Charles James Lever.

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

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which in a moment of abstraction he had lifted from the ground, and
thrust into his pocket, without knowing.

Had any moderately shrewd observer witnessed his confusion, and her
enjoyment of it, he would easily have understood the precise relation of
the two parties to each other. Forester's absence of mind betrayed
his engaged affection as palpably as Helen's laughter did her own
indifference.

Lady Eleanor did not remark either; her thoughts still rested on
the topic of which they had spoken, for it was a subject of no
inconsiderable difficulty to her. Whatever her sense of indignant
contempt for the bribed adherents of the Ministry, her convictions
always inclined to these measures, whose origin was from her native
country; her predilections were strongly English; not only her happiest
days had been passed there, but she was constantly contrasting the
position they would have occupied and sustained in that favored land,
against the wasteful and purposeless extravagance of their life in
Ireland.

Was it too late to amend? was the question ever rising to her mind, now
if even yet the Knight should be induced to adopt the more ambitious
course? Every accidental circumstance seemed favorable to the notion:
the Government craving his support; her own relatives, influential
as they were from rank and station, soliciting it; the Prince himself
according favors which could no more be rejected than acknowledged
ungraciously.

"What a career for Lionel! What a future for Helen!" such were
reflections that would press themselves upon her, but to whose
disentanglement her mind suggested no remedy.

"'Tis Mr. Daly, my Lady," said Tate, for something like the fourth time,
without being attended to. "'T is Mr. Daly wants leave to visit you."

"Mr. Bagenal Daly, Mamma, wishes to know if you'll receive him?"

"Mr. Daly is exactly the kind of person to suggest this impracticable
line of policy," said Lady Eleanor, with half-closed eyes; for the name
alone had struck her, and she had not heard what was said.

"My dear Mamma," said Helen, rising, and leaning over her chair, "it is
a visit he proposes; nothing so very impracticable in that, I hope!"
and then, at a gesture from her mother, continued to Tate, "Lady Eleanor
will be very happy to see Mr. Daly."

Lady Eleanor had scarcely aroused herself from her revery when Bagenal
Daly entered. His manner was stately, perhaps somewhat colder than
usual, and he took his seat with an air of formal politeness.

"I have come, my Lady," said he, slowly, "to learn if I can be of any
service in the capital; unexpected news has just reached me, requiring
my immediate departure for Dublin."

"Not to-night, sir, I hope; it is very severe, and likely, I fear, to
continue so."

"To-night, madam, within an hour, I expect to be on the road."

"Could you defer a little longer, and we may be fellow-travellers," said
Forester; "I was to start to-morrow morning, but my packing can soon be
made."

"I should hope," said Lady Eleanor, smiling, "that you will not leave us
unprotected, gentlemen, and that one, at least, will remain here."
This speech, apparently addressed to both, was specially intended for
Forester, whose cheek tingled with a flush of pleasure as he heard it.

"I have no doubt, madam, that Captain Forester, whose age and profession
are more in accordance with gallantry, will respond to your desire."

"If I could really fancy that I was not yielding to my own wishes only,"
stammered out Forester.

"Nay, I make it a request."

"There, sir, how happy to be entreated to what one's wishes incline
them," added Daly; "you may go through a deal of life without being
twice so fortunate. I should apologize for so brief a notice of my
departure, Lady Eleanor, but the intelligence I have received is
pressing." Here he dropped his voice to a whisper. "The Ministers have
hurried forward their bill, and I shall scarcely be in time for the
second reading."

"All accounts agree in saying that the Government majority is certain,"
observed Lady Eleanor, calmly.

"It is to be feared, madam, that such rumors are well founded, but the
party who form the forlorn hope have their devoirs also."

"I am a very indifferent politician, Mr. Daly, but it strikes me that
a body so manifestly corrupt, give the strongest possible reasons for
their own destruction."

"Were they all so, madam, I should join in the sentiment as freely as
you utter it," replied Daly, proudly; "but it is a heavy sentence that
would condemn the whole crew because there was a mutiny in the steerage;
besides, these rights and privileges are held only in trust; no man can
in honor or justice vote away that of which he is only the temporary
occupant; forgive me, I beg, for daring to discuss the topic, but I
thought the Knight had made you a convert to his own opinions."

"We have never spoken on the subject, Mr. Daly," replied Lady Eleanor,
coldly; "the Knight dislikes the intrusion of a political matter within
the circle of his family, and for that reason, perhaps," added she, with
a smile, "my daughter and myself feel for it all the temptation of a
forbidden pleasure."

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Helen, who heard the last few words of her mother's
speech, "I am as violent a partisan as Mr. Daly could ask for; indeed,
I am not certain if all my doctrines are not of his own teaching; I fear
the Premier, distrust the Cabinet, and put no faith in the Secretary for
Ireland; is not that the first article of our creed? - nay, nay, fear was
no part of your instruction."

"And yet I have fears, my dear Helen, and very great fears just now,"
said Daly in a low whisper, only audible by herself, and she turned
her full and beaming eyes upon him for an explanation. As if anxious
to escape the interrogatory, Daly arose hastily. "I must crave
your indulgence for an abrupt leave-taking, Lady Eleanor," said he,
approaching, as he kissed the hand held out to him; "I shall be able to
tell the Knight that I left you both well, and under safe protection.
Captain Forester, adieu; you need no admonition of mine respecting your
charge;" and, with a low and courtly salute, he departed.

"Rely upon it, Captain Forester, he's bent on mischief now. I never
saw him particularly mild and quiet in his manner that it was not the
prelude to some desperate ebullition," said Lady Eleanor.

"He is the very strangest of all mortals."

"Say, the most single-minded and straightforward," interposed Helen,
"and I 'll agree with you."

"When men of strong minds and ambitious views are curbed and held
in within the petty sphere of a small social circle, they are, to my
thinking, intolerable. It is making a drawing-room pet of a tiger; every
step he takes upsets a vase or smashes a jar. You smile at my simile."

"I 'm sure it's a most happy one," said Forester, continuing.

"I enter a dissent," cried Helen, playfully. "He's a tiger, if you will,
with his foes, but in all the relations of private life, gentleness
itself; for my part, I can imagine no more pleasing contrast to the
modern code of manners than Mr. Bagenal Daly."

"There, Captain Forester, if you would win Miss Darcy's favor, you have
now the model for your imitation."

Forester's face flushed, and he appeared overwhelmed with confusion,
while Helen went on with her embroidery, tranquil as before.

"I believe," resumed Lady Eleanor, - "I believe, after all, I am unjust
to him; but much may be forgiven me for being so; he has made my son a
wild, thoughtless boy, and my daughter - "

"No indiscretions, Mamma," cried Helen, holding up her hand.

"Well, he has made my daughter _telle que vous la voyez_."

Forester was too well bred to venture on a word of flattery or
compliment, but his glowing color and sparkling eyes spoke his
admiration.

Lady Eleanor's quick glance remarked this; and, as if the thought had
never occurred before, she seemed amazed, either at the fact or at her
own previous inattention.

"Let us finish that second volume you were reading, Captain Forester,"
said she, glad to cut short the discussion. And, without a word, he took
the book and began to read.




CHAPTER XVII. BAGENAL DALY'S JOURNEY TO DUBLIN

It is not our desire to practise any mystery with our reader, nor would
the present occasion warrant such. Mr. Daly's hurried departure for
Dublin was caused by the receipt of tidings which had that morning
reached him, conveying the startling intelligence that his friend the
Knight had accepted terms from the Government, and pledged himself to
support their favored measure.

It was a time when men were accustomed to witness the most flagrant
breaches of honor and good faith. No station was too high to be above
the reach of this reproach, no position too humble not to make its
possessor a mark for corruption. It was an epidemic of dishonesty, and
people ceased to wonder as they heard of each new victim to the malady.

Bagenal Daly well knew that no man could be more exempt from an
imputation of this nature than the Knight of Gwynne: every act of his
life, every sentiment he professed, every trait of his character, flatly
contradicted the supposition. But he also knew that though Darcy was
unassailable by all the temptations of bribery, come in what shape
they might, that his frank and generous spirit would expose him to the
stratagems and devices of a wily and insidious party, and that if, by
any accident, an expression should fall from him in all the freedom of
convivial enjoyment that could be tortured into even the resemblance
of a pledge, he well knew that his friend would deem any sacrifice of
personal feeling light in the balance, rather than not adhere to it.

Resolved not to lose a moment, he despatched Sandy to order horses along
the line, and having passed the remainder of the day in the preparations
for his departure, he left the abbey before midnight. A less determined
traveller might have hesitated on setting out on such a night: the long
menacing storm had at length burst forth, and the air resounded with a
chaos of noise, amid which the roaring breakers and the crash of falling
trees were uppermost; with difficulty the horses were enabled to keep
their feet, as the sea washed heavily over the wall and deluged the
road, while at intervals the fallen timber obstructed the way and
delayed his progress. Difficulty was, however, the most enjoyable
stimulant to Daly's nature; he loved an obstacle as other men enjoy a
pleasure, and, as he grew older, so far from yielding to the indolence
of years, his hardy spirit seemed to revel in the thought that amid
dangers and perils his whole life had been passed, yet never had he
suffered himself to be a beaten enemy.

The whole of that night, and all the following day, the violence of the
storm was unabated; uprooted trees and wrecked villages met his eye as
he passed, while, in the larger towns, the houses were strongly barred
and shuttered, and scarcely one living thing to be seen through
the streets. Nothing short of the united influence of bribery and
intimidation could procure horses in such a season, and had any
messenger of less sturdy pretensions than honest Sandy been despatched
to order them, they would have been flatly refused. Bagenal Daly and his
man were, however, too well known in that part of Ireland to make such a
course advisable, and though postboys and ostlers condoled together, the
signal of Daly's appearance silenced every thought of opposition, and
the words, "I 'm ready!" were an order to dash forward none dared to
disobey.

So had it continued until he reached Moate, where he found a message
from Sandy, informing him that no horses could be procured, and that he
must bring on those from Athlone the entire way to Kilbeggan.

"You hear me," cried Daly to the astonished postboy, who for the last
two miles had spared neither whip nor spur, in the glad anticipation of
a speedy shelter, - "you hear me. To Kilbeggan."

"Oh, begorra! that's impossible, yer honor. If it was the month of May,
and the road was a bowling-green, the bastes couldn't do it."

"Go on!" cried Daly, shutting up the glass, and throwing himself back in
the chaise.

[Illustration: 185]

But the postboy only buttoned up the collar of his coat around his face,
thrust his whip into his boot, and, drawing his sleeves over his hands,
sat a perfect picture of fatalism.

"I say, go on!" shouted Daly, as he lowered the front window of the
chaise.

A low muttering from the driver, still impassive as before, was all the
reply, and at the same instant a sharp report was heard, and a pistol
bullet whizzed beside his hat.

"Will you go _now?_" cried Bagenal Daly, as he levelled another weapon
on the window; but no second entreaty was necessary, and, with his
bead bent down almost to the mane, and with a mingled cry for mercy
and imprecation together, he drove the spurs into his jaded beast, and
whipped with all his might through the almost deserted town. With the
despairing energy of one who felt his life was in peril, the wretched
postboy hurried madly forward, urging the tired animals up the hills,
and caring neither for rut nor hollow on his onward course, till at
length, blown and exhausted, the animals came to a dead stand, and,
with heaving flanks and outstretched forelegs, refused to budge a step
farther.

"There!" cried the postboy, as, dropping from the saddle, he fell on his
knees upon the road, "shoot, and be d - - - d to you; I can do no more."

The terrified expression of the fellow's face as the lamp of the
chaise threw its light upon him, seemed to change the current of Daly's
thoughts, for he laughed loud and heartily as he looked upon him.

"Come, come," said he, good-humoredly, "is not that Kilbeggan where I
see the lights yonder?"

"Sorra bit of it," sighed the other, "it is only Horseleap."

"Well, push on to Horseleap; perhaps they 've horses there."

"Begorra! you might as well look for black tay in a bog-hole; 't is a
poor 'shebeen' is the only thing in the village;" and, so saying, he
took the bridle on his arm, and walked along before the horses, who,
with drooping heads, tottered after at a foot pace.

About half an hour of such travelling brought Daly in front of a
miserable cabin, over the door of which a creaking sign proclaimed
accommodation for man and beast. To the partial truth of this statement
the bright glare of a fire that shone between the chinks of the shutters
bore witness, and, disengaging himself from the chaise, Daly knocked
loudly for admission. There are few less conciliating sounds to the
ears of a hot-tempered man than those hesitating whispers which, while
exposed to a storm himself, he hears deliberating on the question of his
admission. Such were the mutterings Daly now listened to, and to which
he was about to reply by forcing his entrance, when the door was opened
by a man in the dress of a peasant, who somewhat sulkily demanded what
he wanted.

"Horses, if you have them, to reach Kilbeggan," said Daly, "and if you
have not, a good fire and shelter until they can be procured;" and as
he spoke, he pushed past the man, and entered the room from which the
blazing light proceeded.

With his back to the fire, and hands thrust carelessly into the pockets
of his coat, stood a man of eight-and-thirty or forty years of age;
in dress, air, and appearance he might have been taken for a country
horse-dealer; and so, indeed, his well-worn top-boots and green coat,
cut in jockey fashion, seemed to bespeak him. He was rather under the
middle size, but powerfully built, his wide chest, long arms, and bowed
legs all indicating the possession of that strength which is never the
accompaniment of more perfect symmetry.

Although Daly's appearance unquestionably proclaimed his class in
life, the other exhibited no mark of deference or respect to him as he
entered, but maintained his position with the same easy indifference as
at first.

"You make yourself at home here, good friend, if one might judge from
the way you knocked at the door," said he, addressing Daly with a look
whose easy familiarity was itself an impertinence.

"I have yet to learn," said Daly, sternly, "that a gentleman must
practise any peculiar ceremony when seeking the shelter of a 'shebeen,'
not to speak of the right by which such as you address me as your good
friend."

An insolent laugh, that Daly fancied was re-echoed by some one without,
was the first reply to this speech; when, after a few minutes, the man
added, "I see you 're a stranger in these parts."

"If I had not been so, the chance is I should have taught you somewhat
better manners before this time. Move aside, sir, and let me see the
fire."

But the other never budged in the slightest, standing in the same easy
posture as before.

Daly's dark face grew darker, and his heavy brows met in a deep frown,
while, with a spring that showed no touch of time in his strong frame,
he bounded forward and seized the man by the collar. Few men were Daly's
equals in point of strength; but although he with whom he now grappled
made no resistance whatever, Daly never stirred him from the spot, to
which he seemed fast and firmly rooted.

"Well, that's enough of it!" said the fellow, as with a rough jerk he
freed himself from the grasp, and sent Daly several paces back into the
room.

"Not so!" cried Daly, whose passion now boiled over, and, drawing a
pistol from his bosom, he levelled it at him. Quick as the motion was,
the other was equally ready, for his hand now presented a similar weapon
at Daly's head.

"Move aside, or - "

A coarse, insulting laugh drowned Daly's words, and he pulled the
trigger; but the pistol snapped without exploding.

"There it is, now," cried the fellow, rudely; "luck's against you, old
boy, so you 'd better keep yourself cool and easy;" and with these words
he uncocked the weapon and replaced it in his bosom. Daly watched the
moment, and with a bound placed himself beside him, when, bringing
his leg in front, he caught the man round the middle, and hurled him
headlong on the ground.

He fell as if he had been shot; but, rolling over, he leaned upon his
elbow and looked up, without the slightest sign of passion or even
excitement on his features.

"I 'd know that trip in a thousand; begad, you 're Bagenal Daly, and
nobody else!"

Although not a little surprised at the recognition, Daly suffered no
sign of astonishment to escape him, but drew his chair to the fire, and
stretched out his legs before the blaze. Meanwhile, the other, having
arisen, leaned over the back of a chair, and stared at him steadfastly.

"I am as glad as a hundred-pound note, now, you did n't provoke me to
lay a hand on you, Mr. Daly," said he, slowly, and in a voice not devoid
of a touch of feeling; "'t is n't often I bear malice, but I 'd never
forgive myself the longest day I 'd live."

Daly turned his eyes towards him, and, for some minutes, they continued
to look at each other without speaking.

"I see you don't remember me, sir," said the stranger, at length; "but
I 've a better memory, and a better reason to have it besides: you saved
my life once."

"Saved your life!" repeated Daly, thoughtfully; "I 've not the slightest
recollection of ever having seen you before."

"It's all true I 'm telling, for all that," replied the other; "and
although it happened above five-and-twenty years since, I'm not much
changed, they tell me, in look or appearance." He paused at these words,
as if to give Daly time to recognize him; but the effort seemed in vain,
as, after along and patient scrutiny, Daly said, "No, I cannot remember
you."

"Let me see, then," said the man, "if I can't refresh your memory. Were
you in Dublin in the winter of '75?"

"Yes; I had a house in Stephen's Green - "

"And used to drive four black thoroughbreds without winkers?"

"It's clear that _you_ know me, at least," said Daly; "go on."

"Well, sir, do you remember, it was about a week before Christmas,
that Captain Burke Fitzsimon was robbed of a pair of pistols in the
guard-room of the Upper Castle Yard, in noonday, ay, and tied with his
own sash to the guard-bed?"

"By Jove! I do. He was regularly laughed out of the regiment."

"Faix, and many that laughed at him mightn't have behaved a deal better
than he did," replied the other, with a dogged sternness in his
manner. He became silent after these words, and appeared deeply sunk in
meditation, when suddenly he drew two splendidly chased pistols from
his bosom, and held them out to Daly as he said, "There they are, and as
good as they are handsome, true at thirty paces, and never fail."

Daly gazed alternately from the pistols to their owner, but never
uttered a word.

"That same day," resumed the man, "you were walking down the quay near
the end of Watling Street, when there was a cry of 'Stop thief! - stop
him! - a hundred guineas to the man that takes him!' and shortly after
a man crossed the quay, pursued closely by several people, one of them,
and the foremost, being Tom Lambert, the constable, the strongest man,
they said, of his day, in Ireland. The fellow that ran could beat them
all, and was doing it too, when, just as he had gained Bloody Bridge,
he saw a child on the pathway all covered with blood, and a bulldog
standing over him, worrying him - "

"I have it all," said Daly, interrupting him; "'tis as fresh before me
as if it happened yesterday. The robber stopped to save the child, and,
seizing the bulldog by the throat, hurled him over the wall into the
Liffey. Lambert, as you call him, had by this time come close up, and
was within two yards of the man, when I, feeling compassion for a fellow
that could be generous at such a moment, laid my hand on the constable's
arm to stop him; he struck me; but if he did, he had his reward, for
I threw him over the hip on the crown of his head, and he had a brain
fever after it that almost brought him to death's door. And where were
you all this time, and what were you doing?"

"I was down Barrack Street, across the park, and near Knockmaroon Gate,
before they could find a door to stretch Tom Lambert on."

"You!" said Daly, staring at him; "why, it was Freney, they told me,
performed that exploit for a wager."

"So it was, sir," said the man, standing up and crossing his arms, not
without something of pride in his look, - "I'm Freney."

Daly arose and gazed at the man with all that curious scrutiny one
bestows upon some remarkable object, measuring his strong, athletic
frame with the eye of a connoisseur, and, as it were, calculating the
physical resources of so powerful a figure.

"You see, sir," said the robber, at last, "I was right when I told you
that you saved my life: there were thirteen indictments hanging over my
head that day, and if I 'd been taken they 'd have hanged me as round as
a turnip."

"You owe it to yourself," said Daly; "had you not stopped for the child,
it was just as likely that I 'd have tripped you up myself."

"'Tis a feeling I never could get over," said the robber; "'twas a
little boy, about the same age as that, that saved the Kells coach the
night I stopped it near Dangan. And now, sir, let me ask you what in the
world brought you into the village of Horseleap? For I am sure," added
he with a laugh, "it was never to look after me."

"You are right there, friend; I'm on my way up to town to be present at
the debate in Parliament on the Union, - a question that has its interest
for yourself too."

"How so, sir?" said the other, curiously.

"Plainly enough, man; if they carry the Union, they'll not leave a man
worth robbing in the island. You 'll have to take to an honest calling,
Freney, - turn cattle-drover. By the way, they tell me you 're a good
judge of a horse."

"Except yourself, there's not a better in the island; and if you 've no
objection, I 'll mount and keep you company as far as Maynooth, where
you 'll easily get horses - and it will be broad daylight by that
time - to bring you into Dublin."

"I accept the offer willingly. I'll venture to say we shall not be
robbed on the journey."

"Well, sir, the horses won't be here for an hour yet, and if you 'll
join me in a bit of supper I was going to have when you came in, it will
help to pass the time till we are ready to start."

Daly assented, not the less readily that he had not eaten anything since
morning, and Freney left the room to hasten the preparations for the
meal.

"Come, Freney," said Daly, as the other entered the room a few moments
after, "was it the strength of conscious rectitude that made you stand



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 13 of 34)