Charles James Lever.

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need notbe."

Darcy spoke with more than usual seriousness, for lie
had observed some time past how Helen had imbibed much
of Lady Eleanor's distance towards her humble neigh-
bours, and was disposed to retain a stronger memory of
their failings in manner than of their better and heartier
traits of character.

The young girl felt the remark less as a reproof than a
warning, and said

" I will not forget it."



96 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.



CHAPTER VII.

A PARTING INTERVIEW.

WHEN HeflTernan, with his charge, Forester, reached
Dublin, he drove straight to Castlereagh's house, affectedly
to place the young man under the protection of his dis-
tinguished relative, but in reality burning with eager
impatience to recount his last stroke of address, and to
display the cunning artifice by which he had embroiled
O'Reilly with the great popular leader. Mr. Heffernan
had a more than ordinary desire to exhibit his skill on this
occasion ; he was still smarting under the conscious sense
of having been duped by O'Reilly, and could not rest
tranquilly until revenged. Under the mask of a most
benevolent purpose, O'Reilly had induced Heffernan to
procure Lionel Darcy an appointment to a regiment in
India. Heffernan undertook the task, not, indeed, moved
by any kindliness of feeling towards the youth, but as a
means of reopening once more negotiations with O'Reilly ;
and now to discover that he had interested himself simply
to withdraw a troublesome witness in a suit that he had
been, in his own phrase, "jockeyed" was an insult to
his cleverness he could not endure.

As Heffernan and Forester drove up to the door, they
perceived that a travelling-carriage, ready packed and
loaded, stood in waiting, while the bustle and movement
of servants indicated a hurried departure.

" What's the matter, Hutton ? " asked Heffernan of the
valet who appeared at the moment; "is his lordship at
home ? "

" Yes, sir, in the drawing-room ; but my lord is just
leaving for England. He is now a Cabinet Minister."

Hefi'ernan smiled, and affected to hear the tidings with
delight, while he hastily desired the servant to announce
him.



A PARTING INTERVIEW. 97

The drawing-room was crowded by a strange and
anomalous-looking assemblage, whose loud talking and
laughing entirely prevented the announcement of Con
Heffernan's name from reaching Lord Castlereagh's
ears. Groups of personal friends come to say good-by
deputations eager to have the last word in the ear of the
departing secretary tradesmen begging recommendations
to his successor with here and there a disappointed suitor,
earnestly imploring future consideration, were mixed up
with hurrying servants, collecting the various minor
articles which lay scattered through the apartment.

The time which it cost Hefiernan to wedge his wa}>
through the dense crowd was not wholly profitless, since
it enabled him to assume that look of cordial satisfaction
at the noble secretary's promotion which he was so very
far from really feeling. Like most men who cultivate
mere cunning, he underrated all who do not place the
greatest reliance upon it, and in this way conceived a
very depreciating estimate of Lord Castlereagh's ability.
Knowing how deeply he had himself been trusted, and
how much employed in state transactions, he speculated
on a long career of political influence, and that, while his
lordship remained as secretary, his own skill and dexterity
would never be dispensed with. This pleasant illusion
was now suddenly dispelled, and he saw all his specula-
tions scattered to the wind at once ; in fact, to borrow his
own sagacious illustration, "he had to submit to a new
deal with his hand full of trumps."

He was still endeavouring to disentangle himself from
the throng, when Lord Castlereagh's quick eye discovered
him.

"And here comes Heffernan," cried he, laughingly;
" the only man wanting to fill up the measure of con-
gratulations. Pray, my lord, move one step and rescue
our poor friend from suffocation."

" By Jove ! rny lord, one would imagine you were the
rising and not the setting sun, from all this adulating
assemblage," said Heffernan, as he shook the proffered
hand of the secretary, and held it most ostentatiously in his
cordial pressure. " This was a complete surprise for me,"
added he. " I only arrived this evening with Forester."

70L II. H



98 THE KNIGHT OF G WYNNE.

" With Dick ? Indeed ! I'm very glad the truant has
turned up again. Where is he ? "

" He passed me on the stairs, I fancy to his room, for
he muttered something about going over in the packet
along with you."

" And where have you been, Heffernan, and what do-
ing ? " asked Lord Castlereagh, with that easy smile that
so well became his features.

" That I can scarcely tell you here," said Heffernan,
dropping his voice to a whisper, " though I fancy the
news would interest you." He made a motion towards
the recess of a window, and Lord Castlereagh accepted
the suggestion, but with an indolence and half-apathy
which did not escape Heffernan's shrewd perception.
Partly piqued by this, and partly stimulated by his own
personal interest in the matter, Heffernan related, with
unwonted eagerness, the details of his visit to the West,
narrating with all his ovrn skill the most striking cha-
racteristics of the O'Reilly household, and endeavouring
to interest his hearer by those little touches of native
archness in description of which he was no mean
master.

But often as they had before sufficed to amuse his lord-
ship, they seemed a failure now, for he listened, if not
with impatience, yet with actual indifference, and seemed
more than once as if about to stop the narrative by the
abrupt question, " How can this possibly interest me?"

Heffernan read the expression, and felt it as plainly as
though it were spoken.

" I am tedious, my lord," said he, whilst a slight flash
coloured the middle of his cheek ; " perhaps I only weary
you."

" He must be a fastidious hearer who could weary of
Mr. Heffernan's company," said his lordship, with a smile
so ambiguous that Heffernan resumed with even greater
embarrassment :

'' I was about to observe, my lord, that this same
member for Mayo has become much more tractable. He
evidently sees the necessity of confirming his new posi-
tion, and, I am confident, with very little notice, might
bo converted into a staunch Government supporter."



A PARTING INTERVIEW. 99

" Your old favourite theory, Heffernan," said the secre-
tary, laughing; " to warm these Popish grubs into Pro-
testant butterflies by the sunshine of kingly favour, for-
getting the while that ' the winter of their discontent' is
never far distant. But please to remember besides, that
gold mines will not last for ever the fountain, of honour
will at last run dry, and if

" I ask pardon, my lord," interrupted Heffernan. " I
only alluded to those favours which cost the Minister
little, and the Crown still less that social acceptance
from the Court hei'e upon which some of your Irish
friends set great store. If you could find au opportunity
of suggesting something of this kind, or if your lord-
ship's successor "

" Heaven pity him ! " exclaimed Lord Castlereagh.
"He will have enough on his hands, without petty em-
barrassments of this sort. Without you have promised,
Heffernan," added he, hastily. " If you have already
made any pledge, of course we must sustain your credit."

" I, my lord ! I trust you know my discretion better
than to suspect me. I merely threw out the suggestion
from supposing that your lordship's interest in our poor
concerns here might outlive your translation to a more
distinguished position."

There was a tone of covert impertinence in the accent,
as well as the words, which, while Lord Castlereagh was
quick enough to perceive, he was too shrewd to mark by
any notice.

" And so," said he, abruptly changing the topic, <: this
affair of Forester's shortened your visit?"

" Of course. Having cut the knot, I left O'Reilly and
Conolly to the tender mercies of O'Halloran, who, I
perceive by to-day's paper, has denounced his late client
in round terms. Another reason, my lord, for looking
after O'Reilly at this moment. It is so easy to secure a
prize deserted by her crew."

" I wish Dick had waited a day or two," said Lord
Castlereagh, not heeding Heffernan's concluding remark,
" and then I should have been off. As it is, he would
have done better to adjourn the horse- whipping sine die.
His lady-mother will scarcely distinguish between the

H 2



100 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

two parties in such a conflict, and probably deem the in-
dignity pretty equally shared by both parties."

' ; A very English judgment on an Irish quarrel," ob-
served HeflTernan.

" And you yourself, Heffernan when are we to see you
in London ? "

" Heaven knows, my lord. Sometimes I fancy that I
ought not to quit my post here, even for a day ; then
again I begin to fear lest the new officials may see things
in a different light, and that I may be thrown aside as the
propagator of antiquated notions."

" Mere modesty, Heffernan," said Lord Castlereagh,
with a look of the most comic gravity. " You ought to
know by this time that no Government can goon without
you. You are the fly-wheel that regulates motion and
perpetuates impulse to the entire machine. I'd venture
almost to declare that you stand in the inventory of arti-
cles transmitted from one viceroy to another, and as we
read of ' one throne covered with crimson velvet, and
one state couch with gilt supporters,' so we might chance
to fall upon the item of ' one Con Heffernan, Kildare
Place.' "

"In what capacity, my lord?" said Heffernan, en-
deavouring to conceal his anger by a smile.

" Your gifts are too numerous for mention. They
might better be summed up under the title of ' State
Judas.'"

" You forget, my lord, that he carried the bag. Now
I was never purse-bearer even to the Lord Chancellor.
But I can pardon the simile, coming, as I see it does,
from certain home convictions. Your lordship was doubt-
less assimilating yourself to another historical character
of the same period, and would, like him, accept the ini-
quity, but ' wash your hands' of its consequences."

" Do you hear that, my lord ? " said Lord Castlereagh,
turning round, and addressing the Bishop of Kilmore.
" Mr. Heffernan has discovered a parallel between my
character and that of Pontius Pilate." A look of re-
buking severity from the prelate was directed -towards
Heffernan, who meekly said,

" I was only reproving his lordship for permitting me



A PARTING INTERVIEW. 101

to discharge all the duties of Secretary for Ireland, and
yet receive none of the emoluments."

" But you refused office in every shape and form," said
Lord Castlereagh, hastily. " Yes, gentlemen, as the last
act of my official life amongst you " here he raised his
voice, and moved into the centre of the room " I desire
to make this public declaration, that as often as I have
solicited Mr. Heffernan to accept some situation of trust
and profit under the Crown, he has as uniformly declined.
Not, it is needless to say, from any discrepancy in our
political views, for I believe we are agreed on every point,
but upon the ground of maintaining his own freedom of
acting and judging."

The declamatory tone in which he spoke these words,
and the glances of quiet intelligence that were exchanged
through the assembly, were in strong contrast with the
forced calmness of Heffernan, who, pale and red by turns,
could barely suppress the rage that worked within him
nor was it without an immense effort he could mutter a
feigned expression of gratitude for his lordship's pane-
gyric, while he muttered to himself,

" You shall rue this yet ! "



102 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.



CHAPTER VIII.



IT was late in the evening as the Knight of Gwynne
entered Dublin, and took up his abode for the night in an
obscure inn, at the north side of the city. However occu-
pied his thoughts up to that time by the approaching
event in his own fortune, he could not help feeling a
sudden pang as he saw once more the well-known land-
marks that reminded him of former days of happiness
and triumph. Strange as it may now sound, there was a
time when Irish gentlemen were proud of their native
city ; when they regarded its University with feelings of
affectionate memory, as the scene of early efforts and
ambitions ; and could look on its Parliament House as the
proud evidence of their national independence ! Socially,
too, they considered Dublin and with reason second to
no city of Europe ; for there was a period, brief but
glorious, when the highest breeding of the courtier
mingled with the most polished wit and refined conversa-
tion, and when the splendour of wealth freely displayed
as it was was only inferior to the more brilliant lustre of
a society richer in genius and in beauty than any capital
of the world.

None had been a more favoured participator in these
scenes then Darcy himself: his personal gifts, added to
the claims of his family and fortune, secured him early
acceptance in the highest circles, and if his abilities had
not won the very highest distinctions, it seened rather
from his own indifference than from their deficiency.

In those days, his arrival in town was the signal for a
throng of visitors to call, all eagerly asking on what day
they might secure him to dine or sup, to meet this one, or



THE FIEE. 103

that. The thousand flatteries society stores up for her
favourites, all awaited him. Parties, whose fulfilment
hung listlessly in doubt, were now hastily determined on,
as " Darcy has come " got whispered abroad ; and many
a scheme of pleasure but half-planned found a ready ad-
vocacy when the prospect of obtaining him as a guest
presented itself.

The consciousness of social success is a great element
in the victory. Darcy had this, but without the slightest
taint of vain boastfulness or egotism ; his sense of his
own distinction was merely sufficient to heighten his
enjoyment of the world, without detracting, ever so little,
from the manly and unassuming features of his character.
It is true he endeavoured, and even gave himself pains to
be an agreeable companion, but he belonged to a school
and a time when conversation was cultivated as an art,
and when men preferred making the dinner-table and
the drawing-room the arena of their powers, to indicting
verses for an " Annual," or composing tales for a fashion-
able " Miscellany."

We have said enough, perhaps, to show what Dublin
was to him, once. How very different it seemed to his
eyes now ! The season was late summer, and the city
dusty and deserted, few persons in the streets, scarcely a
carriage to be seen, an air of listlessness and apathy was
over everything for it was the period when the country
was just awakening after the intoxicating excitement of
the Parliamentary struggle awakening to discover that
it had been betrayed and deserted !

As soon as Darcy had taken some slight refreshment
he set out in search of Daly. His first visit was to
Henrietta street, to his own house, or rather what had
been his, for it was already let, and a flaring brass-plate
on the door proclaimed it the office of a fashionable
solicitor. He knocked, and inquired if any one "knew
where Mr. Bagenal Daly now resided ? " but the name
seemed perfectly unknown. He next tried Bicknell's :
but that gentleman had not returned since the circuit ;
he was repairing the fatigues of his profession by a week
or two's relaxation at a watering-place.

He did not like, himself, to call at the club, but he des-



104 THE KNIGHT OP G WYNNE.

patched a messenger from the inn, who brought word back
that Mr. Daly had not been there for several weeks, and
that his present address was unknown. Worried and
annoyed, Darcy tried in turn each place where Daly had
been wont to frequent, but all in vain. Some had seen
him, but not lately ; others suggested that he did not
appear much in public on account of his moneyed diffi-
culties ; and one or two limited themselves to a cautious
declaration of ignorance, with a certain assumed shrewd-
ness, as though to say that they could tell more if they
would.

It was near midnight when Darcy returned to the inn,
tired and worn out by his unsuccessful search. The
packet in which he was to sail for England was to leave
the port early in the morning, and he sat down in the
travellers' room, exhausted and fatigued, till his chamber
should be got ready for him.

The inn stood in one of the narrow streets leading out
of Smithfield, and was generally resorted to by small
farmers and cattle-dealers repairing to the weekly market.
Of these, three or four still lingered in the public room,
conning over their accounts and discussing the prices of
" short-horns and black faces " with much interest, and
anticipating all the possible changes the new political
condition of the country might be likely to induce.

Darcy could scarcely avoid smiling as he overheard
some of these speculations, wherein the prospect of a
greater export trade was deemed the most certain indica-
tion of national misfortune. His attention was, however,
suddenly withdrawn from the conversation by a confused
murmur of voices, and the tramp of many feet in the
street without. The noise gradually increased, and
attracted the notice of the others, and suddenly the
words "Fire! fire!" repeated from month to mouth,
explained the tumult.

As the tide of men was borne onward, the din grew
louder, and at length the narrow street in front of the
inn became densely crowded by a mob hurrying eagerly
forward, and talking in loud, excited voices.

" They say that Newgate is on fire, sir," said the land-
lord, as, hastily entering, he addressed Darcy ; " but if



THE FIEE. 105

you'll come with me to the top of the house, we'll soon
see for ourselves."

Darcy followed the man to the upper story, whence, by
a small ladder, they obtained an exit on the roof. The
night was calm and starlight, and the air was still. What
a contrast ! that spangled heaven, in all its tranquil
beauty, to the dark streets below, where, in tumultuous
uproar, the commingled mass was seen by the uncertain
glimmer of the lamps, few and dim as they were. Darcy
could mark that the crowd consisted of the very lowest
andmost miserable-looking classof the capital, the dwellers
in the dark alleys and purlieus of the ill-favoured region.
By their excited gestures and wild accents, it was clear
to see how much more of pleasure than of sorrow they
felt at the occasion that now roused them from their
dreary garrets and damp cellars. Shouts of mad tri-
umph and cries of menace burst from them as they went.
The Knight was roused from a moody contemplation of
the throng by the landlord saying aloud,

" True enough, the gaol is on fire : see, yonder, where
the dark smoke is rolling up, that is Newgate."

" But the building is of stone almost entirely of stone,
with little or no wood in its construction," said Darcy ;
" I cannot imagine how it could take fire."

" The floors, the window-frames, the rafters are of wood,
sir," said the other ; " and then," added he, with a cun-
ning leer, "remember what the inhabitants are !"

The Knight little minded the remark, for his whole
gaze was fixed on the cloud of smoke, dense and black
as night, that rolled forth, as if from the ground, and
soon enveloped the gaol and all the surrounding buildings
in darkness.

" What can that mean ? " said he, in amazement.

" It means that this is no accident, sir ?" said the man,
shrewdly; "it's only damp straw and soot can produce
the effect you see yonder; it is done by the prisoners
see, it is increasing ! and here come the fire-engines ! "

As he spoke, a heavy, cavernous sound was heard rising
from the street, where now a body of horse-police were
seen escorting the fire-engines. The service was not
without difficulty, for the mob offered every obstacle short



10G THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

of open resistance ; and once it was discovered that the
traces were cut, and considerable delay thereby occa-
sioned.

" The smoke is spreading ; see, sir, how it rolls this way,
blacker and heavier than before !"

" Et is but smoke, after all," said Darcy ; but, although
the words were uttered half-contemptuously, his heart
beat anxiously as the dense volume hung suspended in
the air, growing each moment blacker as fresh masses
arose. The cries and yells of the excited mob were now
wilder and more frantic, and seemed to issue from the
black, ill-omened mass that filled the atmosphere.

"That's not smoke, sir; look yonder!" said the man,
seizing Darcy's arm, and pointing to a reddish glare that
seemed trying to force a passage through the smoke, and
came not from the gaol, but from some building at the
side, or in front of it.

" There again ! " cried he, " that is fire ! "

The words were scarcely uttered, when a cheer burst
from the mob beneath. A yell more dissonant and
appalling could not have broken from demons than was
that shout of exultation, as the red flame leaped up and
flashed towards the sky. As the strong host of a battle
will rout and scatter the weaker enemy, so did the fierce
element dispel the less powerful ; and now the lurid glow
of a great fire lit up the air, and marked out with terrible
distinctness the waving crowd that jammed up the streets ;
the windows filled with terrified faces, and the very house-
tops crowded by terror-stricken and distracted groups.

The scene was truly an awful one ; the fire raged in
some houses exactly in front of the gaol, pouring with
unceasing violence its flood of flame through every door
and window, and now sending bright jets through the
roofs, which, rent with a report like thunder, soon be-
came one undistinguishable mass of flame. The cries for
succour, the shouts of the firemen, the screams of those
not yet rescued, and the still increasing excitement of the
mob, mingling their hellish yells of triumph through all
the dread disaster, made up a discord the most horrible ;
while, ever and anon, the police and the crowd were in
collision, vain efforts being made to keep the mob back



THE FIRE. 107

from the front of the gaol, whither they had fled as a
refuge from the heat of the burning houses.

The fire seemed to spread, defying all the efforts of the
engines. From house to house the lazy smoke was seen
to issue for a moment, and then, almost immediately
after, a new cry would announce that another building
was in flames. Meanwhile, the smoke, which in the
commencement had spread from the courtyard and win-
dows of the gaol, was again perceived to thicken in the
the same quarter, and suddenly, as if from a preconcerted
signal, it rolled out from every barred casement and loop-
holed aperture from every narrow and deep cell within
the lofty walls ; and the agonized yell of the prisoners
burst forth at the same moment, and the air seemed to
vibrate with shrieks and cries.

".Break open the gaol!" resounded on every side.
" Don't let the prisoners be burnt alive ! " was uttered in
accents whose humanity was far inferior to their menace ;
and, as if with one accord, a rush was made at the
strongly barred gates of the dark building. The move-
ment, although made with the full force of a mighty
multitude, was in vain. In vain the stones resounded
upon the thickly-studded door in vain the strength of
hundreds pressed down upon the oaken barrier. They
might as well have tried to force the strong masonry at
either side of it !

" Climb the walls!" was now the cry, and the prisoners
re-echoed the call in tones of shrieking entreaty. The
mob, savage from their recent repulse at the gate, now
seized the ladders employed by the firemen, and planted
them against the great enclosure-wall of the gaol. The
police endeavoured to charge, but, jammed up by the
crowd, their bridles in many instances cut, their weapons
wrested from them, they were almost at the mercy of the
mob. Orders had been despatched for troops, but as yet
they had not appeared, and the narrow streets being
actually choked up with people, would necessarily delay
their progress. It there were any persons in that vast
mass disposed to repel the violence of the mob, they did
not dare to avow it, the odds were so fearfully on the
side of the multitude.



108 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

The sentry who guarded the gate was trampled down.
Some averred he was killed in the first rush upon the
gate ; certain it was his cap and coat were paraded on a
pole, as a warning of what awaited his comrades within



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 9 of 35)