Charles James Lever.

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

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my fire as you did a while ago, or did you think me so bad a marksman at
four paces?"

"Neither, sir," replied the robber, laughing; "I saw the pan of the lock
half open as you drew it from your pocket, and I knew the priming must
have fallen out; but for that - "

"You had probably fired, yourself?"

"Just so," rejoined he, with a short nod. "I could have shot you before
you levelled at me. Now, sir, here's something far better than burning
powder. I am sure you are too old a traveller not to be able to eat a
rasher of bacon."

"And this I take to be as free of any allegiance to the king as
yourself," said Daly, as he poured out a wineglass-ful of "poteen" from
a short black bottle.

"You 're right, sir," said Freney, with a laugh. "We 're both duty free.
Let me help you to an egg."

"I never ate better bacon in my life," said Daly, who seemed to relish
his supper with considerable gusto.

"I'm glad you like it, sir. It is a notion of mine that Costy Moore of
Kilcock cures a pig better than any man in this part of Ireland; and
though his shop is next the police-barracks, I went in there myself to
buy this."

Daly stared, with something of admiration in his look, at the man whose
epicurism was indulged at the hazard of his neck; and he pledged the
robber with a motion of the head that betokened a high sense of his
daring. "I've heard you have had some close escapes, Freney."

"I was never taken but once, sir. A woman hid my shoes when I was
asleep. I was at the foot of the Galtee mountains: the ground is hard
and full of sharp shingle, and I could n't run. They brought me into
Clonmel, and I was in the heaviest irons in the jail before two hours
were over. That's the strong jail, Mr. Daly; they 've the best walls and
the thickest doors there I have ever seen in any jail in Ireland. For,"
added he, with a sly laugh, "I went over them all, in a friendly sort of
a way."

"A kind of professional tour, Freney?"

"Just so, sir; taking a bird's-eye view of the country from the drop,
because, maybe, I would n't have time for it at another opportunity."

"You 're a hardened villain!" said Daly, looking at him with an
expression the robber felt to be a finished compliment.

"That's no lie, Mr. Daly; and if I wasn't, could I go on for twenty
years, hunted down like a wild beast, with fellows tracking me all day,
and lying in watch for me all night? Where we are sitting now is the
only spot in the whole island where I can say I 'm safe. This is my
brother's cabin."

"Your brother is the same man that opened the door for me?"

Freney nodded, and went on: "He's a poor laboring man, with four acres
of wet bog for a farm, and a young woman, in the ague, for a wife, and
if it was n't for myself he 'd be starving; and would you believe it,
now, he 'd not take to the road for one night - just one single night - to
be as rich as the Duke of Leinster; and here am I" - and, as he spoke,
his chest expanded, and his dark eyes flashed wildly - "here am I, that
would rather be on my black mare's back, with my holsters at the
saddle, watching the sounds of wheels on a lonely road, than I 'd be any
gentleman in the land, barring your own self."

"And why me?" said Daly, in a voice whose melancholy cadence made it
solemn as a death-bell.

"Just because you 're the only man I ever heard tell of that was fond of
danger for the fun of it. Did n't I see the leap you took at the Black
Lough, just to show the English Lord-Lieutenant how an Irish gentleman
rides, with the rein in your mouth, and your hands behind your back?
Isn't that true?"

Daly nodded, and muttered, "I have the old horse still."

"By the good day! I 'd spend a week in Newgate to see you on his back."

"Well, Freney," said Daly, who seemed not disposed to encourage
a conversation so personal in its allusions, "where have you been
lately? - in the South?"

"No, sir; I spent the last fortnight watching an old fox that doubled on
me at last, - old Hickman, of Loughrea, that used to be."

"Old Hickman! - what of him?" cried Daly, whose interest became at once
excited by the mention of the name.

"I found out, sir, that he was to be down here at Kildare to receive his
rents, - for he owns a fine estate here, - and that, besides, Tom Gleeson,
the great agent from Dublin, was to meet him, as some said, to pay him
a large sum of money for the Knight of Gwynne, - some heavy debt, I
believe, owing for many a year."

"Yes, go on. What then?"

"Well. I knew the reason Hickman wanted the money here: Lord Tyrawley
was going to sell him a part of Gore's Wood, for hard cash - d 'ye
mind, sir, hard cash - down on the nail, for my Lord likes high play at
Daly's - "

"D - - n Lord Tyrawley!" said Daly, impatiently. "What of Hickman?"

"Well, d - - n him too! He's a shabby negur. I stopped 'him at Ball's
Bridge once, and got but three guineas and some shillings for my pains.
But to come back to old Hickman: I found he had arrived at the 'Black
Dog,' and that Gleeson had come the same evening, and so I disguised
myself like an old farmer the next morning, and pretended I wanted
his advice about an asthma that I had, just to see the lie of the old
premises, and whether he was alone, or had the two bailiffs with him,
as usual. There they were, sir, sure enough, and well armed too, and
fresh hasps on the door, to lock it inside, all secure as a bank. I saw
these things while the old doctor was writing the prescription, for
he tore a leaf out of his pocket-book to order me some stuff for the
cough, - faith, 't is pills of another kind they 'd have given me if they
found me out. That was all I got for my guinea in goold, not to speak
of the danger;" and, so saying, he pulled a crumpled piece of paper from
his pocket, and held it out towards Daly. "That's not it, sir; 't is the
other side the writing is on."

But Daly's eyes were fixed upon the paper, which he held firmly between
both hands.

"Ay, I see what you are looking at," said Freney; "that was a kind of
memorandum the old fellow made of the money Gleeson paid him the day
before."

Daly paid no attention to the remark, but muttered half aloud the
contents of the document before him: "Check on Ball for eighteen
thousand, payable at sight, - thirty-six thousand eight hundred and
ten pounds in notes of the Bank of England, - gold, seventeen hundred
guineas."

"There was a lob," cried Freney, as he rubbed his hands together. "I was
set up for life if I got half of it! And now, Mr. Daly, just tell me one
thing: isn't Mr. Darcy there as bad as myself, to take all this money
for his vote?"

"How do you mean?" said Daly, sternly.

"I mean that a gentleman born and bred as he is, oughtn't to sell his
country for goold; that if a blackguard like myself takes to the road,
it's all natural and reasonable, and the world's little worse off when
they hang half a dozen of my kind; but for a real born gentleman of the
old stock of the land to go and take money for his vote in Parliament!"

"And who dares to say he did so?" cried Daly, indignantly.

"Faix, that's the story up in Dublin; they say he 'd no other way of
clearing off the debts on his property. Bad cess to me if I 'd do it!
Here I am, a robber and a highwayman, I don't deny it, but may I wear
hemp for a handkerchief if I 'd sell my country. Bad luck to the Union,
and all that votes for it," said he, as, filling a bumper of whiskey, he
tossed it off to this laudable sentiment.

"If you had n't wronged my friend the Knight of Gwynne, I'm not certain
that I wouldn't have pledged your toast myself."

"If he 's a friend of yours I say nothing against him; but sure when
he - "

"Once for all," said Daly, sternly, "this story is false;" while he
added, in a low muttering to himself, "corruption must needs have
spread widely when such a calumny was even ventured on. - And so, Freney,
Hickman escaped you?"

"He did, sir," said Freney, sighing; "he made a lodgment in Kildare next
day, and more of the money he carried up to town, guarded all the way
by the two fellows I told you. Ah! Mr. Daly, if all the world was as
cunning as old Peter, I might give up the road as a bad job. There! do
you hear that? Listen, sir."

"What is it?" said Daly, after a moment's silence.

"They're my nags, sir, coming up the road. I'd know their trot if I
heard it among a troop of dragoons. 'T is clippers they are."

As he spoke he arose from the table, and, lighting a small lantern he
always carried with him, hastened to the door, where already the two
horses were standing, a bare-legged "gossoon" holding the bridles.

[Illustration: 197]

"Well, Jemmy, what 's the news to-night?" said Freney.

"Nothing, sir, at all. I passed the down mail at Seery's Mill, and when
the coachman heard the step of the horses, he laid on the wheelers
wid all his might, and sat down on the footboard, and the two outside
passengers lay flat as a pancake on the top when I passed. I could n't
help giving a screech out of me for fun, and the old guard let fly,
and sent a ball through my 'caubeen;'" and as he said these words he
exhibited his ragged felt hat, which, in addition to its other injuries,
now displayed a round bullet-hole through either side.

"Serve you right," said Freney, harshly; "I wish he'd levelled three
inches lower. That young rascal, sir, keeps the whole road in a state of
alarm that stops all business on it." Then he added, in a whisper, "but
he never failed me in his life. I 've only to say when and where I want
the horses, and I 'd lay my neck on it he's there."

Daly, who had been for some minutes examining the two horses by the
lantern with all the skill of an adept, now turned the light full upon
the figure of the boy whose encomium was thus pronounced. The urchin,
as if conscious that he was passing an inspection, set his tattered
hat jauntily on one side, and with one arm a-kimbo, and a leg advanced,
stood the very perfection of ragged, self-sufficient rascality. Though
at most not above fourteen years of age, and short in size even for
that, his features had the shrewd intelligence of manhood; a round,
wide head, covered with dark red hair, projected over two eyes set
wide apart, whose bad expression was ingeniously improved by a habit of
squinting at pleasure, - a practice with which he now amused himself, as
Mr. Daly continued to stare at him. His nose, which a wound had partly
separated from the forehead, was short and wide, leaving an unnatural
length to the lower part of the face, where an enormous mouth, garnished
with large and regular teeth, was seen, - a feature that actually gave a
look of ferocity even to a face so young.

"It's plain to see what destiny awaits that young scoundrel," said Daly,
as he gazed almost sadly at the assemblage of bad passions so palpably
displayed in his countenance.

"I 'd wager the young devil knows it himself, and can see the gallows
even now before him."

A wild burst of frantic laughter broke from the urchin as, in the
exuberance of his merriment, he capered round Daly with gambols the most
strange and uncouth, and then, mimicking an air of self-admiration,
he strutted past, while he broke into one of the slang ditties of the
day: -

"With beauty and manners to plaze,
I 'll seek a rich wife, and I 'll find her,
And live like a Lord all my days,
And sing, Tally-high-ho the Grinder!"

Freney actually screamed with laughter as he watched the mingled
astonishment and horror depicted in Daly's face.

"That fellow's fate will lie heavily on your heart yet," said Daly, in a
voice whose solemn tones at once arrested Freney's merriment, while
the "gossoon," with increased animation and in a wilder strain, burst
forth, -

"My Lord cheats at play like a rogue,
And my Lady flings honor behind her;
And why wold n't I be in vogue,
And sing, Tally-high-ho the Grinder!"

"Come," said Daly, turning away, for, amid all his disgust, a sense of
the ludicrous was stealing over him, and the temptation to laugh was
struggling in him, - "come, let us be off; you have nothing to wait for,
I suppose?"

"Nothing, sir; I'm ready this instant. Here, Jemmy, take this
portmanteau, and meet us outside of Maynooth, under the old castle
wall."

"Stay," cried Daly, whose misgivings about the safe arrival of his
luggage would have made him prefer any other mode of transmission; "he
'll scarcely be in time."

"Not in time! I wish I'd a bet of fifty guineas on it that he would
not visit every stable on the road, and know every traveller's name and
business, and yet be a good half hour before us. Off with you! Away!"

Diving under the two horses, the "gossoon" appeared at the other side
of the road, and then, with a wild spring in the air, and an unearthly
shout of laughter, he cleared the fence before him and disappeared,
while as he went the strain of his slang song still floated in the air,
and the refrain, "Tally-high-ho the Grinder," could be heard through the
stillness of the night.

"Take the dark horse, sir; you 're heavier than me," said Freney, as he
held the stirrup.

"A clever hack, faith," said Daly, as he seated himself in the saddle,
and gathered up the reins.

"And mounts you well," cried Freney, admiring both horse and rider once
more by the light before he extinguished the lantern.

The storm had now considerably abated, and they rode on at a brisk pace,
nor did they draw rein till the tall ruined castle of Maynooth could be
seen, rearing its dark head against the murky sky.

"We part here," said Daly, who for some time had been lost in thought,
"and I have nothing but thanks to offer you for this night's service,
Freney; but if the time should come that I can do you a good turn - "

"I 'll never ask it, sir," said Freney, interrupting him.

"And why not? Are you too proud?"

"Not too proud to be under any obligation to you," said the robber,
stopping him, "but too proud of the honor you did me this night by
keeping my company, ever to hurt your fame by letting the world know it.
No, Mr. Daly, I knew your courage well; but this was the bravest thing
ever you did."

He sprang from his horse as he spoke, and gave a long, shrill whistle. A
deep silence followed, and he repeated the signal, and, soon after, the
tramp of naked feet was heard on the road, and Jemmy advanced towards
them at his ordinary sling trot.

"Take the trunk up to the town."

"No, no," said Daly, "I'll do that myself;" and he relieved the urchin
of his burden, taking the opportunity to slip some crown-pieces into his
willing hand while he did so.

"Good-bye, sir," said Freney, taking off his hat with courteous
deference.

"Good-bye, Freney," said Daly, as he seized the robber's hand and shook
it warmly. "I 'll soon be shaking hands with twenty fellows not a whit
more honest," said Daly, as he looked after him through the gloom.
"Hang me if I don't think he's better company, too!" and with this very
flattering reflection on some parties unknown, he plodded along towards
the town.

Here, again, new disappointment awaited him: a sudden summons had called
the members of both political parties to the capital, and horses were
not to be had at any price.

"'T is the Lord's marciful providence left him only the one arm," said
a waiter, as he ushered Daly into a sitting-room, and cast a glance of
most meaning terror at the retiring figure of Sandy.

"What do you mean?" asked Daly, hastily.

"It's what he smashed the best chaise in the yard, as if it was a
taycup, this morning. Mr. Tisdal ordered it to be ready at seven
o'clock, to take him up to town, and, when it came to the door, up
comes that long fellow with his one arm, and says, 'This will do for my
master,' says he, and cool and aisy he gets up into the chaise, and sits
down, and when he was once there, by my conscience you might as well try
to drain the canal with a cullender as get him out again! We had a fight
that lasted nigh an hour, and signs on it, there's many a black eye in
the stable-yard to show for it; but he beat them all off, and kept his
ground. 'Never mind,' said Mr. Tisdal, and he whispered a word to the
master; and what did they do, sir, but nailed him up fast in the chaise,
and unharnessed the horses, put them to a jaunting-car, and started with
Mr. Tisdal before you could turn round."

"And Sandy," cried Daly, "what did he do?"

"Sandy? - av it's that you call him, - a divil a doubt but he's sandy and
stony too, - he made a drive at the front panel wid one leg, and away
it went; and he smashed open the door with his fist; and put that short
stump of an arm through the wood as if it was cheese. 'T is a holy
show, the same chaise now! And when he got out, may I never spread a
tablecloth if you'd see a crayture in the street: they run in every
direction, as if it was the duke's bull was out of the paddock, and it's
only a while ago he grew raysonable."

However little satisfactory the exploit was to the innkeeper and his
household, it seemed to sharpen Daly's enjoyment of his breakfast, and
compensate him for the delay to which he was condemned. The messenger
sent to seek for horses returned at last without them, and there was now
no alternative but to await, with such patience as he could muster, some
chaise for town, and thus reach Dublin before nightfall.

A return chaise from Kilcock was at last secured, and Daly, with his
servant on the box, proceeded towards Dublin.

It was dark when they reached the capital, and drove with all the speed
they could accomplish to the Knight's house in Henrietta Street. Great
was Daly's discomfort to learn that his friend Darcy had just driven
from the door.

"Where to?" said he, as he held his watch in his hand, as if considering
the chances of still overtaking him.

"To a dinner-party, sir, at Lord Castlereagh's," said the servant.

"At Lord Castlereagh's!" And nothing but the presence of the man
repressed the passionate exclamation that quivered on his lip.

"Yes, sir, his Lordship and Mr. Heffernan called here - "

"Mr. Heffernan, - Mr. Con Heffernan do you mean?" interrupted he,
quickly. "Ah! I have it now. And when was this visit?"

"On Monday last, sir."

"On Monday," said Daly to himself. "The very day the letter was written
to me: there's something in it, after all. Drive to Kildare Place, and
as fast as you can," said he, aloud, as he sprang into the chaise.

The steps were up, the door banged to, the horses lashed into a gallop,
and the next moment saw the chaise at the end of the street.

Short as the distance was, - scarcely a mile to Heffer-nan's
house, - Daly's impatient anxiety made him think it an eternity. His
object was to reach the house before Heffernan started; for he judged
rightly that not only was the Secretary's dinner planned by that astute
gentleman, but that its whole conduct and machinery rested on his
dexterity.

"I know the fellow well," muttered Daly, - "ay, and, by Heaven! he knows
_me_. His mock candor and his counterfeit generosity have but a
bad chance with such men as myself; but Darcy's open, unsuspecting
temperament is the very metal he can weld and fashion to his liking."

It was in the midst of reflections like these, mingled with passionate
bursts of impatience at the pace, which was, notwithstanding, a sharp
gallop, that they dashed up to Heffer-nan's door. To make way for them,
a chariot that stood there was obliged to move on.

"Whose carriage is this?" said Daly, as, without waiting for the steps
to be lowered, he sprang to the ground.

"Mr. Heffernan's, sir."

"He is at home, then?"

"Yes, sir; but just about to leave for a dinner-party."

"Stand by that chariot, Sandy, and take care that no one enters it till
I come back," whispered Daly in his servant's ear. And Sandy took up bis
post at the door like a sentinel on duty. "Tell your master," said
Daly to the servant, who stood at the open hall-door, "that a gentleman
desires to speak with him."

"He's just going out, sir."

"Give my message," said Daly, sternly.

"With what name, sir?"

"Repeat the words as I have given them to you, and don't dictate to me
how I am to announce myself," said he, harshly, as he opened the door
and walked into the parlor.

Scarcely had he reached the fireplace when a bustle without proclaimed
that Heffernan was passing downstairs, and the confused sound of voices
was heard as he and his servant spoke together. "Ah! very well," said
Heffernan, aloud; "you may tell the gentleman, John, that I can't see
him at present. I 've no notion of keeping dinner waiting half an hour."
And so saying, he passed out to enter the carriage.

"Na, na," said Sandy, as the footman offered his arm to assist his
master to mount the steps; "ye maun wait a wee. I trow ye hae no seen my
master yet."

"What means this insolence? Who is this fellow? - push him aside."

"That's na sae easy to do," replied Sandy, gravely; "and though I hae
but one arm, ye 'll no be proud of yer-sel 'gin you try the game."

"Who are you? By what right do you stop me here?" said Heffernan, who,
contrary to his wont, was already in a passion.

"I'm Bagenal Daly's man; and there's himsel in the parlor, and he'll
tell you mair, maybe."

The mention of that name seemed to act like a spell upon Heffernan, and,
without waiting for another word, he turned back hastily, and re-entered
the house. He stopped as he laid his hand on the handle of the door, and
his face, when the light fell on it, was pale as death; and although no
other sign of agitation was perceptible, the expression of his features
was very different from ordinary. The pause, brief as it was, seemed
sufficient to rally him, for, opening the door with an appearance
of haste, he advanced towards Daly, and, with an outstretched hand,
exclaimed, -

"My dear Mr. Daly, I little knew who it was I declined to see. They gave
me no name, and I was just stepping into my carriage when your servant
told me you were here. I need not tell you that I would not deny myself
to _you_."

"I believe not, sir," said Daly, with a strong emphasis on the words. "I
have come a long journey to see and speak with you."

"May I ask it, as a great favor, that you will let our interview be for
to-morrow morning? You may name your hour, or as many of them as you
like - or will you dine with me?"

"We 'll dine together to-day, sir," said Daly.

"That's impossible," said Heffernan, with a smile which all his tact
could not make an easy one. "I have been engaged for four days to
Lord Castlereagh, - a party which I had some share in assembling
together, - and, indeed, already I am five-and-twenty minutes late."

"I regret deeply, sir," said Daly, as, crossing his hands behind his
back, he slowly walked up and down the room, - "I regret deeply that
I must deprive the noble Secretary's dinner-party of so very gifted a
guest. I know something of Mr. Heffernan's entertaining powers, and I
have heard even more of them; but for all that, I must be unrelenting,
and - "

"The thing is really impossible."

"You will dine with me to-day," was the cool answer of Daly, as, fixing
his eyes steadily on him, he uttered the words in a low, determined
tone.

"Once for all, sir - " said Heffernan, as he moved towards the door.

"Once for all," repeated Daly, "I will have my way. This is no piece of
caprice, - no sudden outbreak of that eccentricity which you and others
affect to fasten on me. No, Mr. Heffernan; I have come a hundred and
fifty miles with an object, and not all the wily dexterity of even you
shall balk me. To be plain, sir, there are reports current in the clubs
and society generally that you have been the means of securing the
Knight of Gwynne to the side of Government. I know - ay, and you
know - how many of these rumors originate on the shallow foundation of
men being seen together in public, and cultivating an intimacy on purely
social grounds. Now, Mr. Heffernan, Darcy's opinions, it is well known,
are not those of the Ministry, and the only result of such calumnies
will be that he, the head of a family, and a country gentleman of the
highest rank, will be drawn into a dangerous altercation with some of
those lounging puppies that circulate such slanders. I am his friend,
and, as it happens, with no such ties to life and station as he
possesses. I will, if possible, place myself in a similar position, and,
to do so, I know no readier road than by keeping your company. I will
give the gentlemen every pretext to talk of me as they have done of him;
and if I hear a mutter, or if I see a signal that the most suspicious
nature can torture into an affront, I will teach the parties that



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 14 of 34)