Charles James Lever.

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of displeasure. How far these manifestations might have
proceeded there is no saying, had not the attention of the
company been drawn to the sudden noise of a carriage
stopping at the street door.

" Going, flitting, evacuating the territory 1 " exclaimed
M'Farland, as from an open window he contemplated the
process of packing a post-chaise with several heavy trunks
and portmanteaus.

" The Gwynnes ! " muttered the Collector with his hand'
kerchief to his face.

" Even so ! flying with camp equipage and all. There
stands your victor, that little old fellow with the broad
shoulders. I say, come here a moment," called he aloud,
making a sign for Tate to approach. " The Collector is
not in the least angry for what's happened ; he knew you
didn't mean anything serious. Pray, who are these ladies,
your mistresses I mean ?"

" Lady Eleanor Darcy and Miss Darcy, of Gwynno
Abbey," replied Tate, sturdily, as he gave the names with
a most emphatic distinctness.

" The devil it was ! " exclaimed M'Farland.

" By my conscience, ye may well wonder at being in
such company, sir," said Tate, laughing, and resuming his
place just in time to assist Lady Eleanor to ascend tho
steps. Helen quickly followed, the door was slammed to,
and Tate, mounting with the alacrity of a town footman,
the chaise set out at a brisk pace down the street.

r. 2




ALTHOUGH Tate Sullivan had arrived in Coleraine, and
provided himself with a chaise, expressly to bring his
mistress and her daughter back to the Corvy from which
the Sheriff's officers had retired in discomfiture, on dis-
covering the loss of their warrants Lady Eleanor, dread-
ing a renewal of the law proceedings, had determined
never to return thither.

From the postilion they learned that a small but not
uncomfortable lodging could be had near the little village
of Port Ballintray, and to this spot they now directed
their course. The transformation of a little summer
watering-place into the dismal village of some poor fisher-
men in winter, is a sad spectacle ; nor was the picture
relieved by the presence of the fragments of a large vessel,
which, lately lost with all its crew, hung on the rocks,
thumping and clattering with every motion of the waves.
By the faint moonlight, Lady Eleanor and her daughter
could mark the outlines of figures, as they waded in the
tide, or clambered along the rocks, stripping the last
remains of the noble craft, and contending with each other
for the spoils of the dead.

If the scene itself was a sorrowful one, it was no less
painful to their eyes from feeling a terrible similitude
between their own fortunes and that of the wrecked
vessel ; the gallant ship, meant to float in its pride over
the ocean, now a broken and shattered wreck, falling
asnnder with each stroke of the sea !

" How like, and yet how unlike ! " sighed Lady Eleanor ;
" if these crushed and shattered timbers have no feeling
in the hour of adversity, yet are they denied the glorious
hopefulness that in the saddest moments clings to humanity.


Ours is shipwreck, too, but taken at its worst, is only
temporary calamity ! "

Helen pressed her mother's hands with fervour to her
lips perhaps never had she loved her with more intensity
than at that instant.

The chaise drew up at the door of a little cabin, built
at the foot of, and, as it actually seemed, against a steep
rocky cliff of great height. In summer, it was regarded
as one of the best among the surrounding lodgings, but
now it looked dreary enough. A fishing-boat, set up on
one end, formed a kind of sheltering porch to the door-
way, while spars, masts, and oars were lashed upon the
thatch, to serve as a protection against the dreadful gales
of winter.

A childless widow was the only occupant, whose scanty
livelihood was eked out by letting lodgings to the summer
visitors, a precarious subsistence, which, in bad seasons,
and they were not unfrequent, failed altogether. It was
with no small share of wonderment that Mary Spellan, or
" old Molly," as the village more usually called her, saw a
carriage draw up to the cabin door late of a dark night in
winter, nor was this feeling unalloyed by a very strong
tincture of suspicion, for Molly was an Antrim woman,
and had her proportion of the qualities, good and bad, of
the " Black North."

" They'll no be makin' a stay on't," said she to the
postboy, who, in his capacity of interpreter, had got down
to explain to Molly the requirements of the strangers.
" They'll be here to-day and awa to-morrow, I'm thenkin',"
said she, with habitual and native distrust. " And what
for wull I make a ' hottle' " (no greater indignity could
be offered to the lodging-house keeper than to compare the
accommodation in any respect with that of an hotel) " of
my wee bit house, takin' out linen and a' the rest o' it for
maybe a day or twa."

Lady Eleanor, who watched from the window of the
chaise the course of the negotiations, without hearing any
part of the colloquy, was impatient at the slow progress
events seemed to take, and supposing that the postboy's
demands were made with more regard to their habits than
to old Molly's means of accommodation, called out,


" Tell the good woman that we are easily satisfied, and
if the cabin be but clean and quiet "

" What's the leddie sayin' ? " said Molly, who heard only
a stray word, and that not overpleasing to her.

" She's saying it will do very well," said the postboy,
conciliatingly, " and 'tis maybe a whole year she'll stay
with you."

"Ech, dearee me !" sighed Molly, " its wearisome enough
to hae' them a' the summer, without hae'ing them in the
winter too. Tell her to come ben, and see if she likes the
place." And with this not over courteous proposal, Molly
turned her back, and rolled, rather than walked, into the

The three little rooms, which comprised the whole suite
destined for strangers, were, in all their poverty, scrupu-
lously clean ; and Molly, gradually thawed by the evident
pretensions of her guests, volunteered little additions to
the furniture, as she went along, concluding with the very
characteristic remark,

" But ye maun consider, that it's no my habit, or my
likin' either, to hae lodgers in the winter, and af ye come,
ye maun e'en pay for your whistle, like ither folk."

This was the arrangement that gave Lady Eleanor the
least trouble, and though the terms demanded were in
reality exorbitant, they were acceded to without hesita-
tion, by those who never had had occasion to make similar
compacts, and believed that the sum was a most reason-
able one.

As is ever the case, the many wants and inconveniences
of a restricted dwelling were far more placidly endured
by those long habituated to every luxury, than by their
followers ; and so, while Lady Eleanor and Helen sub-
mitted cheerfully to daily privations of one kind or other,
Tate lived a life of everlasting complaint and grumbling
over the narrow accommodation of the cabin, continually
irritating old Molly by demands impossible to comply
with, and suggesting the necessity of changes perfectly
out of her power to effect. It is but justice to the faith-
ful old butler to state, that to this line of conduct he was
prompted by what he deemed due to his mistress, and
her high station, rather than by any vain hope of ever


succeeding, his complaints being less demands for im-
provement than after the fashion of those " protests,"
which dissentient members of a Legislature think it
necessary to make, in cases where opposition is unavail-

These half-heard mutterings of Tate were the only
interruptions to a life of sad, but tranquil monotony.
Lady Eleanor and her daughter lived as though in a long
dream ; the realities around them so invested with same-
ness and uniformity, that days, weeks, and months
blended into each other, and became one commingled
mass of time, undivided and unmarked. Of the world
without, they heard but little of those dearest to them,
absolutely nothing. The very newspapers maintained a
silence on the subject of the expedition tinder Aber-
crombie, so that of the Knight himself they had no
tidings whatever. Of Daly they only heard once, at the
end of one of Bicknell's letters, one of those gloomy
records of the law's delay ; that he said, " You will be
sorry to learn, that Mr. Bagenal Daly, having omitted to
appear personally, or by counsel, in a cause lately called
on here, has been cast in heavy damages, and pronounced
in contempt, neither of which inflictions will probably
give him much uneasiness, if, as report speaks, he has
gone to pass the remainder of his days in America. Miss
Daly speaks of joining him, when she learns that he has
fixed on any spot of future residence." The only particle
of consolation extractable from the letter was in a para-
graph at the end, which ran thus : " O'Keilly's solicitor
has withdrawn all the proceedings lately commenced, and
there is an evident desire to avoid further litigation. I
hear that for the points now in dispute, an arbitration will
be proposed. Would you feel disposed, or free to accept
such an offer, if made? Let me know this, as I should
be prepared at all events."

Even this half-confession of a claim gave hope to the
drooping spirits of Lady Eleanor, and she lost no time in
acquainting Bicknell with her opinion, that while they
neither could nor would compromise the rights of their
son, that, for any interests actually their own, and ter-
minating with their lives, they would willingly adopt any


arrangement that should remove the most pressing evils
of poverty, and permit them to live united for the rest of
their days.

The severe winter of northern Ireland closed in, with
all its darkening skies and furious storms scattered frag-
ments of wrecked vessels, spars, and ship-gear, strewed
the rocky coast for miles. The few cottages here and
there were closed and barricaded as if against an enemy,
the roofs fastened down by ropes and heavy implements
of husbandry, to keep safe the thatch ; the boats of the
fishermen drawn up on land, grouped round the shealings
in sad, but not unpicturesque confusion. The ever-restless
sea, beating like thunder upon that iron shore ; the dark
impending clouds lowering over cliff and precipice, were
all that the eye could mark. No cattle were on the hills,
the sheep nestling in the little glens and valleys were
almost undistinguishable from the depth of gloom around ;
net a man was to be seen.

1'he little village of Port Ballintray, which a few
months before abounded in all the sights and sounds of
human intercourse, was now perfectly deserted. Most of
the cottages were fastened on the inside ; in some, the
doors, burst open by the storm, showed still more unques-
tionably that no dwellers remained ; the little gardens,
tended with such care, were now uprooted and devastated;
fallen trellises and ruined porches were seen on every
side, and even Mrs. Fumbally's, the pride and glory of
the place, had not escaped the general wreck, and the
flaunting archway, on which, in bright letters, her name
was inscribed, hung pensively by one pillar, and waved
like a sad pendulum, " counting the weary minutes


l "

While nothing could less resemble the signs of habita-
tion than the aspect of matters without, within a fire
burned on more than one hearth, and a serving- woman
was seen moving from place to place occupied in making
those arrangements which bespoke the speedy arrival of

It was long after nightfall that a travelling carriage and
four a rare sight in such a place, even in the palmiest


days of summer drew up at the front of the little garden,
and after some delay, a very old and feeble man was lifted
out, and carried between two servants into the house ; he
was followed by another, whose firm step and erect figure
indicated the prime of life ; while after him again came
a small man, most carefully protected by coats and com-
forters against the severity of the season. He walked
lame, and in the shuddering look he gave around in the
short transit from the carriage to the house-door, showed
that such prospects, however grand and picturesque, had
few charms for him.

A short interval elapsed after the luggage was removed
from the carriage, and then one of the servants mounted
the box, the horses' heads were turned, and the convey-
ance was seen retiring by the road to Coleraine.

The effective force of Mrs. Fum's furniture was never
remarkable, in days of gala and parade ; it was still less
imposing now, when nothing remained save an invalided
garrison of deal chairs and tables, a few curtainless beds,
and a stray chest of drawers or two of the rudest fashion.

The ample turf fire on the hearth of the chief sitting-
room, cheering and bright as was its aspect, after the
dark and rainy scene without doors, could not gladden
the air of these few and comfortless movables into a look
of welcome, and so one of the newly-arrived party seemed
to feel, as he threw his glance over the meagre-looking
chamber, and in a half-complaining, half-inquiring tone,

" Don't you think, sir, they might have done this a little
better ? These windows are no defence against the wind
or rain, the walls are actually soaked with wet ; not a bit
of carpet, not a chair to sit upon! I'm greatly afraid
for the old gentleman; if he were to be really ill in such
a place "

A heavy fit of coughing from the inner room now
seemed to corroborate the suspicion.

" We must make the best of it, Natty," said the other.
" Remember, the plan was of your own devising ; there
was no time for much preparation here, if even it had
been prudent or possible to make it ; and as to my father,
I warrant you his constitution is as good as yours or


mine ; anxiety about this business has preyed upon him ;
but let your plan only succeed, and I warrant him as able
to undergo fatigue and privation as either of us."

" His cough is very troublesome," interposed Nalty,

" About the same I have known it every winter since
I was a boy," said the other, carelessly. "I say, sir,"
added he, louder, while he tapped the door with his
knuckles " I say, sir, Nalty is afraid you have caught
fresh cold."

" Tell him his annuity is worth three years' purchase,"
said the old man from within, with a strange unearthly
effort at a laugh. " Tell him, if he'll pay five hundred
pounds down, I'll let him run his own life against mine
in the deed."

" There, you hear that, Nalty ! What say you to the

" Wonderful old man! astonishing!" muttered N"alty,
evidently not flattered at the doubts thus suggested as to
his own longevity.

" He doesn't seem to like that, Bob, eh ? " called out
the old man, with another cackle.

" After that age they get a new lease, sir actually a
new lease of life," whispered Nalty.

Mr. O'Reilly for it was that gentleman, who, accom-
panied by his father and confidential lawyer, formed the
party gave a dry assent to the proposition, and drawing
his chair closer to the fire, seemed to occupy himself with
his own thoughts. Meanwhile, the old doctor continued
to maintain a low muttering conversation with his ser-
vant, until at length the sounds were exchanged for a
deep snoring respiration, and he slept.

The appearance of a supper, which, if not very appe-
tizing, was at least very welcome, partially restored the
drooping spirits of Mr. Nalty, who now ate and talked
with a degree of animation quite different from his former

" The ham is excellent, sir, and the veal very commend-
able," said he, perceiving that O'Reilly sat with his un-
touched plate before him, " and a glass of sherry is very
grateful after such a journey."


" A weary journey, indeed," said O'Reilly, sighing ;
" the roads in this part of the island would seem seldom
travelled, and the inns never visited ; however, if we suc-
ceed, Nalty "

" So we shall, sir, I have not the slightest doubt of it ;
it is perfectly evident that they have no money to go on.
* The sinews of war ' are expended, all Bicknell's late
proceedings indicate a failing exchequer ; that late record,
for instance, at Westport, should never have been left to
a common jury."

"All this may be true, and yet we may find them un-
willing to adopt a compromise : there is a spirit in this
class of men very difficult to deal with."

" But we have two expedients," interrupted Nalty.

" Say, rather, a choice between two ; you forget that
if we try my father's plan, the other can never be

"I incline to the other mode of procedure," said Nalty,
thoughtfully; "it has an appearance of frankness and
candour very likely to influence people of this kind ;
besides, we have such a strong foundation to go upon
the issue of two trials at bar, both adverse to them,
O'Grady's opinion on the ejectment cases equally opposed
to their views. The expense of a suit in equity to deter-
mine the validity of the entail, and show how far young
Darcy can be a plaintiff: then the cases for a jury; all
costly matters, sir ! Bicknell knows this well ; indeed, if
the truth were out, I suspect Sam is getting frightened
about his own costs, he has sold out of the funds twice to
pay fees."

" Yet the plan is a mere compromise, after all," said
O'Reilly ; "it is simply saying, relinquish your right, and
accept so much money."

" Not exactly, sir ; we deny the right, we totally reject
the claim, we merely say, forego proceedings that are
useless, spare yourselves and us the cost and publicity of
legal measures, whose issue never can benefit you, and,
in return for your compliance, receive an annuity or a
sum, as may be agreed upon."

" But how is Lady Eleanor to decide upon a course so
important, in the absence of her husband and her son ?


Is it likely, is it possible she would venture on so bold a
step ? "

" I think so ; Bicknell half acknowledged that the
funds of the suit were her jointure, and that Darcy, out of
delicacy towards her, had left it entirely at her option to
continue or abandon the proceedings."

" Still," said O'Reilly, " a great difficulty remains ; for
supposing them to accept our terms, that they give up the
claim a ad accept a sum in return, what, if at some future
day evidence should turn up to substantiate their views
they may not, it is true, break the engagement though I
don't see why they should not but let us imagine them to
be faithful to the contract what will the world say ? in what
position shall we stand when the matter gains publicity?"

" How can it, sir ? " interposed Nalty, quickly ; " how
is it possible, if there be no trial ? The evidence, as you
call it, is no evidence unless produced in court. You
know, sir," said the little man, with twinkling eyes and
pleased expression, " that a great authority at common
aw only declined the testimony of a ghost because the
spirit wasn't in court to be cross-examined. Now all they
could bring would be rumour, newspaper allegations and
paragraphs, asterisks and blanks."

" There may come a time when public opinion, thus
expounded, will be as stringent as the judgments of the
law courts," said O'Reilly, thoughtfully.

" I am not so certain of that, sir ; the licence of an un-
fettered press will always make its decisions inoperative ;
it is ' the chartered libertine' the poet speaks of."

" But what if, yielding to public impression, it begins to
feel that its weight is in exact proportion to its truth, that
well-founded opinions, just judgments, correct anticipa-
tions, obtain a higher praise and price than scandalous
anecdotes and furious attacks ? What if that day should
arrive, Nalty ? I am by no means convinced that such an
era is distant."

"Let it come, sir," said the little man, rubbing his
hands, " and when it does there will be enough employ-
ment on its hand without going back on our transgressions ;
the world will always be wicked enough to keep the moralist
at his work of correction ; but to return to our immediate


object, I perceive you are inclined to Dr. Hickman's

" I am so far in its favour," said O'Reilly, " that it
solves the present difficulty, and prevents all future danger.
Should my father succeed in persuading Lady Eleanor to
this marriage, the interest of the two families is inseparably
united. It is very unlikely that any circumstance, of what
nature soever, would induce young Darcy to dispute his
sister's claim, or endanger her position in society. This
settlement of the question is satisfactory in itself, and
shows a good face to the world, and I confess I am curious
to know what peculiar objection you can see against it."

"It has but one fault, sir."

"And that?"

" Simply, it is impossible.

"Is it the presumption of a son of mine seeking an
alliance with the daughter of Maurice Darcy that appears
so very impossible ? " said Hickman, with a hissing utter-
ance of each word, that bespoke a fierce conflict of passion
within him.

" Certainly not, sir," replied ~N"alty, hastily excusing
himself. "I am well aware which party contributes most
to such a compact. Mr. Beecham O'Reilly might look far
higher- "

"Wherein lies the impossibility you speak of, then?"
rejoined O'Reilly, sternly.

" I need scarcely remind you, sir," said N"alty, with an
air of deep humility, " you that have seen so much more of
life than I have, of what inveterate prejudices these old
families as they like to call themselves are made up.
That, creating a false standard of rank, they adhere to its
distinctions with a tenacity far greater than what they
exhibit towards the real attributes of fortune. They seem
to adopt for their creed the words of the old song,

" The King may make a Baron bold,

Or an Earl of any fool, sir,
But with all his power, and all his gold
He can never make an O'Toole, sir."

" These are very allowable feelings when sustained by
wealth and fortune," said O'Reilly, quietly.


" I verily believe their influence is greater in adversity,"
said Nalty ; " they seem to have a force of consolation
that no misery can rob them of; besides, in this case for
we should not lose sight of the matter that concerns us
most we must not forget that they regard your family
in the light of oppressors. I am well aware that you have
acted legally and safely throughout, but still let us con-
cede something to human prejudices and passions is it
unreasonable to suppose that they charge you and yours
with their own downfall ?"

" The more natural our desire to repair the apparent

" Very true on your part, but not perhaps the more
necessary on theirs to accept the amende."

" That will very much depend, I think, on the way of
its being proffered. Lady Eleanor, cold, haughty, and re-
served as she is to the world, has always extended a degree
of cordiality and kindness towards my father ; his age,
his infirmities, a seeming simplicity in his character, have
had their influence. I trust greatly to this feeling, and to
the effect of a request made by an old man, as if from his
death-bed. My father is not deficient in the tact to make
an appeal of this kind very powerful ; at all events, his
heart is in the scheme, and nothing short of that would
have induced me to venture on this long and dreary jom-ney
at such a season. Should he only succeed in gaining an
influence over Lady Eleanor, through pity or any other
motive, we are certain to succeed. The Knight, I feel
sure, would not oppose ; and as for the young lady, a
handsome young fellow with a large fortune can scarcely
be deemed very objectionable."

" How was the proposition met before ? " said Nalty,
inquiringly ; " was their refusal conveyed in any expression
of delicacy ? Was there any acknowledgment of the
compliment intended them ? ''

"No, not exactly," said O'Reilly, blushing ; for, while
he hesitated about the danger of misleading his adviser,
he could not bear to repeat the insolent rejection of the-
offer. " The false position in which the families stood
towards each other made a great difficulty, but, more than
sill, the influence of Bagenal Daly increased the com-


plexity ; now he, fortunately for us, is not forthcoming,
his debts have driven him abroad, they say."

" So, then, they merely declined the honour in cold and

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 21 of 35)