, and help this gentleman up the stairs, and
get a mattress down on the floor at once ; send off a messenger,
Sally, for Doctor Tobin. He can take the car that came this evening,
and let him make what haste he can."


" Is he wounded ? " said Nina, as they laid him down on the floor.
Walpole tried to smile and say something, hut no sound came forth.

" My own dear, dear Cecil," whispered Nina, as she knelt and
kissed his hand ; " tell me it is not dangerous." He had fainted.



The wounded man had just fallen into a first sleep after his disaster,

when the press of the capital was already proclaiming throughout the

land the attack and search for arms at Kilgobbiu Castle. In the

national papers a very few lines were devoted to the event ; indeed

their tone was one of party sneer at the importance given by their

contemporaries to a very ordinary incident. "Is there," asked the

Convicted Felon, "anything very strange or new in the fact that

Irishmen have determined to he armed ? Is English legislation in

this country so marked by justice, clemency, and generosity that the

people of Ireland prefer to submit their lives and fortunes to its sway,

to trusting what brave men alone trust in — their fearlessness and

their daring ? What is there, the]i, so remarkable in the repairing

to Mr. Kearney's house for a loan of those weapons of which his

family for several generations have forgotten the use?" In the

Government journals the story of the attack was headed, " Attack on

Kilgobbiu Castle. Heroic resistance by a young lady : " in which

Kate Kearney's conduct was described in colours of extravagant

eulogy. She was alternately Joan of Arc and the Maid of Saragossa,

and it was gravely discussed whether any and what honours of the

Crown w'erc at her Majesty's disposal to reward such brilliant heroism.

In another print of the same stamp the narrative began — " The

disastrous condition of our country is never displayed in darker

colours than when the totally unprovoked character of some outrage

has to be recorded by the press. It is our melancholy tusk to present

such a case as this to our readers to-day. If it was our wish to

exhibit to a stranger the picture of an Irish estate in which all the

blessings of good management, intelHgeuce, kindliness, and Christian

charity were displayed ; to show him a property where the well-being

of landlord and tenant were inextricably united, w'here the condition

of the people, their dress, their homes, their food, and their daily

comforts could stand comparison with the most favoured English

county, we should point to the Kearney estate of Kilgobbiu ; and yet


It IS here, in the very house where his ancestors have resided for
generations, that a most savage and dastardly attaclc is made : and if
we feel a sense of shame in recording the outrage, we are recompensed
by the proud elation with which we can recount the repulse, — the
noble and gallant achievement of an Irish girl. History has the
record of more momentous feats, but we doubt that there is one in
the annals of any land in which a higher heroism was displayed than
in this splendid defence by Miss Kearney." Then followed the story ;
not one of the papers having any knowledge of Walpole's presence
on the occasion, or the slightest suspicion that she was aided in any

Joe Atlee was busily engaged in conning over and comparing
these somewhat contradictory reports, as he sat at his breakfast, his
chum Kearney being still in bed and asleep after a late night at a
ball. At last there came a telegraphic despatch for Kearney; armed
with which, Joe entered the bedroom and woke him.

"Here's something for you, Dick," cried he. " Ai-e you too
sleepy to read it ? "

" Tear it open and see what it is, like a good fellow," said the
other, indolently.

"It's fi'om your sister — at least, it is signed Kate. It says :
* There is no cause for alarm. All his going on well, and papa will
be back this evening. I write by this post.' "

" What does all that mean ? " cried Dick in surprise.
" The whole story is in the papers. The boj-s have taken the
opportunity of your father's absence from home to make a demand
for arms at your house, and your sister, it seems, showed fight and
beat them oif. They talk of two fellows being seen badly wounded,
but, of course, that part of the story cannot be relied on. That
they got enough to make them beat a retreat is, however, certain ;
and as they were what is called a strong party, the feat of resisting
them is no small glory for a young lady."

" It was just what Kate was certain to do. There's no man with
a braver heart."

" I wonder how the beautiful Greek behaved? I should like
greatly to hear what part she took in the defence of the citadel.
Was she fainting or in hysterics, or so overcome by terror as to be
unconscious ? "

"I'll make you any wager you like, Kate did the whole thing
herself. There was a AYhiteboy attack to force the stairs when she
was a child, and I suppose we rehearsed that combat fully fifty — ay,
five hundred times. Kate always took the defence, and though we
were sometimes four to one, she kept us back."


*' By Jove ! I think I slioulJ be afraid of such a young lady."

" So you would. She has more pluck in her heart than half that
blessed province you come from. That's the blood of the old stock
you are often pleased to sneer at, and of which the pi'esent will be a
lesson to teach you better."

" May not the lovely Greek be descended from some ancient
stock, too ? Who is to say what blood of Pericles she has not iu
her veins ? I tell you I'll not give up the notion that she was a
sharer in this glory."

"If you've got the papers with the account, let me see them,
Joe. I've half a mind to run down by the night-mail — that is, if I
can. Have you got any tin, Atlee ? "

" There were some shillings iu one of my pockets last night.
How much do you want ? "

" Eighteen-and-six first class, and a few shillings for a cab."

" I can manage that ; but I'll go and fetch you the papers, there's
time enough to talk of the journey."

The newsman had just deposited the " Croppy " on the table as
Joe returned to the breakfast-table, and the story of Kilgobbin headed
the first column in large capitals. " While our contemporaries," it
began, " are recounting with more than their wonted eloquence the
injuries inflicted on three poor labouring-men, who, in their ignorance
of the locality, had the temerity to ask for alms at Kilgobbin Castle
yesterday evening, and were ignominiously driven away from the door
by a young lady, whose benevolence was administered through a
blunderbuss, we, who form no portion of the polite press, and have
no pretension to mix in what are euphuistically called the ' best
circles ' of this capital, would like to ask, for the information of those
humble classes among which our readers are found, is it the custom
for young ladies to await the absence of their fathers to entertain
young gentlemen tourists ? and is a reputation for even heroic courage
not somewhat dearly purchased at the price of the companionship of
the admittedly most profligate man of a vicious and corrupt society ?
The heroine who defended Kilgobbin can reply to our query."

Joe Atlee read this paragraph three times over before he carried
in the paper to Kearney.

" Here's an insolent paragraph, Dick," he cried as he threw the
paper to him on the bed. " Of course it's a thing cannot be noticed
in any way, but it's not the less rascally for that."

" You know the fellow who edits this paper, Joe ? " said Kearney,
trembling with passion.

" No ; my friend is doing his bit of oakum at Kilmaiuham.
They gave him thirteen months, and a fine that he'll never be ablo


to pay ; but what would you do if the fellow who wrote it were iu tho
nest room at this moment ? "

" Thrash him within an inch of his life."

" And, with the inch of life left him, he'd get strong again and
write at you and all belonging to you every day of his existence.
Don't you see that all this licence is one of the prices of liberty ?
There's no guarding against excesses when you establish a rivalry.
The doctors could tell you how many diseased lungs and aneurisms
are made by training for a rowing match."

" I'll go down by the mail to-night and see what has given the
origin to this scandalous falsehood."

" There's no harm in doing that, especially if you take me with

"Why should I take you, or for what ? "

" As guide, counsellor, and friend."

" Bright thought, when all the money we can muster between us
is only enough for one fare."

"Doubtless, first class ; but we could go third class, two of us
for the same money. Do you imagine that Damon and Pythias
would have been separated if it came even to travelling in a cow
compartment ? "

" I wish you could se^ that there are circumstances in life where
the comic man is out of place."

" I trust I shall never discover them ; at least, so long as fate
treats me with ' heavy tragedy.' "

"I'm not exactly sure either, whether they'd like to receive you
just now at Kilgobbin."

" Inhospitable thought ! My heart assures me of a most cordial

" And I should only stay a day or two at farthest."

" Which would suit me to perfection. I must be back here by
Tuesday if I had to walk the distance."

" Not at all improbable, so far as I know of your resources."

" What a churlish dog it is ! Now had you. Master Dick, pro-
posed to me that we should go down and pass a week at a certain
small thatched cottage on the banks of the Ban, where a Presby-
terian minister with eight olive branches vegetates, discussing tough
mutton and tougher theology on Sundays, and getting through the
rest of the week with the parables and potatoes, I'd have said,
Done ! "

" It was the inopportune time I was thinking of. Who knows
what confusion this event may not have thrown them into ? If you
like to risk the discomfort, I make no objection."


" To SO lieartily-exjiressed an invitation there can be but one
answer, I yield."

" Now look here, Joe, I'd better be frank with you ; don't try it
on at Kilgobbin as you do with me."

" You arc afraid of my insinuating manners, are you ?"

" I am afraid of your confounded impudence, and of that notion
you cannot get rid of, that your cool familiarity is a fashionable tone."

" How men mistake themselves. I pledge you my word, if I was
asked what was the great blemish in my manner, I'd have said it was

"Well then, it is not!"

" Are you sure, Dick, are you quite sure ?"

" I am quite sure, and unfortunately for you, you'll find that the
majority agree with me."

" 'A wise man should guard himself against the defects that he
might have, without knowing it.' That is a Persian proverb, which
you will find in Hafiz. I believe you never read Hajiz /"

" No, nor you either."

" That's true ; but I can make my own Hafiz, and just as good
as the real article. By the way, are you aware that the water-
carriers at Tehran sing Lalla Eookh, and believe it a national poem?"

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLord Kilgobbin : a tale of Ireland in our own time → online text (page 8 of 48)