Charles James Lever.

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" the storm seems getting worse, instead of better. Miles
Finerty's new house, at the end of the street, is just blown

"Never mind Miles Finerty, my good friend, for the
present," rejoined the old gentleman, mildly, " but just
tell me, are horses to be had ? "

" Faith ! and to tell your honour no lie, I'm afraid of
it." Here he dropped to a whisper. "The sick-looking
gentleman, yonder, has four waiting for him, since nine
o'clock ; and we've only a lame mare and a pony in the

"Am I never to get this bill?" cried out Forester, in
a tone that illness had rendered peculiarly querulous.
" I have asked, begged for it, for above an hour, and
here I am still."

" He's bringing it now, sir," cried the waiter, stepping
hastily out of the room, to avoid further questioning.
Forester, whose impatience had now been carried beyond
endurance, paced the room with hurried strides, mutter-
ing, between his teeth, every possible malediction on the
whole race of innkeepers, barmaids, waiters even down
to Boots himself. These imprecating expressions had
gradually assumed a louder and more vehement tone, of
which he was by no means aware, till the old gentleman,
at the pause of a somewhat wordy denunciation, gravely

" Insert a clause upon postboys, sir, and I'll second the

Forester wheeled abruptly round. He belonged to a
class, a section of society, whose cherished prestige is
neither to address or be addressed by an unintroduced
stranger ; and had the speaker been younger, or of any
age more nearly his own, it is more than likely a very
vague stare of cool astonishment would have been his
only acknowledgment of the speech. The advanced age,


and something in the very accent of the stranger, were,
however guarantees against this conventional rudeness,
and ho remarked, with a smile, " I have no objection to
extend the provisions of my bill in the way you propose,
for perhaps half an hour's experience may teach me how
much they deserve it."

"You are fortunate, howevei 1 , to have secured horses.
I perceive that the stables are empty."

" If you are pressed for time, sir," said Forester, on
whom the quiet, well bred manners of the stranger pro-
duced a strong impression, " it would be a very churlish
thing of me to travel with four horses while I can spare a
pair of them."

" I am really very grateful," said the old gentleman,
rising, and bowing courteously ; " if this be not a groat
inconvenience ' '

"By no means; and if it were," rejoined Forester, "I
have a debt to acquit to my own heart on this subject.
I remember once, when travelling down to the west of Ire-
land, I reached a little miserable country town at night-
fall, and, just as here, save that then there was no storm

" The entrance of the long-expected landlord, with

his bill, here interrupted Forester's story. As he took it,
and thus afforded time for the stranger to fix his eyes
steadfastly upon him, unobserved, Forester quickly re-
sumed : " I was remarking that, just as here, there were
only four post-horses to be had, and that they had just
been secured by another traveller a few moments before
my arrival. I forget the name of the place

"Perhaps I can assist you," said the other, calmly.
" It was Kilbeggan."

Had a miracle been performed before his eyes, Forester
could not have been more stunned and stunned he really
was, and unable to speak for some seconds. At length,
his surprise yielding to a vague glimmering of belief, he
called out, " Great heavens ! it cannot be it surely is

"Maurice Darcy, you would say, sir," said the Knight,
advancing with an offered hand. "As surely as I believe
you to be my son Lionel's brother officer and friend, Cap-
tain Forester."



" Oh, Colonel Darcy ! this is, indeed, happiness," ex-
claimed the young man, as he grasped the Knight's hand
in both of his, and shook it affectionately.

" What a strange rencontre," said the Knight, laughing ;
" quite the incident of a comedy ! One would scarcely
look for such meetings twice so like in every respect.
Our parts are changed, however ; it is your turn to be
generous, if the generosity trench not too closely on your
Donvenience ? "

Forester could but stammer out assurances of delight
and pleasure, and so on, for his heart was too full to speak
calmly or collectedly.

"And Lionel, sir, how is he when have you heard
from him ?" said the young man, anxious, by even the
most remote path, to speak of the Knight's family.

" In excellent health. The boy has had the good fortune
to be employed in a healthy station, and, from a letter
which I found awaiting me at my army agent's, is as happy
as can be. But to recur to our theme : will you forgive
my selfishness if I say that you will add indescribably to
the favour if you permit me to take these horses at once ?
I have not seen my family for some time back, and my
impatience is too strong to yield to ceremony."

"Of course certainly ; my carriage is, however, all
ready, and at the door. Take it as it is, you'll travel
faster and safer."

" But you yourself," said Darcy, laughing " you were
about to move forward when we met."

" It's no matter ; I was merely travelling for the sake
of change," said Forester, confusedly.

" I could not think of such a thing," said Darcy. " If
our way led together, and you would accept of me as a
travelling companion, I should be but too happy, but to
take the long-boat, and leave you on the desolate rock, is
not to be thought of." The Knight stopped, and although
he made an effort to continue, the words faltered on his
lips, and he was silent. At last, and with an exertion
that brought a deep blush to his cheek, he said, " I am
really ashamed, Captain Forester, to acknowledge a weak-
ness, which is as new to me as it is unmanly. The best
amends I can make for feeling, is to confess it. Since


we met that same night circumstances of fortune have
considerably changed with me. I am not, as you then
knew me, the owner of a good house and a good estate.
Now, I really would wish to have been able to ask you to
come and see me ; but, in good truth, I cannot tell where
or how I should lodge you if you said ' yes.' I believe
my wife has a cabin on this northern shore, but, however
it may accommodate us, I need not say I could not ask a
friend to put up with it. There is my confession, and
now that it is told, I am only ashamed that I should
hesitate about it."

Forester once more endeavoured, in broken, disjointed
phrases, to express his acknowledgment, and was in the
very midst of a mass of contradictory explanations, hopes,
and wishes, when Linwood entered with, "The carriage
is ready, my lord."

The Knight heard the words with surprise, and as
quickly remarked that the young man was dressed in
deep mourning. " I have been unwittingly addressing
you as Captain Forester," said he, gravely ; " I believe I
should have said "

" Lord Wallincourt," answered Forester, with a slight

tremour in his voice ; " the death of my brother "

Here he hesitated, and at length was silent.

The Knight, who read in his nervous manner and sickly
appearance the signs of broken health and spirits, resolved
at once to sacrifice mere personal feeling in a cause of
kindness, and said, " I see, my lord, you are scarcely as
sti'ong as when I had the pleasure to meet you first, and
I doubt not that you require a little repose and quietness.
Come along with me then, and if even this cabin of ours
be inhospitable enough not to afford you a room, we'll find
something near us on the coast, and I have no doubt we'll
set you on your legs again."

"It is a favour I would have asked, if I dared," said
Forester, feebly. He then added, " Indeed, sir, I will
confess it, my journey had no other object than to present
myself to Lady Eleanor Darcy. Thixmgh the kindness of
my relative, Lord Castlereagh, I was enabled to send her
some tidings of yourself, of which my illness prevented
my being the bearer, and I was desirous of adding my

A A 2


own testimony, so far it could go." Here again he

"Pray continue," said the Knight, warmly; "I am
never happier than when grateful, and I see that I havo
reason for the feeling here."

" I perceive, sir, you do not recognize me," said the
young man, thoughtfully, while he fixed his deep, full eyes
upon the Knight's countenance.

Darcy stared at him in turn, and, passing his hand
across his brow, looked again. " There is some mys-
tification here," said he, quickly, " but I cannot see
through it."

" Come, Colonel Darcy," said Forester, with more ani-
mation than before. " I see that you forget me ; but
perhaps you remember this." So saying, he walked over
to a table where a number of cloaks and travelling gear
were lying, and taking up a pistol, placed it in Darcy 's
hand. " This you certainly recognize ? "

" It is my own ! " exclaimed the Knight ; " the fellow
of it is yonder. I had it with me the day we landul at

" And gave it to me when a French dragoon ha J. his
sabre at my throat," continued Forester.

"And is it to your gallantry that I owe my life, my
brave boy?" cried the old man, as he threw his arm
around him.

" Not one half so much as I owe my recovery to your
kindness," said Forester. " Remember the wounded
volunteer you came to see on the march. The uurgeon
you employed never left me till the very day I quitted the
camp, although I have had a struggle for life twice since
then, I never could have lived through the first attack
but for his aid."

" Is this all a dream ? " said the Knight, as he leaned
his head upon his hand, " or are these events real ? Then
you were the officer whose exchange was managed, and of
which I heard soon after the battle ?"

" Yes, I was exchanged under a cartel, and sailed for
England the day after. And you, sir tell me of your

" A slight wound and a somewhat tiresome imprison-


mcnt tells the whole story the latter a good deaJ en-
livened by seeing that our troops were beating the French
day after day, and the calculation that my durance could
scarcely last till winter. I proved right, for last month
came the capitulation, and here I am. But all these are
topics for long evenings to chat over. Come with me ;
you can't refuse me any longer. Lady Eleanor has the
vight the speak her gratitude to you ; I see you won't
listen to mine."

The Knight seized the young man's arm and led him
along as he spoke. " Nay," said he, " there is another
reason for it. If you suffered me to go off alone, nothing
would make me believe that what I have now heard was
not some strange trick of fancy. Here, with you beside
me, feeling your arm within my own, and hearing your
voice, it is all that I can do to believe it. Come, let me
be convinced again. Where did you join us ? "

Forester now went over the whole story of his late
adventures, omitting nothing from the moment he had
joined the frigate at Portsmouth to the last evening, when
as a prisoner, he had sent for Darcy to speak to him
before he died. " I thought then," said he, " I could
scarcely have more than an hour or two to live ; but when
you came and stood beside me, I was not able to utter a
word, I believe, at the time. It was rather a relief to
me than otherwise that you did not know me."

" How strange is this all ! " said the Knight, musing.
" You have told me a most singular story ; only one point
remains yet unelucidated. How came you to volunteer
you were in the Guards ? "

"Yes," said Forester, blushing and faltering; " I had
quitted the Guards, intending to leave the army, some
short time previous but but "

" The thought of active service brought you back again.
Out with it, and never be ashamed. I remember now
having heard from an old friend of mine, Miss Daly, how
you had left the service ; and, to say truth, I was sorry
for it sorry for your sake, but sorrier because it always
grieves me when men of gentle blood are not to be found
where hard knocks are going. None ever distinguish
themselves with more honour, and it is a pity that they


should lose the occasion to show the world that birth and
blood inherit higher privileges than stars and titles."

While the miles rolled over they thus conversed, arid as
each became more intimately acquainted, and more nearly
interested in the other, they drew towards the journey's
end. It was late on the following night when they
reached Port Ballintray, and as the darkness threatened
more than once to mislead them, the postillion halted at
the door of a little cabin to procure a light for his lamps.

While the travellers sat patiently awaiting the neces-
sary preparation, a voice from within the cottage struck
Darcy's ear : he threw open the door as he heard it, and
sprang out, and rushing forward, the moment afterwards
pressed his wife and daughter in his arms.

Forester, who in a moment comprehended the disco-
very, hastened to withdraw from a scene where his pre-
sence could only prove a constraint, and leaving a message
to say that he had gone to the little inn and would wait
on the Knight next morning, he hurried from the spot,
his heart bursting with many a conflicting emotion,



PERHAPS in the course of a long, and, till its very latter
years, a most prosperous life, the Knight of Gwynne had
never known more real unbroken happiness than now
that he had laid his head beneath the lowly thatch of a
fisherman's cottage, and found a home beside the humble
hearth where daily toil had used to repose. It was not
that he either felt, or assumed to feel, indifferent to the
great reverse of his fortune, and to the loss of that station
to which all his habits of life and thought had been con-
formed. Nor had he the innate sense that his misfortunes
had been incurred without the culpability of, at least,
neglect on his own part. No, he neither deceived nor
exonerated himself. His present happiness sprang from
discovering in those far dearer to him than himself,
powers of patient submission, traits of affectionate for-
bearance, signs of a hopeful, ti'usting spirit, that their
trials were not sent without an aim and object all gifts
of heart and mind, higher, nobler, and better than the
palmiest days of prosperity had brought forth.

It was that short and fleeting season, the late autumn,
a time in which the climate of Northern Ireland makes a
brief but brilliant amende for the long dreary months of
the year. The sea, at last calm and tranquil, rolled its
long waves upon the shore in measured sweep, waking
the echoes in a thousand caves, and resounding with hol-
low voice beneath the very cliffs. The wild and fanciful
outlines of the Skerry Islands were marked, sharp and
distinct, against the dark blue sky, and reflected not less
so in the unruffled water at their base. The White Rocks,
as they are called, shone with a lustre like dulled silver,


and above them, the ruined towers of old Dunluce hung
balanced over the sea, and, even in decay, seemed to defy

The most striking feature of the picture was, however,
the myriad of small boats, amounting in some instances
to several hundreds, which filled the little bay at sunset.
These were the fishermen from Innisshowen, coming to
gather the seaweed on the western shore their eastern as-
pect denied them ; a hardy and a daring race, who braved,
the terrible storms of that fearful coast without a thought
of fear. Here were they now, their little skiffs crowded
with every sail they could carry for it was a trial of
speed, who should be first up after the turn of the ebb
tide their taper masts bending and springing like whips,
the white water curling at the bows, and rustling over the
gunwales ; while the fishermen themselves, with long har-
poon spears, contested for the prizes large masses of
floating weed, which not unfrequently were seized upon
by three or four rival parties at the same moment.

A more animated scene cannot be conceived than the
bay thus presented. The boats tacking and beating in
every direction, crossing each other so closely as to
threaten collision sometimes, indeed, carrying off a bow-
sprit or a rudder ; while, from the restless motion of those
on board, the frail skiffs were at each instant endangered
accidents that occurred continually, but whose peril
may bo judged by the hearty cheers and roars of laughter
they excited. Here might be seen a wide-spreading sur-
face of tangled seaweed, vigorously towed in two different
directions by contending crews, whose exertions to secure
it were accompanied by the wildest shouts and cries. There
a party were hauling in the prey, while their comrades,
with spars and spears, kept the enemy aloof, and here, on
the upturned keel of a capsized boat, were a dripping
group, whose heaviest penalty was the ridicule of their

Seated in front of the little cottage, the Darcys and
Forester watched this strange scene with all the interest
its moving, stirring life could excite, and while the ladies
could enjoy the varying picture only for itself, to the
Knight and the youth it brought back the memory of a


more brilliant and a grander display, one to which heroism
and danger had lent the most exciting of all interests.

" I see," said Darcj, as he watched his companion's
countenance " I see whither your thoughts are wander-
ing. They are off to the old castle of Aboukir, and the
tall cliffs at Marmorica." Forester slightly nodded an
assent, but never spoke, while the Knight resumed " I
told you it would never do to give up the service. The
very glance of your eyes at yonder picture tells me how
the great original is before your mind. Come, a few
weeks more of rest and quiet, you will be yourself again.
Then must you present yourself before the gallant Duke,
and ask for a restitution to your old grade. There will
be sharp work ere long. Buonaparte is not the man to
forgive Alexandria and Cairo. If I read you aright, you
prefer such a career to all the ambition of a political life."

Forester was still silent, but his changing colour told
that the Knight's words had affected him deeply, but
whether as they were intended, it was not so plain to see.
The Knight went, on : "I am not disposed to vain regrets ;
but if I were to give way to such, it would be that I am
not young enough to enter upon the career I now see
opening to our arms. Our insular position seems to have
moulded our destiny, in great part ; but, rely on it, we
are as much a nation of soldiers as of sailors." Warming
with this theme, Darcy continued, while sketching out
the possible turn of events, to depict the noble path open
to a young man, who, to natural talents and acquirements,
added the high advantages of fortune, rank, and family

" I told you," said he, smiling, "that I blamed you
once, unjustly, as it happened, because, as a Guardsman,
you did not seize the occasion to exchange guard-mount-
ing for the field. But now I shall be sorely grieved if
you suffer yourself to be withdrawn from a path that has
already opened so brightly, by any of the seductions of
your station, or the fascinations of mere fashion."

" Are you certain," said Lady Eleanor, speaking in n
voice shaken by agitation- " are you certain, my dear,
that these same counsels of yours would be in strict
accordance with the wishes of Lord Wallincourt's friends,


or is it not possible that their ambitions may point very
differently for his future ? "

" I can but give the advice I would offer to Lionel,"
said Darcy, " if my son were placed in similarly fortunate
circumstances. A year or two, at least, of such training,
will be no bad discipline to a young man's mind, and help
to fit him to discuss those terms which, if I see aright, will

be rife in our assemblies for some years to come " Darcy

was about to continue, when Tate advanced with a letter,
whose address bespoke Bicknell's hand. It was a long-
expected communication, and, anxious to peruse it care-
fully, the Knight arose, and making his excuses, re-entered
the cottage.

The party sat for some time in silence. Lady Eleanor's
mind was in a state of unusual conflict, since, for the first
time in her life, had she practised any concealment with
her husband, having forborne to tell him of Forester's
former addresses to Helen. To this 1 course she had been
impelled by various reasons, the most pressing among
which were the evident change in the young man's de-
meanour since he last appeared amongst them, and, con-
sequently, the possibility that he had outlived the passion
he then professed ; and secondly, by observing that nothing
in Helen betrayed the slightest desire to encourage any
renewal of those professions, or any chagrin at the change
in his conduct. As a mother and as a woman, she hesi-
tated to avow what should seem to represent her daughter
as being deserted, while she argued that if Helen were
as indifferent as she really seemed, there was no occasion
whatever for the disclosure. Now, however, that the
Knight had spoken his counsels so strongly, the thought
occurred to her, that Forester might receive the advice in
the light of a rejection of his former proposal, and suppose
that these suggestions were only another mode of refusing
his suit. Hence a struggle of doubt and uncertainty arose
within her, whether she should at once make everything
known to Darcy, or still keep silence, and leave events to
their own development. The former course seemed the
most fitting, and entirely forgetful of all else, she hastily
arose, and followed her husband into the cabin.

Forester was now alone with Helen, and for the

HOME. 363

first time since that well-remembered night when he had
offered his heart and been rejected. The game of dissimu-
lating feelings is almost easiest before a numerous audience.
It is rarely possible in a tete-a-tete. So Forester soon
felt, and although he made several efforts to induce a
conversation, they were all abrupt and disjointed, as were
Helen's own replies to them. At length came a pause,
and what a thing is a pause at such a moment ! The long
lingering seconds in which a duellist watches his adver-
sary's pistol, wavering over the region of his heart or brain,
is less torturing than such suspense. Forester arose twice,
and again sat down his face pale and flushed alternately.
At length, with a thick and rapid utterance, he said,

" I have been thinking over the Knight's counsels
dare I ask if they have Miss Darcy's concurrence ?"

" It would be a great, a very great presumption in me,"
said Helen, tremulously, "to offer an opinion on such,
a theme. I have neither the knowledge to distinguish
between the opposite careers, nor have I any feeling for
those sentiments which men alone understand in warfare."

" Nor, perhaps," added Forester, with a sudden irony,
" sufficient interest in the subject to give it a thought."
" Helen was silent ; her slightly compressed lips and
heightened colour showed that she was offended at the
speech, but she made no reply.

" I crave your pardon, Miss Darcy," said he, in a low,
submissive accent, that told how heartfelt it was. " I
most humbly ask you to forgive my rudeness. The very
fact that I had no claim to that interest should have
protected you from such a speech. But see what comes
of kindness to those who are little used to it. They get
soon spoiled, and forget themselves."

" Lord Wallincourt will have to guard himself well
against flattery, if such humble attentions as ours disturb
his judgment."

"I will get out of the region of it," said he, resolutely ;
" I will take the Knight's advice. It is but a plunge, and
all is over."

" If I dare to say so, my lord," said Helen, archly, "this
is scarcely the spirit in which my father hoped his counsels
would be accepted. His chivalry on the score of a mili-


tary life may be overstrained, but it has no touch of that
recklessness your lordship seems to lend it."

" And why should not this be the spirit in which I join
the army?" said he, passionately ; "the career has not
for rne those fascinations which others feel. Danger I
like, for its stimulus, as other men like it; but I would
rather confront it when, and where, and how I please,
than at the dictate of a colonel, and by the ritual of a

' Bather be a letter of marque, in fact, than a ship-of-

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 30 of 35)