Charles James Lever.

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shrouding the light with one hand, he drew the curtain
with the other. The bed was empty the coverings were
smooth the pillows unpressed. The occupant, whoever
it might be, had not yet taken possession. Mr. Dempsey's
fatigue was only second to his hunger, and having failed
to discover the larder, it is more than probable he would
have contented" himself with the gratification of a sleep,
had he not just at that instant perceived a light flickering
beside and beneath the folds of a heavy curtain, which
hung over a doorway at the furthest end of the room. His
spirit of research once more encouraged, he moved towards
it, and drawing it very gently, admitted his eye in the in-
terspace. A glass door intervened between him and a
small chamber, but permitted him to see without being
heard by those within. Flattening his features on the
glass, he stared at the scene, and truly one less inspired by
the spirit of inquiry might have felt shocked at being thus
placed. Lady Eleanor sat in her dressing-gown on a sofa,
while, half kneeling, half lying, at her feet, was Helen,
her head concealed in her mother's lap, and her long hair
loosely flowing over her neck and shoulders. Lady
Eleanor was pale as death, and the marks of recent tears



MR. DEMPSEY BEHIND THE SCENES. 207

were on her cheeks ; but still her features wore the expres-
sion of deep tenderness and pity, rather than of selfish
sorrow. Helen's face was hidden, but her attitude, and
the low'sobbing sounds that at intervals broke the stillness,
told how her heart was suffering.

" My dear, dear child," said Lady Eleanor, as she laid
her hand upon the young girl's head, " be comforted.
Rest assured that in making me the partner in your sor-
row, I will be the happier participator in your joy, when-
ever its day may come. Yes, Helen, and it will come."

" Had 1 told you earlier "

" Had you done so," interrupted Lady Eleanor, " you
had been spared much grief, for I could have assured you,
as I now do, that you are not to blame that this young
man's rashness, however, we may deplore it, had no prompt-
ings from as."

Helen replied, but in so low a tone, that Mr. Dempsey
could not catch the words ; he could hear, however, Lady
Eleanor uttering at intervals words of comfort and en-
couragement, and at last she said,

" Nay, Helen, no half confidence, my child. Acknow-
ledge it fairly, that your opinion of him is not what it
was at first ; or if you will not confess it leave it to my
own judgment. And why should you not ? " added she,
in a stronger voice ; " wiser heads may reprove his pre-
cipitancy criticise what would be called his folly but you
may be forgiven for thinking that his Quixotism could
deserve another and a fonder title. And I, Helen, grown
old and chilly-hearted each day more distrustful of the
world less sanguine in hope more prone to suspect
even I, feel that devotion like his has a strong claim on
your affection. And shall I own to you that on the very
day he brought us that letter, a kind of vague presenti-
ment that I should one day like him, stole across me.
What was the noise ? did you not hear something stir."
Helen had heard it, but paid no further attention, for
there was no token of any one being near.

Noise, however, there really was, occasioned by Mr.
Dempsey, who, in his eagerness to hear, had pushed the
door partly open. For some moments back, honest Paul
had listened with as much embarrassment as curiosity,



208 THE KNIGHT OF G WYNNE.

sorely puzzled to divine of whom the mother and daughter
were speaking. The general tenor of the conversation
left the subject no matter of difficulty. The individual
was the only doubtful question. Lady Eleanor's allusion
to a letter, and her own feelings at the moment, at once
reminded him of her altered manner to himself on the
evening he brought the epistle from Coleraine, and how
she, who up to that time had treated him with unvarying
distance and reserve, had as suddenly become all the
reverse.

"Blood alive!" said he to himself, " I never as much
as suspected it ! " His eagerness to hear further was
intense ; and although he had contrived to keep the door
ajar, his curiosity was doomed to disappointment, for it
was Helen who spoke, and her words were uttered in a
low, faint tone, utterly inaudible where he stood. What-
ever pleasure Mr. Dempsey might have at first derived
from his contraband curiosity, was more than repaid now
by the tortures of anxiety. He suspected that Helen was
making a full confession of her feelings towards him, and
yet he could not catch a syllable. Lady Eleanor, too,
when she spoke again, it was in an accent almost equally
faint, and all that Paul could gather was, that the mother
was using expressions of cheerfulness and hope, ending
with the words,

" His own fortunes look now as darkly as ours mayhap
the same bright morning will dawn for both together,
Helen. We have hope to cheer us, for him and for us."

" Ah ! true enough," muttered Paul ; " she's alluding
to old Bob Dempsey, and if the Lord would take him,
we'd all come right again."

Helen now arose, and seated herself beside her mother,
with her head leaning on her shoulder; and Mr. Dempsey
might have been pardoned if he thought she never looked
more beautiful. The loose folds of her night-dress less
concealed than delineated the perfect symmetry of her
form ; while, through the heavy masses of the luxuriant
hair that fell upon her neck and shoulders, her skin
seemed, more than ever, delicately fair. If Paul's mind
was a perfect whirl of astonishment, delight, and admira-
tion, his doubts were no less puzzling, What was he to



MR. DEMPSEY BEHIND THE SCENES. 209

do ? Should he at once discover himself throw himself
at Helen's feet in a rapture, confessing that he had heard
her avowal, and declare that the passion was mutual.
This, although with evident advantages on the score of
dramatic effect, had also its drawback. Lady Eleanor,
who scarcely looked as well in dishabille as her daughter,
might feel offended. She might take it ill, also, that he
had been a listener. Paul had heard of people who
actually deemed eavesdropping unbecoming ! who knows,
among her own eccentricities, if this one might not find
place ? Paul, therefore, resolved on a more cautious ad-
vance, and, for his guidance, applied his ear once more to
the aperture. This time, however, without success, for they
spoke still lower than before ; nor, after a long and patient
waiting, could he hear more than that the subject was
their present embarrassment, and the necessity of imme-
diately removing from the Corvy but where to, and how,
they could not determine.

There was no time to ask Bicknell's advice ; before an
answer could arrive, they would be exposed to all the
inconvenience, perhaps insult, which Mr. Nickie's pro-
cedure seemed to threaten. The subject appeared one to
which all their canvassing had brought no solution, and
at last Lady Eleanor said,

" How thankful I am, Helen, that I never wrote to
Lord Netherby ; more than once, when our difficulties
seemed to thicken, I half made up my mind to address
him. How much would it add to my present distress of
mind, if I had yielded to the impulse ! The very thought
is now intolerable."

" Pride ! pride ! " muttered Paul.

" And I was so near it," ejaculated Lady Eleanor.

" Yes," said Helen, sharply ; " our noble cousin's kind
ness would be a sore aggravation of our troubles."

" Worse than the mother, by Jove ! " exclaimed Paul.
" Oh dear! if I had a cousin a lord, maybe he'd not hear
of me."

Lady Eleanor spoke again, but Paul could only catch a
stray word here and there, and again she reverted to the
necessity of leaving the cottage at once.

" Could we even see this Mr. Dempsey," said she, " he

VOL. II. P



210 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNH.

knows the country well, and might be able to suggest
some fitting place for the moment, at least till we could
decide on better."

Paul scarcely breathed, that he might catch every
syllable.

" Yes," said Helen, eagerly, " he would bo the very
person to assist us ; but, poor little man, he has his own
troubles, too, at this moment."

" She's a kind creature," muttered Paul ; " how fond I'm
growing of her ! " ,

" It is no time for the indulgence of scruples, otherwise,
Helen, I'd not place much reliance on the gentleman's
taste."

" Proud as Lucifer," thought Paul.

" His good-nature, mamma, is the quality we stand most
in need of, and 1 have a strong trust that he is not deficient
there."

"What a situation to be placed in!" sighed Lady
Eleanor : "that we should turn with a shudder from seek-
ing protection, where it is our due, and yet ask counsel
and assistance from a man like this !"

" I feel no repugnance whatever to accepting such a
favour from Mr. Dempsey, while I should deem it a great
humiliation to be suitor to the Earl of Netherby."

" And yet he is our nearest relative living with vast
wealth and influence, and I believe not indisposed towards
us. I go too fast, perhaps," said she, scorn tully ; *' his
obligations to my own father were too great and too
manifold, that I should say so."

" What a Tartar !" murmured Paul.

" If the proud Earl could forget the services my dear
father rendered him, when, a younger son, without for-
tune or position, he had no other refuge than our house
if he could wipe away the memory of benefits once re-
ceived he might perhaps be better minded towards us ;
but obligation is so suggestive of ill-will."

"Dearest mamma," said Helen, laughing, "if your
hopes depend upon his lordship's forgetfulness of kind-
ness, I do think we may afford to be sanguine. I am well
inclined to think that he is not weighed down by the load
of gratitude that makes men enemies. Still," added she,



MR. DEMPSEY. BEHIND THE SCENES.

more seriously, " I am very averse to seeking his aid, or
even his counsel ; I vote for Mr. Dempsey."

" How are we to endure the prying impertinence of his
curiosity ? Have you thought of that, Helen ?"

Paul's cheek grew scarlet, and his very fingers' ends
tingled.

" Easily enough, mamma. Nay, if our troubles were
not so urgent, it would be rather amusing than otherwise
and with all his vulgarity "

"The little vixen!" exclaimed Paul, so much off his
guard that both mother and daughter started.

" Did you hear that, Helen ? I surely heard some one
speak."

" I almost thought so," replied Miss Darcy, taking up a
candle from the table, and proceeding towards the door.
Mr. Dempsey had but time to retreat behind the curtain
of the bed, when she reached the spot where he had been
standing. " No, all is quiet in the house," said she, open-
ing the door into the corridor and listening. " Even our
respectable guests would seem to be asleep." She waited
for a few seconds, and then returned to her place on the
sofa.

Mr. Dempsey had either heard enough to satisfy the
immediate cravings of his curiosity, or, more probably,
felt his present position too critical, for when he drew the
curtain once more close over the glass door he slipped
noiselessly into the corridor, and entering the first room
he could find, opened the window and sprang out.

" You shall not be disappointed in Paul Dempsey, any-
how," said he, as he buttoned up the collar of his coat,
and pressed his hat more firmly on his head. "No, my
lady, he may be vulgar and inquisitive, though I confess
it's the first time time I ever heard of either ; but he is
not the man to turn his back on a good-natured action,
when it lies full in front of him. What a climate, to be
sure ! it blows from the four quarters of the globe all at
once and the rain soaks in and deluges one's very heart's
blood. Paul, Paul, you'll have a smart twinge of rheuma-
tism from this night's exploit."

It may be conjectured that Mr. Dempsey, like many
other gifted people, had a habit of compensating for the

p 2



212 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

want of society by holding little dialogues or discourses
with himself, a custom from which he derived no small
gratification, for, while it lightened the weariness of a
lonely way, it enabled -him to say. many more flattering and
~~cfvil- things to himself than, he usually heard from an un-
grateful world.

" They talk of Demerara," said he, " I back Antrim
ngainst the world for a hurricane. The rainy season here
lasts all the year round, and if practice makes perfect
There, now I'm wet through, I can't be worse. Ah!
Helen, Helen, if you knew how unfit Paul Dempsey is to
play Paris ! By the way, who was the fellow that swam
the Hellespont for love of a young lady ? Not Laertes,
no that's not it Leander, that's the name Leander."

Paul muttered the name several times over, and by a
train of thought, which we will not attempt to follow or
unravel, began humming to himself the well-known Irish
ditty of

Teddy, ye gander,

Yer like a Highlander.

He soon came to a stop in the words, but continued to
sing the air, till at last he broke out in the following ver-
sion of his own :

Paul Dempsey, ye gander,
Your like that Leander,

Who, for somebody's daughter for somebody's daughter
Did not mind it one pin
To be wet to the skin,
With a dip in salt water a dip in salt water.

Were you wiser, 'tis plain,

You'd be now in Coleraine,
A nightcap on your head a nightcap on your head,

With a jorurn of rum,

Made by old Mother Fum,
At the side of your bed at the side of your bed.

For tho' love is divine,

When the weather is fine,
And a season of bliss a season of bliss:

'Tis a different thing

For a hody to sing
On a night such as this a night such as this.



MR. DEMPSEY BEHIND THE SCENES. 213

Paul Dempsey ! remember,

On the ninth of December
You'll be just forty-six you'll be just forty-six,

And the world will say,

That at your time o' day,
You're too old for these tricks you're too old for these tricks.

And tho' water may show

One's love, faith, I know
I'd rather prove mine I'd rather prove mine

With my feet on the fender ;

'Tis then I grow tender,
O'er a bumper of wine o'er a bumper of wine !

" A bumper of wine ! " sighed be. " Oil my conscience,
it would be an ugly toast I'd refuse to drink this minute,
if tbe liquor was near.

Ah ! when warm and snug,

With my legs on the rug,
By a turf fire red a turf fire red

But ho* can I rhyme it ?

With this horrid climate,
Destroying my head destroying my head ?

With a coat full of holes,
And my shoes without soles,
And my hat like a teapot my hat like a teapot

"Oh, murther, murther! " screamed he aloud, as his
shins came in contact with a piece of timber, and he fell
full length to the ground, sorely bruised, and perfectly
enveloped in snow. It was some minutes before he could
rally sufficiently to get up ; and although he still shouted
for help, seeing a light in a window near, no one came to
his assistance, leaving poor Paul to his own devices.

It was some consolation for his sufferings to discover
that the object over which he had stumbled was the shaft
of a jaunting-car, such a conveyance being at that mo-
ment what he most desired to meet with. The driver at
last made his appearance, and informed him that he had
brought Nickie and bis two companions from Larne,
and was now only waiting their summons to proceed to
Coleraine.

Paul easily persuaded the man that he could earn a



214 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

fare in the meantime, for that Nickie would probably not
leave the Corvy till late on the following day, and that,
by a little exertion, he could manage to drive to Cole-
raine and back before be was stirring. It is but fair to
add, that poor Mr. Dempsey supported his arguments by
lavish promises of reward, to redeem which he speculated
on mortgaging his silver watch, and, probably, his um-
brella, when he reached Coleraine.

It was yet a full hour before daybreak, as Lady Elea-
nor, who had passed the night in her dressing-room, was
startled by a sharp tapping noise at her window ; Helen
lay asleep on the sofa, and too soundly locked in slumber
to hear the sounds. Lady Eleanor listened, and while half
fearing to disturb the young girl, wearied and exhausted
as she was, she drew near to the window. The indistinct
shadow of a figure was all that she could detect through
the gloom, but she fancied she could hear a weak effort
to pronounce her name.

There could be little doubt of the intentions of the
visitor; whoever he should prove, the frail barrier of a
window could offer no resistance to any one disposed to
enter by force, and, reasoning thus, Lady Eleanor unfast-
ened the casement, and cried, " Who is there ? "

A strange series of gestures, accompanied by a sound
between a sneeze and the crowing of a cock, was all the
reply, and when the question was repeated in a louder
tone, a thin quivering voice muttered, " Pau au 1 De
de dempsey, my la dy."

" Mr. Dempsey, indeed ! " exclaimed Lady Eleanor.
" Oh ! pray come round to the door at your left haud, it
is only a few steps from where you are standing."

Short as the distance was, Mr. Dempsey's progress was
of the slowest, and Lady Eleanor had already time to
awaken Helen, ere the half-frozen Paul had crossed the
threshold.

" He has passed the night in the snow," cried Lady
Eleanor to her daughter, as she led him towards the fire.

" No, my lady," stammered out Paul, " only the last
hour and a half; before that I was snug under old Daly's
blanket."

A very significant interchange of looks between mother



ME. DEMPSEY BEHIND THE SCENES. 215

arid daughter seemed to imply that poor Mr. Dempsey's
wits were wandering.

" Call Tate ; let him bring some wine here at once,
Helen."

"It's all drunk; not a glass in the decanter," mur-
mured Paul, whose thoughts recurred to the supper-table.

" Poor creature, his mind is quite astray," whispered
Lady Eleanor, her compassion not the less strongly
moved, because she attributed his misfortune to the exer-
tions he had made in their behalf. By this time the
group was increased by the arrival of old Tate, who, in a
flannel nightcap fastened under the chin, and a very an-
cient dressing-gown of undyed wool, presented a lively
contrast to the shivering condition of Mr. Dempsey.

" It's only Mr. Dempsey ! " said Lady Eleanor, sharply,
as the old butler stood back, crossing himself and staring
with sleepy terror at the white figure.

"May I never! But so it is," exclaimed Tate, in re-
turn to an attempt at a bow on Dempsey's part, which
he accomplished with abrackling noise like creaking glass.

" Some warm wine at once," said Helen, while she
heaped two or three logs upon the hearth.

" With a little ginger in it, miss," grinned Paul. But
the polite attempt at a smile nearly cut his features, and
ended in a most lamentable expression of suffering.

" This is the finest thing in life agin' the cowld," said
Tate, as he threw over the shivering figure a Mexican
mantle, all worked and embroidered with quills, that
gave the gentle Mr. Dempsey the air of an enormous
porcupine. The clothing, the fire, and the wine, of which
he partook heartily, soon restored him, and ere long he
had recounted to Lady Eleanor the whole narrative of
his arrival at the Corvy his concealment in the canoe
the burning of the law papers, and even down to the dis-
covery of the jaunting-car, omitting nothing, save the inter-
view he had witnessed between the mother and daughter.

Lady Eleanor could not disguise her anxiety on the
subject of the burnt documents, but Paul's arguments
were conclusive in reply:

"Who's to tell of it? Not your ladyship, not Miss
Helen ; and as to Paul, meaning myself, my discretion is



216 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

quite Spanish. Yes, my lady," said he, with a tragic
gesture, that threw back the loose folds of his costume,
" there is an impression abroad, which I grieve to say is
widespread, that the humble individual who addresses
you is one of those unstable, fickle minds that accomplish
nothing great ; but I deny it, deny it indignantly. Let
the occasion but arise let some worthy object present
itself, or herself" he gave a most melting look towards
Helen, which cost all her efforts to sustain without laugh-
ter " and then, madam, Don Paulo Dempsey will come
out in his true colours."

" Which I sincerely hope may not be of the snow tint,"
said Lady Eleanor, smiling. " But pray, Mr. Dempsey,
to return to a theme more selfish. You are sufficiently
aware of our unhappy circumstances here at this moment,
to see that we must seek some other abode, at least for
the present. Can you then say where we can find such ?"

"Miss Daly's neighbourhood, perhaps," broke in Helen.

"Never do not to be thought of," interrupted Paul ;
" there's nothing for it but the Panther "

" The what, sir ? " exclaimed Lady Eleanor, in no small
surprise.

" The Panther, my lady, Mother Fum's ! snug, quiet,
and respectable ; social, if you like selBsh, if you please
it. Solitary or gregarious ; just as you fancy."

" And where, sir, is the Panther ? " said Lady Eleanor,
who in her innocence supposed this to be the sign of
some village inn.

" Tn the Diamond of Coleraine, my lady, opposite
M'Grotty's, next but one to Kitty Black's hardware, and
two doors from the Post-office ; central and interesting.
Mail-car from Nevvtown, Lim. takes up passengers, with-
in view of the windows, at two every day. Letters given
out at four see every one in the town without stirring
from your window. Huston's, the apothecary, always,
full of people at post hour. Gibbin's tobacco-shop assem-
bles all the Radicals at the same time to read the Patriot.
Plenty of life and movement."

" Is there nothing to be found more secluded, less "

" Less fashionable, your ladyship would observe. To
be sure there is ; but there's objections ftt least I am sure



MR. DEMPSEY BEHIND THE SCENES. 217

you would dislike the prying, inquisitive spirit Eh ?

Did you make an observation, miss ? "

" No, Mr. Dempsey," said Helen, with some difficulty
preserving a suitable gravity. " I would only remark
that you are perfectly in the right, and that my mother
seeks nothing more than a place where we can remain
without obtrusiveness or curiosity directed towards us."

" There will always be the respectful admiration that
beauty exacts," replied Paul, bowing courteously, "but
I cau answer for the delicacy of Coleraine as for my own."

If this assurance was not quite as satisfactory to the
ladies as Mr. Dempsey might have fancied it ought to be,
there was really no alternative ; they knew nothing of
the country, which side to direct their steps, or whither
to seek shelter ; besides, until they had communicated
with Bicknell, they could not with safety leave the neigh-
bourhood to which all their letters were addressed.

It was then soon determined to accept Mr. Dempsey's
suggestion and safe-conduct, and leaving Tate for the
present to watch over such of their effects as they could
not conveniently carry with them, to set out for Coler-
aine. The arrangements were made as speedily as the
resolve, and day had scarcely dawned ere they quitted
the " Corvy."



218 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.



CHAPTER XX.

MB. HEFFERNAN OUT-MAN<F.CVRED.

IT was on the very same evening that witnessed tlieso
events, that Lord Castlereagh was conducting Mr. Con
Heffernaii to his hotel, after a London dinner-party.
The late Secretary for Ireland had himself volunteered
the politeness, anxious to hear some tidings of people
and events, which, in the busy atmosphere of a crowded
society, were unattainable. He speedily ran over a
catalogue of former friends and acquaintances, learning,
with that surprise with which successful men always
regard their less fortunate contemporaries, that this one
was still where he had left him, and that the other jogged
on his daily road as before, when he suddenly asked,
" And the Darcys, what of them ? "
Hefiernan shrugged his shoulders without speaking.
" I am sorry for it," resumed the other ; " sorry for
the gallant old Knight himself, and sorry for a state of
society in which such changes are assumed as evidences
of progress and prosperity. These upstart Hickmans
are not the elements of which a gentry can be formed."

" O'Eeilly still looks to you for the baronetcy, my
lord," replied Heffernan, with a half sneer. " You have
him with or against you on that condition at least so I
hear."

" Has he not had good fortune enough in this world to
be satisfied ? He has risen from nothing to be a man
of eminence, wealth, and county influence ; would it not
be more reasonable in him to mature his position by a



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 18 of 35)