Charles James Lever.

The Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) online

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gradually recovering from his reserve.

"What a force of passion he throws into the part! How terrible he makes
the conflict between a great purpose and a weak nature! Do you remember
his horror at the murderers who come to tell of Banquo's death? The
sight of their bloody hands shocks him as though they were not the
evidences of his own success."

Lord Castlereagh's calm countenance became for a second crimson, and his
lip trembled with struggling indignation; and then, as if subduing
the temptation of anger, he broke into a low, easy laugh, and with
an imitation at Kemble's manner, called out, "There 's blood upon thy

"Talking of a bloody hand, my Lord," said Heffernan, at once resuming
his former easy jocularity, "reminds me of that Mr. Hickman, or Hickman
O'Reilly, as the fashion is to call him: is he to have the baronetcy?"

"Not, certainly, if we can secure him without it."

"And I think we ought. It should be quite sufficient remuneration for a
man like him to vote with the Government; his father became a Protestant
because it was the gentlemanly faith; and I don't see why the son should
not choose his politics on the same principle. Have you ever asked him
to dinner, my Lord?"

"Yes, and his father, too. I have had the three generations, but I
rather fear the party did not go off well. I had not in those days,
Heffernan, the benefit of your admirable counsels, and picked my company

"A great mistake with such men as these," said Heffernan, oracularly;
"the guests should have been the cream of your Lordship's noble
acquaintance. I 'd have had an Earl and a Marquis at either side of each
of them; I 'd have turned their heads with noble names, and pelted them
with the Peerage the whole time of dinner; when he had taken wine with
a chamberlain and some lords-in-waiting, if your Lordship would
only address him, in a voice loud enough to be heard, as 'O'Reilly,'
referring to him on a point of sporting etiquette or country gentleman's
life, I think you might spare the baronetage the honor of his alliance.
Do you think, on a proper representation, and with due securities
against the repetition of the offence, the chancellor would let himself
be called 'Clare'? only for once, remember, - because I 'm satisfied, if
this could be arranged, O'Reilly is yours."

"I 'd rather depute you to ask the question," said Lord Castlereagh,
laughing; "assuredly I 'll not do so myself. But when do these people
come to town? - to-morrow or next day, I suppose."

"On Friday next they will all be here. Old Hickman comes up to receive
something like two hundred and twenty thousand pounds, - for Darcy has
raised the money to pay off the incumbrances, - the son is coming for the
debate, and the grandson is to be balloted for at Daly's."

"You have made yourself master of all their arrangements, Heffernan: may
I ask if they afford you any clew to assisting us in our object?"

"When can you give a dinner, my Lord?" said the other.

"Any day after Wednesday, - nay, Wednesday itself; I might easily get off
Brooke's dinner for that day."

"The sooner the better; time is of great consequence now. Shall we say

"Be it so; now for the party."

"A small one: selectness is the type of cordiality. The invitation must
be verbal, done in your own admirable way: 'Don't be late, gentlemen,
for Beerhaven and Drogheda are to meet you, and you know they scold if
the soup suffers,' - something in that style. Now let us see who are our

"Begin with Beerhaven and Drogheda, they are sure cards."

"Well, then, Massey Hamilton, - but he's only a commoner, - to be sure his
uncle's a Duke, but, confound him, he never talks of him! I might draw
him out about the Highlands and deer-stalking, and the Christmas revels
at Clanchattagan; he 's three - Kilgoff four; he 's first-rate, and will
discuss his noble descent till his carriage is announced. Loughdooner,
five - "

"He's another bore, Heffernan."

"I know he is, my Lord; but he has seven daughters, and will
consequently make up to young Beecham, who is a great prize in the wheel
matrimonial. We shall want a Bishop to say grace; I think Dunmore is the
man: he is the last of your Lordship's making, and can't refuse a short

"Six, and the three Hickmans nine, and ourselves eleven; now for the
twelfth - "

"Darcy, of course," said Heffernan; "he must be asked, and, if possible,
induced to come; Hickman O'Reilly will be far more easily managed if we
make him suppose that we have already secured Darcy ourselves."

"He'll decline, Heffernan; depend upon it, he'll not come."

"You think he saw through my _ruse_ in the House, - not a bit of it;
he is the least suspecting man in Ireland, and I 'll make that very
circumstance the reason of his coming. Hint to him that rumor says he
is coquetting with the Government, and he 'll go any lengths to brave
public opinion by confronting it, - that's Darcy, or I 'm much mistaken
in my man; and, to say truth, my Lord, it's an error I rarely fall
into." A smile of self-satisfaction lit up Heffernan's features as he
spoke; for, like many cunning people, his weak point was vanity.

"You may call me as a witness to character whenever you please," said
Lord Castlereagh, who, in indulging the self-glorification of the other,
was now taking his own revenge; "you certainly knew Upton better than I

"Depend upon it," said Heffernan, as he leaned back in his chair and
delivered his words in a tone of authority, - "depend upon it, the great
events of life never betray the man, it is the small, every-day dropping
occurrences both make and mar him. I made Upton my friend for life by
missing a woodcock he aimed at; _he_ brought down the bird, and I bagged
the sportsman. Ah, my Lord, the real science of life is knowing how to
be gracefully in the wrong; how to make those slips that reflect on your
own prudence, by exhibiting the superior wisdom of your acquaintances.
Of the men who compassionate your folly or deplore your weakness, you
may borrow money, from the fellows who envy your abilities and extol
your capacity, you 'll never get sixpence."

"How came it, Heffernan, that you never took office?" said Lord
Castlereagh, suddenly, as if the idea forced itself abruptly upon him.

"I'll tell you, my Lord," replied Heffernan, speaking in a lower tone,
and as if imparting a deep secret, "they could not spare me - that's the
real fact - they could not spare me. Reflect, for a moment, what kind
of thing the Government of Ireland is; see the difficulty, nay, the
impossibility, of any set of men arriving here fresh from England being
able to find out their way, or make any guess at the leading
characters about them: every retiring official likes to embarrass his
successor, - that's all natural and fair; then, what a mass of blunders
and mistakes await the newly come Viceroy or Secretary! In the midst
of the bleak expanse of pathless waste I was the sign-post. The new
players, who took up the cards when the game was half over, could know
nothing of what trumps were in, or what tricks were taken. I was there
to tell them all; they soon saw that I could do this; and they also saw
that I wanted nothing from any party."

"That must be confessed on every hand, Heffernan. Never was support more
generous and independent than yours! and the subject reminds me of
a namesake, and, as I hear, a nephew of yours, the Reverend Joshua
Heffernan, - is not that the name?"

"It is, my Lord, my nephew; but I'm not aware of having asked anything
for him; I never - "

"But I did, Heffernan, and I do. He shall have the living of Drumslade;
I spoke to the Lord-Lieutenant about it yesterday. There is a hitch
somewhere, but we'll get over it."

"What may be the obstacle you allude to?" said Heffernan, with more
anxiety than he wished to evince.

"Lord Killgobbin says the presentation was promised to his brother, for
his influence over Rochfort."

"Not a bit of it, my Lord. It was I secured Rochfort. The case was
this. He is separated from his wife, Lady Mary, who had a life annuity
chargeable on Rochfort's pension from the Ordnance. Cook enabled me to
get him twelve thousand pounds on the secret service list, provided he
surrendered the pension. Rochfort was only too happy to do so, because
it would spite his wife; and the next Gazette announced 'that the member
for Dun raven had declared his intention of voting with the Government,
but, to prevent even the breath of slander on his motives, had
surrendered his retiring pension as a Store-keeper-General.' There never
was a finer theme for editorial panegyric, and in good sooth your
Lordship's press made the most of it. What a patriot!"

"What a scoundrel!" muttered Lord Castlereagh; and it would have
puzzled a listener, had there been one, to say on whom the epithet was

"As for Killgobbin or his brother having influence over Rochfort, it's
all absurd. Why, my Lord, it was that same brother married Rochfort to
Lady Mary."

"That is conclusive," said Lord Castlereagh, laughing.

"Faith, I think so," rejoined Heffernan; "if you do recover after being
hanged, I don't see that you want to make a friend of the fellow that
pinioned your hands in the 'press-room.' If there's no other reason
against Jos's promotion than this - "

"If there were, I 'd endeavor to overcome it," said Lord Castlereagh.
"Won't you take more wine? Pray let's have another bottle."

"No more, my Lord; it's only in such safe company I ever drink so
freely," said Heffernan, laughing, as he rose to say, "Good-night."

"You 'll take measures for Wednesday, then; that is agreed upon?"

"All settled," said Heffernan, as he left the room. "Good-bye."

"There's a building debt on that same living of seventeen hundred
pounds," said Lord Castlereagh, musing; "I'll easily satisfy Killgobbin
that we mean to do better for his brother."

"Take office, indeed!" muttered Heffernan, as he lay back in his
carriage; "there 's something better than that, - governing the men that
hold office, holding the reins, pocketing the fare, and never paying the
breakage when the coach upsets. No, no, my Lord, you are a clever
fellow for your years, but you must live longer before you measure Con


Heffernan's calculations were all correct, and the Knight accepted Lord
Castlereagh's invitation, simply because rumor attributed to him an
alliance with the Government "It is a pity," said he, laughing, "so much
good calumny should have so little to feed upon; so here goes to give it

Darcy had as little time as inclination to waste on the topic, as the
whole interval was occupied in law business with Gleeson, who arrived
each morning with a chariot full of parchments, and almost worried the
Knight to death by reciting deeds and indentures, to one word of which
throughout he could not pay the least attention. He affected to listen,
however, as he saw how much Gleeson desired it, and he wrote his name
everywhere and to everything he was asked.

"By Jove!" cried he, at last, "I could have run through the whole estate
with less fatigue of mind or body than it has cost me to keep a hold of

Through all the arrangements, there was but one point on which he felt
anxious, and the same question recurred at every moment, "This cannot
compromise Lionel in any way? - this will lead to no future charge upon
the estate after my death?" Indeed, he would not consent to any plan
which in the slightest degree affected his son's interests, being
determined that whatever his extravagances, the penalty should end with

While these matters were progressing, old Hickman studiously avoided
meeting the Knight; a sense of his discomfiture at the abbey - a fact
he supposed must have reached Darcy's ears - and the conviction that his
long-cherished game to obtain the property was seen through, abashed the
old man, and led him to affect illness when the Knight called.

A pleasant letter which the post had brought from Lionel routed every
other consideration from Darcy's mind. His son was coming over to see
him, and bringing three or four of his brother officers to have a peep
at "the West," and a few days' hunting with the Knight's pack. Every
line of this letter glowed with buoyancy and high spirits; schemes for
amusement alternating with the anticipated amazement of his English
friends at the style of living they were to witness at Gwynne Abbey.

"We shall have but eight days with you, my leave from the Prince will
go no further," wrote he; "but I know well how much may be done in
that short space. Above all, secure Daly; I wish our fellows to see him
particularly. I do not ask about the stable, because I know the horses
are always in condition; but let Dan give the black horse plenty of work
every day; and if the brown mare we got from Mulloch can be ridden by
any one, she must have a saddle on her now. We hope to have four days'
hunting; and let the woodcocks take care of themselves in the intervals,
for we are bent on massacre."

The postscript was brief, but it surprised Darcy more than all the rest.

"Only think of my spending four days last week down in Essex with a
worthy kinsman of my mother's, Lord Netherby: a splendid place, glorious
shooting, and the best greyhounds I ever saw run. He understands
everything but horses; but I have taken on me to enlighten him a little,
and have sent down four grays from Guildfords' yesterday, - better than
any we have in the Prince's stables; he is a fine fellow, though I
did n't like him at first; a great courtier in his way, but _au fond_
warm-hearted and generous. Keep my secret from my mother, but he intends
coming over with us. Adieu! dear father. Look to Forester, don't let
him run away before we arrive. Cut Dublin and its confounded politics.
Netherby says the ministers have an immense majority, - the less reason
for swelling or decreasing it.

"Yours ever,

"Lionel Darcy."

"And so our trusty and well-beloved cousin of Netherby is coming to
visit us," said the Knight, musing. "Well, Lionel, I confess myself half
of your mind. I did not like him at first: the better impression is yet
to come. In any case, let us receive him suitably; and, fortunately,
here's Gleeson to help the arrangement - Well, Gleeson, I hope matters
are making some progress. Are we to see the last of these parchments
soon? Here's a letter from my son. Read it, and you 'll see I must get
back to 'the West' at once."

Gleeson perused the letter, and when he had finished, returned it into
the Knight's hand without speaking.

"Can we conclude this week?" asked Darcy.

"There are several points yet, sir, of great difficulty. Some I have
already submitted for counsel's opinion; one in particular, as regards
the serving the notice of repayment: there would appear to be a doubt on
this head."

"There can be none in reality," said Darcy, hastily. "I have Hickman's
letter, in his own handwriting, averring his readiness to release the
mortgage at any day."

"Is the document witnessed, and on a stamp?" asked Gleeson, cautiously.

"Of course it is not. Those are scarcely the forms of a note between two
private gentlemen."

"It might be of use in equity, no doubt," muttered Gleeson, "or before
a jury; but we have no time for these considerations now. The
Attorney-General thinks - "

"Never mind the Attorney-General. Have we the money to repay? Well, does
Hickman refuse to accept it?"

"He has not been asked as yet, sir," said Gleeson, whose business
notions were not a little ruffled by this abrupt mode of procedure.

"And, in Heaven's name, Gleeson! why pester yourself and me with
overcoming obstacles that may never arise? Wait on Hickman at
once, - to-day. Tell him we are prepared, and desirous of paying off
these incumbrances. If he objects, hear his objection."

"He will refer me to his solicitor, sir, - Mr. Kennedy, of Hume
Street, - a very respectable man, no higher in the profession, but I may
remark, in confidence, one who has no objection to a suit in equity or a
trial at bar. It is not money Hickman wants, sir. He is perfectly
satisfied with his security."

"What the devil is it, then? He's not Shylock, is he?" said Darcy,

"Not very unlike, perhaps, sir; but in the present instance, it is your
influence with the Government he desires."

"But I have none, Gleeson, - actually none. No man knows that better than
you do. I could not make a gauger or a tide-waiter to-morrow."

"But you might, sir, - you might make a peer of the realm if you wished
it. Hickman knows this; and whatever scruples _you_ might have in
adopting the necessary steps, _his_ conscience could never recognize
them as worthy a moment's consideration."

"This is a topic I 'll scarcely discuss with him," said the Knight,
proudly. "I never, so far as I know, promised to pay a percentage in my
principles as well as in my gold. Mr. Hickman has a fair claim on the
one; on the other, neither he nor any other man shall make an unjust
demand. I am not of Christie Ford's mind," added he, laughingly.
"He says, Gleeson, that if the English are bent on taking away _our_
Parliament, the only revenge we have left is to spoil _their_ peerage.
This is but a sorry theme to joke upon, after all; and, to come back,
what say you to trying my plan? I am to meet the old fellow at dinner,
on Wednesday next, at Lord Castlereagh's."

"Indeed, sir!" said Gleeson, with a mixture of surprise and agitation
greatly disproportioned to the intelligence.

"Yes. Why does that astonish you? The Secretary is too shrewd to neglect
such men as these; they are the rising influences of Ireland."

Gleeson muttered a half assent; but evidently too much occupied with his
own reflections to pay due attention to the Knight's remark, continued
to himself, "on Wednesday!" then added aloud, "On Monday he is to be in
Kildare. He told me he would remain there to receive his rents, and on
Wednesday return to town. I believe, sir, there may be good counsel in
your words. I 'll try on Monday. I 'll follow him down to Kildare, and
as the papers relative to the abbey property are all in readiness, I'll
endeavor to conclude that at once. So you are to meet at dinner?"

"That same dinner-party seems to puzzle you," said the Knight, smiling.

"No, not at all, sir," replied Gleeson, hurriedly. "You were desirous
of getting home next week to meet Mr. Lionel - Captain Darcy I must call
him; if this arrangement can be made, there will be no difficulty
in your return. But of course you will not leave town before it is

The Knight pledged himself to be guided by his man of business in all
respects; but when they parted, he could not conceal from himself that
Gleeson's agitated and troubled manner, so very unlike his usual calm
deportment, boded difficulties and embarrassments which to his own eyes
were invisible.


It was on a severe night, with frequent gusts of stormy wind shaking the
doors and window-frames, or carrying along the drifted flakes of snow
with which the air was charged, that Lady Eleanor, her daughter, and
Forester, were seated round the fire. All the appliances of indoor
comfort by which they were surrounded seemed insufficient to dispel a
sense of sadness that pervaded the little party. Conversation flowed
not as it was wont, in its pleasant current, diverging here and there as
fancy or caprice suggested; the sentences were few and brief, the pauses
between them long and frequent; a feeling of awkwardness, too, mingled
with the gloom, for, at intervals, each would make an endeavor to
relieve the weariness of time, and in the effort show a consciousness of

Lady Eleanor lay back in her deep chair, and, with half-closed lids,
seemed lost in thought. Helen was working at her embroidery, and,
apparently, diligently too, although a shrewd observer might have
remarked on the slow progress the work was making, and how inevitably
her balls of colored worsted seemed bent on entanglement; while Forester
sat silently gazing on the wood fire, and watching the bright sparks as
they flitted and danced above the red flame; his brow was clouded, and
his look sorrowful; not without reason, perhaps: it was to be his last
evening at the abbey; the last of those hours of happiness which seemed
all the fairer when about to part with them forever.

Lady Eleanor seemed grieved at his approaching departure. From the habit
of his mind, and the nature of his education, he was more companionable
to her than Lionel.

She saw in him many qualities of high and sterling value, and even in
his prejudices she could trace back several of those traits which marked
her own youth, when, in the pride of her English breeding, she would
tolerate no deviation from the habits of her own country. It was true,
many of these notions had given way since his residence at the abbey;
many of his opinions had undergone modification or change, but still he
was distinctively English.

Helen, who possessed no standard by which to measure such prejudices,
was far less indulgent towards them; her joyous, happy nature - the
heirloom of her father's house - led her rather to jest than argue on
these topics, and she contrasted the less apt and ready apprehension
of Forester with the native quickness of her brother Lionel,
disadvantageous to the former. She was sorry, too, that he was going;
more so, because his society was so pleasing to her mother, and that
before him, Lady Eleanor exerted herself in a way which eventually
reacted favorably on her own health and spirits. Further than this, her
interest in him was weak.

Not so Forester: he was hopelessly, inextricably, in love, not the less
so that he would not acknowledge it to himself; far more so because he
had made no impression on the object of his passion. There is a period
in every story of affection when the flame grows the brighter because
unreflected, and seems the more concentrated because unreturned.
Forester was in this precise stage of the malady; he was as much piqued
by the indifference as fascinated by the charms of Helen Darcy. The very
exertions he made for victory stimulated his own passion; while, in her
efforts to interest or amuse him, he could not help feeling the evidence
of her indifference to him.

We have said that the conversation was broken and interrupted; at length
it almost ceased altogether, a stray remark of Lady Eleanor's, followed
by a short reply from Forester, alone breaking the silence. Nor
were these always very pertinent, inasmuch as the young aide-de-camp
occasionally answered his own reflections, and not the queries of his

"An interesting time in Dublin, no doubt," said Lady Eleanor, half
talking to herself; "for though the forces are unequal, and victory and
defeat predestined, there will be a struggle still."

"Yes, madam, a brief one," answered Forester, dreamily, comprehending
only a part of her remark.

"A brief and a vain one," echoed Lady Eleanor.

"Say, rather, a glorious one," interposed Helen; "the last cheer of a
sinking crew!"

Forester looked up, startled into attention by the energy of these few

"I should say so too, Helen," remarked her mother, "if they were not
accessory to their own misfortunes."

"Nay, nay, Mamma, you must not remember their failings in their hour of
distress; there is a noble-hearted minority untainted yet."

"There will be a majority of eighteen," said Forester, whose thoughts
were wandering away, while he endeavored to address himself to what he
believed they were saying; nor was he aware of his error till aroused by
the laughter of Lady Eleanor and her daughter.

"Eighteen!" reiterated he, solemnly.

"How few!" remarked Lady Eleanor, almost scornfully.

"You should say, how costly, Mamma!" exclaimed Helen. "These gentlemen
are as precious from their price as their rarity!"

"That is scarcely fair, Miss Darcy," said Forester, at once recalled to
himself by the tone of mockery she spoke in; "many adopted the views
of Government, after duly weighing every consideration of the measure:
some, to my own knowledge, resisted offers of great personal advantage,
and Lord Castlereagh was not aware of their adhesion - "

"Till he had them _en poche_, I suppose," said Helen, sarcastically;
"just as you have been pleased to do with my ball of yellow worsted, and
for which I shall be thankful if you will restore it to me."

Forester blushed deeply, as he drew from his coat-pocket the worsted,

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 12 of 34)