Charles James Lever.

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a secret as well as you can."

As he spoke, he threw down the glittering pieces upon the step on
which they sat.

The peasant's eyes were bent upon the money with a fierce and
angry expression, less betokening desire than actual hate. As he
looked at them, his cheek grew red, and then pale, and red once
more ; his broad chest rose and fell like a swelling wave, and his
bony fingers clasped each other in a rigid grasp.

" Tliere are twenty more where these came from," said Linton,

" That's a high price — devil a lie in it !" muttered Tom, thought-

Linton spoke not, but seemed to let the charm work.

" A high price, but the ' dhrop' in Limerick ia higher," said Tom,
with a grin.


'■Perhaps it may be," rejoined Linton, carelessly; "tliougli I
don't perceive how the fact can have any interest for you or me."

" Be Gorra, ye're a cowld man, anyhow," said Keane, his savage
nature struck with admiring wonder at the unmoved serenity of
Linton's manner.

" I'm a determined one," said Linton, who saw the necessity of im-
pressing his companion ; " and with such alone would I wish to act."

" And where would you be, after it was all over. Sir ?"

" Here, where I am at present, assisting the Magistrates to scour
the country — searching every cabin at Drumcoologan — draining
ditches to discover the weapon, and arresting every man that killed
a pig and got blood on his corduroys for the last fortnight."

" And where would J be ?" asked Keane.

" Here too ; exactly where you sit this moment, quietly waiting till
the outcry was over. Nor need that make you impatient. I have
said already there is neither wife, nor sister, nor brother, nor child to
take up the pursuit. There are forty people iu the great house, yonder,
and there wouldn't be four of them left two hours after it was known,
nor one out of the four that would give himself the trouble of asking
how it happened."

" An' them's Gentlemen .'" said Keane, closing his Kps and shaking
his head sententiously.

Linton arose ; he did not over-fancy the turn of reflection Tom's
remark implied : it looked too like the expression of a general con-
demnation of his class — at the very moment, too, when he was de-
sirous of impressing him with the fuUest trust and confidence in his
own honour.

" I believe it's safer to have nothin' to do with it," muttered

"As you please, friend," replied Linton; "I never squeeze any
man's conscience. You know best what your own life is."

" Hard enough, that's what it is," said the other, bitterly.

" Ton can also make a guess what it wiU be iu future, when you
leave this."

A deep groan was all that he gave for answer.

" Eor all that I know, you may have many friends who'll not see
your wife and children begging along the roads, or sitting in a hole
scooped out of a clay ditch, -nithout food or fire, waiting for the fever
to finish wliat famine has begun. You haven't far to seek for what
I mean ; about two hundred yards from that gate yonder, there's a
group exactly like it."

" Ye're a terrible man, that's the truth," said Tom, as he wiped the
big drops of perspiration from his forehead. " Be Gorra, I never seed
your like afore!"


"I told you tliat I was a determined man," said Linton, sternly;
*' and I'm sorry to see that's not what I should say of you." He
moved a step or two as he spoke, and then turning carelessly back,
added, " Leave that money for me at ' The House,' this evening ; I
don't wisli to carry gold about me on the roads here." And with this
negligent remark he departed,

Linton sauntered carelessly away ; nothing in his negligent air and
carriage to show that he was not lounging to kill the weary hours of
a winter's day. No sooner, however, had he turned an angle of the
road than he entered the wood, and with cautious steps retraced his
way, till he stood within a few paces of where Keane yet sat, still and

His worn hat was pressed down upon his brows, his hands were
firmly clasped, and his head bent so as to conceal his features ; and
iu this attitude he remained as rigidly impassive as though he were
seized with a catalepsy. A few heavy drops of rain fell, and then a
low growling roar of thunder followed, but he heeded not these signs
of coming storm. The loud cawing of the rooks as they hastened
homeward filled the air, but he never once lifted his head to watch
them. Another crash of thunder was heard, and suddenly the rain
burst forth in torrents. Swooping along in heavy drifts, it blackened
the very atmosphere, and rushed in rivulets down the gravel walk ;
but still he sat, while the pelting storm penetrated his frail garments
and soaked them through. , Nor was it till the water lay in pools at
his feet that he seemed conscious of the hurricane. Then rising
suddenly, he shook himself roughly, and entered the house,

Linton's eyes were earnestly fixed \ipon the stone — he crept nearer
to observe it. The money was gone.


The mask is falling fast. — Harold.

The day of the great masquerade arrived ; and, from an early hour,
the whole household was astir in preparing for the occasion. The
court-yard was thronged with carriages of various sorts. Confectioners
from London, table-deckers from Paris, were tiicre, accompanied by
all the insignia of their callings. Great lumbering packing-cases were
strewn about; while rich stuffs, rare exotics, and costly delicacies
littered the stone benches, and even lay upon the pavement, in all the
profusion of haste and recklessness. To sec the rare and rich articles
which were heaped on every side, almost suggested the notion that it


Tvas some gorgeous mansion which was put to pillage. There was that,
too, in the lounging insolence of the servants, as they went, that
favoured the illusion. The wanton waste exhibited everywhere was
the very triumph of that vulgar and vindictive spirit which prompts
the followers of a spendthrift master to speed the current of his ruin.
Such would seem to be the invariable influence that boundless pro-
fusion exercises on the mind ; and it is thus that affluence, imchastened
by taste, unruled by principle, is always a corrupter !

A light travelling-carriage, with a few articles of travelling use at-
tached, stood in the midst of all this confusion ; and shortly after
day-dawn two gentlemen issued from the house, and taking their
seats, drove hastily forth, and at full speed passed down the avenue
towards the high road.

These were Cashel and IMr. Kennyfeck, who had made an appoint-
ment to meet Mr. Hoare at Killaloe and proceed with him to Drum-
coologan, on which portion of the estate it was proposed to raise a
considerable sum by mortgage.

Some observation of Mr. Kennyfeck upon the wasteful exhibition
of the scene in the court-yard, was met by a sharp and angry reply
from Cashel ; and these were both overheard as they issued forth —
vague words, spoken thoughtlessly at the time, but to be remembered
afterwards with a heavier significance than the speakers could have
anticipated ! As they hastened along, little was said on either side ;
the trifling irritation of the first moment created a reserve, which
deepened into actual coldness, as each following out his own thoughts
took no heed of his companion's.

Kennyfeck's mind was full of sad and gloomy forebodings. The
reckless outlay he had witnessed for weeks back was more than a
princely fortune could sustain. The troops of useless servants, the
riotous disorder of the household, the unchecked, unbridled waste on
every side, demanded supplies to raise which they were already re-
duced to loans at usurious interest. What was to come of such a
career, save immediate and irretrievable ruin !

As for Cashel, his reveries were even darker still. The whirlwind
current of events seemed to carry him onward without any power of
resistance. He saw his fortune wasted — his character assailed — his
heart-ofiered proposal rejected, — all at once, and as if by the influence
of some evil destiny. Vigorous resolutions for the future warred with
fears lest that they were made too late, and he sat with closed eyes
and compressed lips, silent and sunk in meditation.

Leaving them, therefore, to pursue a journey on which their com-
panionship conld scarcely afford much pleasure to the reader, let us
turn to one who, whatever his other defects, rarely threw away the'
moments of his life on unavailing regrets : this was Mr. Linton. If
he was greatly disappointed by the information he gleaned when


overhearing tlie conversation between Casliel and tlie Doctor, lie did
not suffer his anger either to turn him from his path, or distract him
from his settled purpose.

" To-day for ambition !" said he, " to-morrow revenge !"

Too well accustomed to obstacles to be easily thwarted, he recog-
nised life as a struggle wherein the combatant should never put off
his armour.

" She must and shall accept me as her husband ; on that I am de-
termined. A great game, and a glorious stake, shall not be foiled for
a silly girl's humour. "Were she less high-flown in her notions, and
with more of the ' world' about her, I might satisfy her scruples, that,
of her affections — ^her heart as she would call it — there is no question
here. ' Je suis bon prince' — I never coerce my liege's loyalty. As
to the old man, his dotage takes the form of intrepidity, so that it
might be unsafe to use menace with him. The occasion must suggest
the proper tactic."

And with this shrewd resolve he set forth to pay his visit at the
cottage. If in his step and air, as he went, none could have read the
lover's ardour, there was that in his proud carriage and glancing eye
that bespoke a spirit revelling in its own sense of triumph.

While Mr. Linton is thus pursuing his way, let us use the privilege
of our craft by anticipating him, and taking a peep at that cottage
interior in which he is so soon to figure. Old Mr. Corrigan had
arisen from his bed weary and tired ; a night of sleepless care weighed
heavily on him ; and he sat at his untasted breakfast with all the
outward signs of a sick man.

Mary Leicester, too, was pale and sad-looking ; and although she
tried to wear her wonted smile, and speak with her accustomed tones,
the heavy eyelids and the half-checked sighs that broke from her at
times betrayed how sad was the spirit from which they came.

" I have been dreaming of that old nunnery at Bruges all night,
Mary," ^said her grandfather, after a long and unbroken silence;
"and you cannot think what a hold it has taken of my waking
thoughts. I fancied that I was sitting in the little parlour, waiting
to see you, and that, at last, a dark veiled figure appeared at the
grille, and beckoned me to approach. I hastened to do so, my heart
fluttering with I know not what mixture of hope and fear — the hope,
it might be you, and then the fear, stronger than even hope, that I
should read sadness in that sweet face — sorrow, Mary — regret for
Icaving'that world you never were to sec more."

" And was it me, dearest Papa ?"

" No, Mary," said he, with a lower and more meaning tone, " it was
another, one whom I never saw before. She came to tell me that —
that" — he faltered, and wiping a tear from his eyes, made an eftbrt
to seem calm — " that I had lost you, darling ! lost by a separation


darker and more terrible than even the ii'ou bars of the nunnery can
make. And although I bethought me that you had but gone there,
whither I myself was hastening, I felt sorrow-struck by the tidings.
I had clung so long to the hope of leaving you behind me here, to
enjoy that world of which all your aflectionate care has denied you
enjoyment — to know how, amidst its troubles and reverses, there are
healing springs of love that recompense its heaviest inflictions — I
cherished this wish so long, so ardently, that I could not face the
conviction which told me it should never be."

" Dearest Papa, remember this was but a dream ; bethink you, for
an instant, that it was all unreal ; that I am beside you, my hand in
yours, my head upon your shoulder ; that we are not parted, nor ever
shall be."

The tone of deep fervour in which she spoke drew tears from the
old man's eyes," and he turned away to hide them.

" It was but a dream, as you say, Mary ; but do not my waking
thoughts conjure up a future to the full as gloomy ? A few mouths,
at furthest, a year or so more — less sanguine prophets would perhaps
say weeks — and where shall I be ? and where you, Mary ?"

The old man's grief could no longer be restrained, and it was in a
perfect burst of sorrow the last words came forth. She would have
spoken, but she knew not from what source to draw consolation. The
future, which to his eyes looked dark and louring, presented an aspect
no less gloomy to her own ; and her only remedy against its depress-
ing influence was to make her present cares occupy her mind, to the
exclusion of every other thought.

" And yet, Mary," said he, recovering something of his habitual
tone, " there is an alternative — one which, if we could accept of it
from choice as freely as we might adopt it from convenience, would
solve our difficulties at once. My heart misgives me, dearest, as I
approach it. I tremble to think how far my selfishness may bias you
— how thoughts of me, old and worthless as I am, may rise uppermost
in your breast and gain the mastery, where other and very difi^erent
feelings should prevail. I have ever been candid ^vith you, my child,
and I have reaped all the benefit of my frankness ; let me then tell
you all. An ofier has been made for your hand, Mary, by one who,
while professing the utmost devotion to you, has not forgotten your
old grandfather. He asks that he should be one of us, Mary — a new
partner in our firm — a new member in the little group around our
hearth. He speaks like one who knew the ties that bind us most
closely — he talks of our home here as we ourselves might do — he has
promised that we shall never leave it, too. Does your heart tell you
whom I mean, Mary ? If not, if you have not already gone before
me in all I have been saying, his visions of happiness are baseless
fabrics. Be candid with me, as I have ever been with you. It is a


question on whicli everything of tlie future hangs ; say if you guess of
whom I speak."

Mary Leicester's cheek grew scarlet ; she tried to speak, but could
not; but with a look far more eloquent than words, she pressed the
old man's hand to her lips, and was silent.

" I was right then, Mary ; you have guessed him. Now, my sweet
child, there is one other confession you must make me, or leave me to
divine it from that crimson cheek. Have his words found an echo in
your heart?"

The old man drew her more closely to his side, and passed his arm
around her as he spoke ; while she, with heaving bosom and bent-down
head, seemed struggling with an agitation she could not master. At
last she said :

" You have often told me, Papa, that disproportion of fortune was
an insurmountable obstacle to married happiness ; that the sense of
perfect equality in condition was the first requisite of that self-esteem
which must be the basis of an affection free and untrammelled from
all unworthy considerations."

" Yes, dearest ; I believe this to be true."

" Then, surely, the present is not a case in point ; for while there is
wealth and influence on one side, there are exactly the opposites on
the other. If lie be in a position to make his choice among the great
and titled of the land, mij destiny lies among the lowly and the
humble. What disparity could be greater?"

" When I spoke of equality," said tlie old man, " I referred rather
to that of birth and lineage than to any other. I meant that social
equality by which imiformity of tastes and habits are regulated. There
is no mesalliance where good blood runs on both sides."

This was the tenderest spot in the old man's nature ; the pride of
family surviving every successive stroke of fortune, or, rather, rising
superior to them all.

"I thought, moreover," said Mary, ''that in his preference of me
there was that suddenness which savoured more of caprice than deep
conviction. IIow should I reckon upon its lasting ? AVhat evidence
have I that he cares for tlie qualities which will not change iu me, and
not for those which spring from youth and happiness ? — for I am
happy, dearest Pa ; so happy that, with all our trials and difilculties,
I often accuse myself of levity — insensibility even — feeling so light-
hearted as I do."

The old man looked at her with rapture, and then pressed his lips
upon her forehead.

" From all this, then, I gather, Mary," said lie, smiling arclily,
" that, certain misgivings apart, the j^roposition is not peculiarly dis-
agreeable to3'ou?"

"I am sure I have not said so," said she, confusedly.


" No, dearest ; only looked it. But stay, I heard the wicket close
— there is some one coming. I expected Tiernay on a matter of busi-
ness. Leave us together, child ; and, till we meet, think over what
we've been saying. Eemember, too, that although I would not in-
fluence your decision, my heart would be relieved of its heaviest load
if this could be."

Mary Leicester arose hastily and retired, too happy to hide, in the
secrecy of her own room, that burst of emotion which oppressed her,
and whose utterance she could no longer restrain. ^

Scarcely had she gone, when Linton crossed the grass-plot, and
entered the cottage. A gentle tap at the door of the drawing-room
announced him, and he entered. A more acute observer than Mr.
Corrigan might have remarked that the deferential humility so cha-
racteristic of his manner was changed for an air of more purpose-like
determination. He came to carry a point by promptness and bold-
ness ; and already his bearing announced the intention.

After a few words of customary greeting, and an inquiry more
formal than cordial for Miss Leicester's health, he assumed an air of
solemn purpose, and said,

" Tou will not accuse me of undue impatience, my dear Mr. Cor-
rigan, nor think me needlessly pressing, if I tell you that I have come
here this morning to learn the answer to my late proposition. Cir-
-cumstauces have occurred at the Hall to make my remaining there,
even another day, almost impossible. Cashel's last piece of conduct
is of such a nature as to make his acquaintance as derogatory as his

"What was it?"

" Simply this. Lord Kilgoff has at length discovered, what all
the world has known for many a day back ; and, in his passionate
indignation, the poor old man has been seized with a paralytic

Mr. Corrigan passed his hand across his brow, as if to clear away
some terrible imagination, and sat then pale, silent, and attentive, as
Linton went on :

" The most heartless is yet to come ! "While this old man lies
stretched upon his bed — insensible and dying — this is the time Cashel
selects to give a great entertainment, a ball, to above a thousand
people. It is almost too much for belief — so I feel it 'myself. The
palsied figure of his victim — his victim do I say ? there are two : that
miserable woman, who sits as paralysed by terror as he is by disease
— might move any man from such levity ; but Cashel is superior to
such timidity ; he fancies, I believe, that this rufBan hardihood is
manliness, that brutal insensibility means courage, and so he makes
his house the scene of an orgie, when his infamy has covered it with
shame. I see how this affects you. Sir. It is a theme on which I


would never have toucbed did it not concern my own fortunes. Eor
me, the acquaintance of such a man is no longer possible. For the
sake of that unhappy woman, whom I knew in better days — to cover,
as far as may be, the exposure that sooner or later must follow her
fault — I am still here. Tou will, therefore, forgive my importunity
if I ask if Miss Leicester has been informed of my proposal, and with
what ftxvour she deigns to regard it."

" I have told my granddaughter, Sir," said the old man, tremu-
lously ; " we have talked together on the subject ; and whQe I am
not able to speak positively of her sentiments towards you, it strikes
me that they are assuredly not unfavourable. The poiut is, however,
too important to admit a doubt : with your leave, we will confer toge-
ther once again."

" Might I not be permitted to address the young lady myself, Sir.
The case too nearly concerns all my future happiness to make me
neglect whatever may conduce to its accomplishment."

The old man hesitated ; he knew not well what reply to make. At
length he said,

" Be it so, Mr. Linton ; you shall have this permission. I only
ask, that before you do so, we should clearly and distinctly under-
stand each other. We are of the world, and can discuss its topics,
man to man. "With Jio', the matter rests on other and very different

" Of course ; so I understand the permission, Sir," said Linton,
courteously, " on the distinct understanding that her acceptance
alone is wanting to fill up the measure of my wishes."

" Is it necessary that I should repeat that I am totally destitute of
fortune — that the humble means I possess expire with me, and that
I am as poor in influence as in all else ?"

" I have sufficient for both. Sir, for all that moderate wishes can
desire. Pray do not add a word upon the subject."

" I must be explicit, Mr. Linton, however wearisome to you the
theme. You will pardon an old man's prolixity, in consideration for
the motives wliicli prompt it. "We have absolutely nothing of our
once powerful family, save the name and the escutcheon — mementos
to remind us of our fall ! They did, indeed, say, some time back,
that oiu" title to the estate afforded strong grounds for litigation —
that tlierc were points of considerable importance "

" IMay I interrupt you. Sir ?" said Linton, laying his hand on Cor-
rigan's arm. " A subject so full of regrets to i/ou can never be a
pleasing topic to me. I am fully as rich as a man like myself could
desire ; and I trust to personal exertions for whatever I may wish to
add in the way of ambition."

" And with good reason. Sir," said Corrigan, proudly. " There are
no failures to those who unite honesty of purpose with fine abilities.


I will not add a word. Go — speak to my granddaughter : I tell you
frankly my best wislies go with you."

Linton smiled a look of deep gratitude, and moved towards the door.

" One second more," cried Corrigan, as the other laid his hand on
the lock ; " it may soon be, that, as a member of owe family, you would
have the right to express a will on the subject we have been talking
of. I would wish to say, that, as I have abandoned all desire to con-
test this question, I should equally expect the same line of conduct
from you."

" Can you doubt it, Sir — or is it necessary that I should give my
promise ?"

" I hope and trust not. But having myself given a written pledge,
under my own hand and seal, to Mr. Cashel, surrendering all right
and title to this estate "

" "Who gave this ?" said Linton, turning suddenly round, and relin-
quishing his hold upon the lock of the door, " "Who gave this ?"

'' I gave it."

" To whom ?"

"To Mr. Cashel, in the presence of his agent."

""When?" exclaimed Linton, from whose pale features, now, in-
tense agitation had banished all disguise. " "When did you give it ?"

" Within a fortnight."

" And this document — this release, was formal and explicit ?"

" Perfectly so. I knew enough of law to make it obligatory. I
stated the conditions for which it was given — certain concessions that
Mr. Cashel had lately granted me, respecting this small property."

Linton sat down, and covered his face with both hands. The trouble
of his feelings had carried him far away from all thought of conceal-
ment, and of the part which so long he had been playing. Indeed, so
insensible was he to every consideration save one, that he forgot Cor-
rigan's presence — forgot where he was ; and in the paroxysm of his
baflled purpose, muttered half aloud broken curses upon the insane
folly of the old man's act.

" I am compelled to remind you. Sir, that I am a listener," said Mr.
Corrigan, whose face, suffused with a flush of anger, showed that the
insulting remarks had been overheard by him.

" And this was done without advice or consultation with any one ?"

Online LibraryCharles James LeverRoland Cashel (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 32)