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his convictions.

" I hnow it, and I'll prove it, but upon one condition, your word of
honour as to secrecy." Cashel nodded, and Linton went on. " Some
short time back, some one, under the shelter of the anonymous, wrote
her a letter, stating that they had long watched her intimacy with
you, grieving over it, and regretting that she should have yielded any
portion of her affection to one, whose whole life had been a series of
deceptions ; that your pei'juries in Love's Court were undeniable, and



tliat you were actually married, legally aud regularly married, to a
young Spiinish girl,"

" AVas this told her ?" said Cashel, gasping for breath.
" Tes," the very name was given — Maritaiia, if I mistake not. — Is
there such a name?"

Cashel bent his head slightly in assent.

" How you had deserted this poor girl after having won her affec-
tions "

" This is false, Sir ; every word of it false !" said Cashel, purple
with passion ; " nor will I permit any man to drag her name before
this world of slanderers in connexion with such a tale. Great Hea-
ven ! what hypocrisy it is to have a horror for the assassin and the
cut-throat, and yet give shelter, in your society, to those who stab
character and poison reputation ! I tell you. Sir, that among those
buccaneers you have so often sneered at, you'd not meet one base
enough for this."

" I think you are too severe upon this kind of transgression,
Cashel," said Linton, calmly. " It is as often prompted by mere
idleness as malice. The great mass of people in this life have nothing
to do, and they go wrong, just for occupation. There may have
Ijeen — there generally is — a little grain of truth amid all the chaff of

fiction ; there may, therefore, be a young lady whose name was "

" I forbid you to speak it. I knew her, and girl as she was, she
was not one to suffer insult in her presence, nor shall it be offered to
her in her absence."

" My dear fellow, your generous warmth should not be unjust, or
else you will find few friends willing to incur your anger in the hope
of doing you service. I never believed a word of this story. Mar-
riage — adventure — even the young lady's identity, I deemed all
fictions together."

Cashel muttered something he meant to be apologetic for his rude-
ness, and Linton was not slow in accepting even so unwilling a re-

" Of course I think no more of it," cried he, with affected cor-
diality. " I was going to tell you how Lady Kilgoff received the
tidings — exactly the very opposite to what her kind correspondent
had intended. It actually seemed to encourage her in licr passion,
as though there was a similarity in your cases. Besides, she felt,
perhaps, that she was not damaging your future career, as it might
be asserted she had done, were you unmarried. These are mere
guesses on my part. I own to you, I have little skill in reading the
Machiavellism of a female heart : the only key to its mystery I know
of is, ' always suspect what is least likely.' "

"And I am to sit down patiently under all this calumny!" said
Cashel, as he walked the room with hasty steps. '• I am perhaps to


receive at my table those wliose amusement it is so to sport with my
character and my fame !"

" It is a very naughty "world, no doubt of it," said Linton, lighting
a fresh cigar ; " and the worst of it is, it tempts one always to be as
roguish as one's neighbours, for self-preservation."

'■ Tou say I am not at liberty to speak of this letter to Lady Kil-

" Of course not ; I am myself a defaulter in having told the matter
to you."

Cashel paced the room hurriedly ; and wliat a whirlwind of op-
posing thoughts rushed through his brain ! for while at times all
Lady Kilgoff's warnings about Linton, all his own suspicions of his
duplicity and deceit, were uppermost, there was still enough in Lin-
ton's narrative, were it true, to account for Lady Kilgoff's hatred of
him. The counsels lie had given, and she rejected, Avere enough to
fiu'uish a feud for ever between them. At which side lay the truth ?
And then, this letter about Maritaiia — who was the writer ? Could
it be Linton himself ? and if so, would he have ventured to allude
to it?

Tliese thoughts harassed and distressed him at every instant, and
in his present feeling towards Linton he could not ask his aid to
solve the mystery.

!Now, he was half disposed to charge him with the whole slander ;
his passion prompted him to seek an object for his vengeance, and
the very cool air of indifference Linton assumed was provocative of
anger. The next moment, he felt ashamed of such intemperate
warmth, and almost persuaded himself to tell him of his proposal for
Mary Leicestei', and thus prove the injustice of the suspicion about
Lady Kilgoff.

" There's a tap at the door, I think," said Linton. " I suppose, if
it's Frobisher, or any of them, you'd rather not be bored ?" And, as
if divining the answer, he arose and opened it.

" Lord Kilgoff's compliments, and requests Mr. Linton will come
over to his room," said his Lordship's valet.

" Very well," said Linton, and closed the door. " What can the
old Peer want at this time of night ? Am I to bring a message to
vou, Cashel?"

Cashel gave an insolent laugh.

*' Or shall I tell him the story of Davoust at Hamburg, when the
Syndicate accused him of peculating, and mentioned some millions
that he had abstracted from the treasury. ' All untrue, gentlemen,'
said he ; ' I never heard of the money before, but since you have been
polite enough to mention the fact, I'll not show myself so ungrateful
as to forget it.' Do you think Kilgoff would see the a pi'opos?''
"With this speech, uttered in that half-jocular mood habitual to


liim, Linton left the room, while Casliel continued to ponder over the
late scene, and its prohable consequences ; not the least serious of
which was, that Linton was possessor of his secrets. Now, thinking
upon what he had just heard of Lady Kilgoff" — now, picturing to him-
self how Mary Leicester would regard his pledge to Maritaiia, he
walked impatiently up and down, when the door opened, and Linton

" Just as I surmised !" said he, throwing himself into a chair, and
laughing heartily. " My Lord will be satisfied with nothing but a
duel a onorf.^^

" I see no cause for mirth in such a contingency," said Cashel,
gravely ; " the very rumovu* of it would ruin Lady Kilgoff."

" That of course is a grave consideration," said Linton, afiecting
seriousness ; " but it is still more his than yours."

" He is a dotard !" said Cashel, passionately, " and not to be
thought of. She is young, beautiful, and unprotected. Her fortune
is a hard one already, nor is there any need to make it still more

" I half doubt she would think it so !" said Linton, with an air of
levity, as he stooped to select a cigar.

" How do you mean, Sir?" cried Cashel, angrily.

" Why, simply, tliat when you shoot my Lord, you'll scarcely
desert my Lady," said he, with the same easy manner.

" Tou surely told him that his suspicions were unfounded and
unjust ; that my intimacy, however prompted by the greatest admira-
tion, had never transgressed the line of respect ?"

" Of course, my dear fellow, I said a thousand things of you that
I didn't believe, — and worse still, neither did he ; but the upshot of
all is, that he fancies it is a question between the Peerage and the
great untitled class ; he has got it into his wise brain that the Barons
of Eunnymede will rise from their monumental marble in horror and
sliame at such an invasion of ' the order ;' and that there will be no
longer security beneath the coronet when such a domestic Jack Cade
as yoiirself goes at large."

" I tell you again, Linton — and let it be for the last time — your
pleasantry is most ill-timed. I cannot, I will not, gratify this old
man's humour, nor make myself ridiculous to pamper his absurd
vanity. Besides, to throw a slander upon his wife, *he must seek
another instrument."

By accident, mere accident, Cashelthrewa more than usual signifi-
cance into these last few words ; and Linton, whose command over
his features rarely failed, taken suddenly by what seemed a charo;e,
grew deep red.

Cashel started as he saw the efi'ect of his speech ; he was like one
who sees his chance shot has exploded a magazine.


" Wliat!" cried lie, "have you a grudge in tliat quarter, and is it
thus you would pay it ?"

" I hope you mean this in jest, Cashel ?" said Linton, with a voice
of forced calm.

" Faith, I never was less in a mood for joking ; my words have only
such meaning as your heart accuses you of."

" Come, come, then there is no harm done. /But pray, be advised,
and never say as much to any one who has less regard for you. And
now, once more, what shall we do with Kilgoff ? He has charged me
to carry you a message, and I only undertook the mission in the hope
of some accommodation — something that should keep the whole affair
strictly amongst ourselves."

" Then you wish for my answer ?"

'' Of course."

" It is soon said. I'll not meet him."

" Not meet him ? But, just consider——"

" I have considered, and I tell you once more, I'll not meet him.
He cannot lay with truth any injury at my door ; and I will not, to
indulge his petulant vanity, be led to injure one whose fair fame is
of more moment than our absurd differences."

" I own to you, Cashel, this does not strike me as a -^-ise course.
By going out and receiving his fire, you have an opportunity of
declaring on the ground your perfect innocence of the charge ; at
least, such, I fancy, would be what I should do, in a; like event. I
would say, 'My Lord, it is your pleasure, under a very grave and
great misconception, to desire to take my life. I have stood here for
you, once, and will do so, again, as many times as you please, till
either your vengeance be satisfied or your error recognised ; simply
repeating, as I now do, that I am innocent.' In this way you will
show that personal risk is nothing with you in comparison with the
assertion of a fact that regards another far more nearly than yourself.
I will not dispute with you which line is the better one ; but, so
much will I say, This is what ' the "World ' would look for."

The word was a spell ! Cashel felt himself in a difficulty perfectly
novel. He was, as it were, arraigned to appear before a court of
whose proceedings he knew little or nothing. How "the "World"
would regard the aftaii', was the whole question — what " the "World"
would say of Lady Kilgofi" — how receive her exculpation. Now
Linton assuredly knew this same " "World " well ; he knew it in its
rare moods of good-humour, when it is pleased to speak its flatteries
to some popular idol of the hour ; and he knew it, in its more con-
genial temper, when it utters its fatal judgments on unproved de-
linquency and imputed wrong. None knew better than himself the
course by which the "Holy Office" oi slander disseminates its
decrees, and he had often impressed Eolaud with a suitable awe of its


mysterious doings. The word was, then, talismanic ; for, however at
the bar of Conscience he might stand acquitted, Cashel knew that i'j
was to another and very difterent jurisdiction the appeal should be
made. Linton saw what was passing in his mind, for he had often
watched him in similar conflicts, and he hastened to press his ad-

" Understand me well, Cashel; I do not pretend to say that this is
the common-sense solution of such a difficulty ; nor is it the mode
•which a man witb frankness of claaracter and honourable intentions
would perhaps have selected ; but it is the way in which the world
will expect to see it treated, and any deviation from which would be
regarded as a solecism in our established code of conduct."

" In what position will it place het' ? That's the only question worth,

" Perfect exculpation. You, as I said before, receive Kilgoff's fire,
and protest your entire innocence : my Lord accepts your assurance,
and goes home to breakfast — voilci toutP''

" What an absurd situation ! I declare to you, I shrink from the
ridicule that must attach to such a rencontre, meeting a man of liis
age and infirmity !"

"They make pistols admirably now-a-days," said Linton, dryly;
" even the least atliletic can pull a hair-trigger."

Cashel made no answer to this speech, but stood still, uncertain how
to act.

" Come, come," said Linton, " you are giving the whole thing an
importance it does not merit ; just let the old Peer have the plea-
sure of his bit of heroism, and it will all end as I have mentioned.
They'll leave this to-morrow early, reach Killaloe to breakfast,
whence Kilgoff will start for the place of meeting, and, by ten
o'clock, you'll be there also. The only matter to arrange is, whom
you'll get. Were it a real affair, I'd say Upton, or Probislier ; but,
here, it is a question of secrecy, not skill. I'd advise, if possible, your
having MacParline."

" Sir Andrew ?" said Casliel, half laughing.

" Yes ; his age and standing are precisely what we want here. He'll
not refuse you ; and if he should, it's only telling Lady Janet that we
want to shoot Kilgoff, and she'll order him out at once."

" I protest it looks more absurd than ever!" said Koland, im-

" Tliat is merely your own prejudice," said Linton. " You cannot
regard single combat but as a life-struggle between two men, equal
not merely in arms, but alike in bodily energy, prowess, skill and
courage. AVe look on the matter here as a mere lottery, wherein tlie
less expert as often draws the prize But there, as I vow, that was


two o'clock ! It struck, and I promised to see KilgofF again to-niglit.
By the way, he'll want horses. "Where can he get them ?"

" Let him take mine ; there are plenty of them, and he'll never know
anything of it."

" Very true. "What an obliging adversar}^, that actually ' posts' his
enemy to the ground !"

" How am I to see MacFarline to-night ?"

" You'll have to call him out of bed. Let Tlint say there's an orderly
from Limerick with despatches ; that Biddy Molowney won't pay her
poor-rate, or Paddy Flanagan has rescued his pig, and the magistrates
are calling for the Fifty-something and two squadrons of horse, to
protect the police. You'll soon have him up ; and, once up, his Scotch
blood will make him as discreet as an archdeacon. So, good night ;
add a codicil to your will in favour of my Lady, and to bed."

With this Linton took his candle and retired.

Cashel, once more alone, began to ponder over the difficulty of his
position. The more he reasoned on the matter, the stronger appeared
his fears that Lady KilgofF's name would be compromised by a foolish
and unmeaning quarrel ; while, for himself, he saw nothing but ridi-
cule and shame from his compliance. That omnipotent arbiter, " the
"World," might indeed be satisfied, but Eoland suspected that few of
its better-judging members would hesitate to condemn a course as un-
feeling as it was unwise.

A quick, sharp knocking at the door of his room aroused him from
his musings. It was Lady Kilgoff 's maid, breathless and agitated.
She came to say that Lord Kilgoff", after a scene of passionate excite-
ment with her Ladyship, had been seized with paralysis, and that he
was now lying powerless and unconscious on his bed.

" Come, Sir, for mercy's sake ; come quickly. My Lady is dis-
tracted, nor can any of us think of what to do."

Cashel scratched a few lines in pencil to Tiernay, requesting his im-
mediate presence, and, ringing for his servant, at once despatched a
message to the village. This done, he followed the maid to Lord
Ivilgoff's chamber.


The waters darken, and the rustling sound
Tells of the coming " squall."

The Pilot.

Lord Kilgoff was stretched upon a bed, breathing heavily ; one
arm lay straight beside him, and the other crossed upon his breast.
His features were deadly pale, save in the centre of each cheek, where


a deep-red spot seemed to burn. A slight, very sliglat distortion
marked his features, and a faint tremor seemed to quiver on his lip.
Beside the bed, with an expression of some conscious terror in her
face, sat Lady Ivilgoif ; her white dressing-gown, over which her hair
fell in long abundant masses, added pallor to her looks. Her eyes
met Cashel's as he entered, and then reverted to the bed where the
sick man lay, but with an expression less of sorrow than of bewilder-
ment and confusion.

She looked, indeed, like one whose faculties had been stunned by
some sudden shock, and had, as yet, made no effort to recal them to
their wonted exercise. At the foot of the bed stood the maid, whose
half-uttered sobs were the only sounds to break the stillness.

Cashel drew near, and placed his fingers on the sick man's pulse.
Often had he, in his former adventurous career, felt the ebbing cur-
rent of a life's blood, and measured its power by its resistance. The
full but labouring swell of the heart might well deceive him, then,
into the impression that no grave consequences were near. He knew
not that in such affections the pulse can be round, and strong, and
impulsive ; and it was with an earnest conviction of truth, he whispered
to her,

"There is no danger."

She looked up, but it was easy to see that although the words had
sounded like comfort, they had not pierced the dense veil that clouded
her mind.

Cashel repeated the phrase, and said,

" Tiernay will soon be here, but have no fears ; my own slight skill
can tell you there is nothing of peril. Had you not better retire from
this — even to the window ?"

A faint " No" was all she uttered,

" He was in perfect health this afternoon ?" said Cashel to the maid.

" My Lord was better than usual, Su' ; he took out his collar and
his star to look at them, and he spoke very pleasantly of going abroad
in the spring. He was reading in the library when Mr. Linton went
to him."

" Linton !" muttered Lady Kilgoff, with a shudder.

" I think I hear voices in the corridor," said Cashel. " If it be the
Doctor, say I wish to speak with him before he sees my Lord."

The maid left the room to perform the commission, and scarcely
had the door closed, than Lady Kilgoff started up, and seizing an
object which lay on the bed, exclaimed, '* How came it in your
keeping ?"

""What?" cried Cashel, in amazement.

"This bracelet," said she, holding out towards him the massive
bracelet whicli Linton had contrived to detach trom her arm at their
meeting in the " Park."


" I never saw it before — never in my life."

She sank slowly back upon the chair without speaking, while a
faint tremor shook her frame.

"The Doctor is without, Sir," said the maid at this moment, and
Cashel hastened out. He spoke a few hurried words to Tiernay, and
then walked towards his own room. That some deep and artful
treachery had drawn its web around and about him, involving not
himself alone but another too, he now clearly felt. He saw danger,
as the sailor sees it in the lowering sky and fleeting scud, but as yet
lie knew not from what quarter the " squall" was coming. His sus-
picions all pointed to Linton; but why attribute such a game to
him ? and if such were his purpose, to what end could he practise
this treachery?"

"Would it not be better," thought he, "to see him at once; tell
him my suspicions openly ; say that I no longer trust him as my
friend, but feel towards him the misgivings of a secret enemy ? If
there is manliness about him, he will avow his enmity, or resent my
distrust; either or both would be a relief to what I now suffer.
Ah! here he comes," said he; but he was deceived; it was Tiernay

" What say you. Doctor ? Is the case a grave one ?"
" Worse ; it is nearly hopeless !"
" What ! do you fear for his life ?"

" Life or intellect, one or the other, must pay the penalty. This is
the second shock. The shipwreck gave the first, and rent the poor
edifice almost in twain ; this will, in all likelihood, lay it in ashes."

"This is very dreadful !" said Cashel, upon whom the attendant
events and the consequences were weighing heavily.

" He has told me all !" said Tiernay, almost sternly. " Sis jealousy
and her levity — the rampant pride of station — the reckless freedom
of a broken heart — such are the ingredients that have made up a sad
story, which may soon become a tragedy."

" But there was no reason for it ; his jealousy was absurd — un-

" As you will. Tou may go further, and say he could not lose what
he never owned. I saw the peril — I even warned you of it."
• " I can only comprehend you by half," said Cashel, impatiently.
" Tou imply blame to me where I can feel none."

" I blame you as I will ever do those, who, not fearing danger for
themselves, are as indifierent about their neighbours. It is not of this
silly old man I am thinking here — it is of her, who, without a pro-
tector, should have found one in every man of generous and honour-
able feeling ; not as you, perhaps, understand protection — not by the
challenge hurled in the face of all who would dare to asperse her fair
fame, but by that studied respect, that hallowed deference, that should


avert detraction. Xeitber you nor any other could be the champion
of licr honour ; but you might have been its defender by a better and
a nobler heroism. It is too late to think of this now ; let us not lose
time in vain regrets. We must take measures that ungenerous re-
ports should not be circulated."

The door suddenly opened at the instant, and Linton, in his
dressing-gown, entered ; but, seeing Tiernay, made a motion to re-

" Come in," said Cashel ; and there was something almost pe-
remptory iu the words.

" I feared I might prove an intruder, seeing the Doctor here. Is
it true what my servant says, that KilgofFis dangerously ill ?"

Cashel nodded.

" Poor fellow ! he has no command over himself in those pai'oxysms
of passion, which his folly and vanity are so constantly stirring up.
But is the case serious ?"

" He will scarcely recover, Sir," said Tiernay ; " and it was because
jny functions as a physician can be of so little benefit, that I ventiu'ed
to offer my services as a friend in the case, and give some counsel as
to what should be done."

" Most considerate, indeed," said Linton, but in an accent at once
impossible to say whether ironical or the reverse.

" I said, Sir," resumed Tiernay, " tliat it would be becoming tliat
no false representation should obtain currency as to the origin of the
illness, nor that a momentary excitement of a feeble intellect should
be assumed as tlie settled conviction of a sound mind. My Lord
Kilgoff has had something like altercation with his wife, and being a
weak and failing man, with breaking faculties, he has been seized with
a paralytic attack."

" Very thoughtful, all this," said Linton, gravely ; " pray command
me in any part of your plan where I may be serviceable."

" The plan is this," said Cashel: " here is a case where a terrible
calamity has befallen, and which cau be made worse only by calumn3%
To make the slanderer pay the heaviest penalty of his infamy "

" Nay, nay — this is not our plan," said Tiernay, gently ; " Lord
Kilgoff's attack must be spoken of without connexion with any cir-
cumstances Avhich preceded it this evening. Nothing was more likely
to occur than such a seizure : his age — his late illness — his peculiar
habit, all predisposed to it."

" Just so," interposed Cashel, hastily ; " and as none save you,
Linton, and myself, know anything of the matter, it need never gain
wider publicity."

" Of course nothing can be easier than this. The Lady ' Janets '
need never hear a word more than you choose to tell them," said


'' In a few days he will bear removal. Cbauge will be necessary for
bim ; and, in fiict, onr caution is, doubtless, greater than the necessity
warrants," added Tiernay.

" Tou will, of course, leave everytbing to talce its course in tbe
bouse?" said Linton. "To interfere witb all tbe plans of pleasure
would be to give rise to malicious rumours."

"I scarcely know bow to act," said Casbel. "It looks unfeeling
and unkind tbat we sboidd give ourselves up to gaiety at sucb a

" Mr. Linton's counsel maybe wise, notwithstanding," said Tiernay.
''His Lordsbip may continue a long time in bis present state."

Online LibraryCharles James LeverRoland Cashel (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 32)