Charles James Lever.

Roland Cashel (Volume 2) online

. (page 18 of 32)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverRoland Cashel (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

said Linton, not heeding the last remark, nor the look that accom-
panied it.

" I was free then. Sir, to speak my gratitude, as I now am to utter
my indignation that you should dare to canvass mi/ acts and question
mi/ motives, both of which are above your control."

Linton stared at him almost vacantly ; his own thoughts, and not
the old man's words, had possession of his mind. "With a rapidity of
computation, in which few were his equals, he ran over all the vary-


ing chances of success wliicli had accompanied his game — the pains
he had taken to avert all causes of failure — the unwearying attention
he had given to every minute point and doubtful issue — and now,
here, at the very last, came the ruin of all his plans, and wreck of all
his hopes.

" You have said enough — more than enough, Sir — to show me how
disinterested were the views in which you sought my granddaughter
in marriage," said Corrigan, haughtily ; " nor would it much surprise
me, now, were I to discover that he who is so skilful a double-dealer,
may be no less expert as a calumniator. I will beg you to leave my
house this instant."

" Not so fast, Sir," said Linton, assuming a seat, and at once re-
gaining that insolent composure for which he was noted ; " I have
not that generous warmth of character which is so conspicuous in
you. I have never given Mr. Cashel a release of anj' obligation I
possess upon him. This house is mine, Sir — mine by legal transfer
and right ; and it is you who are the intruder !"

The old man staggered backwards, and leaned against tlie wall — a
clammy perspiration covered his face and forehead, and he seemed
sick to the very death. It was some time before he could even utter
a word ; and then, as with clasped hands and uplifted eyes he spoke,
the fervour of his words told that they were heart-spoken. " Thank
God for this ! but for it, and I had given my child to a scoundrel!"

" Scarcely polite. Sir, and, perhaps, scarcely politic," said Linton,
with his treacherous half-smile. " It would be as well to bear in
mind how we stand toward each other."

"As enemies, open and declared," cried Corrigan, fiercely.

" I should say as creditor and debtor," said Linton ; " but pro-
bably we are speaking in synonyms. Now, Sir, a truce to this alter-
cation, for which I have neither time nor taste. Tell me frankly, can
you obtain repossession of this unlucky document which in an ill-
starred moment you parted with ? If you can, and will do so, I am
willing to resume the position I occupied towards you half an hour
ago. This is plain speaking, I am awai'e ; but how much better than
to bandy mock courtesies, in which neither of us have any faith ! "\Ve
are both men of the world — I, at least, have no shame in saying that
I am such. Let us then be frank and business-like."

" Tou have at last filled up the measure of your insults. Sir," said
Corrigan, fiercely ; ".you have dared to speak of me as of yourself."

"It is a compliment I have not paid a great many, notwithstand-
ing," replied Linton, with a languid insolence of manner that con-
trasted strongly with the other's natural warmth : " and there are
people in this world would accept it as a flattery ; but once more I
Bay, let us abandon this silly squabble. "Will you, or will you not,
accept my proposal ? I am ready to purchase the wreck as she lies


upon the rocks, waTe-tossed and shattered. Is it not better to give
me the chance of floating her, than see her go to pieces before your
eyes, and drift piecemeal into the wide ocean ?"

" Leave me. Sir — leave me !" was all the old man could utter.

" If I take you at your word," said Linton, rising, " remember that
the last gleam of hope for you departs when I close that doo r behind
me. I warn you that I am little given to relenting."

"Insolent scoundrel!" cried Corrigan, carried away by indignation.

" Unhandsomely spoken, old gentleman ; such words are ill-befitting
grey hairs and palsied hands ; but I forgive them. I repeat, however,
my nature is not over-disposed to forgiveness. An injury with me is
like a malady that leaves its mark behind it. The day may come when
all your entreaties, aided even by the fair supplications of a more
gentle penitent "

" If you dare. Sir !" cried Corrigan, interrupting ; and the insolence
— schooled and practised in many atrial — quailed before the look and
gesture of the old man.

" Tou shall have your choice, then," said Linton. "From hence-
forth you will have to confess that I am not a secret enemy." And
so saying, he opened the sash which led into the garden and passed
out, leaving Corrigan overcome by emotion and almost panic-stricken.

The deceptions which are practised on youth are seldom attended
with lasting influence ; but when tney fall upon a heart chilled and
saddened by age they are stunning in their effect, and seldom, or
never, admit of relief.


Can sight and hearing — even touch, deceive?

Or, is this real?


Probably, in all his varied life, Cashel had never passed a day less
to his satisfaction than that spent at Drumcoologan. His mind,
already tortured by anxieties, was certainly not relieved by tlie spec-
tacle that presented itself to his eyes. The fearful condition of a
neglected Irish property, where want, crime, disease, and destitution
were combined, was now seen by him for the fii'st time. There was
one predominant expression on and over everything — " Despair."
The almost roofless cabin — the scarce-clad children — the fevered
fatlier stretched upon his bed of clay — the starving mother, with a
dying infant at her bosom — passed before him like the dreadful images



of a dream. And then he was to hear from his agent, that these
were evils for which no remedy existed ; " there had always been
fever in Ireland ;" " dirt they were used to ;" want of clotliing had
become " natural" to them ; falsehood was the" first article of their
creed ; their poverty was only fictitious ; this one, owned several
cows ; the other, had money in a savings bank ; and so on. In fact,
he had to hear that every estate had its plague-spot of bad characters,
where crime and infamy found a refuge ; and that it might be poor
morality, but good policy, to admit of the custom.

Confused by contradictory statements, wearied by explanations, to
understand which nothing short of a lifelong should have passed in
studying the people — imposed upon by some, unjust towards others
— he listened to interminable discussions without one gleam of
enlightenment — and what is far worse, without one ray of hope ; the
only piece of satisfaction he derived from the visit being, that Hoare
had consented to advance a sum of money upon mortgage of the pro-
perty, which, in his secret soul, Cashel resolved should be a purchase,
and not a mere loan. The object he had in view was to buy off Lin-
ton's claim upon the cottage ; and having settled all his most pressing
debts, to retire for some years to the Continent, till a sufficient sum
should have accumulated to permit him to recommence his life as a
country gentleman, in a manner and with views very different from
what he had hitherto done. He hoped, by travel, to improve his mind
and extend his knowledge ; he trusted that, by observing the condi-
tion of the peasant in different countries of Europe, he might bring
back with him certain suggestions applicable to his own tenantry ;
and, at all events, he determined that the resources of his large for-
tune should no longer be squandered in meaningless debauch, so long
as real destitution and grinding misery lay at his very door. He
made many a good and noble resolve, and, like most men in such cases,
with youth on their side, he was impatient to begin to act upon

It was, then, with a feeling like that of a liberated prisoner, he heard
from Mr. Kennyfeck, that although Mr. Hoare and himself had yet
many preliminaries to arrange, which might detain them several
hours longer, he might now return homeward to Tubbermore, where
his company were doubtless in anxious expectation of his coming.
There were two roads which led to Drumcoologan : one, was a species
of carriage-road, by which they had come that morning ; the other,
was a mere bridle-path over the mountain, and though shorter in
mileage, required fully as much time, if not more, to travel. Eefusing
the assistance of a guide, and preferring to be alone, he set out by
himself, and on foot, to pursue the way homeward.

It was the afternoon of a sharp, clear winter's day, when the
bracing air and the crisp atmosphere elevate the spirits, and make ex-


ercise tlie most pleasurable of stimulants ; and as Cashel went along,
he began to feel a return of that buoyancy of heart which had been
BO peculiarly his own in former days. The future, to which his hope
already lent its bright colours, was rapidly erasing the past, and in the
confidence of his youth he was fashioning a hundred schemes of life
to come.

The path along which he travelled lay between two bleak and
barren mountains, and followed the course of a little rivulet for
several miles. There was not a cabin to be seen; not a trace of
vegetation brightened the dreary picture ; not a sheep, nor even a
goat, wandered over the wild expanse. It was a solitude the most
perfect that could be conceived. Eoland often halted to look around
him, and each time his eye wandered to a lofty peak of rock on the
very summit of the mountain, and where something stood which he
fancied might be a human figure. Although gifted with strong power
of vision, the great height prevented his feeling any degree of certainty ;
so that he abandoned the efibrt, and proceeded on his way for miles
without again thinking on the subject. At last, as he was nearing
the exit of the glen, he looked up once more : the cliff was now per-
ceptible in its entire extent, and the figure was gone ! He gave no
further thought to the circumstance, but seeing that the day was de-
clining fast, increased his speed, in order to reach the high road before
night closed in. Scarcely had he proceeded thus more than half a
mile, when he perceived, full in front of him, about a couple of hundred
yards distant, a man seated upon a stone beside the pathway. Cashel
had been too long a wanderer in the wild regions of the " Far West,"
not to regard each new comer as at least a possible enemy. His
Prairie experience had taught him that men do not take their stand
in lonely and unfrequented spots without an object ; and so, without
halting, which might have awakened suspicion in the other, he managed
to slacken his pace somewhat, and thus gave himself more time for
thought. He well knew that, in certain parts of Ireland, landlord
murder had become frequent ; and although he could not charge him-
self with any act which should point him out as a victim, his was not a
mind to waste in casuistry the moments that should be devoted more
practically. He was perfectly unarmed, and this consideration rendered
him doubly cautious. The matter, however, had but few issues. To
go back would be absurd ; to halt where he was, still more so. There
was nothing, then, for it but to advance ; and he continued to do so,
calmly and warily, till about twenty paces from the rock where the
other sat, still and immovable. Then it was that, dropping on one
knee, the stranger threw back a cloak that he wore, and took a
deliberate aim at him.

The steady precision of the attitude was enough to show Cashel
that the man was well versed in the use of fire-arms. The distance



was short, also, and the chance of escape, consequently, the very-
smallest imaginable. Eoland halted, and crossing his arms upon his
breast, stood to receive the fire exactly as he would have done in a
duel. The other never moved : his dark eye glanced along the barrel
without blinking, and his iron grasp held the weapon still pointed at
Cashel's heart.

" Fire !" cried Eoland, with the loud utterance he would have used
in giving the word of command ; and scarcely was it spoken when the
rifle was flung to the earth, and, springing to his feet, a tall and
muscular man advanced with an outstretched hand to meet him.

" Don't you know me yet, Eoland ?" cried a deep voice in Spanish ;
'• not remember your comrade ?"

" What !" exclaimed Cashel, as he rubbed his eyes and shook him-
self as if to ensure he was not dreaming. " This is surely impossible !
you cannot be my old friend and shipmate Enrique !"

"That am I, my boy," cried the other, throwing his arms around
him, and embracing him in true Mexican fashion, " your own old
comrade for many a year, who has sailed with you, fought with you,
drunk with you, played with you, and swears now that he wishes for
nothing but the old times over again."

" But how came you here ? and when ? By what chance did you
discover me ?" said Eoland, as he clasped the other's hand in both
his own.

" 'Tis a long story, ' amigo mio,' but you shall have it all, one of
these days."

' " *' True ; there will be time enough to tell it, for you shall not leave
me, Enrique. I was longing for a face of an old comrade once again
— one of the old Hsmer dido's, with whom my happiest days were

" I can well believe it," said Enrique ; " and it was to see if wealth
had not sapped your courage, as I know it has your high spirits, that
I took aim at you, a while ago. Had you quailed, Eoland, I almost
think I could have pulled the trigger."

" And I had well deserved it, too," said Cashel, sternly. " But let
us hasten forward. Enrique, I am longing to see an old friend
beneath my roof — longing to see you seated opposite to me, and
answering the hundred questions about old friends and times that are
thronging to my mind."

" No, Eoland, my way lies thither," said he, pointing towards the
west ; " I have been too long your guest already."

" How do you mean ?" cried Eoland, in amazement.

" Simply, that for seven weeks I have lived beneath your roof. The
narrative is too long for a moment like this ; but enough if I tell you
that it was a plot of Maritaiia's, who, had I not acceded to the notion,
would have disguised herself and come hither, to watch and see with



I /


her own eyes how you played the great man. To save her from such
a step, when all persuasion failed, I came here as the sailor Giovanni."

" You, Giovanni ?"

" Ay, Eoland, and if wealth had not blinded you so effectually, you
had soon seen through the counterfeit. As Giovanni, I saw your
daily life — the habits of your household — the sterling worth and
fidelity of the men you made your friends ; and let me tell you,
Cashel, our old associates of the ' Villa de las Noches' were men of
unblemished honour compared with those well-bred companions of
your prosperity. Often and often have I been upon the brink of de-
claring myself, and then, have I held back, sometimes from a curiosity
to see the game played out, sometimes anxious to know how far this
course of treachery might be carried on without its awakening your
suspicions. At length, I actually grew weary of seeing you the ' dupe.'
I almost ceased to feel interest in one who could be imposed upon
with such slender artifice. *I forgot, Eoland, that I was the looker-on,
and not the player of the game. It was in this mood of mind I had
half determined to leave your house, and suffer you to go down the
stream as chance might pilot, when I discovered that treachery had
taken a higher flight than I suspected ; and that, not content with the
slow breaching of your fortune by play and reckless waste, your utter
ruin, your very beggary had been compassed !"

Cashel started back, and grasped the other's arm tightly, but never

" Are you still so infatuated as not to guess the traitor r" cried

" You mean Linton ?"

" I do."

" But are you certain of what you speak ? or do you mistake the
cunning devices of a subtle mind for the darker snares of downright

" You shall hear," said Enrique. '• Sit down here upon this stone.
I have some houi's before I sail. The vessel leaves Limerick to-
morrow for J^aples ; and thither I am bound, for Maritaiia is there.
No, no, my dear friend, you must not ask me to stay ; I have remained
longer than I ought ; but I waited for the time when I might be able
to recompense you for having thus played the spy upon your actions.
Hear me out patiently now, for that hour is come."

As Cashel seated himself beside Enrique, it was only by a great
effort he could compose himself to listen, when a hundred questions
came thronging to his mind, and doubts and inquiries, of every pos-
sible kind, demanded explanation.

" I will not waste your time nor my own by dwelling upon your
losses at play. I may one day or other amuse you, by showing how
little chance our old Columbian friends would have had against these


honourable ami right houourable swindlers. That you should be the
mark for artifice, is natural enough ; but I have little patience with
your blindness in not seeing it. From the first hour of your arrival
here, Linton set a watch upon yoiu* doings. Phillis was his principal
agent. But even upon hiin Linton had his spies — myself among the
number. Ay, Eoland, I was perhaps the only one he trusted ! As I
have said, Linton marked every step you took, heard all you said, read
every letter that reached you. Every night it was his practice, at a
certain hovu* when you repaired to the cottage, to enter your dressing-
room by a secret door that led from the theatre ; and then, at his
leisure, he ransacked your papers, examined your correspondence,
searched through all the docmnents which concerned your estate,
possessing himself of information on every point of your circum-
stances. Nor [was this all ; he abstracted papers of value from
amongst them, well knowing the carelessness of your habits, and with
what little risk of detection his boldest '^darings were attended. I
studied him long and closely. For a great while I could not detect
the clue to his proceedings. I even at one time ascribed all to
jealousy, for he ivas jealous of the favour by which Lady Kilgoft" dis-
tinguished you. This, however, could not explain all I saw, for it was
on the subject of your fortune his deepest interest was excited. At
last came his first move, and the whole game disclosed itself before
me. There lay upon your table for several days a deed concerning
the cottage where the old gentleman resided with his daughter. This,
Linton, to my surprise, did not take away, but simply contented him-
self by placing it in such a promiaent position' as would in all likeli-
hood attract your notice. To no purpose, however ; you would seem
to have tossed it over, among other papers, without attention. He
went a step further ; he broke the seal, and left the enclosure half
open. Still it lay unminded. The next night he carried it ofl", but
you never missed it."

" Nor was it of any consequence," broke in Cashel. " It was never
perfected, and had neither my signature nor my seal."

" Are you certain of that?" said Enrique, smiling dubiously.

" I could swear to it."

" Look here, then," said the other, as he drew forth a pocket-book,
from the folds of which he took a heavy package, and opened it be-
fore Cashel. " Is that name, there — that signature, ' Eoland Cashel,'

Cashel stared at the writing without speaking ; his hands trembled
as they held the paper, and his very frame shook with agitation.

" I never wrote it !" cried he, at last, with an effort almost convul-

" Yet, see if it be not witnessed ; there are the names and addresses
of two persons."


" It is a forgery ; a clever one, I own, but still a forgery. I never
signed that paper — never saw it till this instant."

"Well," said Enrique, slowly, "I scarcely expected so much of
memory from you. It is true as you say, you never did sign it ; hut

" Tou, Enrique ? — you ?" exclaimed Cashel.

" Yes, Eoland. I accompanied Linton to Limerick at his request,
dressed to personate you. We were met at the hotel by two persons
summoned to witness this act of signature ; of the meaning of which
I, of course, appeared to know nothing — nor did I, indeed, till long
afterwards, discover the real significance."

" And how came you by it eventually ?"

" By imitating Linton's own proceedings. I saw that for security
he placed it in an iron box, which he carried with him to Limerick,
and which contained another document of apparently far greater
value. This casket was long enough in my company on that morning
to enable me to take a model of the key, by which I afterwards had
another made, and by means of which I obtained possession of both
these papers — for here is the other."

"And when did you take them ?"

"About an hour ago. I saw that this drama was drawing to a
finish. I knew that Linton's schemes were advancing more rapidly
than I could follow ; his increased confidence of manner proved to me
his consciousness of strength, and yet I covdd neither unravel his
cunning nor detect his artifice. Nothing then remained but to carry
ofi" these papers ; and, as the hour of my own departure drew nigh,
there was no time to lose. There they are both. I hope you will be
a more careful depositary than you have been hitherto."

" And where is Linton ?" cried Eoland, his passionate eagerness
for revenge mastering every other feeling.

" Still your guest. He dines and does the honours of your board
to-day, as he did yesterday, and will to-morrow."

" Nay, by my oath, that he will never do more ! The man is no
coward, and he will not refuse me the amende I'll ask for."

" Were he on board, it is a loop and a leap I'd treat him to," said

" So shoidd I, perhaps," said Cashel, " but the circumstances change
with the place. Here he shall have the privilege of the class he has
belonged to and disgraced."

" Not a bit of it, Eoland. He is an average member of the guild ;
the only difierence being, with more than average ability. These
fellows are all alike. Leave them, I say. Come and rough it with
me in the ' Basque,' where a gallant band are fighting for the true
Sovereign ; or let us have another dash in the Ear West, where the
chase is as the peril and glory of war ; or what say you to the East ?


a Circassian saddle and a scimitar would not be strange to us. Choose
your own land, my boy, and let us meet this day month at Cadiz."

" But why leave me, Enrique ? I never had more need of a true-
hearted friend than now."

" No, I cannot stay ; my last chance of seeing Maritana depends
on my reaching Naples at once ; and as to your affair with Linton, it
will be one of those things of etiquette, and measured distance, and
hair-trigger, in which a rough sailor like myself would be out of

" And Maritana — tell me of her. They said that Eica had come to

" Kica ! He dared not set foot on shore here. The fellow has few
countries open to him now : nor is it known where be is."

" And is she alone ? Is Maritaiia unprotected ?"

" Alone, but not unprotected. The girl who has twice crossed the
Cordilleras with a rifle on her shoulder, need scarcely fear the insults
of the coward herd that would molest her."

" But how is she living ? In what rank — among what associates ?"

" I only know that she maintains a costly retinue at the ' Albergo
Keale ;' that her equipages, ber servants, her liveries, bespeak wealth
without limit. She is a mystery to the city she inhabits. So much
have I heard from others ; from herself, a few lines reached me at
Dieppe, begging me to see you, and — you will scarcely believe it —
asking for a release from that bond of betrothal that passed between
you — as if it could signify anything."

"Was the freedom thus obtained to be used in your favour,
Enrique ?"

The other grew purple, and it was a few seconds before he could
answer. " No ! that is over for ever. .She has refused me as one so
much below her, that the very thought of an alliance would be de-
gradation. The sailor — the buccaneer — raise liis eyes to her whom
Princes seek in vain ? I go now to say my last farewell : as long as
there dwells upon my mind the slenderest cliance of meeting her, so
long will hope linger in my heart ; not the high hope that spirits one
to glorious enterprise, but that feverish anxiety that unnerves the

Online LibraryCharles James LeverRoland Cashel (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 32)