Charles James Lever.

[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) online

. (page 29 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 29 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


were the only things he never knew to deceive : and he
took an almost fiendish delight in contrasting the success

z 2



840 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

of his own penurious practices with all the disappoint-
ments his son O'Reilly had experienced in his attempts
at what he called " high life." Every slight shown him,
each new instance of coldness or aversion of the neigh-
bourhood, gave the old man a diabolical pleasure, and
seemed to revive his youth in the exercise of a malig-
nant spirit.

O'Reilly's only hope of reconciling his father to the
cost of a new election, was in the prospect held out that
the seat might at last be secured in perpetuity for
Beecham, and the chance of a rich marriage in England
thus provided. Even this view he was compelled to sus-
tain by the assurance that the expense would be a mere
trifle, and that, by the adoption of popular principles, he
should come in almost for nothing. To make the old
doctor a convert to these notions, he had called in Hefl'er-
nan and O'Halloran, who both, during the dinner, had
exerted themselves with their natural tact, and now that
the doctor had dropped asleep, were reposing themselves,
and recruiting the energies so generously expended.

Hence the party seemed to have a certain gloom and
weight over it, as the shadow of coming night fell on the
figures seated, almost in silence, around the table. None
spoke save an occasional word or two, as they passed round
the bottle. Each retreated into his own reflections, and com-
muned with himself. Men who have exhibited themselves
to each other, in a game of deceit and trick, seem to have
a natural repugnance to any recurrence to the theme when
the occasion is once over. Even they whose hearts have
the least self-respect will avoid the topic if possible.

" How is the bottle ? with you, I believe," said
O'Reilly to Heflernan, in the low tone to which they had
all reduced the conversation.

" I have just filled my glass ; it stands with the Coun-
sellor."

O'Halloran poured out the wine and sipped it slowly.
" A very remarkable man," said he, sententiously, with a
slight gesture of his head to the chair where the old
doctor lay coiled up asleep. " His faculties seem as clear,
and his judgment as acute, as if he were only five-and-
forty, and I suppose he must be nearly twice that age."



A LESSON IN POLITICS. 841

" Very nearly," replied O'Reilly ; " he confesses com-
monly to eighty-six, but when he is weak or querulous,
he often says ninety-one or two."

" His memory is the most singular thing about him,"
said Heffernan. " Now, the account of Swift's appear-
ance in the pulpit with his gown thrust back, and his
hands stuck in the belt of his cassock, brow-beating the
lord mayor and aldermen for coming in late to church ;
it came as fresh as if he were talking of an event of last
week."

" How good the imitation of voice was, too," added
Heffernan : " ' Giving two hours to your dress, and
twenty minutes to your devotions, you come into God's
house looking more like mountebanks than Christian
men ! ' "

" I've seldom seen him so much inclined to talk and
chat away as this evening," said O'Reilly ; " but I think
you chimed in so well with his humour, it drew him on."

" There was something of dexterity," said Heffernan,
" in the way he kept bringing up these reminiscences and
old stories, to avoid entering upon the subject of the
election. I saw that he wouldn't approach that theme,
no matter how skilfully you brought it forward."

" You ought not to have alluded to the Darcys, how-
ever," said O'Halloran. " I remarked that the mention of
their name gave him evident displeasure ; indeed, he
soon after pushed his chair back from the table and be-
came silent.

" He always sleeps after dinner," observed O'Reilly,
carelessly. " It was about his usual ime."

Another pause now succeeded, in which the only sounds
heard were the deep-drawn breathings of the sleeper.

" You saw Lord Castlereagh, I think you told me ? "
said O'Reilly, anxious to lead Heffernan into something
like a declaration of opinion.

" Oh, repeatedly; I dined either with him, or in his
company, three or four times every week of my stay in
town."

" Well, is he satisfied with the success of his measure?"
asked O'Halloran, caustically. " Is this Union working
to his heart's content?"



842 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

"It is rather early to pass a judgment on that point, I
think."

" I'm not of that mind," rejoined O'Halloran, hastily.
"The fruits of the measure are showing themselves already.
The men of fortune are flying the country ; their town
houses are to let; their horses are advertised for sale at
Dycer's. Dublin is, even now, beginning to feel what it
may become when the population has no other support
than itself."

" Such will always be the fortune of a province. In-
fluence will and must converge to the capital," rejoined
Heffernan.

" But what if the great element of a province be want-
ing? what, if we have not that inherent respect and
reverence for the metropolis provincials always should
feel ? what, if we know that our interests are misunder-
stood, our real wants unknown, our peculiar circumstances
either undervalued or despised ? "

"If the case be as you represent it "

" Can you deny it? Tell me that."

" I will not deny or admit it. I only say, if it be
such there is still a remedy, if men are shrewd enough to
adopt it."

"And what may that remedy be?" said O'Reilly,
calmly.

"An Irish party!"

" Oh, the old story ; the same plot over again we had
this year at the Rotunda ? " said O'Reilly, contemptu-
ously.

" Which only failed from our own faults," added Heffer-
nan, angrily. " Some of us were lukewarm and would do
nothing ; some waited for others to come forward ; and
some again wanted to make their hard bargain with the
minister before they made him feel the necessity of the
compact."

O'Reilly bit his lip in silence, for he well understood at
whom this reproof was levelled.

" The cause of failure was very different," said O'Hal-
loran, authoritatively. " It was one which has dissolved
many an association, and rendered many a scheme abortive,
and will continue to do so, as often as it occurs. You



A LESSON IN POLITICS. 843

failed for want of a 'Principle.' You had rank and wealth,
and influence more than enough to have made your weight
felt and acknowledged, but you had no definite object or
end. You were a party, and you had not a purpose."

"Come, come," said Heflernan, "you are evidently
unaware of the nature of our association, and seem not
to have read the resolutions we adopted."

" No on the contrary, I read them carefully ; there
was more than sufficient in them to have made a dozen
parties. Had you adopted one steadfast line of action, set
out with one brief intelligible proposition I care not
what Slave Emancipation, or Catholic Emancipation,
Repeal of Tests Acts, or Parliamentary Reform, any of
them taken your stand on that, and that alone, you must
have succeeded. Of course, to do this is a work of time
and labour ; some men will grow weary and sink by the
way, but others take up the burden, and the goal is
readied at last. There must be years long of writing and
speaking, meeting, declaring, and plotting ; you must
consent to be thought vulgar and low-minded ay, and to
become so, for active partisans are only to be found in low
places. You will be laughed at and jeered, abused, mocked,
and derided at first ; later on, you will be assailed more
powerfully, and more coarsely ; but, all this while, your
strength is developing, your agencies are spreading.
Persuasion will induce some ; notoriety others ; hopes of
advantage many more, to join you. You will then have
a press as well as a party, and the very men that sneered
at your beginnings will have to respect the persistence
and duration of your efforts. I don't care how trumpery
the arguments used ; I don't value one straw the fallacy
of the statements put forward. Let one great question,
one great demand for anything be made for some live-and-
twenty or thirty years let the Press discuss, and the
Parliament debate it you are sure of its being accorded
in the end. Now, it will be a party ambitious of power
that will buy your alliance at any price. Now, a tottering
Government anxious to survive the session and reach the
snug harbour of the long vacation. Now, it will be the
high ' bid ' of a popular administration. Now, it will
be the last hope of second-rate capacities, 1'eady to supply



344 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

their own deficiencies by incurring a hazard. However
it come, you are equally certain of it."

There was a pause as O'Halloran concluded. Heffernan
saw plainly to what the Counsellor pointed, and that he
was endeavouring to recruit for that party of which he
destined the future leadership for himself, and Con had no
fancy to serve in the ranks of such an army. O'Reilly,
who thought that the profession of a popular creed might
be serviceable in the emergency of an election, looked
with more favour on the exposition, and after a brief
interval said,

" Well, supposing I were to see this matter in your
light, what support could you promise me ? I mean at the
hustings."

" Most of the small freeholders, now all of them, in
time. The priests to a man, the best election agents that
ever canvassed a constituency. By degrees the forces
will grow stronger, according to the length and breadth of
the principle you adopt make it emancipation, and I'll
ensure you a lease of the county." Heffernan smiled dubi-
ously. "Ah, never mind Mr. Heffernan's look, these
notions don't suit him. He's one of the petty traders in
politics, who like small sales and quick returns."

" Such dealing makes fewest bankrupts," said Heffer-
nan, coolly.

" I own to you," said O'Halloran, " the rewards are dis-
tant, but they're worth waiting for. It is not the miserable
bribe of a situation, or a title, both beneath what they
would accord to some state apothecary ; but power, actual
power, and real patronage are in the vista."

A heavy sigh and a rustling sound in the deep arm-
chair announced that the doctor was awaking, and, after
a few struggles to throw off the drowsy influence, he
sat upright, and made a gesture that he wished for
wine.

" We've been talking about political matters, sir," said
O'Reilly. " I hope we didn't disturb your doze ? "

" No ; I was sleeping sound," croaked the old man, in
a feeble whine, " and I had a very singular dream ! I
dreamed I was sitting in a great kitchen of a big house,
and there was a very large, hairy turnspit sitting opposite



A LESSON IN POLITICS. 845

to me, in a nook beside the fire, turning a big spit with
a joint of meat on it. ' Who's the meat for ? ' says I to
him. ' For my Lord Castlereagh,' says he, ' devil a one
else.' 'For himself alone?' says I. ' Just so,' says he ;
' don't you know, that's the Irish Parliament that we're
roasting and basting, and, when it's done,' says he, 'we'll
sarve it up to be carved.' ' And who are you ? ' says I to
the turnspit. ' I'm Con Heffernan,' says he, ' and the devil
a bit of the same meat I'm to get, after cooking it till
my teeth's watering.' "

A loud roar of laughter from O'Halloran, in which
HelTernan endeavoured to take a part, met this strange
revelation of the doctor's sleep, nor was it for a consider-
able time after that the conversation could be resumed
without some jesting allusion of the Counsellor to the
turnspit and his office.

" Your dream tallies but ill, sir, with the rumours
through Dublin," said O'Reilly, whose quick glance saw
through the mask of indifference by which Heffernan
concealed his irritation.

" I didn't hear it. What was it, Bob ? "

" That the ministry had offered our friend here the
secretaryship for Ireland."

" Sure, if they did " He was about to add, " That

he'd have as certainly accepted it," when a sense of the
impropriety of such a speech arrested the words.

"You are mistaken, sir," interposed Heffernan, answer-
ing the unspoken sentence. " I did refuse. The conditions
on which I accorded my humble support to the bill of the
Union have been shamefully violated, and I could not, if
I even wished it, accept office from a Government that
have been false to their pledges."

" You see my dream was right, after all," chuckled the
old man. " I said they kept him working away in the
kitchen, and gave him none of the meat afterwards."

" What if I had been stipulating for another, sir ? " said
Heffernan, with a forced smile. "What if the breach of
faith I allude to had reference not to me, but to your son
yonder, for whom, and no other, I asked I will not say a
favour but a fair and reasonable acknowledgment of the
station he occupies ? "



846 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

" Ah ! that weary title," exclaimed the doctor, crankily.
" What have we to do with these things ? "

" You are right, sir," chimed in O'Halloran. " Your
present position, self-acquired and independent, is a far
prouder one than any to be obtained by ministerial favour."

" I'd rather he'd help us to crush these Darcys," said
the old man, as his eyes sparkled and glistened like the
orbs of a serpent. " I'd rather my Lord Castlereagh would
put his heel upon them, than stretch out the hand to MS."

" What need to trouble your head about them?" said
Heffernan, conciliatingly ; " they are low enough in all
conscience now."

" My father means," said O'Reilly, " that he is tired and
sick of the incessant appeals to law this family persist in
following ; that these trials irritate and annoy him."

" Come, sir," cried O'Halloran, encouragingly, " you
shall see the last of them in a few weeks. 1 have reason
to know that an old maiden sister of Bagenal Daly's has
supplied Bicknell with the means of the present action.
It's the last shot in the locker. We'll take care to make
the gun recoil on the hand that fires it."

" Darcy and Daly are both out of the country," observed
the old man, cunningly.

"We'll call them up for judgment, however," chimed
in O'Halloran. " That same Daly is one of those men
who infested our country in times past, and by the mere
recklessness of their hold on life, bullied and oppressed all
who came before them. I am rejoiced to have an oppor-
tunity of showing up such a character."

" I wish we had done with them all," sighed the doctor

" So you shall, with this record. Will you pledge your-
self not to object to the election expenses if I gain you
the verdict? "

" Come, that's a fair offer," said Heffernan, laughing.

" Maybe, they'll come to ten thousand," said the doctor,
cautiously.

"Not above one half the sum, if Mr. O'Reilly will con-
sent to take my advice."

" And why wouldn't he ? " rejoined the old man,
querulously. " What signifies which side he takes, if it
saves the money ? "



A LESSON IN POLITICS. 84?

" Is it a bargain, then ? "

" Will you secure me against more trials at law ? Will
you pledge yourself that I am ' not to be tormented by
these anxieties and cares ? "

" I can scarcely promise that much ; but I feel so
assured that your annoyance will end here, that I am
willing to pledge myself to give you my own services
without fee or reward in future, if any action follow this
one."

" I think that is most generous," said Heffernan.

" It is as much as saying, he'll enter into recognizances
for an indefinite series of five-hundred pound briefs,"
added O'Reilly.

" Done, then. I take you at your word," said the
doctor, while stretching forth his lean and trembling
hand, he grasped the nervous fingers of the Counsellor
in token of ratification.

" And now woe to the Darcys ! " muttered O'Halloran,
as he arose to say good night. Hefiernan arose at the
same time, resolved to accompany the Counsellor, and try
what gentle persuasion could effect in the modification of
views which, he saw, were far too explicit to be profitable.



34-8 THE KNIGHT OF QWYNNE.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE CHANGES OF E K A V E L.

NEITHER our space nor our inclination prompt us to dwell
on Forester's illness ; enough when we say that his re-
covery, slow at first, made at length good progress, and
within a month after the commencement of the attack, he
was once more on the road, bent on reaching the North,
and presenting himself before Lady Eleanor and her
daughter.

Miss Daly, who had been his kind and watchful nurse
for many days and nights ere his wandering faculties could
recognize her, contributed more than all else to his re-
storation. The impatient anxiety under which he suffered
was met by her mild but steady counsels ; and although
she never ventured to bid him hope too sanguinely, she
told him. that his letter had ^reached Helen's hand, and
that he himself must plead the cause he had opened.

"Tour greatest difficulty," said she, in parting with
him in Dublin, " will be in the very circumstance which,
in ordinary cases, would be the guarantee of your suc-
cess. Your own rise in fortune has widened the interval
between you. This, to your mind, presents but the natural
means of overcoming the obstacles I allude to ; but re-
member there are others whose feelings are to be as inti-
mately consulted nay, more so than your own. Think
of those who never yet made an alliance without feeling
that they were on a footing of perfect equality ; and reflect
that even if Helen's affections were all your own,
Maurice Darcy's daughter can enter into no family, how-
ever high and proud it may be, save as the desired and
sought-for by its chief members. Build upon anything
lower than this, and you fail. More still," added she,



THE CHANCES OF TRAVEL. 849

almost sternly, " your failure will meet with no compas-
sion from me. Think not, because I have gone through
life a lone, uncared-for thing, that I undervalue the strength
and power of deep affection, or that I could counsel you
to make it subservient to views of worldliness and advan-
tage. You know me little if you think so. But I would
tell you this, that no love, deserving of the name, ever
existed without those high promptings of the heart that
made all difficulties easy to encounter ay, even those
worst of difficulties that spring from false pride and pre-
judice. It is by no sudden outbreak of temper, no selfish
threat of this or that insensate folly, that your lady-
mother's consent should be obtained. It is by the manly
dignity and consistency of a character that in the highest
interests of a higher station give a security for sound
judgment and honourable motives. Let it appear from
your conduct that you are not swayed by passion or
caprice. You have already won men's admiration for the
gallantry of your daring. There is something better still
than this, the esteem and regard that are never withheld
from a course of honourable and independent action.
With these on your side, rely upon it, a mother's heart
will not be the last in England to acknowledge and
glory in your fame. And now, good-bye you have a
better travelling companion than me you have hope with
you."

She returned the cordial pressure of his hand, and was
turning away, when, after what had seemed a kind of
struggle with her feelings, she added,

" One word more, even at the hazard of wearying you.
Above all and everything, be honest, be candid ; not only
with others, but with yourself! Examine well your heart,
and let no sense of false shame, let no hopes of some
chance or accident deceive you, by which your innermost
feelings are to be guessed at, and not avowed. This is
the blackest of calamities ; this can even embitter every
hour of along life."

Her voice trembled at the last words, and as she con-
cluded she wrung his hand once more affectionately, and
moved hurriedly away. Forester looked after her with
a tender interest. For the first time in his life he heard



350 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

her sob. " Yes,'' thought he, as he lay back and covered
his eyes with his hand, " she, too, has loved, and loved
unhappily."

There are few sympathies stronger, not even those of
illness itself, than connect those whose hearts have
struggled under unrequited affection ; and so, for many
an hour as he travelled, Forester's thoughts recurred to
Miss .Daly, and the last troubled accents of her parting
speech. Perhaps he did not dwell the less on that theme
because it carried him away from his own immediate
hopes and fears emotions that rendered him almost
irritable by their intensity.

While on the road, Forester travelled with all the speed
he could accomplish. His weakness did not permit of
his being many hours in a carriage, and he endeavoured
to compensate for this by rapid travelling at the time.
His impatience to get forward was, however, such, that
he scarcely arrived at any halting-place without order-
ing horses to be at once got ready ; so that, when able,
he resumed the road without losing a moment.

In compliance with this custom, the carriage was stand-
ing all ready with its four posters at the door of the inn of
Castle Blayney, while Forester, overcome by fatigue and
exhaustion, had thrown himself on the bed and fallen
asleep. The rattling crash of a mail-coach and its deep-
toned horn suddenly awoke him: he started, and looked at
his watch. Was it possible? It was nearly midnight;
he must have slept more then three hours ! Half grati-
fied by the unaccustomed rest, half angry at the lapse of
time, he arose to depart. The night was the reverse of
inviting ; a long-threatened storm had at last burst forth,
and the rain was falling in torrents, while the wind, in
short and fitful gusts, shook the house to its foundation,
and scattered tiles and slates over the dreary street.

So terrible was the hurricane, many doubts were enter-
tained that the mail could proceed further ; and when it
did at length set forth, gloomy prognostics of danger
dark pictures of precipices, swollen torrents, and broken
bridges were rife in the bar and the landlord's room.
These arguments, if they could be so called, were all re-
newed when Forester called for his bill, as a preparation



THE CHANCES OF TRAVEL. 851

to depart, and all the perils that ever happened by land
or by water recapitulated to deter him.

" The middle arch of the Slaney bridge was tottering
when the up-mail passed three hours before. A horse and
cart were just fished out of Mooney's pond, but no
driver as yet discovered. The forge at the cross roads
was blown down, and the rafters were lying across the
highway." These, and a dozen other like calamities,
were bandied about, and pitched like shuttlecocks from
side to side, as the impatient traveller descended the stairs.

Had Forester cared for the amount of the reckoning,
which he did not, he might have entertained grave fears
of its total, on the principle well known to travellers,
that the speed of its coming is always in the inverse ratio
of the sum, and that every second's delay is sure to swell
its proportions. Of this he never thought once, but he often
reflected on the tardiness of waiters, and the lingering
tediousness of the moments of parting.

"It's coming, sir: he's just adding it up," said the
head waiter, for the sixth time within three minutes,
while he moved to and fro, with the ofiicial alacrity that
counterfeits despatch. " I'm afraid you'll have a bad night,
sir. I'm sure the horses won't be able to face the storm
over Grange Connel."

Forester made no reply, but walked up and down the
hull in moody silence.

" The gentleman that got off the mail thought so too,"
added the waiter; "and now he's pleasanter at his
supper, in the coifee-room, than sitting out there, next
to the guard, wet to the skin, and shivering with cold."

Less to inspect the stranger thus alluded to, than to
escape the impertinent loquacity of the waiter, Forester
turned the handle of the door, .and entered the coffee-
room. It was a large, dingy-looking chamber, whose only
bright spot seemed within the glow of a blazing turf fire,
where, at a little table, a gentleman was seated at supper.
His back was turned, to Forester ; but even in the cursory
glance the latter gave, he could perceive that he was an
elderly personage, and one who had not abandoned the
almost bygone custom of a queue.

The stranger, dividing his time between his meal and a



852 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

newspaper which he devoured more eagerly than the
viands before him paid no attention to Forester's en-
trance ; nor did he once look round. As the waiter ap-
proached, he asked hastily, " What chance there was of
getting forward? "

" Indeed, sir, to tell the truth," drawled out the man,



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 29 of 35)