Charles James Lever.

[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) online

. (page 17 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 17 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" Did she give you that message herself ? " asked Nickie,
hastily ; " are those her own words ? "

" Them's her words," said Tate, dryly.

" I never heerd the likes "

" Stop, Mick, hold your tongue," said Nickie, to his
over-zealous follower, while he muttered to himself, " My
name isn't Anthony Nickie, or I'll make her repent that
speech ! Ay, faith," said he, aloud, as turning to the
portrait of the Knight he appeared to address it, " you
(shall come to the hammer as the original did before you."

VOL. in o



194 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

If Tate had understood the purport of this sarcasm, it
is more than probable the discussion would have taken
another form ; as it was, he listened to Mr. Nickie's
orders about the supper with due decorum, and retired to
make the requisite preparations. " I will make a night

of it, by " exclaimed Nickie, as with clenched fist he

struck the table before him. " I hope you know how to
sing, Mick ? "

" I can do a little that way, sir," grinned the ruffian,
" when the company is pressin'. If it wasn't too loud "

" Too loud ! you may drown the storm out there, if
ye're able. But wait till we have the supper and the
liquor before us, as they might cut off the supplies." And
with this prudent counsel, they suffered Tate to proceed
in his arrangements, without uttering another word.



195



CHAPTER XVIIL

A CONVIVIAL EVENING.

WHILE Tate busied himself in laying the table, Mr. Nickie,
with bent brows and folded arms, passed up and down the
apartments, still ruminating on the affront so openly
passed upon him, and cogitating how best to avenge it.
As passing and repassing he cast his eyes on the prepara-
tions, he halted suddenly, and said, " Lay another cover
here." Tate stood, uncertain whether he had heard
aright the words, when Nickie repeated, " Don't you hear
me ? I said lay another cover. The gentleman will sup
here."

" Oh ! indeed," exclaimed Tate, as, opening his eyes to
the fullest extent, he appeared to admit a new light upon
his brain ; " I beg pardon, sir, I was thinking that this
gentleman might like to sup with the other gentleman,""
out in the kitchen beyond ! "

" I said he'd sup here," said Nickie, vehemently, for he
felt the taunt in all its bitterness.

" I say, old fellow," said M'Dermot in Tate's ear, " you
needn't be sparin' of the liquor. Give us the best you
have, and plenty of it. It is all the same to yer master,
you know, in a few days. I was saying, sir," said he to
Nickie, who, overhearing him, turned sharply round " I
was saying, sir, that he might as well give up the ould
bin with the cobweb over it. It's the creditors suffers
now, and we've many a way of doin' a civil turn."

" His mistress has shut the door on that," said Nickie,
savagely, " and she may take the consequences."

" Oh, never mind him," whispered M'Dermot to Tate ;
" he's the best-hearted crayture that ever broke bread, but
passionate, d'ye mind, passionate."

Poor Tate, who had suddenly become alive to the
characters and objects of his guests, was now aware that

2



196 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

his mistress's refusal to admit the chief might possibly be
productive of very disastrous consequences ; for, like all
low Irishmen, he had a very ample notion of the elastic
character of the law, and thought that its pains and
penalties were entirely at the option of him who exe-
cuted it.

"Her ladyship never liked to see much company," said
he, apologetically.

" Well, maybe so," rejoined M'Dermot, " but in a quiet
homely sort of a way, sure she needn't have refused Mr.
Anthony ; little she knows, there's not the like of him
for stories about the Court of Conscience and the
Sessions."

" I don't doubt it," exclaimed Tate, who, in assenting,
felt pretty certain that his fascinations would scarcely
have met appreciation in the society of his mistress and
her daughter.

" And if ye heerd him sing ' Hobson's Choice,' with a
new verse of his own at the end ! "

Tate threw a full expression of wondering admiration into
his features, and went on with his arrangements in silence.

" Does he know anything of Dempsey, do you think ? "
said Nickie, in a whisper to his follower.

" Not he," muttered the other, scornfully ; " the cray-
ture seems half a nat'ral." Then, in a voice pitched
purpose^ loud, he said, " Do you happen to know one
Dempsey in these parts ? "

" Paul Dempsey ?" added Nickie.

""A little, short man, with a turned-up nose, that walks
with his shoulders far back and his hands spread out ?
Ay, I know him well ; he dined here one day with the
master, and sure enough he made the company laugh
hearty ! "

" I'd be glad to meet him, if he's as pleasant as you
say," said Nickie, slily.

"There's nothing easier, then," said Tate; "since the
boarding-house is closed there at Ballintray, he's up in
Coleraine for the winter. I hear he waits for the Dublin
mail, at M'Grotty's door, every evening, to see the passen-
gers, and that he has a peep at the way-bill before the
ageut himself i"



A CONVIVIAL EVENING. 197

" Has lie so many acquaintances that he is always on
the look out for one ?"

" Faix, if they'd let him," cried Tate, laughing, " I
believe he'd know every man, woman, and child in Ireland.
For curiosity, he beats all ever I seen."

As Tate spoke, a sudden draught of wind seemed to
penetrate the chamber at least the canoe and its party
shook perceptibly.

" We'll have a rare night of it," said Nickie, drawing
nearer to the fire. Then resuming, added, " And you say
I'll have no difficulty to find him?"

" Not the least, bedad ! It would be far harder to escape
him, from all I hear. He watches the coach, and never
leaves it till he sees the fore boot and the hind one empty;
not only looking the passengers in the face, but tumbling
over the luggage, reading all the names, and where they're
going. Oh, he's a wonderful man for knowledge ! "

" Indeed," said Nickie, with a look of attention to draw
on the garrulity of the old man.

" I've reason to remember it well," said Tate, putting
both hands to his loins. " It was the day he dined here
I got the rheumatiz in the small of my back. When I
went to open the gate without there for him, he kept me
talking for three-quarters of an hour in the teeth of an
east wind that would shave a goat asking me about the
master and the mistress, and Miss Helen, ay, and even
about myself at last if I had any brothers and what
their names was and who was Mister Daly and whether
he didn't keep a club-house. By my conscience, it's well
for him ould Bagenal didn't hear him ! "

A clattering sound from the canoe suddenly interrupted
Tate's narrative ; he stopped short, and muttered, in a
tone of unfeigned terror,

" That's the way always may I never see glory ! ye
can't speak of him but he hears ye ! "

A rude laugh from Nickie, chorused still more coarsely
by M'Dermot, arrested Tate's loquacity, and he finished
his arrangements without speaking, save in a few broken
sentences.

If Mr. Nickie could have been conciliated by material
enjoyments, he might decidedly have confessed that the



198 THE KNIGHT OF GWYHNE.

preparations for his comfort were ample and hospitable.
A hot supper diffused its savoury steam on a table where
decanters and flasks of wine of different sorts and sizes
attested that the more convivial elements of a feast were
not forgotten. Good humour was, however, not to be
restored by such amends. He was wounded in his self-
love, outraged in his vanity, and he sat down in a dogged
silence to the meal, a perfect contrast in appearance to
the coarse delight of his subordinate.

While Tate remained to wait on them, Nickie's manner
and bearing were unchanged. A sullen, sulky expression
sat on features which, even when at the best, conveyed
little better than a look of shrewd keenness; nor could
the appetite with which he eat suggest a passing ray of
satisfaction to his face.

" I am glad we are rid of that old fellow at last," said
he, as the door closed upon Tate. " Whether fool or
knave, I saw what he was at ; he would have been dis-
respectful if he dared."

" I didn't mind him much, sir," said M'Dermot, honestly
confessing that the good cheer had absorbed his undivided
attention.

" I did, then- I saw his eyes fixed effectually on us
on you particularly. I thought he would have laughed
outright when you helped yourself to the entire duck."

Nickie spoke this with an honest severity, meant to
express his discontent with his companion fully as much,
as with the old butler.

" Well, it was an excellent supper, anyhow," said
M'Dermot, taking the bottle which Nickie pushed towards
him somewhat rudely, " and here's wishing health and
happiness and long life to ye, Mr. Anthony. May ye
always have as plentiful a board, and better company
round it."

There was a fawning humility in the fellow's manner
that seemed to gratify the other, for he nodded a return
to the sentiment, and, after a brief pause, said

" The servants in these grand houses and that old
fellow, you may remark, was with the Darcys when they
were great people they give themselves airs to everybody
they think below the rank of their master."



A CONVIVIAL EVENING. 199

Faix, they might behave better to you, Mr. Anthony,"
said M'Dermot.

" Well, they're run their course now," said Nickie, not
heeding the remark. " Both master and man have had
their day. I've seen more executions on property in the
last six months than ever I did in all my life before.
Creditors won't wait now as they used to do. No influ-
ence now to make gaugers, and tide-waiters, and militia
officers ! no privilege of Parliament to save them from
arrest."

" My blessings on them for that, anyhow," said M'Der-
inot, finishing his glass. " The Union's a fine thing."

" The fellows that got the bribes and to be sure there
was plenty of money going won't stay to spend it in
Ireland ; devil a one will remain here, but those that are
run out and ruined."

" Bad luck to it for a Bill ! " said M'Dermot, who felt
obliged to sacrifice his consistency in his desire to concur
with each new sentiment of his chief.

" The very wine we're drinking, maybe, was given for
a vote. Pitt knew well how to catch them."

"'Success attend him," chimed in M'Dermot.

" And just think of them now," continued Dickie,
whose ruminations were never interrupted by the running
commentary "just think of them! selling the country
trade prosperity everything, for a few hundred pounds."

" The blackguards ! "

" Some, to be sure, made a fine thing out of it. Not
like old Darcy here ; they were early in the market, and
got both rank and money too."

" Ay, that was doin' it in style ! " exclaimed Mike, who
expressed himself this time somewhat equivocally, for
safety's sake.

" There's no denying it, Castlereagh was a clever
fellow ! "

" The best man ever I seen I don't care who the
other is."

" He knew when to bid, and when to draw back ; never
became too pressing, but never let any one feel himself
neglected ; watched his opportunities slily, and when the
time came, pounced down like a hawk on his victim."



200 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNXE.

" Oh, the thieves' breed ! What a hard heart he
had ! " muttered M'Dermot, perfectly regardless of whom
he was speaking.

Thus did Mr. Nickie ramble on, in the popular cant,
over the subject of the day ; for, although the Union was
now carried, and its consequences whatever they might
be so far inevitable, the men whose influence effected
the measure were still before the bar of public opinion-
an ordeal not a whit more just and discriminating than it
usually is. While the current of these reminiscences ran.
on, varied by some anecdote here, or some observation
there, both master and man drank deeply. So long as
good liquor abounded, Mr. M'Dermot could have listened
with pleasure, even to a less entertaing companion ; and as
for Nickie, he felt a vulgar pride in discussing, familiarly
and by name, the men of rank and station who took a
leading part in Irish politics. The pamphlets and news-
papers of the day had made so many private histories
public, had unveiled so many family circumstances before
the eyes of the world, that his dissertations had all
the seeming authenticity of personal knowledge.

It was at the close of a rather violent denunciation of
the " Traitors " as the Government party was ever called
that Nickie, striking the table with his fist, called on
M'Dermot to sing.

" I say, Mac," cried he, with a faltering tongue, and
eyes red and bleared from drink "the old lady
wouldn't accept my society she didn't think An-tho-ny
Nickie, Esquire good enough to sit down at her
table. Let us show her what she has lost, my boy. Give
her ' Bob Uniake's Boots,' or 'The Major's Prayer.' "

" Or what d'ye think of the new ballad to Lord Castle-
reagh, sir ? " suggested M'Dermot, modestly. " It was
the last thing Ehoudlim had when I left town."

" Is it good? " hicupped Nickie.

" If ye heerd Rhoudlim "

" D n Rhoudlim ! she used to sing that song Par-
sons made on the attorneys. Parsons never liked us, Mac.
You know what he said to Holmes, who went to him for a
subscription of five shillings, to help to bury Mat Coste-
gan. ' Wasn't he an attorney?' says Parsons. ' He was,'



A CONVIVIAL EVENING. 201

snys the oilier. ' Well, here's a pound,' says he ; ' take it
and bury four ! ' '

"Oh, by my conscience, that was mighty nate!" said
M'Dermot, who completely forgot himself.

Nickie frowned savagely at his companion, and for a
moment seemed about to express his anger more palpably,
when he suddenly drank off his glass, and said, " Well,
the song let us have it now."

" I'm afraid I don't know more than a verse here and
there," said Mac, bashfully stroking down his hair, and
mincing his words " but with the help of a chorus "

" Trust me for that," cried Nickie, who now drank glass
after glass without stopping ; " I'm always ready for a
song." So saying he burst out into a half lachrymose
chant

"An old maid had a roguish eye !

And she was call'd the great Ramshoodera !
Rich was she and poor was I !

Fol de dol de die do !

" I forget the rest, Mickie, but it goes on about a
Nabob and a bear, and a what's this ye call it, a pottle
of green gooseberries that Lord Clangoff sold to Mrs.
Kelfoyle."

" To be sure ; I remember it well," said Mac, humour-
ing the drunken lucubrations ; " but my chant is twice as
aisy to sing the air is the 'Black Joke;' and anyone
can chorus."

" Well, open the proceedings," hiccupped Nickie ;
" state the case."

And thus encouraged, Mr. M'Dermot cleared his throat,
and in a voice, loud and course enough to be heard above
the howling din, began :

"Though many a mile he's from Erin away,
Here's health and long life to my Lord Castlereagh,

With his bag full of guineas so bright !
'Twas he that made Bishops and Deans by the score,
And Peers, of the fashion of Lord Donoughmore !
And a Colonel of horse of our friend Billy Lake,
And Wallscourt, a Lord t'other day but Joe Blake,

AVith his lag full of guineas so bright.



202 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

" Come Beresford, Bingham, Luke Fox, and Tyrone,
Come Kearney, Bob Johnston, and Arthur Malone,

With your bag full of guineas so bright ;
Lord Charles Fitzgerald and Kit Fortescue,
And Henry Deane Grady we'll not forget you,
Come Cuffe, Isaac Corry, and General Dunne,
And you Jemmy Vandeleur come every one,
With your bag full of guineas so bright.

" Come Talbot and Townsend. Come Toler and Trench,
Tho' made for the gallows ! ye' re now on the Bench,

With your bag full of guineas so bright.
But if ever again this black list I'll begin,
The first name I'll take is the ould Knight of Gwynne,
Who robb'd of his property, stripp'd of his pelf,
Would be glad to see Erin as poor as himself,

With no bag full of guineas so bright.

"If the Parliament's gone, and the world it has scoffed us,
What a blessing to think that we've Tottenham Lof tus,

With his bag full of guineas so bright.
Oh ! what consolation through every disaster,
To know that your lordship is made our Postmaster,
And your uncle a Bishop, your aunt but why mention,
Two thousand a jear, ' of a long service pension '

Of a bag full of guineas so bright.

" But what is the change, since your lordship appears !
You found us all Paupers, you left us all Peers,

With your bag full of guineas so bright.
Not a man in the island, however he boast,
But has a good reason to fill to the toast
From Cork to the Causeway, from Howth to Clue Bay,
A health and long life to my Lord Castlereagh,

With his bag full of guineas so bright."

The boisterous accompaniment by which Mr. Dickie
testified his satisfaction at the early verses had gradually
subsided into a low droning sound, which at length, to-
wards the conclusion, lapsed into a prolonged heavy snore.
" Fast ! " exclaimed M'Dermot, holding the candle close to
his eyes. "Fast!" Then taking up the decanter, he added,
"And if ye had gone off before, it would have been no
great harm. Ye never had the bottle out of yer grip for
the last hour and half!" He heaped some wood on the
grate, refilled his glass, and then disposing himself so as
to usurp a very large share of the blazing fire, prepared to
follow the good example of his chief. Long habit had



A CONVIVIAL MEETING. 203

made an arm-chair to the full as comfortable as a bed to
the worthy functionary, and his arrangements were scarcely
completed, when his nose announced by a deep sound that
he was a wanderer in the land of dreams.

Poor Mr. Dempsey for if the reader may have forgotten
him all this while, we must not listened long and watch-
fully to the heavy notes, nor was it without considerable
fear that he ventured to unveil his head and take a peep
under Daly's arm at the sleepers. Reassured by the seem-
ing heaviness of the slumberers, he dared a step further,
and, at last, seated himself bolt upright in the canoe, glad
to relieve his cramped-up legs, even by this momentary
change of position. So cautious were all his movements,
so still and noiseless every gesture, that had there been a
waking eye to mark him, it would have been hard enough
to distinguish between his figure and those of his inanimate
neighbours.

The deep and heavy breathing of the sleepers was the
only sound to be heard; they snored as if it were a contest
between them ; still it was long before Dempsey could
summon courage enough to issue from his hidingplace,
and with stealthy steps approach the table. Cautiously
lifting the candle, he first held it to the face of one and
then of the other of the sleepers. His next move was to
inspect the supper-table, where, whatever the former
abundance, nothing remained save the veriest fragments :
the bottles too were empty, and poor Dempsey shook his
head mournfully as he poured out and drank the last half-
glass of sherry in a decanter. This done, he stood for a
few minutes reflecting what step he should take next. A
sudden change of position of Nickie startled him from
these deliberations, and Dempsey cowered down beneath
the table in terror. Scarcely daring to breathe, Paul
waited while the sleeper moved from side to side, mutter-
ing some short and broken Words; at length he seemed to
have settled himself to his satisfaction, for so his prolonged
respiration bespoke. Just as he had turned for the last
time, a heavy roll of papers fell from his pocket to the
floor. Dempsey eyed the packet with a greedy look, but
did not dare to reach his hand towards it, till well assured
that the step was safe.



204 THE KNIGHT OF G WYNNE.

Taking a candle from the table, Paul reseated himself
on the floor, and opened a large roll of documents tied with
red tape ; the very first he unrolled seemed to arrest his
attention strongly, and although passing on to the exami-
nation of the remainder, he more than once recurred to it,
till at length creeping stealthily towards the fire, he placed
it among the burning embers, and stirred and poked until
it became a mere mass of blackened leaves.

" There," muttered he, " Paul Dempsey's his own man
again. And now what can he do for his friends ? Ha,
ha ! 'Execution against Effects of Bagenal Daly, Esq.,' "
said he reading half-aloud ; " and this lengthy affair here,
' Instructions to A. N. relative to the enclosed;' let us see
what that may be." And so saying he opened the scroll
a bright flash of flame burst out from among the slumbering
embers, and ere it died away Paul read a few lines of the
paper. " What scoundrels ! " muttered he, as he wiped
the perspiration from his forehead, for already had honest
Paul's feelings excited him to the utmost. The flame was
again flickering, in another moment it would be out, when,
stealing forth his hand, he placed an open sheet upon it,
and then, as the blaze caught, he laid the entire bundle of
papers on the top, and watched them till they were re-
duced to ashes.

" Maybe it's a felony I'm sure it's a misdemeanour at
least what I've done now," muttered he ; "but there was
no resisting it. I wish I thought it was no heavier crime
to do the same by these worthy gentlemen here."

Indeed, for a second or two, Paul's hesitation seemed
very considerable. Fear, or something higher in principle
got the victory at length, and after a long silence, he said

" Well, I'll not harm them." And with this benevolent
sentiment he stood up, and detaching Darcy's portrait
from the wall, thrust it into his capacious pocket. This
done, he threw another glance over the table, lest some
unseen decanter might still remain ; but no, except a water
jug of pure element, nothing remained.

" Good night, and pleasant dreams t'ye both," muttered
Paul, as, blowing out one candle, he took the other, and
flipped, without the slightest noise, from the room.



205



CHAPTER XIX

MB. DEMPSEt BEHIND TUB SCENE.

No very precise or determined purpose guided Mr.
Dempsey's footsteps as he issued from the hall and gained
the corridor, from which the various rooms of the cottage
opened. Benevolent intentions of the vaguest kind to-
wards Lady Eleanor were commingled with thoughts of
his own safety, and perhaps more strongly than either, an
intense curiosity to inspect the domestic arrangements of
the family, not without the hope of finding something to
eat.

He had now been about twenty-four hours without food,
and to a man who habitually lived in a boarding-house,
and felt it a point of honour to consume as much as he
could for his weekly pay, the abstinence was far from
agreeable. If then his best inspirations were blended with
some selfishness, he was not quite unpardonable. Mr.
Dempsey tried each door as he went along, and although
they were all unlocked, the interiors responded to none of
his anticipations. The apartments were plainly but com-
fortably furnished, in some books lay about, and an open
piano told of recent habitation. In one, which he judged
rightly to be the Knight's drawing-room, a table was
covered over with letters and law papers, documents which
honest Paul beheld with some feeling akin to Aladdin, when
he surveyed the inestimable treasures he had no means of
carrying away with him from the mine. A faint gleam of
light shone from beneath a door at the end of the corri-
dor, and thither with silent footsteps he now turned. All
was still he listened as he drew near- but except the
loud ticking of a clock, nothing was to be heard. Paul
tried to reconnoitre by the keyhole, but it was closed. H



206 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

waited for some time unable to decide on the most fitting
course, and at length opened the door, and entered.
Stopping short at the threshold, Paul raised the candle, to
take a better view of the apartment. Perhaps any one
save himself would have returned on discovering it was a
bedroom. A large old-fashioned bed, with a deep and mas-
sive curtain closely drawn, stood against one wall ; beside
it, on the table, was a night-lamp, from which the faint
glimmer he had first noticed proceeded. Some well-stuifed
arm-chairs were disposed here and there, and on the tables
lay articles of female dress. Mr. Dempsey stood for a few
seconds, and perhaps some secret suspicion crept over him
that this visit might be thought intrusive. It might be
Lady Eleanor's, or perhaps Miss Darcy's chamber. Who
was to say she was not actually that instant in bed asleep ?
Were the fact even so, Mr. Dempsey only calculated on a
momentary shock of surprise at his appearance, well as-
sured that his explanation would be admitted as perfectly
satisfactory. Thus wrapt in his good intentions, and



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 17 of 35)