Charles James Lever.

[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) online

. (page 2 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 2 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


never forget, amid all our troubles, how many blessings
we have enjoyed."

Whether it was the words themselves that agitated her,
or something in his manner of uttering them, Miss Daly
blushed deeply and was silent. Darcy was not slow to
see her confusion, and suddenly remembering how inap-
plicable his remark was to her fortunes, though not to his
own, added, hastily, "I, at least, would be very ungrate-
ful if I could not look back with thankfulness to a long
life of prosperity and happiness ; and if I bear my present
reverses with less repining, it is, I hope and trust, from
the sincerity of this feeling." "

" You have enjoyed the sunny path in life," said Miss
Daly, in a low, faint voice, " and it is, perhaps, as you
say, reason for enduring altered fortunes better." She
paused, and then, with a more hurried voice, added,
" One does not bear calamity better from habit; that is all
a mistake. When the temper is soured by disappointment
the spirit of endurance loses its firmest ally. Your mis-
fortunes will, however, be shortlived, I hope ; ray brother
writes me he has great confidence in some legal opinions,
and certain steps he has already taken in Chancery."

" The warm-hearted and the generous are always san-
guine," said Darcy, with a sad smile ; " Bagenal would not
be your brother if he could see a friend in difficulty with-
out venturing on everything to rescue him. What an
old friendship ours has been ! class fellows at school,
companions in youth, we have run our race together, to
end with fortune how similar ! I was thinking, Maria, as
I came along, of Castle Daly, and remembering how I
passed my holidays with you there. Is your memory as
good as mine ? "

" I scarcely like to think of Castle Daly," said she,
almost pettishly, " it reminds me so much of that waste-
ful, reckless life which laid the foundation of our ruin ;
tell me how Lady Eleanor Darcy bears up, and your
daughter, of whom I have heard so much, and desire so
ardently to see ; is she more English or Irish ? "

"A thorough Darcy," said the Knight, smiling, "but



CHARACTERS NEW TO THE KNIGHT AND READER. 18

yet with traits of soft submission and patient trust our
family has been but rarely gifted with ; her virtues are all
the mother's, every blemish of her character has come
from the other side."

" Is she rash and headstrong ? for those are Darcy
failings."

" Not more daring or courageous than I love her to
be," said Darcy, proudly. " Not a whit more impetuous
in sustaining the right or denouncing the wrong, than I
glory to see her ; but too ardent, perhaps, too easily
carried away by first impressions, than is either fashion-
able or frequent in the colder world."

"It is a dangerous temper," said Miss Daly, thought-
fully.

" You are right, Maria ; such people are for the most
part like the gamester who has but one throw for his
fortune, if he loses which, all is lost with it."

" Too true ! too true ! " said she, in an accent whose
melancholy sadness seemed to come from the heart.
"You must guard her carefully from, any rash attach-
ment ; a character like hers is strong to endure, but not
less certain to sink under calamity."

"I know it; I feel it," said Darcy; "but my dear
child is still too young to have mixed in that world which
is already closed against her ; her affections could never
have strayed beyond the limits of our little home circle ;
she has kept all her love for those who need it most."

" And Lady Eleanor ? " said Miss Daly, as if suddenly
desirous to change the theme : " Bagenal tells me her
health has been but indifferent ; how does she bear our
less genial climate, here ? "

" She's better than for many years past ; I could even
say she's happier. Strange it is, Maria, but the course of
prosperity, like the calms in the ocean, too frequently
steep the faculties in an apathy that becomes weariness,
but when ,the clouds are drifted along faster, and the
waves rustle at the prow, the energies of life are again
excited, and the very occasion of danger begets the
courage to confront it. We cannot be happy when devoid
of self-esteem, and there is but little opportunity to
indulge this honest pride when the world goes fairly



14 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

with us, without any effort of our own ; reverses of
fortune "

" Oh, reverses of fortune ! " interrupted Miss Daly,
rapidly, " people think much more about them than they
merit ; it is the world itself makes them so difficult to
bear ; one can think and act as freely beneath the thatch
of a cabin as the gilded roof of a palace. It is the mock
sympathy, the affected condolence for your fallen estate,
that tortures you ; the never-ending recurrence to what
yon once were, contrasted with what you are, the cruelty
of that friendship that is never content, save when
reminding you of a station lost for ever, and seeking to
unfit you for your humble path in the valley, because your
step was once proudly on the mountain-top."

" I will not concede all this," said the Knight, mildly ;
" my fall has been too recent not to remind me of many
kindnesses."

"I hate pity," said Miss Daly; "it is like a recom-
mendation to mercy after the sentence of an unjust judge !
Now tell me of Lionel."

"A fine, high-spirited soldier, as little affected by his
loss as though it touched him not, and yet, poor boy, to
all appearance a bright career was about to open before
him well received by the world, honoured by the per-
sonal notice of his Prince."

" Ha ! now I think of it, why did you not vote against
the Minister?"

" It was on that evening," said Darcy, sorrowfully
" on that very evening I heard of Gleeson's flight."

"Well'' then suddenly correcting herself, and restrain-
ing the question that almost trembled on her lip, she
added, " and you were, doubtless, too much shocked to
appear in the House ? "

" I was ill," said Darcy, faintly ; " indeed, I believe I
can say with truth, my own ruin preyed less upon my
mind than the perfidy of one so long confided in."

" And they made this accidental illness the ground of
a great attack against your character, and sought to dis-
cover in your absence the secret of your corruption.
How basely minded men must be, when they will invent
not only actions, b,ut motives to calumniate." She paused,



CHARACTERS NEW TO THE KNIGHT AND READER. 15

and then mattered to herself, " I wish you had voted
against that Bill."

" It would have done little good," said the Knight,
answering her soliloquy ; " my vote could neither retard
nor prevent the measure, and as for myself, personally, I
am proud enough to think I have given sufficient
guarantees by a long life of independent action, not to
need this crowning test of honesty. Now to matters
nearer to us both : when will you come and visit my wife
and daughter ? or shall I bring them here to you ? "

" No, no, not here. I am not ashamed of this place
for myself, though I should be so if they were once to see
it."

"But you feel less lonely," said Darcy, in a gentle
tone, as if anticipating the reason of her choice of resi-
dence.

"Less lonely!" replied she, with a haughty laugh;
" what companionship or society have I with people like
these ? It is not that ! it is my poverty compels me to
live here. Of them and of their habits I know nothing ;
from me and from mine they take good care to keep aloof.
No, with your leave I will visit Lady Eleanor at your
cottage that is, if she has no objection to receive
me."

" She will be but too happy," said Darcy, " to know
and value one of her husband's oldest and warmest
friends."

" You must not expect me soon, however," said she,
hastily ; " I have grown capricious in -everything, and
never can answer for performing a pledge at any stated
time, and therefore never make one."

Abrupt and sudden as had been the changes of her
voice and manner through this interview, there was a
tone of unusual harshness in the way this speech was
uttered ; and as Darcy rose to take his leave, a feeling of
sadness came over him to think that this frame of mind
must have been the slow result of years of heart-consuming
sorrow.

" Whenever you come, Maria," said he, as he took her
hand in his, " you will be most welcome to us."

" Have you heard any tidings of Forester?" said Miss



16 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

Daly, as if suddenly recalling a subject she wished to
speak on.

" Forester of the Guards ? Lionel's friend, do you
mean ? "

" Yes ; you know that he has left the army, thrown up
his commission, and gone no one knows where ?"

" I did not know of that before, I am sincerely sorry
for it. Is the cause surmised?"

Miss Daly made no answer, but stood with her eyes
bent on the ground, and apparently in deep thought ; then
looking up suddenly, she said, with more composure than
ordinary, " Make my compliments to Lady Eleanor, and
say, that at the first favourable moment I will pay my
personal respects to her kiss Helen for me good-bye."
And, without waiting for Darcy to take his leave, she
walked hastily by, and closed the door after her.

" This wayward manner," said Darcy, sorrowfully, to
himself, " has a deeper root than mere capriciousness ;
the heart has suffered so long, that the mind begins to
partake of the decay." And with this sad reflection he
left the village, and turned his solitary steps towards home.

If Darcy was grieved to find Miss Daly surrounded by
such unsuitable companionship, he was more than recom-
pensed at finding that her taste rejected nearer intimacy
with Mrs. Fumbally's household. More than once the
fear crossed his mind that, with diminished circumstances,
she might have lapsed into habits so different from her
former life, and he could better look upon her struggling
as she did against her adverse fortune, than assimilating
herself to those as much below her in sentiment as in
station. He was happy to have seen his old friend once
more, he was glad to refresh his memory of long-forgotten
scenes by the sight of her who had been his playfellow
and his companion, but he was not free of a certain dread
that Miss Daly would scarcely be acceptable to his wife,
while her wayward, uncertain temper would form no safe
companionship for his daughter. As he pondered on these
things, he began to feel how altered circumstances beget
suspicion, and how he, who had never known the feeling
of distrust, now found himself hesitating and doubting,
where formerly he had acted without fear or reserve.



CHARACTERS NEW TO THE KNIGHT AND HEADER. 17

" Yes," said he, aloud, " wlieu wealth and station were
mine, the consciousness of power gave energy to my
thoughts, but now I am to learn how narrow means can
fetter a man's courage."

" Some truth in that," said a voice behind him ; " would
cut a very different figure myself if old Bob Dempsey, of
Dempsey Grove, were to betake himself to a better
world."

Darcy's cheek reddened between shame and anger to
find himself overheard by his obtrusive companion, and,
with a cold salute, he passed on. Mr. Dempsey, however,
was not a man to be so easily got rid of ; he possessed
that happy temper that renders its owner insensible to
shame and unconscious of rebuke; besides that, he was
always " going your way," quite content to submit to any
amount of rebuff rather than be alone. If you talked, it
was well ; if you listened, it was better ; but if you
affected open indifference to him, and neither exchanged
a word nor vouchsafed the slightest attention, even that
was supportable, for he could give the conversation a
character of monologue or anecdote, which occupied him-
self at least.



VOL li.



18 THE KNIGHT OF G WYNNE.



CHAPTER II.

A TALE OF MK. DEMPSEY's ORANDFATHEB.

THE Knight of G-wynne was far too much occupied in his
own reflections to attend to his companion, and exhibited
a total unconcern to several piquant little narratives of
Mrs. Mackie's dexterity in dealing the cards of Mrs.
Fumbally's parsimony in domestic arrangements of Miss
Boyle's effrontery of Leonard's intemperance and even
of Miss Daly's assumed superiority.

" You're taking the wrong path," said Mr. Dempsey,
suddenly interrupting one of his own narratives, at a spot
where the two roads diverged, one proceeding inland,
while the other followed the line of the coast.

" With your leave, sir," said Darcy, coldly, " I will
take this way, and, if you'll kindly permit it, I will do so
alone."

" Oh ! certainly," said Dempsey, without the slightest
sign of umbrage ; " would never have thought of joining
you had it not been from overhearing an expression so
exactly pat to my own condition, that I thought we were
brothers in misfortune ; you scarcely bear up as well as I
do, though."

Darcy turned abruptly round, as the fear flashed across
him, and he muttered to himself, " This fellow knows me;
if so, the whole county will soon be as wise as himself,
and the place become intolerable." Oppressed with this
unpleasant reflection, the Knight moved on, nor was it till
after a considerable interval that he was conscious of his
companion's presence, for Mr. Dempsey still accompanied
him, though at the distance of several paces, and as if fol-
lowing a path of his own choosing.

Darcy laughed good-humouredly at the pertinacity of



A TALE OF MB. DEMPSEY's GRANDFATHER. 19

his tormentor; and half amused by the man, and half
ashamed of his own rudeness to him, he made some
casual observation on the scenery to open a reconcilia-
tion.

" The coast is much finer," said Dempsey, " close to your
cottage."

This was a home-thrust for the Knight, to show him
that concealment was of no use against so subtle an ad-
versary.

" ' The Corvy ' is, as you observe, very happily situated,"
replied Darcy, calmly ; " I scarcely know which to prefer,
the coast-line towards Dunluce, or the bold clifi's that
stretch away to Bengore."

" When the wind comes north-by-west," said Dempsey,
with a shrewd glance of his greenish grey eyes, " there's
always a wreck or two between the Skerries and Port-
rush."

" Indeed ! Is the shore so unsafe as that ?"

" Oh, yes. You may expect a very busy winter here
when the homeward-bound Americans are coming north-
ward."

" D n the fellow ! does he take me for a wrecker ? "
said Darcy to himself, not knowing whether to laugh or be
angry.

" Such a curiosity that old ' Corvy ' is, they tell me,"
said Dempsey, emboldened by his success ; " every species
of weapon and arm in the world, they say, gathered to-
gether there."

" A few swords and muskets," said the Knight, care-
lessly ; " a stray dirk or two, and some harpoons, furnish
the greater part of the armoury."

" Oh, perhaps so ! The story goes, however, that old
Daly brother, I believe of our friend at Mother Fum's
could arm twenty fellows at a moment s warning, and
did so on more than one occasion, too."

" With what object, in Heaven's name? '

" Buccaneering, piracy, wrecking, and so on," said
Dempsey, with all the unconcern with which he would
have enumerated so many pursuits of the chase.

A hearty roar of laughter broke from the Knight, and
when it ceased he said, " I would be sincerely sorry to

c 2



20 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

stand in your shoes, Mr. Dernpsey, so near to yonder cliff,
if you made that same remark in Mr. Daly's hearing."

" He'd gain very little by me," said Mr. Dempsey ;
" one and eightpence, an old watch, an oyster-knife, and
my spectacles, are all the property in my possession except
when, indeed," added he, after a pause, "Bob remits the
quarter's allowance."

" It is only just," said Darcy, gravely, " to a gentleman
who takes such pains to inform himself on the affairs of
his neighbours, that I should tell you that Mr. Bagenal
Daly is not a pirate, nor am I a wrecker. I am sure you
will be generous enough for this unasked information not
to require of me a more lengthened account either of my
friend or myself."

"You're in the Revenue, perhaps?" interrupted the
undaunted Dempsey ; " I thought so when I saw you
first."

Darcy shook his head in dissent.

"Wrong again. Ah ! I see it all ; the old story. Saw
better days you have just come down here to lie snug" and
quiet, out of the way of writs and latitats went too fast
byJJove, that touches myself, too ! If I hadn't happened to
have a grandfather, I'd have been a rich man this day.
Did you ever chance to hear of Dodd and Dempsey, the
great wine-merchants ? My father was son of Dodd and
Dempsey that is Dempsey, you know and it was his
father, Sam Dempsey, rained him."

"No very uncommon circumstance,' 1 said the Knight,
sorrowfully, "for an Irish father."

"You've heard the story, I suppose? of course you
have, every one knows it."

" I rather think not," said the Knight, who was by no
means sorry to turn Mr. Dempsey from cross-examination
into mere narrative.

" I'll tell it to you ; I am sure I ought to know it well,
I've heard my father relate it something like a hundred
times."

" I fear I must decline so pleasant a proposal," said
Darcy, smiling. "At this moment I have an engagement."

" Never mind. To-morrow will do just as well," inter-
rupted the inexorable Dempsey. " Come over and take



A TALE OF MR. DEMPSEY's GRANDFATHER. 21

your mutton-chop with me at five, and yon shall have the
story into the bargain."

" I regret that I cannot accept so very tempting an
invitation," said Darcy, struggling between his sense of
pride and a feeling of astonishment at his companion's
coolness.

"Not come to dinner! " exclaimed Dempsey, as if the
thing was scarcely credible. " Oh, very well, only re-
member" and here he put an unusual gravity into his
words " only remember the onus is now on you."

The Knight burst into a hearty laugh at this subtle re
tort, and, willing as he ever was to go with the humour ot
the moment, replied ,

" I am ready to accept it, sir, and beg that you will dine
with me."

" When and where ?" said Dempsey.

"To-morrow, at that cottage yonder: five is your hour
I believe we shall say five."

" Booked!" exclaimed Dempsey, with an air of triumph;
while he muttered, with a scarcely subdued voice, " Knew
I'd do it! never failed in my life !"

"Till then, Mr. Dempsey," said Darcy, removing his
hat courteously, as he bowed to him "till then "

" Your most obedient," replied Dempsey, returning the
salute ; and so they parted.

"The Corvy," on the day after the Knight's visit to
Port Ballintray, was a scene of rather amusing bustle ;
the Knight's dinner-party, as Helen quizzingly called it,
affording occupation for every member of the household.
In former times, the only difficult details of an entertain-
ment were in the selection of the guests bringing together
a company likely to be suitable to each other, and endowed
with those various qualities which make up the success of
society; now, however, the question was the more material
one, the dinner itself.

It is always a fortunate thing when whatever absurdity
our calamities in life excite should be apparent only to our-
selves. The laugh which is so difficult to bear from the
world, is then an actual relief from our troubles. The
Darcys felt this truth, as each little embarrassment that
arose was food for mirth; and Lady Eleanor, who least of



22 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

all could adapt lierself to such contingencies, became as
eager as the rest about the little preparations of the day.

While the Knight hurried hither and thither, giving
directions here and instructions there, he explained to
Lady Eleanor some few circumstances respecting the char-
acter of his guests. It was, indeed, a new kind of company
he was about to present to his wife and daughter ; but
while conscious of the disparity in every respect, he was
not the less eager to do the hospitalities of his humble
house with all becoming honour. It is true his invitation
to Mr. Dempsey was rather forced from him than willingly
accorded ; he was about the very last kind of person Darcy
would have asked to his table, if perfectly free to choose ;
but, of all men living, the Knight knew least how to escape
from a difficulty the outlet to which should cost him any
sacrifice of feeling.

"Well, well, it is but once and away; and, after all, the
talkativeness of our little friend Dempsey will be so far a
relief to poor Leonard, that he will be brought less pro-
minently forward himself, and be suffered to escape unre-
marked a circumstance which, from all that I can see,
will afford him sincere pleasure."

Atlength all the preparations were happily accomplished ;
the emissary despatched to Kilrush at daybreak had returned
with a much-coveted turkey; the fisherman had succeeded
in capturing a lordly salmon ; oysters and lobsters poured
in abundantly ; and Mrs. M'Kerrigan, who had been left
as a fixture at "the Corvy," found her only embarrassment
in selection from that profusion of " God's gifts," as she
phrased it, that now surrounded her. The hour of five
drew near, and the ladies were seated in the hall, the doors
of which lay open, as the two guests were seen making
their way towards the cottage.

" Here they come, papa," said Helen ; "and now for a
guess. Is not the short man with the straw hat Mr.
Dempsey, and his tall companion Mr. Leonard?"

"Of course it is," said Lady Eleanor; "who could mis-
take the garrulous pertinacity of that little thing that
gesticulates at every step, or the plodding patience of his
melancholy associate."

The next moment the Knight was welcoming them in



A TALE OF MR. DEMPSEY'S GRANDFATHER. 28

front of the cottage. The ceremony of introduction to
the ladies being over, Mr. Dempsey, who probably was
aware that the demands upon his descriptive powers
would not be inconsiderable when he returned to "Mother
Fum's," put his glass to his eye, and commenced a very
close scrutiny of the apartment and its contents.

" Quite a show-box, by Jove ! " said he, at last, as he
peered through a glass cabinet, where Chinese slippers,
with models in ivory and carvings in box were heaped
promiscuously together ; " upon my word, sir, you have a
very remarkable collection. And who may be our friend
in the boat here?" added he, turning to the grim visage
of Bagenal Daly himself, who stared with a bold effrontery
that would not have disgraced the original.

" The gentleman you see there," said the Knight, " is
the collector himself, and the other is his servant. They
are represented in the costumes in which they made their
escape from a captivity among the red men."

"Begad!" said Dempsey, "that fellow with the tor-
toise painted on his forehead has a look of our old friend
Miss Daly ; shouldn't wonder if he was a member of her
family."

"You have well guessed it he is the lady's brother."

" Ah, ah ! " muttered Dempsey to himself, " always
thought there was something odd about her never sus-
pected Indian blood, however. How Mother Fum will
stare when I tell her she's a Squaw ! Didn't they show
these things at the Rooms in Mary's Street ? I think I
saw them advertised in the papers."

" I think yon must mistake," said the Knight ; " they
are the private collection of my friend."

" And where may Woc-woc confound his name the
' Howling Wind,' as he is pleased to call himself, be
passing his leisure hours just now ? "

" He is at present in Dublin, sir; and, if you desire, he
shall be made aware of your polite inquiries."

" No, no hang it, no ! don't like the look of him !
Should have no objection, though, if he'd pay old Bob
Dempsey a visit, and frighten him out of this world
for me.'

" Dinner, my lady," said old Tate, as he threw open



24 THE KNIGHT OF QWYNNE.

the doors into the dining-room, and bowed with all hi3
accustomed solemnity.

" Hum," muttered Dempsey, " my lady won't go down
with me ! too old a soldier for that !"

"Will you give my daughter your arm?" said the
Knight to the little man, for already Lady Eleanor had
passed on with Mr. Leonard.

As Mr. Dempsey arranged his napkin on his knee, he
endeavoured to catch Leonard's eye, and telegraph to him
his astonishment at the elegance of the table equipage
which graced the board. Poor Leonard, however, seldom
looked up; a deep sense of shame, the agonizing memory
of what he once was, recalled vividly by the sight of those
objects, and the appearance of persons which reminded
him of his past condition, almost stunned him. The whole
seemed like a dream ; even though intemperance had de-
graded him, there were intervals in which his mind, clear
to see and reflect, sorrowed deeply over his fallen state.
Had the Knight met him with a cold and repulsive deport-



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 2 of 35)