Charles James Lever.

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

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the cordial warmth of men whose friendship had continued without
interruption for nigh half a century; each well disposed to prize good
faith and integrity at a time when so many lapsed from the path of honor
and principle.

"Well, Darcy," cried Daly, the first greetings over, "there is little
hope left us; that rascally newspaper already proclaims the triumph, - a
majority of twenty-eight."

"They calculate on many more; you remember what old Hayes, of the
Recruiting Staff, used to say: 'There was no getting fellows to enlist
when the bounty was high; make it half-a-crown,' said he, 'and I 'll
raise a battalion in a fortnight.'"

"Is Castlereagh adopting the policy?"

"Yes, and with infinite success! Some that held out for English Peerages
are fain to take Irish Baronetcies, expectant Bishops put up with
Deaneries, and an acquaintance of ours, that would take nothing below
a separate command, is now satisfied to make his son a clerk in the War
Office."

"I 'm sorry for it," said Daly, as he arose and paced the room backwards
and forwards, "sincerely sorry. I had fostered the hope that if they
succeeded in corrupting _our_ gentry, they had polluted _their own_
Peerage. I wish every fellow had been bought by an Earldom at least. I
would like to think that this Judas Peerage might become a jest and a
scoff among their order."

"Have no such expectation, Bagenal," said the Knight, reflectively;
"their origin will be forgiven before the first generation dies out.
To all purposes of worldly respect and esteem, they 'll be as high and
mighty Lords as the best blood of all the Howards. The penalty will fall
upon England in another form."

"How? Where?"

"In the Lower House, politics will become a trade to live by, and the
Irish party, with such an admirable market for grievances, will be a
strong and compact body in Parliament, too numerous to be bought by
anything save great concessions. Englishmen will never understand the
truth of the condition of the country from these men, nor how little
personal importance they possess at home. They will be regarded as the
exponents of Irish opinion; they will browbeat, denounce, threaten,
fawn, and flatter by turns; and Ireland, instead of being easier to
govern, will be rendered ten times more difficult, by all the obscuring
influences of falsehood and misrepresentation. But let us quit the
theme. How have you left all at the Abbey?"

"Well and happy; here are my despatches." And he laid on the table
several letters, the first the Knight had received since his arrival,
save a few hurried lines from Lady Eleanor. Darcy broke the envelopes,
and skimmed the contents of each.

"How good!" cried he, handing Lord Netherby's letter across the table;
"this is really amusing!"

"I have seen it," said Daly, dryly. "Lady Eleanor asked my opinion as to
what answer she should make."

"Insolent old miser!" broke in Darcy, who, without attending to Daly's
remark, had been reading Lady Eleanor's account of Dr. Hickman's
proposal. "I say, Bagenal, you 'll not believe this. What social
earthquakes are we to look for next? Read that." And with a trembling
hand he presented the letter to Daly.

If the Knight's passion had been more openly displayed, Daly's
indignation seemed to evoke deeper emotion, for his brows met, and his
stern lips were clenched, as he perused the lines.

"Darcy," said he, at length, "O'Reilly must apologize for this; he must
be made to disavow any share in the old man's impertinence - "

"No, no," interrupted Darcy, "never speak of it again; rest assured that
Lady Eleanor received the offer suitably. The best thing we can do is to
forget it. If," added he, after a pause, "the daring that prompted such
a proposition has not a deeper foundation than mere presumption. You
know these Hickmans have purchased up my bonds and other securities?"

"I heard as much."

"Well, Gleeson is making arrangements for the payment. One large sum,
something like £20,000 - "

"Was paid the day before yesterday," said Daly; "here is a memorandum of
the moneys."

"How the deuce came you by the information? I have heard nothing of it
yet."

"That entails somewhat of a story," said Daly; "but I 'll be brief with
it." And in a few words he narrated his meeting with the robber Freney,
and how he had availed himself of his hospitality and safe convoy as far
as Maynooth.

"Ireland forever!" said the Knight, in a burst of happy laughter; "for
every species of incongruity, where was ever its equal? An independent
member of the Legislature sups with a highwayman, and takes a loan of
his hackney!"

"Ay, faith," said Daly, joining in the laugh; "and had I not been one
of the Opposition, I had been worth robbing, and consequently not so
civilly treated. By Jove! Darcy, I felt an evening with Freney to be
a devilish good preparation for the company I should be keeping up in
town."

"I'll wager ten pounds you talked politics together."

"That we did, and he is as stout an Anti-Unionist as the best of
us, though he told me he signed a petition in favor of the Bill when
confined in Clonmel jail."

"Is that true, Bagenal? did they hawk a petition for signature among the
prisoners of a jail?"

"He took his oath of it to me, and I intend to declare it in the House."

"What if asked for your authority?"

"I 'll give it," said Daly, determinedly. "Ay, faith, and if I catch a
sneer or a scoff amongst them, I 'll tell them that a highwayman is
about as respectable and somewhat more courageous than a bribed
representative."

If the Knight enjoyed the absurdity of Daly's supper with the noted
Freney, he laughed till the tears came at the account of his dining with
Con Heffernan. Darcy could appreciate the dismay of Heffernan, and the
cool, imperturbable tyranny of Daly's manner throughout, and would have
given largely to have witnessed the _tête-à-tête_.

"I will do him the justice to say," said Daly, "that when he found
escape impossible, he behaved as well as any man, his conversation was
easy and unaffected, and his manner perfectly well-bred. Freney was more
anecdotic, but Heffernan saw deeper into mankind."

"I hope you hinted the comparison?" said Darcy, slyly.

"Yes, I observed upon the superiority practical men possess in all
the relations of social intercourse, and quoted Freney and himself as
instances!"

"And he took it well?"

"Admirably. Once, and only once, did he show a little disposition to
turn restive; it was when I remarked upon the discrepancy in point of
destiny, the one being employed to empty, the other to fill, the pockets
of his Majesty's lieges. He winced, but it was over in a second. His
time was up at ten o'clock, but we sat chatting till near twelve, and
we parted with what the French term a 'sense of the most distinguished
consideration' on each side."

"By Jove! I envy the fellows who sat at the other tables and saw you."

"They were most discreet in their observations," remarked Daly,
significantly. "One young fellow, it is true, coughed twice or thrice as
a signal to a friend across the room, but I ordered the waiter to bring
me a plate, and, taking three or four bullets out of my pocket, sent
them over to him, with my respectful compliments, as 'admirable pills
for a cough.' The cure was miraculous."

"Excellent! Men have taken out a patent for a poorer remedy. And now,
Bagenal, for the reason of your journey. What, in the name of everything
strange and eccentric, brought you up to town? Don't affect to tell me
you came for the debate."

"And why not?" said Daly, who, unwilling to reveal the true cause,
preferred to do battle on this pretence. "I admit as freely as ever I
did, I'm no lover of Parliament. I have slight respect or esteem
for deliberative assemblies split up into factions and parties. A
Government, to my thinking, should represent unity as the chief element
of strength; but such as it is, - bad enough and base enough, in all
conscience, - yet it is the last remnant of national power left, the
frail barrier between us and downright provincialism. But I had another
reason for coming up, - half-a-dozen other reasons, for that matter, - one
of them was, to see your invaluable business man, Gleeson, who, from
some caprice or other about a higher rate of interest, has withdrawn
my sister's fortune from the funds to invest it in some confounded
mortgage. I suppose it's all right, and judicious to boot; but Maria,
like every other Daly I ever heard of, has a will of her own, and has
commissioned me to have the money restored to its former destination.
I verily believe, Darcy, the most troublesome animal on the face of
the globe is an old maid with a small funded capital. At one moment
deploring the low rate of interest and dying for a more profitable
use of the money; at another, decrying all deposit save the Bank,
she inveighs against public theft and private credit, and takes off
three-and-a-half per cent of her happiness in pure fretting."

"Is she quite well?" said the Knight, in an accent which a more shrewd
observer than Daly might have perceived was marked by some agitation.

"I never knew her better; as fearless as we both remember her at
sixteen; and, save those strange intervals of depression she has labored
under all through her life, the same gay-hearted spirit she was when the
flattered heiress and beauty long, long years ago."

The Knight heaved a sigh. It might have been for the years thus passed,
the pleasant days of early youth and manhood so suddenly called up
before him; it might have been that other and more tender memories
were crowding on his mind; but he turned away, and leaned on the
chimney-piece, lost in deep thought.

"Poor girl," said Daly, "there is no question of it, Darcy, but she must
have formed some unfortunate attachment; she had pride enough always to
rescue her from the dangers of an unsuitable marriage, but her heart, I
feel convinced, was touched, and yet I never could find a clew to it. I
suspected something of the kind when she refused Donington, - a
handsome fellow, and an old title. I pressed her myself on the
subject, - it was the only time I did so, - and I guessed at once, from
a chance phrase she dropped, that there had been an old attachment
somewhere. Well, well, what a lesson might be read from both our
fortunes! The beauty - and you remember how handsome she was - the beauty
with a splendid fortune, a reduced maiden lady; and myself" - he heaved
a heavy sigh, and, with clasped hands, sat back in the chair, as he
added - "the shattered wreck of every hope I once set out with."

The two old men's eyes met, and, although undesignedly, exchanged looks
of deepest, most affectionate interest. Daly was the first to rally from
his brief access of despondency, and he did so with the physical effort
he would have used to shake a load from his shoulders.

"Well, Darcy, let us be up and stirring; there's a meeting at
Barrington's at two: we must not fail to be there."

"I wish to see Gleeson in the mean while," said the Knight; "I am uneasy
to learn what has been done with Hickman, and what day I can leave
town."

"Send Sandy out with a note, and tell him to come to dinner here at
six."

"Agreed; nothing could be better; we can talk over our business matters
comfortably, and be down at the House by nine or ten."

The note was soon written, and Sandy despatched, with orders to wait for
Gleeson's return, in case he should be absent when he arrived.

The day for the evening of which was fixed the second reading of the
Bill of Union, was a busy one in Dublin. Accounts the most opposite and
contradictory were everywhere in circulation: some asserting that the
Ministerial majority was certain; others, equally positive, alleging
that many of their supposed supporters had lapsed in their allegiance,
and that the most enormous offers had been made, without success, to
parties hitherto believed amongst the ranks of the Government. The
streets were crowded, not by persons engaged in the usual affairs of
trade and traffic, but by groups and knots talking eagerly over
the coming event, and discussing every rumor that chance or scandal
suggested.

Various meetings were held in different parts of the town: at some,
the Government party were canvassing the modes of reaching the House
in safety, and how best they might escape the violence of the mob; at
others, the Opposition deliberated on the prospects before them, and by
what stratagems the debate might be prolonged till the period when, the
Wicklow election over, Mr. Grattan might be expected to take his seat
in the House, since, by a trick of "the Castle party," the writ had been
delayed to that very morning.

Con Heffernan's carriage was seen everywhere, and some avowed that at
five o'clock he was driving with the third pair of posters he had that
day employed. Bagenal Daly was also a conspicuous character "on town;"
on foot and alone, he was at once recognized by the mob, who cheered him
as an old but long-lost-sight-of acquaintance. The densest crowd made
way for him as he came, and every mark of respect was shown him by those
who set a higher price on his eccentricity and daring than even upon his
patriotism; and a murmuring commentary on his character followed him as
he went.

"By my conscience! it 's well for them they have n't to fight for the
Union, or they would n't like old Bagenal Daly agin them!"

"He looks as fresh and bould as ever he did," said another; "sorra a day
oulder than he was twenty-eight years ago, when I seen him tried for his
life at Newgate."

"Was you there, Mickey?" cried two or three in a breath.

"Faix was I, as near as I am to you. 'Twas a coal-heaver he kilt, a
chap that was called Big Sam; and they say he was bribed by some of the
gentlemen at Daly's Club House to come up to Bagenal Daly in the street
and insult him about the beard he wears on his upper lip, and sure
enough so he did, - it was Ash Wednesday mor by token, - and Sam had a
smut on his face just to imitat(e) Mr. Daly's. 'We are a purty pair,
ain't we?' says Sam, grinning at him, when they met on Essex Bridge. And
wid that he slips his arm inside Mr. Daly's to hook wid his."

"To walk beside him, is't?"

"Just so, divil a less. 'Come round to the other side of me,' says Daly,
'for I want to step into Kertland's shop.' And in they went together,
and Daly asks for a pound of strong white soap, and pays down
one-and-eight-pence for it, and out they comes again quite friendly
as before. 'Where to now?' says Sam, for he held a grip of him like
a bailiff. 'Across the bridge,' says Daly; and so it was. When they
reached the middle arch of the bridge, Daly made a spring and got
himself free, and then, stooping down, caught Sam by the knees, and
before you could say 'Jack Robinson,' hurled him over the battlements
into the Liffey. 'You can wash your face now,' says he, and he threw the
soap after him; divil a word more he said, but walked on, as cool as you
saw him there."

"And Sam?" said several together.

"Sam was drowned; there came a fresh in the river, and they took him up
beyond the North Wall - a corpse."

"Millia murther! what did Daly do?"

"He took his trial for it, and sorra excuse he gave one way or other,
but that he 'did n't know the blackguard couldn't swim.'"

"And they let him off?"

"Let him off? Arrah, is it hang a gentleman?"

"True for you," chimed in the bystanders; "them that makes the laws
knows better than that!"

Such was one of the narratives his reappearance in Dublin again brought
up; and, singular enough, by the respect shown him by the mob, derived
much of its source in that same feeling of awe and dread they manifested
towards one they believed privileged to do whatever he pleased. Alas
for human nature! the qualities which find favor with the multitude are
never the finer and better traits of the heart, but rather the sterner
features that emanate from a strong will and firm purpose.

[Illustration: 229]

If the voices of the closely compacted mass which filled the streets and
avenues of Dublin on that day could have been taken, it would have been
found that Bagenal Daly had an overwhelming majority; while, on a
converse scrutiny, it would appear that not a gentleman in Ireland
entertained for that mob sentiments of such thorough contempt as he did.
Nor was the sentiment concealed by him. The crowd which, growing as it
went, followed him from place to place throughout the city, would break
forth at intervals into some spontaneous shout of admiration, and a
cheer for Bagenal Daly, commanded by some deep throat, would be answered
in a deafening roar of voices. Then would Daly turn, and, as the moving
mass fell back, scowl upon their unwashed faces with such a look of
scorn that even they half felt the insult. In such wise was his progress
through the streets of Dublin, now moving slowly onward, now turning to
confront the mob that in slavish adulation still tracked his steps.

It was at a moment like this, when, standing at bay, he scowled upon the
dense throng, Heffernan's carriage drove slowly past, and Con, leaning
from the window, called out in a dramatic tone, "Thy friends, Siccius
Dentatus, thy friends!"

Daly started, and as his cheek reddened, answered, "Ay, and by my soul,
for the turning of a straw, I 'd make them your enemies." And as if
responsive to the threat, a groan for "the Castle hack, three groans for
Con Heffernan," were shouted out in tones that shook the street. For
a second or two Daly's face brightened, and his eyes sparkled with the
fire of enterprise, and he gazed on the countless mass with a look of
indecision; but, suddenly folding his arms, he dropped his head, and
muttered, "No, no, it would n't do; robbery and pillage would be
the whole of it;" and, without raising his eyes again, walked slowly
homewards.

The hours wore on, and six o'clock came, but no sign of Gleeson, nor had
Sandy returned with any answer.

"And yet I am positive he is not from home," said Darcy. "He pledged
himself not to leave this until the whole business was completed. Honest
Tom Gleeson is a man to keep to the strictest letter of his word."

"I 'd not think that less likely," said Daly, sententiously, "if the
world had spared him the epithet. I hate the cant of calling a man
by some title that should be common to all men, - at least, to all
gentlemen."

"I cannot agree with you," said Darcy. "I deem it a proud thing for any
one so to have impressed his reputation for honorable dealing on society
that the very mention of his name suggests his character."

"Perhaps I am soured by what we have seen around us," said Daly; "but
the mention of every virtue latterly has been generally followed by the
announcement of the purchase of its possessor. I never hear of a
good character that I don't think it is a puffing advertisement of 'a
high-priced article to be had cheap for cash.'"

"You'll think better of the world after a glass or two of Madeira," said
Darcy, laughing; "and rather than hear you inveigh against mankind, I'll
let Gleeson eat his soup cold." And, so saying, he rang the bell and
ordered dinner.

The two friends dined pleasantly, and although, from time to time, some
stray thought of Gleeson's absence would obtrude, they chatted away
agreeably till past nine o'clock.

"I begin to suspect that Sandy may have met some acquaintance, and
lingered to pledge 'old times' with him," said Darcy, looking at his
watch. "It is now nearly twenty minutes past nine."

"I'll stake my life on it, Sandy is true to his mission. He'd not turn
from the duty intrusted to him to hobnob with a Prince of the Blood.
Here he comes, however; there was a knock at the door."

But no; it was a few hurried lines in pencil from the House, begging
of them to come up at once, as the Ministerial party was mustering
in strength, and the Opposition benches filling but slowly. While
deliberating on what course to take, a second summons came from one of
the leading men of the party. It was brief, but significant: "Come up
quickly. They are evidently pushed hard. Toler has sent a message to
O'Donnell, and they are gone out, and Harvey says Castlereagh has six of
his fellows ready to provoke us. - W. T."

"That looks like business, Darcy," cried Daly, in a transport of
delight. "Let us lose no time; there's no knowing how soon so much good
valor may ooze out."

"But Gleeson - "

"If he comes, let him follow us to the House. We can walk; there's no
use waiting for the carriage." Then added, in a mutter to himself, "I 'd
give a hundred down to have a shot at the Attorney-General. There,
that 's Sandy's voice in the hall;" and at the same instant the trusty
servant entered.

"Well, have you seen him?"

"Is he at home?"

"No, sirs, he's no at hame, that's clear. When I asked for him, they
told me he was in bed, asleep, for that he was just arrived after a
long journey; and so I waited a bit, and gaed out for a walk into the
shrubberies, where I could have a look at his chamber windows, and sure
enough they were a' closed. I waited a while longer, but he was still
sleeping, and they dared na wake him; and so it came to nigh five
o'clock, and then I was fain to send up the bit letter by the flunkie,
and ask for the answer; but none came."

"Did you say that the letter was from me?" said the Knight, hastily.

"Na, sir; but I tauld them what most people mind as well, that Mister
Bagenal Daly sent me. It's a name few folk are fond to trifle wi'."

"Go on, Sandy," said Daly, "What then?"

"Weel, sir, I sat down on the stair at the foot of the big clock, and
said to mysel, 'I 'll gie ye ten minutes mair, but not a second after.'
And sure enough ye might hear every tick of her through the house, a'
was so still and silent. Short as the time was, I thought it wad never
gae past, for I did no tak my eyes aff o' her face. When the ten minutes
was up, I stole gently up the stair, and opened the door. A was dark
inside, so I opened the window, and there was the bed - empty; nobody
had lain in it syne it was made. There was a bit ashes in the grate,
and some burned paper on the hearth, but na other sign that onybody
was there at a', sae I crept back again, and met the flunkie as he was
coming up, for he had just missed me, and was in a real fright where I
was gone to. I saw by his face that he was found out, and so I laid my
hand on his shoulder, and said, 'Ye ha tauld me ane lee; ye maun tak
care no to tell me anither. Where is yer maister?' Then came out the
truth. Mr. Gleeson was gane awa to England. He sailed for Liverpool in
the 'Shamrock.'"

"Impossible!" said Darcy. "He could not be away from Dublin at this
moment."

"It's even sae," replied Sandy, gravely; "for when I heard a' that I
could from the flunkie, I put him into the library, and locked the door
on him, and then went round to the stable-yard, where the coachman was
sitting in the harness-room, smoking. 'And so he's off to England,' said
I to him, as if I kenned it a'.

"'Just sae,' said he, wi' the pipe in his mouth. "'And he's nae to be
back for some time,' said I, speerin' at him.

"'On Friday,' said he; and he smoked away, and never a word mair could I
get out o' him."

"Why, Sandy," said the Knight, laughing, "they'd make you a prefect of
police if they had you in France."

"I dinna ken, sir," said Sandy, not exactly appreciating what the nature
of the appointment might portend.

"I only hope Gleeson may not hear of the perquisition on his return,"
said the Knight, in a whisper to Daly. "Our friend Sandy pushes his
spirit of inquiry somewhat far."

"I don't know that," said Daly, thoughtfully; "he's a shrewd fellow,
and rarely makes a mistake of that kind. But come, let us lose no more
time."

"I half suspect the reason of this mystery about Gleeson," said the
Knight, who stood musing deeply on the event; "a few words Drogheda let
fall yesterday, going in to dinner, - some unfortunate speculation in
South America: this may require his keeping out of the way for a little
time. But why not say so, manfully? - I'm sure I'm ready to assist him."

"Come along, Darcy, we must walk; they say no carriage can get through
the mob." And, with these words, he took the Knight's arm and sallied
forth, while Sandy followed, conveying a large cloth cloak over his arm,
which only partially concealed an ominous-looking box of mahogany wood,
strapped with brass.

A crowd awaited them as they reached the street, by which they were
escorted through the denser mass that thronged the great thoroughfare,
the mere mention of their names being sufficient to force a passage even



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 16 of 34)