Charles James Lever.

[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) online

. (page 10 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 10 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the gaol, should they dare to fire on the people. This
horrible banner was waved to and fro above the stormy
multitude. Darcy had but time to mark it, when he saw
the crowd open, as if cleft asunder by some giant hand,
and at the same instant, a man rode through the open
space, and tearing down the pole, felled him who carried
it to the earth by a stroke of his whip. The red glare of
the burning houses made the scene distinct as daylight,
but the next moment a rolling cloud of black smoke hid
all from view, and left him to doubt the evidence of his

"Did you see the horseman?" asked Darcy, in eager
curiosity, for he did not dare to trust his uncorroborated

" There he is ! " cried the other. " I know him by a
white band on his arm. See, he mounts one of the
ladders ! there ! he is near the top ! "

A cheer that seemed to shake the very atmosphere
now rent the air, as, pressing on like soldiers to a breach,
the mob approached the walls. Some shots were fired
by the guard, and their effect might be noted by the more
savage yells of the mob, whose exasperation was now
like madness.

" The shots have told see!" cried the man. "Now
the people are gathering in close groups, here and

But Darcy's eyes were fixed on the walls, which were
already crowded with the mob, the dark figures looking
like spectres as they passed and repassed through the
dense canopy of smoke.

" The soldiers ! the soldiers ! " screamed the populace
from below, and at the instant a heavy lumbering sound
crept on, and the head of a cavalry squadron wheeled
into the square before the gaol. The remainder of the
troop soon defiled; but instead of advancing, as was
expected, they opened their ranks, and displayed the
formidable appearance of two eight-pounders, from which


the limbers were removed with lightning speed, and their
mouths turned full upon the crowd. Meanwhile, an
infantry force was seen entering the opposite side of tho
square, thus showing the mob that they were taken in
front and rear, no escape being open save by the small
alleys which led off from the street before the prison.
The military preparations took scarcely more time to
effect than we have employed to relate ; and now began
a scene of tumult and terror the most dreadful to witness;
The order to prime and load, followed by the clanking
crash of four hundred muskets ; the close ranks of the
cavalry, as if with difficulty restrained from charging
down upon them, and the lighted fuses of the artillery,
all combined to augment the momentary dread, and the
shouts of vengeance so lately heard were at once changed
into piercing cries for mercy. The blazing houses, from
which the red fire shot up unrestrained, no longer at-
tracted notice the gaol itself had no interest for those
whose danger was become so imminent.

An indiscriminate rush was made towards the narrow
lanes for escape, and from these arose the most piercing
and agonizing cries, for while pressed down and trampled,
many were trodden under foot never again to rise ; others
were wounded or burned by the falling timbers of the
blazing buildings, and the fearful cry of " The soldiers !
the soldiers ! " still goaded them on by those behind.

" Look yonder," cried Darcy's companion, seizing him
by the arm " look there ! near the corner of the market !
See, the troops have not perceived that ladder, and there
are two fellows now descending it."

True enough. At a remote angle of the gaol, not con-
cealed from view by the smoke, stood the ladder in ques-

" How slowly they move ! " cried Darcy, his eyes fixed
upon the figures with that strange anxiety so inseparable
from the fate of all who are engaged in hazardous enter-
prise. " They will certainly be taken."

" They must be wounded," cried the other ; " they seem

to creep rather than step 1 know the reason, they are

in fetters."

Scarcely was the explanation uttered when the ladder


was seen to be violently moved as if from above, and tlio
next moment was hurled back from the wall, on which
several soldiers were now perceived firing on those below.

"They are lost!" said the Knight; "they are either
captured or cut down by this time."

"The square is cleared already," said the other; "how
quietly the troops have done their work ! And the fire
begins to yield to the engines."

The square was indeed cleared ; save the groups besiclo
the fire-engines, and here and there a knot gathered around
some wounded man, the space was empty, the troops hav-
ing drawn off to . the sides, around which they stood in
double file. A dark cloud rested over the gaol itself, but
no longer did any smoke issue from the windows, and al-
ready the fire, its rage in part expended, in part subdued,
showed signs of decline.

" If the wind was from the west," said the landlord,
" there's no saying where that might have stopped this

" It is a strange occurrence altogether," said the Knight,

"Not a bit strange, sir," replied the other, whose neigh-
bourhood [made him acquainted with classes and varieties
of men of whom Darcy knew nothing ; " it was an attempt
by the prisoners."

" Do you think so ?" asked Darcy.

" Ay, to be sure, sir ; there's scarcely a year goes over
without one contrivance or another for escape ; last autumn
two fellows got away by following the course of the sewers
and gaining the Liffey ; they must have passed two days
underground, and up to their necks in water a great part
of the time."

" Ay, and besides that," observed another for already
so^ne ten or twelve persons were assembled on the roof as
welf as Darcy and the landlord " they had to wade the
river ^t the ebb-tide, when the mud is at least eight or ten
feet de;ep."

" How that was done, I cannot guess/' said Darcy.

" A man will do many a thing for liberty, sir," remarked
another, who was buttoned up in a frieze coat, although
the night was hot and sultry ; " these poor devils there


were willing to risk being roasted alive for the chance
of it."

" Quite true," said Darcy ; " fellows that have a taste
for breaking the law need not be supposed desirous of
observing it as to their mode of death ; and yet they must
have been daring rascals to have made such an attempt as

" Maybe you know the old song, sir," said the other,
laughing :

" There's many a man no bolts can keep,

No chains be made to bind them,
And tho' the fetters be heavy, and cells be deep,
He'll fling them far behind them."

"I have heard the ditty," answered the Knight, " and
if my memory serves me, the last lines run thus :

' ' Though iron bolts may rust and rot,

And stojie and mortar crumble ;
Freney, beware ! for well I wot
Your pride may have a tumble."

"-Dovil a lie in that, anyhow, sir," said the other,
laughing heartily, " and an uglier tumble a man needn't
have than to slip through Tom Galvin's fingers. But I
see the fire is out now, so I'll be jogging homeward : good
night, sir."

" Good night," said Darcy ; and then, as the other
moved away, turning to the landlord, he asked if he knew
the stranger.

" No, sir," was the reply ; " he came up with some others
to have a look at the fire."

" Well, I'll to my bed," said Darcy ; "let me be awak-
ened at four o'clock. I see I shall have but a short sleep,
the day is breaking already."




IT was not until after the lapse of several days that Darcy's
departure was made known to the denizens of Port Bal-
lintray. If the event was slow of announcement, they
endeavoured to compensate for the tardiness of the tidings
by the freedom of their commentary on all its possible
and impossible reasons. There was not a casualty, in the
whole catalogue of human vicissitudes, unquoted ; deaths,
births and marriages were ransacked in newspapers ; all
sudden and unexpected turns of fortune were well weighed;
accidents and offences scanned with cunning eyes, and the
various paragraphs to which editorial mysteriousness gave
an equivocal interpretation were commented on with a
perseverance and an ingenuity worthy of a higher theme.

It may be remarked that no class of persons are viewed
more suspiciously, or excite more sharp criticism from their
neighbours, than those who, with evidently narrow means,
prefer retirement and estrangement from the world to
mixing in the small circle of some petty locality. A
hundred schemes are put in motion to ascertain by what
right such superiority is asserted why, and on what
grounds, they affect to be better than their neighbours, and
so on; the only offence all the while consisting of an
isolation which cannot with truth imply any such im-

When the Knight of Gwynne found himself by an un-
expected turn of fortune condemned to a station so
different from his previous life, he addressed himself at
once to the difficulties of his lot ; and, well aware that all
reserve on his part would be set down as the cloak of
some deep mystery, he affected an air of easy cordiality


with such of the boarding-house party as he ever met, and
endeavoured, by a tone of well-assumed familiarity, to
avoid all detection of the difference between him and his
new associates.

It was in this spirit that he admitted Mr. Dempsey to
his acquaintance, and even asked him to his cottage. In
this diplomacy he met with little assistance from Lady
Eleanor and his daughter ; the former, from a natural
coldness of manner and an instinctive horror of every-
thing low and underbred. Helen's perceptions of such
things were just as acute, but, inheriting the gay and lively
temperament of her father's house, she better liked to
laugh at the absurdities of vulgar people than indulge a
mere sense of dislike to their society. Such allies were too
dangerous to depend on, and hence the Knight conducted
his plans unaided and unsupported.

Whether Mr. Dempsey was bought off by the flattering
exception made in his favour, and that he felt an implied
superiority on being deemed their advocate, he certainly
assumed that position in the circle of Mrs. Fumbally's
household, and, on the present occasion, sustained his
part with a certain mysterious demeanour that imposed
on many.

"Well, he's gone, at all events!" said a thin old lady
with a green shade over a pair of greener eyes, " that
can't be denied, I hope ! Went off like a shot on Tuesday
morning. Sandy M'Shane brought him into Coleraine,
for the Dublin coach, and, by the same token, it was an
outside place he took "

" I beg your pardon, ma'am," interposed a fat little
woman, with a choleric red face and a tremulous under-
lip she was an authoress in the provincial papers, and
occasionally invented her English as well as her incidents
"it was the Derry mail he went by. Archy M'Clure
trod on his toe, and asked pardon for it, just to get him
into conversation, but he seemed very much dejected, and
wouldn't interlocute."

" Very strange indeed ! " rejoined the lady of the shade,
" because I had my information from Williams, the guard
of the coach."

"And I mine from Archy M'Clure himself."

VOL. n. I


" Arid both were wrong," interposed Paul Dempsey,

" It's not very polite to tell us so, Mr. Dempsey," said
the thin old lady, bridling.

" Perhaps the politeness may equal the voracity," said
the fat lady, who was almost boiling over with wrath.

" This Gwynne wasn't all right, depend upon it," inter-
posed a certain little man in powder ; " I have my own
suspicions about him."

" Well, now, Mr. Dunlop, what's your opinion ? I'd
like to hear it."

"What does Mrs. M'Caudlish say?" rejoined the little
gentleman, turning to the authoress for, in the boarding-
house, they both pi'esided judicially in all domestic in-
quisitions regarding conduct and character " what does
Mrs. M'Caudlish say ? "

" I prefer letting Mr. Dunlop expose himself before

" The case is doubtful dark mysterious," said Dun-
lop, with a solemn pause after each word.

" The more beyond my conjunctions," said the lady.
" You remember what the young gentleman says in the
Latin poet, ' Sum Davy, non sum Euripides.' "

" I'll tell you my opinion, then," said Mr. Dunlop, who
was evidently mollified by the classical allusion, and, with
firm and solemn gesture, he crossed over to where she
sat, and whispered a few words in her ear.

A slight scream, and a long-drawn " Oh ! " was all the

"Upon my soul I believe so," said Mr. Dunlop, thrust-
ing both hands into the furthest depths of his coat-
pockets ; "nay, more, I'll maintain it! "

"I know what you are driving at," said Dempsey,
laughing; " you think he's the gauger that went off with
Mrs. Murdoch of Ballyquirk "

" Mr. Dempsey ! Mr. Dempsey ! the ladies, sir ! the
ladies ! " called out two or three reproving voices from
the male portion of the assembly, while, as if to corrobo-
rate the justice of the appeal, the thin lady drew her
shade down two inches lower, and Mr. Dunjop's face
became what painters call " of a warm tint."


" Oh ! never talk of a rope where a man's father was
hanged," muttered Paul to himself, for he felt all the
severity of his condemnation, though he knew that the
point of law was against him.

" There's a rule in this establishment, Mr. Dempsey,"
said Mr. Dunlop, with all the gravity of a judge deliver-
ing a charge " a rule devised to protect the purity, the
innocence " here the ladies held down their heads " the
beauty "

" Yes, sir, and I will add, the helplessness of that
sex "

"Paul's right, by Jove!" hiccuped Jack Leonard,
whose faculties, far immersed in the effects of strong
whisky-and- water, suddenly flashed out into momen-
tary intelligence " I say he's right ! Who says the
reverse ? "

"Oh, Captain Leonard! oh dear, Mr. Dunlop!"
screamed three or four female voices in concert, " don't
let it proceed further."

A faint and an anxious group were gathered around the
little gentleman, whose warlike indications grew stronger
as pacific entreaties increased.

" He shall explain his words," said he, with a cautious
glance to see that his observation was not overhead ;
then, seeing that his adversary had relapsed into oblivion,
he added, " he shall withdraw them ; " and finally,
emboldened by success, he vociferated, " or he shall eat
them. I'll teach him," said the now triumphant victor,
" that it is not in Mark Dunlop's presence ladies are to
be insulted with impunity. Let the attempt be made by
whom it will he may be a lieutenant on half pay, or on
full pay ! I tell him, I don't care a rush."

" Of course not!" "Why would you ?" and so on,
were uttered in ready chorus around him, and he re-
sumed :

" And as for this Gwynne, or Quin, who lives up at
the Corvy yonder, for all the airs he gives himself, and
his fine ladies too, my simple belief is he's a Government

"Is that your opinion, sir ?" said a deep and almost
solemn voice, and at the same instant Miss I)aly appeared

i 2


at the opeii window. She leaned her arm on the sill, and
calmly stared at the now terrified speaker, while she
repeated the words, " Is that your opinion, sir ? "

Before the surprise her words had excited subsided, she
stood at the door of the apartment. She was dressed in
her riding-habit, for she had that moment returned from,
an excursion along the coast.

" Mr. Dunlop," said the lady, advancing towards him,
" I never play the eavesdropper ; but you spoke so loud,
doubtless purposely, that nothing short of deafness
could escape hearing you. You were pleased to express
a belief respecting the position of a gentleman with whom
I have the honour to claim some friendship."

" I always hold myself ready, madam, to render an
account to any individual of whom I express an opinion
to himself, personally, I mean.''

" Of course you do, sir. It is a very laudable habit,"
said she, dryly ; " but in this case don't interrupt me
in the present case, it cannot apply, because the person
traduced is absent. Yes, sir, I said traduced."

" Oh, madam, I must say the word would better suit one
more able to sustain it. I shall take the liberty to with-
draw." And so saying, he moved towards the door;
but Miss Daly interposed, and by a gesture of her hand,
in which she held a formidable horsewhip, gave a very
unmistakable sign that the passage was not free.

" You'll not go yet, sir. I have not done with you,"
said she, in a voice every accent of which vibrated in the
little man's heart. " You affect to regret, sir, than I am
not of the sex that exacts satisfaction, as it is called ;
but I tell you, I come of a family that never gave long
scores to a debt of honour. You have presumed in a
company, certainly, where the hazard of contradiction
was small to asperse a gentleman of whom you know
nothing not one single fact not one iota of his life,
character or fortune. You have dared to call him by
words, every letter of which would have left a welt on
your shoulders if uttered in his hearing. Now, as I am
certain he would pay any little debts I might have per-
chance forgotten in leaving a place where I had resided,
so will I do likewise by him, and here, on this spot, and


iii this fair company, I call upon you to unsay your false-
hood, or " Here she made one step forward, with an

air and gesture that made Mr. Dunlop retire with a most
comic alacrity. "Don't be afraid, sir," continued she,
laughing. " My brother, Mr. Bagenal Daly, will arrive
here soon. He's no new name to your ears. In any
case, I promise you, that whatever you find objectionable
in my proceedings towards you, he will be most happy to
sustain. Now, sir, the hand wants four minutes to six.
If the hour strike before you call yourself a wanton,
gratuitous calumniator, I'll flog you round the room."

A cry of horror burst from the female portion of the
assembly at a threat the utterance of which was really not
less terrific than the meaning.

" Such a spectacle," continued Miss Daly, sarcastically,
" I should scruple to inflict on this fair company ; but the
taste that could find pleasure in witless, pointless slander,
may not, it is possible, dislike to see a little castigatioii.
Now, sir, you have just one minute and a quarter."

" I protest against this conduct, madam. I here de-
clare "

" Declare nothing, sir, till you have avowed yourself by
your real name and character. If you cannot restrain
your tongue, I'll very soon convince you. that its con-
sequences are far from agreeable. Is what you have
spoken false ? "

"There may come a heavy reckoning for all this, madam,"
said Dunlop, trembling between fear and passion.

"I ask you again, and for the last time, are your words
untrue ? Very well, sir. You held a commission in Ger-
many, they say, and probably, as a military man, you may
think it undignified to surrender, except on compulsion."

With these words Miss Daly advanced towards him
with a firm and determined air, while a cry of horror
arose through the room, and the fairer portion intrepidly
threw themselves in front of their champion, while
Dempsey and the others only restrained their laughtelf
for fear of personal consequences. Pushing fiercely on,
Miss Daly was almost at his side, when the door of the
room was opened, and a deep and well-known voice called
out to her,


" Maiia, what the devil is all this ? "

" Oh, Bagenal," cried she, as she held out her hand, " I
scarcely expected you before eight o'clock."

" But in the name of everything ridiculous, what has
happened ? Were you about to horsewhip this pleasant
company ? "

" Only one of its members," said Miss Daly, coolly
" a little gentleman who has thought proper to be more
lavish of his calumny than his courage. I hand him over
to you, now, and faith, though I don't think that he had
any fancy for me, he'll gain by the exchange ! You'll
find him yonder," said she, pointing to a corner where
already the majority of the party were gathered to-

Miss Daly was mistaken however, for Mr. Dunlop had
made his escape during the brief interchange of greetings
between the brother and sister. " Come, Bagenal," said
she, smiling, " it's all for the best. I have given him a
lesson he'll not readily forget had you been the teacher,
he might not have lived to remember it."

" What a place for you ! " said Bagenal, as he threw his
eye superciliously around the apartment and its occupants ;
then taking her arm within his own, he led her forth, and
closed the door after them.

Once more alone, Daly learned with, surprise, not un-
mixed with sorrow, that his sister had never seen the
Darcys, and save by a single call, when she left her name,
had made no advances towards their acquaintance, She
showed a degree of repugnance, too, to allude to the
subject, and rather endeavoured to dismiss it by saying

" Lady Eleanor is a fine lady, and her daughter a wit.
What could there be in common between us ? "
" But for Darcy's sake ? "

" For his sake I stayed away," rejoined she, hastily ;
" they would have thought me a bore, and, perhaps, have
told him as much. In a word, Bagenal, I didn't like ifc,
and that's enough. Neither of us were trained to put
much constraint on our inclinations. I doubt if the
lesson would be easily learned at our present time of


Daly muttered some half-intelligible bitterness about
female obstinacy and wrong-headedness, and walked
slowly to and fro. " I must see Maurice at once," said
he, at length.

" That will be no easy task ; he left this for Dublin on
Tuesday last."

" And has not returned ? When does he come back ? "

" His old butler, who brought me the news, says not
for some weeks."

" Confusion and misery ! " exclaimed Daly ; " was there
ever anything so ill-timed ! And he's in Dublin ? "

" He went thither, but there would seem some mystery
about his ultimate destination ; the old man hinted at

" London ! " said he, with a heavy sigh. " It's now the
18th, and on Saturday she sails."

" Who sails ? " asked Miss Daly, with more of eagerness
than she yet exhibited. D

" Oh, 1 forgot, Molly, I hadn't told you, I'm about to
take a voyage not a very long one, but still distant
enough to make me wish to say good-by ere we
separate. If Grod wills it, I shall be back early in the

" What new freak is this, Bagenal ? " said she, almost
sternly ; " I thought that time and the world's crosses
might have taught you to care for quietness, if not for

" Home ! " repeated he, in an accent the sorrow of
which sank into her very heart, " when had I ever a
home ? I had a house and lands, and equipages, horses,
and liveried servants, all that wealth could command, or
my own reckless vanity could prompt, but these did not
make a home ? "

" You often promised we should have such one day,
Bagenal," said she, tenderly, while she stole her hand
within his; "you often told me that the time would come
when we should enjoy poverty with a better grace than
ever we dispensed riches."

" We surely are poor enough to make the trial now."
said he, with a bitterness of almost savage energy.

" And if we are, Bagenal," replied she, " there is the


more need to draw more closely to each other ; let us
begin at once."

" Not yet, Molly, not yet," said he, passing his hand
across his eyes. " I would grasp such a refuge as eagerly
as yourself, for," added he, with deep emotion, " I am to
the full as weary ! but I cannot do it yet."

Miss Daly knew her brother's temper too long and too
well, either to offer a continued opposition to any strongly
expressed resolve, or to question him about a subject on
which he showed any desire of reserve.

"Have you no Dublin news for me?" she said, as if
willing to suggest some less touching subject for con-

" No, Molly ; Dublin is deserted. The few who still
linger in town seem only half awake to the new condition
of events. The Government party are away to England ;
they feel, doubtless, bound in honour to dispense their
gold in the land it came from ; and the Patriots Heaven
bless the mark ! they look as rueful as if they began to
suspect that Patriotism was too dear a luxury after all."

" And this burning of Newgate what did it mean ?
Was there, as the newapaper makes out, anything like a
political plot connected with it ? "

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 10 of 35)