Charles James Lever.

[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) online

. (page 16 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 16 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the barrier of the circus. The cloth was part of Da
Castres' vest."

A massive antique helmet, of immense size and weight,
lay on the floor beside this. It was labelled, " Casque of
Rudolp- v. Hapsbourg, presented to B. D. after the tilt at
Begensburg by Edric Conrad Wilhelm Kur Furst von
Bayern. A.D. 1750."

A splendid goblet of silver gilt, beautifully chased and
ornamented, was inscribed on the metal as being the gift
of the Doge of Venice to his friend Bagenal Daly, and
underneath was written on a card, " This cup was drained
to the bottom at a draught by B. D. after a long and deep
carouse, the liquor strong ' Vino di Cypro.' The Doge
tried it and failed ; the mark within shows how far he
drank."

"By Jove! what a pull," exclaimed Dempsey, who, as
he peered into the capacious vessel, looked as if he would
not object to try his own prowess at the feat.

Wonderment at this last achievement seemed completely
to have taken possession of Mr. Dempsey, for while his eyes
ranged over weapons of every strange form and shape
armour, idols, stuffed beasts and birds, they invariably came
back to the huge goblet with an admiring wonder, that
showed that here at least there was an exploit whose
merits he could thoroughly appreciate.

" A half-gallon can is nothing to it ! " muttered he, as
he replaced it on its bracket.

The reflection was scarcely uttered, when the quick
tramp of a horse and the sound of wheels without startled
him. He hastened to the window just in time to perceive



182 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

a jaunting-car drive up to the wicket, from which three
men descended. Two were common-looking fellows in
dark upper coats and glazed hats ; the third, better dressed,
and with a half-gentlemanlike air, seemed the superior.
He threw off a loose travelling coat, and discovered, to
Mr. Dempsey's horror, the features of his late patient at
Larne, the sheriffs officer from Dublin. Yes, there was no
doubt about it. That smart, conceited look, the sharp and
turned-up nose, the scrubby whisker, proclaimed him as the
terrible Anthony Nickie, of Jervas Street, a name which
Mr. Dempsey had read on his portmanteau, before guessing
how its owner was concerned in his own interests.

What a multitude of terrors jostled each other in his
mind as the men approached the door ! and what resolves
did he form and abandon in the same moment ! To escape
by the rear of the house while the enemy was assailing the
front ; to barricade the premises, and stand a siege ; to
arm himself and there was a choice of weapons and
give battle, were all rapid impulses, no sooner conceived
than given up. A loud summons of the door bell
announced his presence, and, ere the sounds died away,
Tate's creaking footstep and winter cough resounded
along the corridor. Mr. Dempsey threw a last despairing
glance around, and the thought flashed across him, how
happily would he exchange his existence with any of the
grim images and uncouth shapes that grinned and glared
on every side : ay, even with that saw-mouthed crocodile
that surmounted the chimney! Quick as his eye traversed
the chamber, he fancied that the savage animals were
actually enjoying his misery, and Sandy's counterpart
appeared to show a diabolical glee at his wretched pre-
dicament. It was at this instant he caught sight of the
loose folds of the Indian blanket which enveloped Bagenal
Daly's image. The danger was too pressing for hesita-
tion ; he stepped into the canoe, and cowering down
under the warlike figure, awaited his destiny. Scarcely
had the drapery closed around him when Tate admitted
the new arrival.

" The Corvy ? " said Mr. Nickie to the old butler, who
with decorous ceremony bowed low before him. "The
Corvy, ain't it ? "



PAUL DEMPSEY'S WALK. 183

" Yes, sir," replied Tate.

" All right, Mac," resumed Nickie, turning to the elder
of his two followers, who had closely dogged him to the
door. " Bring that carpet-bag and the small box off the
car, and tell the fellow he'll have time to feed his horse at
that cabin on the road-side."

He added something in a whisper, too low for Tate to
hear, and then taking the carpet-bag, he flung it carelessly
in a corner, while he walked forward and deposited the box
on the table before the fire.

"His honour is coming to dine, maybe?" asked Tate,
respectfully ; for old habit of his master's hospitality had
made the question almost a matter of course, while age had
so dimmed his eyesight, that even Anthony Nickie passed
with him for a gentleman.

" Coming to dine," repeated ITickie, with a coarse laugh ;
"that's a bargain there's always two words to, my old boy.
I suppose you've heard it is manners to wait to be asked,
eh ? without," added he, after a second's pause " without
I'm to take this as an invitation."

" I believe your honour might, then," said Tate, with a
smile. " 'Tis many a one I kept again the family came
home for dinner, and sorrow word of it they knew till
they seen them dressed in the drawing-room ! And the
dinner-table ! " said Tate, with a sigh, half in regret over
the past, half preparing himself with a sufficiency of
breath for a lengthened oration " the dinner-table ! it's
wishing it I am still ! after laying for ten, or maybe
twelve, his honour would come in and say, ' Tate, we'll be
rather crowded hero, for here's Sir Gore Molony and his
family. You'll have to make room for five more.' Then
Miss Helen would come springing in with, ' Tate, I forgot
to say Colonel Martin and his officers are to be here at
dinner.' After that it would be my lady herself, in her
own quiet way, ' Mr. Sullivan ' she nearly always
called me that ' couldn't you contrive a little space here
for Lady Burke and Miss MacDonnel ? ' But the captain
beat all, for he'd come in after the soup was removed, with
five or six gentlemen from the hunt, splashed and wet up
to their necks ; over he'd go to the side-table, where I'd
have my knives and forks, all beautiful, and may I never



18i THE KNIGHT OF GW^NNE.

but he'd fling some here, others there, till he'd clear a
space away, and then he'd cry, ' Tate, bring back the soup,
and set some sherry here.' Maybe that wasn't the table
for noise, drinking wine with every one at the big table,
and telling such wonderful stories, that the servants didn't
know what they were doing, listening to them. And the
master ! the Heavens be about him ! sending me over
to get the names of the gentlemen, that he might ask
them to take wine with him. Oh, dear oh, dear, I'm
sure I used to think my heart was broke with it ; but sure
it's nigher breaking now that it's all past and over."

" You seem to have had very jolly times of it in those
days," said Nickie.

" Faix, your honour -might say so if you saw forty-eight
sitting down to dinner every day in the parlour for seven
weeks running ; and Master Lionel the captain that is
at the head of another table in the library, with twelve
or fourteen more nice youths they wor ! "

While Tate continued his retrospections, Mr. Nickie
had unlocked his box, and cursorily throwing a glance
over some papers, he muttered to himself a few words,
and then added aloud,

" Now for business."



185



CHAPTER XVTT.

MR. ANTHONY NICKIE, ATTORNE1T-AT-LUT.

WE have said that Mr. Dempsey had barely time to con-
ceal himself when the door was opened so narrow indeed
was his escape, that had the new arrival been a second
sooner, discovery would have been inevitable ; as it was,
the pictorial Daly and Sandy rocked violently to and fro,
making their natural ferocity and grimness something
even more terrible than usual. Mr. Nickie remarked
nothing of this. His first care was to divest himself of
certain travelling encumbrances, like one who proposes to
make a visit of some duration, and then, casting a search-
ing look around the premises, he proceeded,

" Now for Mr. Darcy

" If ye'r maning the Knight of Gwynne, sir, his
honour "

" Well, is his honour at home ? " said the other, inter-
rupting with a saucy laugh.

" No, sir," said Tate, almost overpowered at the irre-
verence of his questioner.

" When do yo'u expect him then in an hour or two
hours ? "

" He's in England," said Tate, drawing a long breath.

" In England ! What do you mean, old fellow ? he has
surely not left this lately ? "

"Yes, sir, 'twas the King sent for him, I heerd the
mistress say."

A burst of downright laughter from the stranger stopped
poor Tate's explanation.

" Why, it's you his Majesty ought to have invited," cried
Mr. Nickie, wiping his eyes, "you yourself, man; devilish
fit company for each other you'd be."



186 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

Poor Tate had not the slightest idea of the grounds on
which the stranger suggested his companionship for
royalty, but he was not the less insulted at the disparage-
ment of his master thus implied.

" "Tis little I know about kings or queens," growled
out the old man, " but they must be made of better clay
than ever I seen yet, or they're not too good company for
the Knight of Gwynne."

After a stare for some seconds, half surprise, half inso-
lence, Nickie said, "You can tell me, perhaps, if this
cottage is called the ' Corvy' ?"

" Ay, that's the name of it."

"The property of one Bagenal Daly, esquire, isn't it?"

Tate nodded an assent.

" Maybe he is in England too," continued Nickie. "Per-
haps it was the Queen sent for him he's a handsome man,
I suppose?"

" Faix, you can judge for yourself," said Tate, " for there
he is, looking at you this minute."

Nickie turned about hastily, while a terrible fear shot
through him that his remarks might have been heard by
the individual himself; for, though a stranger to Daly
personally, he was not so to his reputation for hare-brained
daring and rashness, nor was it till he had stared at the
wooden representative for some seconds that he could
dispel his dread of the original.

" Is that like him ?" asked he, affecting a sneer.

"As like as two pays," said Tate, "barring about the
eyes ; Mr. Daly's is brighter and more wild-looking. The
Blessed Joseph be near us ! " exclaimed the old man, cross-
ing himself devoutly, " one would think the crayture knew
what we were saying. Sorra lie in't, there's neither luck
nor grace in talking about you ! "

This last sentiment, uttered in a faint voice, was called
forth by an involuntary shuddering of poor Mr. Dempsey,
who, feeling that the whole scrutiny of the party was
directed towards his hiding-place, trembled so violently,
that the plumes nodded, and the bone necklace jingled
with the motion.

While Mr. Nickie attributed these signs to the wind, he
at the same time conceived a very low estimate of poor



MR. ANTHONY NICKIE, ATTORNEY- AT-LAW. 187

Tate's understanding, an impression not altogether un-
warranted by the sidelong and stealthy looks which he
threw at the canoe and its occupants.

" You seem rather afraid of Mr. Daly," said he, with a
sneering laugh.

" And so would you be, too, if he was as near you as
that chap is," replied Tate, sternly. " I've knowji braver-
looking men than either of us not like to stand before
him. I mind the day "

Tate's reminiscences were brought to a sudden stop by
perceiving his mistress and Miss Darcy approaching the
cottage ; and hastening forward, he threw open the door,
while by way of introduction he said,

"A gentleman for the master, my lady."

Lady Eleanor flushed up, and as suddenly grew pale.
She guessed at once the man and his errand.

" The Knight of Gwynne is from home, sir," said she,
in a voice her efforts could not render firm.

" I understand as much, madam," said Nickie, who was
struggling to recover the easy self-possession of his manner
with the butler, but whose awkwardness increased at
every instant. "I believe you expect him in a day or
two?"

This was said to elicit if there might be some variance
in the statement of Lady Eleanor and her servant.

"You are misinformed, sir. He is not in the kingdom,
nor do I anticipate his speedy return."

" So I told him, my lady," broke in the old butler. "I
said the Bang wanted him "

" You may leave the room, Tate," said Lady Eleanor,
who perceived with annoyance the sneering expression old
Tate's simplicity had called up in the stranger's face.
" Now, sir," said she, turning towards him, " may I ask if
your business with the Knight of Gwyiine is of that nature
that cannot be transacted in his absence, or through his
law agent?"

" Scarcely, madam," said Nickie, with a sententious
gravity, who, in the 'vantage ground his power gave him,
seemed rather desirous of prolonging the interview. "Mr.
Darcy's part can scarcely be performed by deputy, even
if he found any one friendly enough to undertake it."



183 THE KNIGHT OP GWl'NNE.

Lady Eleanor never spoke, but her hand grasped her
daughter's more closely, and they both stood pale and
trembling with agitation. Helen was the first to rally
from this access of terror, and with an assured voice she
said,

" You have heard, sir, that the Knight of Gwynne is
absent ; and as you say your business is with him alone,
is there any further reason for your presence here ? "

Mr. Nickie seemed for a moment taken aback by this
unexpected speech, and for a few seconds made no answer;
his nature and his calling, however, soon supplied presence
of mind, and with an air of almost insolent familiarity,
he answered,

"Perhaps there may be, young lady." He turned, and
opening the door, gave a sharp whistle, which was im-
mediately responded to by a cry of " Here we are, sir,"
and the two followers already mentioned entered the
cottage.

" You may have heard of such a thing as an execution,
ma'am," said Nickie, addressing Lady Eleanor, in a voice
of mock civility. " The attachment of property for debt.
This is part of my business at the present moment."

" Do you mean here, sir in this cottage ? " asked Lady
Eleanor, in an accent scarcely audible from terror.

"Yes, ma'am, just so. The law allows fourteen days
for redemption, with payment of costs, until which time
these men here will remain on the premises ; and although
these gimcracks will scarcely pay my client's costs, we
must only make the best of it."

" But this property is not ours, sir. This cottage belongs
to a friend."

"I am aware of that, ma'am. And that friend is about
to answer for his own sins on the present occasion, and
not yours. These chattels are attached as the property of
Bagenal Daly, esquire, at the suit of Peter Hickman,
formerly of Loughrea, surgeon and apothecary."

"Is Mr. Daly aware does he know of these proceed-
ings? " gasped Lady Eleanor, faintly.

" In the multiplicity of similar affairs, ma'am, it is
quite possible he may have let this one escape his me-
mory ; for, if I don't mistake, he has two actions pending



MR. ANTHONY NICKIE, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW. 189

in the King's Bench, an answer in equity, three cases* of
common assault, and a contempt of court all upon his
hands for this present session, not to speak of what this
may portend."

Here he took a newspaper from his pocket, and having
doubled down a paragraph, handed it to Lady Eleanor.

Overwhelmed by grief and astonishment, she made no
motion to take the paper, and Mr. Nickte, turning to
Helen, read aloud,

" ' There is a rumour prevalent in the capital this
morning, to which we cannot, in the present uncertainty
as to fact, make any more than a guarded allusion. It is
indeed one of those strange reports which we can neither
credit nor reject the only less probable thing than its
truth, being, that any one could deliberately fabricate so
foul a calumny. The story in its details we forbear to
repeat ; the important point, however, is, to connect the
name of a well-known and eccentric late M.P. for an
Irish borough with the malicious burning of Newgate,
and the subsequent escape of the robber Freney.

" ' The reasons alleged for this most extraordinary act
are so marvellous, absurd, and contradictory, that we will
not trifle with our readers' patience by recounting them.
The most generally believed one, however, is, that the
senator and the highwayman had maintained, for years
past, an intercourse of a very confidential nature, the
threat to reveal which, on his trial, Freney used as com-
pulsory means of procuring his escape.'

" Carrick goes further," added Mr. Nickie, as he re-
stored the paper to his pocket, " and gives the name of
Bagenal Daly, Esq., in full ; stating, besides, that he
sailed for Halifax on Sunday last."

Lady Eleanor and Helen exchanged looks of intelli-
gent meaning, as he finished the paragraph. To them
Daly's hurried departure had a most significant im-
portance.

" This, ma'am, among other reasons," resumed Nickie,
" was another hint to my client to press his claim ; for
Mr. Daly's departure once known, there would soon be
a scramble for the little remnant of his property. With
your leave, I'll now put the keepers in possession. Per-



190 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

haps you'll not be offended," added he, in a lower tone,
" if I remark that it's usual to offer the men some re-
freshment. Come here, M'Dermot," said he, aloud "a
very respectable man, and married, too the ladies will
make you comfortable, Mick, and I'm sure you'll be civil
and obliging."

A grunt and a gesture with both hands was the answer.

" Falls, we'll station you in the kitchen ; mind you be-
have yourself.

" I'll just take a slight inventory of the principal things
a mere matter of form, ma'am I know you'll not re-
move one of them," said Mr. Nickie, who, like most
coarsely minded people, was never more offensive than
when seeking to be complimentary. He did not notice,
however, the indignant look with which his speech was
received, but proceeded regularly in his office.

There is something insupportably offensive and revolt-
ing in the business-like way of those who execute the
severities of the law. Like the undertaker, they can
sharpen the pangs of misfortune by vulgarizing its sor-
rows. Lady Eleanor gazed, in but half-consciousness, at
the scene ; the self-satisfied assurance of the chief, the
ruffian contentedness of his followers, grating on every
prejudice of her mind. Not so Helen ; more quick to
reason on impressions, she took in, at a glance, their sad
condition, and saw that, in a few days at furthest, they
should be houseless as well as friendless in the world no
one near to counsel or to succour them ! Such were her
thoughts as almost mechanically her eyes followed the
sheriff's officer through the chamber.

" Not that, sir," cried she, hastily, as he stopped in
front of a miniature of her father, and was noting it
down in his list, among the objects of the apartment
" not that, sir."

" And why not, miss ? " said Nickie, with a leer of
impudent familiarity.

" It is a portrait of the Knight of Gwynne, sir, and
our property."

" Sorry for it, miss, but the law makes no distinction
with regard to property on the premises. You can always
recover by a replevin."



MB. ANTHONY NICK1E, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW. 191

" Come, Helen, let us leave this," said Lady Eleanor,
faintly ; " come away, child."

" You said, sir," said Helen, turning hastily about
" you said, sir, that these proceedings were taken at the
suit of Doctor Hickman. "Was it his desire that we
should be treated thus ?"

" Upon my word, young lady, he gave no special direc-
tions on the subject, nor, if he had, would it signify
much. The law, once set in motion, must take its course ;
I suppose you know that."

Helen did not hear his speech out, for, yielding to her
mother, she quitted the apartment.

Mr. Nickie stood for a few moments gazing at the door
by which they had made their exit, and then, turning
towards M'Dermot, with a knowing wink he said, " We'll
be better friends before we part, I'll engage, little as she
likes me now/'

" Faix, I never seen yer equal at getting round them,"
answered the sub., in a voice of fawning flattery, the very
opposite of his former gruff tone.

" That's the way I always begin, when they take a
saucy way with them," resumed Nickie, who felt evidently
pleased at the other's admiration. " And when they're
brought down a bit to a sense of their situation, I can
just be as kind as I was cruel."

" Never fear ye ! " said M'Dermot, with a sententious
shake of the head. " Devil a taste of her would lave the
room, if it wasn't for the mother."

" I saw that plain enough," said Nickie, as he threw a
self- approving look at himself in a tall mirror opposite.

" She's a fine young girl, there's no denying it," said
M'Dermot, who anticipated, as the result of his chief's
attention a more liberal scale of treatment for himself.
" But I don't know how ye'll ever get round her, though
to be sure if you can't, who can ? "

" This inventory will keep me till night," said Nickie,
changing the theme, quite suddenly, " and I'll miss
Dempsey, I'm afraid."

"I hope not; sure you have his track haven't you ? "

" Yes, and I have four fellows after him, along the shore
here, but they say he's cunning as a fox. Well, I'll not



192 TrfE KNIGHT OF G WYNNE.

give him up in a hurry, that's all. Is that rain I hear
against the glass, Mick ? "

" Ay, and dreadful rain, too ! " said the other, peeping
through the window, which now rattled and shook with
a sudden squall of wind. " You'll not be able to leave
this so late."

" So I'm thinking, Mick," said Nickie, laying down his
writing materials, and turning his back to the fire ; " I
believe I musb stay where I am."

" "Pis yourself is the boy ! " cried Mick, with a look of
admiration at his master.

"You're wrong, Mick," said he with a scarce repressed
smile, " all wrong ; I wasn't thinking of her."

"Maybe not," said M'Dermot, shaking his head doubt-
fully ; " maybe she's not thinking of you this minute !
But afther all, I don't know how ye'll do it. Any one
would say the vardic was again you."

" So it is, man, but can't we move for a new trial ? "
So saying, he turned suddenly about, and pulled the
bell.

M'Dermot said nothing, but stood staring at his chief,
with a well-feigned expression of wonderment, as though
to say, " What is he going to do next? "

The summons was speedily answered by old Tate, who
stood in respectful attention within the door. Not the
slightest suspicion had crossed the butler's mind of Mr.
Nickie's calling, or of his object with the Knight, or his
manner would certainly have displayed a very different
politeness. " Didn't you ring, sir ? " said he, with a bow
to Nickie, who now seemed vacillating, and uncertain
how to proceed.

"Yes I did ring the bell," replied he, hesitating
between each word of the sentence. " I was about to say
that, as the night was so severe a perfect hurricane it
seems I should remain here. Eh, did you speak ? "

"No, sir," replied Tate, respectfully.

" You can inform your mistress, then, and say, with Mr.
Nickie's respectful compliments mind that that if they
have no objection, he would be happy to join them at
supper."

Tate stood as if transfixed, not a sign of anger, not



MR. ANTHONY NICKIE, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW. 103

even of surprise in his features. The shock had actually
stupified him.

" Do ye hear what the gentleman's saying to you ? "
asked Mick, in a stern voice.

" Sir ? " said Tate, endeavouring to recover his routed
faculties " sir ! "

" Tell the old fool what I said," muttered Nickie, with
angry impatience ; and then, as if remembering that his
message might, possibly, be not over courteously worded
by Mr. M'Dermot, he approached Tate, and said, " Give
your mistress Mr. Nickie's compliments, and say, that not
being able to return to Coleraine, he hopes he may be
permitted to pass the evening with her and Miss Darcy."
This message, uttered with great rapidity, as if the
speaker dare not trust himself with more deliberation,
was accompanied by a motion of the hand, which half
pushed the old butler from the room.

Neither Mr. Nickie nor his subordinate exchanged a
word during Tate's absence. The former, indeed, seemed
far less confident of his success than at first, and M'Der-
mot waited the issue, for his cue, what part to take in the
transaction.

If Tate's countenance, when he left the room, exhibited
nothing but confusion and bewilderment, when he re-
entered it his looks were composed and steadfast.

" Well ? " said Nickie, as the old butler stood for a
second without speaking " well ? "

" Her ladyship says that you and the other men, sir,
may receive any accommodation the house affords." He
paused for a moment or two, and then added, " Her
ladyship declines Mr. Nickie's society."



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 16 of 35)