Charles James Lever.

[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) online

. (page 15 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 15 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


among the Ion vivants of the capital. The conversation
turned of course upon the great event of the day, but so
artfully was the subject managed by Heffernan that the
discussion took rather the shape of criticism on the several
speakers, and their styles of delivery, than on the matter
of the meeting itself.

" How eager the Castle folks will be to know all about
it," said Godfrey. " Cooke is, I hear, in a sad taking to
learn the meaning of the gathering."

" I fancy, sir," said St. George, " they are more in-
different than you suppose. A meeting held by indi-
viduals of a certain rank and property, and convened with
a certain degree of ostentation, can scarcely ever be
formidable to a government."

" You forget the Volunteers," said Heffernan.

" No, I remember their assembling well enough, and a
very absurd business they made of it. The Bishop of
Downe was the only man of nerve amongst them ; and as
for Lord Charlemont, the thought of an attainder was
never out of his head till the whole association was dis-
banded."

"They were very formidable, indeed," said Heffer-
nan, gravely. " I can assure you that the Government
were far more afraid of their defenders than of the
French,"



170 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

"A government that is ungrateful enough to neglect
its supporters," chimed in Hume, " men that have spent
their best years in its service, can scarcely esteem itself
very secure. In the department I belong to myself, for
instance ''

" Tours is a very gross case," interrupted Heffernan,
who from old experience knew what was coming, and
wished to arrest it.

" Thirty-four years, come November next, have I toiled
as a commissioner."

" Unpaid ! " exclaimed St. George, with a well simu-
lated horror " unpaid ! "

" No, sir ; not without my salary, of course. I never
heard of any man holding an office in the Revenue for
the amusement it might afford him. Did you, Godfrey ? "

" As for me," said the lawyer, " I spurn their patronage.
I well know the price men pay for such favours."

" What object could it be to you" said Heffernan, " to
be made Attorney- General or placed on the Bench, a man
independent in every sense ? so I said to Castlereagh, when
he spoke on the subject: 'Never mind Godfrey,' said I,
' he'll refuse your offers ; you'll only offend him by solici-
tation ;' and when he mentioned the 'Bolls' " here

Heffernan paused, and filled his glass leisurely. An in-
terruption contrived to stimulate Godfrey's curiosity, and
which perfectly succeeded, as he asked in a voice of
tremulous eagerness "Well, what did you say?"

" Just as I replied before ' he'll refuse yon.' "

" Quite right, perfectly right you have my unbounded
gratitude for the answer," said Godfrey, swallowing two
bumpers as rapidly as he could fill them.

" Very different treatment from what I met an old and
tried supporter of the party," said Hume, turning to
O'Reilly and opening upon him the whole narrative of his
long-suffering neglect.

" It's quite clear, then," said St. George, " that we are
agreed the best thing for us would be a change of
Ministry."

" I don't think so at all," interposed Heffernan.

" Why, Con," interrupted the baronet, " they should
have you at any price however these fellows have learned



A DINNEB AT CON HEFFERNAN*S. 171

the trick the others know nothing about it. You'd be in
office before twenty-four hours."

" So I might to-morrow," said Heffernau. " There's
scarcely a single post of high emolument and trust that I
have not been offered and refused. The only things I
ever stipulated for in all my connection with the Govern-
ment were certain favours for my personal friends." Here
he looked significantly towards O'Reilly, but the glance
was intercepted by the commissioner, who cried out,
" Well, could they say I had no claim ? Could they deny
thirty-four years of toil and slavery ? "

" And in the case for which I was, most interested," re-
sumed Heffernan, not heeding the interruption, " the
favour I sought would have been more justly bestowed
from the rank and merits of the party, than as a recom-
pense for any services of mine."

" I won't say that, Heffernan," said Hume, with a look
of modesty, who with the most implicit good faith sup-
posed he was the party alluded to ; "I won't go that far ;
but I will and must say, that after four-and-thirty years
as a commissioner "

"A man must have laid by a devilish pretty thing for
the rest of his life," said St. George, who felt all the
bitterness of a narrow income augmented by the croaking
complaints of the well-salaried official.

"Well, I hope better days are coming for all of us,"
said Heffernan, desirous of concluding the subject ere it
should take an untoward turn.

" You have got a very magnificent seat in the -west,
sir," said St. George, addressing O'Reilly, who during the
whole evening had done little more than assent or smile
concurrence with the several speakers.

" The finest thing in Ireland," interrupted Heffernan.

"Nay, that is saying too much," said O'Reilly, with
a look of half-real, half-affected bashfulness. " The
abbey certainly stands well, and the timber is well
grown."

" Are you able to see Clew Bay from the small drawing-
room still? for I remember remarking that the larches
on the side of the glen would eventually intercept the
prospect."



172 THE KMGII1 OF GWINNE.

" You know the Abbey, then ? " asked O'Reilly, forget-
ting to answer the question addressed to him.

" Oh, I knew it well. My family is connected distantly,
I believe with the Darcys, and in former days we were
intimate. A very sweet place it was ; I am speaking of
thirty years ago, and of course it must have improved
since that."

" My friend here has given it every possible oppor-
tunity," said Heflernan, with a courteous inclination of
the head.

" I've no doubt of it," said St. George, " but neither
money nor bank securities will make trees grow sixty feet
in a twelvemonth. The improvements I allude to were
made by Maurice Darcy's father ; he sunk forty thousand
pounds in draining, planting, subsoiling, and what not.
He left a rent-charge in his will to continue his plans, and
Maurice and his son what's the young fellow called
Lionel, isn't it ? well, they are, or rather they were, bound
to expend a very heavy sum annually on the property."

A theme less agreeable to O'Reilly's feelings could
scarcely have been started, and though Heffernan saw as
much, he did not dare to interrupt it suddenly, for fear of
any unpalatable remark from St. George. Whether from
feeling that the subject was a painful one, or that he liked
to indulge his loquacity in detailing various particulars of
the Darcys and their family circumstances, the old man
went on without ceasing. Now, narrating some strange
caprice of an ancestor in one century ; now, some piece
of good fortune that occurred to another. " You know the
old prophecy in the family, I suppose, Mr. O'Reilly?"
said he, " though to be sure you are not very likely to
give it credence."

" I scarcely can say I remember what you allude to."

" By Jove, I thought every old woman in the west
would have told it to you. How is this the doggrel runs
ay, here it is,

" A new name in this house shall never begin
Till twenty-one Darcys have died in Gwynne."

Now, they say that, taking into account all of the family
who have fallen in battle, been lost at sea, and so on,
only eleven of the stock died a.t the Abbey."



A DIN'XEn AT CON HEFFEUXAl.V. 173

Although O'Reilly affected to smile at the old rhyme,
his cheek became deadly pale, and his hand shook as he
lifted the glass to his lips. It was no vulgar sense of
fear, no superstitious dread that moved his cold and calcu-
lating spirit, but an emotion of suppressed anger that
the ancient splendour of the Darcys should be thus
placed side by side with, his own unhonoured and unknown
family.

" L don't think I ever knew one of these good legends
have even so much of truth though the credit is now at
an end," said Heffernan, gaily.

" I'll engage old Darcy's butler wouldn't agree with
you," replied St. George. " Ay, and Maurice himself
had a great dash of old Irish superstition in him, for a
clever, sensible fellow as he was."

" It only remains for my friend here, then, to fit up a
room for the Darcys and invite them to die there at their
several conveniences," said Con, laughing. " I see no
other mode of fufilling the destiny."

" There never was a man played his game worse,"
resumed St. George, who with a pertinacious persistence
continued the topic. " He came of age with a large
unencumbered estate, great family influence, and a very
fair share of abilities. It was the fashion to say he had
more, but I never thought so, and now, look at him ! "

" He had very heavy losses at play," said Heffernan,
" certainly."

" What if he had ? They never could have materially
affected a fortune like his. No, no. I believe ' Honest
Tom ' finished him raising money to pay off old debts,
and then never clearing away the liabilities. What a
stale trick ! and how invariably it succeeds ! "

" You do not seem, sir, to take into account an habi-
tually expensive mode of living," insinuated O'Reilly,
quietly.

" An item, of course but only an item in the sum
total," replied St. George. "No man can eat and drink
above ten thousand a year, and Darcy had considerably
more. No ; he might have lived as he pleased, had he
escaped the acquaintance of honest Tom Gleeson. By-
the-by, Con, is there any truth in the story they tell about



174 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

this fellow, and that lie really was more actuated by a
feeling of revenge towards Darcy than a desire for
money ? "

" I never heard the story. Did you, Mr. O'Reilly ? "
asked Heffernan.

" Never," said O'Reilly, affecting an air of unconcern,
very ill consorting with his pale cheek and anxious eye.

" The tale is simply this. That as Gleeson waxed
wealthy, and began to assume a position in life, he one
day called on the Knight to request him to put his name
up for ballot at ' Daly's.' Darcy was thunderstruck, for
it was in those days when the Club was respectable but
still the Knight had tact enough to dissemble his astonish-
ment, and would, doubtless, have got through the diffi-
culty, had it not been for Bagenal Daly, who was present,
and called out, ' Wait till Tuesday, Maurice, for I mean
to propose M'Cleery, the breeches-maker, and then the
thing won't seem so remarkable ! ' Gleeson smiled and
slipped away, with an oath to his own heart, to be re-
venged on both of them. If there be any truth in the
story, he did ruin Daly, by advising some money-lender
to buy up all his liabilities.''

" I must take the liberty to correct you, sir," said
O'Reilly, actually trembling with anger. " If your
agreeable anecdote has no better foundation than the
concluding hypothesis, its veracity is inferior to its
ingenuity. The gentleman you are pleased to call a
money-lender is my father; the conduct you allude to
was simply the advance of a large sum on mortgage."

" Foreclosed, like Darcy's, perhaps," said St. George,
his irascible face becoming blood-red with passion.

" Come, come, Giles, you really can know nothing of
the subject you are talking of besides, to Mr. O'Reilly
the matter is a personal one."

" So it is," muttered St. George ; " and if report speaks
truly, as unpleasant as personal."

This insulting remark was not heard by O'Reilly, who
was deeply engaged in explaining to the lawyer beside
him the minute legal details of the circumstance.

" Shrewd a fellow as Gleeson was," said St. George,
interrupting O'Reilly, by addressing the lawyer, "they



A DINNER AT CON HEFPEBNAN*S. 1?5

say he has left some flaw open in the matter, and that
Darcy may recover a very large portion of the lost estate."

"Yes; if for instance this bond should be destroyed.
He might move in Equity "

" He'd move Heaven and Earth, sir, if its Bagenal
Daly you mean," said St. George, who had stimulated
his excitement by drinking freely. " Some will tell you
that he is a steadfast, firm friend ; but I'll vouch for it, a
more determined enemy never drew breath."

"Very happily for the world we live in, sir," said
O'Reilly, " there are agencies more powerful than the
revengeful and violent natures of such men as Mr. Daly."

" He's every jot as quick-sighted as he's determined,
and when he wagered a hogshead of claret that Darcy
would one day sit again at the head of his table in
G wynne Abbey "

"Did he make such a bet?" asked O'Reilly with a
faint laugh.

" Yes ; he walked down the club-room, and offered it
to any one present, and none seemed to fancy it ; but young
Kelly, of Kilclare, who, being a new member just come in,
perhaps thought there might be some eclat in booking a
bet with Bagenal Daly."

"Would you like to back his opinion, sir?" said
O'Reilly, with a simulated softness of voice, "for
although I rarely wager, I should have no objection
to convenience you, here, leaving the amount entirely
at your option."

" Which means," said St. George, as his eyes sparkled
with wine and passion, " that the weight of your purse is
to tilt the beam against that of my opinion. Now, I beg
leave to tell you "

" Let me interrupt you, Giles ; I never knew my Bur-
gundy disagree with any man before, but I'd smash every
bottle of it to-morrow if I thought it could make so
pleasant a fellow so wrong-headed and unreasonable. What
say you if we qualify it with some cognac and water? "

" Maurice Darcy is my relative," said St. George, push-
ing his glass rudely from him, " and I have yet to learn
the unreasonableness of wishing well to a member of one's
own family. His father and mine were like brothers !



176 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

Ay, by Jove ! I wonder what either of them would think
of the changes time has wrought in their sons' fortunes:"
his voice dropped into a low, muttering sound, while he
mumbled on, " one a beggar and an exile, the other"
here his eye twinkled with a malicious intelligence as he
glanced around the board " the other the guest of Con
Heff'ernari." He arose as he spoke, and fortunately the
noise thus created prevented his words being overheard.
" You're right, Con," said he, " that Burgundy has been
too much for me. The wine is unimpeachable, notwith-
standing."

The others rose also ; although pressed in all the cus-
tomary hospitality of the period to have " one bottle more,"
they were resolute in taking leave, doubtless not sorry to
escape the risk of any unpleasant termination to the even-
ing's entertainment.

The lawyer and the commissioner agreed to see St.
George home, for although long seasoned to excesses, age
had begun to tell upon him, and his limbs were scarcely
more under control than his tongue. O'Reilly had
dropped his handkerchief, he was not sure whether in the
drawing or the dinner-room, and this delayed him a few
moments behind the rest, and although, he declared, at
each moment, the loss of no consequence, and repeated
his " good night," Heffernan held his hand and would not
suffer him to leave.

" Try under Mr. O'Reilly's chair, Thomas. Singular
specimen of a by-gone day, the worthy baronet ! " said he,
with a shrug of his shoulders. " Would you believe it, he
and Darcy have not been on speaking terms for thirty
years, and yet how irritable he showed himself in his
behalf!"

" He seems to know something of the family affairs,
however," said O'Reilly, cautiously.

" Not more than club gossip : all that about Daly and
his wager is a week old."

" I hope my father may never hear it," said O'Reilly,
compassionately : " he has all the irritability of age, and
these reports invariably urge him on to harsh measures,
which, by the least concession, he would never have pursued.
The Darcys, indeed, have to thank themselves for any



A DINNER AT CON HEFFERNAN'S. 177

severity they have experienced at our hands. Teasing
litigation and injurious reports of us have met all our efforts
at conciliation."

"A compromise would have been much better, and
more reputable for all parties," said Heffernan, as he
turned to stir the fire, and thus purposely averted his face
while making the remark.

" So it would," said O'Reilly, hurriedly; then stopping
abruptly short, he stammered out, " I don't exactly know
what you mean by the word, but if it implies a more
amicable settlement of all disputed points between us, I
perfectly agree with you."

Heffernan never spoke : a look of cool self-possession
and significance was all his reply. It seemed to say,
" Don't hope to cheat me ; however, you may rely on my
discretion."

" I declare my handkerchief is in my pocket all this
while," said O'Reilly, trying to conceal his rising con-
fusion with a laugh. "Good night, once more you're
thinking of going over to England to-morrow evening?"

" Yes, if the weather permits, I'll sail at seven. Can I
be of any service to you ? "

" Perhaps so : I may trouble you with a commission.
Good night."

" So, Mr. Hickman, you begin to feel the hook ! N"ow
let us see if we cannot play the fish, without letting him
know the weakness of the tackle ! " said Heffernan, as he
looked after him, and then slowly retraced his steps to the
now deserted drawing-room.

" How frequently will chance play the game more skil-
fully for us than all our cleverness," said he, while he
paced the room alone. " That old bear, St. George, who
might have ruined everything, has done me good service.
O'Reilly's suspicions are awakened his fears are aroused:
could I only find a clue to his terror I could hold him as
fast by his fears as by this same baronetcy. This baro-
netcy," added he, with a sneering laugh, "that I am to
negotiate for, and be refused ! "

With this sentiment of honest intentions on his lips,
Mr. Heffernan retired to rest, and, if this true history is
to be credited) to sleep soundly till morning.

VOL. in H



178 THE KNIGHT OF (JWTNNE.



CHAPTER XYI.

PAUL DEMPSEY' s WALK.

WITH the most eager desire to accomplish his mission,
Paul Dempsey did not succeed in reaching the Corvy until
late on the day after Miss Daly's visit. He set out
originally by paths so secret and circuitous that he lost
his way, and was obliged to pass his night among the
hills, where, warned by the deep thundering of the sea
that the cliffs were near, he was fain to await daybreak
ere he ventured further. The trackless waste over which
his way led was no bad emblem of poor Paul's mind, as,
cowering beneath a sand-hill, he shivered through the long
hours of night. Swayed by various impulses, he could
determine on no definite line of action, and wavered, and
doubted, and hesitated, till his very brain was addled by
its operations.

At one moment he was disposed, like good Launcelot
Gobbo, to " run for it," and, leaving Darcy and all belong-
ing to him to their several fates, to provide for his own
safety ; when suddenly a dim vision of meeting Maria
Daly in this world, or the next, and being called to account
for his delinquency, routed such determinations. Then
he revelled in the gloi-ious opportunity for gossip afforded
by the whole adventure. How he should astonish Cole-
raine and its neighbourhood by his revelations of the
Knight and his family. Gossip in all its moods and
tenses, from the vague indicative of mere innuendo, to the
full subjunctive of open defamation! Not indeed that
Mr. Dempsey loved slander for itself ; on the contrary, his
temperament was far more akin to kindliness than its
opposite ; but the passion for retailing one's neighbour's
foibles or misfortunes is an impulse that admits no guid-



PAUL DEMPSEY'S WALK. 179

ance ; and, as the gambler would ruin his best friend at
play, so would the professed gossip calumniate the very
nearest and dearest to him on earth. There are in the
social, as in the mercantile world, characters who never
deal in the honest article of commerce, but have a store
of damaged, injured, or smuggled goods, to be hawked
about surreptitiously, and always to be sold in the
" strictest secrecy." Mr. Dempsey was a pedlar in this
wise, and, if truth must be told, he did not dislike his trade.

And yet, at moments, thoughts of another and more
tender kind were wafted across Paul's mind, not resting
indeed long enough to make any deep impression, but
still leaving behind them, as pleasant thoughts always
will, little twilights of happiness. P*ul had been touched
a mere graze, skin deep but still touched by Helen
Darcy's beauty and fascinations. She had accompanied
him more than once on the piano while he sang, and
whether the long-fringed eyelashes and the dimpled cheek
had done the mischief, or that the thoughtful tact with
which she displayed Paul's good notes and glossed over
his false ones had won his gratitude, certain is it he had
already felt a very sensible regard for the young lady, and
more than once caught himself, when thinking about her,
speculating on the speedy demise of Bob Dempsey, of
Dempsey 's Grove, and all the consequences that might
ensue therefrom.

If the enjoyment Mr. Dempsey 's various peculiarities
afforded Helen suggested on her part the semblance of
pleasure in his society, Paul took these indications all in
his own favour, and even catechized himself how far ho
might be deemed culpable in winning the affections of a
charming young lady, so long as his precarious condition
forbid all thought of matrimony. Now, however, that he
knew who the family really were, such doubts were much
allayed, for, as he wisely remarked to himself, " Though
they are ruined, there's always nice picking in the wreck
of an Indiaman ! " Such were the thoughts by which his
way was beguiled, when late in the afternoon he reached
the Corvy.

Lady Eleanor and her daughter were out walking when
Mr. Dempsey arrived, and, having cautiously reconnoitred

N 2



180 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

the premises, ventured to approach the door. All was
quiet and tranquil about the cottage ; so, reassured by
this, he peered through the window into the large hall,
where a cheerful fire now blazed and shed a mellow glow
over the strange decorations of the chamber. Mr.
Dempsey had often desired an opportunity of examining
these curiosities at his leisure. Not indeed prompted thereto
by any antiquarian taste, but, from a casual glance at the
inscriptions, he calculated on the amount of private history
of the Dalys he should obtain. Stray and independent
facts, it is true, but to be arranged by the hand of a com-
petent and clever commentator.

With cautious hand he turned the handle of the door
and entered.

There he stood, in the very midst of the coveted objects,
and never did humble bookworm gaze on the rich titles
of an ample library with more enthusiastic pleasure. He
drew a long breath to relieve his overburdened heart, and
glutted his eyes in ecstasy on every side. Enthusiasm
takes its tone from individuality, and doubtless Mr.
Dempsey felt at that moment something as Belzoni might,
when, unexpectedly admitted within some tomb of the
Pyramids, he found himself about to unravel some secret
history of the Pharaohs.

"Now for it," said he, half aloud ; " let us do the thing
in order ; and first of all, what have we here ? " He
stooped and read an inscription attached to a velvet coat
embroidered with silver :

" Coat worn by B. D. in his duel with Colonel Matthews
62 the puncture under the sword-arm being a tierce
outside the guard; a very rare point, and which cost the
giver seriously."

" He killed Matthews, of course," added Dempsey ; " the
passage can mean nothing else, so let us be accurate as to
fact and date." So saying, he proceeded to note down
the circumstance in a little memorandum-book. "So!"
added he, as he read his note over ; " now for the next.
What can this misshapen lump of metal mean ?"

" A piece of brute gold, presented with twelve female
slaves by the chiefs of Doolawochyeekeka on B. D.'a
assuming the sovereignty of the island."



PAUL DEMPSEY'S WALK. 181

"Brute gold," said Mr. Dempsey; "devilish little of
the real thing about it, I'll be sworn! I suppose the ladies
were about equally refined and valuable."

" Glove dropped by the Infanta Donna Isidora within
the arena at Madrid, a few moments after Ruy Peres da
Castres was gored to death."

A prolonged low whistle from Mr. Dempsey was the
only comment he made on this inscription, while he
stooped to examine the fragment of a bull's horn, from
which a rag of scarlet cloth was hanging. The inscrip-
tion ran, " Portion of horn broken as the bull fell against



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 15 of 35)