Charles James Lever.

[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) online

. (page 14 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 14 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

favourable view of my conduct, for I dare not recall the
dishonourable means by which I was to buy his support.
Then, I think of my heedless and disreputable quarrel.
What motives and what actions in the eyes of her whose
affection I sought! How worthily am I punished for my
presumption !


" I told you that I strictly followed the advice of your
last letter. Immediately on receiving it I wrote a few
lines to my mother, entreating her permission to see and
speak with her, and expressing an earnest hope that our
interview would end in restoring ine to the place I so
long enjoyed in her affection. A very formal note, appoint-
ing the following day, was all the reply.

" On arriving at Berkeley Square, and entering the
drawing-room, I found, to my great astonishment, I will
not say more, that a gentleman, a stranger to me, was
already there, seated at the fire, opposite my mother, and
with that easy air that bespoke his visit was not merely
accidental, but a matter of pre-arrangement. Whatever
my looks might have conveyed, I know not, but I was not
given the opportunity for a more explicit inquiry, when
my mother, in her stateliest of manners, arose and said,

" ' Richard, I wish to present you to my esteemed friend,
Lord Netherby ; a gentleman to whose kindness you are
indebted for any favourable construction I can put upon
your folly, and who has induced me to receive you here

" ' If I knew, madam, that such influence had been
necessary, I should have hesitated before I laid myself
under so deep an obligation to his lordship, to whose name
and merits I confess myself a stranger.'

" ' I am but too happy, Captain Forester,' interposed the
Earl, ' if any little interest I possess in Lady Wallin-
court's esteem enables me to contribute to your reconcili-
ation. I know the great delicacy of an interference, in a
case like the present, and how officious and impertinent
the most respectful suggestions must appear, when offered
by one who can lay no claim, at least to your good

" A very significant emphasis on the word ' your,' a
look towards my mother, and a very meaning smile from
her in reply, at once revealed to me what, till then, I had
not suspected that his lordship meditated a deeper influ-
ence over her ladyship's heart than the mere reconciliation
of a truant son to her esteem.

" ' I believe, my lord,' said I, hastily, and I fear not
without some anger ' I believe I should not have dared


to decline your kind influence in my behalf, had I sus-
pected the terms on which you would exert it. I really
was not aware before that you possessed, so fully, her
ladyship's confidence.'

" ' If you read the morning papers, Captain Forester,'
said he, with the blandest smile, ' you could scarely avoid
learning that my presence here is neither an intrusion nor
an impertinence.'

" 'My dear mother,' cried I, forgetting all, save the
long-continued grief by which my father's memory was
hallowed, 'is this really the case ?'

" ' I can forgive your astonishment,' replied she, with a
look of anger, ' that the qualities you hold so highly in
your esteem should have met favour from one so placed
and gifted as the Earl of Netherby.'

" ' Nay, madam ; on the contrary. My difficulty is to
think, how any new proffer of attachment could find re-
ception in a heart I fondly thought closed against such
appeals ; too full of its own memories of the past to pro-
fane the recollection by '

"I hesitated and stopped. Another moment, and I
would have uttered a word which for worlds I would not
have spoken !

" My mother became suddenly pale as marble ; and lay
back iu her chair as if faint and sick. His lordship ad-
justed his neckcloth and his watch-chain, and walked
towards the window, with an air of as much awkwardnuss
sa so very courtly a personage could exhibit.

" ' You see, my lord,' said my mother and her voice
trembled at every word ' you see, I was right : I told
you how much this interview would agitate and distress

" ' But it need not, madam,' interposed I ; 'or, at all
event?, it may be rendered very brief. I sought an oppor-
tunity of speaking to you, in the hope, that whatever im-
pressions you may have received of my conduct in Ireland,
were either exaggerated or unjust : that I might convince
you, however I may have erred in prudence or judgment,
I have transgressed neither in honour nor good faith.'

" ' Vindications,' said my mother, ' are very weak things
in the face of direct facts. Did you, or did you not, resign


your appointment on the viceroy's staff I stop not to ask
with what scant courtesy that you might be free to rove
over the country, on some knight-errant absurdity ? Did
you, after having one disreputable quarrel in the same
neighbourhood, again involve yourself and your name in
an affair with a notorious mob-orator and disturber, and
thus become the "celebrity" of the newspapers for at
least a fortnight? And lastly, when I hoped, by absence
from England, and foreign service, to erase the memory
of these follies to give them no harsher name did you
not refuse the appointment, and, without advice or per-
mission, sell out of the army altogether ? '

" ' Without adverting to the motives, madam, you have
so kindly attributed to me, I beg to say " yes " to all your
questions. I am no longer an officer in his Majesty's ser-

" ' Nor any longer a member of my family, sir,' said my
mother, passionately ; ' at least so far as the will rests with
me. A gentleman so very independent in his principles
is doubtless not less so in his circumstances. You are en-
titled to five thousand pounds only, by your father's will :
this, if I mistake not, you have received and spent many
a day ago. I will not advert to what my original inten-
tions in your behalf were ; they are recorded, however, in
this paper, which you, my lord, have read.' Here her
ladyship drew forth a document, like a law-paper, while
the Earl bowed a deep acquiescence, and muttered some-
thing like

" 'Very generous and noble-minded, indeed !'

" ' Yes, sir,' resumed my mother, ' I had no other thought
or object, save in establishing you in a position suitable
to your name and family ; you have thought fit to oppose
my wishes on every point, and here I end the vain struggle.'
So saying, she tore the paper in pieces, and threw the
fragments into the fire.

" A deep silence ensued, which I, for many reasons, had
no inducement to break. The Earl coughed and hemmed
three or four times, as though endeavouring to hit upon
something that might relieve the general embarrassment,
but my mother was again the first to speak.

" ' I have no doubt, sir, you have determined on sorr.e


future career. I am not indiscreet enough to inquire what,
but that you may not enter upon it quite unprovided, I
have settled upon you the sum of four hundred pounds
yearly. Do not mistake me, nor suppose that this act
proceeds from any lingering hope on my part that you
will attempt to retrace your false steps, and recover the
lost place in my affection. I am too well acquainted with
the family gift of determination, as it is flatteringly styled,
to think so. You owe this consideration entirely to the
kind interference of the Earl of Netherby. Nay, my lord, '
it is but fair that you should have any merit the act con-
fers, where you have incurred all the responsibility.'

" ' 1 will relieve his lordship of both,' said I. ' I beg to
decline your ladyship's generosity and his lordship's kind-
ness, with the self same feeling of respect.'

" 'My dear Captain Forester, wait one moment,' said
Lord Netherby, taking my arm. ' Let me speak to you,
even for a few moments.'

" 'You mistake him, my lord,' said my mother, with a
scornful smile, while she arose to leave the room ' you
mistake him much.'

" ' Pray hear me out,' said Lord Netherby, taking my
hand in both his own. ' It is no time, nor a case for
any rash resolves,' whispered he ; ' Lady Wallincourt has
been misinformed her mind has been warped by stories
of one kind or other. Go to her, explain fully and openly

" ' Her ladyship is gone, my lord,' exclaimed I, stop-
ping him.

" Yes, she had left the room while we were yet speaking.
This was my last adieu from my mother! I remember
little more, though Lord Netherby detained me still some
time, and spoke with much kindness ; indeed, throughout,
his conduct was graceful and good-natured.

" Why should I weary you longer ? Why speak of the
long dreary night, and the longer day that followed this
scene swayed by different impulses now hoping and
fearing alternately not daring to seek counsel from my
friends, because I well knew what worldly advice would
be given I was wretched. In the very depth of my
despondency, like a ray of sunlight darting through some

70 T .. II. M


crevice of a prisoner's cell, came your own words to me,
' Be a soldier in more than garb or name, be one in the
generous ardour of a bold career. Let it be your boast
that you started fairly in the race, and so distanced your
competitors.' I caught at the suggestion with avidity. I
was no more depressed or down-hearted. I felt as if, throw-
ing off my load of care, a better and a brighter day was
about to break for me ; the same evening I left London
for Plymouth, and became a volunteer.

" Before concluding these lines, I would ask why you
tell me no more of Miss Darcy than that ' she is well, and,
the reverse of her fortune considered, in spirits.' Am I to
learn no more than that ? will you not say if my name is
ever spoken by, or before her ? How am I remembered ?
Has time have my changed fortunes softened her stern
determination towards me ? Would that I could know
this would that I could divine what may lurk in her
heart of compassionate pity for one who resigned all
for her love, and lost. With all my gratitude for your
kindness, when I well-nigh believed none remained in
the world for me,

" I am, yours in sincere affection,


" I forgot to ask if you can read one strange mystery
of this business, at least so the words seem to imply ?
Lord Netherby said, when endeavouring to dissuade me
from leaving my mother's house, ' Remember, Captain
Forester, that Lady Wallincourt's prejudices regarding
your Irish friends have something stronger than mere
caprice to strengthen them. You must not ask her to
forget as well as forgive, all at once.' Can you interpret
this riddle for me ? for although at the time it made little
impression, it recurs to my mind now twenty times a

Here concluded Forester's letter. A single line in pen-
cil was written at the foot, and signed " M. D. : " " I am
a bad prophet, or the volunteer will turn out better than
the aide-de-camp."




WHEN the Union was carried, and the new order of affairs
in Ireland assumed an appearance of permanence, a
general feeling of discontent began to exhibit itself in
every class in the capital. The patriots saw themselves
neglected by the Government, without having reaped in
popularity a recompense for their independence. The
mercantile interest perceived, even already, the falling off
in trade from the removal of a wealthy aristocracy : and
the supporters of the Minister, or such few as still lingered
in Dublin, began to suspect how much higher terms they
might have exacted for their adhesion, had they only
anticipated the immensity of the sacrifice to which they

Save that comparatively small number, who had bar-
gained for English peerages and English rank, and had
thereby bartered their nationality, none were satisfied.

Even the moderate men that intelligent fraction who
believe that no changes are fraught with one-half the good
or evil their advocates or opponents imagine even they
were disappointed on finding that the incorporation of the
Irish Parliament with that of England was the chief
element of the new measure, and no more intimate or
solid Union contemplated. The shrewd men of every
party saw, not only how difficult would be the future
government of the country, but that the critical moment
was come which should decide into whose hands the chief
influence would fall. Among these speculators on the
future, Mr. Heffernan held a prominent place. No man
knew better the secret machinery of office, none had seen
more of that game, half fair, half foul, by which an

M 2


administration is sustained. Ho knew, moreover, the
character and capability of every public man in Ireland,
had been privy to their waverings and hesitations, and
even their bargains with the Crown ; he knew where
gratified ambition had rendered a new peer indifferent to
a future temptation, and also where abortive negotiations
had sowed the seeds of a lingering disaffection.

To construct a new party from these scattered elements
a party which, possessing wealth and station, had not
yet tasted any of the sweets of patronage, was the task
he now proposed to himself. By this party, of whom he
himself was to be the organ, he hoped to control the
Minister, and support him by turns. Of those already
purchased by the Government, few would care to involve
themselves once more in the fatigues of a public life.
Many would gladly repose on the rewards of their victory
many would shrink from the obloquy their reappearance
would inevitably excite. Mr. Hetfernan had then to
choose his friends either from that moderate section of
politicians, whom scruples of conscience or inferiority of
ability had left unbought, or the more energetic faction,
suddenly called into existence by the success of the French
Revolution, and of which O'Halloran was the leader.
For many reasons his choice fell on the former. Not only
because they possessed that standing and influence which,
derived from property, would be most regarded in
England, but that their direction and guidance would be
an easier task ; whereas the others, more numerous and
more needy, could only be purchased by actual place or
pension, while in O'Halloran, Heffernaii would always
have a dangerous rival, who, if he played subordinate for
a while, it would only be at the price of absolute rule

From the moment Lord Castlereagh withdrew from
Ireland, Mr. Heff'ernan commenced his intrigue. At first,
by a tour of visits through the country, in which he con-
trived to sound the opinions of a great number of persons,
and subsequently, by correspondence, so artfully sustained,
as to induce many to commit themselves to a direct Hue
of action, which, when discussing, they had never specu-
lated on seeing realized.


With a subtlety of no common kind, and an indefatig-
able industry, Heffernan laboured in the cause dui-ing the
summer and autumn, and with such success, that there
was scarcely a county in Ireland where he had not secured
some leading adherent, while for many of the boroughs he
had already entered into plans for the support of new can-
didates of his own opinions.

The views he put forward were simply these : Ireland
can no longer be governed by an Oligarchy, however
powerful. It must be ruled either by the weight and in-
fluence of the country gentlemen, or left to the mercy of
the demagogue. The,' gentry must be rewarded for their
adhesion, and enabled to maintain their pre-eminence, by
handing over to them the patronage, not in part or in frac-
tions, but wholly and solely. Every civil appointment
must be filled up by them the Church the law the
revenue the police, must all be theirs. " The great
aristocracy," said he, " have obtained the marquisates and
earldoms ; bishoprics and governments have rewarded
their services. It is now our turn, and if our prizes be
less splendid and showy, they are not devoid of some
sterling qualities.

" To make Ireland ungovernable without us, must be
our aim and object to embarrass and confound every ad-
ministration to oppose the ministers pervert their good
objects and exaggerate their bad. Pledged to no distinct
line r of acting, we can be patriotic when it suits us, and
declaim on popular rights when nothing better offers.
Acting in concert, and diffusing an influence in every
county and town and corporation, what ministry can long
resist us, or what goverment anxious for office would refuse
to make terms with us ? With station to influence society
wealth to buy the press activity to watch and counter-
act our enemies, I see nothing which can arrest our pro-
gress. We must and will succeed."

Such was the conclusion of a letter he wrote to one of
his most trusted allies ; a letter written to invite his pre-
sence in Dublin, where a meeting of the leading men of
the new party was to be held, and their engagements for
the future determined upon.

For this meeting Heffernan made the greatest exertions,


not only that it might include a great portion of the
wealth and influence of the land, but that a degree of
folat and splendour should attend it, the more likely to
attract notice, from the secrecy maintained as to its object
and intention. Many were invited on the consideration of
the display their presence would make in the capital ; and
not a few were tempted by the opportunity for exhibiting
their equipages and their liveries at a season when the re-
cognized leaders of fashion were absent.

It is no part of our object to dwell on this well-known
intrigue, one which at the time occupied no small share of
public attention, and even excited the curiosity and the
fears of the Government. Enough when we say that Mr.
Heffernan's disappointments were numerous and severe.
Letters of apology, some couched in terms of ambiguous
cordiality, others less equivocally cold, came pouring in
for the last fortnight. The noble lord destined to fill the
chair regretted deeply that domestic affairs of a most press-
ing nature would not permit of his presence. The baronet
who should move the first resolution would be compelled
to be absent from Ireland ; the seconder was laid up with
the gout. Scarcely a single person of influence had pro-
mised his attendance : the greater number had given
vague and conditional replies, evidently to gain time and
consult the feeling of their country neighbours.

These refusals and subterfuges were a sad damper to Mr.
Heffernan's hopes. To any one less sanguine, they would
have led to a total abandonment of the enterprise. He,
however, was made of sterner stuff, and resolved, if the
demonstration could effect no more, it could at least be
used as a threat to the Government a threat of not less
power because its terrors were involved in mystery. With
all these disappointments time sped on, the important day
arrived, and the great room of the Rotunda, hired specially
for the occasion, was crowded by a numerous assemblage,
to whose proceedings no member of the public press was
admitted. Notice was given that in due time a declara-
tion, drawn up by a Committee, would be published, but
until then the most profound secrecy wrapped their objects
and intentions.

The meeting, convened for one o'cloek, separated at


five ; and, save the unusual concourse of carriages, and
the spectacle of some liveries new to the capital, there
seemed nothing to excite the public attention. No loud-
tongued orator was heard from without; nor did a single
cheer mark the reception of any welcome sentiment ; and
as the members withdrew, the sarcastic allusions of the
mob intimated that they were supposed to be a new sect
of " Quakers." Heflernan's carriage was the last to leave
the door, and it was remarked, as he entered it, that he
looked agitated and ill signs which few had ever remarked
in him before. He drove rapidly home, where a small and
select party of friends had been invited by him to dinner.

He made a hasty toilet, and entered the drawing-room
a few moments after the first knock at the street-door an-
nounced the earliest guest. It was an old and intimate
friend, Sir Giles St. George, a south-country baronet of
old family, but small fortune, who for many years had
speculated on Heffernan's interest in his behalf. He was
a shrewd, coarse man, who, from eccentricity and age, had
obtained a species of moral " writ of ease," absolving him
from all observance of the usages in common among all
well-bred people a privilege he certainly did not seem
disposed to let rust from disuse.

" Well, Con," said he, as he stood with his back to the
fire, and his hands deeply thrust into his breeches-pockets
"well, Con, your Convention has been a damnable fail-
ure. Where the devil did you get up such a rabble of
briefless barristers, ungowned attorneys, dissenting minis-
ters, and illegitimate sons ? I'd swear, out of your seven
hundred, there were not five-and-twenty possessed of a
fifty-pound freehold not five who could defy the sheriff in
their own county."

Heffernan made no reply, but with arms crossed, and
his head leaned forward, walked slowly up and down the
room, while the other resumed,

" As for old Killowen, who filled the chair, that was
enough to damn the whole thing. One of King James's
lords, forsooth ! why, man, what country gentleman of
any pretension could give precedence to a fellow like that,
who neither reads, writes, nor speaks the King's English
and your great gun, Mr. Hickman O'Reilly "


" False-hearted scoundrel ! " muttered HefFernan, half

" Faith he may be, but he's the cleverest of the pack.
I liked his speech well. There was good common sense
in his asking for some explicit plan of proceeding what
you meant to do, and how to do it. Eh, Con, that was to
the point."

" To the point ! " repeated HefFernan, scornfully ; " yes,
as the declaration of an informer, that he will betray his
colleagues, is to the point."

" And then his motion to admit the reporters," said St.
George, as with a malignant pleasure he continued to
suggest matter of annoyance.

" He's mistaken, however," said HefFernan, with a
sarcastic bitterness that came from his heart. " The d&y
for rewards is gone by. He'll never get the baronetcy
by supporting the Government in this way. It is the
precarious, uncertain ally they look more after. There is
consummate wisdom, Giles, in not saying one's last word.
O'Reilly does not seem aware of that. Here come
Godfrey and Hume," said he, as he looked out of the
window. " Burton has sent an apology."

" And who is our sixth ? "

" O'Reilly and here's his carriage. See how the
people stare admiringly at his green liveries ; they
scarcely guess that the owner is meditating a change of
colour. Well, Godfrey, in time for once. Why, Robert
you seem quite fagged with your day's exertion. Ah !
Mr. O'Reilly, delighted to find you punctual. Let me
present you to my old friend Sir Giles St. George. I
believe, gentlemen, you need no introduction to each
other. Burton has disappointed us so we may order
dinner at once."

As Mr. HefFernan took the head of the table, not a sign
of his former chagrin remained to be seen. An air of
easy conviviality had entirely replaced his previous look
of irritation, and in his laughing eye and mellow voice
there seemed the clearest evidence of a mind perfectly at
ease, and a spirit well disposed to enjoy the pleasures of
the board. Of his guests, Godfrey was a leading member
of the Irish bar, a man of good private fortune and a large


practice, who, out of whim rather than from any great
principle, had placed himself in continual opposition to
the Government, and felt grievously injured and affronted
when the minister, affecting to overlook his enmity,
offered him a silk gown. Hume was a Commissioner of
Customs, and had been so for some thirty years ; his only
ambition in life being to retire on his full salary, having
previously filled his department with his sons and grand-
sons. The gentle remonstrances of the Secretary against
his plan had made him one of the disaffected, but without
courage to avow or influence to direct his animosity. Of
Mr. O'Reilly the reader needs no further mention. Such
was the party who now sat at a table most luxuriously
supplied ; for although Heffernan was very far from a
frequent inviter, yet his dinners were admirably arranged,
and the excellence of his wine was actually a mystery

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 14 of 35)