Charles James Lever.

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which, to him at least, had the singular effect of producing
even more suffering than enjoyment.

The intimacy hitherto subsisting between them was
rather increased than otherwise. It seemed as if their
relations to each other had been fixed by a treaty, and now
that transgression or change was impossible. If this was
slavery in its worst form to Forester, to Helen it was
liberty unbounded. No longer restrained by any fear of
misconception, absolved, in her own heart, of any designs
upon his, she scrupled not to display her capacity for
thinking and reflecting with all the openness she would
have done to her brother Lionel ; while, to relieve the deep
melancholy that preyed upon him, she exerted herself by
a thousand little stratagems of caprice or fancy, that, how-
ever successful at the time, were sure to increase his gloom
when he quitted her presence. Such, then, with its vary-
ing vicissitudes of pleasure and pain, was the condition
of their mutual feeling for the remainder of their stay on
the northern coast. Many a time had Forester resolved
on leaving her for ever, rather than perpetuate the linger-
ing torture of an affection that increased with eveiy hour ;
but the effort was more than his strength could compass,
and he yielded, as it were, to a fate, until at last her com-
panionship had become the whole aim and object of his
existence.

As winter closed in, they removed to Dublin, and
established themselves temporarily in an old-fashioned
family hotel, selected by Bicknell, in a quiet, unpretending
street. Neither their means nor inclination would have
prompted them to select a more fashionable resting-place,
while the object of strict seclusion was here secured. The
ponderous gloom of the staid old house, where, from the
heavy sideboard of almost black mahogany, to the wrinkled
visage of the grim waiter, all seemed of a bygone century,
were rather made matters of mutual pleasantry among
the party, than sources of dissatisfaction ; while the
Knight assured them that this was in his younger days
the noisy resort of the gay and fashionable of the capital.



878 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

" Indeed," added he, " I am not quite sure that this is
not where the ' Townsends,' as the club was then called,
used to meet in Swift's time. Bicknell will tell us all
about it, for he's coming to dine with us."

Forester was the first to appear in the drawing-room
before dinner. It is possible that he hurried his toilet
in the hope of speaking a few words to Helen, who not
urifrequently came dowji before her mother. If so, he was
doomed to disappointment, as the room was empty when
he entered, and there was nothing for it but to wp.ifc,
impatiently indeed, and starting at every footstep on the
stairs and every door that shut or opened.

At last he heard the sound of approaching steps, soft-
ened by the deep old carpet. They came he listened
the door opened, and the waiter announced a name, what,
and whose, Forester paid no attention to, in his annoyance
that it was not hers he expected. The stranger, a very
plump, joyous little personage in deep black, did not
appear quite unknown to Forester, but as the recognition
interested him very little, he merely returned a formal
bow to. the other's more cordial salute, and turned to the
window where he was standing.

" The Knight, I believe, is dressing ? " said the new
arrival, advancing towards Forester.

" Yes but I have no doubt he will be down in a few
moments."

" Time enough no hurry in life. They told me below
stairs that you were here, and so I came up at once. I
thought that I might introduce myself. Paul Dempsey
Dempsey's Grove. You've heard of me before, eh ? "

" I have had that pleasure," said Forester, with more
animation of manner, for now he remembered the face
and figure of the worthy Paul, as he had seen both in the
large mirror of his mother's drawing-room.

" Ha ! I guessed as much," rejoined Paul, with a chuck-
ling laugh ; " (ho ladies are here, too, ain't they ? "

Forester assented, and Paul went on.

" Only hear J of it from Bicknell half an hour ago.
Took a car, and came off at once. And when did you
come ? "

Forester stared with, amazement at a question whose



AN UNEXPECTED PROPOSAL. 879

precise meaning he could not guess at, and to which,
he could only reply by a half-smile, expressive of his
difficulty.

" You were away, weren't you ? " asked Dempsey.

" Yes ; I have been out of England," replied Forester,
more than ever puzzled how this fact could or ought to
have any interest for the other.

" Never be ashamed of it. Soldiering's very well in
its way, though I'd never any taste for it myself none
of that martial spirit that stirred the bumpkin as he
sang

Perhaps a recruit
Might chance to shoot
Great General Buonaparte

Well, well! it seems you soon got tired of glory, of
which, from all I hear, a little goes very far with any
man's stomach ; and no wonder. Except a French
bayonet, there's nothing more indigestible than commis-
sary bread."

" The service is not without some hardships," said
Forester, blandly, and preferring to shelter himself under
generality, than invite further inquisitiveness.

" Cruelties, you might call them," rejoined Dempsey,
with energy. " The frightful stories we read in the
papers ! and I suppose they are all true. Were you ever
touched up a bit yourself? " This Paul said in his most
insinuating manner, and as Forester's stare showed a total
ignorance of his meaning, he added " A little four-and-
tvventy, I mean," mimicking, as he spoke, the action of
flogging.

"Sir!" exclaimed Forester, with an energy almost
ferocious. And Dempsey made a spring backwards, and
entrenched himself behind a sofa-table.

" Blood alive ! " he exclaimed, " don't be angry. I
wouldn't offend you for the world ; but I thought "

" Never mind, sir your apology is quite sufficient,"
said Forester, who had no small difficulty to repress
laughing at the terrified face before him. " I am quite
convinced there was no intention to give offence.

"Spoke like a man," said Dempsey, coming out from



380 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

his ambush with an outstretched hand ; and Forester,
not usually very unbending in such cases, could not help
accepting the salutation so heartily proffered.

"Ah! my excellent friend, Mr. Dempsey," said the
Knight, entering at the same moment, and gaily tapping
him on the shoulder. " A man I have long wished to see,
and thank for many kind offices in my absence. I'm glad
to see you are acquainted with Mr. Dempsey. Well, and
'how fares the world with you ? "

" Better, rather better, Knight," said Paul, who had
scarcely recovered the fright Forester had given him.
"You've heard that old Bob's off? Didn't go till he
couldn't help it, though ; and now your humble servant is
the head of the house."

While the Knight expressed his warm congratulations,
Lady Eleanor and Helen came in, and by their united
invitation, Paul was persuaded to remain for dinner an
event which, it must be owned, Forester could not pos-
sibly comprehend.

Bicknell's arrival soon after, completed the party
which, however discordant in some respects, soon ex-
hibited signs of perfect accordance and mutual satisfac-
tion. Mr. Dempsey's presence having banished all busi-
ness topics for discussion, he was permitted to launch
out into his own favourite themes, not the least amusing
feature of which was the perfect amazement of Forester
at the man and his intimacy.

As the ladies withdrew to the drawing-room, Paul
became more moody and thoughtful, now and then
interchanging glances with Bicknell, and seeming as if on
the verge of something, and yet half doubting how to
approach it. Two or three hastily swallowed bumpers,
and a look, which he believed of encouragement, from
Bicknell, at length rallied Mr. Dempsey, and after a
slight hesitation, he said,

" I believe, Knight, we are all friends here ; it is,
strictly speaking, a cabinet council ? "

If Darcy did not fathom the meaning of the speech,
he had that knowledge of the speaker which made his
assent to it almost a matter of course.

" That's what I thought," resumed Paul ; " and it is a



AN UNEXPECTED PROPOSAL. 881

moment I have been anxiously looking for. Has oar
friend here said anything ? " added he, with a gesture
towards Bicknell.

" I, sir ? I said nothing, I protest ! " exclaimed the man
of law, with an air of deprecation. " I told you, Mr.
Dempsey, that I would inform the Knight of the generous
proposition you made about the loan ; but, till the present
moment, I have not had the opportunity."

" Pooh, pooh ! a mere trifle," interrupted Paul. " It is
not of that I was thinking : it is of a very different sub-
ject I would speak. Has Lady Eleanor, or Miss Darcy
has she told you nothing of me ? " said he, addressing
the Knight.

" Indeed they have, Mr. Dempsey, both spoken of you
repeatedly, and always in the same terms of grateful
remembrance."

" It isn't that, either," said Paul, with a half-sigh of
disappointment.

" You are unjust to yourself, Mr. Dempsey," said Darcy,
good-humouredly, " to rest a claim to our gratitude on
any single instance of kindness ; trust me, that we recog-
nize the whole debt."

" But it's not that," rejoined Paul, with a shake of the
head. " Lord bless us ! how close women are about these
things," muttered he to himself. " There is nothing for
it but candour, I suppose, eh ? "

This being put in the form of a direct question, and the
Knight having as freely assented, Paul resumed :

" Well, here it is. Being now at the head of an ancient
name, and very pretty independence Bicknell has seen
the papers I have been thinking of that next step a man
takes who would wish to wish to- hand down a little
race of Dempseys. You understand ? " Darcy smiled
approvingly, and Paul continued : " And, as conformity
of temper, taste, and habits are the surest pledges of such
felicity, I have set the eyes of my affections upon Miss
Darcy."

So little prepared was the Knight for what was coming,
that up to that moment he had been listening with a
smile of easy enjoyment ; but when the last word was
spoken, he started as if he had been stung by a reptile,



882 THE KNIGHT OF QWYNNE.

nor could all his habitual self-control master the mo-
mentary flush of irritation that covered his face.

" I know," said Paul, with a dim consciousness that
his proposition was but half acceptable, "that we are
not exactly, so to say, the same rank and class, but the
Dempseys are looking up, and "

" ' The Darcys looking down,' you would add," said the
Knight, with a gleam of his habitual humour in his eye.

"And, like the buckets in a well, the full and empty
ones meet half way," added Denipsey, laughing. " I
know well, as I said before, we are not the same kind
of people, and perhaps this would have deterred me from
indulging any thoughts on the subject, but for a chance,
a bit of an accident, as a body may call it, that gave me
courage."

"This is the very temple of candour, Mr. Dempsey,"
said the Knight, smiling. " Pray proceed, and let us
hear the source of your encouragement ; what was it? "

" Say, who was it, rather," interposed Paul.

" Be it so, then. Who was it ? You have only made
my curiosity stronger."

" Lady Eleanor ay, and Miss Helen herself."

A start of anger and a half-spoken exclamation, wei'e
as quickly interrupted by a fit of laughing, and the
Knight leaned back in his chair, and shook with the
emotion.

"You doubt it; you think it absurd," said Dempsey,
himself laughing, and not exhibiting the slightest irri-
tation. " What if they say it's true will that content
you?"

"I'm afraid it would not," said Darcy, equivocally;
"there's nothing less likely to do so. Still, I assure you,
Mr. Dempsey, if the ladies are of the mind you attribute
to them, I shall find it very difficult to disbelieve anything
I ever hear hereafter."

" I'm satisfied to stand or fall by their verdict," said
Paul, resolutely. " I'm not a fool, exactly ; and do you
think if I had not something stronger than mere suspi-
cion to guide mo, that I'd have gone that same journey
to London. Oh, I forgot I did not tell you about my
going to Lord Nether by."



AN UNEXPECTED PROPOSAL. 883

" Yon went to Lord Netherby, and on this subject?"
said Darcy, whose face became suffused with shame, an
emotion doubly painful from Forester's presence.

" That I did," rejoined the unabashed Paul, " and a long
conversation we had over the matter. He introduced me
to his wife, too. Lord bless us, but that is a bit of
pride ! "

" You are aware that the lady is Lord Wallincourt's
mother," interposed Darcy, sternly.

" Faith, so that she isn't mine," said the inexorable
Paul, " I don't care ! There she was, lying in state, with
a greyhound with silver bells on his neck at her feet ; and
when I came into the room, she lifts up her head and
gives me a look, as much as to say, ' Oh, that's liim.'
'Mr. Dempsey, of Dempsey's Hole' for hole he would
call it, in spite of me, ' Mr. Dempsey, my love/ said my
lord, bowing as ceremoniously as if he never saw her
before ; and so, taking the hint, I began a little course of
salutations, when she called out, ' Tell him not to do that,
Netherby tell him not to do that

This was too much for Mr. Dempsey's hearers, who,
however differently minded as to the narrative, now con-
curred in one outbreak of hearty laughter.

" Well, my lord," said Darcy, turning to Forester, " you
certainly have shown evidence of a most enviable good
temper Had your lordship "

" His lordship ! " exclaimed Paul, in amazement. " Isn't
that your son Captain Darcy ?"

" No, indeed, Mr. Dempsey," said the Knight ; " I
thought, as 1 came into the drawing-room, that you were
acquainted, or I should have presented you to the Earl of
Wallincourt."

" Oh, ain't I in for it now ! " cried Paul, in an accent of
grief, most ludicrously natural. "Oh! by the powers,
I'm up to the knees in trouble ! And that was your
mother ! oh dear ! oh, dear ! "

" You see, my worthy friend," said Darcy, smiling,
"how easy a thing deception is. Is it not possible that
your misconceptions do not end here ?"

"I'll never get over it, 1 know I'll not!" exclaimed
Paul, wringing his hands as he arose from the table.



384 THE KNIGHT OF G WYNNE.

" Bad lack to it for grandeur," muttered he between his
teeth ; " I never had a minute's happiness since I got the
taste for it." And with this honest avowal he rushed out
of the room.

It was some time before the party in the dining-room
adjourned upstairs ; but when they did, they found Mr.
Dempsey seated at the fire, recounting to the ladies his
late unhappy discomfiture a narrative which even Lady
Eleanor's gravity was not enabled to withstand. A kind
audience was always a boon of the first water to honest
Paul, and very little pressing was needed to induce him
to continue his revelations, for the Knight wisely felt that
such pretensions as his could not be buried so satisfac-
torily as beneath the load of ridicule.

Mr. Dempsey 's scruples soon vanished and thawed
under the warmth of encouraging voices and smiles, and
he began the narrative of his night at the Corvy, his
painful durance in the canoe, his escape, the burning of
the law papers, and each step of his progress to the very
moment that he stood a listener at Lady Eleanor's door.
Then he halted abruptly and said, " Now I'm dumb !
racks and thumbscrews wouldn't get more out of me."

"You cannot mean, sir," said Lady Eleanor, calmly
but haughtily, "that you overheard the conversation that
passed between my daughter and myself?"

" Every word of it!" replied Paul, bluntly.

" Oh, really sir, I can scarcely compliment you on
the spirit of your curiosity ; for although the theme we
talked on, if I remember aright, was the speedy neces-
sity of removing the urgency of seeking some place of
refuge "

" If I hadn't heard which, I could not have assisted
you in your departure," rejoined the unabashed Paul ;
" the old Loyola maxim, ' Evil, that Good may come
of it.' "

Helen sat pale and terrified all this time ; for although
Lady Eleanor had forgotten the discussion of any other
topic on that night save that of their legal difficulties, she
well remembered a theme nearer and dearer to her heart.
Whether from the distress of these thoughts, or in the
hope of propitiating Mr. Dempsey to silence, so it was,



AN UNEXPECTED PROPOSAL. 885

slio fixed her eyes upon him with an expression Paul
thought he could read, and he gave a look of such con-
scious intelligence in return, as brought the blush to her
cheek. " I'm not going to say one word about it," said
he, in a stage whisper that even the Knight himself
overheard.

" Then I must myself insist upon Mr. Dempsey's reve-
lations," said Darcy, not at all satisfied with the air of
mystery Dempsey threw around his intercourse.

Another look from Helen here met Paul's, and he stood
uncertain how to act.

" Really, sir," said Lady Eleanor, " however little the
subject we discussed was intended for other ears than our
own, I must beg of you now to repeat what you remem-
ber of it."

" Well, what can I do?" exclaimed Paul, looking at
Helen with an expression of the most helpless misery ; " I
know you are angry, and I know that, when you like it,
you can blaze up like a Congreve rocket. Oh, faith ! I
don't forget the day I showed you the newspaper about
the English officer thrashing O'Halloran !"

Helen grew scarlet, and turned away, but not before
Forester had caught her eyes, and read in them more of
hope than his heart had known for many a day before.

" These are more mysteries, Mr. Dempsey, and if you
continue to scatter riddles as you go, we shall never get
to the end of this affair."

" Perhaps," interposed Bicknell, hoping to close the
unpleasant discussion, " perhaps Mr. Dempsey, feeling
that he had personally no interest in the conversation be-
tween Lady Eleanor and Miss Darcy- "

" Hadn't he, then ? " exclaimed Paul " maybe not.
If I hadn't, then, who had ? tell me that. Wasn't it
then and there I first heard of the kind intentions towards
me?"

" Towards you, sir ! Of what are you speaking ? "

" Blood alive ! will you tell me that I'm not Paul
Dempsey, of Dempsey's Grove?" exclaimed he, driven
beyond all patience by what he deemed equivocation.
"Will you tell me that your ladyship didn't allude to
the day I brought the letter from Coleraine, and say that

VOL. IT.



386 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

you actually began to like me from that hour? Didn't
you tell Miss Helen not to be down-hearted, because there
were better days in store for us ? Miss Darcy remembers
it, I eee ay, and your ladyship does now. Didn't you
call me rash, and headstrong, and ambitious ? I forgive
it all ; I believe it is true. And wasn't I your bond-slave
from that hour ? Oh, mercy on me! the pleasant time I
had of it at Mother Fum's ! Then came the days and
nights I was watching over you at Ballintray. Ay, faith,
and money was very scarce with me when I gave old
Denny Nolan five shillings for the loan of his nankeen
jacket to perform the part of waiter at the little inn. Do
you remember a little note in the shape of a friendly
warning ? Eh, now, my lady, I think your memory is
something fresher."

If the confusion of Lady Eleanor and her daughter was
extreme at this outpouring of Mr. Dempsey's confessions,
the amazement of Darcy and the utter stupefaction of
Forester were even greater ; to throw discredit upon him
would be to acknowledge the real bearing of the circum-
stances, which would be far worse than all his imputa-
tions. So there was no alternative but to lie under every
suspicion his narrative might suggest.

Forester felt annoyed as much that such a person should
have obtained this assumed intimacy, as by the preten-
sions he well knew were only absurd, and took an early
leave under the pretence of fatigue. Bicknell soon fol-
lowed ; and now the Knight, arresting Dempsey's pre-
parations for departure, led him back towards the fire,
and placing a chair for him between Lady Eleanor and
himself, obliged him to recount his scattered reminis-
cences once more, and, what was a far less pleasing duty
to him, to listen to Lady Eleanor while she circumstan-
tially unravelled the web of his delusion, and, in order,
explained on what unsubstantial grounds he had built
the edifice of his hope. Perhaps honest Paul was not
more afflicted at any portion of the disentanglement than
that which, in disavowing his pretensions, yet confessed
that some other held the favourable place, while that
other's name was guarded as a secret. This was, indeed, a
sore blow, and he couldn't rally from it ; and willingly



AN UNEXPECTED PBOPOSAL. 387

would he have bartered all the gratitude they expressed
for his many friendly offices to know his rival's name.

" Well," exclaimed he, as Lady Eleanor concluded,
" it's clear I wasn't the man ; only think of my precious
journey to London, and the interview with that terrible
old Countess ! all for nothing. No matter it's all past
and over. As for the loan, I've arranged it all ; you shall
have the money when you like."

" I must decline your generous offer, not without feel-
ing your debtor for it ; but I have determined to abandon
these proceedings. The Government have promised me
some staff appointment, quite sufficient for my wishes and
wants ; and I will neither burden my friends nor wear
out myself by tiresome litigation."

" That's the worst of all," exclaimed Dempsey ; " I
thought you would not refuse me this."

" Nor would I, my dear I)empsey, but that I have no
occasion for the sum. To-morrow I set out to witness
the last suit I shall ever engage in, and, as I believe there
is little doubt of the issue, I have nothing of sanguine
feeling to suffer by disappointment."

" Well, then, to-morrow I'll start for Dempsey's Grove,"
said Paul, sorrowfully. " With very different expecta-
tions I quitted it a few days ago. Good-bye, Lady
Eleanor ; good-bye, Miss Helen. I suppose there's no use
in guessing ?"

Mr. Dempsey's leave-taking was far more rueful than
his wont, and woe seemed to have absorbed all other feel-
ing ; but when he reached the door, he turned round and
said,

" Now, I am going never like to see him again ; do
tell me the name."

A shake of the head, and a merry burst of laughter,
was all the answer, and Paul departed.



o o 2



388 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNB*



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE LAST STRUGGLE.

THAT the age of chivalry is gone, we are reminded some
twenty times in each day of our common-place existence.
Perhaps the changed tone of society exhibits nowhere a
more practical but less picturesque advantage than in
the fact that the "joust " of ancient times is now replaced
by the combat of the law court. Some may regret we
will not say if we are not of the number that the
wigged Baron of the Exchequer is scarcely so pleasing
an arbiter as the Queen of Love and Beauty. Others
may deem the knotted subtleties of black-letter a sorry
recompense for the " wild crash and tumult of the fray."
The crier of the Common Pleas would figure to little
advantage beside the gorgeously clad Herald of the Lists ;
nor are the artificial distinctions of service so imposing
that a patent of precedency could vie with the white
cross on the shield of a Crusader. Still, there are certain
counterbalancing interests to be considered ; and it is
possible that the veriest decrier of the law's uncertainty
" would rather stake life and fortune on the issue of a
* trial of law,' than on the thews and sinews of the
doughtiest champion that ever figured in an ' ordeal of
battle.' "

In one respect there is a strong similarity between the
two institutions. Each, in its separate age, possessed
the same sway and influence over men's minds, investing
with the deepest interest events of which they were
hitherto ignorant, and enlisting partisans of opinion
in cases where, individually, there was nothing at stake.

An important trial has all the high interest of a most
exciting narrative, whose catastrophe is yet to come, and
where so many influential agencies are in operation to
mould it. The proofs themselves, the veracity of wit-
nesses, their self-possession and courage under the racking
torture of cross-examination, the ability and skill of the



THE LAST STRUGGLE. 389

advocate, the temper of the judge, his character of rash-
ness or patience of doubt or decisiveness ; and then,
more vague than all besides, the verdict of twelve perhaps
rightly-minded but as certainly very ordinarily endowed



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