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down upon the stone, and, taking off my cap, bathed my heated and
throbbing temples in the cold spring. Refreshed at once, I was
about to rise and press onward, when suddenly my attention was
caught by a sound which, faint from the distance, scarce struck upon
my ear. I listened again, but all was still and silent ; the dull plash
of the river, as it broke upon the reedy shore, was the only sound I
heard. Thinking it probably some mere delusion of my heated
imagination, I rose to push forward ; but at the moment a slight
breeze stirred in the leaves around me, the light branches rustled
and bent beneath it, and a low, moaning sound swelled upward, in-
creasing each instant as it came. Like the distant roar of some
mighty torrent, it grew louder as the wind bore it towards me, and
now falling, now swelling, it burst forth into one loud prolonged cry
of agony and grief. Oh God ! it was the death wail ! I fell upon
my knees, my hands clasped in agony ; the sweat of misery dropped
off my brow, and with a heart bleeding and breaking, I prayed — I
know not what. Again the terrible cry smote upon my ear, and I



644 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

could mark the horrible cadences of the death-song, as the voices of
the mourners joined in chorus.

My suspense became too great to bear, I dashed madly forward,
one sound still ringing in my ears, one horrid image before my eyes.
I reached the garden-wall ; I cleared the little rivulet beside the
flower-garden. I traversed its beds (neglected and decayed), I gained
the avenue, taking no heed of the crowds before me — some on foot,
some on horseback, others mounted upon the low country car, many
seated in groups upon the grass, their heads bowed upon their
bosoms, silent and speechless. As I neared the house, the whole
approach was crowded with carriages and horsemen ; at the foot of
the large flight of steps stood the black and mournful hearse, its
plumes nodding in the breeze. With the speed of madness and the
recklessness of despair, I tore my way through the thickly-standing
groups upon the steps ; I could not speak, I could not utter. Once
more the frightful cry swelled upward, and its wild notes seemed to
paralyze me ; for, with my hands upon my temples, I stood motion-
less and still. A heavy footfall, as of persons marching in proces-
sion, came nearer and nearer, and, as the sounds without sank into
sobs of bitterness and woe, the black pall of a coffin, borne on men's
shoulders, appeared at the door, and an old man, whose gray hair
floated in, the breeze, and across whose stern features a struggle for
self-mastery — a kind of spasmodic effort — was playing, held out his
hand to enforce silence. His eye, lack-lustre and dimmed with age,
roved over the assembled multitude, but there was no recognition in
his look until at last he turned it on me. A slight hectic flush covered
his pale cheek, his lip trembled, he essayed to speak, but could not.
I sprang towards him, but, choked by agony, I could not utter ; my
look, however, spoke what my tongue could not. He threw his arms
around me, and, muttering the words " Poor Godfrey !" pointed to
the coffin.



CHAPTER XLV.

HOME.



M



"ANY years have passed away since the time I am now about
to speak of, and yet I cannot revert, even for a moment, to
the period without a sad and depressing feeling at my heart.
The wreck of fortune, the thwarting of ambition, the failure of
enterprise, great though they be, are endurable evils. The never-



HOME. 645

dying hope that youth is blessed with will find its resting-place still
within the breast, and the baffled and beaten will struggle on uncon-
quered ; but for the death of friends, for the loss of those in whom
our dearest affections were centred, there is no solace; the terrible
" never" of the grave knows no remorse, and even memory, that in
our saddest hours can bring bright images and smiling faces before
us, calls up here only the departed shade of happiness, a passing
look at that Eden of our joys from which we are separated forever.
And the desolation of the heart is never perfect till it has felt the
echoes of a last farewell on earth reverberating within it.

Oh, with what tortures of self-reproach we think of all former
intercourse with him that is gone ! How would we wish to live our
lives once more, correcting each passage of unkindness or neglect!
How deeply do we blame ourselves for occasions of benefit lost, and
opportunities unprofited by ; and how unceasingly, through after-
life, the memory of the departed recurs to us ! In all the ties which
affection and kindred weave around us, one vacant spot is there,
unseen and unknown by others, which no blandishments of love,
no caresses of friendship, can fill up. Although the rank grass and
the tall weeds of the churchyard may close around the humble
tomb, the cemetery of the heart is holy and sacred, pure from all
the troubled thoughts and daily cares of the busy world. To that
hallowed spot do we retire as into our chamber, and when unre-
warded efforts bring discomfiture and misery to our minds, when our
friends are false, and cherished hopes are blasted, we think on those
who never ceased to love till they had ceased to live ; and in the
lonely solitude of our affliction we call upon those who hear not, and
may never return.

********

Mine was a desolate hearth. I sat moodily down in the old oak
parlor, my heart bowed down with grief. The noiseless steps, the
mourning garments of the old servants, the unnatural silence of
those walls within which from my infancy the sounds of merriment
and mirth had been familiar, the large old-fashioned chair where he
was wont to sit, now placed against the wall, — all spoke of the sad
past. Yet when some footsteps would draw near, and the door
would open, I could not repress a thrill of hope that he was coming;
more than once I rushed to the window and looked out ; I could
have sworn I heard his voice.

The old cob pony he used to ride was grazing peacefully before the
door; poor Carlo, his favorite spaniel, lay stretched upon the ter-
race, turning ever and anon a look towards the window, and then,
as if wearied of watching for him who came not, he would utter a
long, low, wailing cry, and lie down again to sleep. The rich lawn,



646 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

decked with field flowers of many a hue, stretched away towards the
river, upon whose calm surface the white-sailed lugger scarce seemed
to move ; the sounds of a well-known Irish air came, softened by
distance, as some poor fisherman sat mending his net upon the bank
and the laugh of children floated on the breeze. Yes, they were
happy !

Two months had elapsed since my return home ; how passed by
me I know not ; a lethargic stupor had settled upon me. Whole
days long I sat at the window, looking listlessly at the tranquil river
and watching the white foam as, borne down from the rapids, it
floated lazily along. The Count had left me soon, being called up
to Dublin by some business, and I was utterly alone. The different
families about called frequently to ask after me, and would, doubt-
less, have done all in their power to alleviate my sorrow and lighten
the load of my affliction ; but with a morbid fear, I avoided every
one, and rarely left the house except at nightfall, and then only to
stroll by some lonely and deserted path.

Life had lost its charm for me ; my gratified ambition had ended
in the blackest disappointment, and all for which I had labored and
longed was only attained that I might feel it valueless.

Of my circumstances as to fortune I knew nothing, and cared not
more ; poverty and riches could matter little now ; all my day-
dreams were dissipated now, and I only waited for Considine's re-
turn to leave Ireland forever. I had made up my mind, if, by any
unexpected turn of fate, the war should cease in the Peninsula, to
exchange into an Indian regiment. The daily association with
objects which recalled but one image to my brain, and that ever ac-
companied by remorse of conscience, gave me not a moment's peace.
My every thought of happiness was mixed up with scenes which
now presented nothing but the evidences of blighted hope. To re-
main, then, where I was, would be to sink into the heartless misan-
thropist, and I resolved that with my sword I would carve out a
soldier's fortune and a soldier's grave.

Considine came at last. I was sitting alone, at my usual post be-
side the window, when the chaise rattled up to the door. For an
instant I started to my legs ; a vague something like hope shot

through me ; the whole might be a dream, and he The next

moment I became cold and sick, a faintish giddiness obscured my
sight, and though I felt his grasp as he took my hand, I saw him
not.

An indistinct impressio*n still dwells upon my mind of his chiding
me for my weakness in thus giving way ; of his calling upon me to
assert my position, and discharge the duties of him whose successor
I now was. I heard him in silence, and, when he concluded, faintly



HOME. 647

pledging myself to obey him, I hurried to my room, and throwing
myself upon my bed, burst into an agony of tears. Hitherto my
pent-up sorrow had wasted me day by day ; but the rock was now
smitten, and in that gush of misery my heart found relief.

When I appeared the following morning, the Count was struck
with my altered looks. A settled sorrow could not conceal the
changes which time and manhood had made upon me; and as from
a kind of fear of showing how deeply I grieved, I endeavored to con-
ceal it, by degrees I was enabled to converse calmly and dispassion-
ately upon my fortunes.

" Poor Godfrey/' said he, " appointed me his sole executor a few
days before it happened ; he knew the time was drawing near, and,
strange enough, Charley, though he heard of your return to England,
he would not let us write. The papers spoke of you as being at
Carlton House almost daily ; your name appeared at every great
festival ; and, while his heart warmed at your brilliant success, he
absolutely dreaded your coming home. ' Poor fellow !'. he would
say, ' what a change for him, to leave the splendor and magnificence
of his Prince's board for our meagre fare and altered fortunes ! And
then/ he added, ' as for me — God forgive me ! I can go now — but
how should I bear to part with him if he comes back to me ?' And
now," said the Count, when he had concluded a detailed history of
my dear uncle's last illness — "and now, Charley, what are your
plans ?"

Briefly, and in a few words, I stated to him my intentions. With-
out placing much stress upon the strongest of my reasons — my dis-
taste to what had once been home — I avowed my wish to join my
regiment at once.

He heard me with evident impatience, and, as I finished, seized
my arm in his strong grasp. " No, no, boy, — none of this ; your
tone of assumed composure cannot impose on Bill Considine. You
must not return to the Peninsula — at least, not yet awhile ; the dis-
gust of life may be strong at twenty, but it's not lasting; besides,
Charley," — here his voice faltered slightly — "his wishes you'll not
treat lightly. Read this."

As he spoke, he took a blotted and ill-written letter from his
breast-pocket, and handed it to me. It was in my poor uncle's hand,
and dated the very morning of his death. It ran thus :

" Dear Bill: — Charley must never part with the old house, come
what will ; I leave too many ties behind for a stranger's heritage ; he
must live among my old friends, and watch, protect, and comfort
them. He has done enough for fame ; let him now do something
for affection. We have none of us been over good to these poor



648 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

people ; one of the name must try and save our credit. God blesg
you both ! It is perhaps the last time I shall utter it.

" G. O'M."

I read these few and, to me, affecting lines over and over, forget-
ful of all save of him who penned them ; when Considine, who sup-
posed that my silence was attributable to doubt and hesitation,
called out :

" Well, what now ?"

" I remain," said I, briefly.

He seized me in his arms with transport, as he said :

" I knew it, boy — I knew it. They told me you were spoiled by
flattery, and your head turned by fortune ; they said that home and
country would weigh lightly in the balance against fame and glory;
but I said no, I knew you better. I told them indignantly that I
had nursed you on my knee ; that I watched you from infancy to
boyhood, from boy to man ; that he of whose stock you came had
one feeling paramount to all, his love of his own fatherland, and
that you would not disgrace him. Besides, Charley, there's not an
humble hearth for many a long mile around us where, amid the
winter's blast — tempered, not excluded, by frail walls and poverty —
there's not one such but where poor Godfrey's name rises each night
in prayer, and blessings are invoked on him by those who never felt
them themselves.' ,

" I'll not desert them."

" I know you'll not, boy— I know you'll not. Now for the means."

Here he entered into a long and complicated account of my dear
uncle's many difficulties, by which it appeared that, in order to leave
the estate free of debt to me, he had for years past undergone severe
privations. These, however— such is the misfortune of unguided
effort— had but ill succeeded ; and there was scarcely a farm on the
property without its mortgage, Upon the house and demesne a
bond for three thousand pounds still remained ; and to pay off this,
Considine advised my selling a portion of the property.

" It's old Blake lent the money ; and only a week before your
uncle died he served a notice for repayment. I never told Godfrey
—it was no use ; it could only embitter his last few hours ; and, be-
sides, we had six months to think of it. The half of that time has
now elapsed, however ; we must see to this."

"And did Blake really make this demand, knowing my poor
uncle's difficulties ?"

"Why, I half think he did not, for Godfrey was too fine a fellow
ever to acknowledge anything of the sort. He had twelve sheep
killed for the poor in Scariff, at a time when not a servant of the



HOME. 649

house tasted meat for months ; ay, and our own table, too, none of
the most abundant, I assure you."

What a picture was this ! and how forcibly did it remind me of
what I had witnessed in times past. Thus meditating, we returned
to the house ; and Considine, whose activity never slumbered, sat
down to con over the rent-roll with old Maguire the steward.

When I joined the Count in the evening, I found him surrounded
by maps, rent-rolls, surveys, and leases. He had been poring over
those various documents, to ascertain from which portion of the
property we could best recruit our falling finances. To judge
from the embarrassed look and manner with which he met me, the
matter was one of no small difficulty. The incumbrances upon the
estate had been incurred with an unsparing hand; and except
where some irreclaimable tract of bog or mountain rendered a loan
impracticable, each portion of the property had its share of debt.

"You can't sell Killantry, for Basset has above six thousand
pounds on it already ; to be sure, there's the Priest's Meadows — fine
land and in good heart; but Malony was an old tenant of the
family, and I cannot recommend your turning him over to a stranger.
The Widow M'Bride's farm is perhaps the best, after all, and it
would certainly bring the sum we want ; still, poor Mary was your
nurse, Charley, and it would break her heart to do it."

Thus, wherever we turned, some obstacle presented itself, if not
from moneyed causes, at least from those ties and associations
which, in an attached and faithful tenantry, are sure to grow up
between them and the owner of the soil.

Feeling how all-important these things were — endeavoring as I
was to fulfil the will and work out the intentions of my uncle, I saw
at once that to sell any portion of the property must separate me,
to a certain extent, from those who had long looked up to our house,
and who, in the feudalism of the west, could ill withdraw their
allegiance from their own chief to swear fealty to a stranger. The
richer tenants were those whose industry and habits rendered them
objects of worth and attachment ; to the poorer ones, to whose im-
providence and whose follies (if you will) their poverty is owing, I
was bound by those ties which the ancient habit of my house had
contracted for centuries ; the bond of benefit conferred can be
stronger than the debt of gratitude itself. What was I then to do?
My income would certainly permit of my paying the interest upon
the several mortgages, and still retaining wherewithal to live ; the
payment of Blake's bond was my only difficulty, and, small as it
was, it was still a difficulty.

" I have it, Charley !" said Considine ; " I've found out the way
of doing it. Blake will have no objection, I'm sure, to take the



650 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.

widow's farm in payment of his debt, giving you a power of redemp-
tion within five years. In that time, what with economy — some
management— perhaps," added he, smiling slightly— " perhaps a
wife with money, may relieve all your embarrassments at once. Well,
well, I know you are not thinking of that just now ; but come, what
say you to my plan ?"

" I know not well what to say. It seems to be the best ; but still
I have my misgivings."

" Of course you have, my boy ; nor could I love you if you'd part
with an old and faithful follower without them. But, after all, she
is only a hostage to the enemy : we'll win her back, Charley."

" If you think so "

"I do. I know it."

" Well, then, be it so ; only one thing I bargain — she must her-
self consent to this change of masters. It will seem to her a harsh
measure that the child she had nursed and fondled in her arms
should live to disunite her from those her oldest attachments upon
earth. We must take care, sir, that Blake cannot dispossess her ;
this would be too hard."

" No, no ; that we'll guard against. And now, Charley, with
prudence and caution, we'll clear off every encumbrance, and
O'Malley Castle shall yet be what it was in days of yore. Ay, boy !
with the descendant of the old house for its master, and not that
general — how do you call him? — who came down here to contest the
county, who, with his offer of thirty thousand pounds, thought to
uproot the oldest family of the west. Did I ever show you the letter
we wrote him ?"

" No, sir," replied I, trembling with agitation as I spoke ; " you
merely alluded to it in one of yours."

"Look here, lad !"said he, drawing it from the recesses of a black
leather pocket-book. " I took a copy of it. Eead that."

The document was dated " O'Malley Castle, Dec. 9." It ran thus :

" Sir : — I have this moment learned from my agent that you, or
some one empowered by you for the purpose, made an offer of seve-
ral thousand pounds to buy up the different mortgages upon my
property, with a subsequent intention of becoming its possessor.^
Now, sir, I beg to tell you that if your ungentlemanlike and under-
hand plot had succeeded, you dared not darken with your shadow
the doorsill of the house you purchased. Neither your gold nor
your flattery — and I hear you are rich in both — could wipe out from
the minds and hearts of my poor tenantry the kindness of centuries.
Be advised, then, sir ; withdraw your offer. Let a Galway gentle-
man settle his own difficulties in his own way ; his troubles and



HOME. 651

cares are quite sufficient, without your adding to them. There can
be but one mode in which your interference with him could be
deemed acceptable ; need I tell you, sir, who are a soldier, how that
is? As I know your official duties are important, and as my
nephew — who feels with me perfectly in this business — is abroad,
I can only say that failing health and a broken frame shall not pre-
vent my undertaking a journey to England, should my doing so
meet your wishes on that occasion.

" I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Godfrey O'Malley."

" This letter," continued Considine, " I enclosed in an envelope,
with the following few lines of my own : —

" ' Count Considine presents his compliments to Lieutenant-
General Dashwood, and feeling that, as the friend of Mr. Godfrey
O'Malley, the mild course pursued by that gentleman may possibly
be attributed to his suggestion, he begs to assure General Dashwood
that the reverse was the case, and that he strenuously counselled
the propriety of laying a horsewhip upon the General's shoulders,
as a preliminary step in the transaction.

" ' Count Considine's address is No. 16 Kildare street.' "

" Great God !" said I, " is this possible ?"

" Well may you say so, my boy ; for — would you believe it ? —
after all that, he writes a long, blundering apology, protesting I
know not what about motives of former friendship, and terminating
with a civil hint that we have done with him forever. Of my para-
graph he takes no notice ; and thus ends the whole affair."

* And with it my last hope also !" muttered I to myself.

That Sir George Dashwood's intentions had been misconstrued
and mistaken I knew perfectly well ; that nothing but the accumu-
lated evils of poverty and sickness could have induced my poor
uncle to write such a letter I was well aware ; but now, the mischief
was accomplished, the evil was done, and nothing remained but to
bear with patience and submission, and to endeavor to forget what
thus became irremediable.

" Did Sir George Dashwood make no allusion to me, sir, in his
reply?" inquired I, catching at anything like a hope.

" Your name never occurs in his letter. But you look pale, boy ;
all these discussions come too early upon you ; besides, you stay too
much at home, and take no exercise."

So saying, Considine bustled off towards the stables, to look after
some young horses that had just been taken up ; and I walked out
alone, to ponder over what I had heard, and meditate on my plans
for the future.



652 CHARLES O'M ALLEY.



CHAPTER XLVI.

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.

THE irritation of my spirit gradually subsided as I wandered
on. It was, to be sure, distressing to think over the light in
which my uncle's letter had placed me before Sir George
Dash wood, had even my reputation only with him been at stake ;
but with my attachment to his daughter, it was almost maddening.
And yet there was nothing to be done ; to disavow my participation
would be to throw discredit upon my uncle. Thus were my hopes
blighted ; and thus, at that season when life was opening upon me,
did I feel careless and indifferent to everything. Had my military
career still remained to me, that, at least, would have suggested
scenes sufficient to distract me from the past; but now my days
must be spent where every spot teemed with memories of bygone
happiness and joys never to come back again.

My mind was, however, made up, and I turned homeward. With-
out speaking a word to Considine, I sat down at my writing-table.
In a few brief lines I informed my army agent of my intention of
leaving the service, and desired that he would sell out for me at
once. Fearing lest my resolution might not be proof against the
advice and solicitation of my friends, I cautioned him against giving
my address, or any clue by which letters might reach me.

This done, I addressed a short note to Mr. Blake, requesting to
know the name of his solicitor in whose hands the bond was placed,
and announcing my intention of immediate repayment.

Trifling as these details were in themselves, I cannot help record-
ing how completely they changed the whole current of my thoughts.
A new train of interests began to spring up within me ; and where
so lately the clang of the battle, the ardor of the march, the careless
ease of the bivouac, had engrossed every feeling, now more humble
and homely thoughts succeeded ; and as my personal ambition had
lost its stimulant, I turned with pleasure to those of whose fate and
fortunes I was in some sort the guardian. There may be many a
land where the verdure blooms more in fragrance and in richness, —
where the clime breathes softer, and a brighter sky lights up the
landscape ; but there is none — I have travelled through many a one
— where more touching and heart-bound associations are blended
with the features of the soil than in Ireland, and cold must be the
spirit and barren the affections of him who can dwell amid its moun-
tains and its valleys, its tranquil lakes, its wooded fens, without



Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 67 of 80)