Charles James Lever.

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at once I achieve both fortune and revenge. Let events take what
turn they will, tJiere, is a certain source of wealth. A great estate
like this will have its claimants : with me it rests who shall be the
successful one."

A hurried knocking at the door interrupted the current of these
musings ; and Linton, having replaced the casket in the press,
unlocked the door. It was Mr. Phillis, who, in all the gala of full
dress, and with a rare camellia in his button-hole, entered.

"Well, Phillis, is all going on as it ought?" said Linton, care-

"Scarcely so. Sir," said the soft-voiced functionary; "the house
is filling fast, but there is no one to receive the company ; and they
are walking about staring at each other, and asking who is to do the

"Awkward, certainly," said Linton, coolly; "Lady Kilgoft' ought
to have been the person."



" She is gone, Sir," said Phillis.

" Gone ! gone! "When, and where?"

" I cannot say, Sir ; but my Lord and her Ladyship left this morn-
ing, early, with post-horses, taking the Dublin road."

Linton did not speak, but the swollen vein in his forehead, and the
red flush upon his brow, told how the tidings affected him. He had
long speculated on witnessing the agonies of her grief when the hour
of his revenge drew nigh ; and this ecstasy of cruelty was now to be
denied him,

" And my Lord — had he regained any consciousness ? or was he still
insensible ?"

" He appeared like a child. Sir, when they lifted him into the car-

"And Lady Kilgoff?"

" She held her veil doubled over her face as she passed ; but I
thought she sighed, and even sobbed, as she handed me this letter."

" ' Tor Eoland Cashel, Esquire,' " said Linton, reading as he took it.
" Did she speak at all, PhiUis ?"

"Not a word. Sir. It was a sad-looking procession altogether,
moving away in the dim grey of the morning."

Linton placed the letter in a rack upon the chimney, and for some
seconds was lost in thought.

" If Lady Janet, Sir, would be kind enough to receive the com-
pany," murmured Phillis, softly.

" Pooh, man, it is of no consequence !" said Linton, roughly, his
mind dwelling on a very different theme. " Let who wiU play host
or hostess."

" Perhaps you would come dovsm yourself soon. Sir ?" asked Phillis,
who read in the impatience of Linton's manner the desire to be alone,
and coupled that desire with some mysterious purpose.

" Yes, leave me, Phillis ; I'm going to dress," said he, hurriedly.
" Has he returned yet ?"

" No, Sir ; and we expected him at five o'clock."

" And it is now nine," said the other, solemnly ; " four hours later."

" It is very singular !" exclaimed Phillis, who was more struck by
the altered expression of Linton's face than by the common-place
fact he affected to marvel at.

" Why singular ? What is remarkable ? That a man should be
delayed some time on a business matter, particularly when tliere was
no urgency to repair elsewhere ?"

" Nothiug more common. Sir ; only that Mr. Cashel said positively
he should be here at five. He had ordered the cob pony to be ready
for him — a sign that he was going to pay a visit at the cottage."

Linton made no reply, but his lips curled into a smile of dark and
ominous meaning.


" Leave me, Phillis," said be, at length ; " I sLall be late, with all
tbis cumbrous finery I am to wear."

" Sball I send your man, Sir ?" said Phillis, slyly eyeing him as he

" Yes — no, Phillis — not yet. I'll ring for him later."
And ^^dtb these words Linton seated himself in a large chair, appa-
rently unconscious of the other's presence.

Mr. Phillis withdrew noiselessly — but not far — for after advancing
a few steps along the corridor, he cautiously returned, and listened at
the door.

Linton sat for a few seconds, as if listening to the other's retx-eating
footsteps ; and then, noiselessly arising from his chair, he approached
the door of the chamber, at which, with bent-down head, Phillis
watched. "With a sudden jerk of the handle Linton threw open the
door, and stood before the terrified menial.

"I was afraid you were ill, Sir. I thought your manner was

" Not half so strange as this conduct, Mr. Phillis," said Linton,
slowly, as he folded his arms composedly on his breast. " Come in."
He pointed, as he spoke, to the room ; but Phillis seemed reluctant
to enter, and made a gesture of excuse. " Come in, Sir," said Linton,
peremptorily ; and he obeyed. Linton immediately locked the door,
and placed the key upon the chimney-piece ; then deliberately seating
himself full in front of the other, he stared at him long and fixedly.
" So, Sir," said he, at length, " you have thought fit to become a spy
upon my actions. Now, there is but one amende you can make for
such treachery ; which is, to confess frankly and openly what it is you
want to know, and what small mystery is puzzling your puny intel-
ligence, and making your nights sleepless. Tell me this candidly,
and I'll answer as freely."

" I have really nothing to confess. Sir. I was fearful lest you were
unwell. I thought — it was mere fancy, perhaps — that you were
flurried and peculiar this morning ; and this impression distressed me

so, that — that "

" That you deemed fit to watch me. Be it so. I have few secrets
from any one — I have none from my friends. You shall hear, there-
fore, what — without my knowing it — has made me appear unusually
agitated. It was my intention to leave this house to-morrow, Phillis,
and in the preparation for my departure I was arranging my letters
and papers, among which I found a very considerable quantity that
prudence would consign to the flames — that is to say, if prudence
were to be one-sided, and had only regard for the interests of one
individual where there were two concerned. In plain language,
Phillis, I was just about to burn the mass of documents which fill
that iron safe, and which it were to the honour and credit of Mr.

N 2


Phillis should be reduced to charcoal as speedily as may be, the same
being nothing more nor less than the accounts of that ' honest
steward,' pinned to the real and 'bona fide bills of Mr. Cashel's trades-
people. There are, it is true, strange little discrepancies between the
two, doubtless capable of satisfactory explanation, but which, to
plain-thinking men like myself, are difficult to reconcile ; and in some
one or two instances — a wine merchant's account, for example, and a
saddler's bill — savour somewhat of that indiscreet procedm-e people
call forgery. What a mistake — what an inadvertence, Phillis !"

There was something of almost coaxing familiarity in the way
Linton uttered the last words ; and Phillis grew sick at heart as he
listened to them.

" A moment more, an instant later, and I had thrown them into
the fire ; but your footsteps, as you walked away, sounded too pur-
pose-like ; you were so palpably honest, that I began to suspect j'ou.
Eh, Phillis, was I right ?"

Phillis essayed a smile, but his features only accomplished a ghastly

" I will keep them, therefore, where they are," said Linton. " These
impulses of rash generosity are very costly pleasures ; and there is
no such good practical economy as to husband one's confidence."

" I'm sure, Sir, I never thought I should have seen the day "

" Go on, man ; don't falter. AVhat day do you mean ? that on
which you had attempted to outwit me ? or, that on which I should
show you all the peril of your attempting it ? Ay, and there is peril,
3Ir. Phillis : a felony whose punishment is transportation for life, is
no small oftence."

"Oh, Sir! — oh, Mr. Linton! foi'give me," cried the other, in the
most abject voice. " I always believed that my devotion to your in-
terests would claim your protection."

" I never promised to further anything that was base or dishonest,"
said Linton, with an air of assumed morality.

" You opened and read letters that were addressed to another ; you
spied his actions, and kept watch upon all his doings ; you wrote
letters in his name, and became possessed of every secret of his life
by treachery ; you "

" Don't talk so loud, Phillis ; say all you have to say to w?^ ."

" Oh dear. Sir, forgive me the burst of passion. I never meant it.
My temper carried me away in spite of me." And he burst into
tears as he spoke.

" "What a dangerous temper, that may at any moment make a felon
of its owner ! Go, Phillis, there is no need of more between us. Tou
know me. I almost persuaded myself that I knew you. But if I
kuow anything, it is this" — here he approached, and laid his hand


solemnly on the other's shoulder^-'' that I would make hell itself the
punishment of him who injured me, were I even to share it with him."

Phillis'a knees smote each other with terror at the look that accom-
panied these words ; they were spoken without passion or vehemence,
but there was that in their tone that thrilled to his inmost heart.
Powerless, and overcome by his emotions, he could not stir from the
spot: he wanted to make explanations and excuses, but all his in-
genuity deserted him; he tried to utter vows of attachment and
fidelity, but shame was too strong for him there also. He would
have resorted to menace itself rather than remain silent, but he had
no courage for such a hazardous course. Linton appeared to read in
turn each change of mood that passed across the other's mind ; and,
after waiting as it were to enjoy the confusion under which he suffered,
said :

" Just so, Phillis ; it is a sad scrape you fell into ; but when a man
becomes bankrupt either in fame or fortune, it is but loss of time to
bewail the past ; the wiser course is to start in business again, and
make a character by a good dividend. Try that plan. Good-by!"

These words were a command ; and so Phillis understood them, as,
with an humble bow, he left the room. Linton again locked the door,
and drawing the table to a part of the room from which no eaves-
dropper at the door could detect it, he once more sat down at it.
His late scene with Phillis had left no traces upon his memory ; such
events were too insignificant to claim any notice beyond the few
minutes they occupied; his thoughts were now upon the greater
game, where all his fortune in life was staked. He took out the key,
which he always wore round his neck, and placed it in the lock : at
the same instant the clock on the chimney-piece struck ten. He sat
still, listening to the strokes ; and when they ceased, he muttered,
"Ay, mayhap cold enough ere this!" A slight shuddering shook
him as he uttered these words, and a dreamy reverie seemed to
gather around him ; but he arose, and walking to the window, opened
it. The fresh breeze of the night rallied him almost at once, and he
closed the sash and returned to his place.

" To think that I should hold within my hands the destinies of
those whom most of all the world I hate !" muttered he, as he turned
the key and threw back the lid. The box was empty ! "With a wild
cry, like the accent of intense bodily pain, he sprang up and dashed
both hands into the vacant space, and then held them up before his
eyes, like one who could not credit the evidence of his own senses.
The moment was a terrible one, and for a few seconds the staring
eyeballs and quivering lips seemed to threaten the access of a fit ;
but reason at last assumed the mastery, and he sat down before the
table and leaned his head upon it to think. Twice before in life had


it been Lis lot to lose a whole fortune at one turn of the die, but
never before had be staked all the revengeful feelings of his bad
heart, which, baffled in their flow, now came back upon himself.

He sat thus for nigh an hour ; and when he arose at last, his
features were worn as thougli by a long ilbiess ; and as he moved his
fingers through his hair, it came away in masses, like that of a man
after fever.

So, then, we meet at last. — Harold.

As the rooms began to fill with company, costumed in every variety
that taste, fancy, or absurdity could devise, many were surorised that
neither was there a host to bid them welcome, nor was there any lady
to perform the accustomed honours of reception. The nature of the
entertainment, to a certain extent, took olf from the awkwardness of
this want. In a masquerade, people either go to assume a part, or to
be amused by the representation of others, and are less dependent on
the attentions of the master or mistress of the house ; so that, how-
ever struck at fii'st by the singularity of a/e^e without the presence
of the giver, pleasure, ministered to by its thousand appliances, over-
came this feeling, and few ever thought more of him beneath whose
roof they were assembled.

The rooms were splendid in their decoration, lighted '■'■agiorno^'' and
ornamented with flowers of the very rarest kind. The music consisted
of a celebrated orchestra and a regimental band, who played alter-
nately ; the guests, several hundred in number, were all attired in
fancy costumes, in which every age and nation found its type ; while
characters from well-known fictions abounded, many of them ad-
mirably sustained, and dressed with a pomp and splendour that told
the wealth of the wearers.

It was truly a brilliant scene ; brilliant as beauty, and the glitter
of gems, and waving of plumes, and splendoui* of dress could make it.
The magic iuipulse of pleasure communicated by the crash of music
— the brilliant glare of wax-lights — the throng — tlie voices — the very
atmosphere, tremulous ^\ith sounds of joy, seemed to urge on all
there to give themselves up to enjoyment. There was a boundless,
lavish air, too, in all the arrangements. Servants in gorgeous liveries
served refreshments of the most exquisite kind. Little children,
dressed as pages, distributed bouquets, bound round with lace of
Val-enciennes or Brussels, and occasionally fastened by strings of
garnets or pearls. A jtt (Vcau of rose-water cooled the air of the



conservatory, and diffused its delicious freshness through the atmo-
sphere. There -was something princely in the scale of the hospi-
tality ; and from every tongue words of praise and wonder dropped
at each moment.

Even Lady Janet, whose enthusiasm seldom rose much above the
zero, confessed that it was a magnificent /e^c ; adding, by way of com-
pensation for her eulogy, " and worthy of better company."

Mrs. "White was in ecstasies with everything, even to the cherubs
in pink gauze wings who handed round sherbet, and whom she pro-
noimced quite " classical." The Kennyfecks were in the seventh
heaven of delight ; affecting little airs of authority to the servants,
and showing the strangers, by a hundred little devices, that all the
magnificence around was no new thing to them. Miss Kennyfeck, as
the Queen of Madagascar, was a most beautiful savage ; while Olivia
appeared as the fair " Gabrielle" — a sly intimation to" Sir Harvey,
whose dress as Henri IV. won universal admiration. Then there
were the ordinary number of Turks, Jews, Sailors, Circassians, Greeks,
Highland Chiefs, and Indian Jugglers ; " Jim" figuring as a New-
market " Jock," to the unbounded delight and wonderment of every
" Sub" in the room.

If in many quarters the question ran, " Where is Mr. Cashel ?" or,
" Which is he ?" Lady Janet had despatched Sir Andrew, attired as
a "Moonshee," to find out Linton for her. " He is certain to know
every one here: tell him to come to me at once," said she, sitting
down near a doorway to watch the company.

While Lady Janet is waiting for him — who, better than any other,
could explain the mysterious meaning of many a veiled figure, imravel
the hidden wickedness of every chance allusion, or expound the secret
malice of each calembourg or jest — let us track his wanderings, and
follow him as he goes.

Throwing a large cloak over his brilliant dress, Linton made his
way by many a by-stair and obscure passage to the back of the
theatre, by which the secret approach led to Cashel's dressing-room.
Often as he had trod that way before, never had he done so in the
same state of intense excitement. AVith the loss of the papers, he
saw before him not alone the defeat of every hope he nurtured, but
discovery, shame, and ruin ! He whose whole game in life was to
wield power over others, now saw himself in the grasp of some one,
to whom he had not the slightest clue. At one moment his sus-
picions pointed to Cashel himself, then to Tiernay, and lastly to
Phillis. Possibly rage has no bitterer moment than that in which an
habitual deceiver of others first finds himself in the toils of treachery.
There was over his mind, besides, that superstitious terror, that to
unbelieving intellects stands in place of religion, which told hiiu that
luck had turned with him ; that fortune, so long favourable, had


changed at last ; and that, in his own phrase, " the run had set in
against him." IN'ow, a half-muttered curse would burst from his lips
over the foolhardiness that had made him so dilatory, and not suffered
him to reap the harvest when it was ripe ; now, a deep-breathed vow,
that if fate were propitious once again, no matter how short the in-
terval, he would strike his blow, come what might of it. Sometimes
he blamed himself for having deserted the safe and easy road to ruin
by play, for the ambitious course he had followed ; at other times he
inveighed against his folly for not carrying off Mary Leicester before
Cashel had acquired any intimacy at the cottage. Burning and half-
maddened with this conflict of regrets and hopes, he touched the
spring, moved back the panel, and entered Cashel's room.

His first care was to see that the door from the corridor was secured
on the inside ; his next, to close the shutters and draw the curtains.
These done, he lighted the candles on the table, and proceeded to
make a systematic search through the entire chamber. " It is my last
visit here," said he to himself; " I must take care to do my work
cleanly." A mass of papers had been that morning left behind him
by Cashel, most of them legal documents referring to his transactions
with Hoare ; but some were memoranda of his intentions respecting
Corrigan, and plainly showing that Cashel well remembered he had
never completed his assignment to Linton. " If Keane's hand has
not faltered," muttered he, " Master Eoland's memory will not be
taxed in this world at least ; but where to discover the deed ? that is
the question." In his anxiety on this head, he ransacked drawers and
cabinets with wild and furious haste, strewing their contents around
him, or wantonly throwing them on the fire. With false keys for
every lock, he opened the most secret depositories — scarce glancing at
letters which at any other time he had devoured with interest. Many
were from Lady Kilgoff, warning Cashel against him ; his own name,
seen passingly, would arrest his attention for a second, but the
weightier interest soon intervened, and he would throw tlie papers
from him with contempt. '• How shrewd ! how very cunning !" mut-
tered he, once or twice, as his glance caught some suspicion, some as-
sumed clue to his own motives, in her well-known handwriting.
Bafiled by the unsuccessful result of his search, he stood in the midst
of the floor, surrounded by open boxes, the contents of which were
strewn on every side ; rage and disappointment were depicted in his
features ; and, as his clenched hand struck the table, his whole ex-
pression became demoniac. Curses and deep blasphemies fell from his
half-moving lips, as he stood insensible to everything save the wreck
of his long-cherished hope.

Let us turn from him to another, in whose fortunes we are more
interested. Koland Cashel, after parting with Enrique, hastened on
towards Tubbermore ; his thoughts engaged on every topic save that


wbicli might be supposed to occupy tlie mind of a host at such a time.
Pleasure assuredly held a weaker hold upon him than the thirst for
vengeance, and the ardent longing to throw off the thraldom of that
servitude he had endured too long.

It was only by observing the long string of carriages, whose lamps
flashed and disappeared at intervals among the trees, that he remem-
bered anything of the fete, and bethought him of that character of
entertainer he, at the moment, should have been performing. There
seemed to him a terrible inconsistency between his own thoughts and
tliat scene of pleasure ! — between the object in pursuit of which so
many were hastening with fui'ious speed, and that to which his slower
steps were leading him !

" There can be but one amende for such infamous conduct," mut-
tered he ; "he shall pay it with his life's blood." And as he spoke,
he opened the documents which Enrique had given him, and endea-
voured to read them : the dusky shadows of the fast-falling night pre-
vented him, and he stood for some minutes lost in thought.

One of the papers, he was aware, bore the forged signature of his
name ; the other, whose antique form and massive seal bespoke an im-
portance far greater, he tried again and again to decipher, but in vain.
As he was thus occupied, he chanced to look up, and suddenly per-
ceived that a stream of light issued from beneath the shutters of his
own dressing-room, the door of which he had himself locked at his
departure, taking the key along with him. Enrique's words flashed
across his memory at once. It was Linton was there ! " At his old
work again," muttered he, in deep anger; "but it shall be for the
last time." A moment of coming peril was all that Cashel needed to
elicit the resources of his character. The courage tried in many
a danger supplied him with a calm foresight, which the ordinary oc-
casions of life rarely or never called forth. He bethought him that
it were best at such a conjuncture to deposit the sealed document in
some place of safety ere he went forth upon an enterprise the result
of which must be doubtful : for all purposes of confronting Linton it
were sufficient to take the forged deed along with him. These were
conclusions formed as rapidly as they occurred, and acted upon no less
speedily ; for, folding up the parchment, he inserted it into a cleft in
an aged elm-tree, noting well the spot, and marking all the signs by
which he would be able to return to it. His next thought was, how
to reach his chamber : to enter the house at such a time undiscovered,
was of course out of the question ; he would be seen and recognised
at once, and then there would be an end for ever of all the secrecy by
which he hoped to cover the proceedings with Linton. "

It neither suited his inclinations nor his plans that the world
should be a party to his vengeance. " Let them discover it when it
is over," said he, "but let them not be able to interfere with its


course." All approach to liis dressing-room tlirougli the house being
thus impracticable, nothing remained but to reach it from without.
The chamber was in a second story of the building, at a great height
from the ground ; but the walls were here covered with thick ivy of
ancient growth, and by this Cashel resolved to make the attempt.

The act was not devoid of danger ; but there are times when peril
is a relief to the mad conflict of thought, and this was such a mo-
ment to Cashel. In an instant he made himself ready for the at-
tempt, and with an activity that many a danger had tested, began
the ascent. There are occasions when rashness is safety, and now,
the headlong intrepidity of Koland's attempt proved its security, for
at each step, as the ivy gave way beneath his grasp or his footing, by
an upward spring he reached another spot, which in its turn broke
with his weight : every instant the danger increased, for [the frail
tendrils grew weaker as he ascended, and beneath him the jagged
and drooping branches hung down in ruinous disorder. By one bold
spring he reached the window-sill, and after a momentary struggle,
in which his athletic frame saved him from certain death, he gained a
footing upon the stone, and was able to see what was passing within
the room.

At a table covered with papers and open letters Linton sat, search-
ing with eager haste for the missing documents; open boxes and
presses on every side, rifled of their contents, were seen, some of
which lay in disordered masses upon the floor — some in charred
heaps within the fender. As the light fell upon his features, Cashel

Online LibraryCharles James LeverRoland Cashel (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 32)