Charles James Lever.

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the Knight."

" Really, Dr. Hickman, I must interrupt you ; however
gratifying to me to hear that you stand exculpated for any
ungenerous conduct towards my husband, the pleasure of
knowing it is more than counterbalanced by the great pain
the topic inflicts upon me."

" But I want to clear myself, my lady; I want you to
think of us a little more favourably than late events may
have disposed you."

" There arc few so humble, sir, as not to have opinions
of more consequence than mine."

" Ay, but it's yours I want yours, that I'd rather
have than the king's on his throne. " 'Tis in that hope I've
come many a weary mile far away from my home, maybe
never to see it again ! and all that I may have your for-
giveness, my lady, and not only your forgiveness, but your

. "If you set store by any sentiments of mine, sir, I warn
you not to ask more than I have in my power to bestow.


I can forgive, I have forgiven, much, ; but ask me not to
concur in acts which, have robbed me of the companionship
of my husband and my son."

" Wait a bit; don't be too hard, my lady; I'm on the
verge of the grave, a little more, and the dark sleep that
never breaks will be on me, and if, in this troubled hour,
I take a wrong word, or say a thing too strong forgive
me for it. My thoughts are often before me, on the long
journey I'm so soon to go."

" It were far better, Dr. Hickman, that we should speak
of something less likely to be painful to us both, and if
that cannot be, that you should rest satisfied with know-
ing, that however many are the sources of sorrow an.
humble fortune has opened to us, the disposition to bear
malice is not among their number."

" You forgive me, then, my lady you forgive me all?"

" If your own conscience can only do so, as freely as I
do, believe me, sir, your heart will be tranquil."

The old man pressed his hands to his face, and appeared
overcome by emotion. A dead silence ensued, which at
length was broken by old Hickman muttering broken
words to himself, at first indistinctly, and then more

" Yes, yes, I made the offer I begged I suppli-
cated. I did all all. But no, they refused me ! There
was no other way of restoring them to their own house
and home but they wouldn't accept it. I would have
settled the whole estate free of debt every charge paid
off, upon them. There's not a peer in the land could say
he was at the head of such a property."

" I must beg, sir, that I may be spared the unpleasant-
ness of overhearing what I doubt is only intended for
your own reflection ; and, if you will permit me, to take
my leave "

"Oh, don't go don't leave me yet, my lady. "What
was it 1 said ? where was my poor brain rambling ? Was
I talking about Captain Darcy ? Ah ! that was the most
painful part of all."

" My God! what is it you mean ?" said Lady Eleanor,
as a sickness like fainting crept over her " speak, sir
tell me this instant!''


" Tho bills, my lady the bills, that he drew in Gleeson'a

" In Grleeson's name ! It is false, sir, a foul and infa-
mous calumny ; my son never did this thing do not dare
to assert it before me, his mother."

" They are in that pocket-book, my lady seven of them
for a thousand pounds each. There are two more some-
where among my papers and it was to meet the payment
that the Captain did this." Here he took from beneath his
pillow a parchment document, and held it towards Lady
Eleanor, who, overwhelmed with terror and dismay, could
not stretch her hand to take it.

" Here my lady somewhere here," said he, moving
his finger vaguely along the lower margin of the document
" here you'll see Maurice Darcy written not by him-
self, indeed, but by his son. This deed of sale includes
part of Westport, and the town-lands of Cooldrennon and
Shoughnakelly. Faith, and my lady, I paid my hard cash
down on the nail for the same land, and have no better
title than what you see ! The Knight has only to prove
the forgery ; of course he couldn't do so against his own

"Oh! sir spare me I entreat of you to spare me!"
sobbed Lady Eleanor, as, convulsed with grief, she hid
her face.

A knocking was heard at this moment at the door,
and on its being repeated louder, Hickman querulously de-
manded " Who was there ? "

" A note for Lady Eleanor Darcy," was the reply ;
" her ladyship's servant waits for an answer."

Lady Eleanor, without knowing wherefore, seemed to
feel that the tidings required prompt attention, and with
an effort to subdue her emotion, she broke the seal, and
read :

" LADY ELEANOR, Be on your guard there is a dark
plot against you. Take counsel in time and if you hear
the words, ' "Tis eighty-six years have crept to your feet,
to die,' you can credit the friendship of this warning."

" Who brought this note ? " said she, in a voice that
became full and strong, under the emergency of danger.


" Your butler, my lady."

" Where is lie ? send him to me." And as she spoke,
Tate mounted the stairs.

" How came you by this note, Tate ? "

" A fisherman, my lady, left it this instant, with direc-
tions to be given to you at once, and without a moment's

" "Pis nothing bad, I hope and trust, my lady,"
whispered the old man. " The darling young lady is not

" No, sir, she is perfectly well, nor are the tidings posi-
tively bad ones. There is no answer, Tate." So saying,
she once more opened the paper and read it over.

AVithout seeing wherefore, Lady Eleanor felt a sudden
sense of hardihood take possession of her ; the accusation
by which, a moment previous, she had been almost stunned,
seemed already lighter to her eyes, and the suspicion that
the whole interview was part of some dark design
dawned suddenly on her mind. Nor was this feeling
permanent : a glance at the miserable old man, who, with
head bent down, and half-closed eyes, lay before her, dis-
pelling the doubts even more rapidly than they were
formed. Indeed, now that the momentary excitement of
speaking had passed away, he looked far more wan, and
wasted than before ; his chest, too, heaved with a flutter-
ing, irregular action, that seemed to denote severe and
painful effort, while his fingers, with a restless and
fidgety motion, wandered here and there, pinching the
bed-clothes, and seeming to search for some stray object.

While the conflict continued in Lady Eleanor's mind,
the old man's brain once more began to wander, and hia
lips murmured half inarticulately, certain words. " I
would give it all ! " said he, with a sudden cry ; " every
shilling of it for that but it cannot be no, it cannot

" I must leave you, sir," said Lady Eleanor, rising ;
" and although I have heard much to agitate and afflict
me, it is some comfort to my heart to think that I have
poured some balm into yours ; you have my forgiveness
for everything."

" Wait a second, my lady, wait one second," gasped


he, as with outstretched hands he tried to detain her.
" I'll have strength for it in a minute I want I want
to ask you once more what you refused me once and it
isn't it isn't that times are changed, and that you are in
poverty now, makes me hope for better luck. It is be-
cause this is the request of one on his death-bed one
that cannot turn his thoughts away from this world, till
he has his mind at ease. There, my lady, take that
pocket-book and that deed, throw them into the fire
there. They're the only proofs against the Captain no
eye but yours must ever see them. If I could see my
own beautiful Miss Helen once more in the old house of
her fathers "

"I will not hear of this, sir," interposed Lady Eleanor,
hastily. " No time or circumstances can make any
change in the feelings with which I have already replied
to this proposal."

" Heffernan tells me, my lady, that the baronetcy is
certain don't go don't go. It's the voice of one you'll -
never hear again calls on you. 'Tis eighty-six years have
crept to your feet, to die ! "

A faint shriek burst from Lady Eleanor she tottered,
reeled, and fell fainting to the ground.

Terrified by the sudden shock, the old man rung his
bell with violence, and screamed for help, in accents
where there was no counterfeited anxiety ; and in another
moment his servant rushed in, followed by Nalty, and in
a few seconds later by O'Reilly himself, who, heai'ing the
cries, believed that the effort to feign a death-bed had
turned into a dreadful reality.

" There there she is ill she is dying ! It was too
much the shock did it ! " cried the old man, now horror-
struck at the ruin he had caused.

" She is better her pulse is coming back," whispered
O'Reilly ; " a little water to her lips that will do."

" She is coming to I see it now," said old Hickman ;
" leave the room, Bob ; quick, before she sees you."

As O'Reilly gently disengaged his arm, which, in
placing the fainting form on the sofa, was laid beneath,
her head, Lady Eleanor slowly opened her eyes, and fixed
them upon him. O'Reilly suddenly became motionless;


the calm and steady gaze seemed to have paralyzed him ;
he could not stir, he could not turn away his own eyes,
but stood like one fascinated and spell-bound.

" Oh dear oh dear ! " muttered the old man, " she'll
know him now, and see it all."

"Yes," exclaimed Lady Eleanor, pushing back from
her the officious hands that ministered about her. " Yes,
sir, I do see it all ! Oh, let me be thankful for the gleam
of reason that has guided me in this dark hour. And
you, too, do you be thankful that you have been spared
from working such deep iniquity ! "

As she spoke she arose, not a vestige of illness remain-
ing, but a deep flush mantling in the cheek that, but a
moment back, was deathly pale. " Farewell, sir. You
had a brief triumph over the fears of a poor weak woman ;
but I forgive you, for you have armed her heart with a
courage it never knew before."

With these words she moved calmly towards the door,
which O'Reilly in respectful silence held open; and then,
descending the stairs with a firm step, left the house.

" Is she gone, Bob ? " said the old man, faintly, as the
door clapped heavily. " Is she gone ? "

O'Reilly made no reply, but leaned his head on the
chimney, and seemed lost in thought.

" I knew it would fail," said Nalty in a whisper to

" What's that he's saying, Bob ? what's Nalty say
ing ? "

" That he knew it would fail, sir," rejoined O'Reilly,
with a bitterness that showed he was not sorry to say a
disagreeable thing.

" Ay ! but Nalty was frightened about his annuity ; he
thought, maybe, I'd die in earnest. Well, we've something
left yet."
-> " What's that? " asked O'Reilly, almost sternly.

" The indictment for forgery," said Hickman, with a
savage energy.

" Then you must look out for another lawyer, sir," said
Nalty. " That I tell you frankly and fairly."

"What? I didn't hear."

"He refuses to take the conduct of such a case,"


said O'Reilly ; " and, indeed, I think on very sufficient

" Ay ! " muttered the old doctor. " Then I suppose
there's no help for it ! Here, Bob, put these papers in
the fire."

So saying, he drew a thick roll of documents from
beneath his pillow, and placed it in his son's hands.
" Put them in the blaze, and let me see them burned."

O'Reilly did as he was told, stirring the red embers till
whole mass was consumed.

" I am glad of that, with all my heart," said he, as the
flame died out. " That was a part of the matter I never
felt easy about."

"Didn't you?" grunted the old man, with a leer of
malice. " What was it you burned, d'ye think ? "

" The bills the bonds with young Darcy's signature,"
replied O'Reilly, almost terrified by an unknown suspicion.

" Not a bit of it, Bob. The blaze you made was a
costly fire to you, as you'll know one day. That was my

VOL. n.




WE must now ask our reader to leave for a season this
scene of plot and intrigue, and turn with us to a very
different picture. The same morning which, on the iron-
bound coast of Ireland, broke in storm and hurricane,
dawned fair and joyous over the shady shores of Egypt,
and scarcely ruffled the long rolling waves as they swept
into the deep Bay of Aboukir. Here now a fleet of one
hundred and seventy ships lay at anchor, the expedition
sent forth by England to arrest the devouring ambition
of Buonaparte, and rescue the land of the Pyramids
from bondage.

While our concern here is less with the great event
than with the fortune of one of its humble followers, we
would fain linger a little over the memory of this glorious
achievement of our country's arms. For above a week
after the arrival of the fleet, the gale continued to blow
with unabated fury ; a sea mountains high rolled into the
bay, accompanied by sudden squalls of such violence that
the largest ships of the fleet could barely hold on by their
moorings, while many smaller ones were compelled to slip
their cables, and stand out to sea. If the damage and
injury were not important enough to risk the success of
the expedition, the casualties ever inseparable from such
events threw a gloom over the whole force, a feeling
grievously increased by the first tidings that met them
the capture of one of the officers and a boat's crew, who
were taken while examining the shore, and seeking out
the fittest spot for a landing.

On the 7th of March the wind and sea subsided, the
sky cle&red, and a glorious sunset gave promise of a calm,


so soon to be converted into a storm not less terrible
than that of the elements.

As day closed, the outlying ships had all returned to
their moorings, the accidents of the late gale were re-
paired, and the soaked sails hung flapping in the evening
breeze to dry ; while the decks swarmed with moving
figures, all eagerly engaged in preparation for that event
which each well knew could not now be distant. How
many a heart throbbed high with ecstasy and hope, that
soon was to be cold ! how many an eye wandered over
that strong line of defences along the shore, that never
was to gaze upon another sunset ! And yet, to mark the
proud step, the flashing look, the eager speech of all
around, the occasion might have been deemed one of
triumphant pleasure rather than the approach of an enter-
prise full of hazard and danger. The disappointments
which the storm had excited, by delaying the landing,
were forgotten altogether, or only thought of to heighten
the delight which now they felt.

The rapid exchange of signals between the line-of-battle
ships showed that preparations were on foot, and many
were the guesses and surmises current as to the meaning
of this or that ensign, each reading the mystery by the
light of his inward hopes. On one object, however, every
eye was flxed with a most intense anxiety. This was an
armed launch, which, shooting out from beneath the shadow
of a three-decker, swept across the bay with muffled oars.
Nothing louder than a whisper broke the silence on board
of her, as they stole along the still water, and held on
their course towards the shore. Through the gloom of
the falling night, they were seen to track each indentui-e
of the coast now, lying on their oars to take soundings ;
now, delaying, to note some spot of more than ordi-
nary strength. It was already midnight before " the
reconnoissauce " was effected, and the party returned to
the ship, well acquainted with the formidable preparations
of the enemy, and all the hazard that awaited the hardy
enterprise. The only part of the coast approachable by
boats, was a low line of beach, stretching away to the
left, from the Castle of Aboukir, and about a mile in
extent ; and this was commanded by a semicircular range

T 2


of sand-hills, on which the French batteries were posted,
and whose crest now glittered with the bivouac fires of a
numerous army. From the circumstances of the ground,
the guns were so placed as to be able to throw a cross-fire
over the bay, while a lower range of batteries protected
the shore, the terrible effect of whose practice might be
Been on the torn and furrowed sands ; sad presage of
what a landing party might expect ! Besides these pre-
cautions, the whole breastwork bristled with cannon and
mortars of various calibre, embedded in the sand, nor
was a single position undefended, or one measure of re-
sistance omitted, which might increase the hazard of an
attacking force.

Time was an important object with the English general ;
reinforcements were daily looked for by the French ; in-
deed it was rumoured that tidings had come of their
having sailed from Toulon, for, with an unparalleled
audacity and fortune combined, a French frigate had
sailed the preceding day through the midst of our fleet,
and, amid the triumphant cheerings of the shore batteries,
hoisted the tricolor in the face of our assembled ships.
Scarcely had the launch reached the admiral's ship, when
a signal ordered the presence of all officers in command
to attend a council of war. The proceedings were quickly
terminated, and in less than half an hour the various
boats were seen returning to their respective ships, the
resolution been taken to attack that very morning, or, in
the words of the general order, " to bring the troops as
soon as possible before the enemy." Never were tidings
more welcomed ; the delay, brief as it was, had stimulated
the ardour of the men to the highest degree, and they
actually burned with impatience to be engaged. The
dispositions for attack were simple, and easily followed.
A sloop of war, anchored just beyond the reach of can-
non-shot, was named as a point of rendezvous. By a
single blue light at her mizen, the boats were to move
towards her ; three lights at the maintop would announce
that they were all assembled ; a single gun would then be
the signal to make for the shore.

Strict orders were given that no unusual lights should
be seen from the ships, nor any unwonted sight or sound


betray extraordinary preparation. The men were mus-
tered by the half-light in use on board, the ammunition
distributed in silence, and every precaution taken that
the attack should have the character of a surprise. These
orders were well and closely followed ; but so short was
the interval, and so manifold the arrangements, it was
already daylight before the rendezvous was acomplished.

If the plan of debarkation was easily comprehended,
that of the attack was not less so. Nelson once summed
up a " general order," by saying, " The captain will not
make any mistake who lays his ship alongside of an enemy
of heavier metal." So Abercrombie's last instructions
were, " Whenever an officer may be in want of orders, let
him assault an enemy's battery." These were to be
carried by the bayonet alone, and, of the entire force, not
one man landed with a loaded musket.

A few minutes after seven the signal was given, and
the boats moved off. The sun was high, a light breeze
fanned the water, the flags and streamers of the ships-of-
war floated proudly out as the flotilla stood for the shore ;
in glorious rivalry they pulled through the surf, each eager
to be first, and all the excitement of a race was imparted
to this enterprise of peril.

Conspicuous among the leading boats were two, whose
party, equipped in a brilliant uniform of blue and silver,
formed part of the cavalry force. The inferiority of the
horses supplied was such that only two hundred and fifty
were mounted, and the remainder had asked and obtained
permission to serve on foot. A considerable portion of
this corps was made up of volunteers, and several' young
men of family and fortune were said to serve in the ranks,
and from the circumstance of being commanded by the
Knight of Q-wynne, were called " Darcy's Volunteers."
It was a glorious sight to see the first boat of this party,
in the stern of which sat the old Knight himself, shoot
out ahead, and amid the cheering of the whole flotilla,
lead the way in shore.

Returning the various salutes which greeted him, the
old man sat bare-headed, his silvery hair floating back
in the breeze, and his manly face beaming with high


" A grand spectacle for an unconcerned eye-witness,"
said an officer to his neighbour.

The words reached Darcy's ears, and he called out, " I
differ with you, captain. To enjoy all the thrilling
ecstasy of this scene a man must have his stake on the
venture. It is our personal hopes and fears are necessary
ingredients in the exalted feeling. I would not stand on
yonder cliff and look on, for millions ; but such a moment
as this is glorious." As he spoke, a long line of flame
ran along the heights, and at the same instant the whole
air trembled as the entire batteries opened their fire. The
sea hissed and glittered with round shot and shell ; while,
in a perfect hurricane, they rained on every side.

The suddenness of the cannonade, and the confusion
consequent on the casualties that followed, seemed for a
moment to retard the advance, or, as it appeared to the
French, to deter the invading force altogether; for as
they perceived some of the boats to lie on their oars,
and others withdrawn to the assistance of their comrades,
a deafening cheer of triumph rang out from the batteries,
and was heard over the bay. Scarcely had it been
uttered when the British answered by another, whose
hoarse roar bespoke the coming vengeance.

The flotilla had now advanced within a line of buoys
laid down to direct the fire, and here grape and musketry
mingled their clattering with the deeper thunder of cannon.

" This is sharp work, gentlemen," said the Knight, as
the spray twice splashed over the boat, from shot that
fell close by. " They'll have our range soon. Do you
mark how accurately the shots fall over that line of surf? "

" That's a sand-bank, sir," said the coxswain who
steered. " There's barely draught of water there for
heavy launches."

" 1 perceive there is some shelter yonder beneath that
large battery."

" They can trust that spot," cried the coxswain,
smiling. " There's a heavy surf there, and no boat
could live through it. But stay, there is a boat about to
try it." Every eye was now turned towards a yawl,
winch, with twelve oars, vigorously headed on through
the very midst of a broken and foam- covered tract of


water, where jets of sea sprang up from hidden rocks,
and cross currents warred and contended against each

The hazardous venture was not alone watched by those
in the boats, but, from the crowning ridge of batteries,
from every cliff and crag on shore, wondering enemies
gazed on the hardihood of the daring.

" They'll do it yet, sir they'll do it yet," cried the
coxswain, wild with excitement. u There's deep water
inside that reef."

The words were scarcely out, when a tremendous
cannonade opened from the large battery. The balls fell
on every side of the boat, and at length one struck her
on the stem, rending her open from end to end, and
scattering her shivered planks over the surfy sea.

A shout, a cheer, a drowning cry from the sinking
crew, and all was over.

So sudden and so complete was this dreadful catas-
trophe, that they who witnessed it almost doubted the
evidence of their senses, nor were the victors long to
enjoy this triumph ; the very discharge which sunk the
boat having burst a mortar, and ignited a mass* of powder
near, a terrible explosion followed. A dense column of
smoke and sand filled the air, and when this cleared away,
the face of the battery was perceived to be rent in two.

" We can do it now, lads," cried T)arcy. " They'll
never recover from the confusion yonder in time to see
us." A cheer mefc his words, and the coxswain turned
the boat's head in the direction of the reef.

Closely followed by their comrades in the second boat,
they pulled along through the surf like men whose lives
were on the venture : four arms to every oar, the craft
bounded through the boiling tide ; twice the keel was
felt to graze the rocky bed, but the strong impulse of
the boat's " way " carried her through, and soon they
floated in the still water within the reef.

" It shoals fast here," cried the coxswain.

"What's the depth t " asked Darcy.

" Scarcely above three feet. If we throw over our six-
pounder "

" No, no. It's but wading, after all. Keep your

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 23 of 35)