Charles James Lever.

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Produced by David Widger


By Charles James Lever




He who can write such stories as "Wylder's Hand" or "Uncle Silas,"
needs no praise of mine; but I can at least say how warmly I admire his
genius, how heartily I enjoy his genial humour, and how thoroughly I
appreciate his right to his second christian name, and if these be not
claims enough for success, let him be assured there are few men can show


Marola, La Spezia, January, 1865.



"One half the world knows not how the other half lives," says the adage;
and there is a peculiar force in the maxim when applied to certain
remote and little-visited districts in these islands, where the people
are about as unknown to us as though they inhabited some lonely rock in
the South Pacific Bickards.

While the great world, not very far off, busies itself with all the
appliances of state and science, amusing its leisure by problems which,
once on a time, would have been reserved for the studies of philosophers
and sages, these poor creatures drag on an existence rather beneath
than above the habits of savage life. Their dwellings, their food, their
clothes, such as generations of their fathers possessed; and neither in
their culture, their aspirations, nor their ways, advanced beyond what
centuries back had seen them.

Of that group of islands off the north-west coast of Ireland called
the Arrans, Innishmore is a striking instance of this neglect and
desolation. Probably within the wide sweep of the British islands there
could not be found a spot more irretrievably given up to poverty and
barbarism. Some circular mud hovels, shaped like beehives, and with a
central aperture for the escape of the smoke, are the dwellings of
an almost naked, famine-stricken people, whose looks, language, and
gestures mark them out for foreigners if they chance to come over to the
mainland. Deriving their scanty subsistence almost entirely from fishing
and kelp-burning, they depend for life upon the chances of the seasons,
in a spot where storms are all but perpetual, and where a day of
comparative calm is a rare event.

Curious enough it is to mark that in this wild, ungenial spot
civilisation had once set foot, and some Christian pilgrims found a
resting-place. There is no certain record of whence or how they first
came, but the Abbey of St. Finbar dates from an early century, and
the strong walls yet attest the size and proportions of the ancient
monastery. Something like forty years ago the islanders learned that the
owner of the island, of whose existence they then heard for the first
time, proposed to come over and live there, and soon afterwards a few
workmen arrived, and, in some weeks, converted the old crypt of the
Abbey into something habitable, adding two small chambers to it, and
building a chimney-a work of art-which, whether meant for defence or
some religious object, was, during its construction, a much-debated
question by the people. The intention to resume a sovereignty which had
lain so long in abeyance would have been a bold measure in such a spot
if it had not been preceded by the assurance that the chief meant to
disturb nothing, dispute nothing of vested interests. They were told
that he who was coming was a man weary of the world and its ways, who
desired simply a spot of earth where he might live in peace, and where,
dying, he might leave his bones with the Luttrells, whose graves for
generations back thronged the narrow aisle of the church. These facts,
and that he had a sickly wife and one child, a boy of a few years old,
were all that they knew of him. If the bare idea of a superior was
distasteful in a community where common misery had taught brotherhood,
the notion was dispelled at sight of the sad, sorrow-stricken man who
landed on an evening of September, and walked from the boat through the
surf beside his wife, as two sailors carried her to shore. He held his
little boy's hand, refusing the many offers that were made to carry
him, though the foaming water surged at times above the little fellow's
waist, and made him plunge with childish glee and laughter; that infant
courage and light-heartedness going farther into the hearts of the wild
people than if the father had come to greet them with costly presents!

John Luttrell was not above six-and-thirty, but he looked fifty; his
hair was perfectly white, his blue eyes dimmed and circled with dark
wrinkles, his shoulders stooped, and his look downcast. Of his wife it
could be seen that she had once been handsome, but her wasted figure
and incessant cough showed she was in the last stage of consumption. The
child was a picture of infantile beauty, and that daring boldness which
sits so gracefully on childhood. If he was dressed in the very cheapest
and least costly fashion, to the islanders he seemed attired in
very splendour, and his jacket of dark crimson cloth and a little
feather that he wore in his cap sufficed to win for him the name of the
Prince, which he never lost afterward.

It could not be supposed that such an advent would not create a great
stir and commotion in the little colony; the ways, the looks, the
demeanour, and the requirements of the new comers, furnishing for weeks,
and even months, topics for conversation; but gradually this wore itself
out. Molly Ryan, the one sole domestic servant who accompanied the
Luttrells, being of an uncommunicative temper, contributed no anecdotic
details of in-door life to stimulate interest and keep curiosity alive.
All that they knew of Luttrell was to meet him in his walks, and receive
the short, not over-courteous nod with which he acknowledged their
salutations. Of his wife, they only saw the wasted form that half lay,
half sat at a window; so that all their thoughts were centred in the
child-the Prince-who came familiarly amongst them, uncared for and
unheeded by his own, and free to pass his days with the other children
as they heaped wood upon the kelp fires, or helped the fishermen to dry
their nets upon the shore. In the innocence of their primitive life this
familiarity did not trench upon the respect they felt they owed him.
They did not regard his presence as anything like condescension, they
could not think of it as derogation, but they felt throughout that he
was not one of them, and his golden hair and his tiny hands and feet
were as unmistakable marks of station as though he wore a coronet or
carried a sceptre.

The unbroken melancholy that seemed to mark Luttrell's life, his
un-communicativeness, his want of interest or sympathy in all that
went on around him, would have inspired, by themselves, a sense of fear
amongst the people; but to these traits were added others that seemed
to augment this terror. His days were passed in search of relics and
antiquarian objects, of which the Abbey possessed a rich store, and to
their simple intelligence these things smacked of magic. To hear the
clink of his spade within the walls of the old church by day, and to see
the lone light in his chamber, where it was rumoured he sat sleepless
throughout the night, were always enough to exact a paternoster and a
benediction from the peasant, whose whole religious training began and
ended with these offices.

Nor was the child destined to escape the influence of this popular
impression. He was rarely at home, and, when there, scarcely noticed or
spoken to. His poor sick mother would draw him to her heart, and as she
pressed his golden locks close to her, her tears would fall fast upon
them, but dreading lest her sorrow should throw a shade over his sunny
happiness, she would try to engage him in some out-of-door pursuit
again-send him off to ask if the fishermen had taken a full haul, or
when some one's new boat would be ready for launching.

Of the room in which the recluse sat, and wherein he alone ever entered,
a chance peep through the ivy-covered casement offered nothing very
reassuring. It was a narrow, lofty chamber, with a groined roof and
a flagged floor, formed of ancient gravestones, the sculptured sides
downwards. Two large stuffed seals sat guardwise on either side of the
fireplace, over which, on a bracket, was an enormous human skull, an
inscription being attached to it, with the reasons for believing its
size to be gigantic rather than the consequences of diseased growth.
Strange-shaped bones, and arrow-heads, and stone spears and javelins
decorated the walls, with amber ornaments and clasps of metal. A massive
font served as a washstand, and a broken stone cross formed a coat-rack.
In one corner, enclosed by two planks, stood an humble bed, and opposite
the fire was the only chair in the chamber-a rude contrivance, fashioned
from a root of bog-oak, black with centuries of interment.

It was late at night that Luttrell sat here, reading an old volume,
whose parchment cover was stained and discoloured by time. The window
was open, and offered a wide view over the sea, on which a faint
moonlight shone out at times, and whose dull surging plash broke with a
uniform measure on the shore beneath.

Twice had he laid down his book, and, opening the door, stood to listen
for a moment, and then resumed his reading; but it was easy to see that
the pages did not engage his attention, nor was he able, as he sought,
to find occupation in their contents.

At last there came a gentle tap to the door; he arose and opened it. It
was the woman-servant who formed his household, who stood tearful and
trembling before him.

"Well?" said he, in some emotion.

"Father Lowrie is come," said she, timidly.

He only nodded, as though to say, "Go on."

"And he'll give her the rights," continued she; "but he says he hopes
that you'll come over to Belmullet on Sunday, and declare at the altar
how it was."

"Declare what?" cried he; and his voice rose to a key of passionate
eagerness that was almost a shriek. "Declare what?"

"He means, that you'll tell the people - - "

"Send him here to me," broke in Luttrell, angrily. "I'm not going to
discuss this with you."

"Sure isn't he giving her the blessed Sacrament!" said she, indignantly.

"Leave me, then - leave me in peace," said he, as he turned away and
leaned his head on the chimney-piece; and then, without raising it,
added, "and tell the priest to come to me before he goes away."

The woman had not gone many minutes, when a heavy step approached the
door, and a strong knock was heard. "Come in!" cried Luttrell, and there
entered a short, slightly-made man, middle-aged and active-looking,
with bright black eyes, and a tall, straight forehead, to whom Luttrell
motioned the only chair as he came forward.

"It's all over, Sir. She's in glory!" said he, reverently.

"Without pain?" asked Luttrell.

"A parting pang - no more. She was calm to the last. Indeed, her last
words were to repeat what she had pressed so often upon me."

"I know - I know!" broke in Luttrell, impatiently. "I never denied it."

"True, Sir; but you never acknowledged it," said the priest, hardily.
"When you had the courage to make a peasant girl your wife, you ought to
have had the courage to declare it also."

"To have taken her to the Court, I hope - to have presented her to
Royalty - to have paraded my shame and my folly before a world whose best
kindness was that it forgot me! Look here, Sir; my wife was brought up
a Catholic; I never interfered with her convictions. If I never spoke to
her on the subject of her faith, it was no small concession from a man
who felt on the matter as I did. I sent for you to administer to her
the rights of her Church, but not to lecture me on my duties or my
obligations. What I ought to do, and when, I have not to learn from a
Roman Catholic priest."

"And yet, Sir, it is a Catholic priest will force you to do it. There
was no stain on your wife's fame, and there shall be none upon her

"What is the amount of my debt to you, Father Lowrie?" asked Luttrell,
calmly and even courteously.

"Nothing, Sir; not a farthing. Her father was a good friend to me
and mine before ruin overtook him. It wasn't for money I came here

"Then you leave me your debtor, Sir, and against my will."

"But you needn't be, Mr. Luttrell," said the priest, with eagerness.
"She that has just gone, begged and prayed me with her last breath to
look after her little boy, and to see and watch that he was not brought
up in darkness."

"I understand you. You were to bring him into your own fold. If you hope
for success for such a scheme, take a likelier moment, father; this is
not your time. Leave me now, I pray you. I have much to attend to."

"May I hope to have an early opportunity to see and talk with you, Mr.

"You shall hear from me, Sir, on the matter, and early," said Luttrell.
"Your own good feeling will show this is not the moment to press me."

Abashed by the manner in which these last words were spoken, the father
bowed low and withdrew.

"Well?" cried the servant-woman, as he passed out, "will he do it, your

"Not to-day, anyhow, Molly," said he, with a sigh.

How Luttrell sorrowed for the loss of his wife was not known. It was
believed that he never passed the threshold of the door where she
lay - never went to take one farewell look of her. He sat moodily in his
room, going out at times to give certain orders about the funeral, which
was to take place on the third day. A messenger had been despatched to
his late wife's relatives, who lived about seventy miles off, down the
coast of Mayo, and to invite them to attend. Of her immediate family
none remained. Her father was in banishment, the commutation of a
sentence of death. Of her two brothers, one had died on the scaffold,
and another had escaped to America, whither her three sisters had
followed him; so that except her uncle, Peter Hogan, and his family, and
a half-brother of her mother's, a certain Joe Rafter, who kept a shop at
Lahinch, there were few to follow her to the grave as mourners.

Peter had four sons and several daughters, three of them married. They
were of the class of small farmers, very little above the condition
of the cottier; but they were, as a family, a determined, resolute,
hard-headed race, not a little dreaded in the neighbourhood where they
lived, and well known to be knit together by ties that made an injury to
any one of them a feud that the whole family would avenge.

For years and years Luttrell had not seen nor even heard of them. He
had a vague recollection of having seen Peter Hogan at his marriage, and
once or twice afterwards, but preserved no recollection of him. Nothing
short of an absolute necessity - for as such he felt it - would have
induced him to send for them now; but he knew well how rigid were
popular prejudices, and how impossible it would have been for him
to live amongst a people whose most cherished feelings he would have
outraged, had he omitted the accustomed honours to the dead.

He told his servant Molly to do all that was needful on the occasion - to
provide for those melancholy festivities which the lower Irish adhere
to with a devotion that at once blends their religious ardour with their
intensely strong imaginative power.

"There is but one thing I will not bear," said he. "They must not come
in upon me. I will see them when they come, and take leave of them
when they go; but they are not to expect me to take any part in their
proceedings. Into this room I will suffer none to enter."

"And Master Harry," said the woman, wiping her eyes with her
apron - "what's to be done with him? 'Tis two days that he's there, and
he won't leave the corpse."

"It's a child's sorrow, and will soon wear itself out."

"Ay, but it's killing him!" said she, tenderly - "it's killing him in the
mean while."

"He belongs to a tough race," said he, with a bitter smile, "that
neither sorrow nor shame ever killed. Leave the boy alone, and he'll
come to himself the sooner."

The peasant woman felt almost sick in her horror at such a sentiment,
and she moved towards the door to pass out.

"Have you thought of everything, Molly?" asked he, more mildly.

"I think so, Sir. There's to be twenty-eight at the wake - twenty-nine,
if Mr. Rafter comes; but we don't expect him - and Father Lowrie would
make thirty; but we've plenty for them all."

"And when will this - this feasting - take place?"

"The night before the funeral, by coorse," said the woman.

"And they will all leave this the next morning, Molly?"

"Indeed I suppose they will, Sir," said she, no less offended at the
doubt than at the inhospitable meanness of the question.

"So be it, then!" said he, with a sigh. "I have nothing more to say."

"You know, Sir," said she, with a great effort at courage, "that they'll
expect your Honour will go in for a minute or two - to drink their
healths, and say a few words to them?"

He shook his head in dissent, but said nothing.

"The Hogans is as proud a stock as any in Mayo, Sir," said she, eagerly,
"and if they thought it was any disrespect to her that was gone - - "

"Hold your tongue, woman," cried he, impatiently. "She was my wife, and
_I_ know better what becomes her memory than these ignorant peasants.
Let there be no more of this;" and he closed the door after her as she
went out, and turned the key in it, in token that he would not brook
more disturbance.


In a beautiful little bay on the north-east of Innishmore, land-locked
on all sides but the entrance, a handsome schooner yacht dropped her
anchor just as the sun was setting. Amidst the desolate grandeur of
those wild cliffs, against which the sea surged and plashed till the
very rocks were smooth worn, that graceful little craft, with her tall
and taper spars, and all her trim adjuncts, seemed a strange vision. It
was the contrast of civilisation with barbarism; they were the two poles
of what are most separated in life - wealth and poverty.

The owner was a Baronet, a certain Sir Gervais Vyner - one of those
spoiled children of fortune which England alone rears; for while in
other lands high birth and large fortune confer their distinctive
advantages, they do not tend, as they do with us, to great social
eminence, and even political influence. Vyner had got almost every prize
in this world's lottery; all, indeed, but one; his only child was a
daughter, and this was the drop that sufficed to turn to bitterness much
of that cupful of enjoyment Fate had offered to his lips. He had seen
a good deal of life - done a little of everything - on the turf - in the
hunting-field - on the floor of the House he had what was called "held
his own." He was, in fact, one of those accomplished, well-mannered,
well-looking people, who, so long as not pushed by any inordinate
ambition into a position of undue importance, invariably get full credit
for all the abilities they possess, and, what is better still, attract
no ill will for the possessing them. As well as having done everything,
he had been everywhere: up the Mediterranean, up the Baltic, into the
Black Sea, up the St. Lawrence - everywhere but to Ireland - and now, in a
dull autumn, when too late for a distant tour, he had induced his friend
Grenfell to accompany him in a short cruise, with the distinct pledge
that they were not to visit Dublin, or any other of those cognate cities
of which Irishmen are vain, but which to Mr. George Grenfell represented
all that was an outrage on good taste, and an insult to civilisation.
Mr. Grenfell, in one word, entertained for Ireland and the Irish
sentiments that wouldn't have been thought very complimentary if applied
to Fejee islanders, with certain hopeless forebodings as to the future
than even Fejee itself might have resented as unfair.

Nobody knew why these two men were friends, but they were so. They
seemed utterly unsuited in every way. Vyner loved travel, incident,
adventure, strange lands, and strange people; he liked the very
emergencies, the roughings of the road. Grenfell was a Londoner, who
only tolerated, and not very patiently, whatever was beyond an easy
drive of Hyde Park Corner. Vyner was a man of good birth, and had high
connexions on every side - advantages of which he no more dreamed of
being vain, than of the air he breathed. Mr. Grenfell was a nobody,
with the additional disparagement of being a nobody that every one
knew. Grenfell's Italian warehouse, Grenfell's potted meats, his pickled
salmon, his caviare, his shrimps, his olives, and his patent maccaroni,
being European in celebrity, and, though the means by which his father
made an enormous fortune, were miseries which poisoned life, rising
spectre-like before him on every dinner-table, and staring at him in
great capitals in every supplement of the _Times_. He would have changed
his name, but he knew well that it would have availed him nothing. The
disguise would only have invited discovery, and the very mention of him
exacted the explanation, "No more a Seymour nor a Villiers than you are;
the fellow is old Grenfell's son; 'Grenfell's Game Sauce,' and the rest
of it." A chance resemblance to a fashionable Earl suggested another
expedient, and Mr. George Grenfell got it about - how, it is not easy to
say - that the noble Lord had greatly admired his mother, and paid her
marked attention at Scarborough. Whatever pleasure Mr. George Grenfell
felt in this theory is not easy to explain; nor have we to explain what
we simply narrate as a fact, without the slightest pretension to account

Such were the two men who travelled together, and the yacht also
contained Vyner's daughter Ada, a little girl of eight, and her
governess, Mademoiselle Heinzleman, a Hanoverian lady, who claimed a
descent from the Hohenzollerns, and had pride enough for a Hapsburg. If
Vyner and Grenfell were not very much alike in tastes, temperament,
and condition, Grenfell and the German governess were positively
antipathies; nor was their war a secret or a smouldering fire, but a
blaze, to which each brought fuel every day, aiding the combustion by
every appliance of skill and ingenuity.

Vyner loved his daughter passionately - not even the disappointment that
she had not been a boy threw any cloud over his affection - and he took
her with him when and wherever he could; and, indeed, the pleasure of
having her for a companion now made this little home tour one of the
most charming of all his excursions, and in her childish delight at new
scenes and new people he renewed all his own memories of early travel.

"Here you are, Sir," said Mr. Crab, late a sailing-master in the Royal
Navy, but now in command of _The Meteor_ - "here you are;" and he pointed
with his finger to a little bay on the outspread chart that covered the
cabin table. "This is about it! It may be either of these two; each of
them looks north - north by east - and each has this large mountain to the
south'ard and west'ard."

"'The north islands of Arran,' read out Vyner, slowly, from a little
MS. note-book. 'Innishmore, the largest of them, has several good
anchorages, especially on the eastern side, few inhabitants, and all
miserably poor. There is the ruin of an Abbey, and a holy well of great
reputed antiquity, and a strange relic of ancient superstition called
the Judgment-stone, on which he who lays his hand while denouncing a
wrong done him by another, brings down divine vengeance on either his
enemy or himself, according as his allegation is just or unjust. There
is something similar to be found in the Breton laws - - '"

"For mercy's sake don't give us more of that tiresome little book,
which, from the day we sailed, has never contributed one single hint
as to where we could find anything to eat, or even water fit to drink,"
said Grenfell. "Do you mean to go on shore in this barbarous place?"

"Of course I do. Crab intends us to pass two days here; we have sprung
our for'topmast, and must look to it."

"Blessed invention a yacht! As a means of locomotion, there's not a
cripple but could beat it; and as a place to live in, to eat, sleep,
wash, and exercise, there's not a cell in Brixton is not a palace in

"Mademoiselle wish to say good night, Sare Vyner," said the governess, a
tall, fair-haired lady, with very light eyes, thick lips, and an immense
lower jaw, a type, but not a flattering type, of German physiognomy.

"Let her come by all means;" and in an instant the door burst open, and
with the spring of a young fawn the little girl was fast locked in her

Online LibraryCharles James LeverLuttrell of Arran → online text (page 1 of 50)