Charles James Lever.

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Produced by David Widger







THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE

By Charles James Lever


A Tale of the Time of the Union

With Illustrations By Phiz.

In Two Volumes. Vol. II.

Boston: Little, Brown, And Company 1894.





THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE




CHAPTER I. SOME CHARACTERS NEW TO THE KNIGHT AND THE READER

Soon after breakfast the following morning the Knight set out to pay
his promised visit to Miss Daly, who had taken up her abode at a little
village on the coast, about three miles distant. Had Darcy known that
her removal thither had been in consequence of his own arrival at
"The Corvy," the fact would have greatly added to an embarrassment
sufficiently great on other grounds. Of this, however, he was not aware;
her brother Bagenal accounting for her not inhabiting "The Corvy" as
being lonely and desolate, whereas the village of Ballintray was, after
its fashion, a little watering-place much frequented in the season by
visitors from Coleraine, and other towns still more inland.

Thither now the Knight bent his steps by a little footpath across the
fields which, from time to time, approached the seaside, and wound again
through the gently undulating surface of that ever-changing tract.

Not a human habitation was in sight; not a living thing was seen to
move over that wide expanse; it was solitude the very deepest, and well
suited the habit of his mind who now wandered there alone. Deeply lost
in thought, he moved onward, his arms folded on his breast, and his eyes
downcast; he neither bestowed a glance upon the gloomy desolation of
the land prospect, nor one look of admiring wonder at the giant cliffs,
which, straight as a wall, formed the barriers against the ocean.

"What a strange turn of fortune!" said he, at length, as relieving his
overburdened brain by speech. "I remember well the last day I ever saw
her; it was just before my departure for England for my marriage. I
remember well driving over to Castle Daly to say good-bye! Perhaps,
too, I had some lurking vanity in exhibiting that splendid team of four
grays, with two outriders. How perfect it all was! and a proud fellow
I was that day! Maria was looking very handsome; she was dressed for
riding, but ordered the horses back as I drove up. What spirits she
had! - with what zest she seized upon the enjoyments her youth, her
beauty, and her fortune gave her! - how ardently she indulged every
costly caprice and every whim, as if revelling in the pleasure of
extravagance even for its own sake! Fearless in everything, she did
indeed seem like a native princess, surrounded by all that barbaric
splendor of her father's house, the troops of servants, the equipages
without number, the guests that came and went unceasingly, all rendering
homage to her beauty. 'T was a gorgeous dream of life, and well she
understood how to realize all its enchantment. We scarcely parted good
friends on that same last day," said he, after a pause; "her manner
was almost mordant. I can recall the cutting sarcasms she dealt around
her, - strange exuberance of high spirits carried away to the wildest
flights of fancy; and after all, when, having dropped my glove, I
returned to the luncheon-room to seek it, I saw her in a window, bathed
in tears; she did not perceive me, and we never met after. Poor girl!
were those outpourings of sorrow the compensation nature exacted for
the exercise of such brilliant powers of wit and imagination? or had she
really, as some believed, a secret attachment somewhere? Who knows? And
now we are to meet again, after years of absence, - so fallen too! If it
were not for these gray hairs and this wrinkled brow, I could believe it
all a dream; - and what is it but a dream, if we are not fashioned to act
differently because of our calamities? Events are but shadows if they
move us not."

From thoughts like these he passed on to others, - as to how he should be
received, and what changes time might have wrought in her.

"She was so lovely, and might have been so much more so, had she but
curbed that ever-rising spirit of mockery that made the sparkling lustre
of her eyes seem like the scathing flash of lightning rather than the
soft beam of tranquil beauty. How we quarrelled and made up again! what
everlasting treaties ratified and broken! and now to look back on this
with a heart and a spirit weary, how sad it seems! Poor Maria! her
destiny has been less happy than mine. She is alone in the world; I have
affectionate hearts around me to make a home beneath the humble roof of
a cabin."

The Knight was aroused from his musings by suddenly finding himself
on the brow of a hill, from which the gorge descended abruptly into a
little cove, around which the village of Ballintray was built. A row
of whitewashed cottages, in winter inhabited by the fishermen and their
families, became in the summer season the residence of the visitors,
many of whom deserted spacious and well-furnished mansions to pass
their days in the squalid discomfort of a cabin. If beauty of situation
and picturesque charms of scenery could ever atone for so many
inconveniences incurred, this little village might certainly have done
so. Landlocked by two jutting promontories, the bay was sheltered both
east and westward, while the rising ground behind defended it from the
sweeping storms which the south brings in its seasons of rain; in front
the distant island of Isla could be seen, and the Scottish coast was
always discernible in the clear atmosphere of the evening.

While Darcy stood admiring the well-chosen spot, his eye rested upon a
semicircular panel of wood, which, covering over a short and gravelled
avenue, displayed in very striking capitals the words "Fumbally's
Boarding-House." The edifice itself, more pretentious in extent and
character than the cabins around, was ornamented with green jalousies
to the windows, and a dazzling brass knocker surmounting a plate of the
same metal, whereupon the name "Mrs. Jones Fumbally" was legible, even
from the road. Some efforts at planting had been made in the two
square plots of yellowish grass in front, but they had been lamentable
failures; and, as if to show that the demerit was of the soil and not of
the proprietors, the dead shrubs were suffered to stand where they had
been stuck down, while, in default of leaves or buds, they put forth a
plentiful covering of stockings, nightcaps, and other wearables, which
flaunted as gayly in the breeze as the owners were doing on the beach.

Across the high-road and on the beach, which was scarcely more than
fifty yards distant, stood a large wooden edifice on wheels, whose make
suggested some secret of its original destination, had not that fact
been otherwise revealed, since, from beneath the significant name
of "Fumbally," an acute decipherer might read the still unerased
inscription of "A Panther with only two spots from the head to the
tail," an unhappy collocation which fixed upon the estimable lady the
epithet of the animal in question.

Various garden-seats and rustic benches were scattered about, some
of which were occupied by lounging figures of gentlemen, in costumes
ingeniously a cross between the sporting world and the naval service;
while the ladies displayed a no less elegant neglige, half sea-nymph,
half shepherdess.

So much for the prospect landward, while towards the waves themselves
there was a party of bathers, whose flowing hair and lengthened drapery
indicated their sex. These maintained through all their sprightly
gambols an animated conversation with a party of gentlemen on the rocks,
who seemed, by the telescopes and spy-glasses which lay around them, to
be equally prepared for the inspection of near and distant objects,
and alternately turned from the criticism of a fair naiad beneath to a
Scotch collier working "north about" in the distance.

Darcy could not help feeling that if the cockneyism of a boarding-house
and the blinds and the brass knocker were sadly repugnant to the
sense of admiration the scene itself would excite, there was an ample
compensation in the primitive simplicity of the worthy inhabitants, who
seemed to revel in all the unsuspecting freedom of our first parents
themselves; for while some stood on little promontories of the rocks
in most Canova-like drapery, little frescos of naked children flitted
around and about, without concern to themselves or astonishment to the
beholders.

Never was the good Knight more convinced of his own prudence in paying
his first visit alone, and he stood for some time in patient admiration
of the scene, until his eye rested on a figure who, seated at some
distance off on a little eminence of the rocky coast, was as coolly
surveying Darcy through his telescope. The mutual inspection continued
for several minutes, when the stranger, deliberately shutting up his
glass, advanced towards the Knight.

The gentleman was short, but stoutly knit, with a walk and a carriage
of his head that, to Darcy's observant eye, bespoke an innate sense
of self-importance; his dress was a greatcoat, cut jockey fashion, and
ornamented with very large buttons, displaying heads of stags, foxes,
and badgers, and other emblems of the chase, short Russia duck trousers,
a wide-leaved straw hat, and a very loose cravat, knotted sailor-fashion
on his breast. As he approached the Knight, he came to a full stop about
half a dozen paces in front, and putting his hand to his hat, held
it straight above his head, pretty much in the way stage imitators of
Napoleon were wont to perform the salutation.

"A stranger, sir, I presume?" said he, with an insinuating smile and an
air of dignity at the same moment. Darcy bowed a courteous assent, and
the other went on: "Sweet scene, sir, - lovely nature, - animated and
grand."

"Most impressive, I confess," said Darcy, with difficulty repressing a
smile.

"Never here before, I take it?"

"Never, sir."

"Came from Coleraine, possibly? Walked all the way, eh?"

"I came on foot, as you have divined," said Darcy, dryly.

"Not going to make any stay, probably; a mere glance, and go on again.
Is n't that so?"

"I believe you are quite correct; but may I, in return for your
considerate inquiries, ask one question on my own part? You are,
perhaps, sufficiently acquainted with the locality to inform me if a
Miss Daly resides in this village, and where."

"Miss Daly, sir, did inhabit that cottage yonder, where you see the oars
on the thatch, but it has been let to the Moors of Ballymena; they pay
two-ten a week for the three rooms and the use of the kitchen; smart
that, ain't it?"

"And Miss Daly resides at present - "

"She 's one of us," said the little man, with a significant jerk of his
thumb to the blue board with the gilt letters; "not much of that, after
all; but she lives under the sway of 'Mother Fum,' though, from one
caprice or another, she don't mix with the other boarders. Do you know
her yourself?"

"I had that honor some years ago."

"Much altered, I take it, since that; down in the world too! She was an
heiress in those days, I 've heard, and a beauty. Has some of the good
looks still, but lost all the shiners."

"Am I likely to find her at home at this hour?" said Darcy, moving away,
and anxious for an opportunity to escape his communicative friend.

"No, not now; never shows in the morning. Just comes down to dinner, and
disappears again. Never takes a hand at whist - penny points tell up, you
know - seem a trifle at first, but hang me if they don't make a figure
in the budget afterwards. There, do you see that fat lady with the black
bathing-cap? - no, I mean the one with the blue baize patched on the
shoulder, the Widow Mackie, - she makes a nice thing of it, - won twelve
and fourpence since the first of the month. Pretty creature that yonder,
with one stocking on, - Miss Boyle, of Carrick-maclash."

"I must own," said Darcy, dryly, "that, not having the privilege of
knowing these ladies, I do not conceive myself at liberty to regard them
with due attention."

"Oh! they never mind that here; no secrets among us."

"Very primitive, and doubtless very delightful; but I have trespassed
too long on your politeness. Permit me to wish you a very good morning."

"Not at all; having nothing in the world to do. Paul Dempsey - that's
my name - was always an idle man; Paul Dempsey, sir, nephew of old Paul
Dempsey, of Dempsey Grove, in the county of Kilkenny; a snug place, that
I wish the proprietor felt he had enjoyed sufficiently long. And your
name, if I might make bold, is - "

"I call myself Gwynne," said Darcy, after a slight hesitation.

"Gwynne - Gwynne - there was a Gwynne, a tailor, in Ballyragget; a
connection, probably?"

"I 'm not aware of any relationship," said Darcy, smiling.

"I 'm glad of it; I owe your brother or your cousin there - that is,
if he was either - a sum of seven-and-nine for these ducks. There are
Gwynnes in Ross besides, and Quins; are you sure it is not Quin? Very
common name Quin."

[Illustration: 024]

"I believe we spell our name as I have pronounced it." "Well, if you
come to spend a little time here, I 'll give you a hint or two. Don't
join Leonard - that blue-nosed fellow, yonder, in whiskey. He 'll be
asking you, but don't - at it all day." Here Mr. Dempsey pantomimed the
action of tossing off a dram. "No whist with the widow; if you were
younger, I 'd say no small plays with Bess Boyle, - has a brother in the
Antrim militia, a very quarrelsome fellow."

"I thank you sincerely for your kind counsel, although not destined to
profit by it. I have one favor to ask: could you procure me the means to
enclose my card for Miss Daly, as I must relinquish the hope of seeing
her on this occasion?"

"No, no, - stop and dine. Capital cod and oysters, - always good. The
mutton _rayther_ scraggy, but with a good will and good teeth manageable
enough; and excellent malt-"

"I thank you for your hospitable proposal, but cannot accept it."

"Well, I 'll take care of your card; you 'll probably come over again
soon. You 're at M'Grotty's, ain't you?"

"Not at present; and as to the card, with your permission I'll enclose
it." This Darcy was obliged to insist upon; as, if he left his name as
Gwynne, Miss Daly might have failed to recognize him, while he desired
to avoid being known as Mr. Darcy.

"Well, come in here; I 'll find you the requisites. But I wish you 'd
stop and see the 'Panther.'"

Had the Knight overheard this latter portion of Mr.

Dempsey's invitation, he might have been somewhat surprised; but it
chanced that the words were lost, and, preceded by honest Paul, he
entered the little garden in front of the house.

When Darcy had enclosed his card and committed it to the hands of Mr.
Dempsey, that gentleman was far too deeply impressed with the importance
of his mission to delay a moment in executing it, and then the Knight
was at last left at liberty to retrace his steps unmolested towards
home. If he had smiled at the persevering curiosity and eccentric
communicativeness of Mr. Dempsey, Darcy sorrowed deeply over the fallen
fortunes which condemned one he had known so courted and so flattered
once, to companionship like this. The words of the classic satirist
came full upon his memory, and never did a sentiment meet more ready
acceptance than the bitter, heart-wrung confession, "Unhappy poverty!
you have no heavier misery in your train than that you make men seem
ridiculous." A hundred times he wished he had never made the excursion;
he would have given anything to be able to think of her as she had been,
without the detracting influence of these vulgar associations. "And
yet," said he, half aloud, "a year or so more, if I am still living,
I shall probably have forgotten my former position, and shall have
conformed myself to the new and narrow limits of my lot, doubtless as
she does."

The quick tramp of feet on the heather behind him roused him, and, in
turning, he saw a person coming towards and evidently endeavouring
to overtake him. As he came nearer, the Knight perceived it was the
gentleman already alluded to by Dempsey as one disposed to certain
little traits of conviviality, - a fact which a nose of a deep copper
color, and two bloodshot, bleary eyes, corroborated. His dress was a
blue frock with a standing collar, military fashion, and dark trousers;
and, although bearing palpable marks of long wear, were still neat and
clean-looking. His age, as well as appearances might be trusted, was
probably between fifty and sixty.

"Mr. Gwynne, I believe, sir," said the stranger, touching his cap as he
spoke. "Miss Daly begged of me to say that she has just received your
card, and will be happy to see you."

Darcy stared at the speaker fixedly, and appeared, while unmindful of
his words, to be occupied with some deep emotion within him. The other,
who had delivered his message in a tone of easy unconcern, now fixed his
eyes on the Knight, and they continued for some seconds to regard each
other. Gradually, however, the stranger's face changed; a sickly pallor
crept over the features stained by long intemperance, his lip trembled,
and two heavy tears gushed out and rolled down his seared cheeks.

"My G - d! can it be? It surely is not!" said Darcy, with almost
tremulous earnestness.

"Yes, Colonel, it is the man you once remembered in your regiment as
Jack Leonard; the same who led a forlorn hope at Quebec, - the man
broke with disgrace and dismissed the service for cowardice at Trois
Rivières."

"Poor fellow!" said Darcy, taking his hand; "I heard you were dead."

"No, sir, it's very hard to kill a man by mere shame: though if
suffering could do it, I might have died."

"I have often doubted about that sentence, Leonard," said Darcy,
eagerly. "I wrote to the commander-in-chief to have inquiry made,
suspecting that nothing short of some affection of the mind or some
serious derangement of health could make a brave man behave badly."

"You were right, sir; I was a drunkard, not a coward. I was unworthy of
the service; I merited my disgrace, but not on the grounds for which I
met it."

"Good Heaven! then I was right," said Darcy, in a burst of passionate
grief; "my letter to the War Office was unanswered. I wrote again,
and received for reply that an example was necessary, and Lieutenant
Leonard's conduct pointed him out as the most suitable case for heavy
punishment."

"It was but just, Colonel; I was a poltroon when I took more than half a
bottle of wine. If I were not sober now, I could not have the courage to
face you here where I stand."

"Poor Jack!" said Darcy, wringing his hand cordially; "and what have you
done since?"

Leonard threw his eyes down upon his threadbare garments, his patched
boots, and the white-worn seams of his old frock, but not a word escaped
his lips. They walked on for some time side by side without speaking,
when Leonard said, -

"They know nothing of me here, Colonel. I need not ask you to
be - cautious." There was a hesitation before he uttered the last word.

"I do not desire to be recognized, either," said Darcy, "and prefer
being called Mr. Gwynne to the name of my family; and here, if I mistake
not, comes a gentleman most eager to learn anything of anybody."

Mr. Dempsey came up at this moment with a lady leaning on each of his
arms.

"Glad to see you again, sir; hope you 've thought better of your plans,
and are going to try Mother Fum's fare. Mrs. M'Quirk, Mr. Gwynne - Mr.
Gwynne, Miss Drew. Leonard will do the honors till we come back." So
saying, and with a princely wave of his straw hat, Mr. Dempsey resumed
his walk with the step of a conqueror.

"That fellow must be a confounded annoyance to you," said Darcy, as he
looked after him.

"Not now, sir," said the other, submissively; "I 'm used to him;
besides, since Miss Daly's arrival he is far quieter than he used to be,
he seems afraid of her. But I 'll leave you now, Colonel." He touched
his cap respectfully, and was about to move away, when Darcy, pitying
the confusion which overwhelmed him, caught his hand cordially, and
said, -

"Well, Jack, for the moment, good-bye; but come over and see me. I live
at the little cottage called 'The Corvy.'"

"Good Heaven, sir! and it is true what I read in the newspaper about
your misfortunes?"

"I conclude it is, Jack, though I have not read it; they could scarcely
have exaggerated."

"And you bear it like this!" said the other, with a stare of amazement;
then added, in a broken voice, "Though, to be sure, there 's a wide
difference between loss of fortune and ruined character."

"Come, Jack, I see you are not so good a philosopher as I thought you.
Come and dine with me to-morrow at five."

"Dine with _you_, Colonel!" said Leonard, blushing deeply.

"And why not, man? I see you have not forgotten the injustice I once did
you, and I am happier this day to know it was I was in the wrong than
that a British officer was a coward."

"Oh, Colonel Darcy, I did not think this poor broken heart could ever
throb again with gratitude, but you have made it do so; you have kindled
the flame of pride where the ashes were almost cold." And with a burning
blush upon his face he turned away. Darcy looked after him for a second,
and then entered the house.

Darcy had barely time to throw one glance around the scanty furniture of
the modest parlor into which he was ushered, when Miss Daly entered. She
stopped suddenly short, and for a few seconds each regarded the
other without speaking. Time had, indeed, worked many changes in the
appearance of each for which they were unprepared; but no less were they
unprepared for the emotions this sudden meeting was to call up.

Miss Daly was plainly but handsomely dressed, and wore her silvery hair
beneath a cap in two long bands on either cheek, with something of an
imitation of a mode she followed in youth; the tones of her voice,
too, were wonderfully little changed, and fell upon Darcy's ears with a
strange, melancholy meaning.

"We little thought, Knight," said she, "when we parted last, that our
next meeting would have been as this, so many years and many sorrows
have passed over us since that day!"

"And a large measure of happiness, too, Maria," said Darcy, as, taking
her hand, he led her to a seat; "let us never forget, amid all our
troubles, how many blessings we have enjoyed."

Whether it was the words themselves that agitated her, or something in
his manner of uttering them, Miss Daly blushed deeply and was silent.
Darcy was not slow to see her confusion, and suddenly remembering how
inapplicable his remark was to her fortunes, though not to his own,
added hastily, "I, at least, would be very ungrateful if I could not
look back with thankfulness to a long life of prosperity and happiness;
and if I bear my present reverses with less repining, it is, I hope and
trust, from the sincerity of this feeling."

"You have enjoyed the sunny path in life," said Miss Daly, in a low,
faint voice, "and it is, perhaps, as you say, reason for enduring
altered fortunes better." She paused, and then, with a more hurried
voice, added: "One does not bear calamity better from habit; that is all
a mistake. When the temper is soured by disappointment, the spirit of
endurance loses its firmest ally. Your misfortunes will, however, be
short-lived, I hope; my brother writes me he has great confidence
in some legal opinions, and certain steps he has already taken in
chancery."

"The warm-hearted and the generous are always sanguine," said Darcy,
with a sad smile; "Bagenal would not be your brother if he could see a
friend in difficulty without venturing on everything to rescue him. What
an old friendship ours has been! class fellows at school, companions in
youth, we have run our race together, to end with fortune how similar!
I was thinking, Maria, as I came along, of Castle Daly, and remembering
how I passed my holidays with you there. Is your memory as good as
mine?"

"I scarcely like to think of Castle Daly," said she, almost pettishly,
"it reminds me so much of that wasteful, reckless life which laid the
foundation of our ruin. Tell me how Lady Eleanor Darcy bears up, and
your daughter, of whom I have heard so much, and desire so ardently to
see; is she more English or Irish?"

"A thorough Darcy," said the Knight, smiling, "but yet with traits of
soft submission and patient trust our family has been but rarely gifted
with; her virtues are all the mother's, every blemish of her character
has come from the other side."

"Is she rash and headstrong? for those are Darcy failings."

"Not more daring or courageous than I love her to be," said Darcy,



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. II (of II) → online text (page 1 of 34)