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Scaltheen; but she 'll get over it."

"But your own adventures," interposed Lord Netherby; "for so they ought
to be, judging from the state of your toilet. Let us hear them."

"Yes, by all means," added Beauclerk; "the huntsman says that the last
he saw of you was riding by the side of some one in green, with three of
the pack in front, the rest tailed off, and himself in a bog-hole."

"But there was no one in green in the field," said Crofton; "at least I
did not see any one riding, except the red coats."

"Let us not be too critical about the color of the dress," said Lord
Netherby; "I am sure it would puzzle any of us to pronounce on the exact
hue of Lionel's at this moment."

"Well, Lionel, will you decide it?" said the Knight; "is the green man
apocryphal, or not?"

"I 'll decide nothing," said Lionel, "till I get something to eat. Any
one that wishes to hear my exploits must come into the dinner-room;"
and, so saying, he arose, and walked into the parlor, where, under
Tate's superintendence, a little table was already spread for him beside
the fire. To the tempting fare before him the young man devoted all the
energy of a hunter's appetite, regardless of the crowd who had followed
him from the drawing-room, and stood in a circle around him.

Many were the jests, and sharp the raillery, on his singular appearance,
and certainly it presented a most ludicrous contrast with the massive
decorations of the table at which he sat, and the full dress of the
party around him.

"I remember," said Lord Netherby, "seeing the King of France - when
such a functionary existed - eat his dinner in public on the terrace of
Versailles; but I confess, great as was my admiration of the monarch's
powers, I think Lionel exceeds them."

"Another leg?" said Beauclerk, who, with knife and fork in hand,
performed the duty of carver.

"Why don't you say another turkey?" said Nolan; then, turning to Mrs.
Somerville, he added, "I am sure that negus is perfect."

The pretty widow, who had been contributing, as she thought unobserved,
to Lionel's comfort, blushed deeply; and Lionel, at last roused from
his apathy, said, "I am ready now, ladies and gentlemen all, to satisfy
every reasonable demand upon your curiosity. But first, where is Mr.
Beecham O'Reilly?"

"He went home," said the Knight; "he resisted all my efforts to detain
him to dinner."

"Perhaps he only came over to sell that horse," said Nolan, in a half
whisper.

"I wish I had bought him, with all my heart," said Lionel.

"Do you like him so much," said the Knight, with a meaning smile.

"I sincerely hope you do," said Lord Netherby, "for he is yours
already, - at least, if you will do me the honor to accept him; I often
hoped to have mounted you one day - "

"I accept him, my Lord," interposed Lionel, "most willingly and most
gratefully. You have, literally speaking, mounted me 'one day,' and I
very much doubt if I ever mount the same animal another."

"What! is he lame? - or staked? - did he break down? - is he a devil to
ride?" broke from several of the party.

"Not one of all these; but if you'll bestow five minutes' patience on me
I 'll perhaps inform you of a mode of being unhorsed, novel at least to
most fox-hunters." With this, Lionel narrated the conclusion of the
run, the leap of the Crumpawn river, and the singular departure of his
companion at the end.

"Is this a practical joke, Knight?" said Lord Netherby.

"I think so, my Lord; one of those admirable jests which the statutes
record among their own Joe Millers."

"Then you suspect he was a robber?"

"I confess it looks very like it."

"I read the riddle otherwise," said Lionel; "the fellow, whoever he was,
mistook me for somebody else, and there was evidently something more
like a reprisal than a theft in the whole transaction."

"But you have really lost him?" said Beanclerk.

"When I assure you that I came home on foot, I hope that question is
answered."

"By Jove! you have most singular ways of doing matters in this country,"
cried the colonel; "but I suppose when a man is used to Ireland, he gets
pretty much accustomed to hear of his horse being stolen away as well as
the fox."

"Oh! we'll chance upon him one of these days yet," said the Knight; "I
am half of Lionel's mind myself now, - the thing does not look like a
robbery."

"There's no end of the eccentricity of these people," muttered Lord
Netherby to himself; "they can get into a towering passion and become
half mad about trifles, but they take a serious loss as coolly as
possible." And with this reflection on national character he moved into
the drawing-room, where soon afterwards the party repaired to talk over
Lionel's adventure, with every turn that fancy or raillery could give
it.




CHAPTER XXX. BAGENAL DALY'S VISITORS

It was at a late hour of a night, some days after this event occurred,
that Bagenal Daly sat closeted with Darcy's lawyer, endeavoring, by deep
and long thought, to rescue him from some at least of the perils that
threatened him. Each day, since the Knight's departure, had added to the
evil tidings of his fortune. While Gleeson had employed his powers of
attorney to withdraw large sums from the banker's hands, no information
could be had concerning the great loan he had raised from the London
company, nor was there to be found among the papers left behind him the
bond passed to Hickman, and which he should have received had the money
been paid. That such was the case, Bagenal Daly firmly believed; the
memorandum given him by Freney was corroborated by the testimony of the
clerks in two separate banking-houses, who both declared that Gleeson
drew these sums on the morning before he started for Kildare, and to one
of Daly's rapid habits of judgment such evidence was quite conclusive.
This view of the subject was, unhappily, not destined to continue
undisturbed, for, on the very morning after the Knight's departure from
Dublin, came a formal letter from Hickman's solicitor, demanding payment
of the interest on the sum of seventy-four thousand eight hundred and
twenty pounds, odd shillings, at five per cent, owing by seven weeks,
and accompanying which was a notice of foreclosure of the mortgage on
the ensuing 17th of March, in case the full sum aforesaid were not duly
paid.

To meet these demands Daly well knew Darcy had no disposable property;
the large sums raised by Gleeson, at a lower rate of interest, were
intended for that purpose; and although he persisted in believing that
this debt, at least, was satisfied, the lawyer's opinion was strongly
opposed to that notion.

Mr. Bicknell was a shrewd man, deep not only in the lore of his
professional knowledge, but a keen scrutinizer of motives, and a
far-seeing observer of the world. He argued thus: Gleeson would never
have parted with such a sum on the eve of his own flight; a day was of
no consequence, he could easily have put off the payment to Hickman to
the time of the American ship's sailing - why, then, hand over so large
an amount, all in his possession? It was strange, of course, what had
become of the money; but then they heard that his servant had made his
escape. Why might not he have possessed himself of it after his master's
suicide? Who was to interfere or prevent it? Besides, if he had paid
Hickman, the bond would, in all likelihood, be forthcoming; to retain
possession of it could have been no object with Gleeson; he had met with
nothing but kind and friendly treatment from Darcy, and was not likely
to repay him by an act of useless, gratuitous cruelty.

As to the testimony of the bank clerks, it was as applicable to one view
of the case as the other. Gleeson would, of course, draw out everything
at his disposal; and although the sums tallied with those in the
memorandum, that signified little, as they were the full amount in each
banker's hands to the Knight's credit. Lastly, as to the memorandum, it
was the only real difficulty in the case; but that paper might have been
in Gleeson's possession, and in the course of business discussion either
might have been dropped inadvertently, or have been given to Hickman as
explaining the moneys already prepared for his acceptance.

Mr. Bicknell's reasonings were confirmed by the application of Hickman's
solicitors, who were men of considerable skill and great reputed
caution. "Harris and Long make no such mistakes as this, depend upon
that, sir; they see their case very clearly, or would never adventure on
such an application."

"D - - n their caution! The question is not of their shrewdness."

"Yes, but it is, though; we are weighing probabilities: let us see to
which side the balance inclines. Would they serve notice of foreclosure,
not knowing whether or not we had the receipt in our possession? That is
the whole matter."

"I don't pretend to say what they would do, but I know well what I
should."

"And pray what may that be?"

"Hold possession of the abbey, stand fast by the old walls, call in the
tenantry, - and they are ready to answer such a call at a moment, if need
be, - and while I proclaimed to the wide world by what right I resisted,
I 'd keep the place against any force they dared to bring. These
are ticklish times, Bicknell; the Government have just cheated this
country, - they 'd scarcely risk the hazard of a civil war for an old
usurer, - old Hickman would be left to his remedies in Banco or Equity;
and who knows what might turn up one day or other to strengthen the
honest cause?"

"I scarcely concur in your suggestion, sir."

"How the devil should you? There are neither declarations to draw,
nor affidavits to swear, no motions, nor rules, nor replies, no
declarations, no special juries! No, Bicknell, I never suspected your
approval of my plan. It would not cost a single skin of parchment."

Though Daly spoke this sarcasm bitterly, it produced no semblance of
irritation in the man of law, who was composedly occupied in perusing a
document before him.

"I have made memoranda," said Bicknell, "of certain points for counsel's
opinion, and as soon as we can obtain some information as to the
authenticity of young Darcy's signature, we shall see our way more
clearly. The case is not only a complicated but a gloomy one; our
antagonists are acute and wealthy, and I own to you the prospect is far
from good."

"The better counsel mine," said Daly, sternly; "I have little faith in
the justice that hangs upon the intelligence of what you facetiously
call twelve honest men; methinks the world is scarcely so well supplied
with the commodity that they are sure to answer the call of
the sheriff. It is probable, however, - nay, it is more than
probable, - Darcy will be of your mind, and reject my advice; if so,
there is nothing for it but the judge and jury, and he will be despoiled
of his property by the law of the land."

Bicknell knew too well the eccentric nature of Daly's character, in
which no feature was more prominent than his hatred of everything like
the recognized administration of the law, to offer him any opposition,
and merely repeating his previous determination to seek the advice of
able counsel, he took his leave.

"There is some deep mystery in this business," said Daly to himself, as
he paced the room alone; "Bicknell is right in saying that Gleeson would
not have committed an act of unnecessary cruelty, nor, if he had paid
the money, would he have failed to leave the bond among his papers.
Every circumstance of this fellow's flight is enveloped in doubt, and
Freney, the only man who appears to have suspected his intention,
by some mischance is not now to be found; Sandy has not succeeded in
meeting with the boy, notwithstanding all his efforts. What can this be
owing to? What machinery is at work here? Have the Hick-mans their
share in this?" Such were the broken sentences he muttered, as, in turn,
suspicions tracked each other in his mind.

Daly was far too rash, and too impetuous in temper, to be well
qualified for an investigation of so much difficulty. Unable to weigh
probabilities with calmness, he was always the victim of his own
prejudices in favor of certain things and people; and to escape from the
chaotic trouble of his own harassed thoughts, he was ever ready to adopt
some headlong and desperate expedient, in preference to the quieter
policy of more patient minds.

"Yes, faith," said he, "my plan is the best after all; and who knows but
by showing the bold front we may reduce old Hickman's pretensions, or
at least make a compromise with him. There are plenty of arms and
ammunition, - eight stout fellows would hold the inner gate tower against
a battalion, - we could raise the country from Mur-risk to Killery
Harbor; and one gun fired from the Boat Quay would bring the fishermen
from Clare Island and Achill to the rescue, - we 'd soon make a signal
they 'd recognize; old Hickman's house, with all its porticos and
verandas, would burn like tinder. If they are for law, let them begin,
then."

The door opened as he spoke these words, and Sandy entered cautiously.
"There is a countryman without wha says he's come a long way to see your
honor, and maun see you this night."

"Where from?"

"Fra' the West, I think, for he said the roads were heavy down in them
parts."

"Let him come in," said Daly; and, with his hands crossed behind his
back, he continued to walk the room. "Some poor fellow for a renewal of
his lease, or an abatement, or something of that kind, - they 'll never
learn that I 'm no longer the owner of that estate that still bears my
name, and they cling to me as though I had the power to assist them,
when I'm defenceless for myself. Well, what is it? Speak out, man, - what
do you want with me?"

The individual to whom this question was addressed stood with his
back to the door, which he had cautiously shut close on entering, but,
instead of returning an answer to the question, he cast a long and
searching glance around the room, as if to ascertain whether any other
person was in it. The apartment was large, and, being dimly lighted, it
took some time to assure him that they were alone; but when he had
so satisfied himself-, he walked slowly forward into the light, and,
throwing open his loose coat of gray frieze, exhibited the well-known
figure of Freney the robber.

"What, Freney! - the man of all Ireland I wish to see."

"I thought so, sir," said the other, wiping his forehead with his
hand, for he was flushed and heated, and seemed to have come off a
long journey. "I know you sent for me, but I was unable to meet your
messenger, and I can seldom venture to send that young villain Jemmy
into the capital, - the police are beginning to know him, and he 'll be
caught one of these days."

"You were n't in Kildare, then?" said Daly.

"No, sir, I was in the far West, - down in Mayo. I had a little business
in Ballina a short time back, and some fellow who knew me, and thought
the game a safe one, stole my brown horse out of the inn-stable, in the
broad noon-day, and sold him at the fair green at Ballinasloe. When I
tell you that he was the best animal I ever crossed, I need n't say
what the loss was to me; the nags you saw were broken-down hackneys in
comparison. He was strong in bone and untiring, and I kept him for the
heavy country around Boyle and down by Longford. It is not once, nor
twice, but a dozen times, Matchlock has saved me from a loop and a
leap in the air; but the rascal that took him well knew the theft was
safe, - Freney, the highwayman, could scarcely lodge informations with a
magistrate."

"And you never could hear traces of him?" "Yes, that I did, but it cost
me time and trouble too. I found that he was twice sold within one week.
Dean Harris bought him, and sold him the day after." Here Freney gave a
low cunning laugh, while his eyes twinkled with malignant drollery.

"He did n't think as highly of him as you did, Freney?" "Perhaps he had
n't as good reason," said the robber, laughing. "He was riding home from
an early dinner with the bishop, and as he was cantering along the side
of the road, a chaise with four horses came tearing past. Matchlock,
true to his old instinct, but not knowing who was on his back, broke
into a gallop, and in half a dozen strides brought the dean close up to
the chaise window, when the traveller inside sent a bullet past his ear
that very nearly made a vacancy in the best living of the diocese. As I
said, sir, the dean had had enough of him; he sold him the next morning,
and that day week he was bought by a young fellow in the West whom I
found out to be a grandson of old Hickman."

"Was he able to ride a horse like this?" said Daly, doubtfully.

"Ride him? - ay; and never a man in the province brought a beast to a
leap with a lighter hand and a closer seat in the saddle. We were side
by side for three miles of a stiff country, and I don't believe I 'm
much of a coward, - at any rate, I set very little value on my neck; but,
I 'll tell you what, sir, he pushed me hard."

"How was this, then? Had you a race together?" "It was something very
like it, sir," said Freney, laughing; "for when I reached Westport, I
heard that young O'Reilly was to ride a new brown horse that day
with the hounds, and a great hunt was expected, to show some English
gentlemen who were staying at Gwynne Abbey. So I went off early to
Hooley's forge, near the cross-roads, to see the meet, and look out for
my man. I did n't want any one to tell me which he was, for I 'd know
Matchlock at half a mile distance. There he was, in splendid condition
too, and looking as I never saw him look before; by my conscience,
Mr. Daly, there's a wide difference between the life of a beast in the
stables of a county member, and one that has to stretch his bones in the
shealing of such as myself. My plan was to go down to the cover, and the
moment the fox broke away, to drive a bullet through my horse's head,
and be off as hard as I could; for, to tell you the truth, it was spite
more than the value of him was grieving me; so I took my own horse
by the bridle, and walked down to where they were all gathered. I was
scarcely there when the dogs gave tongue, and away they went, - a grand
sight it was, more than a hundred red-coats, and riding close every man
of them. Just then, up comes Matchlock, and takes the fence into the
field where I was standing, a stone wall and a ditch, his rider handling
him elegantly, and with an easy smile, sitting down in his saddle as if
it was child's play. Faith, I could n't bring myself to fire the shot,
partly for the sake of the horse, more too, maybe, for the sake of the
rider. 'I 'll go a bit beside him,' said I to myself; for it was a real
pleasure to me to watch the way how both knew their business well. I
'm making a long story of it, but the end of it was this: I took the
Crumpawn river just to dare him, and divil a bit but he fell in, - no
fault of his, but the bank was rotten, and down they went; the young
fellow had a narrow escape of it, but he got through it at last, and, as
he lay on the grass more dead than alive, I saw Matchlock grazing just
close to me. Temptations are bad things, Mr. Daly, particularly when a
man has never trained himself off them; so I slipped the bridle over his
head, and rode away with him beside me."

[Illustration: 368]

"Carried him off?"

"Clean and clever; he's at the hall-door this minute: and, by the same
token, sixty-four miles he has covered this day."

"There's only one part of the whole story surprises me; it is that this
fellow should have ridden so boldly and so well. I know such courage is
often no more than habit: yet even that lower quality of daring I never
should have given him credit for. Was he hurt by his fall?"

"Stunned, perhaps, but nothing the worse."

"Well, well, enough of him. I wanted to see you, Freney, to learn
anything you may know of this fellow Gleeson's flight. It's a sad affair
for my friend the Knight of Gwynne."

"So I've heard, sir. It's bad enough for myself, too."

"For you! He was not your man of business, was he?" said Daly, with a
sly laugh.

"No, sir, I generally manage my money matters myself; but he happened to
have a butler, one Garrett by name, who betted smartly on the turf, and
played a little with the bones besides. He was a steady-going chap that
knew a thing or two, but honest enough in booking up when he lost; he
borrowed two hundred from me on the very day they started; he owed me
nearly three besides, and I never saw him since. They say that when his
master jumped overboard, Jack Garrett laid hands on all his property,
and sailed for America; but I don't believe it, sir."

"Well, but, Freney, you may believe it, for I was the means of an
investigation at Liverpool in which the fact transpired, and the name
of John Garrett was entered in the ship-agent's books; I read it there
myself."

"No matter for that, he dared not venture into the States. I know
something of Jack's doings among the Yankees, and depend upon it, Mr.
Daly, he's not gone; it's only a blind to stop pursuit."

Daly shook his head dubiously, for, having satisfied himself of
Garrett's escape when at Liverpool, he felt annoyed at any discredit
attaching to what he deemed his own discovery.

"Take my word for it, Mr. Daly, I 'm right this time; you cannot think
what an advantage a man like me possesses in guessing at the way another
rogue would play his game. Why, sir, I know every turn and double such
a fellow as Garrett would make. Now, I 'd wager Matchlock against a
car-horse that he has not left England, and I 'd take an even bet he 'll
be at the Spring Meeting at Doncaster."

"This may be all as you say, Freney," said Daly, after a pause, "and yet
I see no reason to suppose it can interest me, or my friend either. He
might know something of Gleeson's affairs; he might, perhaps, be able to
tell something of the payment of that sum at Kildare; if so - "

"If so," interrupted Freney, "money would buy the secret; at all events,
I'm determined he shall not escape me so easily. I 'll follow the fellow
to the very threshold of Newgate but I 'll have my own, - it is for
that purpose I 'm on my way now. A fishing-boat will sail from Howth by
to-morrow's tide, and land me somewhere on the Welsh coast, and, if I
can serve you, why, it's only doing two jobs at the same time. What are
the points you are anxious to discover?"

Daly reflected for a few moments, and then with distinctness detailed
the several matters on which he desired information, not only regarding
the reasons of Gleeson's embarrassments, but the nature of his intimacy
with old Hickman, of which he entertained deep suspicions.

"I see it all," said Freney. "You think that Gleeson was in league with
the doctor?"

Daly nodded.

"That was my own notion, too. Ah, sir, if I 'd only the King's pardon in
my pocket this night, and the power of an honest man for one month, I
'd stake my head on it, but I would have the whole mystery as clear as
water."

"You 'll want some money, Freney," said Daly, as he turned to the table,
and, taking up a key, unlocked the writing-case. "I 'm not as rich just
now as a Member of Parliament might be after such a Bill as the Union,
but I hope this may be of some service;" and he took a fifty-pound note
from the desk to hand it to him, but Freney was gone. He had slipped
noiselessly from the room; the bang of the hall-door was heard at the
instant, and immediately after the tramp of a horse as he trotted down
the street.

"The world all over!" said Daly to himself. "If the man of honor and
integrity has his flaws and defects, even fellows like that have their
notions of principle and delicacy too. Confound it! mankind will never
let me love or hate them."




CHAPTER XXXI. "A LEAVE-TAKING."

At Gwynne Abbey, time sped fast and pleasantly; each day brought its own
enjoyments, and of the Knight's guests there was not one who did not in
his heart believe that Maurice Darcy was the very happiest man in the
kingdom.

Lord Netherby, the frigid courtier, felt, for the first time, perhaps,
in his life, how much cordiality can heighten the pleasures of social
intercourse, and how the courtesy of kind feeling can add to the
enjoyments of refined and cultivated tastes. Lady Eleanor had lost
nothing of the powers of fascination for which her youth had been
celebrated, and there was, in the very seclusion of her life, that
which gave the charm of novelty to her remarks on people and events. The
Knight himself, abounding in resources of every kind, was a companion
the most fastidious or exacting could not weary of; and as for Helen,



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 27 of 34)